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Exodus 11-13:16: The Provision of Passover Print E-mail
Sunday, 02 August 2009

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The plagues and the drowning of Pharaohís army in the Red Sea are the judgment of God against Egypt.  As we saw last week, these temporal judgments in the Old Testament teach us about Godís reign over all and His attitude toward those who refuse to submit to that reign.  Yet, we also need to see Godís grace towards His people in these judgments.  The flood was a story of grace for Noah and his family.  Lot was shown grace and was delivered from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.  The judgment on Canaan was God giving the land to His people.  Thus, in these temporal judgments, we also see Godís grace and mercy for His people.  Over the next couple of weeks, we will be considering His grace towards Israel in His judgment of Egypt.

One grand example of Godís grace in this episode is found in our text this morning.  In chapter 11 we read of the final plague being promised.  Look at 11:4-8.  This final plague will be the worst.  Yes, the others were terrible and severe, but they were nothing compared to the death of the firstborn.  This will be the plague that finally causes Pharaoh to let the people go.  Once again we see that the Lord will make a distinction between Israel and Egypt.  All of the firstborn sons of Egypt will die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sits on the throne, even to the firstborn of the slave girl who is behind the handmill.  At the same time, nothing will harm the Israelites.  We have seen this in the other plagues, so we expect it here.  However, what we might not expect is the means by which the Lord will accomplish this distinction.  It is this Ďmeans of distinctioní that is a clear example of Godís grace towards His people.  So then, what is it?  How does the Lord set His people apart?  We are told in chapters 12 and 13.

As we consider the rest of our text this morning, I want to point out the two main ideas running through these two chapters, which point to Godís distinguishing grace for His people.

First, we see His provision for redemption.

After Moses and Aaron left Pharaoh and the Lord told them that he would not let the people go, God gave them instructions concerning the Passover lamb.  He tells them that every household must choose a lamb, giving them further instructions for smaller households (12:3-4).  Then He tells them that the lamb must be without blemish, a male a year old.  The lamb is to be inspected and found without blemish.  Then, at the same time, all of Israel shall kill their lambs at twilight.  Yet, what is all of this for?  Why are they supposed to do this?  We are told in 12:7-13.  Look at those verses with me.  They are to take the blood of the lamb and put it on their doorposts as a sign.  They are to eat the lamb in haste, letting nothing of it remain.  And when the Lord sees the blood on the doorposts, He will pass-over that house.  Thus, the plague of the death of the firstborn will not come to Israel.  They will be distinguished by the blood of the Passover lamb.  This is the means that God will use to set His people apart from the Egyptians.

Yet, why a Passover lamb?  Why does the Lord command Israel to distinguish themselves in this way?  Although it is not explicitly stated in the text, the obvious answer is that the lamb was a substitutionary sacrifice for Israel.  When Moses instructs the elders on these actions in 12:21-27, he gives further explanation for what is taking place.  Look at 12:23-27. 

Particularly in verse 27 we see that the lamb was a sacrifice, and that through this sacrifice Israel was passed over and spared.  Judgment was falling upon Egypt due to their sin and rebellion.  The firstborn were going to die.  Yet, Israel was spared from this judgment.  In the place of their firstborns they offered the Passover lamb.  In this way, they escaped the judgment of Yahweh.  He provided redemption for them through the Passover lamb.  Every house in Egypt that night was filled with death.  The homes of the Egyptians were filled with the death of their firstborn, while the homes of the Israelites were filled with the death of the Passover lamb, which took the place of their sons.  Godís grace provided redemption through the substitutionary sacrifice of the lamb.  Israel could have been judged for her sins that night, but she received mercy through the Lordís provision.  His grace was obvious in the Passover lamb.

Second, we see the call to remember Godís provision for redemption.

Intertwined with the history of the final plague in Egypt are the institution of the Passover celebration and the feast of unleavened bread.  These two rituals, along with the setting apart of the firstborn, are important themes in these two chapters.  Letís consider each one. 

First, the Lord gives them instructions for the feast of unleavened bread in 12:14-20.  After the initial commands regarding the Passover lamb in 12:1-13, the Lord tells Israel that they shall hold a seven-day feast each year at the same time.  For seven days they are to eat unleavened bread.  In fact, they are to remove any leaven from their households to avoid being cut off from Israel.  These instructions are repeated in 13:3-10. 

Second, the Lord gives them instructions for the repeated celebration of Passover.  When Moses speaks to the elders concerning the preparations for the final plague, he speaks of the sacrifice being made repeatedly throughout the future generations (see 12:24-27).  It is to be a night of watching for all generations (see 12:42).  Likewise, instructions are given for foreigners, outsiders, and slaves in 12:43-49.  They can only participate if they (and their families) have been circumcised (which shows the necessity of Moses circumcising his sons in 4:24-26).  Third, the Lord commands the consecration of the firstborn in Israel.  These instructions are given in 13:1-2 and 13:11-16.  The firstborn sons and firstborn animals are to be dedicated to the Lord.  

Of course, the obvious question for all of this is why.  Why have the yearly rituals of Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread?  Why set apart the firstborn?  The answer is the same for all of them.  Why have the Feast of Unleavened Bread?  Look at 13:8-10.  It is to be a reminder of the Lordís bringing the people of Israel out of Egypt with haste.  The Lord brought them out with a strong hand and they are to remember what He has done by the Feast of Unleavened Bread.  Why have the Passover celebration?  Look at 12:26-27.  They are to remember Godís grace in providing them the Passover lamb.  Instead of killing their sons, He provided a substitute sacrifice for them.  They are to remember this each time they sacrifice the Passover lamb. 

Why consecrate the firstborn sons and animals to the Lord?  Look at 13:14-16.  They are to remember the Lordís provision for their sons in Egypt by dedicating all of the firstborn to Him.  Thus, in three different ways, Israel is called to remember what the Lord did for them in Egypt.  Each ritual is a way for them to remember what He did.  These are all to be done repeatedly in Israel throughout all their generations.  The call to remember the Lordís saving acts is a central theme in Israelís history.  We see it in the Psalms and in other passages just as we see it here.  The Lord does not want them to forget, so these memorials are instituted.

As followers of Christ, it is not hard to see the parallels between Godís redemption of Israel in Egypt and His redemption of the Church.  First, it is clear that He has provided a Passover Lamb for us.  Paul identifies Jesus as our Passover Lamb in 1 Corinthians 5:7.  In Johnís vision of the heavenly throne, Christ is described as a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain (Revelation 5:6).  Just as the blood of the Passover lambs in Exodus covered the homes of Israel, so has the blood of Christ covered us.  John records the song of the elders that they sing to Christ around the throne: Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for your were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation (Revelation 5:9).  We are redeemed by the blood of Christ, our Passover Lamb. 

Likewise, the New Testament writers make it clear that only those covered by the blood of Christ will escape the judgment to come.  Just as judgment came to all in Egypt that night, so will it come to all in the future.  And only two options are possible.  First, if a person has repented of their sins and placed their faith in Christís death, burial, and resurrection, then His sacrifice will pay for the judgment that they deserve.  Second, if they refuse to repent and trust in Christ, then they will face a judgment that is far worse than any of the judgments that Egypt or the other nations faced, namely eternal punishment in Hell.  Thus, I plead with you today, repent of your sins and trust in the work of Christ.  He has taken the judgment that you deserve.  He has become your Passover Lamb.  Turn from your sins and believe in His sacrifice so that you might be redeemed.

Not only does our redemption through Christ parallel the redemption of Israel, but we too are called to remember our redemption through a specific Ďritual.í  On the night that Jesus was betrayed, He celebrated the Passover meal with His disciples.  Yet, instead of simply looking back to what God had done in Egypt so many years before, He instructed them to look forward to the giving of His body and His blood.  He spoke of the new covenant that He would establish through His blood, which would be given for the sins of many.  By doing this, Jesus forever changed the Passover celebration.  No longer would it merely point to the redemption of Israel.  From that point on, it became a celebration of the nations, of all of those who were redeemed by Christís blood.  Likewise, they would celebrate this redemption by regularly coming to the Table to remember what He did for them. 

Brothers and sisters, this is why we close our services with communion each week.  One of my commentators says it this way: ďThe churchís redemption from her Ďslaveryí is a weekly one.  Every Sunday we remember the death and resurrection of Christ, our Passover Lamb, so it would seem appropriate to commemorate this redemptive reality by joining it to the appropriate ritual, the Lordís supper.Ē 1  We come to the table each week to remember our redemption, to remember that Jesus willingly gave His body and His blood at the cross.  He was our substitutionary sacrifice, for the death He died He did not deserve but took in our place for our sins.  The wrath of God will pass over us because He has taken it in our stead.  Our God is a glorious God of amazing grace.  He put that on display so many years ago when He provided redemption for Israel that fateful night. 

In the same way, He put it on display again when He sent His Son to be our Passover Lamb at the cross.  May we trust in His grace by repenting of our sins and following hard after Christ.  And may we consistently remember His grace by coming to the Table each week, even as Paul instructed us: For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, "This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me."  In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me."  For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes (1 Corinthians 11:23-26).  Come Lord Jesus, Amen.

1 Peter Enns, The NIV Application Commentary: Exodus (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000), p. 259.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Thursday, 13 August 2009 )

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