Friday, 4 February 2011

The Face Off of the Firstborns

Observations on Exodus 10-12

10:1-2 reminds me of this

Hail destroyed the early harvest. Locusts would destroy the later harvest - that which was missed by the hail.

The first triad of plagues began with the destruction of the Nile, the last plague in the third triad was the blotting out of the sun. Both of these were gods of the Egyptians. The plagues are not only a total destruction of the Egyptian physical world, but a total destruction / humiliation of their spiritual one too.

Pharaoh attacks the bride again telling Moses that he can go worship his God with his fellow men, but the women stay put. Who knows what he would have done had Moses accepted this compromise deal. Moses was no pragmatist - he stuck with what God had spoken - total exodus.

Does God harden Pharaoh's heart in the sense that whether he likes it or not, Pharaoh is a puppet in the hand of the almighty? That's certainly how it reads on the surface. Not an easy question to answer. The mystery of human iniquity and the overarching totality of God's sovereignty are deep things indeed. My starter would be that God gives Pharaoh up to greater hardness of heart as a response to Pharaoh choosing to flout the decrees of the living God - Let my people go! Whoever you are, wilful and deliberate disobedience of God is deeply dangerous idea to play with.

And so we come to the final plague - the super plague - The judgement of the firstborn. In the Bible "firstborn" is significant in that it is related to pre-eminence (in the family) and inheritance (of a double portion). In the previous nine plagues, God had destroyed the world of the Egyptians, but in time they would recover. This final plague would strike at the heart of their future hope and declare to them that outside the people of God they have no lasting inheritance, they would be utterly cut off.

Of course the Israelites are no saints. Before a holy God they stand just as compromised. But God gives them a sign. The perfect lamb slaughtered, whose blood was painted on the door frame, would be the substitutionary means by which the Israelite firstborn would escape death (Egypt) and enter into an inheritance of life (the Promised Land).

Unleavened bread - a sign that the old order of Egypt was passing away and that one must do everything they can to quickly escape was also part of the deal. (Using "yeast" is a bad translation and blinds you from the deeper significance / symbolism going on here, but I'll save that for another post.)

This was a picture of how God would provide his firstborn - his one and only son, his true heir, as a way of escape for the Israelite firstborn after which, he would bind them with cords of love for ever. The Patriarchs were promised Messiah through the blood sign of circumcision. The now great nation that had flowed from the loins of the Patriarchs was promised Messiah through the blood sign of Passover. God is on the move.

So Pharaoh cracks and drives them out in anger. They plunder the Egyptians (payment for the years of forced labour) and begin the pilgrimage to the place God has appointed. Note that there are many non-Israelites in this crowd of people (12:38). Those gentiles (including Egyptians) who put themselves under the cover of the Israelites would enter into the same blessings as them.

All those who bring themselves under the cover of God's "firstborn" - Jesus Christ will inherit eternal life.

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