Exodus 12:1–15:21 “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today” Ex. 14:13.
The great celebration of Passover calls every Jewish family together to participate in an annual reminder of the deliverance God brought their forefathers in Egypt. The story told in these chapters portrays God’s final victory over the gods of Egypt, Israel’s passage through the Red Sea, and Israel’s song of praise.
Definition of Key Terms
Passover is (1) a historic event, and (2) an annual Jewish festival commemorating the event. On the first Passover, a lamb, which had been taken into the home for three days, was killed and its blood was sprinkled outside on the doorposts. The meat was roasted and the lamb was eaten by the family the night God took the lives of Egypt’s firstborn. The highlight of the annual festival is a commemorative meal shared by members of a Jewish household. Eating this meal was to be “a lasting ordinance for you and your descendants” (Ex. 12:24). The purpose of the meal is to enable all generations to participate in what God did for their forefathers. In a real way, that first Passover won freedom from slavery not just for one generation of Jews, but for all generations to follow. Deuteronomy 16:2, 5–7 establishes Passover as a national as well as a family celebration, to be marked by an entire week of sacrifice and public rejoicing. The meal that Jesus shared with His disciples the evening before His crucifixion was Passover (cf. Matt. 26; Mark 14; Luke 22; John 13:1). The writers of the epistles see the Passover lamb as a symbol of Jesus, who was “sacrificed for us” and whose blood frees us from bondage to sin and death (cf. John 1:29; 1 Cor. 5:7).
Lambs’ blood on the Israelites’ doorframes protected them the night God took the life of every firstborn in Egypt (12:1–30). The next morning God’s people left the land of their captivity (vv. 31–51). Israel’s firstborn were set aside for God in honor of the Exodus deliverance (13:1–16). Israel passed safely through the Red Sea (v. 17–14:31), and Miriam led the women in singing a song of praise to God for His commitment to His people (15:1–21). Yet within three days the Israelites questioned God’s commitment to them (vv. 22–27).
Understanding the Text“
For the generations to come you shall celebrate it” Ex. 12:1–30. Passover is the first of several annual religious festivals ordained by God. Passover is Israel’s celebration of freedom: a yearly reminder of the God who exercised His power to tear a slave people from the grip of oppressive masters. It’s not enough to think now and then of what God has done for us. We need to set aside regular times to remember. Celebrating God’s work in and for us is as important now as celebrating Passover was for the Jewish people. “Unleavened bread” Ex. 12:17. This is bread which has not had an opportunity to rise. No leaven or other fermenting agent is permitted in unleavened bread. Modern Jews use the cracker-like matzos during the week-long Passover festival. The bread, like the Passover meal, serves as a reminder, for the Israelites left Egypt in such a hurry that there was no time to let bread rise. “Hurry and leave” Ex. 12:31–51. When Pharaoh realized that all Egypt’s firstborn had been struck dead, he urged the Hebrews to leave. The general population was so eager to have them depart that they “loaned” Israel whatever gold or silver or clothing they asked for. There would be nothing to spend such wealth on in the desert. But later the people of Israel donated much of this wealth to be used in making the tabernacle, Israel’s portable house of worship. “Consecrate to Me every firstborn male” Ex. 13:1. The celebration of freedom is closely linked with a fresh sense of Israel’s obligation. Because God spared Israel’s firstborn, all future firstborn would belong to Him! You and I are given a freedom won at the cost of Christ’s blood. It is appropriate that, since He gave Himself for us, we should give ourselves to Him. When we remember what God has done for us, we are motivated to ask what we can do for God. It is important never to invert this order. We try to please God in order to obligate Him to us. Instead we are already obligated to Him for our salvation! Good can express love for the God who has saved us, but can never serve as a bribe to win God’s favor. “A pillar of fire” Ex. 14:1–31. God supernaturally guided Israel through the appearance of a cloudy-fiery pillar that either moved ahead of them or stood waiting over the camp. The Israelites had a clear, visible, and unmistakable indication of what God wanted them to do. Despite such a clear indication, the Israelites were terrified when the pillar led them into what appeared to be a trap on the edge of a large body of water. (No one is sure what that body of water was, as the Hebrew reads yom suph, generally understood as “reed sea.”) Desperate circumstances led Moses to reassure Israel. He called on them to stand firm and watch to see what the Lord would do. We may find ourselves in desperate circumstances at times. When we do, we too need to stand firm, and expect God to act. Moses’ faith was not displaced. The waters which parted to let Israel through rolled over the Egyptian army, killing every soldier. Circumstances need not create fear, or even make us waver. Certainly no circumstances should cause panic as long as we have sought and tried to follow God’s leading. He remains able to make us a path through the sea. “Who among the gods is like You, O Lord?” Ex. 15:11 The deliverance stimulated Moses to write a song. The song, which reviewed what God had done, was intended as a teaching tool and instrument of praise. Music can serve us in much the same way. The tune of a familiar hymn, or its words recalled during a difficult day, remind us of God’s presence and His power.
Celebrate with Song(Ex. 15:1–16)
Our nine-year-old, Sarah, is already picking up the tunes and words of popular music. We have to be careful about the artists she listens to and the words she hears. Somehow thoughts set to music find their way easily into the heart and mind. That’s one reason why we’re so pleased Sarah is in the children’s choir at church. She sings the music she’s learning there around our house, and the words of Christian songs too are finding a home in her heart. The song that Moses wrote, recorded here in this passage, picks up three aspects of the kind of music we should choose to hear. Moses’ song celebrates what God has done. We see this theme in verses 1–10. Like a warrior, majestic in his power, God acted to hurl Pharaoh’s chariots and army into the sea. Moses’ song celebrates who God is. We see this in verse 11. God is majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders. Moses’ song celebrates what God will do for His believing people. This God who has worked so powerfully in the past will “lead the people You have redeemed.” He will continue to use His power until “You bring them in and plant them on the mountain of Your inheritance.” You and I can decide to fill our homes and our thoughts with tunes that celebrate what God has done, who He is, and what He will surely do for us. This is one of the most important things we can do for our children as well as for our own spiritual growth and peace of mind.
Check out the Christian music available in your local Christian bookstore.