By Ben W. Curtis
Pastor, First Baptist Church, Tracy City
Many people are desperate for a new beginning, but not desperate enough. Prolonged suffering tempts some to bury the pain or self-medicate with drugs, alcohol, sex, or whatever has worked in the past. Others are enslaved to habitual sins, despite reading all the books and trying every possible human solution to break free. It’s only when we are desperate enough to cry out to God in our suffering and sin that we truly come to know His liberating power (Exodus 2:23). In Exodus 12, the Lord has heard Israel’s cry and is acting to fulfill a 400-year-old promise made to one of their forefathers, the promise of a new beginning (Genesis 15:13-14).
This new beginning comes at a very high price. God plans to kill every firstborn in Egypt, from Pharaoh’s house down to the firstborn of the animals (Exodus 12:12). Yet the same event which brings judgment on Egypt also results in salvation for the Israelites. Every Israelite household is instructed to participate in a costly sacrifice because every single Israelite is a sinner in need of God’s mercy and grace (Exodus 12:3-4). He instructs them to search the entire flock for a lamb without any physical defects and to keep that lamb for four days (v. 5). This spotless lamb becomes a symbol; only that which is unblemished and spotless can die on behalf of someone else.
Israel’s new beginning also requires faith in action. In every other plague, the Lord afflicted the Egyptians and passed over the Israelites without requiring them to do anything. But now, He calls the Israelites to exercise faith in His Word and to act. They are required to kill the lamb and smear its blood on the doorpost and lintel of their home so that God’s judgment will pass over them and their family (vv. 7, 22). They must eat the meal hastily with their staffs in hand ready to travel at dawn of day (v. 11). If the Israelites fail to respond with faith by doing what the Lord has said, then the same judgment which falls on the Egyptians will fall on them as well.
It’s not hard to see how the exodus serves as a paradigm for salvation. Our freedom from spiritual slavery depends on a costly sacrifice, the death of the spotless Lamb of God (John 1:29; John 19:4, 6; Luke 23:47; 1 Peter 1:19). Reconciliation with God is possible only through Jesus’ perfect life, sacrificial death, and victorious resurrection. Spiritual freedom does not result from belonging to a Christian family or knowing the right facts. The benefits of Christ’s death are not automatically applied. You must respond to the gospel in faith and repentance (Mark 1:14-15; Acts 3:19; Acts 16:31).
Finally, spiritual freedom results in our lives being permanently and radically reoriented around the One who has saved us (II Corinthians 5:17). Before the Exodus, the Hebrew calendar mirrored the Egyptian calendar. But from this point forward, the entire corporate life of Israel is to be reoriented around this miraculous deliverance (Exodus 12:1-2). The Passover feast is to become an annual reminder and teaching point for the next generation (Exodus 12:14-23). At the dawn of this new beginning, God’s faithfulness is fresh on their minds. But they soon forget this truth and God will continually and graciously remind them that “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion” (Philippians 1:6).