Wednesday, 1 April 2015

The Easter Story: The First Passover


That night the country erupted in wailing. Low moans and terrible cries filled the heavy air. Grief and death - so thick, so tangible - hung over every house in the land. The eldest son in every family across the land was now dead: in every family except those of the Israelites. They had been spared; the Angel of Death had not entered their homes that night.

Days earlier, the Israelites received the news that they were to be freed. The Lord was to rescue his people from harsh slavery and oppression. The Israelites were told what they must do to prepare for their escape.

They were to cook a lamb or young goat. They were to dip a sprig of hyssop into its blood and wipe the blood onto their door posts. They were to eat the meal and burn any leftovers, Then, they were to prepare to travel. They were not to leave their house until the morning.

The Pharaoh had known. He knew that the Israelites were planning to leave; he knew the Lord would kill the first-born son if he did not let them. But Pharaoh did not free them. His stubbornness was to be a curse upon his people.

And so the Lord passed through Egypt and the Angel of Death entered each house. The Egyptians awoke to the find their loved ones dead. Wailing and crying pierced the night. But the Israelites were safe. The smear of blood on the door protected them: a sign they were to be left unharmed.

In the morning, the Egyptians begged the Israelites to leave. The people of Israel walked from the place of their enslavement. They were alive. They were free.

Blood had been shed to free the Lord's people. It was the sign of this blood that kept them from death. This would not be the last time that blood needed to flow for the Lord's people to be free and to be alive. That would happen, though, one and a half thousand years later, when the Lord's people were under new oppressors.

(Exodus 12)

God is a God who saves. Time and time again he saves his people from calamity and oppression. He saved the Israelites from Egypt, God helps Gideon defeat the Midianites, He saves Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego from the furnace. God is a God who saves.

What is just as startling as God's willingness to save his people is their constant need of saving. The frequency at which God bails them out of some problem or other is pretty much constant. People need saving. From the moment Cain killed Abel, it was obvious we need rescuing from the sin or others or, more likely, ourselves. Surely, there must be something God can do that will save us once and for all? The problems of the world are great and many; only something spectacular could rescue us from them.

Some people think that we don't need saving. Ultimately, we all need saving from death. Here, God proves his ability to do just that. Whilst the Egyptians die around them, the Israelites are protected. This was not a permanent thing, though. This was only one night, and they were saved through the drawing of innocent blood. In order to save everyone permanently from death, the most innocent and the most pure blood of all will have to be spilt.

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