Every life, without exception, lives through dark hours. No one escapes days when all circumstances say the worst is inevitable. We all experience times when we are overwhelmed with setbacks, losing struggles, and painful realities which dominate our todays and threaten our tomorrows. Sometimes the threats are physical and put physical existence in jeopardy. Sometimes the threats are emotional driving us to the point of despair. Sometimes the threats are financial attacking our sense of security. Regardless of the source, the issue is always the same: "Will I survive?"
Many of us already have survived some dark hours. If you have, what enabled you to survive? What enabled you to endure, and, in time, to triumph over your dark hours? The key to survival is this: "Something to hold on to" or "something to keep us going." Sometimes that is an undeniable truth so important, so valuable that it gives us the courage to continue. It refuses to give up when we have no other reason to try.
That essential truth is critical to every person's survival. The person who has that essential truth finally overcomes his/her dark hour. The person who has no such truth enters a depression that becomes despair, a despair from which he/she rarely escapes.
Many things create dark hours: relationship problems, financial problems, career problems, family crisis, death of a loved one, national crisis, wars, undesirable life changes--the list is endless! To survive such crises there must be a truth so strong, so great that not even the worst circumstance can veil it.
For all Judaism in the Old Testament and for all Christians in the New Testament, God declared that truth existed. For the Old Testament Jew and the New Testament Christian, the truth was the same: God's love.
I want you to consider the importance of the exodus and the cross.
There is an incredible parallel between the Jewish exodus from Egypt and Jesus' cross on Calvary.
Look carefully at the great similarity between the exodus and the cross.
The Jews were in bondage to Egypt; people were in bondage to sin.
The Jews existed under an abusive ruler who exploited them to their own hurt and destruction; people were under Satan who exploited them to their own hurt and destruction.
The Jews in Egypt had not yet become God's covenant people; people in sin had not yet become God's covenant people.
Those Jews were totally powerless to deliver themselves from their slavery; people were totally powerless to deliver themselves from slavery under sin.
In bondage, the Jews did not know God's true identity and doubted His ability to deliver them; in sin people did not know God's true identity and doubted His ability to save them.
For the Jews, God provided a leader (Moses); for people in sin, God provided a leader (Jesus).
To the Jews, God proved deliverance was His work through Moses' signs; to those in sin, God proved deliverance was His work through Jesus' signs.
For the Jews, deliverance was totally God's work--all they did was obediently follow; for sinners, deliverance is totally God's work--all we do is obediently follow.
With the Jews, God provided victory through what seemed certain defeat at the Red Sea; with sinners, God provided victory through what seemed certain defeat at Jesus' death and burial.
With the Jews, God established a perpetual memorial to be continually observed (Passover); with the delivered from sin, God established a perpetual memorial to be continually observed (the Lord's Supper).
As fascinating as all those parallels are, none of them is the essential parallel.
The exodus was the undeniable proof of God's love for Israel.
The cross is the undeniable proof of God's love for all sinners.
No thinking Jew of understanding could take the Passover without thinking of God's great love!
No thinking Christian of understanding can take the Lord's Supper without thinking of God's great love for sinners.
It was and is impossible to take either and not know this truth: "God loves us!"
The central, unending proof of God's love for Jewish people was the exodus.
The emphasis in the Old Testament on the importance and meaning of the exodus is overwhelming.
I challenge you to consult a complete concordance, look under "Egypt" and "bondage," and note the emphasis--and those are not all the references!
There is so much emphasis on the exodus' significance as a declaration of God's nature and love that there would not be enough time to read all those references in this assembly!
To this day, the best known act of God in Israelite history is the exodus under Moses' leadership.
It is the central event of the Old Testament.
It marked the beginning of Israel as a nation.
It marked the point that they as a people became God's representatives which He promised Abraham.
It was the divine act of God anointing the Jewish people to function as His nation.
The unforgettable importance of that deliverance is powerfully stressed throughout the Old Testament.
The Passover was instituted to be an annual reminder of God's deliverance.
Exodus 12:17 You shall also observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this very day I brought your hosts out of the land of Egypt; therefore you shall observe this day throughout your generations as a permanent ordinance.
Deuteronomy 16:3 You shall not eat leavened bread with it; seven days you shall eat with it unleavened bread, the bread of affliction (for you came out of the land of Egypt in haste), so that you may remember all the days of your life the day when you came out of the land of Egypt.
The exodus was the foundation on which the Ten Commandments stood.
Exodus 19:3-6 Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, ¬"Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob and tell the sons of Israel: You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles¬' wings, and brought you to Myself. Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.¬' These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel.¬"
Consider Moses' words in Deuteronomy 5:6 I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
The point is clear: Israel should keep God's laws because God is the God of their deliverance.
Throughout Old Testament history, the undeniable proof of God's love for Israel was the exodus.
Let me try to make this point unforgettable.
If in the horrible period of the judges, we asked a faithful Jew, "Does God still love Israel?" he would have said, "Yes! Unquestionably!"
If we responded, "How can you say that with all these horrible things happening?"
He would say, "The exodus is proof God never stops loving us!"
In the awful wickedness during Samuel's lifetime, if we had asked, "Does God still love Israel?" a faithful Jew would have said , "Yes! Unquestionably!"
If we responded, "How can you say that?"
He would say, "The exodus forever proves God loves us!"
And so it would have been in the terrible days of Philistine domination or the Babylonian captivity: The exodus proved God's love!
Just as the exodus was the irrefutable proof of God's love for ancient Israel, the cross is the irrefutable proof of God's love for all people.
The unquestionable proof that God loves us is Jesus' death and resurrection.
What God did for all people in Jesus Christ's cross cannot be exaggerated.
Without Jesus' death and resurrection, Christianity would not exist.
We can exist as Christians only because of Jesus' cross and resurrection.
God's cost in redeeming us from our sins is too great to comprehend.
The central importance of Jesus' cross as the proof of God's love for us is powerfully stressed in the New Testament.
Romans 5:6-11 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.
Romans 8:31-34 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God¬'s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.
2 Corinthians 5:14,15 For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.
Ephesians 5:1,2 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.
Hebrews 12:1-3 Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
1 John 3:16-18 We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has the world¬'s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.
How can we know God loves us?
There are many evidences of His love for us, but no evidence equals the proof of Jesus' cross.
When we are in circumstances were all other evidences seem to fail, Jesus' cross still stands.
May I attempt to make that fact unforgettable?
When in Acts 5 when the apostles were beaten by order of the Jewish Sanhedrin, if we asked them, "Does God still love you?" they would have answered, "Of course!"
If we asked, "How can you say that after that beating?"
They would have responded, "The cross shows us His love!"
When Stephen was stoned to death in Acts 7, had we asked as he died, "Does God still love you?" he would have answered, "Absolutely!"
Had we asked, "How can you say that?"
He would have replied, "Jesus' cross proves God's love!"
And so it would have been with all the faithful Christians who suffered in the New Testament.
Yet, in times of distress and suffering we ask, "Does God still love us?"
The book of Revelation written to distressed, suffering Christians answers that question.