Summary: The Passover is a wonderful picture of the plight of sinful man and the provision of a gracious God - a God who judges sin with death but gives grace through the blood of the Lamb of God.
Chapter 12 of Exodus is one of the most important chapters of this book, and perhaps one of the most important of the Old Testament. The reason is that it paints for us a picture of the human condition, and God’s plan to save mankind.
The family of Jacob came to Egypt because of a famine - God actually directed them down there even though He had told Abraham that they would be subjected to slavery and abused as a people. For a while they enjoyed favor because of Joseph’s position in the Egyptian government. But after Joseph’s death a new Pharaoh took over who did not know Joseph and who didn’t like the Hebrew people - so he made them slaves - as a way to stop the children of Israel from being a political force and to keep them as an economic force.
Onto the scene comes Moses - saved from a death sentence and raised in Pharaoh’s court - then driven out of the country after he killed an Egyptian overseer for beating some Hebrews. 40 years later God calls Moses to return and rescue the people. God used 9 plagues to try to wrest Israel from the grip of Pharaoh - natural disasters that took on an increasingly personal and deadly form: loss of water, frogs, gnats, flies, boils, livestock death, hail, locusts, darkness. The plagues also got more discriminatory - at first everyone suffered, then God spared the Israeli territory of Goshen, then the people of Israel itself. Nothing worked and now God has promised one last plague - knowing that this one will do the trick - but it is an unusual plague - unlike any of the others.
It is called the Passover - but could also be called Death of the Firstborn. How is it different?
1. The judgment covers everyone - Israel cannot escape just by living in a certain place
2. It is very discriminatory - no massive hail, but literally an angel will kill every first born male of human or animal
3. There was preparation for the plague
4. To escape death, death had to occur and be appropriated to each family
5. There was warning, but no chance to escape for Pharaoh
First, God takes great pains to give specific instructions to Moses and Aaron for the people:
Verses 1 - 2
Passover is a beautiful and powerful picture of God’s plan for salvation - and just as the people is Israel were starting over - this was now going to be the beginning of their year - so too with us when we come to salvation through the Lamb of God Jesus Christ we start over as well.
2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation . The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. ESV
Now the children of Israel are going to have to follow a very specific recipe to be saved from this plague - very picturesque and full of shadows of things to come - but could have been somewhat confusing for this people.
Verses 3 - 6
Initially, Moses told Pharaoh that they were going to go out to the wilderness and there make a sacrifice from among their flocks. In reality, the sacrifice would happen within Egypt - just as for us, the sacrifice of Jesus took place in this world.
Notice that God said for every family to take a lamb - but if they couldn’t afford one, they should find their neighbors and go together. No one was to be excluded for lack of means - even as with our salvation - the cost was great, but the price is free.
Isaiah 55:1 "Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money ,come, buy and eat! ESV
Also notice that the count was made according to what each person can eat. Salvation through Jesus is always enough - Hebrews 2 says that He was made the "perfect" sacrifice. God’s grace is enough to cover all of our sins, but there is never any extra - the entire lamb was to be eaten, and if one household was too small then it was shared by several - you can’t reassign your grace to someone else. Everyone has to get their own!
The lamb was to be without blemish or physical defect. This pictures the fact the Lamb of God was to be without sin.
2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. ESV
The lamb was to be slain at twilight "between the two evenings." Most likely this was between sunset and total darkness - sometime after 6pm. The sacrifice was to happen at the same time, but in each individual household - picturing the fact that Jesus died once - but for all individuals - there is no mass salvation - only individual salvation which occurred at the same time.