Exodus: Journey to Freedom – The First Passover (Exo. 12:1-13)
The First Passover
In 1998, DreamWorks released an animated movie based on the life of Moses and the exodus from Egypt, called “Prince of Egypt.” It was a good movie and it has a great soundtrack. Two of Pharaoh’s magicians are played by Steve Martin and Martin Short. One of the songs, sung by these two magicians named Hotel and Huy, begins with a list of some of the Egyptian gods…
By the power of Ra...
We have come to the final plague as God is ready now to pry His children out of the grasp of Pharaoh and the Egyptians. You and I, even if this were the first time we had read Exodus, would know that this plague was coming. Before God sent Moses to Pharaoh the first time, God told Moses was He was ultimately going to do:
“Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the Lord, “Israel is My son, My firstborn. “So I said to you, ‘Let My son go that he may serve Me’; but you have refused to let him go. Behold, I will kill your son, your firstborn.” ’ ” (4:22-23).
God knew the choices Pharaoh would make. God knew that it would take a lot of pressure to get Pharaoh to make the right choice. So God brought nine plagues on Pharaoh.
The plagues proved God’s power. He controlled everything in Egypt.
The plagues showed God’s jealousy. He would not allow any false god to share His glory.
The plagues proved God’s justice. Sin must be punished.
The plagues also showed God’s mercy. God, on several occasions, gave the Egyptians an opportunity to avoid the plague and He gave Pharaoh the opportunity to humble His heart and obey God.
The plagues, finally, showed God’s sovereignty. God could punish Pharaoh when and how He desired. God could harden Pharaoh’s heart. God could and did distinguish between His children and the children of idolatry.
But now we come to the final plague. Whether chapter 11 is a different appearance of Moses before Pharaoh or a separate appearance, God sends Moses to Pharaoh to warn him of what is coming. Remember, in 10:28-29 Pharaoh told Moses that he needed to get out of his face and if he came back, he would die.
But in 11:4-5, Moses tells Pharaoh that the firstborn of everyone - humans and cattle, including Pharaoh himself - would be killed by Jehovah God. After Moses told Pharaoh, in verse 8, the text says Moses left Pharaoh “in hot anger.” I assume it was because Moses was extremely angry that Pharaoh refused to humble himself and save the lives of all these people, children, and animals.
It is in this chapter - 12:12 - in which God tells Moses that He has brought judgment on the gods of the Egyptians. The score: Jehovah God - 9; Egyptian theology - 0. There is no comparison between the God of the Bible and the gods created by man’s imaginations.
THE WAGES OF SIN
This last plague is unique from a number of perspectives. One important one is this… If Israel did not listen to and obey God, they also would suffer the same plague God was brining on Egypt. In other words, Israel’s salvation was conditional on their own faith and obedience to the word of God! Yes, God had made a covenant with Abraham to bring the Savior into the world through His family, but this generation of Israelites would have to obey God’s conditions in order to be saved and to be a part of that blessed family. In 12:13 and 23, God says that He (or the “Destroyer” as He is called in verse 23) will pass through Egypt and if He does not see the blood of the lamb on their doorposts, they would also lose the life of their firstborn.
I wonder if the Israelites were surprised that God was requiring them to do something in order to be saved? It should not have surprised them. Obedience is the proof of trust. Up to that point, the plagues had left them untouched by the justice of God as He made a distinction between them and the Egyptians. As long as Israel stayed in Goshen, they were protected from God’s plagues. But this time, it will be the blood of the lamb - which they have to kill and sprinkle - in order to avoid God’s plagues. Just being Israelites this time was not sufficient. Of course Israel was not more righteous than the Egyptians. God will explicitly tell them that in Deuteronomy 9:4-7.
So, Israel would have to obey Jehovah God, based on their faith in His word, in order to avoid the loss of their own firstborn child.
Among the sins that Israel had committed were the initial rejection of God’s prophet, Moses, in 5:21. We also have pointed out that Israel took some of the idolatrous practices of Egypt out of Egypt with them, like worshipping the golden calf in Exodus 32, the worship of the sun we talked about two weeks ago. Plus, in Joshua 24:14, Joshua points out that the Israelites in Egypt had worshipped false gods.
So, the last plague was God’s punishment on all sinners. All sin pushes humanity away from God. It’s a huge spiritual barrier that separates man from God, in the words of Isaiah (59:1-2). And the “wages” or “salary” for committing even a single sin is separation from God or “death” in the words of Paul from Romans 6:23. Separation from God. When Adam and Eve sinned in the garden of Eden, they were driven from the presence of God and a cherubim with a flaming sword was put at the entrance to keep God’s children from coming back home.
I pointed out two weeks ago John 3:36 that says that if someone does not obey the gospel of Jesus Christ, the wrath of God “remains” on him. In 1 Thessalonians 1:10, Paul writes that Jesus Christ saves us from the “coming” (present tense!) wrath of God.
The death of the firstborn was simply a harbinger of the wrath of God on sin.
You know what — until we take sin and its consequences seriously, we will not be saved.
THE LAMB OF GOD
Here is what God did to test His people’s willingness to obey His command, to set a precedent for later Israelite history, and to provide a picture of what God Himself will do for us…
A lamb… (12:1-6)
Each household would choose its own lamb.
It was to be a year old.
It had to be a perfect animal. Its perfection symbolized purity and holiness.
Then God commanded Israel what to do with the lamb once it was killed:
God then proceeded to explain what to do with the lamb once it was slain (12:7-11).
God will turn this meal into an annual celebration, an annual reminder to the Israelites that God saved them from slavery in Egypt. The bitter herbs reminded Egypt of the bitter lives they lived in Egypt under the hard labor from the Egyptians (1:14). The unleavened bread would remind them that they had to leave quickly from Egypt before Pharaoh changed his mind and hardened his heart once more. In fact, they would eat the Passover standing up, ready to leave Egypt at the moment God spoke to Moses. Plus, there were to be no leftovers of the roasted lamb. Once it was dedicated to worship to God, it could not be used for anything else.
Of course, the most important aspect of the Passover lamb was in its death. They were to take the blood of the lamb and sprinkle it on the two doorposts and on the upper door frame of the house. God says that He will go through the land of Egypt on the night of the fourteenth day from His initial instructions. And God would kill the firstborn of every human and animal in every house except the houses where that blood was sprinkled.
In the garden of Eden, God required a lamb, which Abel gave (Gen. 4:3-5). That lamb was for that individual. Now, God requires lambs for each household of Israel. On the Day of Atonement, recorded in Leviticus 16, God will command a lamb be sacrificed annually, for the whole nation of Israel.
But what about everyone else? That would require a New Covenant with mankind, not like the one which God made with Israel when He brought them out of Egypt. John the baptizer saw Jesus and, in words echoing the Passover lamb, John pointed to Him and said, “Behold, the lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).
Of course, the sacrifice of Jesus was planned from the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8). One Lamb. For the world world. All those lambs and all that blood that was shed from Mount Sinai until the Day of Pentecost all pointed to the coming of a perfect sacrifice, the Lamb who is the Son of God, to take care of the problem of sin once and for all. Paul will also refer to Jesus as “our Passover Lamb, who has been sacrificed” for us (1 Cor. 5:7).
Of course, Jesus had to meet certain qualifications to be our sacrifice:
He was morally perfect: 1 Peter 2:22; Heb. 4:15; John 19:6. The Hebrew writer tells us that Jesus offered Himself “without blemish” (Heb. 9:14).
Jesus, was in fact, sacrificed at the very time of the Passover feast; see John 13:1; 18:28. Of course, we are familiar with the fact that Jesus celebrated His last Passover feast with His apostles in the upper room, at which meal Jesus held up the bread and said, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me” and He took the cup and said, “This is the blood of the New Covenant, which is poured out for you for the forgiveness of sins.”
Certainly the apostles did not understand what all Jesus was talking about, but He was in essence saying, “This Passover is all about Me. I am the once-and-for-all sacrificial Lamb.”
During that week of celebration, Jewish fathers all around the world were sacrificing lambs for their own families. But Jesus was hanging on the cross and the blood that was flowing from His head, His hands, and His feet was the blood that would actually take away the sins of the world.
NOTHING BUT THE BLOOD:
Blood represents life. In Leviticus 17:11, the Law of Moses will explain why God required animal sacrifices and why God required the sacrifice of Jesus: “the life of the flesh is in the blood.” Notice in verse 13 of our text that the blood was a sign both to Israel and to God. What the blood signified to Israel was that a lamb had died for them. By the grace of God, they were spared this final, and painful, plague. As they heard cries and screaming perhaps coming from the land of Egypt, the would know that God had saved them because they had obeyed God’s commandments.
To use a theological term, the blood was the expiation or propitiation for their sins. The blood, in the heart and mind of God, covered their sins so that God’s wrath would not see it. Think about this… Going back to verse 3, the lamb for the sacrifice was chosen. It would not be sacrificed until the 14th. So for four days, the family would take care of that lamb, feeding it and caring for it. Maybe the kids would play with it. The kids would ask “Why?” And the dad would tell them. The lamb was a substitute. God was accepting the death of the lamb in place of the death of the firstborn.
The reason why death passed over them was because blood was spread over them. God’s just wrath would not enter that home. The blood stood between the Israelite and the wrath of God.
Of course the NT talks to us extensively about the blood of Christ. “Blood” is used 97 times in the NT, sprinkled throughout the NT books, but especially found in Hebrews and Revelation.
Listen the voice of the Lord:
“Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him” (Rom. 5:9).
“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace” (Eph. 1:7).
“Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered outside the gate” (Heb. 13:12).
“You were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:18-19).
“If we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).
The Hebrew writer will state very simply in Hebrews 9:22: “Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins.”
The price for sin was paid in full at the cross. Jesus’ sacrifice is the once-and-for-all sacrifice for sin that mankind needed.
But when and how can we come into contact with that blood? When and where does that blood wash our sins away? It is not at the point of faith. It is not when we repent of our sins. It’s not when we confess our faith in Christ.
Listen to God’s spokesmen:
“Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name” (Acts 22:16).
That word for “wash” is used only one more time in the NT, in 1 Corinthians 6:11 where Paul says that at the time we are “washed,” we are also “justified” and we are “sanctified.” It all happens by the blood of Christ, applied at baptism.
“Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless” (Eph. 5:25-27).
It is almost universally recognized that the “washing of water with the word” here is a reference to immersion in water, in obedience to the word of Christ. This word “washing” is found only one other time, in Titus 3:5, where Paul points out that we are saved by God’s mercy and baptism is the point of “regeneration” and “renewing” by the Holy Spirit.
And one more text: Hebrews 10:22 - “let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” Notice that the Hebrew writer uses the metaphor from the Law of Moses of “sprinkling blood” and he says that this happens in a spiritual way when our “bodies are washed with pure water,” another reference to baptism.
So the NT is extremely clear that it is in immersion in water for the forgiveness of sins that we are washed from our sins by the blood Christ. In Paul’s words in Romans 6:3-4, it is through a burial in water that we are united together with Christ in His death.
In Exodus 12:29-32, Pharaoh suffers the death of his firstborn and he calls for Moses and Aaron and sends them out of Egypt. This time, he really does let them go, which shows that he could have done this the whole time. He was just hard headed and hard hearted.
So Israel leaves Egypt with their arms full of things, gifts from the Egyptians, which they will need on their way to the Promised Land. And it was made possible by the grace of God and their faithful obedience to His commands. Putting blood in the doorpost was an act of faithful obedience. In order to find freedom, they had to trust God and obey His prophet, Moses.
It was by faith that the Israelites chose a perfect lamb and obeyed.
It was by faith that the Israelites roasted the lamb and obeyed.
It was by faith that the Israelites ate the lamb with the bitter herbs, ready to leave ASAP and obeyed.
It was by faith that the Israelites took the blood and sprinkled it on the doorposts and door frame and obeyed.
God provided the opportunity for Israel to escape the Destroyer. That’s grace. Israel had to trust God’s prescription for salvation and then obey God’s commands. That faithful obedience.
I think that if each one of us were there on that fateful night, we would have trusted God and sacrificed that lamb and sprinkled that blood.
Will you, today, trust God’s commandments today, trusting Jesus Christ to lead you to freedom, and obey His commandments: Believe, repent, confess, and be immersed in water for the forgiveness of your sins?
Take home message: The Lamb has been provided. We just need to trust and obey.