Alright, everyone up and at'em! It's time to get out of Egypt and head toward the city of David. I know the Israelites are anxious to move on. They've been in another man's land now for 430 years and it's time for them to move on to the land God had promised them.
Once again we won't spend too long on the Biblical account. I imagine you are familiar enough with the story of how God called Moses, the stuttering, ex-communicated, Israelite, adopted son of the princess, to free His people from their captors. Equipped with the memory of the recent burning bush incident and an amazing staff, Moses sets off to see Pharaoh about releasing his Israelite brethren. Since his brethren didn't seem too impressed with God's choice of deliverer it's probably a good thing he brought his brother Aaron along.
You'll also recall that Pharaoh was none too impressed with Moses or Aaron. He played them like a schoolyard bully taunts and teases his subjects. But while he played a mean game of "Red Light/Green Light" mixed with "Father Pharaoh, May I?", God reminded him over and over that He owned that playground. He sent a series of plagues that eventually stripped Pharaoh of his pride, his resources, and his honor. And in the process, He also hardened Pharaoh's heart against ever willingly letting the Israelites go. Why? So there would be no mistaking Who got who out of there.
Finally, when Pharaoh's heart was as hard as they come, God warned that He would go into the midst of the Egyptians around midnight striking dead the firstborn of each household - from the palace to the slave quarters to the barns. The huge death toll would cause as great a cry of agony as ever had been heard in Egypt - a louder and more piercing cry than the wailing of the mistreated Israelites.
But God's people were to be spared this horrific night of death. How? They were to follow God's directives to a T - taking one unblemished male lamb per household, keeping that lamb in their home four days, killing it, applying the blood to their two doorposts and the lintel of their house, roasting the meat of the lamb that same night and eating every bit of it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. But this would be no relaxing meal. They were to eat with their sandals on their feet and their staffs in their hands, ready to head out the door the minute Pharaoh yelled a desperate "get out!" from the palace porch. And so they did.
God's spirit swept through Egypt that night taking the life of every firstborn, both men and livestock. But at the homes where the blood had been obediently applied to the doorposts, the death angel passed over and lives were spared. Once again, God had warned of a judgment of death. Once again, He had provided a way of escape. And once again, those who accepted that way of escape and obeyed the conditions by faith were spared. Only this time instead of an ark, there was a lamb.
That perfect male lamb came into their homes like a pet to be adored. He won his way into the hearts of at least the children I am sure. Then, amidst the tears and misunderstanding, that lamb had to be killed, its blood had to be collected and applied to the appropriate place. And the Israelites had to eat of that lamb, all of it.
Scholars propose that approximately 250,000 lambs had to be slain that passover night. Why? Because unlike with the other plagues, the Israelites were not automatically immune from this final judgment. They were given a warning and provided with a way out, but each family had to act on that warning and demonstrate their faith in God's provision.
Later, one perfect Lamb would die for all the world. Because that Lamb died and His blood was shed, we all have a way of escape from the penalty of death. But once again there is no automatic immunity. Each individual must apply the blood of that Lamb to their own lives, identifying themselves with God's perfect provision. That perfect Lamb was born in a stable in Bethlehem and was even visited by shepherds who were probably tending the lambs that would be used in that year's Passover celebration.
Today let's praise God for the Lamb, the One who died so we don't have to. He is our Passover Lamb.
"For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate..." 1 Corinthians 5:7-8
What are we celebrating? The same thing the Israelites were celebrating as they walked out of Egypt with gold and silver given to them by their captors. Freedom, a fresh start, relief from oppression, a God who has heard our cry, a hope and a future, a journey to somewhere better, life in the shadow of death, and so much more. Merry Christmas.