The growing population of Israelites in Egypt had started to look threatening to the king, and his response was to enslave, oppress and murder them. God promised Abraham he’d bless his descendants, the Israelites; he had blessed them 400 years earlier by providing the means for them to move to Egypt, to escape starvation in Canaan; now he would bless them by rescuing them out of Egypt. To convince the Eygptian king to set them free, God appointed Moses to speak for him; then by one means after another God demonstrated his power to the Egyptians. First there was harmless show-and-tell, but the king would not set the Israelites free. The demonstrations became more destructive: God inflicted plague after plague on Egypt.
Each time, God sent Moses to warn the king, and tell him that the plague would be averted if he let the people go. Each time, the king ignored the warning. There are natural explanations for many of the plagues; some people take that to mean there’s no need for God to have been involved. What cannot be explained away is how Moses knew they were about to happen, and how he could give the king the choice as to exactly when they would stop.
The final plague is most harsh (Exodus 12:1-14), and it’s the defining incident for the establishment of the new nation of Israel; it also forms a parable for God’s rescue of the human race: If the king will not free the Israelites, every first-born son, human and animal, in all of Egypt, will die. Only those households who slay an innocent perfect lamb, and smear the lamb’s blood over the doorway of their home, will be protected by that blood from the terrible punishment. The blood of those innocent lambs buys life and freedom for the households who believe God and put their trust in him.
In the same way, only those people who believe that Jesus is God’s perfect innocent Lamb are protected by his blood from eternal death, and set free. The slavery we are rescued from is slavery to our own sinfulness; the cruel king we serve is ourselves, but true freedom is when we serve Jesus, our loving King.
- Katie Peken