The Israelites had escaped Egypt en masse with thousands of people, a lot of animals, and the parting gifts that their neighbors had given them. It wasn’t long before they faced a dilemma with frightening prospects. Ahead was the Red Sea whose crossing posed a host of problems. Behind was the onrushing horde of the Egyptian army with innumerable chariots and troops.
Can you imagine their fear at this double whammy?
There likely were many among the refugees who feared the massive wall of water before them, as I would. I don't know about you, but I think the worst way to die would be drowning. Oceans frighten me. The Great Lakes are too big. Winona Lake is as big a body of water as I want to swim in—or even be on in a boat. I can see across the lake, and that's a comfort. But could the Israelites see the other side?
The Red Sea where God was to rescue his people is just below Lake Tanis so, wherever the crossing is to take place, there is a huge amount of water above that site. The wall of water that was piled up to make the roadway across the sea would have been extremely high, no doubt. Even at the narrowest finger between Egypt and the land on the other side, crossing was the most fearful venture imaginable.
As if that weren’t enough, the Israelites also feared the rapidly approaching army. The Scriptures tell us they acted like we probably would have, had we been there.
As Pharaoh approached, the people of Israel looked up and panicked when they saw the Egyptians overtaking them. They cried out to the Lord, and they said to Moses, “Why did you bring us out here to die in the wilderness? Weren’t there enough graves for us in Egypt? What have you done to us? Why did you make us leave Egypt? Didn’t we tell you this would happen while we were still in Egypt? We said, ‘Leave us alone! Let us be slaves to the Egyptians. It’s better to be a slave in Egypt than a corpse in the wilderness!’” (14:10-12)
How would you - or have you - responded when God asked you to do something way beyond your comfort zone? When the going got tough, did you think, "It's better to go back where I know what to expect, rather than stay here in a great unknown?”
In the midst of a struggle without an easy answer, most of us don’t understand God’s purpose, and we may fret and lose hope like the Israelites. We know that God’s plan was to move his chosen people to the “Promised Land.” Why, then, this impossible hurdle? The purpose was repeated several times during the plagues and is made very clear in today’s text.
I have planned this in order to display my glory … After this, the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord! … My great glory will be displayed through Pharaoh and his troops, his chariots, and his charioteers. When my glory is displayed through them, all Egypt will see my glory and know that I am the Lord! (vv. 5, 18)
How has knowing “the rest of the story” sustained you in difficult times?
It’s good to know God’s long-range plan, but that doesn’t necessarily solve my immediate problem. How can I get through today’s pain, loneliness, or grief? It might be helpful to remember what Joni Erickson Tada wrote, “God will permit some things that He hates, but He’ll allow those things so that something He loves can be accomplished.”
The direction for us today is exactly the same as what Moses told the people at the Red Sea, “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today” (v. 13). Or to put it another way, “Stand still and let God work his plan.” He would say to you, “I’ve got this!”
jbd & gmd
“Commemorate this day, the day you came out of Egypt,
out of the land of slavery,
because the Lord brought you out of it with a mighty hand.” (Ex 13:3)
It’s common to commemorate key people and events in history; in Washington, DC:
the Washington Monument the Thomas Jefferson Memorial
the Lincoln Memorial the Frederick Douglass Memorial
the Civil War Unknowns Memorial the Titanic Memorial
the World War II Memorial the Vietnam War Memorial
the Martin Luther King Memorial the Space Shuttle Challenger Memorial
in NYC, the 9/11 Memorial and the list goes on . . .
More importantly, God instituted commemorations:
a rainbow, promising never again a global flood (Gen 9:8-17)
two quarts of manna for future generations (Ex 16:33-34)
lamps burning for generations to come (Ex 27:21)
the stone tablets with the 10 commandments placed in the ark (Deut 10:5)
twelve large stones from the Jordan River erected on shore (Josh 4:1-9)
the Passover Celebration (Ex 12:1-28; 13:3-16)
the Lord’s Supper (Matt 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:17-20)
Architects, composers, artists, sculptors continue to recreate biblical themes:
Painted ceilings, stained glass windows, sculptures, portraits, music
Michelangelo’s “Moses” statue, Rio de Janeiro’s “Christ the Redeemer”
Martin Luther’s “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” Handel’s “Messiah”
“This observance will be for you like a sign on your hand
and a reminder on your forehead
that this law of the Lord is to be on your lips.
For the Lord brought you out of Egypt with his mighty hand.”
Life Application Questions
Four prohibitions identify unacceptable individuals. They are to receive no invitation. If they show up, well, it will be embarrassing for they are unwelcome guests. At the specific direction of the LORD, you are to adhere to these dis-invitations to The Dinner. (Exodus 12:43-50).
Additional nonnegotiable instructions involve The Dinner’s preparation. Remember to also pay attention to all provisions for consuming it. These regulations are not for your family alone but for the entire community—no exceptions. The LORD’s directions are precise.
For our insight as well (all disciples of Jesus), the regulations arrived as heavenly edicts, a historically blazing light shaping Passover’s first night. The LORD did not qualify everyone to attend Passover.
We, the disciples of Jesus typically emphasize, “Open doors! Whosoever will come.” We love the thought and proclamation of open access to God’s grace, Christ’s redemption, and the Spirit’s filling (Revelation 22:17b).
Moreover, we treasure the image of a repentant Prodigal-child. He wasted the family’s wealth, awakening in the waste of snoring pigs. The odor was atrocious yet it matched his behavior toward the family and God.
We celebrate the Prodigal coming to his senses, returning to family and Father. Even as he is sighted on the pathway home, a celebration takes place. It is a reunion unrivaled in family history. The lost comes home (Luke 15:11-32).
Disciples of Jesus celebrate such stories. We emphasize Scripture’s welcoming, grace-laden announcements, and parables. We mistakenly deceive ourselves in thinking a few selective and individualized stories are the sum total of God’s resolution for always and universally welcoming everyone.
There is a problem with our ignorance for it marks a greater problem. Reading Scripture selectively, ignoring and excluding passages like Exodus 12:43-50, is to miss spiritual truth in action.
Truthfully and accurately Scripture reports that in the days of Moses some individuals were excluded from The Dinner-relationship with God. Kept away from Passover, their lack of access brought tragic consequences. The Passover event, with all its life-saving and deadly outcomes, happened one night in the long ago.
In what ways does the account of the first Passover’s regulations shape your spiritual awareness?
Are there parallels between Passover’s meal to The Dinner described in Revelation 16:9?
Have you been called away on an unexpected trip with little time to prepare? What do you find yourself doing (apart from wishing you’d printed that generic packing list)? You rush from closet to suitcase to dresser to bathroom and back to your suitcase to make sure you have all the essentials. What’s the weather like at your destination? Are there enough clothes for the time you’ll be gone? Did you remember your toothbrush? Did you forget anything?
Imagine the Israelites, who have had more than 400 years toiling in slavery when it seemed God was far away. All of a sudden, the word comes: “We’re leaving!” It certainly was a surprise!
Their “hosts” for the previous 400 plus years, the Egyptians, were just as anxious to have their “guests” gone as the “guests” were to leave. In fact, the Egyptians willingly shared with the Israelites their silver and gold jewelry and clothing, a fulfillment of God’s promise from many years earlier (Gen. 15:14). (It would be like your big sister voluntarily allowing you to take her favorite sweater on your trip without any expectation that it would be returned. You take other items from her wardrobe, too!)
Envision the hubbub as more than 2 million men, women, and children (estimated by most commentators) scurried to leave. There wasn’t even time for their bread to rise, so they wrapped the dough and their bowls in their clothes and carried them on their shoulders. Were they excited or scared? Did they anticipate their arrival in the Promised Land with enthusiasm or did they consider what they had left behind?
The Israelites might have been surprised by the announcement of their travel plans for the promised land, but God was not. He had prepared Pharaoh’s heart, promised that they would come out of slavery with great possessions, and provided them with one of the greatest leaders in history, Moses. As they traveled, a cloud (or pillar of fire) guided them, and each morning they woke to find manna to nourish their bodies.
God is not surprised by our individual journeys either. “Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalms 139:16 NIV).
Where he gave the Israelites a cloud or a pillar of fire to guide them, He has given us His Word.
Where he gave them a leader in the person of Moses, he has provided His Holy Spirit, who often speaks in a still, small voice to help us navigate life.
Have you ever been caught off guard about an upcoming trip?
How has God specifically guided your life journey?
Is there a verse or a promise that has helped guide your journey?
The cabin crew for the airline point to the location of the Exits and show you the location of the flotation devices and they demonstrate the proper use of the oxygen mask, should you need it. Most people are not listening, hence why when the plane landed on the Hudson, no one exited onto the wing carrying their flotation device. The demonstration of the use of the oxygen masks, includes a statement that parents should put on their own oxygen mask before they assist their children with putting on the mask? Why is this instruction so important? If a parent should be concerned about putting on their oxygen mask first, I think it is safe to say that a parent’s first concern in being a living link to the gospel is to breathe in scripture for themselves and then apply it to their families. The enslaved Israelites had to first believe God and obey him before they could preserve the lives of their children and then become living links to Yahweh’s grace and mercy.
Passover was a milestone, it marked a new beginning for the Jews and bound them together as a nation. They were leaving behind all they had known. Their long days that had been had been orchestrated at the cruel hands of others. They had homes. They had routines. They had security in the known. When have you had the opportunity to step out into a new experience, the “unknown”? Freedom from bondage sounds thrilling until you have to step out in faith into the unknown. When Yahweh liberates you from bondage, it’s the dawning of a new day and the beginning of a new life.
Not only was the Passover supper an ordinance to be obeyed (Exodus 12:14, 17, 24, 43), but it was also a memorial to be celebrated to keep alive the story of the Exodus in the hearts of the Israelite nation, as they stepped out into the unknown. “This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as festival to the Lord-a lasting ordinance.” (Exodus 12:14) What memorials do we celebrate as a church family? These celebrations become “living link” opportunities to join together the generations of our church family. These “living link” opportunities become a breath of fresh air in the life of our church as people share what God is teaching them in His Word because they have chosen to breathe in Scripture for themselves.
How do we memorialize God’s work in our families? One Grandmother celebrates her grandchildren’s spiritual birthdays with a gift each year. Another Grandpa is quick to share the story of how he came to Jesus. Parents are sharing with their kids what they learned today when they read God’s Word. Without intentionality, it is easy to let the time slip by with our families and not spend time sharing with them what God is teaching us. Yahweh knew it would be too easy for the Israelites to eventually settle in the “Promised Land” and forget. They would forget their cries for rescue from Egyptian enslavement. They would forget the plagues. They would forget the miracles of the walk between the walls of water and the rubble of the walls of Jericho. They would need to put on the “oxygen masks” of the truth of God’s rescue for them and be ready to share it with their children. Therefore, Yahweh established adult Israelites as “living links” to Israel’s past so each new generation would understand what it meant to be a member of God’s chosen generation.
As “living links”, let us keep God’s acts of grace and mercy in our lives alive in our conversations and memorializations. How will you tell the story of God’s freeing you from bondage? Who will you tell about the “plagues” that led to your dash to freedom? What miracles of grace will you tell as your representation of “walking between the walls of water”? Who will rejoice with you at the stronghold that God has turned to rubble? “Living links must be willing to first place the “oxygen mask” of God’s Word over their heart so they can lead the next generation. In 1 Peter 2: 5, we read, “You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”