A great deal has happened since Exodus 6. During that time, the tension between Moses and Pharaoh had grown exponentially. As we pick up the story in chapter 11, the people of Egypt have endured nine different plagues sent by God. For some of these plagues, Pharaoh’s sorcerers were able to somewhat approximate their effects. Yet, much like the staff turning into a snake, their works never produced the same strength and power as the plagues brought down by the one, true God. Yet, for all of these plagues, the Israelites had been spared. The plagues had wreaked havoc over Egypt, punishing their source of water, their food, and their livelihood. The Israelites, however, prospered and were protected during this time. Pharaoh noticed.
Eventually, even Pharaoh’s sorcerers were unable to reproduce the acts of a Great and Mighty God and with the plague of the boils, they were unable to stand before Moses in an attempt to counteract what was happening (Exodus 9:11). At every step, God had shown Himself to be the True God who reigns over inferior man-made gods and egotistical monarchs keeping people in suppression. The people of Egypt were hurting and dying and Pharaoh had brought this hurt upon them.
A few times, Pharaoh did consider letting the people of Israel go. They were given permission to leave so that the plagues would end. Yet, each time, at the last minute, Pharaoh had rescinded the offer. Each time Pharaoh’s heart had hardened, being unwilling to yield his power or submit to any authority. For a King who thinks himself to be a god, submitting to authority would only be seen as weakness. After nine plagues and multiple offers for the Israelites to leave freely, Pharaoh’s heard was still hard. This was nothing short of war and Pharaoh sought to destroy the people of God and show that Pharaoh reigns supreme. It would take a large act of God to gain the attention of Pharaoh.
Which brings us to the final plague. This one was different. As the time of the plague of the death of the first born drew near, the instructions to Israel were different than before. They were told to prepare and pack their bags. This night would be different than the others as the Israelites would be making a swift departure from their Egyptian slave owners. No longer would they bow under the oppressive regime and in their preparation, there was not even time to properly allow bread the time to rise. This would be a hasty move. God had spoken to Moses to prepare the Israelites for what was coming next. They were going to leave.
The final plague would be one that would run its course throughout Egypt. The Angel of Death would go through and take the firstborn child of every household. The only way this punishment could be remitted was through a sacrifice of a perfect lamb. The people were given strict criteria for selecting the lamb and how to properly consume the animal who had given its life for theirs. Then, when it was complete, the Israelites were to smear the blood on their doorpost as a sign that blood had already been spilled at that house and death had already taken a life for the sins of the people. Redemption would come to the Israelites in the form of an innocent lamb slaughtered for their salvation.
Saved By The Blood of the Lamb
At the core of punishment for sin is the idea of blood. The aspect of blood is often overlooked by many circles of Christianity. Not because we don’t believe the importance of the spilling of blood, but because it puts the consequences of our sin on full display. Sin requires that blood must be spilled and a life must be taken. For a Holy God, no imperfection can bear to stand before God. Thus, any imperfection cannot stand before the Lord of Life and must be dealt with severely. Sins have deathly consequences for all who indulge them.
With the sacrifices of the Old Testament, especially here in Exodus 12, the idea of the impartation of sins to something or someone else is crucial to our understanding the work of Jesus Christ. The lamb that was selected by the Israelites was to be flawless. It would then be invited into the home and become part of the family. They would get attached to the animal. Then, they would have to slaughter the animal and consume it in its entirety. The life of the lamb would not go in vain. By placing the hands on the lamb, the sins of the people were imparted to the lamb as a propitiation of sins. Further, by the spilling of its blood, the consequences of the sins were paid.
This is the basis for the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. In Hebrews, it is clear that “It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4, NIV). For however obedient the people were to the commands of God, the idea of a lamb, being part of a fallen world, could be pure of its own volition simply does not stand. There would need to be a perfect sacrifice that would settle the matter of sin once and for all. Only Jesus, our true Passover lamb, could suffice for the remission of sins.
This is why the Israelites were not immune from the requirements of spreading the blood of the lamb over their doorpost. The final plague was fundamentally different. This was the enactment of punishment for the sins of the people. The Israelites were as guilty of sin as the Egyptians. They had doubted the words of God, ignored the words and heeds of His prophet Moses and, in general, could not claim they had been 100% pure in all their doings. The consequence for sins, regardless of who the commits the sin, is death. However, by the grace of God, the Israelites were able to be redeemed by the blood of the lamb. God had provided a way for their salvation and safety.
Leaving The Old Behind
As the Israelites were instructed, they were to remove all of the yeast from their homes. During that day, yeast did not come prepackaged as we understand it to now. To put leaven in bread was accomplished by taking a portion of the previous dough that had been saved and mixing it with the new dough. This would allow the fermentation process to begin in the new dough, highly influenced by the previous days baking. The old influence carried over to the new bread.
Within the Israelite’s instructions for the Feast of Unleavened Bread were the instructions that no yeast could even be found in the house. For the Israelites, this meant that they would be taking no Egyptian influence with them. They were a free people who were being released from their slavery and bondage to depart in faith where God was sending them. Not allow the bread the time to rise was symbolic of the Israelite’s swift departure by the hand of God, but also of their new start. They were removing the influence of Egyptian and the yoke of slavery they heavily bore and were turning to the redemption that comes from God.
When a person turns TO something, it simultaneously involves turning FROM something else. Thus, for those who follow Jesus Christ, you can turn TO Jesus but it will come at the expense of turning from your old life. The lifestyle of sin and seeking personal pleasure and fulfillment is incompatible with following God. Yet, as most people are able to attest, leaving behind the sins we so dearly crave is difficult. The familiar can feel more comfortable than the unknown. Even if the familiar is painful, people have a tendency to hold to it until God provides guarantees. This stands in contrast to faith.
While I am sure this is relatable to most people, this idea of clinging to our sins and desires, it must be seen in the context of what is happening. For the Israelites, the unleavened bread was a reminder that the left Egypt because they were oppressed as slaves and that they should not wish to return under that yoke of slavery (a foreshadowing of Exodus 16:3). For us, it is a reminder to not return to our lifestyle of sin which held us captive and slaves, leading only to our destruction. Sin works like leaven, it seeps into the more hidden corners until it grows and spreads throughout. It is the old influence of our former lives. In being born again and redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ, we remove the influence of sin in our lives and deal with it wherever it may show up in our culture. Just as the Israelites swept their houses of any leaven, we too search our hearts and sweep out the influence of sin.
The redemption of God is comprehensive. God seeks to save His people from the rightful punishment by placing their sins upon the lamb and sets His people up on the foundation of righteousness and holiness. He removes us from our old life and sets us on the path of our future. Furthermore, God does these things faithfully. The desire is not that we should perish but that we would have the opportunity to come to the fullness of life that He has set apart for us. God seeks our redemption out of the great and immense love for His people.
Read Exodus 12
- What do the various reactions of Pharaoh reveal about his character and intentions towards the Israelites? Why would he continue to allow the plagues to reign down on Egypt?
- What does the blood of the lambs on the doorpost symbolize? What are the consequences of the blood of the lamb? Why does this portion of the plagues apply to the Israelites as well?
- What parallels do you see between the Passover lamb and what Jesus Christ did on the cross?
- Why did the Israelites have to be included in the “plague” of the Passover of the first born?
- How does not including the yeast from other bread demonstrate the redemption of the Israelites from Egypt? What does the leaven symbolize?
- What are some of the sins that we as a culture hold tight to? Why can it be difficult to let go of the things that once held us captive?
- Describe the new life that Jesus is guiding us towards. What are the promises of God? How does this compare with the things we try to hold tightly?
About the Author
Pastor Daniel Burton lives in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. In May 2015, Daniel graduated from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary with his Master of Divinity. It was here that he began to explore his passion for Theology and deeper exploration of the word of God. Daniel believes that, at its core, Theology should be fun. Check out more of his work at http://thegospeloutpost.com