A Night of Judgment
Under the canopy of an Egyptian night, the moon bathed the land in an ethereal glow. In the hushed homes of the Israelites, there was a palpable tension. Moses, bearing the weight of divine instructions, had prepared them for this night—the night the Lord would strike Egypt’s firstborn. The Israelites, obedient to the sacred ritual, marked their doorposts with the blood of unblemished lambs. In the grandeur of Pharaoh’s palace, however, an air of defiance lingered. The ruler’s heart remained hardened, impervious to the pleas of Moses and the cries of his own people. As darkness blanketed the land, a precursor to the impending calamity, the angel of death swept through Egypt. In the homes of the Israelites, the marked doorposts offered a shield. But within the opulent chambers of the Egyptians, a mournful wail pierced the silence—the cry of a kingdom undone.
In the cold light of dawn, the streets of Egypt echoed with grief. Pharaoh, once haughty, now faced a devastating reality. His firstborn, a symbol of pride, lay lifeless. The nation, from palace to humble dwelling, mourned the irrevocable loss. Summoning Moses and Aaron, Pharaoh, humbled and broken, conceded, “Rise, go out from among my people, go and serve the Lord as you have said.” The Israelites, wrapped in the first light of freedom, emerged from their homes. The night that commenced with terror concluded with the whispers of liberation—a night when the Lord, just and merciful, fulfilled His promise to deliver His people from the grip of slavery. The mourning streets transformed into a path of redemption as the Israelites, marked by the blood of the lamb, embarked on a journey toward the promised land. Today we will see the judgement of a people and a freedom of a people in the same dark night, through the same event. One brings judgement another brings freedom.
Throughout our study of the signs and wonders done through the hand of Moses we have noted that these all come as the Lord judges Pharaoh and his people for their sin against those made in his image and those who he calls his people. The Lord had told Abraham this night would come in Genesis 15:13-14, “Then the LORD said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions.” The first nine signs and wonders all are God giving and showing grace to Pharaoh and his people, but Pharaoh continued to harden his heart just as God had said he would do. The night is finally here, when the final blow of judgement will come, just as God had said in Exodus 11. We have looked at this theme of Judgment in these previous chapters so I want to look more generally at this judgement.
Judgement is pronounced and instantaneous
As we come to this portion of the story of Exodus we should not be surprised by what is happing in chapter 12. Many stories are written with a twist or a development throughout the story. This is not the case in the pages of Scripture. The Bible is filled with spoiler alerts. Exodus 12 is no different we have known from the very beginning that God would execute judgement as he had told Abraham in Genesis chapter 15. We knew when the Lord told Jacob that if he was to go down into Egypt the Lord would bring them back out of the land of Egypt. In chapter three we are told specifically by the Lord, “So I will stretch out my hand and strike Egypt with all the wonders that I will do in it; after that he will let you go” (Ex 3:20). Chapter we are told that Moses would do miracles, and Pharaoh’s heart would be hardened. Then he was to tell Pharaoh, “Israel is my first-born 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 first born son” (Ex 4:22-23). Chapter 6 Moses that with an outstretched arm and great acts of judgement God would redeem his people. Chapter 7 we see God tell Moses that Pharaoh will not listen to him, and then God would lay his hand on Egypt (Ex 7:4). We see all these signs and wonders often given a warning to Pharaoh of tomorrow. Chapter 11 we are told in detail everything that is going to happen, of the death of the first born. Time and time again we are told of that God is going to stretch out his hand and strike those who have stuck his people.
Although this judgment is pronounced over and over again the people do not listen. Pharaoh does not listen but hardened his heart to the coming judgment. As the people in the land of Egypt went to bed that night some might of been talking about the movement in the land of Goshen with the Israelites slaughtering lambs and spreading the blood of the lambs upon their door posts. I am sure the people in Pharaoh’s palace had overheard the words that Moses had spoken to Pharaoh. But yet they did not heed the warning or listen to his instruction. I am sure many went to bed that night and thought it didn’t matter. How can blood spread on a door save you? I am sure many went to bed that night praying to the sun god Ra. I am sure many thought about doing something but did not believe. Then in the silence of the night, the light of the full moon. The Lord stuck the people of Egypt.
We should not be surprised that judgment is proclaimed but no one listened. Noah preached while he built the ark, yet how many were safe when the door was shut, eight (2 Pet 2:5). Heb 11:7 says, “By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household.” Moses preached but only those who spread the blood on the lintel were safe as they shut the door. The Pharisees asked Jesus in Luke 17 when is the coming of the kingdom of God? Jesus response is the kingdom is in their midst. Jesus says the Christ must suffer and die and then will be that. day. His warning is that many people will be like the people in Noah’s day and Lot’s Day. They will be eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed. Just the Lord warned the people during the time of Moses, then midnight came.
So to the Lord has warned us that he is coming again. Like a thief in the night. No body knows what time a thief will come. You never get a phone call or text message like a delivery, or service call a thief comes when you are not ready. Paul writes to the Thessalonians that people will be speaking of peace and security, but then comes destruction (1 Thes 5:3). Peter says that in the last days many scoffers will come following their own sinful desires saying “Where is the promise of his coming?” (2 Pet 3:3-4). He goes on to say, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed” (2 Pet 3:9–10). Many people live with no thought of this judgment. They like the rich man build their silos but never get to fill them. Do we live like the ones watching for the bridegroom to return? Do we live knowing that day is coming? Walking as children of the light?
Judgment is nondiscriminatory
The next aspect we see in this passage is that the judgment does not discriminate. In our justice system it is made to seek to be fair. Lady justice stands balancing the act and consequences to ensure they are fair and balanced. Carrying the sword to punish the wrong doer. She is blind folded so that she responds in a just way without any bias or favoritism. However, true this seems to be it is not the case. The bigger your wallet the more likely you are to get a lesser sentence or quicker release. The wicked prosper. Although the western world, and particularly America do not see overt miscarriages of injustice like other nations or countries with bribery or nepotism, yet it is not perfect. Men and women can pay for a crime they didn’t commit or, people can walk away without paying anything due to loopholes, lawyers or lies. Yet what we see in this passage is that the judgment that falls on the land of Egypt shows no favorites. The only distinction is where the household had the blood of a lamb on the door posts. Pharaoh palace, to the prison cell all faced the judgment that was pronounced.
So to on the last day. The judgment will not have a line for those who have friends in high places, or money in their bank account. The world will be divided. Not by class, population, party affiliations, race, nations, status, wealth, cultural backgrounds, sporting teams, college degrees or any other factor besides one thing, do we believe God’s word? Do we have his blood on our door post? John writes what separates the two sides “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:12). Those who do not have the Son have death. They face the judgment.
Judgment is somber and serious
We learn from this judgment that this is one filled with sorrow that was faced that very night. This is not merely some poetic form of literature that seeks to be able to place imagery in there, symbolic judgment, but as the Egyptians woke up that night as they held their deceased loved ones and this cry that echoed through the whole nation of their loss. Just as the Israelites had cried out to their God to be able to save them from these oppressors, now the Egyptians are crying out into the abyss of the night. The death came to every house that night that did not have the blood spread upon the doorposts and their lentils. And this cry is filled with sorrow and regret—only if I had listened, if only I had believed, if only I had acted sooner, they often would have thought that this might not have ever happened to me.
One aspect that shows this, one comment points out that in the Midrash and Jewish literature Pharaoh is depicted urgently traveling through the Hebrew section of Egypt in the land of Goshen crying out, “Where does Moses live? Where is Moses?” Upon locating him, Pharaoh employs, “Get up and get out of Egypt.” A plea almost bordering on this desperation urging the people to depart from the land that had held them captive for this extended period of time. This vivid scene served as the inspiration for a well-known children’s song titled “Pharaoh in Pajamas in the Middle of the Night.” What makes Pharaoh come to this point? It was the death of his son. He was willing to see Egypt ruined, but yet this shows the somber reality of that night. And judgment is a reality that every single person will face in this world. There is no way to get out of it. There is no way to avoid it.
In the Gospel of Luke, in chapter, there’s a story of two men. Lazarus, who’s a man who suffered a lot in this life, begging and even covered with sores that the dogs would lick. This other man was quite the opposite. He was rich, wearing the finest of clothes, getting the greatest of foods. But yet they both die. They face this judgment, and the rich man is sent into hell where he is tormented. And then the role is reversed. Lazarus is now eating, clothed in fine linens. But he sees Lazarus. This rich man sees Lazarus. He becomes the beggar, and he cries out and says to father Abraham, “Send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water to cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.” And the focus is that there’s no relief for this rich man, that there’s no way for him to find relief because there’s a fixed chasm between them. And the rich man thinks of his family on earth and he asks if Lazarus was to go back and to return and to tell them about this judgment that is coming. But Abraham ends. The somber reality that if they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead. But for this rich man, there’s no going back. There’s no way to undo. No way for him to be able to save those whom he loves. And yet that night, there was a choice the day before for these people to make. A choice they had to live with.
Now this might seem like a sobering message, especially during this time of year where we yearn for hope, joy, peace. But consider this, our Christmas story. So too, seeks to be able to understand this great truth. Why did Jesus come? He came to be able to save. He came to be able to die. As John sees him behold the Lamb of God to be able to take away the sins of the world. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 5, Jesus Christ is our Passover Lamb. Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” Scrooge’s face that night as he meets the ghost of Christmas yet to come. And Scrooge implores and begs him and asks the question, “Is this what is going to be, or is this what might be? Is this set in stone? Is this future sealed?” He was given a chance to be able to change, a chance to be able to embrace that distant future. There is a way of escape, this judgment, because this judgment has been taken for and paid for in full.
That night, there’s two people that go to sleep that night. And for those who have the blood of the Lamb upon their doorposts, they are safe and secure. That judgment is not coming for them. They are passed over because it has been paid for by another. That this night of judgment is a night of liberty. The blood of the Lamb on our doorposts, as we put our faith and our trust in Christ, the one in which the shadow prefigures, ensures that our future is not one of sorrow and regret, but everlasting joy. We do not wait in fear of this day to come; we wait eagerly as a bridegroom awaits. As these virgins await their bridegroom. That our heart can be transformed. Celebrating the freedom that comes through Christ secured by the Lamb of God.
Let me finish with this. We often think of Christ coming to this world as an infant in a manger. But often we don’t go past that. He came to be able to live for us. He came to be able to die for us. Paul writes to Timothy, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost, but I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as for the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. To the king of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever, amen.” That Paul moves from the manger to the cross, that Paul moves from the manger to the cross to Christ seated in all of his glory. But also, for us who truly believe, should we not tell this and warn those others of what is to come? to tell them of this judgment that will come in an instant, that shows no favoritism based on the house that they were raised. This judgment that is somber and serious, shall we not tell them? So that night that comes is not a night of crying out in sorrow, but a morning filled with praise.