The Battle Belongs to the Lord: Part Three, God in Egypt.
“Therefore, say to the Israelites: 'I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians.” Exodus 6:6-7
Winning a war does not necessarily mean that you win the hearts of those you have liberated, as events in the Middle East have clearly revealed over the last decade. In Exodus we see how an enemy is defeated and how hearts are released into fellowship with a heavenly Father.
In Hebrew thought, the heart speaks of the mind which is always active, as is the physical heart, being the only muscle that does not stop. Each letter in Hebrew has one or more pictures behind it and the pictures behind the word ‘heart’ (lebab) refers firstly to a shepherd’s staff (l) and secondly the floor plan of a tent (b). In these pictures we see authority in the place where one resides. Ultimately, this authority is in the mind and authority can refer to what we have allowed to dominate our lives. Due to the fall, we often end up under the wrong authority. This ‘authority within’ needs to be dealt with through understanding and engaging with the right foundation to life and destroying the house of our own thinking and means of protection. Through a departure from old ways and an arrival at a new position (repentance), we enter our true home, living with the Shepherd – our heavenly Father – who instructs us in all ways. All of this comes about because God chooses to reach out to us and it is the presence of the Holy One who makes us holy (holiness is a gift).
“But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation…”
Holiness begins with an encounter and leads to being separated off from all that is dysfunctional and decaying, yet it goes further than this. We are important to God; we are special.
A King, a Shepherd and the One Who Holds All of Life in His Hands
In Exodus, we read of continuing beginnings as God works with a nation in order to make them His own and to enable them to be a light to others. In their dealings with their neighbours and those around them, they were to reflect upon the nature and character of God, remembering their Redeemer.
It has often been said that you can see what the politics of a nation is like by the type of people it produces. In Israel’s dealings with others she was to reveal the grace, mercy, holiness, righteousness and love of God to a fallen world. Therefore, in the Exodus we see the God who wants to be known revealing Himself in amazing grace and mercy.
“Exodus might seem like the account of an ancient struggle between two local nations, but in reality it tells of the struggle to bring Creation to its divine goal. God seeks to reveal his sovereignty to all human beings, so that they can truly know him and reflect his image.”
R. Resnik in, Creation to Completion, page 61
On the one side, we have Pharaoh and the most powerful nation on earth with fertile lands, great riches and a strong army. She also had a sophisticated worship system and demonic activity masquerading as gods. Pharaoh treated Israel as if she were his own personal possession and abused her people as though they existed for Egypt and Egypt alone. In many respects, Egypt could be said to reveal the mind of fallen humanity as she exploited those around her for her own security and benefit. Yet, in the events of the Exodus, we see God revealing who was really in charge as He brought an oppressed people to Himself.
God chose to work with Moses, whom He spoke to through a burning bush in the backside of the desert, forty years after Moses had done a runner from Egypt. Through both Moses and God’s dealing with Egypt, God was going to make Himself known as the All-Powerful One and in a way that He had not been known before.
“I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as God Almighty, but by my name the Lord I did not make myself known to them.”
God had already revealed Himself to the Patriarchs through personal communication and a variety of other ways. For example, the initial release of Sarah came after disease had been inflicted on Pharaoh’s household (Gen 12:17), Lot was set free by God through the hand of Abraham (Gen 14:20), angels were sent to Sodom and Gomorrah and shortly after this, fire rained down on the cities (Gen 19:24). As we continue to move through Genesis, there are other instances in which angelic involvement takes place as we read of angels ascending and descending (Gen 28:12) and an army of angels appearing (Gen 32:1-2: Mahanaim). Yet in all of this, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob did not experience all that God is. At this point, and for the first time, God was coming against an actively aggressive pagan nation that oppressed His people and they would see and experience just what the Almighty One could do.
The name ‘Lord’ (Adonai) speaks of the One who has authority, ownership and mastery over all life. He is the One who protects; the Shepherd who leads to green pasture (Ps 23:1-2 Ezek. 34:11-2) whose love endures forever (Ps 136:3-4).
God encountered Moses through a burning bush on a mountainside in the wilderness. A pillar of fire would later guide Israel and the glory of God’s presence would be seen as a fire on top of a mountain (Ex 24:17-18).
To the Hebrew mind, the wilderness would come to be known as the place of hearing - the root word from which ‘wilderness’ springs (dabar) conveying the idea of ‘speaking’ and ‘order’. God is the One who spoke a world into existence (Gen 1:1, John 1:1) and God would bring His people out of the hustle and bustle and oppressive ways of a pagan nation in order to impact their heart and mind with truth. In the desert they were going to be confronted with their inability and God’s ability; they were to face their weakness and God’s power to redeem and make a people who were not a people, His own. Because of His presence in the wilderness, it became a place where God speaks and brings about harmony and balance - one of the places where Israel hears. In Isaiah 6:6-7, ‘fire’ speaks of God’s holiness and His desire to separate humanity from sin and bring us back into our rightful place. He is the Lord - the Covenant Head who sustains His people, bestows gifts, and equips (2 Peter 1:3). He is the One who has put everything under his feet (Psalm 8) (speaking of absolute mastery) and the earth trembles at His presence (Psalm 114:7).
At a later stage in Israel’s history, before the conquest of the Promised Land, God pointed out to His people that He is the One who carries His people as a father would a son:
“The Lord your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as he did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes, and in the desert. There you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place." In spite of this, you did not trust in the Lord your God, who went ahead of you on your journey, in fire by night and in a cloud by day, to search out places for you to camp and to show you the way you should go.” Deut 1:30-33
Moses and His Concerns
God appeared to Moses through a burning bush and revealed that He is the covenant God (Ex 3:6) who has compassion for His people, would rescue them, and would send Moses into Egypt to bring this about.
Moses was more than a little concerned about this, as I am sure we would be if we were in his position. He was aware of the position he had previously held in Egypt and knew that even his name (‘Moses’ means drawn from water) was a reminder of the way through which God had preserved his life. Moses had been educated in all the wisdom of the most powerful nation on earth (Acts 7:22), yet he had taken matters into his own hands and was rejected by his own people, despite trying to help them (Ex 2:14), and ended up running from Egypt. I am sure there must have been many nights during which Moses was haunted by his past; he must have been acutely aware of how his people were still in slavery and that he was the one who might have been able to set them free. One of the greatest problems that many face is clinging on to past experiences that they have gone through, which means that they keep producing the fruit of the past in the present as they continue to walk in their own strength. So what was wrong with Moses?
If he was anything like us, Moses would have struggled with his identity and previous events would have sought to define who he was as they continued to exercise authority over his life. However, God appeared on the scene and wanted Moses to be his mouthpiece as He set His people free. It’s hardly surprising that Moses asked, “Who am I?” In response to Moses’ question, God revealed that it was not actually about Moses at all, but about the One who would go with Moses. Many centuries later, Paul was able to witness to this in stating, “I am able to do all things through the one who strengthens me.” (Phil 4:13-14).
Moses then went on to ask what he should say when people asked him what God’s name is (Ex 3:13). In Hebrew thought a name speaks of what a person is like, therefore Moses is really asking whether God can accomplish what He has said he will do. Israel had lived under Pharaoh’s heavy hand for many generations and it must have seemed as if the Egyptian gods were always present whilst the God of Israel was conspicuous by His absence. By way of reply, God revealed that He is the unchanging, eternal One who will be with His people.
God pointed out that He is the One who enables Moses to stand and He is the covenant-keeping, unchanging One. The Lord is the One who breathed life into humanity and raised man from the dust of the ground as a living being (Gen 2:4, 7). He is the One who says, “Live” - the One who resurrects:
“On the day you were born your cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water to make you clean, nor were you rubbed with salt or wrapped in cloths. No-one looked on you with pity or had compassion enough to do any of these things for you. Rather, you were thrown out into the open field, for on the day you were born you were despised. "'Then I passed by and saw you kicking about in your blood, and as you lay there in your blood I said to you, "Live!” Ezek 16:4-6.
The Lord is the One who will come in both judgement and mercy, revealing Himself as a Shepherd in the way He makes the distinction between those in covenant and those against it. On occasion, when Israel strayed, He would also come against His people with the sole purpose of dealing with evil and bringing them to a place of restoration and growth.
“In all their distress he too was distressed, and the angel of his presence saved them. In his love and mercy he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old. Yet they rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit. So he turned and became their enemy and he himself fought against them. Then his people recalled the days of old, the days of Moses and his people — where is he who brought them through the sea, with the shepherd of his flock? Where is he who set his Holy Spirit among them…”
God is the founder and enabler of the covenant, with the purpose of raising those who were caught in rebellion and a living death. Through Moses and Aaron, and having nature at His disposal, God was going to make His name known in Egypt. This is the One who constantly reminds us through Scripture and the presence of the Holy Spirit, “I am everything you need.”
“Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms in Christ.”
Moses was still full of questions and his next one was, “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, “The LORD did not appear to you?”’ (Ex 4:1). In reply, God gave Moses two signs and a prophecy. The staff in his hand became a snake and then returned to a staff and his hand was turned leprous before then being healed. He is also told that the water from the Nile would become blood on the ground.
“What Moses is able to do he is clearly enabled to do by God. The staff is Moses’ staff, but what happened to the staff is clearly from Yahweh. The hand is Moses’ hand, but what happens to that hand is also clearly from Yahweh. The water in the River Nile, which Yahweh will use to his purpose, also belongs to Yahweh, and what happens to it is the work of his power.”
Prof J. Durham in, Exodus, page 46
In the picking up of a snake that he had initially run from, Moses took authority over what was going on. In a sense, the snake could be seen as a reminder of what went on in Genesis and was also a foreshadowing of what was going to happen in Egypt; God was and is in control. In one of the initial encounters with occult power in Egypt, the large snake of Aaron consumed the two snakes (which in Egypt represented authority and power over life) of Jannes and Jambres who opposed them (2 Tit 3:8).
Going back to Moses, at the burning bush we then read that despite participating in two amazing miracles, Moses is still chained to his inadequacies, as I am sure many of us would be! He had never seen himself as a good speaker (Ex 4:10), yet God reminded him that it is He who gave man his mouth (Ex 4:11). He is the One who commanded the morning and made the dawn know its place (Job 38:12-14) and who upholds His people with His strength (Isaiah 41:10). He is the One who will crush Satan and destroy the authority that seeks to establish chaos as He brings creation back to its rightful foundations.
Finally, Moses said that he wanted someone else to go in his place. The mountains of his inadequacies were preventing him from really seeing what is going on and he thought he can bargain with God. Yet what God has asked him to do was not a suggestion but a command. God then informed Moses that Aaron would also go with him.
God in Egypt
“The original story, however, deals not only with the hopes and struggles of a people, but with an unseen struggle between God and the spiritual forces that oppose him. Redemption is not only freedom from bondage; it is a restoration to God that entails the defeat of demonic forces. The serpent is put back in its place. When Moses pulls out his people from bondage, it is not just a great national victory, but the restoration of divine order on a cosmic scale.”
R. Resnik in, Gateways to Torah, page 63
In the following plagues, we see God revealing who He was through the first three plagues; He is no local deity, but the Creator who has all power and authority (Ex 7:17). Note that although there are warnings concerning the first two plagues, there is no warning concerning the third, indicating that it is probably a punishment for ignoring the One true God.
The first two plagues occur in the midst of the land and make a clear distinction between God’s covenant people, Israel, and the rest of Egypt (Ex 8:22), whilst the third plague made it very clear yet again that there is “no one like God on earth” (Ex 9:14). God is in the business of restoration and reconciliation and nothing can legitimately stand in his way. Before we move on to look at why God brought these particular plagues to bear on Egypt, we will look at the man who thought he was in control of all that was going on in his nation - Pharaoh.
Pharaoh’s Heart is Hardened
“For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth. Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy and he hardens whom he wants to harden.”
Hundreds of years before Pharaoh was born, Joseph entered Egypt as a slave, yet was used by God to protect His people (for the sake of the Messiah and not because of any personal merit). If Joseph had not interpreted dreams, Egypt would not have survived drought and famine but would have been so weakened that surrounding nations would have overrun her – and there would be no Pharaoh on the throne. From this we see how Pharaoh was raised up – not from birth, but in position. God’s intervention in the lives of Pharaoh’s forefathers meant that there was a throne for him to sit on. Again, let’s note that had the nation not existed in this way, there would have been no individual (Pharaoh) to which one could say, “I raised you up.”
Despite the blessing that had come to Egypt in previous generations, Pharaoh chose to believe in Egyptian gods rather than acknowledging the God of the Israelites. However, he could not thwart God’s plan. In actively choosing to reject Moses’ demands, Pharaoh initiated the hardening process which God was to bring upon him. God was going to bring things to a climax through a confrontation between Himself and the ‘gods’ of Egypt, and in doing so, He would demonstrate His supremacy and that His way was the only right way of living. Humanity was to be totally dependent on Him.
In hardening Pharaoh’s heart (through the continual action of redemption), God brought to fruition the desire of Pharaoh’s heart – to ignore God and go his own way. Think of it like this, if you tell a playground bully to stop bullying, the chances are that he will take no notice of you. If you continually tell him to stop bullying people, the likelihood is that he is going to become even more belligerent and eventually strike out at you. Your words and plan of action intensify the action of the bully and bring things to a head.
Ignoring God increases the strength of sin in our lives, and confrontation brought increasing resilience and hardness which was then used against Pharaoh for God’s purpose. Pharaoh reaped what He had sown in that there was nothing left but judgement. His choice had been made and Pharaoh reaped the consequences of his thinking. God was going to expose Pharaoh by strengthening him to do what he really wanted to do.
I remember talking to a Muslim on one occasion who claimed that Islam was a wonderful, peace-loving religion. I pointed out that if I wanted to see what Islam was really like I would look at Muslim countries where they had all the power to do what they liked. In doing so, I saw the oppression of women and imprisonment of Christians to name but two areas of difficulty.
If you want to see what someone is really like, then give them all the power they need. The hardening of Pharaoh’s heart (Ex 10:20) comes from the root meaning ‘to strengthen’ (chazaq).
“What God did was to reveal gradually more and more of himself. When the elders of Israel saw the signs God gave to Moses, they believed and worshipped (Ex 4:31). When Pharaoh saw the same authenticating signs, “Pharaoh’s heart grew hard” (Ex 7:13). God did not play with Pharaoh forcing him to act against his will. Each succeeding revelation led to a reaction which further demonstrated Pharaoh’s pride and arrogance. We see similar responses today. As the gospel is shared, some welcome its good news while others reject it. Just as the sun melts wax and hardens clay, so the light of revelation melts open hearts while causing closed hearts to harden.”
Prof L. Richardson in, Every Miracle and Wonder in the Bible, page 68
In the Exodus, God reached into Egypt and systematically removed all that Egypt had placed her trust in and had used as a means of controlling others. He also made a clear distinction between those who are in the Covenant with the Lord and those who are not.
In moving through extraordinary means rather than just ‘flicking His fingers’, God delivered Egypt in a way through which all people were given the opportunity to turn to Him. Another place where we see this opportunity for people to turn to God, even at a time of immanent judgement, is when God placed ‘fear and terror’ on the land Israel was to enter (Deut 2:25). This fear and terror was one of the reasons that Rahab was able to turn to the Lord (Joshua 2:9).
The First Visitation: A Staff Becomes a Snake
As mentioned previously, the snake was one of the creatures that represented power and authority over life in Egypt. Jannes and Jambres (2 Tit 3:8) were the high-powered court magicians who also produced symbols of power and authority that were immediately destroyed by Aaron’s staff, demonstrating who it was that had the real power and authority (Ex 11:7-12).
The First Blow: A River Turns to Blood (Ex 7:14-24)
The river Nile was the source of much of Egypt’s wealth, with floodwaters leaving a dark and rich silt on the soil each year. Egyptian taxation systems were also based upon the flooding of the Nile, which meant that in a good year the taxation went up and in a bad year it went down. The Egyptian male-god, Hapti, was regarded as the god of the Nile and was especially worshipped during spring time since it was supposedly he who controlled the alluvial deposits and the waters that made the land fertile and guaranteed the harvest.
Moses and Aaron were commanded by God to strike the Nile with their staff in the presence of Pharaoh and his officials. As they did so, the water turned into blood. It was as though God was saying, “You believe this is your life-blood, so let it be so and realise that what you trust in is useless and a place of decay. What you have elevated is seen for what it is: nothing.” Although Pharaoh’s magicians were able to bring about some sort of duplication of this, they were not able to restore the Nile to its former condition. Pharaoh was being shown that the one true God who was seeking to bring His people out to a place of listening to Him (the wilderness), was revealing the power and presence of His kingdom right in the midst of the most powerful occult nation of the day. Pharaoh was an illegitimate ruler and the One true Ruler who is control of the whole earth was present. This visitation, like the first one, was brought about in Pharaoh’s presence. Pharaoh and all his attendants needed to see that this was a personal encounter and that God was personally taking issue with those who abused position and authority.
The Second Blow: Frogs (Ex 8:1-14)
To the Egyptians, the frog represented fruitfulness, fertility and blessing. This probably came about because after the flood waters of the Nile receded, they were left with pools of water in which frogs spawned. The presence of frogs demonstrated that everything was working according to plan (the silt of the Nile was on the land and spring was all it should be) and so the frog became a fertility symbol. The frog goddess was called ‘Heqt’ and was depicted as having the body of a woman and the head of a frog. Heqt symbolised resurrection was supposedly aided women in childbirth. Archaeology also reveals that the frog was one of a number of sacred animals that could not be intentionally killed (as is the case with cows in Hinduism) and their involuntary slaughter exacted a heavy punishment. The very fact that Scripture mentions the frogs getting into bedrooms and kitchens (Ex 8:3-4) really points out to the fact that they were so prolific that you would end up involuntarily killing some. Egypt was being shown that what she regarded as a blessing was a curse, and that she could not even keep her own laws concerning frogs. Pharaoh’s magicians also brought up frogs which made matters worse as they could not remove them.
Pharaoh asked Moses to remove the frogs and Moses told Pharaoh that he could choose the time at which they would leave. In allowing this, God was making sure that the reason the frogs came and went was because He was in charge and not because Moses had any secret knowledge of the future and had simply looked at astrological charts. Pharaoh and his court were being made aware that this was all from the hand of God. We also note that the frogs died – they did not go back to the river and pools, again indicating God’s superiority.
The Third Blow: Gnats (Ex 8:16-19)
In this visitation Moses did not speak to Pharaoh, suggesting that this visitation could be a punishment for not heeding the first two. Dust became gnats, which referred to a small species that are hard to see yet have a painful sting. The sending of gnats was probably a direct challenge to Egyptian belief in Set, the god of the desert. Pharaoh’s magicians realised that someone else was really in charge (Ex 8:19).
The gnats affected both people and animals (8:17), and this would have included the pagan priesthood which was known for its purity. These priests (known as the Uab – pure ones) would have exercised a considerable control over the religious, economic and political life of the nation, yet were now in trouble. The Uab were accustomed to daily purification rites; they washed frequently and dressed in linen robes but were now unclean due to the arrival of the gnats. We also see that, for the first time, the Egyptian magicians realised that the finger of God was against them, although it does not seem that they were willing to acknowledge that this God was the Eternal One who was going to bring Israel to Himself as a Father. Note that the magicians are not heard of again.
The Fourth Blow: Flies (Ex 8:20-32)
In this visitation, a great sense of severity is conveyed in that dense swarms of flies ruined the land (Ex 8:24). Flies were symbolic of the sun god, Re, who was represented by insects. In this visitation, God showed Egypt that they were under judgement, whilst His people were under mercy. The Eternal One of Israel continued to systematically remove all that Egypt trusted in and revealed the damage that false belief systems and occult power can really inflict.
The Fifth Blow: Disease (Ex 9:1-7)
In the fourth visitation, we begin to see the removal of the Egyptian economy and a clear distinction is made between Egypt and Israel. Egyptian herds would have been in close proximity to those of the Israelites, yet it was only the Egyptians who suffered. There were also religious implications for Egypt, since a large number of bulls and cows were considered sacred by the Egyptians.
The god, Apis, was represented as a bull and the goddess, Hathor, by a cow. The Apis-bulls were associated with worship and when one bull died another took its place. In 1865, archaeologists found a shaft-like stairway in the Memphis region that led to an underground avenue which was 100 metres long and had tunnel avenues extending some 600 metres. Sixty-four burial chambers were arranged along the avenues. Near the centre of each room was a huge red or black granite sarcophagus approximately 12ft long, 9ft high and 6ft wide, each weighing about 60 tones. In each of these a bull had been buried.
In all of God’s dealings with Egypt, He systematically removed everything that Egypt had trusted in so as to reveal the futility of their belief system which oppressed and imprisoned so many.
The Sixth Blow: Boils (Ex 9:8-12)
Scripture specifically mentions that the magicians were so severely covered in boils that they could not stand in Pharaoh’s presence (9:11). Their own goddess, Sekhmet, was supposed to be in control of sickness, with Isis being the goddess of healing. Yet again, we see God striking a blow at all that Egypt trusted in.
The Seventh Blow: Hail (Ex 9:13-35)
Through this plague, God destroyed vegetation and struck a blow at Osiris, the so-called god of harvests and fertility. Yet we also see the mercy of God in that He encouraged the Egyptians to bring in their livestock and said that anyone left in the fields would die (9:19). We also see that there were those in Egypt who had a healthy fear of the Lord and heeded the warning (v20), whilst others took no notice (v21). The hail only ceased when Moses left Pharaoh and went out of the city, revealing divine protection over his life and also highlighting the point that none of the idols in the city were in any way involved in the removal of the thunder, hail and rain.
The Eighth Blow: Locusts (Ex 10:1-19)
It has often been said that one of the most powerful armies on earth is an army of locusts. Locusts can flap their wings non-stop for seventeen hours whilst flying at a speed of twelve miles per hour. They eat their own body weight daily and two million locusts can cover one square mile. In this visitation, we again see the authority of the one true Creator and the continuing removal of the Egyptian economy.
The Ninth Blow: Darkness (Ex 10:21-27)
In the ninth visitation, a darkness that was to last three days arrived without warning. This supernatural darkness would have been seen as a direct challenge to the Egyptian sun-god, Ra, who was spoken of as being reborn every day and of overthrowing enemies on a daily basis. The darkness represented the continuing judgement of the Eternal One and in a sense said to Egypt, “This is how you really are – in darkness.” This reminds me of Saul’s blindness after Jesus challenged him on the road to Damascus - he was a man who misinterpreted Scripture and sought to destroy the church (Acts 8:3, 9:1,8), yet became a great ambassador for Christ – Paul the apostle.
The Tenth Blow: Death of the Firstborn (Ex11:1-10,29ff)
“He unleashed against them his hot anger, his wrath, indignation and hostility — a band of destroying angels. He prepared a path for his anger; he did not spare them from death but gave them over to the plague. He struck down all the firstborn of Egypt, the first fruits of manhood in the tents of Ham. But he brought his people out like a flock; he led them like sheep through the desert. He guided them safely, so they were unafraid; but the sea engulfed their enemies.” Psalm 78:49-53
The firstborns of Egypt were ultimately the ones who would continue to perpetrate the oppressive dominating system of beliefs that shook a fist at God and abused others. They represented the continuation of this oppressive regime, and so God removed the firstborn.
One of the key ideas in the term ‘firstborn’ is the power to continue and the power to bless. This continuing of life helps us understand why the firstfruits of the harvest were seen as belonging to God, as was the firstborn of every womb (Ex 13:2). All life ultimately continues because of God’s gracious intervention and not because of humanity’s ingenuity or strength. Concerning humanity without God we read, “What he trusts in is fragile, what he relies on is a spider’s web. He leans on his web, but it gives way; he clings to it, but it does not hold” (Job 8:14-15).
Under the hand of the great Shepherd, Israel left Egypt and was pursued by Pharaoh’s army. The forces of nature were again brought into play by the One who holds all power and authority in His hands and an army was destroyed as the people belonging to the Lord were brought to a place of recreation.
The Institution of the Passover - the Way to Peace
The Feast of the Passover was kept each year as Israel called to mind the way through which God had delivered his people out of the ‘house of slavery’ (Egypt). This feast aided the remembrance of the Spirit’s passing over the homes of the Israelites (Ex 12:13) when the firstborn of all the Egyptians were destroyed. The blood of the lamb on the doorposts of Israelite homes pointed to the grace of Israel’s covenant-keeping God. The bigger scriptural picture reveals that forgiveness, reconciliation and peace only come through the shedding of blood (Heb 9:22), which ultimately points to the sacrificial blood of Christ, the true Passover Lamb (John 1:29, 1 Cor 5:7). It was through Jesus that “The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor” (Matt 11:5).
God has always been involved in bringing humanity to a place of peace (Rev 13:8). In recognising Christ as the Passover Lamb we remember, yet again, that life is a gift of reconciliation and peace between man and God. There are many stories in the Bible that speak of reconciliation between humanity and God; reconciliation often speaks of being fully restored to the community of believers. Note, for example the parable of the lost sheep (Luke 15:4), the rejoicing over the return of a lost son (Luke 15:22-24), and an ostracised woman who was restored to her community with the words: "Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering." (Mark 5:34). We are not to trust in that which is passing and therefore transient (Job 8:14), but we are to trust in the Eternal One who is reconciling all things to Himself.
In Exodus 20:2 we read, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.” A literal translation of this is, “I am Yahweh, your powerful one, I made you go out of the land of Egypt, from the house of slaves.” Christ is our Passover Lamb through whom we have been brought out of darkness and into the light.
Israel celebrated the Passover in what became the first month (known as Nisan or Abib and corresponding to April) of the Jewish year. Both words for this month speak of growth - ‘Abib’ means an ‘ear of corn,’ whilst ‘Nisan’ means ‘month of flowers.’ Through God’s gracious intervention in our lives we are now in a place of growth, yet we can still damage ourselves with our own wrong thinking (Isaiah 1:5-6). As we submit to the great Shepherd who holds all life in His hands, we can know more and more of the healing power of the atonement in our hearts and minds (Isaiah 53:5).
So…in the Exodus, Pharaoh’s magicians had their power consumed (Exodus 7:12, 8:19) as the Master of nature revealed His power (Ex 7-11,12), and we find rebellious people being cared for in the desert. In the events of the Exodus and the shaping of the people of God, we see a clear contrast between Pharaoh’s failure to hear the cry of the marginalised (Ex 5:15-18) and God’s concern for all His people.
In the desert wanderings, bread came from heaven and water appeared from a rock (Ex 16:4, 17:6 Nehemiah 9:15; 1 Cor 10:3-4). God intervened and brought Israel out from the illegitimate domineering kingship of Pharaoh and guided His people through a pillar of cloud by day and fire by night (Ex 13:21-22). Heaven is involved with earth.
Years later, the Jordan parted (Joshua 3:15f) as Israel entered Canaan and the supernatural food from heaven ceased as the Israelites began to eat from the land (Joshua 5:12). Then, as they approached Jericho where city walls would collapse as Israel called out to God, (Heb 11:30), Joshua encountered the commander of the Lord’s army who told him that he was standing on holy ground (Josh 5:13-15). This person was none other than the pre-incarnate Christ. This fact can be seen in that the commander of the Lord’s army received worship whereas angels do not (Rev 19:9-10). It is also seen in that, as already stated, Jesus will one day return with His army of angels (2 Thes 1:7). The city walls of Jericho collapsed as Israel called out to God (Heb 11:30). Hundreds of years later, dreams would be given to pagan kings (Nebuchadnezzar: Daniel 2:1) and the hand of heaven wrote of judgment from heaven on a pagan king’s dream–wall (Belshazzar: Daniel 5:25). During all this, God revealed His grace, mercy and power through a displaced Daniel and his friends, and allowed Daniel to see some of the events that would occur at the end of time (Daniel 7:9).
The power of heaven touched earth and God revealed that He is the Master of all things, whether speaking through a spewed-up prophet in a pagan city (Jonah 2:10, 3:4) or a young girl snatched into slavery, as He brought about the healing of a pagan army commander (Naaman, 2 Kings 5). And we could go on.
Other incidents include the glory of the Lord filling the Temple (1 Kings 8:11) and chariots of fire and horses of fire separating Elijah from Elisha at the time of Elijah’s departure in a whirlwind (2 Kings 2:11). Isaiah had a vision and saw the head of the covenant seated on a throne, high and exalted (Isaiah 61:3). Mercy is then seen in that heaven touches earth and a struggling Isaiah was released from sin (v6-7). Decades later, the legitimate King of Glory is seen by Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1:3ff) whilst standing by the river Kebar in the land of captivity (Babylonian Empire). When God moves, nothing ever remains the same and God is always about His business of bringing redemption to a fallen world. Every event recorded in the Bible is recorded because God is about His business of redeeming a fallen world. God is in control; He always has been in control and He always will be in control.
End of part three of six.
Written and produced by Pastor Jem M.A.