Light from the Sidra


Exodus 10:1 - 13:16

The people of Israel have walked free from Egypt; those who were slaves are now the “armies of the LORD”. How good the LORD is to his people! How great is his power! How fearful are his judgements! These are the feelings we should have as we read the words of Sidra Bo because that is what God intended. As he said to Moses at the start of the Sidra, “Go in to Pharaoh; for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his servants, that I may show these signs of mine before him, and that you may tell in the hearing of your son and your son’s son the mighty things I have done in Egypt, and my signs which I have done among them, that you may know that I am the LORD”.

Who would have guessed, when Moses first confronted Pharaoh and was dismissed contemptuously by him, that within a short time Pharaoh, his advisers and all the people of Egypt would be urging them to go and giving them gifts? The LORD is truly El Gibbor. How glorious he is in his greatness!

And yet, in the middle of all this demonstration of God’s awesome power, there is a crucial element to the deliverance which is marked by weakness and innocence - the Passover lamb; it almost seems out of place. Have you ever asked how the lamb fits into this scene of drama and power? Was the death of the lamb really necessary? It surely struck no fear into the hearts of the Egyptians and it gave no help to the people of Israel in their departure. What did it achieve?

The LORD’s own words make that very clear, “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 the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt”. The death of the lamb prevented the first-born of Israel being destroyed in the final plague. Not that God needed help to know where the people of Israel were; the lamb was to draw their attention to something. What was that? Imagine yourself living in Egypt at that time. As you hear the cries of anguish in the Egyptian homes what would assure you that the plague would not kill you too? Only one thing - the blood of the Passover lamb. The death of the lamb saved their lives.

The lesson was clear. The Israelites were equally deserving of death, and they knew it. They had sinned just as the Egyptians had, but they were redeemed by the death of another. That is why we read at the end of the Sidra that the future first-born of Israel are treated as belonging to the LORD, and nowadays this is remembered in Pidyon ha-ben, the Redemption of the Firstborn.

How good the LORD is to his people! He not only delivered from Egypt, but he provided an even greater deliverance – a deliverance from the judgement that sin deserves. And not only for the people of Israel, because the Sidra tells us, “One law shall be for the native-born, and one for the stranger who lives among you”. All who came under the brit were welcome to eat the Passover and benefit from it. The LORD is a welcoming God to all who come to shelter under his wings.

And yet we should fear him. Pharaoh stands as a lesson for all time, to warn us of the hardening power of sin. The previous Sidra showed this, but here we read time and again, “The LORD hardened his heart”. God’s judgement fell on Pharaoh because of his stubbornness. How did God do this? Surely he does not help a person to sin? He did it by leaving Pharaoh to himself; he gave him no gracious influences to soften His heart. This is how the prophet Isaiah describes the same thing in his day in chapter 63:17, “O LORD, why have you made us stray from your ways, and hardened our heart from your fear? Return for your servant’s sake, the tribes of your inheritance”. The word “return” is the key one; God had turned away from them, and that caused the hardening. This is why the blessing of Aaron has the words, “Yisah Adonai panayv aileycha” – “the LORD make his face shine upon you”. It is when the LORD turns towards us and gives us the knowledge of his presence that our hearts are softened and not hardened. How we need this help if we are to be delivered from hardness and rebellion!

Pause for thought:
  • What is your reaction to the lesson of the Passover lamb?

  • Do you accept that you deserve God’s judgement and that only the death of another can save you? If so, who will save you? If you oppose this then beware of hardening your heart, and then having it further hardened by the LORD.

  • The LORD is a just and a mighty God, and also forgiving – by the blood of a lamb.

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