When I was reading through Exodus, I was so struck by the story of God’s people “stranded” at the edge of the Red Sea. These are the same people that had just witnessed God’s power on display in the form of the plagues. They had been miraculously rescued from a 400-year slavery in Egypt. And they were being led by a pillar of fire by night and a cloud by day. But suddenly, their faith is put to the test: they were squeezed between an impassable sea and a fast- approaching army of Egyptians and they didn't see any good way out.
This devotional comes from Tim Keesee's journal when he was at the Red Sea. For the past twenty years, Tim has reported on the Church in the world’s difficult places and how the gospel is at work across the world through a ministry called Dispatches from the Front. Our prayer is that in reading Tim's journal, you would be encouraged by the boldness of our brothers & sisters in the Middle East. Our God is still the great deliverer, setting slaves free and making a way to His Good Land when there seems to be no way through.
“Finished out my last day here with a swim in the Red Sea. The water is bracing, and after a week in the Jordanian desert, it is like a long, cool drink. From the Egyptian side of the waters, the sun is swift and brilliant, covering the Red Sea in amethyst light and burning above the mountains of Sinai like a pillar of fire..."
As I prepare to record a new album, I am planning to publish devotionals and song stories for each of the songs from my last album, the Blood + the Breath. This post is second in a series of many.
Devotional written by Greg and Ginger O'Brien
READ: EXODUS 12
Hundreds of years passed while Israel was under Egypt’s heavy yoke of oppression and slavery. They groaned and cried out for help. Could this unbearable burden be relieved? The LORD God heard their cries and He acted. In mercy He remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (v 24). God raised up Moses to deliver his people. God sent the signs, the wonders, and finally the plagues so that Israel’s oppressor might know that the Lord is God. The final plague was the death of the firstborn in every house in Egypt. This great plague of God’s judgment would set the Israelites free from slavery’s grip.
There was one thing Israelites were to do: God instructed each Israelite household to take a spotless lamb, kill it, and take its blood and smear it on the door frames of their houses. The blood would be a sign and would cause the LORD to “pass over” them, not allowing death to come to their firstborns.
The people of Israel obeyed and did everything God instructed them. Were they full of faith that the blood on their door frames would cause God to pass them by, or did some of them lack faith and fear that death would come to them as well? Full of faith or wavering, they obeyed. And God spared them from the curse of the plague that night. Israel’s hope was not in the measure of their faith, but in the greatness of their God who keeps His covenant with His people. But, death did come to Israel that night, yet not in the same way it came to the Egyptians. That night every house in Egypt was a house of death and judgment – either of a lamb, or a firstborn. The blood of the lamb absorbed that judgment for the Israelite households.
God did indeed pass through the land that night. But, while passing through in judgment he did more than simply pass over the houses with blood on the doorposts. Two Hebrew words in Exodus 12 have been translated as “passover:” ābar and pāsah. The first is the action of God passing over the land to bring judgment. The latter is used to describe God’s action in preventing the destroyer from entering homes with blood on the doorposts. “For the LORD will pass through (ābar) to strike the Egyptians, and when he sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD will pass over (pāsah) the door and will not allow the destroyer to enter your houses to strike you,” (Ex. 12:23).
From consideration of the use of pāsah in other places in the Old Testament, it seems the word would be best translated as ‘hover over, or cover over' (Meredith Kline, The Feast of the Cover-Over). Why is this significant? God did not simply see the blood of the lamb smeared on the doorway and harmlessly pass over their homes. Instead, he shielded them from death. When he saw the blood of the lamb He Himself “covered over” the house, interposing Himself between the destroyer and those inside. So, “the lamb was their covering and the LORD was their covering. Both are true because the LORD became the lamb (Kline).”
Thousands of years later, we find ourselves in the exact same story. We are slaves not to Egypt, but to sin. We, like Egypt and Israel, all deserve death because of our rejection of God, our choosing of our own way. That first passover lamb did not bring the Israelites ulimate salvation – it did not cleanse them of sin. It was a shadow, a type, of the fulness of which would come in the true Passover Lamb.
Jesus, the Son of God, is the Lamb of God, providing the cover-over for the sin of His people. Jesus himself received death’s inflicting blow on the cross, absorbing God’s judgment. Thereby, he covered over those who trust in Him, shielding them from the dark night of God’s final judgment. The cross of Christ became the doorposts on which the blood of the Lamb was painted. The Lamb is our covering and God is our covering. Both are true because, in Jesus, God became the Lamb.
Questions for Reflection:
1. Do you trust that the blood of Jesus is sufficient to save you from your sin? Do you feel like God will not be merciful to you because your faith seems wavering or small? In light of the meaning of Jesus being the Passover Lamb, how should this apply to your fears and thoughts?
2. Read Revelation 5-7. How does the Passover help you to know Jesus more?
THE PASSOVER SONG LYRICS
Words + Music by Sean Carter + Caroline Cobb
There’s a promise in our veins
But it’s faded by all these years in chains
Send a prophet, send the plagues
That by sunrise we will no more be slaves
Take the lamb, take the blood
And paint it on our doorways
At night death will come but pass us by
This is all our hope and peace
In the morning we will rise
Taste the freedom we thought we’d never find
We will dance now in the streets
Once held captive now we shall live as kings
Lift your head, your voice
And sing of your salvation
Of the blood of the lamb that gave us life
Now by this we’ll overcome
Now by this we’ll reach our home
There’s a poison in our veins
And it leads to death we cannot escape
Send a ransom a perfect Son
Remedy the curse with His precious blood
And the Lamb that will come
His cross will be our doorway
And the red of His blood ill make us white
And daughters and sons
Rejoice in resurrection
And death swallowed up in endless life
Glory, glory this I sing
All my praise for this I bring
Naught of good that I have done
Nothing but the blood of Jesus