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I want you to open your Bible to the twelfth chapter of Exodus as we meditate for a little bit on the great event of divine deliverance of Israel from Egypt. It is not lost on any of us, I don't think, that at the same time of the year that we are celebrating the death of the Lord Jesus Christ and His resurrection, the Jews are celebrating Passover. That is not some quirk of the calendar or some coincidence. It is true that our Lord Jesus Himself died as a Passover Lamb on a Passover weekend at the very time that Passover lambs were being slain. The death of Jesus Christ then falls on the calendar at Passover season. But I'm not sure that everybody really understands the connection, and it's an important connection for us to understand because it fills in so much of the richness of the celebration of the Lord's death which replaces the Passover celebration.
The basis of the hope of an Old Testament saint was that God had saving power. The basis of the hope of an Old Testament saint was that God could do miracles to deliver His people. And their confidence in God's saving power was particularly linked to the great miracles that He did to deliver Israel from Egypt. This was the greatest testimony to the saving power of God. The people were not to forget that God, according to Psalm 65:5, is a God of salvation which means rescue, or deliverance. And to aid their memory and leave it indelibly in their minds that God is by nature a saving God, God Himself instituted an annual feast of remembrance, called the Passover.
If you look at Exodus chapter 12, you have here the institution of the Passover by God. “The Lord said to Moses and Aaron...verse 1...in the land of Egypt, this month shall be the beginning of months for you. It is to be the first month of the year to you.” It turns out to be March, April to us. “Speak to all the congregation of Israel saying, ‘On the tenth of this month, they are each one to take a lamb for themselves, according to their fathers' households, a lamb for each household.'” Verse 5 says, “The lamb is to be an unblemished male, a year old. It is to be kept until the fourteenth day...verse 6 says...then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel is to kill it at twilight. Moreover, they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses in which they eat it.”
Verse 12 adds, “I will go through the land of Egypt on that night and wills strike down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast, and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments. I am the Lord. The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live and when I see the blood, I will pass over you and no plague will befall you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.” And then verse 14, “Now this day will be a memorial to you and you shall celebrate it as a feast to the Lord throughout your generations, you are to celebrate it as a permanent ordinance.”
Now just exactly how did this Passover feast which is further described here, how did it come into being? To answer that question, we need to go back to chapter 5. We're going to work our way a little bit through this and touch if ever so lightly on the pertinent texts.
Remember now, when we are in Exodus, the early part of the book of Exodus, the Exodus hasn't yet happened. And so Israel is still in Egyptian bondage. But now Moses has been called out and prepared in the wilderness and brought back and God has assigned him to lead Israel out of bondage to the land of promise, originally pledged to Abraham.
Chapter 5 verse 1, “Afterward, Moses and Aaron came and said to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, let My people go that they may celebrate a feast to Me in the wilderness.' But Pharaoh said, ‘Who is the Lord that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know the Lord and besides, I will not let Israel go.'”
Over in chapter 6, “Then the Lord said to Moses, verse 1, ‘Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh. For under compulsion he will let them go and under compulsion he will drive them out of his land.' God spoke further to Moses and said to him, ‘I am the Lord,' which is to say I will do what I say. And I appeared to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as God Almighty but My name Lord I did not make Myself known to them. I also established My covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, the land in which they sojourned. Furthermore I have heard the groaning of the sons of Israel because the Egyptians are holding them in bondage and I have remembered My covenant. Say therefore to the sons of Israel I am the Lord and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians and I will deliver you from their bondage. I will also redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. Then I will take you for My people and I will be your God and you shall know that I am the Lord your God who brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. I will bring you to the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, I will give it to you for a possession. I am the Lord.'”
God promises to Moses then that He is going to through a series of compulsions drive Pharaoh to drive the people out of the land. In chapter 6, the end of the chapter, verse 28, “It came about on the day when the Lord spoke to Moses in the land of Egypt, that the Lord spoke to Moses saying, ‘I am the Lord, speak to Pharaoh, king of Egypt, all that I speak to you.'” This is action time. “But Moses said before the Lord, ‘Behold, I'm unskilled in speech, how then will Pharaoh listen to me?'” He had some kind of a speech impediment. “The Lord said to Moses, ‘See, I make you as God to Pharaoh and your brother shall be your prophet.'” In other words, he will be the spokesman. “You shall speak all that I command you and your brother Aaron shall speak to Pharaoh that he let the sons of Israel go out of the land, but I will harden Pharaoh's heart that I may multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt. And Pharaoh doesn't listen to you, then I will lay My hand on Egypt and bring out My hosts, My people, the sons of Israel from the land of Egypt by great judgments. Egyptians will know that I am the Lord when I stretch out My hand on Egypt and bring out the sons of Israel from their midst. So Moses and Aaron did it as the Lord commanded them, thus they did.” Moses was 80 years old, Aaron 83, when they spoke to Pharaoh.
So here is God calling Moses to be His spokesman and Moses feels unable to do it, so He speaks to Aaron and Aaron becomes the public mouthpiece. God says, “I'm going to make sure that there is resistance on the part of Pharaoh so that I can put on an awesome display of saving power.
Now what you have to understand is that Egypt was highly religious. The ancient world up until the American experiment, the whole world, for that matter, didn't separate secular government from religion. All cultures and societies were blended into one kind of secular religious unit. And Egypt was highly religious, innumerable deities. And they worshiped them with serious kinds of worship. They had myriads of gods and all of whom were the concoctions and inventions of Satan and demons, of course, counterfeits.
But the demons are clever and they are clever in the development of their systems to hold men captive and they can do a certain degree of signs and wondrous things, inexplicably occurring without any human explanation. Also, there are magicians who practiced deception, trickery, cunning who can pull off things that convinced people they had supernatural power. Now we don't know about the Egyptian magicians, we don't know whether it was demonic power doing things that were supernatural to one degree, or whether it was cunning and trickery...I think it was probably a combination of both. But the best we can say for them is what it says in chapter 8 and verse 7, “The magicians of Egypt did the same with their secret arts.” And so, right there it tells us that whatever they were doing was a secret, like a magician. You are stunned at what the magician is able to do because you don't know the secret. It may be relatively simple, but it is hidden from you.
And so, when Moses and Aaron go to Pharaoh to demonstrate that they come from God and they have the power of God, we pick it up in verse 8, “When Pharaoh, verse 9, speaks to you, work a miracle. Then you shall say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and throw it down before Pharaoh.'” He's going to say, “Why would I believe you? Who do you come from? If you say you come from a god, then do a miracle. Throw down your staff, it will become a serpent.” Moses and Aaron came to Pharaoh, they did that. You know the rest of the story, down through verse 13. And, of course, the magicians did the same thing. The magicians of Egypt, according to verse 11, did the same thing with their secret arts. There's the first reference to that.
The assumption is it was some kind of trickery, some kind of chicanery that allowed them to do what appeared to be turning a stick into a serpent, a serpent into a stick. Pharaoh hardened his heart. And that led to the most incredible barrage of miracles in the Old Testament. All acts of God directed at the false deities and were in Egypt. There's no natural explanation for these because they increase in intensity, because they are predicted by Moses, because they happen when he speaks, because they discriminate between the Egyptians and the land of Goshen where the Jews lived, they don't happen there, and because there is a graduated severity to them. These are not natural occurrences. God is displaying His invincible power and in particular against idol priests and idol magicians. Pharaoh himself was called a child of the gods. And all these magicians who plied their priestly trade on behalf of their particular idols, wanted the people to believe that they had the ultimate power, like the priests of Baal on Mount Carmel who faced Elijah. And so, God is going to display not only His power to free the Egyptians from Egypt but His power over the very areas of dominion exercised by the Egyptian deities.
And by the way, they kept pretty good records and so we have a very thorough historical account of the deities that were worshiped in ancient Egypt, and we're going to see that just briefly as we look at the sequence of what happens...chapter 7 verse 14. Here's the first plague. “The Lord said to Moses, ‘Pharaoh's heart is stubborn, he refuses to let the people go. Go to Pharaoh in the morning as he's going out to the water, station yourself to meet him on the bank of the Nile. You shall take in your hand the staff that was turned into a serpent, you shall say to him, “The Lord, the God of the Hebrews sent me to you saying Let My people go that they may serve Me in the wilderness. But behold, you have not listened till now. Thus, says the Lord, by this you shall know that I am the Lord.” Behold, I will strike the water that is in the Nile with the staff that is in my hand and it will be turned to blood. The fish that are in the Nile will die and the Nile will become foul and the Egyptians will find difficulty in drinking water from the Nile.' And the Lord said to Moses, say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt, over their rivers, over their streams, over their pools, over all the reservoirs of water that they may become blood. There will be blood throughout all the land of Egypt, both in vessels of wood and vessels of stone, even the containers that held water.' So Moses and Aaron did even as the Lord had commanded. Lifted up the staff, struck the water that was in the Nile in the sight of Pharaoh and the side of his servants, all that water that was in the Nile was turned to blood. The fish that were in the Nile died. The Nile became foul so the magicians couldn't drink water from the Nile and the blood was through all the land of Egypt.”
And then in verse 22, the magicians try to duplicate this. I don't know how they pulled this off since there was no good water left. But they had some trick up their sleeves. “The magicians did the same with their secret arts and Pharaoh's heart was hardened.” All they had to do was convince him and he didn't want to be convinced that God was God anyway, so they had him on their side. So all the Egyptians, verse 24, dug around the Nile for water to drink for they couldn't drink the water of the Nile. This was the first great plague. The Nile was a sacred river. Many gods were associated with the Nile, Khnum, Hapi, Osiris. It was said that the river Nile was the blood of Osiris.
An incredible disaster. Crocodiles were common in the Nile. They were forced out of the river. Crocodiles were mummified as sacred when they died. Two gods, HorAha and Neith, actually goddesses were the goddesses who cared for the fish. So the true and living God shows his power over all these Egyptian deities who were supposed to take care of all of these creatures that are a part of the water. And the magicians couldn't stop it, that's the real test of power. They could pull off some kind of a trick that would satisfy Pharaoh, but they had not the power to stop the plague.
It was followed by another plague. Pharaoh hardens his heart, chapter 8 verse 1, “Go to Pharaoh, say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord, let My people go. If they refuse I will smite you...verse 2...smite the whole territory with frogs. The Nile will swarm with frogs which will come up and go into your house, into your bedroom, into your bed, into the houses of the servants, on your people, into your ovens, into your kneading bowls. The frogs will come up on you and your people and all your servants.'” Every time I read this I think of an occasion I had when I was on a missionary trip in Brazil. And the toilet in the little room I was staying in was a direct channel to the frog underworld. And there was no barrier and they came up and out and decorated the entire commode and surrounding area. That was a small plague compared to this one...but you can be sure we found some other accommodations.
Magicians made a frog or two appear with their secret arts in verse 7 which would be enough to convince Pharaoh because he didn't want to believe anyway, and God was not yet opening his heart. But He did call for Moses and Aaron in verse 8 and said, “Entreat the Lord that He remove the frogs from me and from my people and I will let the people go that they may sacrifice to the Lord.” And, of course, He says to him in verse 10, “Tomorrow the frogs will depart, verse 11, your houses, your servants, your people they will be left, the frogs only in the Nile.” And, of course, what happened was Pharaoh hardened his heart, verse 15, wouldn't listen.
Now the frogs, Egyptians, had deified as well. There's a frog goddess. The old word for her is Heqt...H-e-q-t, the wife of Khnum. She is the symbol of fertility because frogs proliferate. She is also a symbol of resurrection. There were, just as an aside, eight very strange gods. There were four male frog-headed gods and four female serpent-headed goddesses who were associated with primaeval water. Frogs could not be intentionally killed and if involuntarily killed, someone could be punished for killing a frog by accident...even with the death penalty. But at the time of this plague, frogs lost their charm. And so did frog gods and goddesses who couldn't do anything about it, couldn't do anything to stop it. And God was declaring that His power was greater than all the gods who cared for the frogs. The Pharaoh still didn't believe and God was not through yet. More plagues to come.
Verse 16 chapter 8, the Lord said, “Say to Aaron, ‘Stretch out your staff, strike the dusts of the earth that it may become gnats through all the land of Egypt.' They did so, Aaron stretched out his hand with his staff, struck the dust of the earth, there were gnats probably mosquitoes or lice, on man and beast, all the dust of the earth became gnats throughout all the land of Egypt.” Just like a dust storm only a gnat storm. “And the magicians tried with their secret arts, they could not do this.” They could pull off a little bit of bloody water with a few dead fish, and they could, you know, they could pull off a few frogs here and there, but they can't create a gnat storm. The gods associated with insects, Hathor and Nut, still Pharaoh hardened his heart. Verse 19, “Didn't listen to what the Lord said, so the fourth plague came.”
Go to Pharaoh, say, “Let My people go,” verse 20. “If you do not let My people go,” verse 21, “I'm going to swarms of flies on you and on your servants and on your people and into your houses and the houses of the Egyptians will be full of swarms of flies and also the ground on which they dwell.” They're just going to cover the ground like carpet. “But not in Goshen where My people are living, so there are no swarms of flies will be there in order that you may know that I am the Lord and I am in the midst of your land.” And that's exactly what happened. Flies came everywhere. Pharaoh still hardened his heart. There were two gods associated with flies. Shuie(?) and Isis and again God was saying your gods are helpless against Me.
Then in chapter 9 came the death of animals. “The Lord spoke to Moses, go to Pharaoh and tell him, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, let My people go. If he refuse to let them go, continue to hold them, behold, the hand of the Lord will come with a very severe pestilence on your livestock which are in the fields, on horses, donkeys, camels, herds, flocks. The Lord will make a distinction between the livestock of Israel, the livestock of Egypt so that nothing will die of all that belongs to the sons of Israel.'” Again there's no natural explanation for that kind of distinction.
So the Lord did it, verse 6. “The next day, all the livestock of Egypt died but of the livestock of the sons of Israel, not one died. Pharaoh sent and behold, there was not even one of the livestock of Israel dead but the heart of Pharaoh was hardened and he didn't let the people go.” He's a stubborn guy, for sure.
And by the way, India didn't invent the sacred cow by any means. Particularly sacred in Egypt and you can see this, I've seen it myself, were bulls. You've heard of Memphis, Tennessee but you probably don't know that that's a name borrowed from Memphis, Egypt, the center of the worship of the bull god Apis..A-p-i-s. That center really is amazing.
There's a huge temple with 64 large burial chambers and in each of those large burial chambers there's a sarcophagus twelve-by-nine-by six that weighs 60 tons. And in each of those 64 sarcophagi are the remnants of a sacred bull, testament to the power of Apis.
Also, Hathor, the goddess I mentioned earlier, who is supposed to be the goddess of love and beauty was depicted as a cow. Mnevis, not a compliment, Mnevis, another Egyptian god was depicted as a bull as well. So this was God's all-out war on the gods of Egypt, showing them for what they really were, non-existent, except the demons had used these superstitions to manipulate people.
Chapter 9 of verse 8, the next plague is the plague of really ashes, dust, boils, horrible, horrible plague. Down in verse 14, “I”ll send My plagues on you and your servants and your people that you will know there's no one like Me in all the earth. I've struck your people with pestilence.” This involved...back in verse 9...dust all over the land, boils breaking out, sores on man and beast, everywhere...a horrible kind of suffering.
There was a lion-headed goddess by the name of Sakhmet supposed to have power to control all epidemics, all sicknesses, all pestilences. She had a special priesthood called the Sinuhe, priesthood and priests of this god Sakhmet wore amulets to ward off plagues and pestilence. And there was Sarapis, the Egyptian god of healing who was helpless. And there was even Hotaph(?) a familiar name who was supposedly the god of medicine. They were all useless gods, the God of Israel was unstoppable.
It gets worse as you move down into the next plague, starting in chapter 9 verse 18, and I won't read through all of this. But essentially it was hail and fire. Verse 23, “Moses stretched out his staff toward the sky and the Lord sent thunder and hail, fire ran down to the earth. With the thunder came the lightning, the lightning set things on fire. The Lord rained hail in the land of Egypt. There was hail, fire flashing continually in the midst of the hail, very severe, such has had not been in all the land of Egypt since it became a nation. The hail struck all that was in the field through all the land of Egypt, both man and beast. The hail struck every plant of the field, shattered every tree in the field. Only in the land of Goshen where the sons of Israel were, there was no hail.”
Down in verse 31 it says, “The flax and the barley were ruined, for the barley was in the ear and the flax was in bud. But the wheat and the spelt were not ruined for they ripened late. But when Pharaoh...verse 34...saw the rain and hail and thunder had ceased, he sinned again and hardened his heart, he and his servants.”
There was a god by the name of Geb who was associated with the sky. There was Nut, I mentioned earlier, a sky goddess. Isis and Seth were two gods that had responsibility for protecting the crops...so much for them being a help.
In chapter 10 we come to the eighth plague, the plague of locusts. You will remember this, I'm sure, an unbelievable plague, verse 5. Verse 4 ends, “I will bring locusts into your territory.” Verse 5, “They'll cover the surface of the land so that no one will be able to see the land. They'll eat the rest of what has escaped, what is left from the hail...they'll eat every tree which sprouts for you out of the field. Your houses will be filled, houses of all your servants, houses of all the Egyptians, something which neither your fathers, your grandfathers have seen from the day they came upon the earth until this day and he turned and went out from Pharaoh.”
Verse 12, “Stretch out your hand, Moses. Bring the locusts.”
“Stretched out his hand in verse 13, the Lord directed an east wind on the land all that day and all that night. When it was morning, the east wind brought the locusts. It came up over all the land of Egypt, settled in all the territory of Egypt. They were very numerous. There had never been so many locusts nor would there be so many again. They covered the surface of the whole land. God created them for that occasion. The land was darkened.” They say in a locust plague, it's like night because they block out the sun. “They ate every plant of the land, all the fruit of the trees, the hail had left. Nothing green was left on tree or plant of the field through all the land of Egypt.”
They say a locust is capable of eating its own weight daily. One square mile of locusts would include as many as two hundred million locusts. And swarms of locusts have been known to cover 400 miles. They can flap their wings non-stop for 17 hours and they can fly at a cruising speed of 10 to 12 miles an hour for 20 hours. And they're voracious eaters. And so this brings famine.
When you come down to verse 20 it becomes apparent the results. “But Pharaoh hardens his heart,” only this time it says, “The Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart.”
Sarapis was the god associated with locusts. The next plague is darkness, verse 21 of chapter 10. “Darkness over the land, stretch out your hand, God says. Moses stretched out his hand, verse 22, toward the sky, there was thick darkness in all the land of Egypt for three days. They didn't see one another, nor did anyone rise from his place for three days, but all the sons of Israel had light in their dwellings.” Wow.
You think that would convince Pharaoh? This was really striking a blow at the main god of Egypt. The main god of Egypt was RA, or Re...R-a or R-e. There was also Atum, the god of the setting sun. The stars and the moon all had gods associated with them. But kind of the head of the panoply of gods in Egypt was RA, the sun god. He was powerless like all the rest.
And then the last plague is in chapter 11, one more plague. You know this one. Verse 4, “Thus says the Lord, about midnight I'm going out into the midst of Egypt and all the first born in the land of Egypt shall die from the first born of Pharaoh who sits on his throne, even the first born of the slave girl who is behind the millstone, all the first born of the cattle as well. Moreover there will be a great cry in all the land of Egypt such as there had not been before or such as shall never be again. But against any of the sons of Israel, a dog will not even bark whether against men or beast that you may understand how the Lord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel.”
God says, “I'm going to kill all the firstborn.” Amun was the god of procreation. Isis was the god of fertility who had the power to give birth. Hathor was a deity who attended childbirth. They were all powerless. But before that plague falls, now we're back to chapter 12, before that plague falls, God institutes the Passover. And we read about it earlier and says, “When the plague comes, when I go through the land of Egypt...verse 12...on that night to strike down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast, and against all the gods of Egypt, I'll execute judgment, I am the Lord, the blood from the blood of the Passover Lamb on your doorpost and lintel will allow you to live. When I see the blood, I will pass over you,” that's why it's called the Passover. “And no plague will befall you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.
And so, the Passover was instituted. Verse 27 of that chapter. “You shall say it is a Passover sacrifice to the Lord who passed over the houses of the sons of Israel in Egypt when He smote the Egyptians but spared our homes and the people bowed low and worshiped. And then the sons of Israel went and did so, just as the Lord had commanded Moses and Aaron, so they did. Now it came about at midnight, the Lord struck all the firstborn in the land of Egypt from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on the throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, all the firstborn cattle. Pharaoh rose in the night, he and all his servants, all the Egyptians, there was a great cry in Egypt for there was no home where there was not someone dead. And he called for Moses and Aaron at night and said, ‘Rise up, get out from among my people, both you and the sons of Israel and go worship the Lord as you have said. Take both your flocks and your herds as you have said and go and bless me also.'”
The Egyptians to urged the people to send them out of the land in haste. They said, “We'll all be dead.” And so they left. Verse 40 says, “The time that the sons of Israel lived in Egypt was 430 years and at the end of the 430 years to the very day, all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt.” Maybe a couple of million people, they all left.
“It is a night...verse 42 says...to be observed for the Lord for having brought them out of the land of Egypt, this night is for the Lord, to be observed by all the sons of Israel throughout their generations.”
Now when you talk about a massive demonstration of power, that's it, isn't it? It's a stunning, stunning thing. What a staggering display of divine power by which God rescues His physical people from their temporal distress, and it is connected to the blood of a lamb. It is connected to the blood of a lamb.
Don't you ask yourself every year at this time how the Jews can merrily go along having their Passover at the same time that all of us are celebrating the blood of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world and not wonder? This was the required feast to remember God's saving power, celebrated by all religious Jews through the centuries but one Passover night in an upper room near 30 A.D. Jesus ended it and the last official Passover was held. And Jesus took the bread and the cup that were part of the Passover and transformed them into new representation. He started a new feast of remembrance, replacing the old one, making a far more astounding display of power, even in the power display in Egypt. The power of God was on display in Egypt over physical creation. But the power of God was on display at Calvary over the spiritual realm. Oh yes, there was a display of spiritual power in Egypt in the sense that God overpowered the demons that were behind the false gods. But it was only a temporal deliverance of a physical people where at the cross there was an eternal deliverance of a spiritual people.
When Jesus on that night gathered to eat the Passover with His disciples, He transformed it into a new feast. And it wasn't just to be celebrated annually, the early church celebrated it every day, every day. The display of delivering power in Egypt was far surpassed by the display of saving power at the cross. The power of God to save in Egypt only related to one small group of people, the power of God to save at Calvary covers the world. The display of judgment on the cross is far more far reaching. What He did on the cross was not for temporal physical deliverance of one nation, but spiritual deliverance for the whole world. And the Jews celebrating the Passover still are to be pitied because they're stuck in the past with only a temporal deliverance to remember and not a spiritual deliverance to enjoy. They may remember God's saving power on behalf of their ancestors in Egypt, but they have no idea of His saving power in their own lives. That's why we leave the Passover behind and move to the Lord's table. Let's pray.
Father, we ask now that You would dismiss us with hearts that are filled with joy and gratitude. Bring us back together early on the Lord's day to celebrate the resurrection of Christ. Bless us, Lord, and use us to proclaim the glories of our Savior in whose name we pray. And everybody said. Amen. We'll see you on Sunday.