Exodus is one of the most foundational stories of God’s people. The story of God redeeming his people from the house of Pharaoh and from bondage of slavery. If you want to be able to understand the story of the Bible you need to be acquainted with the stories of the Bible. That whenever you read other authors of the Bible they are not written in a vacuum as separate stories, but as one big overarching story throughout the ages of history. You can pick up a novel in a series and fumble your way through it, you might be able to find out the main characters and make your way through the books. However, the more you know about the topics and backstory the better. Like picking up the third book in the Lord of the Rings series, you would be able to know about who Frodo is and what he was trying to do but you would of missed a large part of the story that fuels the novel. Even to go back further outside of the trilogy of Lord of the Rings you get to find out more and more. Exodus is one of the foundational stories that Christians need to understand and comprehend. The New Testament is not a disconnected story from the Old Testament they are connected. You see that in the very first pages of the New Testament, Matthew starts with a genealogy pointing out that Jesus was the son of Abraham and David, a vital truth to be able to know who they are and what they have done. As we come to the ultimate sign and wonder in Exodus, we must understand this is our story as Christians. Israel had all the promises through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Israel had grown in number in Egypt, they had the sign of circumcision but they did not have many markers that set them apart from other nations. God was going to give them a land to dwell in, but more than that. Paul in Romans 9:4-5, “[To the Israelites] belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever.” One of these great things that is given to the People of Israel is what you would call the sacrament of the Passover. The mystery of the Old Testament fulfilled in Christ as Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 5:7, that Christ is our Passover lamb. These chapters in Exodus not only speak of the first event of the Passover but show us the importance of this event as a shadow of Christ in the Old Testament, fulfilled in the New.
A new beginning
Every culture has things that set them apart. They have food, songs, art, language, and every culture even have their own calendar. Although most countries use the Gregorian Calendar, they each have different markers throughout the 365 days. In Australia we have the fourth of July, but it is just a date that follows the third of July and proceeded by the fifth of July. However, in America the fourth of July is a date in the calendar that celebrates the founding of America as a nation, through the signing of the declaration of Independence. Although it seems small to us the first verses in chapter 12, but they are a critical juncture of what is happening in the redemptive historical timeline. Verse two explains, “This month shall be for you the beginning of months. It shall be the first month of the year for you” (Exodus 12:2). This is more than just a slight change but a new beginning for the people of Israel as a distinct nation set apart from other nations and cultures. No longer would they start their year when the Egyptians did, they would have a whole new calendar set around this new and great event in their history.
Israel have watched Egypt celebrate and worship to their gods as they have seen the seasons come and go. Now Israel will have their own calendar where they are reminded of this time in their history, when God judged those who oppressed them and redeemed them from the house of slavery. Christians also had a change in calendar because of a big date. I do not mean Christmas or Easter. But a change in the weekly cycle, the change from the sabbath being the last day of the week but following the resurrection the Christian sabbath became the marker for Christians. Sunday became the new marker on the celebration where Christians gather to worship Christ the one who conquered death on Sunday. Or Christians celebrate the Lord’s supper as Christ instructed his disciples to celebrate the Lord’s supper until Christ returns (1 Cor 11:26). The story of the Passover would be the beginning of the new calendar for the people of Israel.
A new meal
Not only do we see a new beginning, but we also see a new meal or tradition started. When we start to read the Bible, we see patterns and principles that help us understand why the early church took on practices and this is one that as we continue through chapter 12 in Exodus. As we look at this chapter we will understand more of the Sacrament of the Lord’s supper. We will see more of the connections to the birth, life, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. One principle that we see he in this is the establishment of a new meal based upon an event. The Passover meal becomes a yearly celebration called the Feast of Unleavened Bread where the people of God remember the glorious event of how God saved them from the house of bondage and from the oppressive hand of Pharaoh. We will see that as we continue, particularly from verse 14 and following. But what we need to understand is aspects of this first meal to understand the practice and tradition of the future meals.
We see this as the important part of the meal, and one that we understand the most. The Passover lamb or even goat. It speaks of a young animal in the Caprinae family about the age of one. They were to take the lamb and keep it from the tenth day until the fourteenth day. Some have suggested that this was that the lamb would be seen as a part of the household. The lamb was to serve as a substitute for the household. The people in the house were to account for how many people were in the house, some rabbis have explained that a Passover lamb can feed between 10-20 people. They were to roast the lamb in the entirety and not have any left over, if there was any left-over, they would need to burn the remainder of the lamb. The other portion that is connected to the lamb is the lamb’s blood. This I think is the reason they were to keep the lamb for four days, along with making sure it was healthy, but that they see something living and then doming dying. They see the lamb is a substitute for them. The reason they do not die is that the blood of another is shed for them. This is a powerful image, that would have been seen by the children and all the people. The father would have had to kill the lamb and paint the lintels of the door posts. We often hear the Bible but do not picture the Bible. That this day death was coming to every house in the land of Egypt and the land of Goshen, the difference is who was going to die. As little children got up that day they saw the one who was going to die in their place. They saw their dad covered in the blood of the one who was going to save them from death. You see this clearly in verse 13, where the Lord speaks through Moses and says the blood would be a sign for them. We often think this was only for the Lord to know which house to enter, but the sign of the blood on the door was for the people inside the house. Blood is a sign, just as the rainbow is a sign of God’s covenant of common grace for all mankind that he would not judge the world again flooding the entirety of the earth. Or as circumcision is sign of the Covenant God made with Abraham of the covenant of Grace. The blood was to be a sign for the people of God, telling them that death has come already but the lamb died instead of you. The children, particularly the firstborn would be grateful for that blood that is painted and spilled on the door.
Now we will see this as we continue to go through, but it does not take us long to understand why this would be important for us to understand when we read through the new Testament. And the understanding that can be found. Like when Paul says to the Corinthians that Jesus is our Passover lamb has been sacrificed (1 Cor 5:7). Jesus is the one who died in our stead. Whose blood was spilled for us. Or even more specifically when we understand the flesh of the lamb was to be eaten, and Jesus at the last Passover meal spoke and said, “Take eat this is my body” Matt 26:26. And then turning later and saying of the wine in the cup, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matt 26:27–28). The body of the lamb and the blood of the lamb both had specific functions in the Passover and now Jesus institutes a new meal without real blood or body, because his sacrifice is that once for all sacrifice to satisfy divine judgement.
The other portion of the Passover is the unleavened bread. The whole feast which was a week-long would be called the Feast of Unleavened Bread. This becomes an important aspect of what happens in this portion of Exodus is that the patience and long suffering of God through the signs and wonders, ends and in a moment the people of God are set free. In Exodus 12 we see that they are to eat this meal ready to leave at any moment (Ex 12:11). We understand this principle well in our house, everyone says they are ready until you realize it is time to leave, people do not have their socks and shoes on their jackets or hats. The first Passover meal was to show the haste and speed that after 400 years of slavery in a moment they would no longer be slaves but free men and women. But you see this clearly with the use of unleavened bread. If anyone has done any form of baking, particularly bread you realize there is no shortcuts. Bread needs time to rise. Now we have things like dry yeast, but even so this is not microwave meals. The Israelites were to make their bread without any leaven because this was going to happen quickly and their was no time for the bread to rise. You see this clearly in verse 39, “And they baked unleavened cakes of the dough that they had brought out of Egypt, for it was not leavened, because they were thrust out of Egypt and could not wait, nor had they prepared any provisions for themselves” (Ex 12:39). We will speak more of this next week while understanding how the Apostle Paul uses this principle in 1 Corinthians 5.
The meal was also to include bitter herbs. As a meal that will be celebrated annually the people are to be reminded about the harsh slavery that they endured under Pharaoh. We are told at the beginning of Exodus that, “So they ruthlessly made the people of Israel work as slaves and made their lives bitter with hard service, in mortar and brick, and in all kinds of work in the field. In all their work they ruthlessly made them work as slaves” (Ex 1:13–14).
In this New Meal, they would celebrate every year they would seek to understand the first meal they had. The story of Passover was to be told during this meal. Children had a very important part to be able to play, they would ask the question that every child asks, “why?” In a series of five or six questions (the six-question stopped after the destruction of the temple). The first question was “Why is this night different from all other nights?” This would begin to show this as a meal of remembrance of the story of the Passover. They would ask four more questions: Why do we only eat unleavened bread? Why do we only eat bitter herbs? Why do we dip our food twice? Why do eat this meal reclined?
Each of these questions ties back to the night of the Passover. They eat unleavened bread to remember how quickly they had to leave. They eat bitter herbs to remind them of the bitterness of slavery in Egypt. They dip their vegetables into salt water to remember the tears that were changed to gratitude and the second time to remember the sweetness from the suffering and bitterness. And lastly, they eat the meal reclining at the table because a free person reclines at a table, while a servant or slave must stand. The host would then use this time to explain the 10 plagues brought upon Egypt from God’s outstretched arm. He would generally teach from Deuteronomy 26:5-10, giving the story of God’s deliverance of his people to worship him.
All of this started this night in Exodus chapter 12. Now we need to understand the aspect of Faith that is connected to this first meal. The people of God had seen all of these signs and wonders done and heard the words of Moses before. Moses first went to Pharaoh and things got a lot worse before they got any better, actually at this point it has not got any better. Besides the signs and wonders not affecting the land of Goshen they had spent all of this time slaves under Pharaoh. One of the last times the people of Israel had spoken in this story was at the end of Chapter 5 when Pharaoh had given them a heavier burden of collecting their own straw, the people had said, “They met Moses and Aaron, who were waiting for them, as they came out from Pharaoh; and they said to them, “The Lord look on you and judge, because you have made us stink in the sight of Pharaoh and his servants, and have put a sword in their hand to kill us” (Ex 5:20–21). When Moses had told them what was going to happen, we see their response in Exodus 6:9, “Moses spoke thus to the people of Israel, but they did not listen to Moses, because of their broken spirit and harsh slavery.”
Now they are told to pack their bags and eat this meal. Pharaoh was about to let them go. We know what is happening, but we need to understand this is a huge act of faith on the part of the people. The author of Hebrews even points out that Moses did this through faith, “By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them.” (Hebrews 11:28)
A new substitute and shadow
As we read through stories like the story of Exodus and the Passover we must always be on the lookout. Hidden in the pages of the Old Testament are shadows and types that point us to see Christ. Augustine once said, “In the Old Testament the New is concealed, in the New the Old is revealed.” Jesus rebukes the religious leaders in John 5:39 explaining they search the scriptures looking to find eternal life, but they point to Jesus Christ who gives eternal life. The religious leaders were looking but not looking for the right thing, more importantly the right person. Jesus on the road to Emmaus began expounding the scriptures to the two disciples the things concerning himself (Luke 24:27). Like many of us I am sure we would love to know or have a copy of the disciples’ notes. In some way we do, the New Testament were we get to see how the Apostles understood the Old Testament and showed us Christ.