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EXODUS 12:37-51; 13:17-22 – ISRAEL LEAVES EGYPT

Most of us know the story of the Exodus of Israel from Egypt via Charlton Heston’s portrayal of Moses in The Ten Commandments, which is (for Hollywood) a fair telling of this story. What we may not realize is how crucial and important this event is in the STORY of Israel and our STORY today. Since the time of Moses, Israel’s deliverance from Egypt has helped Israel to define itself as God’s chosen people. The New Testament also uses this story as background to crucial elements of Christianity.

Jews still observe Passover as an annual memorial to this redemption by God. It was at Passover that Jesus first gave His disciples the Lord’s Supper, and Passover is a key part of the background for and the meaning of the Christian’s regular observance of that meal. In fact, 1 Corinthians 5:7 speaks of Jesus as “our Passover lamb.”

This refers to instructions Moses gave Israel for their last night in Egypt. After each of nine plagues, Pharaoh hardened his heart against Moses’ request for Israel to be allowed to go into the wilderness to worship. God then said the firstborn in every Egyptian home would die as the 10th plague. Moses told Israel to slaughter a year-old lamb or kid, sprinkle some of its blood on the door posts and lintel of their homes, roast the animal, eat it in haste with bitter herbs and unleavened bread, and be ready to leave Egypt in haste. Then, He said, when the destroyer came to slay the Egyptian firstborn, he would “pass over” Israelite homes to spare them.

Afterward, God told Israel to redeem every firstborn, because the first-born were His. It is interesting that in Hebrews 12:23 the great assembly to which we have come is “the assembly of the firstborn” where “firstborn” is plural. That is, God today considers all His people as “firstborn” and therefore, belonging to him.

The rest of the Old Testament often hails God’s power in destroying the Egyptian army at the Red Sea. Just after their deliverance, Israel sang this song of deliverance:

I will sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously; / The horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea. / The LORD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; / This is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him. / The LORD is a man of war; the LORD is his name. (Exodus 15:1-3)

In 1 Corinthians 10:1-4 Paul spoke of Israel’s crossing of the Red Sea.

I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink….

This likens Israel’s passage through the Red Sea to Christian baptism, the new birth “of water and Spirit.” See John 3:5; see also 1 Cor 12:13 where he said we are all baptized in one Spirit into one body and are all “made to drink of one Spirit.”.

So, God’s redemption of Israel has continuing importance, not only to Israel’s STORY in the rest of the Old Testament, but also for the Christian STORY as God redeems us from bondage to sin and “passes over” our guilt because of the blood of our Passover lamb, remembered in baptism and in the Lord’s Supper.


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