Disciple Hour: Exodus 12:1–13    God’s Instructions for the Passover

Before we begin to look at God’s instructions for the Passover, we must realize that God was about to display His righteousness and power by destroying ALL the firstborn of Egypt and He also had the sovereign right to justly judge and destroy ALL the firstborn of Israel as well.  As He is going to bring about the death of the firstborn of Egypt, He is also that same night, going to visit every house of the Israelites.  

13 The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. 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.

Because the wages of sin is death, God claimed the right to visit and destroy all the firstborn even of the Israelites too.  The previous plagues had not affected them but here they too were in danger. 

As they watched the plagues from the safety of Goshen, they may have been led to think that they were somehow better than the Egyptians or more righteous than they were.  They may have begun to think they were immune to God’s pestilence and judgement.  However, the absolute truth was that they too were sinners and they too deserved death. 

God provided a way for them to escape His judgment.  This way was detailed and fixed.  We might call the Passover, salvation by substitute.  That’s the way God would do it.  They would not die because a lamb was killed in their place as a substitute.  

The great OT scholar Alec Motyer writes, When the wrath of God is applied in its essential reality, no one is safe.  There were two nations in the land of Egypt, but they were both resistant to the Word of God; and if God comes in judgement none will escape.  

When people understand that they are in the sad situation that God is just and right to judge all sinners including them and then they hear that God has made a way of escape there is no arguing over the details they take God’s offer. 

The Bible does not say that the Israelites were complaining about God’s offer of salvation by substitution.  But many complain today.  They don’t like God’s offer.  So many think they can somehow improve on God’s Gospel.  They are gravely mistaken.

Exodus 12:28 (ESV) 

28 Then the people of Israel went and did so; as the Lord had commanded Moses and Aaron, so they did. 

The Israelites were also guilty of idolatry…worshipping false gods.  In all those years of captivity, they too began to worship Egypt’s gods.

Joshua 24:14 (ESV) 

14 “Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 

So, God could have taken the lives of their firstborn as well.  It would have been just for Him to do so.  

Centuries later, Paul would write,

Romans 3:9–12 (ESV) 

What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written: 

“None is righteous, no, not one; 

11  no one understands; 

no one seeks for God. 

12  All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; 

no one does good, 

not even one.” 

Because we are all sinners and deserve God’s judgement, salvation is an amazing surprise.  It’s not something we are owed or deserve but it’s something God gives us because He is also a God of grace.  When we see the fact that we deserve God’s death sentence and then God offers us grace in the Gospel we jump at the chance, we don’t argue about things.  

The Israelites deserved to have the death angel visit their houses as well…the reality is that He did visit their houses and saw the blood and in an amazing act of unearned kindness, God passed over their houses and went on to those who were in Egypt and whose homes were not covered by the blood of the lamb.

1.  God Gives His Instructions About the Selection of Their Sacrificial Substitute

12 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, “This month shall be for you the beginning of months. It shall be the first month of the year for you. Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month every man shall take a lamb according to their fathers’ houses, a lamb for a household. And if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his nearest neighbor shall take according to the number of persons; according to what each can eat you shall make your count for the lamb. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats,

The instructions begin with how they are to select the sacrificial animal.  This animal will serve as protection from God’s wrath against sin.  

Each household was to sacrifice its own lamb or goat.  It had to be a year old, without blemish.  On the 10th of Nisan, the lamb or goat was pulled from the heard and on the 14th at twilight it would be killed and eaten.  

Later, God would even be more specific in what He meant by without blemish…

Leviticus 22:19–22 (ESV) 

19 if it is to be accepted for you it shall be a male without blemish, of the bulls or the sheep or the goats. 20 You shall not offer anything that has a blemish, for it will not be acceptable for you. 21 And when anyone offers a sacrifice of peace offerings to the Lord to fulfill a vow or as a freewill offering from the herd or from the flock, to be accepted it must be perfect; there shall be no blemish in it. 22 Animals blind or disabled or mutilated or having a discharge or an itch or scabs you shall not offer to the Lord or give them to the Lord as a food offering on the altar. 

2.  God Gives Instructions About How They are to Kill and Prepare Their Sacrificial Substitute  

and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs at twilight. 

“Then they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted on the fire; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it. Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted, its head with its legs and its inner parts. 10 And you shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn.

The Israelites were to kill their animals at twilight on the 14th day of the month which will become Passover. 

They were to take some of the blood and put it on the doorposts and lintel of their houses. 

They were to take the meat of the animal and prepare it over the fire as a meal which included unleavened bread and bitter herbs. 

Unleavened bread which symbolized the fact that there is not time to wait for it to raise and the bitter herbs which would remind the Israelites of their bitter time as slaves in Egypt.  

They were to roast the meat and not eat it raw or boil it.  I’ve not found a satisfactory answer to why they were to roast it.  Some say roasting is faster than boiling but if absolute speed were the issue, then why prohibit eating it raw?  Doesn’t get any quicker than that. 

Probably, roasting highlights the sacrificial nature of the lamb.  God’s judgement is sometimes seen as unquenchable fire.  With this idea, we would see the nature of the sacrifices to come and how the priest was to burn the portions on the altar…

Genesis 8:20–21 (ESV) 

20 Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. 21 And when the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma, the Lord said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. 

Genesis 22:7–8 (ESV) 

And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together. 

The sacrifices and offerings were burnt with the smoke ascending to heaven.  This is the typical way the priests offered the sacrifices to God.

This is why Paul compares Jesus’ sacrifice to a burnt offering…

Ephesians 5:1–2 (ESV) 

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. 

They were to roast it and eat it all.  If there was any left over, they were to burn it in the fire.  God did not want any of it taken with them.  They are to trust God for their food while leaving Egypt not trust in their leftover lamb.

3.  God Gives Instructions on What Mindset They are to Have While Eating

11 In this manner you shall eat it: with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you shall eat it in haste. It is the Lord’s Passover. 12 For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord. 

God instructs them how to dress for this meal.  Normally, the Israelites wore loose fitting clothes in the evenings but they are to be ready to leave at any moment.  Eat with your belt fastened to keep your clothing tight and ready to run.  Eat with your sandals on your feet and the staff in your hand. 

Eat fast…in haste.  

How would eating the meal dressed this way show faith in God?

4.  God Tells Them What He Will Do That Night

13 The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. 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. 

What was so important about the blood?  The shedding of blood represents taking a life.  This is the essence of substitutionary atonement.  It was the blood painted on the doors that served as a sign that a lamb was killed rather than the firstborn.  A lamb had died in their place.

Expiation is the act of making reparations for guilt to God.  Other more common terms are atonement, redemption.

The sinner owes God a life.  The worshipper that day would lift the lamb up pull its head back and slice its throat and blood would flow very rapidly.  It was messy.  Sin is very messy isn’t it?  Here’s the picture…red blood now covers the lamb’s white wool and a few of the people sitting close enough.  

It was often in tears that the children would ask their father, why Daddy?  His answer was the lamb is a substitute for our sin.  

The blood which was the sign of a death that took place turned away God’s wrath…Propitiation.  

Throughout the centuries millions of animals have been sacrificed.  In 2 Chronicles 35, King Josiah had over 37,000 lambs sacrificed at Passover.  The ancient historian Josephus wrote that several hundred thousand lambs were herded through the streets of Jerusalem to be sacrificed at Passover.  This happened every year!

Hebrews 10:1–4 (ESV)
10 For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near.
Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. 

Hebrews 10:11–14 (ESV) 

11 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. 

The New Testament interprets the death of Jesus; the spilling of His blood through the lens of the Passover sacrifice.

1 Corinthians 5:7 (ESV) 

Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 

1 Peter 1:18–19 (ESV) 

18 knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. 

Romans 5:9 (ESV) 

Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 

1 John 1:7 (ESV) 

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 

Hebrews 9:22 (ESV) 

22 Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. 

Romans 3:21–25 (ESV) 

21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 

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