Exodus 12:37-13:16 ~ 20110130 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
02/13 Exodus 12:37-13:16 Redemption; Firstborn Belong to the LORD
We've been away from the book of Exodus for some time now, so before we jump back in to chapters 12 and 13, I'll try to give a very sweeping summary of the first 12 chapters of the book and sketch out where we are going from here.
Exodus is a book about redemption and the presence of God among his people. Exodus is the focal point of the Torah, or the five books of Moses, as it describes the founding of Israel as God's chosen nation. Exodus is about a God who acts on behalf of his people, in response to their prayers, a God who always keeps his promises and uses weak and foolish things to shame the wise and the strong. God hears the cries for help from his people, and he triumphs over the Pharaoh using a handful of women who determine to obey God rather than man, whatever the cost. He raises up his deliverer, who is misunderstood and rejected by his own people, exiled into the wilderness. He becomes savior to the gentiles, and learns shepherding in the desert. God reveals himself unexpectedly as the self-existent one, and reveals what he will do to rescue his people. The news is received initially with worship, but as the realization sets in that things will get worse before they get better, the people run back to their old slave-master for help and call down curses on God's chosen deliverer. God, in his great mercy toward a sinful and rebellious people, unleashes his mighty acts of judgment against Egypt to deliver his people. In these, he demonstrated decisively his sovereign superiority over all the gods the Egyptians worshiped. God points us to Christ our passover sacrificed for us; to Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, as he establishes the means for deliverance from his own justice on the firstborn.
In chapter 12, we have instructions for the passover ritual, we see the Egyptians ejecting the people from the land in response to God's final decisive blow, and we see Israel plundering the Egyptians of their valuables. In chapter 13, God asserts his ownership over everyone and everything, and demands holiness in his people. In chapter 14 God leads his people through the Red Sea and crushes the pursuing Egyptian army.
To help orient ourselves as to where we are in the book, let's review a basic outline of God's action in Exodus: (Longman, p.34):
Exodus 1-18 God saves Israel from Egyptian bondage
Exodus 19-24 God gives Israel His law; where he formally takes them to be his people and defines for them his covenant relationship with them.
Exodus 25-40 God instructs Israel to build His Tabernacle; the place where he will once again dwell with his people.
My prayer as we study the book of Exodus together is that we enjoy the presence of almighty God with us, that we acknowledge ourselves as undeserving recipients of his love and grace, that we embrace Jesus as our passover lamb slaughtered in our place, that we experience Jesus who shepherds us through the wilderness, that we are brought out from under the cruel bondage of sin and into the glorious freedom of joyfully serving the King of kings and Lord of lords.
Ethnic diversity; theological unity
In verse 38 we are told that a mixed multitude accompanied the Israelites as they went out of Egypt. This is a crowd of diverse ethnic background, apparently convinced by God's mighty acts that YHWH really is the only true God, and they would be better off siding with the Israelites and their God than remaining behind in devastated Egypt. Remember God's promise to Abraham that he would bless the nations through his offspring (Gen.18:18; 22:18)? Even an Egyptian could escape God's wrath by following God's instructions and coming under the blood. Because of this mixed multitude accompanying Israel in the exodus, parameters had to be established. The meal commemorating the redemption from slavery was an exclusive meal. Not all were welcome. But this exclusivity was not based on ethnicity. People from every tribe and tongue and people and nation were welcome to participate, but only those who had embraced YHWH as their God and submitted to the sign of covenant relationship with him.
There was to be one standard, one law for natives and aliens alike. Acceptance of the terms of the covenant relationship with this rescuing God. Those who rejected the covenant relationship with YHWH were to be excluded. There was room for ethnic diversity, but there must be theological unity.
The final blow against Egypt was the death of the firstborn. God has exclusive rights over his creation, to do with it as he pleases. Life and death are in the hands of no one but God. There are no accidents in God's universe. God says:
Back in Exodus 4, Moses was instructed by God:
God had demanded the release of his firstborn son. If Pharaoh refused, the consequences would be the death of Pharaoh's firstborn son. This is exactly what happened. God kept his word. This Pharaoh's predecessor had ordered the execution of all male infants born to Israel. Now God personally saw to the execution of all the firstborn males of Egypt. This was the price God paid to set his people free. God as Creator has sovereign rights over his creation. God as Redeemer has double authority over his people. We must be reminded of his sovereign rights over us.
God demanded that all firstborn be consecrated to him. To consecrate was to dedicate, to sanctify, or set apart as holy, to be offered to the Lord. The consecration of the firstborn was similar to the tithe, where part was given as a recognition and reminder that God owned the whole. It is clear in scripture that not just the firstborn, but everyone and everything belong to God.
God owns all things. He can do with his possessions whatever he wills. He demanded that the firstborn of anything that was considered clean – fit for eating or offering – would be sacrificed to him. All the firstborn of unclean animals must either be redeemed – by a substitute clean animal sacrificed in its place, or it was to be destroyed. Isn't it interesting that man is placed in the same category as unclean animals unfit for sacrifice – humans must be redeemed. This is a pattern we have seen throughout Genesis. In Genesis 22, God had demanded that Abraham sacrifice his promised son Isaac as a burnt offering. Abraham was obediently following God's instructions, when at the last minute God stopped him and provided a substitute ram to be sacrificed in his place. But that was not the first time. All the way back in Genesis 3, our first parents rebelled against God and then hid from God because they knew that the wages of sin is death. But God did not put them to death. Instead, he clothed them with skins of animals, sacrificed in their place as a substitute. All this points to Jesus, the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (Jn.1:29). He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree (1Pet.2:24). Verse 16 tells us that the awareness of God's right and our redemption is to be taught by fathers to their sons, and we are to be constantly reminded that we were bought with a price.
You are not your own. You were bought with a price. We need to be constantly reminded of this. It is our responsibility to pass this truth on to the next generation. We no longer sacrifice animals because the once for all sacrifice of Jesus was sufficient for all time to cover all our sins (Rom.6:10; Heb.7:27; 9:12, 26; 10:10).
We need to be reminded of how the Lord by his strong hand brought us out from the house of slavery. We need to be reminded that we were bought with the once for all blood of Jesus the Lamb of God. Today we have a different reminder. 'This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me' (Lk.22:19).