Exodus 11:1-12:32 - Ten
April 13, 2014 Speaker: Series: Exodus
Topic: Sunday Worship Passage: Exodus 11:1–12:32
[Text: Exodus 11:1-12:32] “Ten”
The death of the firstborn of Egypt. The institution of the Passover. These are the events to which the people of God could look back and trust that their God was taking care of them. But these events were also pointing forward to a greater Passover still to come.
[Pray – Loving Father, you have made us not to exist on bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from your mouth. Give us a hunger for you Word, and in that food satisfy our daily need. Lord, open now our hearts and minds by the power of your Holy Spirit that as the scriptures are read and your Word is proclaimed, we may hear with joy what your Spirit will say to us this day. Amen.]
[Read Exodus 11:1-12:32]
Do you remember that moment in school when the literature teacher was looking for someone to answer her question? You were supposed to read some classic Dickens but didn’t really get around to it. Do you remember sitting there thinking, “Please don’t call on me! Please don’t call on me!”as you hoped her eyes would pass over you and land on somebody – anybody – else? (If you don’t remember, then neither do I. Let’s pretend I never brought this up and I was a great student who never experienced this.)
Some days soccer or an episode of Batman just seemed more important than reading a chapter of Great Expectations. But when the moment of judgment came in the classroom, I always regretted my choice of the day before. And I’d sit there avoiding eye contact hoping for the judgment of Mrs. Bailey to pass over me.
Judgment was about to fall on Egypt. One more plague was coming, this time from YHWH himself. And when Pharaoh sees it, 11:1 says, he will drive Israel away completely. For even a casual reader, the grandeur of this event is obvious. In 12:2, YHWH says time itself will be reckoned differently, changing the calendar itself. This event called the Passover will change everything for Israel. It’s their new beginning – a new birth. This would be their release from slavery and entrance into life with YHWH. In the coming judgment against Egypt and its gods (12:12), Israel will finally be redeemed!
Through these signs called the Ten Plagues, YHWH had been revealing himself to his people and to the world. And as we heard last week, Moses warned Pharaoh that one more sign of YHWH’s power and Kingship and choice would be given for all to see. By this final sign Pharaoh and Israel both would know that YHWH is God. But where Pharaoh would only know him as a God of justice, Israel would know him as their God of justice and steadfast love.
Steadfast love and justice – what kind of God do you have without one of those? Without steadfast love, justice is crushing. A God without steadfast love is burning fire and swift wrath. He is the teacher who fails the student who fumbles one answer. But without justice, a God of love only is a slave to us, always yielding to our desires whether they offend or hurt or kill. He is the teacher who wants all the kids to like him, giving an “A” to most incoherent drivel.
The God I need is the God of justice because the Story of Redemption confirms my experience – this world is not the way it’s supposed to be. I need a God who can make things right, who takes care of slaves and widows and orphans, who cares about the spiritually and materially poor. I need a God who sees the injustice done by human against human and who does something about it. I need a God who holds this world accountable, who righteously judges rebellion against His goodness and truth.
But I desperately need a God of steadfast love because if rebellion is to be judged, then without his loving-mercy, I, too, am lost. The same justice I desire would, without his love, consume me, too. Because in me – like in Pharaoh and in Israel – in me lies a rebel’s heart. I need him to be a God of steadfast love because when his justice comes, I need a covering for my sin. I need him to pass over me.
We’re going to look at two things today. First, we’re going to see the steadfast love and justice of YHWH in the Passover, seeing that we need him be the God of both if we are to have hope. And second, we’re going to see Israel’s response to this YHWH of steadfast love and justice, to understand how we today can respond to him.
So, how do we see the steadfast love and justice of YHWH in the Passover? Let’s look at his justice first. And what we see here is his justice is a threat to Egypt – and to Israel.
The tenth plague – the death of the firstborn – is the justice of YHWH on display. For decades, the Pharaohs of Egypt had enslaved the people of Israel and when Moses first arrived in Egypt as YHWH’s representative, he was told what to say (4:22-23): “Thus says YHWH, Israel is my firstborn son, and I say to you, ‘Let my son go that he may serve me. If you refuse to let him go, behold, I will kill your firstborn son.’” Pharaoh had refused and tried to keep YHWH’s adopted son – even trying to kill the sons of Israel in their infancy (1:15-22). So, the rebellion of Pharaoh had brought the justice of the true King, YHWH. And his judgment fell on all Egypt as they shared in the guilt of their king.
But in this judgment, Israel themselves would need to be spared. Because the justice of YHWH was being shown as the “destroyer” (12:23) passed through the land. In plagues 4-9, YHWH began making a clear distinction between his people and those of Pharaoh. The flies and pestilence, boils, hail and darkness never touched the people of Israel. But this – this is different. On the night the destroyer came, YHWH would pass through the entire land, over the houses of Israel and Egypt alike looking for rebels against YHWH. And wherever he saw no blood on the door, he would kill the firstborn inside. Without the covering of blood, even an Israelite would be in danger of death (12:22). Without the blood, no firstborn of Egypt or Israel would be spared.
Without the blood, they’d be like me like me sitting in Mrs. Bailey’s class, hoping “the destroyer” would call on someone else. But where I had a chance she’d call on my friend, YHWH promised His justice would absolutely find them.
Without a covering for our sin, we can expect nothing but the justice of YHWH. Without the blood poured out in our place, the judgment of this God will fall on us. We often have a hard time with this because we can’t truly comprehend the darkness of sin. We can’t understand the infinite offense it gives to an infinitely perfect God. But here we can see it in a picture. It doesn’t matter what family we come from or how earnestly we pray - that night, the most obedient firstborn child of Israel would have died without the blood of the lamb on his house. Unless the blood of the Lamb of God (John 1:29) covers us, nothing we do can protect us from the justice of God when he comes in judgment.
But we see the steadfast love of God toward his people in this: even though the same rebel heart as Pharaoh lay in the breast of his people (then and now) YHWH provides a way for them to be spared. In this perpetual covenant meal called Passover, together with the Feast of Unleavened bread, a substitute would be given in place of their sons. And the people could eat in confident faith that their God of steadfast love and justice was taking care of them.
In the Passover, the blood of the lamb was put on the doorpost. And YHWH said, “The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. 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.” (12:13) The blood pointed to the reality that the justice of YHWH had been satisfied in the death of the lamb. YHWH had forgiven their sin and his judgment would pass them over. Their sons were bought by the blood of the lambs; Israel was truly adopted and claimed as God’s son.
But then the sacrifice turns into a meal as they ate the roasted, whole body of the lamb. And the people of God – forgiven, redeemed, and adopted – the people of God ate with one another in fellowship with their God, who “gave them food for the refreshing of their souls.” The meal was a sacrament, a tangible confirmation of the promises of their God.
Then, immediately after the Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread would follow in the years to come. Seven days of bread without leaven (that is, yeast, which always represents sin’s fermenting effects) – seven days of this bread was meant to teach Israel; not only had God forgiven their sin because of the lamb’s sacrifice, but he had cleansed them from the leaven of sin, too. That is why one who neglected this Feast would be cut off from the people. To eat yeast would be a denial that the God of steadfast love and justice had purified them by blood and was now setting them apart as holy priests in his service.
And so in the Passover and the Feast, the steadfast love and justice of YHWH kiss; He redeemed his people through the death of the lamb and purified them to be themselves as unleavened bread in his sight. The signs pointed to the reality that YHWH had remade them. From this night onward they would be slaves to Egypt no longer. From this night onward they belonged to YHWH. They had become the redeemed people of God.
But you can see how all this – the blood on the doorpost, the making of unleavened bread, not to mention believing the realities they pointed toward – you can see how all this had to be done in faith. They couldn’t see how a lamb would protect them from the destroyer. They couldn’t see how a slain lamb could stand in their place or how YHWH was cleansing them from the fermenting power of sin. That dark night in Egypt, they couldn’t see how their freedom could possibly come.
All they could do is believe that YHWH does what YHWH says he’ll do. And so casting aside presumption and superstition, they would have to do all these things by faith, trusting YHWH at his word. He said he would see the blood and pass over their house. (12:13) Their part was to believe in the God of steadfast love and justice – and act in that faith, painting blood and eating the meal.
In the person of Jesus, we have once again seen the God of steadfast love and justice. In him we have heard YHWH speak of his justice satisfied, of sins forgiven, of Christ’s holiness counted as ours. In Christ we hear YHWH once again telling his people that the exodus has begun – we are slaves to sin no longer. By faith alone in Jesus we have been redeemed by his death in our place - not by what our hands have done but because “…Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival…” (1 Cor. 5:7-8) as those who have been purified from the leaven of sin by his blood.
We celebrate because the night Jesus was betrayed was the night of the Passover. In the context of that meal celebrating the steadfast love and justice of YHWH, Jesus “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.’” (1 Corinthians 11:23-25)
In this New Covenant meal, we hear that the God of steadfast love and justice continues to be the faithful Savior of his people, coming to us in our sin, providing a substitute sacrifice – a Lamb whose blood covers us and whose body nourishes us. Now like then, it’s a gift to be received by faith – we put away presumption and superstition. We don’t always see how the Lamb can protect us from the destroyer. We don’t always understand how YHWH’s forgiveness can come to us through the death of Christ. But we can believe that YHWH does what YHWH says he does. He said he’ll see the blood of Christ – more precious than gold – and he’ll pass over his people who look to Jesus in faith. Our part is to repent and believe that Good News – and act in that faith.
So, what does it look like to act in that faith in Jesus? Well, we see three things in Exodus Israelites that are easily transferable to our time in the Story of Redemption. First, we worship. Second, we witness. And third, we eat in expectation.
First, we worship. When Israel heard that YHWH had shown his steadfast love and justice to them, “the people bowed their heads and worshiped.” (12:27) Now, there were two aspects of their worship. One was this humble gratitude of bowed heads matching our hearts. To know that Christ has taken the wrath of God in my place so that all that is left for me is steadfast love is a humbling, heart-filling, head-bowing comfort. Compare that quiet, humble worship to the wailing grief of Egypt. What hopeless grief awaits those who have no covering for their sin!?!?
But there was a second aspect of their worship to note – they obeyed. In 12:28, “the people of Israel went and did so; as the LORD had commended Moses and Aaron, so they did.”
We understand; their obedience earned them nothing from YHWH. And yet it flowed out of their grateful hearts as worshipful obedience. So, with us, with grateful hearts we desire to continually repent and believe the Gospel of Jesus and endeavor after new obedience to him. It’s the reasonable response to the steadfast love we’ve been shown in Christ. (Romans 12:1)
Second, we see Israel acting out their faith in their witnessing to what YHWH has done for them. In 12:24-27, as YHWH describes the perpetual continuation of the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread, he says, “And when you come to the land that the LORD will give you, as he has promised, you shall keep this service. And when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ you shall say, ‘It is the sacrifice of the LORD’s Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, when he struck the Egyptians but spared our houses.’”
As the parents worship the LORD by keeping the feast, their children will certainly ask questions. But pay attention to how they’re supposed to talk about it. The overwhelming emphasis is on what the LORD had done for them. Can you hear the celebration of both his steadfast love (“he…spared our houses”) and his justice (“he struck the Egyptians”)? God would have us teach our children about both his justice and his love, to bear witness to our families (not to mention our community) about our guilt and his grace as we celebrate Christ our Passover lamb.
Third – and this is where I’m excited that we’ll be celebrating the Lord’s Supper next week – third, the people of God were supposed to prepare this meal and eat in expectation. Look at 12:11; “In this manner you shall eat it: with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you shall eat it in haste. It is the LORD’s Passover.”
That first Passover, the people of God were to eat in expectation that YHWH would keep his promises to them. And they should act in line with those promises, dressing themselves for their exodus. Because the next morning, they were leaving.
But ever since then, the people of God have had to wait patiently. The saints of the Old Testament quickly realized that their exodus was anticipating a greater, fuller exodus that meant their release from the bondage to sin and death – realities this first exodus only pointed toward.
For those who have heard the Gospel of Jesus, we’ve heard that the true exodus has already begun in Jesus. Christ died. Christ has risen! Christ will come again! And until he comes we, too, have a meal to eat in expectation. In the Lord’s Supper, given to us by Christ himself, we may eat in expectation that our God is faithful to bring all his promises into reality. Soon the night will pass and the dawn of the new heavens and new earth will come. So dress yourselves in the righteousness of Christ while you sit in his house protected by his blood. Eat that meal next week in expectation that the God of steadfast love and justice will himself come soon.
The Passover was to be a perpetual sign for Israel, always pointing them back to their hope in YHWH. It was always a sign of his steadfast love and justice. And in Jesus we see the fullness of that sign has already come. Because Christ the Lamb of God, the perfect sacrifice offered once for all time, is also our perfect high priest. (Hebrews) He is alive and taking care of all who trust in him so that we need not fear the judgment of God. That judgment will pass over you because Christ who suffered on the cross took it all upon himself. Now there is nothing left for you except the steadfast love of the Father.
[Pray – Father, we praise you as the God of steadfast love and justice. We give you thanks because you satisfied your justice through your only Son’s death in our place, so that safe in him your wrath will always pass us by. Thank you, Father, that you have not left us begging for a blessing like Pharaoh, although that is what we deserve. No, gracious God, you have already blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (Ephesians 1:3). May we go out from this place rejoicing in you, our God, worshiping you and bearing witness to what you have done for us in the death and resurrection of Christ. He is our Passover and has accomplished our exodus from sin and death. Praise be to you, O Faithful Father! Praise be to you, O Faithful Christ! Praise be to you, O Holy Spirit! Triune God, we give you our humble thanks. In the name of Christ our Lord we pray. Amen.]
[Benediction, from Numbers 6]
“The LORD bless you and keep you;
the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.”
 I sincerely apologize for the analogy, Mrs. Bailey. You really were a fantastic teacher!
 Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1996), Ex 12:14.