Lately, I’ve been re-reading through a Bible study I wrote last year called, “The Curses and the Covenants.” As I was doing this morning’s reading, I decided to edit and excerpt it to my blogs because of its relevance to this time of year. And because its Bible passage is a story that moves me to tears every time I read it ever since I’ve come to see it in a new light. There are many aspects to what the cross did for us. In Passover, I see the aspect of our redemption–our buying-back. So I thought I’d pass it on here. Happy Passover, Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday, everybody. I pray its meaning strikes us all in a new and deep way this year.
“Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the LORD: “Israel is My son, My firstborn. So I say to you, let My son go that he may serve me. But if you refuse to let him go, indeed I will kill your son, your firstborn” (Ex. 4:22-23).
“‘The LORD will go throughout Egypt to kill the Egyptians. When he sees the blood on the top and sides of the doorframe, he will pass over that doorway, and he will not let the destroyer come into your home to kill you’”(Ex. 12:23).
“And God spoke all these words, saying, ‘I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me…” (Ex. 20:1-2).
God does not approve of slavery. It’s contrary to His character. He’s the God of freedom. I believe it’s the reason He reminded His people of His role in freeing them from slavery immediately before giving them the ten commandments and asking them to serve Him. We were not created for autonomy. Complete autonomy is not available to us. We were created to serve. And serve we will. One way or the other. But God’s service is the service of freedom. We only enter into that service freely and by choice. The other master available to us is also chosen freely. At first. We enter into his service because we freely rejected service to God. But service to that other master quickly becomes slavery. So let’s take a look at the original Passover to see where God shows us His character of freedom by freeing His people from slavery.
In recent years, I’ve come almost to a whole new understanding of what really went on at Passover. I want to show you three things that led me to it.
Let’s talk first about “the destroyer.” Hearing this story in Sunday School, “the destroyer” was always called “the death angel.” So I’d always believed “the destroyer” to be God’s angel. I’d always thought that God went through the land of Egypt and killed all the firstborn not protected by the blood of a lamb. (From Exodus 12:23, I can see why I thought so.)
As with Noah’s flood, some problems arise in our minds with this God.
But because of sin, death is a terrible necessity. No one can live forever on this planet. Because of sin, we all will die one day, and I’m even grateful for it. Immortality without perfection is a nightmarish thought. And it’s God’s right to decide when that death-event happens for every one of us.
But we do need to see the destroyer’s role properly. Although God said repeatedly that He was the one responsible, Exodus 12:23 shows the destroyer to be directly responsible. The destroyer would strike the firstborn. God was responsible by giving the destroyer permission. Or not.
Who, then, was “the destroyer”? We’ve seen him as the snake in Genesis 3 when he first set the world on the path to destruction. Right! Satan!
Next, here’s something interesting about the Hebrew word “pasach”: It may mean “to pass over” (like, skip over), but it also means “to halt.”
Until I learned that interesting little tidbit, I had always pictured God seeing the blood of the lamb on the doorposts and skipping over the house. He “passed” it “over” for destruction. But when I thought of “pasach” as “to halt,” that new understanding of Passover fell into place for me.
Notice from Exodus 12:23 that God didn’t “pass over” the house but the door.
And third, think about that door: about the lamb’s blood on the two doorposts and the crosspiece on the top (or the lintel). Its placement has tremendous meaning for me now. Here’s my new understanding:
God and Satan went together throughout Egypt to kill the firstborn of all who were the legal property of the enemy. But that’s everyone!
Jesus called Satan “the ruler of this world,” and he attained that position because our first parents gave up their rulership rights to him by obeying him. Every one of us since have cast a vote or two for him. That ruler knows nothing except enslaving and destroying. But we have all unwittingly chosen him as master. And Satan can do what he wants with his property.
Still, God wasn’t willing to leave Satan’s slaves to lie in the beds they’d made. He wanted to buy back—redeem—His firstborn, Israel.
From Exodus 4:22-23, Israel was God’s firstborn. If Pharaoh wouldn’t set God’s firstborn free, God would require the life of Pharaoh’s firstborn.
But there was another exchange that had to take place first. The people God had called His firstborn had given Satan the rights to them. God had picked out a people as His firstborn, but they legally belonged to His enemy.
Yet God had another Firstborn—His first Firstborn. From eternity past.
As God and Satan went together throughout Egypt, God had given Satan permission to do as he wished with all of his own. But that included every firstborn. And God wanted a people as His own firstborn. So to buy them back, He made an arrangement with them. Any who were done with slavery and ready to be God’s servants could show their choice by the sign of blood on their doorposts. It showed their faith in asking to be rescued.
So Satan was permitted to enter any house without the lamb’s blood on the door. But when they came to a house where its inhabitants had asked to be rescued, God “passed over” the door. He halted before the door. He metaphorically passed Himself over the door. He blocked Satan’s path. He stretched out His hands to the blood on the doorposts and placed His head against the blood on the top in a “you-shall-not-pass-this-threshold” position.
God said that any asking for rescue would be rescued. Redeemed. Bought back. But the cost was His blood. The blood of the true Firstborn of the Father.
It was His thorn-crowned head and nail-pierced hands that painted the blood on the cross which was symbolized by the blood on the doorposts.
It wasn’t just a “you-shall-not-pass-this-threshold” stance that God took with Satan. On the cross, it was a “do-with-me-what-you-will” stance. He gave Himself up to the worst the destroyer could do to Him, rather than let Satan get at his own rightful property. And the firstborns were exchanged.
That was the legal means necessary for God to buy back an adopted firstborn nation for Himself. Then, a thousand-plus years after the original Passover, the blood on the cross that the blood on the doorway represented became the means of opening up that firstborn status to the whole world, not just one particular nation, anymore. That buying-back, that redemption, was offered to any who would metaphorically paint that Lamb’s blood on their own doorways. To any who would cry out to the God of Israel for rescue and choose to serve Him as the One True God. The One True God of the whole world. The original Passover has special meaning to the Jewish nation, but the rest of us now get to share in its larger meaning. That’s the truth I’ve now come to see through the first Passover event.