Passover comes as the crowning event in the battle between Jehovah and Amon-Ra recorded in Exodus
Israel once welcome in Egypt have become oppressed and enslaved.
They have cried out to the Lord and now the Lord has begun to act
The each plague challenges the lordship and power of Pharaoh and his pantheon of gods
The snake in the crown of Pharaoh
The symbol of his power devoured by Moses’ serpent, not technically one of the plagues but a good insight into what is happening
Plague one affects the Nile – the life source of Egypt was turned to blood
3 separate gods were linked with the Nile
Egypt was reaping what they had sewn
A good depiction of God’s wrath
Swarms doesn’t specifically say flies
If it did it would relate the Egyptian fly god - Khepri
Interestingly Beelzebub mean lord of the flies
Could relate to the scarab beetle oft worshipped in Egypt
Scarab = dung beetle
You get what you worship
In Cairo villages living on dung hills
The last two attack the heart of power in Egyptian worship
Darkness = Ra, sun god
Passover – the death of all the firstborn
Who here is a first born?
Attack on pharaoh’s supposed divinity
His ability to protect his people and his own family
The way we remember it of course is that God gave a way out
A means by which Jehovah would Passover those who obeyed him
It is interesting that everyone was at risk from this plague
And only those who accepted God’s offer, His way, were saved.
Regulations for Passover
It is a bizarre ritual
Reminiscent of pagan practice
The bitter herbs are a symbol of the bitterness of slavery
Eating it with readiness, in faith to act on that which God is about to do.
Eating it all, not nibbling the edges as a token gesture at faith
Ultimately an act of faith and obedience
Faith that God will do what he has promised
And obedience is the mark of that faith
An expression of a life changed by faithful acceptance of grace
Following this event the people were set free
But not for long
Pharaoh chases them to the sea and there his army is destroyed
The Israelites go on to walk to Canaan
An 11 day journey
They get there, freak out, and are doomed to wander the wilderness for 40 years until a new faithful generation is raised up to inherit what God has promised.
We see from this that there is a difference between being deliverance and being free
God has delivered His people, there is a part to play from them for them to know freedom.
It was faith and obedience at Passover and that formula has not changed.
I thought it would be interesting to mention here some of the treatment this event has received in modern scholarship and the way some have come to understand these amazing events.
Generally speaking orthodox mainstream Christian belief is that this account records events that happened some 3500 years ago.
God worked supernaturally to demonstrate his sovereignty and love for his people.
Many, who would still be considered orthodox, view the bible as an edited book and see the plague narrative as having been added to and amended over time. An initial story edited over time to incorporate hindsight and teaching. This is a process called literary or specifically redaction criticism.
This opens the door to a more challenging school of thought. One that says God allows his people to tell the truth of his work in their lives in their own, culturally appropriate language.
What that means is that some believe or suggest that the Israelites lived at a time when the greatness of cultural gods was depicted in epic stories often of military victory. Kind of like the ‘my dad could beat your dad up’ line.
They do not necessarily doubt that Israel was enslaved in Egypt and was set free but whether the nature of the plagues was literal or metaphorical. It is the nature and scope of the event they question.
One popular author, Peter Enns writes that the language of the Exodus fits with the language of other cultures expressions of the power of their god over and above the god of their neighbours.
Israel then uses the same method to express their worship. The narrative becomes a polemic against Amon-Ra and co and in favour of Jehovah.
According to this way of thinking, the plagues and subsequent death did not happen as such.
Of course this is not a school of thought without problems and the strong historicity of the Passover event lends itself to a foundation of actual historical precedent. We don’t really have time to enter into it fully here but if you struggle with the idea of 10 literal plagues you are not alone and it is ok.
Whichever way you come to the Exodus narrative the point is the same.
God hears the cry of His people and works to set them free.
God hears your cry. He is at work in your life.
Through the mighty work of God and our faith and obedience to Him we can know freedom.
It is a paradoxical freedom at times.
Freedom in Christ is being a slave to Christ.
Which means that even in the midst of suffering and oppression we can know freedom.
The admonition of Paul to Onesimus to return to his master is freedom.
It is Paul singing is prison.
It is Daniel rising under slavery.
It is Nombeko.
It is the quiet pray of faith from a humble Christian suffering.
Jesus praying from the cross, “forgive them for they know not what they do”
Passover is an event that strongly invokes imagery familiar to us.
The blood of a perfect lamb being shed
And this is done to save
The lamb’s flesh consumed
The similarities between the events are striking and, I believe, intentional
They provide us with a depth of information that describes a God who is consistent
A God whose story is woven throughout history
A history whose highest point is found in the sacrifice of a perfect lamb.
In dying on the cross Jesus fulfils John’s prophetic description of Him as the Lamb of God
When he is raised from the dead he becomes the leader of a new Exodus
One that has God’s people heading out of a slavery to sin and death into the promised land of God’s Kingdom.
Jesus is perfect
His blood is what saves. It is a creepy and slightly odd claim. Blood in Hebrew thinking is the source of life. Jesus blood, most certainly spilled, is the symbol of His life made available for all.
The allusions between the two exoduses are many so I will just highlight a few briefly.
The first exodus sees God institute His law through Moses atop Mt Sinai. Writing with his finger God proclaims his way.
Jesus ascends a mountain and gives a sermon that is the foundation of Christian living.
He meets a woman caught in adultery, the symbol of idolatry and brokenness, he bends and writes with his finger as he institutes the way of grace.
Following the journey through the waters of the Red Sea the people of Israel wander in the wilderness for 40 years. The result of their disobedience.
Jesus, following his baptism, heads into the wilderness for 40 days. Here he overcomes the consequences of rebellion and binds the strong man, the ruler of our world, Satan.
The people of Israel encounter a God who controls the waters of the Red Sea and who destroys the enemy’s army.
Jesus calms a raging storm and then encounters another army, like pharaohs. This one calls itself legion and it too is cast into the water and destroyed.
Jesus is leading a way for humanity to know freedom.
He is demonstrating his power and integrity of his claim to be messiah
And what is the reaction of these people who have for 400 years been either ignorant of God’s word of suffering under a famine of it?
What do these people who desperately proclaim the desire for messiah to come and redeem them say to Jesus as he displays his power and love for people?
What do we have the opportunity to say to Jesus when what he asks of us is not what we want to give? When what he has for us conflicts with where we have founded our security?
The people here, just as in Egypt, reaped what they have sewn. They asked God to leave and he did.
God has done all the work in setting us free.
As at Passover any who want to enter into God’s freedom simply have to have faith and obey.