Meditations on “The Big Picture” 5. Exodus and Passover
Ex 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.
From Abraham and Jacob we move on some four hundred years. At that time previously a famine covering at least the whole of the Middle East had struck and Joseph, one of Jacob’s sons, becomes the saviour of the whole of the Middle East using the wisdom and revelation of God (see later part of Genesis). To cope with the seven years of famine old man Jacob takes his family to Egypt where Joseph is second only to the Pharaoh. And there they settle. That is how, after the passing of four hundred years, the growing family of Israel, possibly numbering well over a million people, are in Egypt.
Now it is important to note that this state of affairs did not come as a surprise to God. While He was making a covenant with Abram He revealed to him what was going to happen, “Then the LORD said to him, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions… In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.” (Gen 15:13,14,16) Now it is difficult to know from this whether Israel ending up in Egypt was because God made them go there, or simply that the Lord knew they would end up there in the circumstances and so used them in that situation to bring judgement on Pharaoh and establish such a memory that would never be forgotten in their history.
Now the purpose of the Exodus, as it becomes, is twofold. First it is to take Israel out of the land and take them to take over Canaan: “I have promised to bring you up out of your misery in Egypt into the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites– a land flowing with milk and honey.” (Ex 3:17) -But, second, it is also clear that God wanted to use Moses and Israel to deal with the sin of Egypt. When He calls Moses (see Ex 3 & 4) He explains, “But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless a mighty hand compels him. So I will stretch out my hand and strike the Egyptians with all the wonders that I will perform among them. After that, he will let you go.” (Ex 3:19,20)
Thus a reluctant Moses confronts Pharaoh who has made Israel slaves, and over the following chapters (7-12) we witness 10 ‘plagues’ of increasing severity. It is important to note this, that the ‘plagues’ started off by just being thoroughly inconvenient and got gradually worse and worse until they became life threatening with the last one destroying every first born son in the land of Egypt. Perhaps we should note in passing why God wanted to deal with Egypt in this way. History tells us that they had multitudes of gods linked to the land, the sky, the seasons, almost anything. They were very superstitious and occult practices prevailed. Pharaoh was even considered a god. At the heart of it all was Pharaoh’s hard and arrogant heart which is revealed again and again and again. At the end of it, the Lord explains, “the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring the Israelites out of it.” (Ex 7:5) Not only that, the whole surrounding world will hear of it and will fear.
To cut a long story short, Israel are delivered and Pharaoh and his army are destroyed and Egypt is left mourning the loss of so many of their sons, all because the pride of Pharaoh would not back down in the face of these increasingly devastating miracles or plagues. To any rational person the facts are obvious – except those full of pride are not rational. The action by Israel were to take a lamb for each family, kill and eat it but put some of its blood on the doorposts of their homes so that when the destroying angel saw the blood he would ‘pass over’ their homes and leave them untouched.
This symbolic action was taken into the New Testament and John the Baptist declared of Jesus, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jn 1:29 and also v.36) In heaven, revealed in Revelation 5, we see, “a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the centre of the throne.” (v.6) and the song is sung, “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.” (v.9) A lamb slain so that the judgement of God would pass over sinners.
The account of the Exodus is a major milestone in the history of the Bible. It reveals the power and majesty of God, and His grace and mercy as He gives Pharaoh opportunity after opportunity to step down and allow Israel to leave. It also deals with the occultic and superstitious world of Egypt that is so contrary to God’s good design for mankind. Further it establishes this symbolic deliverance or redemption that comes through the death of a lamb, seen centuries later in Jesus. It is an account that appears again and again in the Old Testament, being retold to show the wonder of God’s love and power. It is as much about His love and grace and mercy as it is about His actions as a judge who brings judgement to bear to deal with His world that sometimes appears to run rampant out of control – but it is never out of His control. He will deal with it and judgement will always be tempered by mercy and grace. Powerful lessons!