Let’s start with our key scripture for today, Exodus 12:13 –
The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live; and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.
In today’s scripture, the Lord will do something so miraculous, so memorable, that the people of Israel could not help but pass it along to their children and their children’s children. God did something so amazing we remember it today.
In many ways, our memories define us. I crunched some numbers – that’s what I do, I’m an engineer – and I discovered it’s my birthday today. I am exactly 21,275 days old today. Thank you, thank you. If you forgot to being me a present, you can leave cash in the offering plate over there at the end of class.
But how many days do I remember? I’ve had so many good, blessed days, but they all blur together. But momentous changes in my life, those I remember. First day at my first engineering job in 1982. Getting on my knee to ask my wife to marry me. The day I asked for a divorce and confessed to God that I was a failure without Him. Giving my life to Christ in Singapore in 1998. Getting on me knee to ask my wife to forgive and to re-marry me.
Memories. Light the corners of my mind. Misty watercolor memories of the way we were. Scattered pictures of the smiles we left behind. Smiles we gave to one another for the way we were.
Stop it. Now I’m going to have that stuck in my head.
Now in Exodus 12, the Israelites are preparing for a life-changing day, a generation-changing day. There would be simultaneous rejoicing and devastation, feasting and mourning, joy and sorrow, and forgiveness and judgment.
Israel needed divine intervention to free them from the trap of slavery that they could not free themselves from. Have you ever found yourself trapped by something? A struggle that you cannot free yourself from? I remember Baby Jessica in October 1987, trapped 22’ underground in that abandoned water well in Midland, Texas. The nation was glued to their televisions for three days as rescue workers and mining experts worked to save her. I remember more recently in June 2018 those boys in Thailand trapped in a cave for 18 days when the monsoon rains came and flooded the entrance. These are physical traps, but traps can be emotional, they can be financial, they can be spiritual.
So, with so many traps keeping us in bondage, it’s no wonder we need deliverance just like the Israelites. But God delivers us from life’s traps. It’s a theme repeated throughout history, God delivers His people, and He still delivers you and me. And 3500 years ago, the Israelites were trapped, in slavery, unable to free themselves from their bondage, and in need of a savior.
God has been delivering to the Egyptians one plague after another. The word “plague” comes from a Latin word that meant to strike, to give a mighty blow or a wound. The blows were mighty indeed – so far there had been 9 plagues the Lord sent against Pharaoh to free His people, and each time Pharaoh promised to free the Israelites but then hardened his heart. Those plagues were frogs, gnats, darkness, um, halitosis, I think. Really bad movies. I forget the whole list. Actually, there was a purpose for each plague, each plague sending a message to the Egyptians that Jehovah God was more powerful than every god the Egyptians had.
In our Scripture today, we arrive at the life-changing day: the Passover. Passover was the day that the Israelites were freed from bondage to the Egyptians. It would serve as an Independence Day for the Israelites, changing the course of their history. In fact, this day was so monumental that God ordered that the Passover would start their calendar year. It was symbolic of the fresh start and fresh life that God was granting to the people of Israel (Exodus 12:1-2).
The Passover was the last of the Ten Plagues that God sent to the Egyptians. The purpose of the plagues was to display God’s authority. The tenth plague was by far the deadliest and most devastating. God would sweep over the land of Egypt, visiting every home and taking the life of every firstborn male—unless the house was covered by the blood of an innocent lamb.
Now, God sends the 10th and final plague. Let’s see how He prepares His people.
Exodus 12:1-5, New Beginning
Exodus 12:1-5 –
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. 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. The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats.”
God is creating a new beginning for His people to commemorate His deliverance. This new beginning is the first month of the first year of a brand new calendar. To remember this occasion, the head of each household will select a year-old, unblemished and perfect lamb to sacrifice on the tenth day of the month and slaughter it on the fourteenth day. The purpose of the lamb was to serve as a substitute. Instead of their first-born son passing away, the lamb would die in his place.
This was not the first time a lamb was sacrificed as a substitute for God’s people. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were literally covered by the sacrifice of an animal. It stood in their place and covered their nakedness. And on Mount Moriah, God provided a lamb as a substitute just as Abraham was about to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice.
However, God made it clear that not just any male lamb would do. He provided specific qualifications for this substitute: the lamb was to be one year old. It was to be free from blemish or defect. These details are important. The age of the lamb mattered because, at one year, a lamb is at the peak of its life in strength and energy. And the perfection of the lamb mattered because it was a representation of the quality of its life. We will see later in Deuteronomy 17:1 that a blemished animal was an abomination to God. In order to offer a perfect substitute, the Israelites were expected to find a perfect sacrifice.
Impending judgment hung over the head of all those residing in Egypt that evening. Death was on the doorstep of every house in Egypt. As the sun rolled beneath the horizon, all were in danger. But God had provided His people a way to spare themselves and their households from the fate that all deserved. The Israelites had the opportunity to take God at His word and exercise their faith in Him. They could find a substitute that would stand in the impending death in place of their firstborn sons. Behind the cover of a young, perfect lamb, they would be shielded from the wrath of God and instead receive the mercy of God.
Just like you and me today. When we are behind the cover of the lamb, we are shielded from the wrath of God and instead receive mercy. How did Jesus meet this criteria? I’m glad you asked. 1 Peter 1:18-19 says –
knowing that 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.
And John the Baptist proclaimed in John 1:29b the beginning of Jesus’ ministry with these words –
“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
Let’s not overlook the significance of the blood covering. Leviticus 17:11 says,
“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.”
Blood is life. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that our advanced society still requires blood donations and haven’t developed artificial blood. They’ve developed some stuff that can help refill the circulatory system in case of blood loss, but they haven’t developed red blood cells to carry oxygen, white blood cells for fighting diseases, plasma with proteins, platelets to stop blood loss, and so on. Blood is life.
And 1 John 1 :7 says,
“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.”
It is the blood of Jesus that saves us and gives us eternal life. For the Israelites, it was only the covering of blood over the door that would save them and deliver them from their bondage. For us, it is only the covering of the blood of Jesus that saves us from our sins and delivers us from our eternal punishment.
The sacrifice of the innocent to pay for the sins of the guilty. The lamb was innocent of any wrongdoing. Just as Jesus was innocent of any wrongdoing. It is we who do wrong. Romans 3:23 says that all of us, you and me, have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. And Romans 6:23 says that the punishment for our sins is death, but God’s gift to us is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. This concept of atonement begins here in Exodus 12, continues through Isaiah 53:5 that says that our redeemer was pierced for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities, the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. And all the way through the New Testament, 1 Peter 2:24, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness, by his wounds we have been healed.”
Any other method of trying to provide for our own deliverance will fail. We do not have the ability to save ourselves any more than the Israelites could save themselves from Pharaoh. If we try, we will find we are sinners and must pay for our sins with eternal death. Jesus, the son of God, paid that price on our behalf that we may live in Him.
And when we accept this sacrifice, we become new creations. God delivers us from our eternal punishment, and we become adopted children of God. 2 Corinthians 5:17 –
” Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”
God delivers us.
Exodus 12:6-11, Urgent Attitude
Once we have accepted Jesus, our lives take on a certain urgency. Exodus 12:6-11 –
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. 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. 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.
Like the instructions regarding the sacrificial animal and its blood, God gave the Israelites detailed instructions about the meal that would follow the Passover. They were to eat unleavened bread. This bread did not contain yeast, and they were not permitted time for the bread to rise. God wanted them to eat the meal with a belt on their waists and shoes on their feet so that they could leave in a hurry. It was a reminder to the people of Israel that they were to be ready to follow God. They could be called to make their exodus out of Egypt at any moment.
The symbolism of the yeast was also symbolic of what the people were to leave behind, to leave out of their lives. To the Israelites, it represented the old traps of life, the bondage to Egypt. To us, it represent sin. God tells His people to make bread without yeast, unleavened bread, and later in Exodus 12:19 God says that whoever eats anything with yeast in it during this Passover will be cut off from Israel. These are not baking instructions. Jesus says in Matthew 16:11-12,
“How is it you don’t understand that I was not talking to you about bread? But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”
And 1 Corinthians 5:6-8,
“Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”
So it’s definitely not a baking recipe, it’s a warning that a little sin will spread throughout the whole body. We cannot underestimate the significance of sin in our lives and how offensive sin is to a most Holy God. The smallest amount of sin in our lives will cause us to fry in the presence of Jehovah unless we are covered by the sacrificial, Passover blood.
This dinner was true farm-to-table. The Israelites roasted their lamb, made fresh bread, and accompanied the meal with bitter herbs that were also symbolic. The bitter herbs were a reminder to them of their bitter enslavement in Egypt. The herbs were also symbolic of the bitterness of sin. In The Doctrine of Repentance, Puritan pastor and theologian Thomas Watson, said, “Till sin be bitter, Christ will not be sweet.”
This highly symbolic Passover meal would endure for generations. Every year, when the Israelites would eat this meal, the smells and tastes would bring them back to the night that changed the history of their nation. They would recall the sacrificial lamb. They would be reminded of the bitterness of sin and slavery. They would remember the attitude of hastiness that they were to show when God called them. Ultimately, the Passover Meal would serve as a reminder of the deliverance they could experience. It prompted them to maintain an attitude of sacrifice, a readiness to obey God, and a regard for sin as bitter.
And 1500 years later, Jesus added an extra layer of symbolism during the last Passover meal. Jesus and His disciples gathered in the upper room, and they shared the Passover meal the night before His death. They ate the lamb, and they ate unleavened bread. They ate the bitter herbs. It was on that night and at that dinner that Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper.
He took the unleavened bread, and He broke the bread as a symbol of His body that was going to be broken on the cross. He took a cup of wine, and He explained to His friends that His blood was going to be poured out for the forgiveness of sins. And then, with haste, Jesus got up from the table because God was calling Him to be obedient, even unto death. He was going to become our Passover Lamb, and He would taste the bitterness of sin for all sinners.
The Passover is rich with symbols, from the lamb to the blood to the meal that followed. Each element was carefully designated by God to represent a large truth. But God had an even bigger plan in mind than freedom from the Egyptians when He provided instructions to the Israelites. The Passover serves as a signpost that points toward something even greater for God’s people.
Exodus 12:12-13, Divine Mercy
If God’s people did as they were instructed and made their sacrifice in haste, the they were saved from the wrath of God. Verse 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.”
And so begins the 10th plague, the death of every firstborn. Who was judged this night? Egyptians were pantheists, believing that everything in the world was part of a god or goddess. And they were polytheists, worshiping many gods that were all around them. Each god or goddess was involved in a different part of their lives.
God is very deliberate in His wrath, demonstrating his power over all of nature. God says, “I am the Lord.” He stands apart, holy. All other gods are demons. Each of the first 9 plagues demonstrated God’s sovereignty over a popular Egyptian god to demonstrate that He alone is God. And now the 10th plague over all male firstborns including animals demonstrate that no one is god but God alone.
Death is a powerful and painful lesson. It gets our attention like nothing else in this world. And it’s unavoidable. It is God’s final recourse in showing His power to liberate His people and God’s supremacy over Pharaoh’s little gods. When Pharaoh refused, thousands perished. When Israel believed, thousands lived. And today, every person’s fate hinges on either believing or not believing the one true and living God in heaven. And God used the ultimate death, His son Jesus, to save us.
Who needed mercy that night? Everyone did. Who received mercy that night? Only those covered by the blood were granted divine mercy.
Romans 2:5 is addressed to those who have not accepted the blood covering of Jesus.
“But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed.”
Still today, everyone needs mercy. But only those who accept that Jesus Christ is Lord and is true messiah receive it. This is God’s plan to the end of time; in Revelation 7:9, there is a great multitude that no one could count from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. In Revelation 7:14, we are told who these people are and the distinguishing mark of the believer.
“These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”
God has had a plan from the beginning to deliver us from our sins that deserve His wrath. His judgment is perfect; that’s why we should fear Him. But His mercy is perfect; that’s why we should love Him. He first loved us and provided a way to deliver us from our sins that trap us in bondage. We are free in Christ.
Exodus 12:14, Precious Memory
These lessons must be continually learned from one generation to the next. Anything not carefully remembered is easily forgotten, so we must carefully prepare our lives and celebrations in a way that the next generation will also come to know the saving blood of Jesus. Exodus 12:14 –
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.
The Passover saved the Israelites who heeded God’s instructions. It was a “mighty blow,” the tenth and final plague that delivered them from the grip of Pharaoh. As God’s judgment swept across the land, killing the firstborn sons of the Egyptians, the Israelites were safely covered from God’s wrath by the blood of a perfect sacrifice. The next morning, the Egyptians wailed in distress while the Israelites tasted God’s freedom and goodness. God had displayed His authority, identified His people, and upheld them among their oppressors.
Passover serves to remind us today of the ultimate deliverance that God has in mind for all of His people. In 1st Corinthians, the Apostle Paul tells us that the Passover in Exodus is a shadow of what was to come. And, that what was demonstrated on the cross was the substance. 1 Corinthians 5:7b,
For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.
Jesus was in the prime of His life when He was sacrificed. He was a full-grown and vibrant man who was unblemished in that He never sinned and had no fault. Every element of the Passover pointed to the Gospel, including God’s instruction to paint the blood of the lamb across doorposts. God would later instruct His people to identify themselves and exercise their faith by painting Jesus’ blood across their hearts.
In Messiah in the Passover, Dr. Rich Freeman describes the Passover as a signpost:
“Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He is the fulfillment of Passover. Like the first Passover lambs sacrificed to redeem Israel from slavery in Egypt, Jesus’ death on the cross redeems us from slavery to sin … And just as the first Passover was very personal and the Israelites personally applied the blood of the lambs to the doors of their houses, we too, by faith, need to personally apply the blood of Jesus, the Lamb of God, to the doors of our hearts.”
The past picture of the Passover points to the future plan of God in Jesus Christ.
Although the Passover occurred thousands of years ago, Passover still points to our ultimate deliverance through Jesus Christ. In Exodus, the Passover lamb saved the Israelites, an event that led them on their journey to the Promised Land. Today, Jesus saves us and leads us toward the promised land of Heaven.
Are you trapped? There is deliverance in Christ Jesus. Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the Passover Lamb whose blood was poured out on the cross for us. We can trust in Jesus as the perfect, unblemished Lamb of God that stands in our place.
We are invited by God to escape judgment and find mercy through the blood of Jesus. It is His desire that we flee the bitter bonds of sin. We can experience deliverance from our past – and deliverance from all of the things that will ensnare us in the future – through the Lamb.
When we apply the blood of Jesus to our lives, we escape God’s judgment. God will “pass over” us, and we will be spared eternal death. Instead of receiving what we deserve, we will be given the gift of eternal life. One day, we will arrive in Heaven, the land flowing with milk and honey, and all of God’s people will sing, “Worthy is the Lamb!” (Revelation 5:12).
To God be the glory.