| PASSOVER AND EXODUS |
The importance of today’s passage cannot be overstated. The passover, the exodus, and the coming crossing of the Red Sea became the key moments in history that God would constantly point back to in order to show His power. God would also use this bit of history, in which He redeems His people from slavery in Egypt, as a metaphor for how He redeems His people from bondage to sin.
Chapters 7-11 tell the story of the 10 plagues that came upon Egypt. Repeatedly, Moses comes before Pharaoh, by God’s instruction, and warns Pharaoh that if he does not let the Israelites go that God will send a plague upon Egypt. Repeatedly, Pharaoh hardens his heart toward the command of God and refuses to release the Israelites.
Each of the plagues is a direct assault on one of the many Egyptian gods. For instance, The second plague is a plague of frogs. A multitude of frogs climbed up out of the Nile river, scattered themselves all about Egypt, in homes, in pots, everywhere! And then they died in all these places until the entire land of Egypt stank of rotten frogs.
Commentator John Currid writes:
The Egyptians regarded the frog as a symbol of divine power and a representation of fertility. One of the major goddesses of Egypt was Hekhet, who is depicted as a human female with a frog’s head. She was the spouse of the creator-god Khnum. He was thought to fashion human bodies on his potter’s wheel, and Hekhet would then blow the breath of life into them. Hekhet also had the responsibility of controlling the multiplication of frogs in ancient Egypt by protecting the frog-eating crocodiles. But Yahweh overwhelms Hekhet and causes her to be impotent in her task.
God was doing two things by methodically defeating the supposed gods of Egypt.
- He was showing the Egyptians that their gods were no gods at all so that they could not trust in them to help them keep the Israelites as slaves.
- God was showing the Israelites that He alone was the One true God. While in Egypt the Israelites had been saturated by a culture of pagan worship. He was stripping them of their trust in these foreign gods and given them a vision of Himself.
We may look at the Egyptians and say that we don’t have their “god problem.” But we should ask ourselves, where is our functional trust? Who or what do we look to for our trust, our hope and our peace. No matter what we say about our religious practice, the object of our trust, hope and peace is our functional god.
In the end, God will strip us of our many gods in one of two ways. It will either be by means of judgement so that all that we have left is God in all His justice or in mercy so that all that we have left is God in all His grace. It would be good to ask: What are the gods of which you may be being stripped?
Pharaoh’s Hard Heart
Throughout the plagues of chapters 7-11 Pharaoh’s heart is repeatedly heard toward the Lord’s command. What is interesting is the word “hard” literally means “heavy.” Now, what makes this interesting is the fact that the Egyptians thought that the heart was the very essence of a person. John Currid writes in his commentary on Exodus:
The individual’s heart—which was thought to be the very essence of the person—was weighed on the scales of truth. On one pan sat the feather of truth and righteousness; on the other lay the heart of the deceased. If the heart was heavy or weighty with misdeeds, the person was unjust, condemned and thrown to the Devouress to be eaten. If the heart was pure, the deceased would go to the Egyptian afterlife.
Throughout the story God puts on display the impurity of Pharaoh’s heart. God has weighed him and found him unrighteous. ### The Final Plague: Death and Passover
The final plague is the most tragic of them all. Because Pharaoh and the Egyptians continued in their unbelief and disobedience “the LORD struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt.” If you look back at Exodus 12:7–13 you see that the only way that the Israelite children were saved was by sacrificing a lamb and putting it on the doorposts of their homes. The angel of death that would come to Egypt would literally pass over the homes that were covered by the blood of the sacrifice.
In our passage today, God institutes the Passover celebration. God will use the passover, and after the coming of Jesus, the Lord’s supper, to remind His people that the only way by which a person may be saved is if there is a sacrifice. You remember, Isaac. That was one of the first times we say this reality. Here we see it again.
Plundering the Egyptians
God said it would happen, and it did. He told Abraham his descendants would come out of a foreign land with “great possessions”. God prefigured it when Pharaoh gave land and possessions to Joseph and his family. It began to happen for Moses’ family when the daughter of Pharaoh paid Moses’ mother to nurse him. God promises Moses that they would not leave Egypt empty handed. And now, at last, after years and generations, the LORD has provided.
The people of Israel had also done as Moses told them, for they had asked the Egyptians for silver and gold jewelry and for clothing. And the LORD had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have what they asked. Thus they plundered the Egyptians.
If there is anything that we should see from this whole episode of the Israelites in Egypt, it is that the LORD always provides for His people according to His promise. That is to say, it is not according to our own desires, faith or wisdom. God’s redemption is according to His will, grace and design.