The Passover Lamb (Exodus 12:1-13)
Rev. David French
Last week we saw how God choose Abraham and Sarah to form a new nation and then command Abraham to offer their firstborn son, Isaac, as a burnt offering. But then, at the last minute, God provided a substitute, a ram with its horns trapped in thorns which would die in Isaac’s place. That ram pointed ahead to Jesus Christ, God’s Son, wearing a crown of thorns around His head and sacrificed on the altar of the cross in our place.
Today we move ahead five hundred years. Abraham’s beloved son Isaac grew up and married Rebekah, a daughter of one of Abraham’s relatives. She gave birth to twin sons, Esau and Jacob. Of these twins, God chose the younger, Jacob, to carry on the promise to the nation of the Messiah. Jacob had twelve sons who became the fathers of twelve tribes, which when combined made up the nation. God then renamed Jacob “Israel,” the name by which his nation of descendants would be known.
Of all his sons, Israel favored his eleventh son, Joseph, over the rest. Not surprisingly, Joseph’s older brothers became jealous and hostile toward him. One day, Israel sent Joseph to check on his older brothers who were far off grazing sheep. When he arrived, they seized him and sold him into slavery in Egypt, telling Israel that Joseph had been killed by a wild animal.
Now given the circumstances, we might expect Joseph to turn from God, but God was with him and blessed everything he set out to do as a slave. Most importantly, God kept Joseph’s faith strong. Despite some false charges and injustices that severely tested his faith, Joseph eventually became prime minister over Egypt.
During a severe seven-year famine, Joseph sold food to the Egyptians and the surrounding nations. When Joseph’s brothers went to Egypt to buy grain, he eventually revealed himself to them, forgave them, and moved his father’s whole family to Egypt to provide for them during the famine. They stayed there for over four hundred years eventually being enslaved forced into bitter and difficult labor.
But by God’s blessing, Israel kept growing stronger and stronger. Pharaoh gave a command to drown every Hebrew baby boy in the Nile River. When a boy chosen by God was born to one Hebrew woman, she hid the child as long as she could.
Then she took a basket, after waterproofing it with pitch she placed her baby in the basket and set the basket in the reeds on the bank of the Nile River. Pharaoh’s daughter who saw the basket when she was bathing rescued the baby and named him Moses.
Moses lived around 1500 BC and was raised in Pharaoh’s house where he was taught the wisdom of the Egyptians. But he never forgot he was an Israelite. When Mosses was forty he witnessed a Hebrew slave being whipped by an Egyptian. Moses killed the Egyptian and rescued the Hebrew. When his deed was discovered, Moses fled to Midian and lived there forty years. He married a Midianite woman and became a shepherd of his father-in-law’s flocks.
One day Moses notices a bush that was burning on nearby Mount Sinai. What struck him as odd was that the bush did not burn up. So he went to check it out. As he approached the bush a voice called to him, “Moses, Moses! … Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground” (Exodus 3:4–5).
Now this is an important theme throughout the Old Testament that we still understand. God is holy, and sinful people cannot enter His presence unless He permits them and deals with their sins. It reminds us that one day God’s Son, Jesus Christ, will stand upon the earth to judge the living and the resurrected dead. And once again, creation will be holy, and only those people who have been made holy through faith in Christ Jesus will dwell with God in the new heavens and the new earth.
From the burning bush, God told Moses, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. … I have surely seen the affliction of My people …. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians…. Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt” (Exodus 3:6, 7–8, 10).
Moses was hesitant, but God persisted, and Moses finally obeyed. He appeared to Pharaoh with his brother Aaron who spoke for him. “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Let My people go, that they may hold a feast to Me in the wilderness’” (Exodus 5:1).
Rather than obey the God of Israel, Pharaoh increased the burden on them by no longer providing straw for them to make bricks. God responded with a string of plagues demonstrating His power. Calling on Pharaoh to repent and believe, He showed His superiority over all the gods the Egyptians had invented.
Each time the Lord struck Egypt with a plague, Pharaoh humbled himself and promised to set Israel free. But as soon as God lifted the plague, Pharaoh hardened his heart and so God sent more plagues each hit harder and was more damaging to Egypt than the last. For the tenth and final plague, Aaron announced that God would send an angel to strike down all the firstborn—from Pharaoh’s royal heir to the firstborn of all Egyptians and their livestock.
That is a stark reminder of Judgment Day. Each and every one of us will stand before God. Even if that day does not come for another two or three thousand years, each and every one of us will all be raised to life to stand before our Judge.
But we also see God provided a way to save the firstborn of Israel, that is all who believe. We read in Exodus 12, “Every man shall take a lamb … it until the fourteenth day of this month, when the whole … of Israel shall kill their lambs at twilight. Then they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. … And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you …” (Exodus 12:3, 6–8, 12–13).
Each year after, God’s people would celebrate the Passover feast and sacrifice Passover lambs to commemorate how God freed them from slavery in Egypt. And these Passover lambs become the third major reference to the coming Savior that we see in the Old Testament.
The first was in the Garden of Eden when God told the serpent the Seed of the woman would crush his head while he was bruising the Seed’s heel. That was a reference to Jesus’ victory over Satan when He suffered and died on the cross.
The second was the ram caught in a thicket by its horns which was sacrificed as a substitute for Abraham’s son Isaac. That ram pointed to God’s only begotten Son, Jesus, wearing a crown of thorns around His head as He was sacrificed on the cross as a burnt offering in our place on the cross.
And this, the third, is Jesus Christ, the final Passover Lamb whose blood was shed on the cross and marks us as His own in our baptism. On the Day of Judgment, the angel of death will see the blood of Christ marking us and will pass over us, sparing us from eternal torments of hell. As we are gathered together on the new earth. We will be living in a perfectly restored creation, surrounded by people who are pure, and holy. Standing on ground made holy by our God who will be standing with us forever. Amen.