Last Tuesday was Passover – the first of the three major Jewish pilgrimage festivals (along with Pentecost and Tabernacles). It recalled the great event of the exodus of the children of Israel from 430 years in Egypt. The early chapters of the book of Exodus give us the story of Moses – his childhood, exile, and burning bush call of God to go back to Egypt and lead the nation to the Promised Land. The account records the reticence of Pharaoh to allow the working class slaves to depart, in spite of a series of plagues that fall severely upon the nation. A final tenth plague will finally result in the nation’s release – as the death angel will strike down the firstborn in every home in Egypt – from the palace and Pharaoh’s own son, to the child of the least family in the land, even extending to the cattle in the field. (It would be helpful to read also the 11th chapter of Exodus, as well as beyond the verses listed in today’s devotional reading.)
The Israelites would escape this judgment if they carefully followed the Lord’s commands. Each family was to take a lamb and sacrifice it, using the blood to apply upon the doorframes of their homes – that the death angel would pass over that residence. As well, they were to eat the lamb with their clothing prepared for a quick exit, and the bread without yeast for there would not be time for it to rise. This the Israelites did, and finally, Pharaoh commanded the people to leave.
Let me make a few observations …
The theological principle to understand – As with the Day of Atonement where blood was applied as a covering for the sin of the broken law, so also the blood applied to the doorframe was a covering to avert the judgment falling upon those under its application. And again, as Christ was the perfect and better sacrifice to make eternal atonement, he was similarly the perfect and better Passover lamb – giving his life at the Festival of Passover … and observing the Passover dinner with his disciples in the upper room just before his arrest and crucifixion.
Imagine being the oldest son in the family – “So dad, are you sure you put the blood on the doorframe? It is really clear, right? You DID use a lot of it so that it is very visible?”
The judgment of God also displayed God’s power over the gods of Egypt – All of the plagues in some way made a mockery of the varied “gods” of Egypt, displaying their futility. Min – the Egyptian deity of reproduction, and Isis – the goddess deemed as the ideal mother and protector, were shown to be impotent to prevent this catastrophe.
Notice that the command to remember the event was established before the event itself even happened – This is so interesting that the Lord would be thinking not only of the moment itself, but of the generations to follow and the desire that they would all know and remember this atoning act of the Lord to save his people. And likewise, in the upper room and in advance of the death of Christ, the Lord tells his disciples to take the bread and cup and to observe a remembrance of the sacrifice for sin – the covering, the atonement. God’s heart for all people of all times is evident in these stories and should touch our lives deeply as we do remember him in thanksgiving for remembering us.
And finally, the song Pharaoh, Pharaoh, Whoa Baby, Let My People Go!” is very, very cool! – The final chorus says: “Well that’s the story of the stubborn goat. Pharaoh should’ve known that chariots don’t float. The lesson is simple, it’s easy to find, When God says, ‘GO!’ you had better mind!” (Sorry – now this is going to go singing through your mind all day!)
The Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread
12:1 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, 2 “This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year. 3 Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb[a] for his family, one for each household. 4 If any household is too small for a whole lamb, they must share one with their nearest neighbor, having taken into account the number of people there are. You are to determine the amount of lamb needed in accordance with what each person will eat. 5 The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. 6 Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the members of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. 7 Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs. 8 That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast. 9 Do not eat the meat raw or boiled in water, but roast it over a fire—with the head, legs and internal organs. 10 Do not leave any of it till morning; if some is left till morning, you must burn it. 11 This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the Lord’s Passover.
12 “On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord. 13 The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.
14 “This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord—a lasting ordinance. 15 For seven days you are to eat bread made without yeast. On the first day remove the yeast from your houses, for whoever eats anything with yeast in it from the first day through the seventh must be cut off from Israel. 16 On the first day hold a sacred assembly, and another one on the seventh day. Do no work at all on these days, except to prepare food for everyone to eat; that is all you may do.
17 “Celebrate the Festival of Unleavened Bread, because it was on this very day that I brought your divisions out of Egypt. Celebrate this day as a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. 18 In the first month you are to eat bread made without yeast, from the evening of the fourteenth day until the evening of the twenty-first day. 19 For seven days no yeast is to be found in your houses. And anyone, whether foreigner or native-born, who eats anything with yeast in it must be cut off from the community of Israel. 20 Eat nothing made with yeast. Wherever you live, you must eat unleavened bread.”
21 Then Moses summoned all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Go at once and select the animals for your families and slaughter the Passover lamb. 22 Take a bunch of hyssop, dip it into the blood in the basin and put some of the blood on the top and on both sides of the doorframe. None of you shall go out of the door of your house until morning. 23 When the Lord goes through the land to strike down the Egyptians, he will see the blood on the top and sides of the doorframe and will pass over that doorway, and he will not permit the destroyer to enter your houses and strike you down.
24 “Obey these instructions as a lasting ordinance for you and your descendants. 25 When you enter the land that the Lord will give you as he promised, observe this ceremony. 26 And when your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ 27 then tell them, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the Lord, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians.’” Then the people bowed down and worshiped. 28 The Israelites did just what the Lord commanded Moses and Aaron.
29 At midnight the Lord struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh, who sat on the throne, to the firstborn of the prisoner, who was in the dungeon, and the firstborn of all the livestock as well. 30 Pharaoh and all his officials and all the Egyptians got up during the night, and there was loud wailing in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone dead.
Words for the Puzzle:
Sacrifice – one thing offered in place of another – the innocent and its life given for the guilty.
Lamb – the most common sacrifice. The lamb pictured purity and innocence. When the worshipper brought the best male lamb from his flock, he was not simply bringing the most symbolic picture, he was also bringing his future – as the genetics of that lamb was being sacrificed to God. In John chapter one, Jesus is called the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
Ok, so, first of all: I’ve never heard that song… are you sure you didn’t just make it up? Second: This story always had quite an impact on me when I was a child – because I was the firstborn. I remember wondering why… what did those kids (I assumed they all would be children) do that would make God just kill them? Third: Don’t you think the killing of the firstborn of the livestock overkill? Jus’ sayin’ Finally: Moses says that every household in Egypt was wailing – didn’t the Israelites have Egyptian friends? Didn’t they spread the word? If an Egyptian family had heard from their Israelite friends about the blood on the door frame and had followed the instructions about the blood on the doorposts, would the Death Angel have passed over? Or would it not have mattered since they weren’t God’s people?
God knew (of course He knew, He is God) that this is the one that would clinch it – parents are not supposed to bury their children. It’s just not the way it is supposed to work. My dad has told me that all of my life – parents die first – it’s a rule. Any parent who has had to endure the death of a child knows this better than anyone, and I can’t imagine the pain and agony it causes. Since God sees all time at once, He sees ahead to the cross… His first born… and gives Israel a beautiful picture of the blood sacrifice that will need to be made for their(and our) sins.
Happy Easter Monday!