That the Next Generation Might Know (Exodus 12:24-27)
I. Christmas Traditions
As much as I love a good Advent/Christmas devotional for my personal times of reflection, the most meaningful times I've experienced during this holiday season have been in the context of celebrating Advent with our children. We tried many different resources and formats with our kids as they were growing up, but all of them had one thing in common: they were all grounded in and glorified God's word. What a blessing it was to walk, in a fun, age-appropriate way, through the relevant Scriptures with our kids, showing how prophecies about the Messiah were fulfilled in Bethlehem on that first Christmas.
I think all of us recognize the connection between kids and Christmas. We see it all around us. Maybe some of you are still picking out a special gift for your child. And if you don't have kids this Christmas, then you were a kid at Christmas.
This morning, I'd like us to keep that connection in mind as we look together at one of the passages from Our Bible Reading Plan last week, Exodus 12:24-27. Turn there if you haven't already.
II. The Passage: “And When Your Children Say” (12:24-27)
Listen to what Moses conveys to the elders of Israel in their final hours as slaves in Egypt:
You shall observe this rite as a statute for you and for your sons forever.  And when you come to the land that the LORD will give you, as he has promised, you shall keep this service.  And when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’  you shall say, ‘It is the sacrifice of the LORD’s Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, when he struck the Egyptians but spared our houses.’” And the people bowed their heads and worshiped.
Let me encourage you with what I believe is the larger lesson highlighted by this passage. Here it is: God's redeemed people are called to be redeemed parents as well. As is clear from verse 25, Moses is speaking here about a time in the future when the Hebrews will return to the land of Canaan, the land that God promised to their fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He's speaking about a time when their redemption from slavery will be a past event.
In the same way, for those of us here this morning who are disciples of Jesus Christ, who are born-again believers, who are genuine Christians, we are God's redeemed people; our redemption from slavery is also a past event. So like those who were addressed by Moses in these verses, we, as those redeemed by God's grace, are also called to be redeemed parents. That's clear from a number of New Testament verses. One of the clearest is found in Paul's letter to the Ephesians. We read in Ephesians 6:4...
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Fathers are addressed there as leaders in their homes, but that “discipline and instruction” would have included both parents. Paul knew that a verse like Proverbs 1:8 spoke not only of a “father’s instruction”, but also of “forsaking not your mother’s teaching”. As an example of this, just think about the influence of the two women Paul mentions in 2 Timothy 1:5...
I am reminded of your sincere faith [Timothy], a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.
What did that mother's (and grandmother's) faith look like in the everyday? If we jump ahead two chapters to 2 Timothy 3:14–15 we read...
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it  and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
The word-centered ministry of fathers and mothers (and even grandparents) is an example of what it means to be a redeemed parent. So when we are set apart by God's redeeming work, there is a profound way in which are children are set apart as well. Paul speaks about this in 1 Corinthians 7:14, where he speaks about the effect of a Christian spouse on his or her unbelieving partner...
For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.
That's not talking about a sanctification that saves, but about the sanctifying influence of a redeemed parent. Brother, sister, if you recognize that God has called you to be a redeemed parent (no matter the age of your children), how would you describe your sanctifying influence? Or we might ask, what does it look like to be a redeemed parent? Consider with me how our passage from Exodus 12 helps us answer that question. First, think about...
1. The Faith of a Redeemed Parent in Their Work
While I don't want to exclude a person's job or profession or workplace, the word “work” here is meant to point to the idea of doing God's work; that is, a redeemed parent is involved in tangible ways in the work of the Lord. As Paul encouraged every follower of Christ,
Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:58)
How does that connect to our main text from Exodus 12? Look back at verses 24 and 25. Moses speaks there about “observ[ing] this rite as a statute” and “keep[ing] this service”. To which “rite” or “service” is he referring? He's talking about observing the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread. That's exactly what verses 1-23 of this chapter are describing: instructions for keeping the Passover. Yahweh communicated the importance of this observance in v. 14: “This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast.”
But is this relevant for us as Christians? Absolutely! When Jesus kept the Passover on the night before his crucifixion, he pointed us to the fullness of the feast that could only be found in him; in his blood, not that of an ancient animal in Egypt. As a devout Jew like Paul would later proclaim, “For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.” (1 Corinthians 5:7b) So part of the relevance of this passage is connected to our regular observance of the Lord's Table, the very “rite” Jesus instituted at that last Passover supper.
But even more basic than that, our passage in Exodus 12 is built on the simple premise that those listening to Moses would actually do what God had said. They would obey God. They would actually live in light of his will. Parents, redeemed parents, do your children see you living each day in light of God's will? Do they see you engaged in the work of the Lord? Now look at where that starting point leads. We also see in this passage...
2. The Faith of a Redeemed Parent in Their Words
As a mother and/or father is doing what God has called them to do, they will inevitably encounter the very scenario described in verse 26, “...when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’” If passages like Colossians 4:6 and I Peter 3:15 assume that Christians will be asked questions about their faith, questions about why they live the way they do, then you can be sure that your own children, those closest to you, will also ask questions, questions about your faith-informed lifestyle. Consider again the answer we find in verse 27, concerning observance of the Passover feast (beginning in verse 26):
And when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’  you shall say, ‘It is the sacrifice of the LORD’s Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, when he struck the Egyptians but spared our houses.’”
What strikes you about that response? First, I hope that you see its a response based on what God himself has communicated. They weren't to tell their kids, “Yeah, somehow, all the Egyptian firstborns died, but not any of ours. Guess we just got lucky.” No. They were to communicate the truth according to what God had revealed: that God had spared them. Second, this response is ultimately about His mercy, his compassion, his grace, but also his justice and power; and all of it resulting in salvation. So as New Testament believers, we might described that as a gospel-centered response.
What does this mean for you, redeemed parent? It means you have been given the responsibility and privilege of communicating the words of God to your children. And to do so with, ultimately, an eye to the gospel. Isn't that wonderful? Yes, wonderful, but also daunting, right? But please know that God wants to empower you for this work. Please know this calling is simply one more way in which God wants you to think carefully and biblically about why you do what you do. Speaking to our kids about God's great salvation is meant to drive us back to the word, so that we might be encouraged, as we seek to encourage our children.
But please remember this. Please remember the order of the verses in Exodus 12. I'm afraid there are some Christians who have defined faithfulness according to verse 27, but have neglected the verses leading up to verse 27; that is, they have prided themselves on communicating truth to their children, but have failed to sincerely live out that truth in meaningful ways before the eyes of their children. Brothers and sisters, that is not what it means to be a redeemed parent. That is not faithfulness.
Please don't be deceived: children are excellent at spotting hypocrisy. If there is a disconnect between what you preach and what you practice, they will know. I'm not talking about honest struggling as a parent. I'm talking about self-deceived hypocrisy. Sincere struggle that drives us to God can be incredibly instructive to our kids. Now, let me put this same dynamic (regarding what we preach and what we practice—let me put this) in positive terms: when you 'walk the talk', when you live out the lessons that you are passing on to your kids, you are, according to Scripture, engaged in a very powerful witness to Christ and his gospel. In the words of Titus 2:10, you are “adorn[ing] [or beautifying] the doctrine of God our Savior”.
But again, all of this is driven by the reality that we are redeemed parents because we are first God's redeemed people. Our parenting should be the overflow of that wondrous reality; an overflow characterized by love, gratitude, humility, and sincerity. It shouldn't be surprising that the greatest commandment to love God with all of “your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” (v. 5) is followed by these words...
“And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7)
And that, friends, brings us to a final point about being a redeemed parent. We also see here...
3. The Faith of a Redeemed Parent in Their Worship
Don't you love how this passage ends? Verse 27. As the Hebrews are reminded of the profound and powerful, of the awesome (or we might say awe-inspiring) thing God is about to do, we are told that “the people bowed their heads and worshiped.” Moses was addressing soon-to-be redeemed Israelites, soon-to-be redeemed parents, and their response to God's revelation is what? It's humility and worship. What an important reminder. Beyond our preaching and practice, our kids will ultimately identify that which is most important to us; that which we extol; that which we adore; our guiding influence; our overall focus; our passion.
Sadly, it is possible, of course, to be busy with religious things, with Christian things, but to do so without humility, and... in the service of idols! But when we are simply seeking Christ on a daily basis (struggles and all), when we are be transformed by his word and empowered by his Spirit, when we are walking in light of the gospel of grace, when we are allowing faith to express itself in love through us to all people, especially our spouse and children, when we regularly bow our heads and worship before such a gracious God, even if we struggle with the how and when of redeemed parenting, we will be used by God in the lives of our children.
Listen to the worshipful dedication, the God-glorifying commitment of redeemed parenting as expressed in Psalm 78:3–8. Imagine God's people singing these word as they celebrate...
...things that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us.  We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.  He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children,  that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children,  so that they should set their hope in God...
III. A Redeeming Parent
In closing, I think it's helpful to know that the “when your child asks you” scenario described by our main text in Exodus 12:24-27 is not unique in the Old Testament. It's also found in Exodus 13:8, 11-15, Deuteronomy 6:20–25, and Joshua 4:6-7. And what a good reminder this is, not only for parents, but for children and teenagers. One thing that I hope you will take away from this passage kids/young people, is that God is encouraging you to ask your parent or parents questions about their faith. It's okay to do so. In fact, it's more than okay. It's wonderful, and it's a way you can encourage your parents. So don't be afraid to ask, even hard questions.
What's even more wonderful, parents, is knowing that as we strive and struggle in our redeemed parenting, we have a heavenly Father who is doing the same with us: he is always at work, bringing us his word, and is doing so to inspire true worship; he's doing so for the sake of his glory. Brothers and sisters, we are redeemed parents because we have a redeeming Parent. We are not alone. And because of Christ, there is both forgiveness for our failings and power for our parenting ambitions. As Paul prayed for the Thessalonians, “...may [God] fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power...” (2 Thessalonians 1:11)
I pray you know God as your Father this morning. If you do, give thanks. If you don't, reach out in faith and receive everything he has for you in Jesus.
And if you're not a parent, or not yet a parent, would you pray for the parents around in light of these truths? If you are a parent, would you pray and ask him this morning for the heart described in our main passage, that heart fully committed to this goal: (in the words of Psalm 78) “that the next generation might know”? Yes, at Christmas, but also throughout the year. And what should inform a heart like that? I like how Exodus 13:8 puts it:
“You shall tell your son on that day, ‘It is because of what the LORD did for me...”
other sermons in this series