THE PASSOVER – Death and Deliverance
Exodus 11:1-12:28, Key Verse 12:13
“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.”
Thus far, God commanded Moses and Aaron to perform one sign and 9 plagues. Through them, God made himself fully known to the people of Egypt and even to all people on earth. At the same time, God raised Moses from a humble but unconfident man to a strong and faithful leader.
Today’s passage is about the last plague in Egypt. It is the plague God will bring and teach its deep meaning to the people so that they can celebrate it with a sense of God’s history. It was God’s judgment on unbelievers and at the same time God’s salvation for anyone who believed and obeyed it. Ultimately, this is the shadow of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, rescuing us from the bondage of our Egypt, the slavery of sinful life and of the devil. There are four parts.
I. Be Victorious by Faith and Obedience with Courage (11:1-3)
In any work of God, there is God’s part and there is a human part. Look at verses 1-2. “Now the Lord had 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. 2 Tell the people that men and women alike are to ask their neighbors for articles of silver and gold.’” God is going to bring one more plague on Pharaoh and on Egypt. After this plague, Pharaoh will drive the people of Israel out of Egypt completely. But there is one strange thing God is asking them to do. God already told Moses about it in 3:22. He is telling the people of Israel to ask their Egyptian neighbors for articles of silver and gold. The Egyptians were the rulers and they were slaves. Some of the Egyptians were slave drivers who beat them with whips and oppressed them. How could they ask the Egyptians for articles of silver and gold? What would you do if God told you to do so? If I were them, I would be very hesitant to do so. It requires both faith and courage. They needed to have faith in God Almighty, who performed the wonders in front of their eyes. Yet, it seems too much to do for some people of Israel. They would say, “I am not going to do it, because my neighbor was a notorious slave driver. If I ask them, they will beat me again and even kill me. No way!” Why did God tell the people of Israel to make such a difficult request? It is because God wanted the people of Israel to be victorious, trusting in God’s power and his protection. Their faith should be coupled with courage to ask their notorious neighbors for the articles of silver and gold.
What happened to those who asked by faith with courage? Look at verse 3, “3 (The Lord made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and Moses himself was highly regarded in Egypt by Pharaoh’s officials and by the people.)” The parenthesis is the comment given after the people of Israel asked their Egyptian neighbors for the articles of silver and of gold. Amazingly, the Egyptians were very happy to give their silver and gold to the people of Israel. Moses was highly regarded by Pharaoh’s official and by the Egyptians. It was because they had seen the mighty work of God done through Moses and how God distinguished the people of Israel from the Egyptians. Some of the Egyptians believed God’s words Moses gave in order to save themselves from the plague of hail. The people of Israel just needed to have faith and plunder the Egyptians like victors in a war. Here we learn that a victory requires faith and obedience with courage. Romans 8:37 says, “No, in all these we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” May God bless each one of us to be victors through faith and obedience with courage.
Through this event, God also was teaching his people the lordship of God. This reminds me of Jesus’ command to his disciples to get a donkey for him to ride and make a triumphal entry into Jerusalem in Mark 11:1-6.
II. Moses’ Final Warning to Pharaoh (11:4-10)
As soon as Moses heard God’s messages, he gave them to Pharaoh. Look at verses 4-8. In fact, Moses did not leave Pharaoh and heard God’s message. Now, he is giving the nature, the scope and the result of God’s final plague. The nature of the plague is the death of the firstborn son in Egypt. A firstborn son is the strength of a man. By killing the firstborn son, God is breaking the strength of Egypt. The scope of the plague is from the king Pharaoh to the female slave, from the highest person to the lowest one. God’s final judgment will result in loud wailing throughout Egypt, the worst ever and never will be again. Yet, God will make a distinction between Egypt and Israel. Among the Israelites, there will be such peace that not even a dog will bark. The distinction will come by faith in God. Moses was so sure that Pharaoh’s officials would bow down and beg to ask him to leave Egypt. But Pharaoh was still not listening to the final warning, which would bring destruction on his own people.
After giving the message, Moses left Pharaoh with hot anger. For the first time, he was angry at Pharaoh. Why? His heart might be broken because people were suffering due to Pharaoh’s hardened heart. Yet, God helped Moses to see Pharaoh’s action from God’s perspective. Look at verses 9-10, “The Lord had said to Moses, ‘Pharaoh will refuse to listen to you—so that my wonders may be multiplied in Egypt.’ 10 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.” Even though his country has been ruined due to many plagues, Pharaoh will refuse to listen again. His heart was hardened. For some reason, some people have to hit rock bottom to wake up. After losing their most precious thing and damaging other people around them, they realize that they have done wrong. In the light of Pharaoh’s hardened heart, repentance is God’s blessing. In fact, it is the beginning of the work of the Holy Spirit!
Though it seems that Pharaoh was in charge, everything is under God’s control. Through Pharaoh’s hardened heart, God’s wonders will reveal the glory of God. Moses did what the Lord told him to do, performing all the wonders. Here we learn that we should not be discouraged by people’s unbelief but see the situation from God’s perspective and live by faith, doing what God told us to do. Amen!
III. The Passover Preparation and Its Meaning (12:1-13)
What is God’s instruction for the people of Israel to prepare for the last plague? According to 12:1-11, the people of Israel should prepare a year-old male sheep or goat without defect according to the number of people who can eat it together. On the fourteenth day, the paschal lamb should be slaughtered and its blood should be put on the tops and sides of the doorframes of the house, where the people will eat the lamb in haste with bitter herbs and unleavened bread without yeast. It is interesting to see how God is preparing the people of Israel before performing his final plague. He is teaching the meaning of this Passover in detail, so that they know what rituals they should do with its meaning. First, punishing the gods of Egypt and sin of people. Look at verses 12, “On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord.” Our God is holy and righteous. He punishes sin in a man. God will pass through all, not only Egyptians but also the people of Israel and even animals. He will bring judgment on them and on all the gods of Egypt. God is punishing people for their unbelief, still holding onto their gods even after seeing God’s mighty hand. He is the Lord, who cannot tolerate other gods before him. He should be the Lord of their lives. God will punish each one according to what they have done, whether good or bad. Anyone who does not acknowledge his lordship are subject of God’s judgment. The Bible declares, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” The people of Israel also sinned and thus subjects of God’s judgment. In his great mercy, however, God gave them the way of salvation.
Secondly, the blood of the lamb. Look at verse 13, “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.” The blood of the lamb on the tops and sides of doorframes will be the sign for God to pass over the household. No destructive plague will strike the person even though they deserve God’s punishment for their sins. Why the blood? It is because blood has life in it, substituting for the punishment of the person. So when God sees the blood of the lamb, he will pass over the sinner. For that reason, the lamb should be thoroughly sacrificed, shedding its blood, and being eaten and totally burnt. In this way, those who believed and obeyed God’s instruction were saved from the destructive plague through the blood of the lamb. Later, God provided this blood sacrificial system for the forgiveness of their sins. However, a lamb cannot truly substitute for a person, but it is the shadow of the Lamb of God who will take away the sin of the world. Therefore, Jesus had to be sacrificed like the lamb, shedding his blood and dying on the cross. This is the reason why John the Baptist declared, “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” when he saw Jesus Christ.
Yet the way of salvation is exactly the same as putting the blood of the lamb. By faith in God’s way of salvation in the blood of Jesus, we believe and put the blood of Jesus on the doorframes of our hearts. When God sees the blood of Jesus, he will not punish but pass over us. It is only by faith in Jesus’ blood, we are saved! Amen!
Moreover, God taught the people of Israel what kind of attitude they should have as they prepared the Passover. Let’s think deeply about a few things. Firstly, it is a new beginning. Look at 12:1-2 again, “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.” Even though it was seventh month in Egyptian calendar, God wanted the people of Israel to count as the first month of their year. It is truly a new year to them, starting their own history as they are going to be liberated from the bondage of Egypt. Therefore, my biblical age is only 34 since I was born again in 1986, liberated from the bondage of sin and of the devil through the blood of the lamb of God.
Secondly, they must eat in haste. It is because they had to leave Egypt next morning right away before Pharaoh changed his heart again. There is no time to delay. They should be like soldiers ready for battle, eating quickly and getting strength to walk away a long way. This also tells us that we must physically leave the land of sin or sinful way of life right after accepting Jesus. Jesus saved us from our sin, how can we live in it any longer? I always thank my first Bible teacher who encouraged me to leave my old friends who used to go out to the disco club.
Thirdly, they have to eat with bitter herbs. Bitter herbs like chicory or mints are good for digestion. Its spiritual meaning was for the people of Israel is to remember that their life was bitter under the oppression of Pharaoh. Later, we will see what happens: when they forgot their bitter life of slavery, they became so stupid that they wanted to go back to their slave life in Egypt. It has been wonderful for me to remember from last Sunday’s message how miserable life was when I was living under the power of sin and the devil.
Fourthly, roast all parts of the lamb over a fire. They should roast not only the legs and ribs but everything, including the head and internal organs. It is the model of a burnt offering, which means one’s total dedication to God. They should burn not only their old way of life but also dedicate their heart and life to God. As Christ gave his life, we should give our lives to him. Romans 12:1 says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” Amen!
IV. Commemorate This for Generations to Come (12:14-28)
Look at verse 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.” God commanded the people of Israel to commemorate the Passover for seven days straight. There are mainly three reasons. First, celebrate it as a festival to the Lord. The word ‘celebrate’ repeats again in verse 17, and verse 26 has a little different expression, saying, “Observe ceremony.” The rituals were given for them to commemorate and celebrate God’s deliverance, his mighty hand and grace upon the people, his promise and faithfulness. It is remembering the most joyful life event. God also wants us to remember what God has done for us; how he saved us from the miserable life and what God has done for us, protecting, providing and blessing us more than we deserve. This reminds me of God’s word, “This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Neh 8:10b) “Give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thes 5:18) May God bless each one of us with joy as we celebrate God’s great deliverance in our life.
Secondly, eat bread without yeast. This phrase is repeated three times in verses 8, 15, and 17-20 with twice a strong warning that if they eat bread with yeast, they will be cut off from the community of Israel. What is yeast? Yeast is the bacteria making a dough rise and thus make a lump of bread tasty. So bread without yeast is less tasty, not like today’s tortilla. Yet, the yeast is compared to bad influence in the Bible, so Jesus also warned his disciples about the yeast of Pharisees, telling them not to follow what their hypocrisy. The yeast in here is the bad influence of Egypt, particularly, worshiping the gods of Egypt. This verse is also giving us a warning not to receive bad influence from the people of the world. The bad influence of the world is so strong like a torrent of water flowing downstream and we are swimming upstream like a salmon. In this mass information and SNS torrent, many Christians go down with sinful contents streaming through Youtube and other venues secretly at night all by themselves. Romans 12:2 encourages us, saying, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of you mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” It may be necessary to celebrate the Festival of Unleavened Bread in order to get rid of bad influences from the world as God commanded his people in verse 17.
Thirdly, share our testimony with children. Look at verses 24-27. “Obey these instructions as a lasting ordinance for you and your descendants. 25 When you enter the land that the Lord will give you as he promised, this ceremony. 26 And when your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ 27 then tell them, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the Lord, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians.’” Then the people bowed down and worshiped.” Moses told this to the elders of Israel. They should commemorate this ceremony for themselves and for their children. When they celebrate the Passover, their children will ask why they are doing all these things. It is a storytelling time. At that time, they should share their testimony with their children: how the plague of death passed over the houses of Israel because of the blood of the lamb but struck down the Egyptians, revealing God’s great power, faithfulness of keeping his promise, and mercy on his people.
Let’s think about if the Israelites did this ritual when a foreigner saw in the land or if they did it in a foreign country. Those foreigners would ask them why they are doing such a gross thing, putting blood of a lamb in the tops and sides of the doorframes. They have to share what God has done for them to rescue them from Egypt. Moreover, God allowed foreigners participate in this after they are circumcised. Do we have any ritual may offend people of the world? In this generation, many Christians are afraid of praying before a meal in public in order not to offend unbelievers or be politically correct. What would God want us to do?
What was the response of the people? Look at verse 28. “The Israelites did just what the Lord commanded Moses and Aaron.” Even though it was the first time for them to kill lambs and put the blood on the tops and sides of doorframe and follow all the tedious instructions, they simply obeyed God’s words. In order to be saved from the plague, the people of Israel had to obey; otherwise, they would not be saved. This principle is universal to anyone, even to an Egyptian. If an Egyptian believed and obeyed as God gave an instruction to Moses, they could be saved. Hebrews 11:28 says, “By faith he kept the Passover and the application of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel.” Moses also had to have faith in God and tell people to do so absolutely. It is through faith and obedience that people were saved from the plague, whether it was the people of Israel or Egyptians.
Through today’s passage we learned many lessons, mainly the Passover and its meaning. God is holy and righteous. The plague of death is on everyone for all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory. Yes, God gave specific instructions for them to be saved, putting the blood of the lamb on the tops and sides of the doorframes, and when God saw the blood, he promised to pass over the house. When the people of Israel believed and obeyed, they were saved. The principle is the same principle in the blood of Jesus. It is only by our faith in the blood of Jesus Christ that we are saved. In addition, just as God gave the people of Israel instructions, he wants us to celebrate his mercy with joy, leave our old sinful way of life, overcoming the bad influence of the world and finally sharing our testimony with our children and with foreigners.