Not by Bread Alone: A 31-Day series

Day seven: Passed Over

“They are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs. That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast.” Exodus 12:7-8

Caleb’s favorite movie, hands down, is The Prince of Egypt.

I was a little nervous the first time I let him watch it, because it was rated PG, and I thought some of the action sequences might be a little too intense for a three-year-old. But he loved the story of Moses, so I put it on, hovering nearby with the remote, ready to skip over something scary. He never needed me to. He was entranced, and I can’t blame him.

If there’s any period in Scripture I could witness, other than the life of Christ, I would want it to be this one.

In college, I had the privilege of traveling to Egypt. I remember standing of the bridge outside our hotel in Cairo, gazing into the waters of the mighty Nile.

I squinted and tried to imagine it coursing through its banks as blood, like some giant artery, but it was too much for me. Who can fathom what it must have been like? An entire river­–the largest in the world–turned into blood? It’s almost unbelievable. But it happened, as did the frogs and the hail and the locusts and the darkness.

And then, because Pharaoh’s heart was so hard, God sent one final plague, a destroyer who would strike down every firstborn son in Egypt. Only by carefully following the Lord’s instructions would the people of Israel be spared. He told them,

“On the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household. If any household is too small for a whole lamb, they must share one with their nearest neighbor, having taken into account the number of people there are. You are to determine the amount of lamb needed in accordance with what each person will eat.

The animals you choose must be without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the people of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs.

“That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast. Do not eat the meat raw or cooked in water, but roast it over the fire–head, legs, and inner parts. Do not leave any of it until morning; if some is left till morning, you must burn it. This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the Lord’s Passover.

On the same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn–both men and animals–and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord. The blood with be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt. This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord–a lasting ordinance.” Exodus 12:3-14

Matthew Henry’s commentary calls this “one of the most memorable ordinances, and one of the most memorable providences recorded in the Old Testament” (Matthew Henry Concise Commentary, p. 89).

Is it any wonder? Do any of your family traditions–your Thanksgiving turkey or your Christmas ham–hold a candle to the significance of this meal?

My small family of four probably couldn’t eat a whole lamb, so if we’d partaken in this first Passover, we might have shared with a few other families on our street. But more likely, I imagine us gathered with Jason’s family, the way we do so often on holidays. I picture myself crowded in the kitchen with my sisters-in-law, preparing unleavened bread and bitter herbs, checking and re-checking the Lord’s instructions, like some difficult recipe we wanted to get exactly right.

I can almost see the guys on the back deck, smoking the lamb, while we baste the doorframe in its blood. Do we do the front door or the back door? Or both to be safe? And the garage for good measure? Would we fuss over it more than we ever have Christmas decorations, unwilling to risk stopping until it was exactly right?

I imagine us finally sitting down to eat together, bags packed, shoes on.

Would I be hungry? Or would I have to force down a few bites?

Would I worry, or would God’s peace prevail? Would we all hold each other a little tighter?

What kind of look would be on each of our faces as we watched my father-in-law Gene, my brother-in-law Travis, my nephews Kylan and Hudson, and my own sweet Caleb–all firstborn sons of their fathers?

Would we be anxious? or hopeful? or stand confidently on God’s promise to deliver us?

As much as I’d love to see for myself the mighty works of God in the book of Exodus, I am thankful to not to have had to live through that night–the night when “there was a loud wailing in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone dead.” (Exodus 12:30)

But, oh, what a celebration Passover must have been the next time the Jews celebrated it.

They were free! In his judgment of Egypt, God has passed over them and delivered them from slavery! Surely even the bitter herbs and remembrance of their suffering in Egypt couldn’t diminish their joy. God had saved them!

I would be remiss if I didn’t point out the obvious foreshadowing of our ultimate redemption that this ordinance presents. What many Passover lambs provided for one group of people on one night thousands of years ago, “Christ, our Passover lamb” (1 Corinthians 5:7) did once for all people everywhere for all time.

Doesn’t your heart just burst with joy at the thought of it?

We are free! In God’s judgment of sin he has passed us over and poured it all out on his own son! He has delivered us from bondage to our human nature! We shouldn’t just celebrate once a year–we should celebrate it every day, every time we eat.

In fact, Christ would eventually institute a new ordinance that would help us remember our own Passover as often as we wanted. But for today, as you gather your family around you to eat, squeeze your firstborn sons a little tighter and eat with joy.

We have been passed over.

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This post is part of a 31-day series. A list of all the other posts in this series can be found here.

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