Summary: A message celebrating and pointing to the radical deliverance from sin that Jesus offers every believer. Taken from the first Passover of the Israelites.
“This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you.” Exodus 12:2
The downtown riverfront is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful places in Detroit. At Hart Plaza, facing the river, is a bronze statue with a group of escaping slaves looking with hope to Canada — and freedom. I understand that on the other side, there’s an answering statue of newly freed people rejoicing that they've made it across. Detroit was the last stop for many slaves before freedom. On the other side of that river, an entirely new life awaited. Canada offered entire freedom — no chance of getting caught, no second class citizenship, no more. They were free.
I can’t imagine how they must have felt anymore than I can imagine how a deaf child feels after receiving a cochlear implant and hears his parent’s voice for the first time, or how it felt for three women imprisoned for ten years to walk away from a house in Cleveland, Ohio, knowing that they’d never have to do it again.But, it must be an incredible feeling ... to be free, when you’ve been in bondage.
The Hebrews had been in Egypt for four hundred years. For many of those years, they had been free, but under the leadership of a particular Pharaoh, they had been enslaved.
God had seen His people in slavery, and had hand-picked a man to lead them out. In His sovereignty, he gave Moses Godly upbringing, royal education, and the tough experiences that build leaders. He called Moses in the wilderness, called him back to lead the Hebrews out of Egypt.
As we begin looking at this significant time, which the Jews celebrate now as Passover, let’s look at three background facts that are important for understanding this passage.
The Hardening of Pharaoh’s Heart — Had Pharaoh been willing to allow the children of Israel even some religious liberty, they probably would have been willing to stay. It takes much oppression before most people are willing to risk their lives for deliverance from it. When we read that “God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, we probably are incorrectly thinking that God kept Pharaoh from turning to Him; instead, it probably is better understood that God kept Pharaoh from softening in his treatment of the Israelites. Pharaoh had already thwarted God’s purpose for his life; now, God ensured that Pharaoh would not thwart God’s purpose for the Children of Israel.
The Ten Plagues — Until this point, God had moved miraculously to demonstrate His power to the children of Israel. I believe He was both demonstrating to Israel and to Egypt that He was supreme over all so-called gods. Every plague struck at an Egyptian god.
This was essential, first, because Hebrews had been living in Egypt, subject to Egyptian cultural influences, and they had undoubtedly been influenced and had probably even participated in some of the Egyptian worship.
This was also essential because God has not left Himself without witness, and it was His purpose, as Moses states, to “shew himself” to the Egyptians, as well. We find later on that many Egyptians actually chose to leave Egypt with their former slaves! What a testimony to the grace and power of God.
Renewed Purpose — Now, the Israelites were nearing the point to leave Egypt permanently, but they were lacking in many things. They had a unique ancestry – they knew they were descended from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – and a unique calling as God’s chosen people for His special revelation. Now, God was about to begin to fulfill that calling by revealing Himself through them to the Egyptians.
A New Beginning (Exodus 12:1-2)
The Voice of God – Exodus 12:1
We are about to view something unique in human history – a nation led by God. They are going to follow the presence of God all the way to the Promised Land. When God says, “Strike the rock to get water,” they will strike the rock. When God says, “Stop,” they stop. When God says, “Go,” they go. Now, at the beginning, God speaks to Moses and Aaron to prepare Israel for its departure.
The First Month – Exodus 12:2
The first thing God did when cementing Israel’s identity as a nation was to rearrange their calendar. I think this is significant, because it represented a huge break with Egyptian culture.
Reckoning of time is a cultural flashpoint, and this was an unmistakable message to the Israelites that things were no longer same old, same old. From now on, they were a marked people, separated from the world by their calendar. (Other separations would come later: food, clothing, methods of defense, economic policy, etc.)
It also let them know that this is a fresh start, a new beginning for the Children of Israel.