Passport to Passover

Exodus 11:1-12:13

Zero Hour has arrived for Egypt and Israel. The end of bondage and misery is near. Redemption draws nigh. An impasse has been reached. There is no more room to maneuver. The stream of negotiation has reached the narrows, and the waters are shortly going to go crashing through the gorge. There are no stopping things now. A final judgment will fall upon Pharaoh and Egypt. Yet one more plague—the Tenth! Exodus 11:1-2—

Now the LORD said to Moses, “I will bring one more plague on Pharaoh and on Egypt. After that, he will let you go from here, and when he does, he will drive you out completely. Tell the people that men and women alike are to ask their neighbors for articles of silver and gold.”

ONE MORE PLAGUE! God’s patience had run out and His final judgment—death to the firstborn—was about to fall. One more heavy blow must be delivered in the conflict between Pharaoh and Moses and the gods of Egypt and Yahweh.

The “King of Terrors” will strike the firstborn. And with all their wisdom and learning Pharaoh and his people will be helpless. The magicians would be of no avail in the time of God’s wrath. There was no withstanding the Destroyer! Neither wealth nor science could provide deliverance.

Pharaoh’s reaction to the devastation of the Tenth Plague is predictable. He will let the Israelites go; in fact, he will drive them out, leaving no one behind. How utterly vain it is for man to harden and exalt himself against God; for, truly, Yahweh can grind to powder the hardest heart, and bring down to the dust the haughtiest spirit.

Another proud king would later write in Daniel 4:37—

Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble.

Man may fancy himself something; he may lift up his head, in pomp and vainglory, as though he were his own master. Vain man! How little he knows of his real condition and character! He is but the tool of Satan, taken up and used by him, in his malignant efforts to counteract the purposes of God.

The most splendid intellect, the most commanding genius, the most invincible energy, if not under the direct control of the Spirit of God, are but so many instruments in Satan’s hand to carry forward his dark designs. No man is his own master; he is either governed by the LORD or governed by Satan. The king of Egypt might fancy himself a free agent, yet he was but a tool in the hands of another. Satan was behind the throne; and, as the result of Pharaoh having set himself to resist the purposes of God, he was judicially handed over to the blinding and hardening influence of his self-chosen master.

Finally, the usurper is about to be plundered of his captives and wealth. Moses is to speak to the people and remind them to ask their neighbors for their silver and gold possessions. Moses is not to forget the promise God made at the burning bush, Exodus 3:21—

And I will make the Egyptians favorably disposed towards this people, so that when you leave you will not go empty-handed.

For years, the Jews had slaved for the Egyptians without pay, so now God permits them to ask for their JUST WAGES. This fulfills God’s promise to Abraham in Genesis 15:14—

But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterwards they will come out with great possessions.

Put yourselves in the sandals of these Israelites. Life was filled with adversity. Moses—the deliverer— appeared on the scene and suddenly there was a spark of hope. But Pharaoh quenched the fire of hope before it could blaze by increasing the burden of making bricks without straw. Instead of getting better, life plummeted to new levels of discouragement.

These are trying days. It takes every bit of energy to muster one’s resources to make it another day. Pharaoh hopes that you will drop dead because there are too many Israelites! To make matters worse, the water turns to blood, frogs, gnats are everywhere. Yet, you have been miraculously spared the swarms of files, dying livestock, boils, hail, locusts and darkness.

Could it be that the promises of blessings given to Abraham by God have some merit—but life is a puzzle—filled with confusion—it’s like a MAZE—with each step—you seem to bump into another wall. There is no way out!

BUT ONE MORE PLAGUE—it is the way out—it is trusting God when you don’t know what to do!

Moses interjects a parenthetical comment with Exodus 11:3—

(The LORD made the Egyptians favorably disposed towards the people, and Moses himself was highly regarded in Egypt by Pharaoh’s officials and by the people.)

This comment highlights one thing—Pharaoh stands alone. He is the one whose stubbornness has brought Egypt to this point. Pharaoh’s own servants will come and bow before Moses! One is prompted to wonder: If it had not been for Pharaoh, what would the effect of these miraculous signs have been? Biblical history shows more often than not that a country’s leader is the final straw that brings the judgment of God upon a nation. That is why we need leaders that FEAR THE LORD.

The Ninth Plague of Thick Darkness was a prelude to the startling black picture painted in Exodus 11:46—

So Moses said, “This is what the LORD says: `About midnight I will go throughout Egypt. Every firstborn son in Egypt will die, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, to the firstborn son of the slave girl, who is at her hand mill, and all the firstborn of the cattle as well. There will be loud wailing throughout Egypt—worse than there has ever been or ever will be again.

Since all the plans and dreams of a family were bound up in the firstborn son, the Tenth Plague would be the ultimate disaster. The laws of inheritance decreed that the lion’s share of the family would be inherited by the firstborn son when the father died, so the death of the firstborn would cripple the family legally and emotionally.

Death will be so selective that no one could attribute it to a disease. The Tenth Plague, like the previous nine, belongs to the realm of the supernatural. This plague would be amazingly and selectively miraculous, because it destroyed only firstborn males, whether human or animal—it would not touch any firstborn male covered by the blood of a lamb. The timing and scope are clearly supernatural in character.

The Tenth Plague was, therefore, potentially more devastating than the first nine put together. It would wipe out the firstborn male of the highest person in the land—Pharaoh—to the lowest person—the slave girl, who is at her hand mill. Distinctions among the Egyptians will collapse. Yet, God is making distinctions. Exodus 11:7—

But among the Israelites not a dog will bark at any man or animal. Then you will know that the LORD makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel.

Once again, the LORD makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel. Israel will be so protected that not so much as a dog will growl at them. This distinction is something that Pharaoh will KNOW. God is the one who makes choices, who makes distinctions.

Ironically, the Egyptians themselves will take up Moses’ call to let God’s people go. Exodus 11:8—

All these officials of yours will come to me, bowing down before me and saying, `Go, you and all the people who follow you!’ After that I will leave.” Then Moses, hot with anger, left Pharaoh.

Pharaoh’s silence in the face of this announcement is deafening. Yet, he is the one who will in fact order the Israelites out of Egypt. Pharaoh will assume this responsibility. Having made this announcement, Moses leaves Pharaoh’s presence in great anger—his face and neck are red—he is breathing hard through his nostrils—his hands are clenched—there is determination and purpose in his step!

Why is Moses angry? He cannot be angry at the permission to leave Egypt. For it is forth coming. He must be angry at the fact that everything has come to this. God in effect confirms this in Exodus 11:9-10—

The LORD had said to Moses, “Pharaoh will refuse to listen to you—so that my wonders
may be multiplied in Egypt.” Moses and Aaron performed all these wonders before
Pharaoh, but the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let the Israelites go out of his country.

God hardened Pharaoh’s heart—Pharaoh would not let Israel go. Now things will change—Pharaoh will let Israel go.

As we come to Chapter 12, we need to recognize that the overall movement of the Book of Exodus is BONDAGE TO WORSHIP. Moses in telling the history of THE DEPARTURE FROM EGYPT (12:29-14:31) sandwiched between two acts of worship: THE PASSOVER RITUAL (12:1-27) and SONGS OF PRAISE in Chapter 15.

In other words, liturgy encloses the story of the Exodus and we are invited to read the account of the Exodus through a liturgical lens as Moses weaves institution of Passover with the narrative of the Tenth Plague.

Chapters 12 to 15 are a celebration of redemption. It is Good Friday, Easter and the Second Coming all wrapped up into one package. In every area of the Passover, Israel would confess through the centuries “God delivered us.”

The newly liberated people are to have practices and institutions that are in tune with their new status. Since the Exodus from Egypt would trigger the start of a whole new way of life for the people of Israel, God gave them a brand new calendar to symbolize their new beginning. Exodus 12:1-2—

The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, “This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year.

This command is the inauguration of the religious calendar in Israel. In the ANE, new year festivals normally coincided with the new season of life in nature. Redemption was to constitute the first step in new life. The designation of this month as Israel’s religious New Year reminded Israel that its life as the people of God was grounded in God’s redemptive act in the Exodus. The Canaanite name for this month (that falls in mid-March to mid-April) was ABIB, which means YOUNG HEAD OF GRAIN. Later the Babylonian name NISAN was adopted by the Israelites and was in use in the times of Jesus. Judaism of today uses a civil calendar, which begins in the fall.

Undoubtedly, spring was chosen by God for the time of the Exodus because it symbolized new life and increasing growth. Likewise, the spring would be suitable for the resurrection of Christ, which also inaugurated a new religious calendar; this time, a weekly calendar by moving the Sabbath from the seventh day to the first day of the week.

Exodus 12:3-4—

Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household. 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.

In the OT, the technical term COMMUNITY or CONGREGATION refers to the nation of Israel gathered or assembled to worship the LORD. Israelites are blood relatives, but the Passover would unite them in a much deeper bond as a community by faith.

The key to the Passover is the LAMB. The Passover marks the birth of the nation of Israel and its deliverance from bondage. This great event also pictures Christ and His work on the cross. The main item in the Passover was to be a lamb. In the next section, seven aspects of the Passover Lamb are highlighted.

The Lamb is Needed!

The Lamb is Chosen!

The Lamb is Spotless!

The Lamb is Tested!

The Lamb is Slain!

The Lamb’s Blood is Applied!

The Lamb is Eaten!

Exodus 12:5-6—

The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the people of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight [literally, between the evenings].

THE LAMB IS NEEDED. The death of the lamb makes a new beginning, just as the death of Christ makes a new beginning for the believing sinner.

God specifies that the FIRSTBORN will die, and this certainly speaks of God’s rejection of our first birth. All people are FIRSTBORN who have not been TWICE-BORN. Jesus said in John 3:6-7—

Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, `You must be born again.

THE LAMB IS CHOSEN. Selected on the tenth day, and slain BETWEEN THE EVENINGS of the fourteenth and fifteenth days, the lamb was set aside for death. So Christ was the Lamb foreordained to be sacrificed before the foundation of the world. 1 Peter 1:20 states—

He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.

THE LAMB IS SPOTLESS. People cannot save themselves from the penalty of death because they have the defects and blemishes of sin—they need Christ, the sinless Lamb of God. Every Passover Lamb sacrificed foreshadowed Christ’s atonement for our sins. 1 Peter 1:18-19 states—

For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.

THE LAMB IS TESTED. From the tenth to the fourteenth days, the people watched the lambs to make sure they were satisfactory. Similarly, Christ was tested and watched during His earthly ministry, especially during the last week before He was crucified.

THE LAMB IS SLAIN. The slaughter was to take place at twilight—literally BETWEEN THE TWO EVENINGS. Jesus died at the ninth hour—three o’clock in the afternoon—at twilight—Between the evenings of the 14th and 15th of NISAN.

THE LAMB’S BLOOD IS APPLIED. Exodus 12:7—

Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the door-frames of the houses where they eat the lambs.

How foolish and ridiculous this command must have sounded. How could blood sprinkled on doorposts save anyone? Yet, the people’s faith in the shed blood of the lamb would result in salvation. Hebrews 11:28 says of Moses—

By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel.

The blood of a sacrifice symbolizes the substitution of one life laid down for another according to Leviticus 17:11—

For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life. Redemption, including the forgiveness of sin, takes place only when the blood of an innocent offering is
shed according to Hebrews 9:22—

In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.

1 John 1:7 also explains the importance of blood in forgiveness—

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

Of course, John the Baptist was the first to understand and announce that the Passover Lamb typified Jesus. John 1:29—

The next day John saw Jesus coming towards him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

I believe the Egyptians, watching the Israelites sprinkling blood on the doorframes, might have thought to themselves how foolish these people appear. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 1:18—

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Not only are they to trust in the blood of the Lamb, but also are to consume the Lamb, thereby making Him a very part of their life.

THE LAMB IS EATEN. Verses 8-10—

That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast. Do not eat the meat raw or cooked in water, but roast it over the fire—head, legs and inner parts. Do not leave any of it till morning; if some is left till morning, you must burn it. 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.

Undoubtedly, Jesus had the symbolism of this command in mind when He said in John 6:63—

I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.

ALONG WITH BITTER HERBS is to recall the bitter years of bondage—It is a look back.

AND BREAD MADE WITHOUT YEAST points to the New Beginning—a new life without the permeating influence of EGYPT—Sin and Satan—It is a look forward to holiness and sanctification. The NT makes this application in 1 Corinthians 5:7—

Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.

EAT IT IN HASTE is literally EAT IN ANXIOUS HASTE—with certain expectation and assurance of deliverance—that is what the Bible calls HOPE.

IT IS THE LORD’S PASSOVER. Six times Yahweh uses the personal pronoun “I” to indicate that it is His Passover in Exodus 12:12-13—

“On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn—both men and animals—and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the LORD. 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.

Again, we are reminded that this plague, like the others, is a JUDGMENT ON ALL THE GODS OF EGYPT.

Note that THE BLOOD WILL BE A SIGN FOR YOU, not for God. That is, it is a sign of divine promise. God commits Himself to pass over the blood-marked houses. Israel can rely on God’s being faithful to this commitment.

The sign is not simply a marker, as if any colorful substance that caught the eye would do. In the blood is life; it is the vitality of the living. It has this power because of the Word of God that so proclaims its significance. The Blood of the Lamb is the Way Out! It is of first priority in solving Israel’s problem.

We pride ourselves on problem solving. From the historic challenge of putting a person on the moon, to the ordinary challenge of fitting 48-hour schedules into 24-hour days, we are solution-finders. But a trend is emerging that has a few deeply concerned. We are beginning to face problems with a magnitude, complexity, and velocity such humanity has never before experienced.

As we enter the Information Age, the transportation of information is the catalyst for a change unlike any we have ever seen before. Experts tell us that the speed of change in the last decade, through technology and information, is a FORCE OF 30 increase! That is 1030. What does that mean? If you took one grain of sand and magnified it ten to the thirtieth power, it would be the size of the Milky Way galaxy! The mind boggles and the heart cringes.

To put rapid change in perspective—consider the Pony Express, one of the most successful, creative communication links to connect the East and West Coasts of the Untied States in the 1800s. Riding night and day, riders could carry information from St. Joseph, Missouri, to Sacramento, California, in just two weeks. The Pony Express dates back to around 480 B.C., during the reign of the Persian King Xerxes, who married Esther. It was an amazing accomplishment and it lasted 2,300 years until the Telegraph put it out of business. What used to take two weeks by horse and rider could be done in an instant with electricity and wires. The horses were overtaken with technology. Today, you can sit at your computer at home and communicate with people around the world.

These are trying days. We are facing changes on all levels in a way that humanity has never experienced before. No wonder we find ourselves struggling for solutions. Nobody has ever faced, let alone solved, these problems before. What can we do? Any one of the many problems we face in this fast-past age of change might tax our problem-solving resources. When we come to the end of our rope, it’s time to take God’s hand—not go searching for more rope. Failure to recognize this can lead to catastrophe.

When the Israelites were at the end of their rope, God sent Moses, the first in a line of prophets, priests, and kings to show them the way out of the Maze. Fifteen centuries later, God sent His Son to show the way-out. We need to respond to Christ as Israel responded to Moses. The Israelites choose to believe Moses that God would make a way out of Egypt. You need to choose to believe Christ will make a way for you through the maze. Like the Israelites . . .

1. You need to embrace the great promises of God’s Word.
2. Accept Yahweh’s grace and deliverance.
3. Discover how the LORD identifies with your struggles.
4. Place your hope in the God of surprising outcomes.
5. Look for the joys that refresh your spirit.
6. Become a community by pursuing support relationships with other believers.

Lets go back to the opening phrase of Exodus 11:5 and look at its wording very closely—“Every firstborn son IN Egypt will die.” Notice it does not say every firstborn son OF Egypt will die. The Divine sentence of judgment included Israelites equally with Egyptians. How were the Israelites spared? Exodus 12:23 says—

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.

Archeologists have recently discovered the ruins of what appears to be an Israelite city in the Land of Goshen in Egypt that is dated to the time of the Exodus. Their studies show that the city was abandoned in haste as was done with the tenth plague of Exodus. Human skeletons were stack in piles unburied, indicating a plague may have preceded the hasty departure of this city.

What strikes me most about this discovery is that there were dead bodies. Do you know what that means? In this particular Israelite city, not everyone believed the Word of God spoken by Moses. They must have thought it was foolish to put blood on the doorposts and eat the Passover lamb in haste!

Humanly speaking, there was no difference between the firstborn of Egypt and the firstborn of Israel. The difference was in the application of the blood. THE PASSOVER WAS ISRAEL’S PASSPORT TO ADVENTURE—the Way Out—the Exodus—and these firstborn sons apparently missed out!

They had been told WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO, but they refused to take the first step of faith—TRUSTING CHRIST WHEN LIFE GETS CONFUSING—for that’s what the Passover is all about!

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