Remember the Passover

October 9, 2022 ()

Bible Text: Exodus 11-13 |


Remember the Passover | Exodus 11-13
Brian Hedges | October 9, 2022

Let me invite you this morning to turn in your Bibles to the book fo Exodus. We’re going to be looking today in Exodus 11-12.

While you’re turning there, I’ll remind you that I’m from the great republic—I mean the great state—of Texas. Texans are never shy about their heritage or their history; there is a lot of Texas pride. In fact, I just spent a few days in Texas with my dad and siblings and enjoyed that time.

One thing that any Texan will immediately recognize is that famous rallying cry, “Remember the Alamo!” How many of you have heard of the Alamo? Okay, most of you have. Even though you’re not Texans, you get a little bit of Texas history. “Remember the Alamo!”

It is a saying, and there was actually a song of this name by—I don’t remember the artist, but back in the 1960s. It’s a saying that reminds us of that 13-day standoff in 1836 where anywhere from 182 to up to 257 Texans were killed in defending a tiny mission from the onslaught of General Santa Ana and his army. We don’t know exactly how many were actually killed, but we do know that this was a pivotal event in the battle for the independence of Texas.

There are lots of legends and myths that no doubt surrounds the story, especially if you get the story from the film versions. Nevertheless, “Remember the Alamo!” calls to mind the sacrifice of those brave men who gave their lives for the cause of freedom.

The call to remember is also central to the life and the worship of the people of God in the Old Testament, the people of Israel. But they were called not to remember the Alamo, but to remember the Passover; to remember that pivotal event which was their redemption, their liberation from slavery in Egypt. It’s that story, the story of the Passover, that we’re going to study together this morning in Exodus 11-12.

We’ve been looking through the book of Exodus together. We are seven weeks in now to this wonderful Old Testament book, and as we’ve seen week by week, Exodus really gives us the Old Testament story of redemption, and it gives us the images, the categories, the vocabulary for understanding the gospel of our salvation today.

Today we’re looking in Exodus 11-12, and it’s the story of the Passover. It’s that climactic, pivotal event in the redemption of Israel. We’re going to take it in five steps and just work through portions of this passage. There are five points that I want to give you that really unfold for us the story of the Passover for Israel but I think, as you’ll also see, it really gives us the gospel. It’s a summary of the gospel of Jesus Christ given to us here in this typological form.

1. The Sentence of Death

Now, remember the context here. The contexts are the plagues in Egypt, the signs and wonders that God multiplied in Egypt. As we saw last week in Exodus 7:4, these were great acts of judgment, as God was bringing judgment on wicked Egypt. In Exodus 11:1 God says to Moses, “One more plague I will bring upon Pharaoh and upon Egypt,” and then he describes that plague in verses 4-6. Let’s begin by reading there, Exodus 11:4.

So Moses said, “Thus says the Lord: ‘About midnight I will go out in the midst of Egypt, and every firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sits on his throne, even to the firstborn of the slave girl who is behind the handmill, and all the firstborn of the cattle. There shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as there has never been, nor ever will be again.’”

The death of the firstborn. It is the final plague, it is the final act of judgment directly on Egypt, as God himself will come down and this mysterious angel called the destroyer brings death to every household in Egypt.

There’s a crucial difference between this plague and the ones that have gone before, and the difference is essentially this, that the Israelites have to do something in order to be protected. In the previous plagues—we saw this last week—God himself put a distinction between Israel and Egypt. Their cattle were not killed through the plague that killed all the livestock. When darkness settled over the whole land of Egypt, there was light in every house in Israel. But here, the Israelites are told they must do something. You see this in chapter 12:21-23. It says,

Then Moses called all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Go and select lambs for yourselves according to your clans, and kill the Passover lamb. Take a bunch of hyssop [that would have been the branch of a plant] and dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and touch the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood that is in the basin. None of you shall go out of the door of his house until the morning. For the Lord will pass through to strike the Egyptians, and when he sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the Lord will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to enter your houses to strike you.”

You see what’s going on? Judgment was coming, and it was judgment that would also fall on Israel unless there was a provision for them. In every house there would be death, because they’re under the sentence of death, the death of the firstborn. Man and beast, Egyptians and Israelite, all are under the sentence of death.

One of the things this is showing us is that the judgment of God comes on all people. It comes on all the world. The whole world is under judgment.

The primary evidence for this, of course, today is the fact that we live in a world where there is death, where there is suffering, and the final suffering, the final calamity that befalls every single one of us is death. We’re all under the sentence of death. It’s death not only in the physical sense (although that’s included) but also eternal death, or what the Bible calls the second death. You remember that when Adam sinned, God had told Adam, “In the day that you eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil—on the day you eat that forbidden fruit you will die.” Ever since Adam first sinned, sin has reigned over the human race; the king of terrors, as we call death.

So it was for Egypt and even for the Israelites. It just reminds us that all of us face this in our lives. We face the sentence of death. We are all under the judgment of God. Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” This is true for you and I as well, unless God does something, which he does. That’s the wonderful story of the Passover, because there is a provision. There is the provision of a lamb, and that’s point number two.

2. The Provision of the Lamb

You see this in Exodus 12:1-6, the provision of the lamb. This is where the Lord really gives to Moses instructions for how the Passover is to be kept. Let’s read it here. It says,

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, “This month shall be for you the beginning of months. It shall be the first month of the year for you. Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month every man shall take a lamb according to their fathers' houses, a lamb for a household. And if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his nearest neighbor shall take according to the number of persons; according to what each can eat you shall make your count for the lamb. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats, and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs at twilight.”

Provision of the lamb. It recalls, of course, the story of Abraham and Isaac, when God had told Abraham that he must sacrifice his own son, Isaac, his firstborn and his only son, the son in whom the promises of God were to be fulfilled. When Abraham was taking Isaac up that mountain, ready to slaughter him in obedience to God, Isaac asked that question. He said, “I see the word for the fire, but where’s the sacrifice?” Abraham said, “God himself will provide a lamb for the sacrifice.”

You remember, then, that the angel of the Lord cried out, and there was a ram caught in the thicket. God stayed Abraham’s hand, and instead of Isaac being slain a substitute was killed, this ram.

Now this is happening for the whole people of God. The way Christ Wright’s commentary puts it, “The substitution of a ram for Isaac in the classic and mysterious narrative of Genesis 22 will be multiplied by the number of Israelite families descended from him.”

As we look in this passage, we see three things about this lamb. We see, first of all, that it was a spotless lamb. It was to be a lamb “without blemish” in verse 5; without any kind of defect. In other words, it was to be a perfect specimen. They weren’t to offer a lamb that was lame or that was blind in one eye or that in any way was defective. It was to be a spotless, perfect lamb.

Then this lamb was to be slaughtered. You see that in verse 6. It was to be killed at twilight on the fourteenth day of the month. This was a sacrifice. Blood was going to be shed, and that’s because it was a substitutionary lamb. That’s the third thing—a spotless lamb, a slain lamb, a substitutionary lamb, which you find in verse 13. It’s very clear. God says, “When I see the blood I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt.” The blood of the lamb was to cover the Israelites. That’s why it’s called the Passover. “When I see the blood I will pass over you.”

I like the way Tim Keller puts it. He said, “In every household of Egypt that night there was either a dead lamb or a dead son.” But there had to be a substitute in order to avert the judgment of God. But it is God himself who provides the substitute; he provides the lamb.

Can’t you see, brothers and sisters, how this pictures the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ? In fact, the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 5 calls Christ our Passover lamb. We’ve already read it, but read it again in 1 Peter 1:18-19, where Peter says that we know that we are ransomed from the futile ways inherited from our forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without spot or blemish.

This is the price of our redemption: the blood of Jesus Christ, the provision of a lamb.

There’s one other thing we need to note here before moving on to the next point, and that is the language of redemption. I’ve already called attention to this word “redeem” in Exodus 6, but there’s a shade of meaning in that word that I haven’t really brought up yet. Essentially, the word means “to liberate through the payment of a ransom.” To liberate, or to set free or to deliver, through the payment of a ransom price.

This will become really clear in Exodus 13. We’re not going to have time to look at all of that this morning, but I just want to read a couple of verses to you, verses 13-15. It’s where God is giving instruction for what’s called the redemption of the firstborn. Here’s what it says.

“Every firstborn of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb, or if you will not redeem it you shall break its neck. Every firstborn of man among your sons you shall redeem. And when in time to come your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ you shall say to him, ‘By a strong hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, from the house of slavery. For when Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the Lord killed all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man and the firstborn of animals. Therefore I sacrifice to the Lord all the males that first open the womb, but all the firstborn of my sons I redeem.’”

How are they redeemed? They are redeemed through the sacrifice, because that’s what redemption is. Redemption is liberation through the payment of a ransom price.

I think the best illustration of this—I’ve used it many times here at Redeemer, but maybe it’ll be new for some of you, and if it’s not I’m sure you’ll forgive the repetition. But my favorite illustration is from Lewis’s wonderful book The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Don’t you remember Edmund, this little boy who is enslaved to his desires? He’s a slave, right? He’s a captive; he’s a captive to the White Witch because he has chosen Turkish Delight over the good of his brothers and sisters and really over the good of the whole land of Narnia. Now he’s enslaved to the White Witch, and you remember that his life has been forfeited to her and he is sentenced to die for his treachery.

But then Aslan, the lion, the king, the Christlike figure, dies like a lamb on the Stone Table. He is slain, and it’s only after Aslan is raised from the dead, when he’s talking to the girls, the sisters Lucy and Susan, and they ask what’s happened, and this is what Aslan says. He says, “The White Witch did not realize that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a trader’s stead, death itself would start working backwards.” And Edmund is set free; he’s liberated.

Brothers and sisters, that’s what the gospel does. Through the death of Jesus Christ we are ransomed from the sentence of death. We are ransomed from judgment through the ransom that Christ has paid for us.

3. The Application of the Blood

So we see the sentence of death, the provision of the lamb, but there’s something more, and this is so crucial. Point number three is the application of the blood, because it wasn’t enough for the lamb to die. They had to apply the blood to each household.

You see this again in Exodus 12. You see it in verse 7: ““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.” Then again in verses 11-13: “It is the Lord's Passover. For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord. The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt.”

We have to stress the importance of this. They had to apply the blood; they had to brush it on the doorposts and the lintels of every household in Egypt. Every Israelite household had to apply the blood. If the blood was not applied, even if a lamb had been slain, if the blood was not applied the Lord would not pass over.

This is true for us as well. The gospel of Jesus Christ includes both redemption accomplished (that’s what Jesus did on the cross) and redemption applied, applied to us through faith and through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

John Calvin said, “We must understand that as long as Christ remains outside of us and we are separated from him, all that he has suffered and done for the salvation of the human race remains useless and of no value.”

If we are outside of Christ and Christ is outside of us, there has to be some kind of union, there has to be a relationship. The blood has to be applied. Every single one of us has to not only grasp the content of the gospel, this good news that Jesus Christ died for sinners, but we also have to personally appropriate that good news to ourselves. How do we do that? You do that when you see yourself as a sinner, when you acknowledge that you have sinned against God, you confess those sins, you humble yourself before him. You confess your need for his mercy and his grace and you call out on the name of the Lord to be saved, and you trust in what Jesus Christ has done for you. You say, in the words of the old hymn writer,

Nothing in my hands I bring,
Simply to thy cross I cling;
Naked, come to thee for dress;
Helpless, look to thee for grace.
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Savior, or I die!

It’s taking that humble posture of faith, where we look not to ourselves and what we have done but we look to the Lamb and we look to his blood applied to us, and we say, “God, have mercy on me for Jesus’ sake! Look on his blood and pass over my sins.”

Let me ask you this morning, have you done that? Have you applied the blood of Christ to your sins, to your life? Have you seen yourself as a sinner? Have you acknowledged your need for redemption and forgiveness? Have you asked God to forgive you, and have you trusted in Christ and in Christ alone for your salvation, so that what you’re hanging on to isn’t any scrap of good works that you’ve ever done? It’s not your baptism, it’s not your church attendance, it’s not church membership, it’s not morality, it’s not how good of a person you are; it’s not any of those things! It’s Jesus, and Jesus alone. The application of the blood—it must be applied, and you, my friend, must appropriate the gospel. You must apply what Christ has done to your own heart and life, or rather, he applies it to you through the ministry of the Holy Spirit and through the gifts of faith and repentance.

4. The Life of Newness

That will then lead to something else. The sermon’s not done yet. There’s more. Point number four is the life of newness.

I have to kind of back into this one, but if you read all of Exodus 12 and 13 you’re going to see that there’s something different about Exodus 12-13. It’s different than everything that’s gone before in Exodus. Exodus 1-11 is straight up narrative—exciting, fast-paced—judgment, plagues, revelation from God. There’s the burning bush; there’s Moses going into Pharaoh’s court; the signs and the wonders. But then you get into Exodus 12 and, interlaced with the description of this whole Passover event, there are detailed instructions for the liturgy and the worship of Israel; instructions for how to celebrate the Passover in the future and instructions for how to celebrate this accompanying feast called the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

I think this change of tone signals something important. It signals that this event was to be commemorated in Israel as a new beginning.

You really see it in Exodus 12. You see it, first of all, in verses 1-2. “The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, ‘This month shall be for you the beginning of months. It shall be the first month of the year for you.’” So, a new calendar is starting here. “This will be the beginning of months.” The first month in the religious year for Israel is going to be this month, commemorated by Passover and by the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

You see it in verse 14 again.

“This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast. [Then the feast is described.] Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall remove leaven out of your houses, for if anyone eats what is leavened, from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel. [This is serious business.] On the first day you shall hold a holy assembly, and on the seventh day a holy assembly. No work shall be done on those days. But what everyone needs to eat, that alone may be prepared by you. And you shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this very day I brought your hosts out of the land of Egypt. Therefore you shall observe this day, throughout your generations, as a statute forever.”

What in the world is all this for? The Feast of Unleavened Bread? We don’t think much about this today. We don’t celebrate these Jewish feasts and festivals. But what’s the significance of this?

What you have to remember is that in Scripture leaven or yeast—yeast in dough that causes the dough to rise—is viewed as a type of sin or of impurity, with its spreading, contaminating effect. The Feast of Unleavened Bread was all about getting rid of the yeast, getting rid of the leaven, and to prepare bread without leaven; and it was to celebrate the new beginning that God had given the people of Israel.

This becomes really, really clear in 1 Corinthians 5. I want to read what it says, and then I want to read just one quotation from Chris Wright to explain it. I think this will then make sense to you.

Paul in 1 Corinthians 5:7-8 says this: “Cleanse out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened.” That’s why I’m calling this the life of newness. Cleanse out the old leaven that you might be a new lump of dough, as you really are unleavened, “for Christ our Passover lamb has been sacrificed.” Then he gives the application. “Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”

Get rid of the old and live in a new way. Get rid of the old leaven, the old life of malice and of evil, and live in a new way. Why? Because Christ our Passover lamb has been sacrificed, and you are now unleavened bread. You’re new; there’s newness.

This is how Christopher Wright explains it:

"What should it mean for us who now participate in that story of blood-bought protection from death and redemption out of slavery? ... Paul uses the old leaven, the old fermented dough that had worked its way through countless loaves of the past year, as a metaphor for the old way of life which must be set aside for the new life in Christ. [Here’s the key.] So if Passover speaks of our redemption by Christ’s blood, an objective fact accomplished by Christ on our behalf, then the Feast of Unleavened Bread speaks to us of our sanctification, a personal challenge to live in responsive sincerity and truth."

To put it simply, if you’ve been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, you are a new creation. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, and all things have become new.”

We actually sang this this morning.

Hallelujah! Thank you, Jesus!
I was a prisoner;
Now I’m not.
With your blood you
Bought my freedom;
Hallelujah for the cross!

The question this morning is not only have you applied the blood of Jesus Christ to your life, but are you living in the freedom that Christ came to give? Are you living free? Are you living a life of newness, the new life?

Listen, when you look at the great stories of conversions, both the great famous ones in history and every ordinary believer you ever meet; when someone has really come to Christ, there’s always a change. There’s always something new. Now, sometimes people come to Christ when they’re so young that they’ve lived this new life for most of their lives. They may not have the dramatic conversion story, the Damascus road story. If that’s your case, praise the Lord; he’s protected you from so much sin. But for every one of us, if we are in Christ there’s newness and there’s freedom, and we are called to live in the freedom that Christ died to secure for us, the life of newness.

5. The Memorial of the Sacrifice

We’ve looked at the sentence of death, the provision of the lamb, the application of the blood, the life of newness. There’s one more thing, and that is the memorial of the sacrifice, point number five.

As I’ve already mentioned, this passage is notable and different from what goes before in Exodus, because it’s so filled with liturgical instruction, instruction for worship, instruction for how to celebrate this feast, the feast of Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, then in chapter 13 the consecration of the firstborn. There are all of these detailed instructions for worship.

I’ll give you just a little flavor of it in Exodus 12:24-28.

“You shall observe this rite as a statute for you and for your sons forever. And when you come to the land that the Lord will give you, as he has promised, you shall keep this service. And when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’”

Underline that word “service.” Maybe you’re reading the NIV and it says “ceremony.” But it’s exactly the same word that has been used already in Exodus to describe Israel’s slavery, their service to Pharaoh in Egypt. Now that service is done, and they now are servants of the Lord himself. So Moses says, “You shall keep this service.” Verse 26:

“And when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ you shall say, ‘It is the sacrifice of the Lord's Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, when he struck the Egyptians but spared our houses.’” And the people bowed their heads and worshiped.

Then the people of Israel went and did so; as the Lord had commanded Moses and Aaron, so they did.

It’s a memorial. They would do this—they were to do this, they were supposed to do this—every year. Oftentimes Israel as a nation would drift from it, but what you’ll see as you read the Old Testament is that in times of revival and reformation one of the first things that comes back is recovery and remembrance of the Passover, and they once again begin celebrating this feast. That’s the key that leads to their spiritual renewal, and it’s the key that leads to our spiritual renewal as well, brothers and sisters. It is the ongoing remembrance of what Christ has done for us.

In fact, we also have a memorial meal. Don’t you remember when Jesus ate his last Passover meal with his disciples? Do you remember what he did? He came and, instead of using the words of Deuteronomy 16:3, “This is the bread of our affliction,” he came and he said, “This bread is my body, which is broken for you.”

You read the Passover accounts—the accounts of those meals, the last supper in the Gospels—you know one thing that’s always absent from the meal? It’s a lamb. You never see anything about a lamb. You know why? Because Jesus is the lamb, and he was going to the cross to be slain for them.

Just as God gave Israel the Passover to be a perpetual memorial to them of the sacrifice by which they were liberated, the ransom by which they were delivered from Egypt, so also God has given to us a memorial meal, the Lord’s supper, so that when we gather at the table every week—this is why we do it every week, because we never outgrow our need for remembrance of the cross! We need to be reminded again and again and again so that every week is a week of repentance, every week is a week of covenant renewal, every week is a time to remember what Christ has done for us and to once again commit ourselves to follow and love and worship the Lamb who was slain. Every week we come to the table and we are in essence saying,

Come behold the wondrous mystery,
Christ the Lord upon the tree.
In the stead of ruined sinners
Hangs the Lamb in victory.
See the price of our redemption,
See the Father’s plan unfold,
Bringing many sons to glory;
Grace unmeasured, love untold.

Remember the sacrifice. Remember the cross. That’s our rallying cry, because that’s the pivotal event, the most important event in all of human history, the cross and resurrection of Christ, where our freedom was purchased, where we were redeemed. Let’s pray together.

Almighty God, how we thank you for your grace and mercy, that you yourself would provide a Lamb for the sacrifice, and that when the sentence of death hung over our heads, rather than leaving us in our sin to receive your just judgment, you sent your Son to pay the price for our redemption. We pray, Lord, that you would help us to live in constant remembrance of what Christ has done for us; that you would help us, each one, to apply and appropriate the blood of Jesus Christ to our own hearts and lives, and that you would help us to live in the freedom, the newness, that comes through the gospel. We don’t deserve this grace, but we are so thankful for it.

As we come to the Lord’s table this morning, we come with grateful hearts, and we have to come humbling ourselves. We have to come repenting, as we look back on our lives even of the last week, the sins that we committed in moments of selfishness or weakness; wrong attitudes, harbored resentments, angry words. We ask you, Lord, to forgive us. We ask you to have mercy on us for Jesus’ sake. We ask you to pass over us because you see the blood of your Son, and we ask you, Lord, to renew our hearts in grateful, humble, obedient faith and worship. As we come to the table this morning, I pray that we would not just take the elements of bread and juice, but looking through these elements to that which they signify we would feast on Jesus Christ, the Passover Lamb who has been sacrificed for us. Lord, we need you, and we’re so thankful that you love us so much that you have provided a Lamb for us. So draw near to us in these moments and renew our hearts, we pray it in Jesus’ name and for his sake, amen.