Thursday, April 18, 2019

The Passover of God

"On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every first-born—both men and animals—and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt; I am the LORD" (Exodus 12:12).

We come now to the tenth plague, the slaughter of the firstborn of Egypt. God identified it as a plague against the Egyptian gods, implying that in some sense these men had made themselves gods. More broadly, as we saw yesterday, God had already defeated the Sun God and the Nile God and all the magicians of the Egyptian religion. Since Pharaoh was considered a god, however, killing his son would be the ultimate judgment against the Egyptian religion. In this way, the liberation of Israel from Egypt was first and foremost a religious, not a political event.

At midnight on the day of Passover God struck down the firstborn of all the cattle of Egypt, the firstborn of all the nobility, and the firstborn of all commoners, from the greatest to the least. Only those who had slain a lamb as a substitute and smeared the blood on the doorposts of their houses found their households spared. The salvation of the firstborn son had the effect of saving the entire household, including the livestock.

Passover took place at midnight and the next day was the first of a new period in history. God told the Israelites that the month of Passover was to be the first month of their religious year. Their entire religious calendar (now the year 5751) was to date from this event, as the western calendar dates (approximately) from the birth of the world’s Redeemer.

Protestant Christians sometimes minimize the rituals of the Christian religion because the Medieval Catholic Church abused these rituals. In Exodus 12, however, we see God commanding His people to observe the ritual of Passover annually. God is interested in training His people in patterns of righteousness. He establishes rituals to help them become rehabituated to the ways of His kingdom. In the new covenant, God has replaced Passover with the Lord’s Supper, but He is every bit as concerned that we honor Him by observing the Lord’s Supper often and in the way He prescribed. If the Medieval Church erred by celebrating the sacraments without the Word, the Protestant and evangelical churches of today err by having the Word too often without the sacraments.

What specific rituals has God commanded in the New Testament? Consider 1 Corinthians 11:20–33, Matthew 23:23, and Ephesians 5:19. Are these things neglected in the Church today? What specific benefits might come to you and the Church at large if these rituals were taken more seriously?