Today’s Bible reading: Exodus 12:14-51, 13:1-16 Matthew 20:29-34, 21:1-22; Psalms 25:16-22; Proverbs 6:12-15
The final plague upon Egypt takes place in our reading today, and it is a very serious one. In this plague God strikes down the first born male of every family and animal in Egypt. Earlier Pharaoh has selfishly and callously mandated that every Hebrew male be killed (Exodus 1). Now God is going to kill the first born sons of all the Egyptians.
When the tragedy is discovered Pharaoh not only lets the Israelites leave Egypt, he actually orders them to do so. Ironically, he seems to recognize the power of God as he asks Moses to bless him. Pharaoh was considered a god by the Egyptians so its interesting that he finally realizes that there is a God more powerful than him.
Pharaoh finally lets Israel go when the plagues affect him personally. I’m sure he found the previous nine to be annoying, but due to his great wealth and power I don’t think he was too inconvenienced. It is only when he experienced personal pain that he finally relents.
The Israelites are given all kinds of wealth the Egyptians prior to their departure. Perhaps this was the Egyptians way of paying the Israelites to leave. Or perhaps it was out of respect for the God of Israel – maybe the Egyptians realized that the Hebrew God was the true god. In any event the Israelites leave very wealthy. Perhaps this was God’s way of paying them back for all the years they worked as slaves with no pay at all.
Notice in Exodus 12:33 the people want the Israelites to leave as quickly as possible because they thought “We will all die!”. The Egyptians were afraid of death. There are worse things in life, especially when you consider that life is not only being on this earth but our future, eternal existence. While the process of dying may not be pleasant, I have no fear of being dead. I look around my world today and see so many who are afraid of death, not the least of which is the news media. I think CNN has a fear of death. Their journalists seem to be afraid of it and in turn prey upon the fears their viewers have of death. That is because they simply don’t understand it. Death is not a period. It is a comma. It is a new beginning. The only question is where will your residence be on the other side of death. The only thing worse than death is dying only to end up separated from God (i.e. hell) for all of eternity. That would not be good.
When they left their community the Israelites were probably over 2 million in number. God had started with 1 man, Abraham. Over 400 years later they are now a very large population. Notice that some other people went with them (“a rabble” in the NLT). I’m not sure if this was God’s intention. But these non-Hebrews obviously believed in God after seeing all the amazing things He did to Egypt over the preceding months.
Exodus 12:42 reminds us that God kept His promise to free His people. I’m sure there were many people who had given up hope during those 400 years. I’m sure when Jacob and his sons went to Egypt they didn’t think their people would be there that long. But God had not forgotten His people. He was waiting for the right timing. I thought of myself when reading this passage. I came to the place where I am living almost 10 years ago. I never thought I would be here this long. I have never really liked it and have often thought about moving. But God has never opened a door for me. It may be God’s will for me to stay here longer, or even forever. If He wants me to move He will provide the opportunity in His own way.
There are many parallels between the first Passover and the death of Christ. In both, it was the spilled blood that saves. The Passover lamb was to be roasted over a fire; Christ spent three days in Hell. The lamb had to be spotless and without blemish. Jesus lived a perfect life and was not guilty of anything when condemned to death. God is teaching His people that a substitute will someday allow everyone who is protected “by the blood” to live in freedom.
Jesus enters Jerusalem in Matthew 21. He receives a hero’s welcome, although some people don’t seem to know who He is (Matthew 20:10). In just a few days, however, these very same people will turn on Him and crucify Him.
There is a stark contrast in Matthew 21:15-16. The children, young and not well educated, recognized Jesus for who He was and praised Him. On the other hand, the religious leaders, older and supposedly wiser, didn’t.
Notice that Jesus receives praise again today. This is one of many times that Jesus has done this. The fact that Jesus allowed people to praise Him demonstrates that He was God and that He knew it. Many want to call Jesus nothing more than a moral teacher. But a moral teacher would not state or even imply that He was God. Not to mention He wouldn’t go out of His way to fulfill Old Testament prophecy (Matthew 20:4) that was reserved for the Messiah – the One who was going to come to save.
Jesus comes upon a fig tree in Matthew 21:19. The tree has leaves on it, but no figs. Fig trees produce figs and leaves at the same time. But this tree only had leaves. One might think when looking upon the tree that since it has leaves, it would also have fruit. But upon closer inspection the fruit would be lacking. Jesus curses the tree and it dies. Jesus is condemning those who have an outward appearance of spirituality but who are really just doing it for show. When you look more closely at these people you see that they are producing nothing for God’s kingdom. They are doing it all for show. They are hypocrites.
I think we can all relate to Psalm 25 today. The author says his “problems go from bad to worse”. That sounds like my life at times, including right now! But he puts his hope in God to save him from his troubles. We can’t put our hope in money, or family, or friends to save us from trouble. Only God can truly save.