Light from the Sidra


Exodus 10: 1-13:16.Haftarah:Jeremiah 46:13-28

There can only be one tragedy worse than losing a child, and that is causing the death of  a child through your own stupidity. When I lived in London, there was a notoriously dangerous intersection at the end of our street called “Five Ways”. The junction was known as “Five Ways” because although only four roads intersected, the major road was a dual-carriageway;  the other three were minor roads. Five Ways was the first set of traffic lights drivers from the east encountered in sixty miles, and the rule of thumb seemed to be: Green Light – go; Amber Light – go faster; Red Light – pedal to the metal. There were some nasty accidents at Five Ways but the worst was one night when a driver tried to beat the red and hit another car that was crossing the junction. His child, who was sitting in the front seat, was not wearing a safety belt and the crash catapulted him through the windscreen and into the other car. How do you live with yourself after such a tragedy?

Pharaoh had been warned about the consequences of refusing to bow to the God of the Israelites. He resisted and caused the death not only of his own firstborn but also the firstborn of all the land of Egypt.

The Passover became Israel’s defining moment. Until the exodus, Israel was a family in slavery to Egypt and its gods; the events of Exodus 12 established Israel as one nation under God. The exodus was Israel’s redemption. The death of the firstborn of Egypt was the ransom price for God’s people: “For I the LORD am your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour: I give Egypt as a ransom for you…” (Isaiah 43:3).

The death of Egypt’s firstborn appears to us to be barbaric. How could God strike down innocent children? The sad fact is that when nations are ruled by knaves or fools, everyone suffers. Pharaoh had had plenty of warnings of what was to come. Nine plagues had brought the nation to its knees and still Pharaoh hardened his heart.

We’ve seen the problem since the third chapter of Genesis. Adam was the head of humanity. He was warned about the consequences of disobedience to God’s first mitzvah, and the human race has been paying the price ever since. As we will see in the giving of the Torah, the offspring of those who hate God, may suffer to the third and fourth generation.

The fact that God struck down the firstborn of Egypt was, in a sense, merciful. He could have struck down every soul in Egypt. The problem for Israel though, was that they were living in Egypt. How would Israel's firstborn escape the final and most terrifying plague of all? In an act of even greater mercy, God allowed the people of Israel to substitute a lamb for their firstborn. Haven’t we seen that principle before? In Genesis 22, God commanded Abraham to offer his firstborn son Isaac on one of the mountains of Moriah. When Isaac asked his father where the lamb was, he was told God would provide a lamb. The means of Israel’s salvation here is a lamb. When its blood was seen on the doorposts, the angel of death would pass over the house.  

The principle of redemption and salvation through the blood of a lamb is one of the greatest and most important themes in the Bible, not only in the Hebrew scriptures but also in the writings of the New Covenant. In Genesis 4, the lamb is revealed as the divine prerequisite for approaching God. In Genesis 22, we see the lamb of divine provision and in Exodus 12, the lamb of divine protection.

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