All hope was lost. The people of Israel had been stuck in slavery for so many years they had long ago lost any sense of hope for escape. And even if they could escape, they weren’t even sure what they wanted to escape from. They knew they no longer wanted to be stuck in Egyptian slavery. The oppressive treatment of Egyptian task masters had driven them to despair and desperation, longing for relief. And yet, they had been stuck in this situation, this non-ending cycle of hopelessness for so long that they had forgotten who they were and where they came from. They remembered Joseph, they talked about the glory days when Pharaoh gave them everything they ever wanted. When a simple act of name dropping could get them into the most prestigious places and earn them the most helpful favors. “Oh, you’re related to Joseph, we liked him, he was a great leader. Why don’t you come sit down and we’ll take care of anything you need.” However, those times were over and a new Pharaoh had arisen who not only couldn’t remember Joseph, he didn’t care for the Israelites and so he made them indentured servants, forcing them to make bricks and build cities in order to praise the name of Pharaoh, the new King in town. And with no remembrance of a past, with no history to draw from, there was no rallying point around which they could pull their energy and fight for freedom.
And then it came. Moses, this once forgotten Prince of Egypt who had actually been born a Hebrew, this one time murderer who had run away in order to save his own tail, this distant relative, had returned, claiming to be sent from God to command Pharaoh to let the people go. He spoke with such conviction and he was accompanied by such amazing signs that it became easy to hope for the unthinkable. He was going to march into Pharaoh’s own house, into the throne room that he had once played in as a child and had learned how to hold court in as a young adult, and demand the release of the slaves. If ever there was hope this was the time…but it failed. Instead of getting easier, it got harder. Instead of finding relief it became more oppressive. If God was going to get Israel to freedom he was going to have to fight harder. And so he did.
The plagues started rather plainly. Turning water to blood was scary at first and putting frogs everywhere was kind of annoying, but the Egyptian magicians could do the same things so Pharaoh wasn’t impressed. Everything changed however with the gnats. Moses called on God to send gnats everywhere, all over the land of Egypt. They were annoying little creatures that couldn’t be swatted away no matter how hard one tried. And what was even better, the Egyptian magicians couldn’t replicate the act. This was the hand of God, and everyone knew it. But Pharaoh still wasn’t impressed. So God followed with other plagues, each one more deadly than the last. Flies and death of livestock, boils and hail, locusts and darkness, each more powerful than the previous one, each bringing Egypt to further and further ruin, each proclaiming Yahweh, the God of Israel, as the only true God. And still, Pharaoh wouldn’t relent, so God made plans for one final plague, one last stroke of destruction that would bring Pharaoh to his knees and cause him to release the slaves…the death of the firstborn.
Moses told the Israelites to take a year old lamb, the best one each family had, and to sacrifice it. They were to take the meat and eat a meal in celebration of what was about to take place. But the blood was not to be poured out like normal on the ground. Instead, they were to take the blood, the blood of that precious lamb, a lamb without blemish or spot, and they were to paint the door frames of their homes. They were to smear that blood upon the door frames so that the angel of death, the servant of God would not harm anyone in that house. They were to cover the door frames with the blood of the lamb in order to signify to God that they were apart of God’s people, that they wanted to be counted amongst God’s followers.
That night, when the angel of death came, he passed over all of the homes of the Israelites, but he killed every firstborn male child in Egypt. Wailing could be heard from every house in Egypt, from Pharaoh’s castle to the shack on the outskirts of town. Egypt had been destroyed and the firstborns had been killed. This was finally the end, the last straw, Pharaoh let Israel go. Yet, Israel didn’t just leave Egypt as free people, instead they left indebted to a God who rescued them and redeemed them and set them free. They left indebted to a God who had struck down Egypt but had spared this nation living in Goshen. They were indebted to a God who allowed the blood of a spotless lamb to keep death away and to save them for all time.
That’s why Passover is so important. It’s not just another feast, not just another holiday, not just another time to get together with friends and family. It is a celebration, a remembrance of a moment in time when God claimed his people for his own. It is a reminder that we are not our own, we are not free, we have been bought. It is a festival that takes us back to a time of hopelessness, a time when survival was all that mattered, a time when Israel found themselves so beat down, so abused, so oppressed by the masters over them that they no longer had any energy to fight. And in this moment when all hope was lost, God provided hope. In this moment when Israel was searching for a reprieve from the harsh servitude it endured, God provided relief. God claimed Israel as his people, and he made the slaves the triumphal victors, and the blood that was shed that brought death to the lamb brought freedom and release for a nation. They had been claimed by God and they were ready to follow.
And although we may not have the blood of the lamb painted on the door frames of our homes we have the Blood of the Lamb plastered on our hearts to cleanse us and set us free. We have been claimed by God, we are his people set to do his bidding, for his honor and glory. And we couldn’t be prouder of the assignment.
Thank you God for rescue.