Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Long, Dark Night: Exodus 12

Few things evoke enough emotion to be remembered a hundred years after they occur, and rarer still is the event that draws the mind back a thousand years. Yet this night is one that is remembered even now some 3500 years after the fact. To this day, most participants in the Jewish faith and culture remember the Passover.

It starts with Exodus 12 (link). Moses passes on to the Israelites the commands he receives from God. They are to pack up everything, first of all, because it’s time to go. More importantly, they are to take a lamb from among the flocks and prepare to kill it, cook it, and eat it. They are to eat it with unleavened bread and with bitter herbs. They are to eat, not reclining around a table, but dressed, shod, and staff in hand, ready to depart.

This is to occur in households with the blood of the lamb placed on the doorposts and the lintel of the entrance to their home. A lintel is the opposite of a threshold: it’s the top part of the door frame. While they eat, the Angel of Yahweh will go throughout the land of Egypt and strike dead the firstborn of all Egypt. It is only those who have the blood of the lamb will be “passed over” and see life the next day.

Let us not miss a few moments of rich truth here. The first is the establishment of the Passover as a something “to be observed by all the sons of Israel throughout their generations” (Exodus 12:42). The deliverance that God brings here was not to be forgotten, ever. Even should Israel rule the world, they were not to forget that once, they had been slaves and God had delivered them. Not just delivered them from slavery but from the death that came on Egypt.

The second is the clear statement that one purpose of the observance is to make the next generation ask questions. We miss this point sometimes and think that the next generation will learn by watering down what we do or making sure everything is just flat plain and obvious. Yet that was not the Passover and should not be our first response, either. It does not have to be hard, but do not eliminate the hard things. Deal with the hard things instead.

After this happens, the Israelites leave Egypt. They take the wealth of Egypt and depart. With them goes a mixed multitude and this multitude is who becomes the nation of Israel. Pharaoh and the Egyptians are done, yet some of the Egyptians go with the Hebrews. This multitude also likely included numbers of other ethnic groups that were in Egypt but felt that this was a good time to go.

Most of us as Christians, though, see the Passover as an echo of something greater that was to come. How is it an echo? Because the God who designed the Passover already knew exactly what would fall a millennium and a half later. The intervening years are no impediment to His knowledge or His plan and sovereign execution of that plan.

What started the echo? It was the decision of God that Jesus would come, be the Incarnation, God in the Flesh, and live a perfect life in obedience to God on earth. He would preach, teach, heal, and raise the dead. Yet these things were not all that Jesus came to do. He came to be what even the Passover lambs could not be.

He came to be the sacrifice that allows God to pass over us. He came to provide the blood that allows for the wrath of God to pass by our lives and instead see us delivered from slavery to sin. He came that we might have life, though that life cost Him His.

The joy, though, is this: unlike the lambs of the first Passover, which died and were done, Jesus the Lamb did not stay dead. Rather, He rose from the dead. Not because someone did CPR or found a misplaced defibrillator, but because He willed it. He chose that He would rise again, and nothing could stop Him.

As a Christian, this is my joy at the Passover. Not only that the Israelites escaped slavery in Egypt but that I have been delivered from slavery to sin. Not only that a mixed multitude fled Pharaoh but that a mixed multitude can worship before the Throne of God. Not only that they had no time for bread to rise but that we have eternity to celebrate that He has risen.

Today’s nerd note: Much ado comes and goes regarding the date of the Exodus. Take the 1500 years before Christ as a round number. It’s either somewhere around 1440 BC or 1200 BC. I like a date nearer to 1440 BC, but there are good reasons to consider either option. It should never be a test of fellowship or salvation. You can be saved if you think the Exodus happened in 1776 BC. You would be wrong about Old Testament History, but you are not going to Hell for that.

I’d recommend a good Old Testament Survey book as you consider the Exodus timeline. Also, many modern study Bibles have good notes on the timeframe. Suffice it to say that this one is not worth arguing until you’re blue in the face. Akhenaton is my key player on this. He’s an Egyptian Pharaoh that tries to convert polytheistic Egypt to monotheism. Why would he do that? That’s crazy. Unless he has either seen or heard clear and compelling testimony of one God that devastated the rest of Egypt’s deities. One God that blotted out the sun, controlled frogs, tainted the Nile, and destroyed both the army and the firstborn of Pharaoh. That might drive him to break with centuries of tradition, mightn’t it? Old Akhenaton ruled from 1352-1334 BC. Oh, and his predecessors in the Eighteenth Dynasty? They have “mose” phonics in their names. Just like another man who grew up in the Egyptian palace.

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