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By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them. (Heb. 11:28)

“When I see the blood, I will pass over you.” These words from Exodus 12:13 are some of the most comforting words in the Old Testament, if not in the entire Bible. But comfort (biblically speaking) often comes in the midst of crisis. When God spoke these words to Israel through Moses, Israel was in anything but a comfortable position. For several hundred years, they had been harshly enslaved by the Egyptians. Their God—the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—had been deafeningly silent throughout those centuries. Egypt was a land full of pagan deities, and Pharaoh was a self-proclaimed deity among them—and he knew neither Joseph nor the God of Joseph. Time has a way of chilling warm memories, and all that God had done for Israel, as well as for the Egyptians, had faded from memory. The people of God now pined away as slaves, laboring under the blighting sun of Pharaoh’s vainglory—a time of crisis was coming to a head.

The darkness broke, of course, as God once again entered the stage of redemptive history to speak and act out His covenant promises. From scene to scene, He squashed Pharaoh’s gods one at a time, like a king defeating the perimeter defenses of a defiant city before attacking the city itself. Inside the fortress of Pharaoh’s overinflated ego, the Egyptian king continued to harden his heart against God and the people of Israel. God further hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and with each unfolding scene, the tension mounted even higher as God made it very clear that Pharaoh’s army was but a fleeting vapor before the King of kings and Lord of lords. All that Pharaoh trusted in (the gods of Egypt) came toppling down one after another until Pharaoh himself was exposed to the encroaching judgment of God. Thus, the final plague was not merely one that struck the heart of Pharaoh’s military; it was one that pierced the epicenter of Pharaoh’s idolatry—his own heart. The final plague would deprive Pharaoh of his son.

We should not rush past this too quickly. In the Egyptian religion, the pharaohs were thought of as gods. Though Egypt had many other deities, the pharaohs numbered themselves among them, and they saw one of the deities’ chief duties as protecting the pharaohs and their families. A son was not simply a child in the arms of his father the pharaoh but was also a future king—one who would ascend to the throne and enjoy the status of a god-king in the land of Egypt. Thus, for God to strike down the firstborn among the Egyptians (and the firstborn son of Pharaoh) was to deal a climactic blow not only to Pharaoh but to the entire worldview of Egypt. As the judgment of God swept through the land of Egypt, the darkness of death overtook every firstborn that was not covered by the blood of a lamb; the Destroyer destroyed them. With this, Pharaoh was defeated and broken. But what of the Israelites?

All that the law requires, the gospel gives in Jesus.

It is here that the redemptive hope of God’s covenant promises displaces the darkness of sin, misery, and death. Though judgment was coming, God did not leave His people without hope. On the eve of this climactic plague, the people of Israel were to take a lamb without blemish, kill it, and smear the lamb’s blood on the door of their home. When the Destroyer passed through the land of Egypt on that promised night, he would see the blood and “pass over” them. This promise is as terrifying as it is redemptive. It is terrifying to imagine such judgment falling on anyone. It is at the same time strikingly reassuring to imagine that God would provide a substitute to take the place of His people through the blood of the lamb. The subtle suggestion of double imputation is discernable. The lamb was to be unblemished (pure). It could not have any notable faults; it was to be costly and yet innocent. At the same time, the unblemished lamb’s death was to take the place of the firstborn child inside the home. Though the people were sinful by nature, the lamb took their place, and the blood of the lamb stood as something of a redemptive, atoning barrier between the Destroyer and the people. When the Destroyer saw the blood, he would not “touch” (or harm) them. Such was the comforting promise to the people of Israel from their covenant-making, covenant-keeping God. By the grace of God, the crisis was averted.

Even greater comfort is afforded to us as the people of God today. Our comfort, however, does not come through the redemptive promise of any mere lamb but through the redemptive blood of Jesus Christ—the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). However, Jesus came not to deliver us from the mortal (flesh and blood) enemies of this world but to deliver us from the wages of our sin and the dark death that awaits all who are outside of Jesus Christ. Israel’s long tenure in the land of Egypt was a dramatic display of our spiritual slavery—something that is true of every person: Jew and gentile, male and female, slave and free. We are all by nature slaves to sin and its wages—death—and this is our greatest crisis. Even more terrifying is that the Destroyer in the book of Exodus was ultimately God Himself—passing through the land of Egypt, bringing with Him a preview of the eschatological (final) judgment that awaits all those who are not found hidden under His grace. Only God can save us from Himself, and that is exactly what He has done in the gospel. He has hidden us under the blood of Jesus Christ, and when God comes again on that climactic day of judgment, He will pass over us. Even better put, He will embrace us as those who are pure, clean, holy, and beloved in His sight. We are hidden by the blood of the unblemished Lamb.

What the Passover said to the Israelites, the gospel continues to say to us: there is hope and comfort for us, sinful as we are, not because of anything that we can do or have done, but because God is gracious and kind in His covenant. All that the law requires, the gospel gives in Jesus. And how do we receive this gospel comfort? It is by faith alone. Just as Israel had to act on faith in putting the blood of the lamb on their doorposts, we too as the people of God must embrace the promises of God by faith. The blood of Christ has been poured out for us that the Destroyer might pass over us on that final day of judgment. Now, being rid of slavish fear, we may boldly approach the throne of grace knowing that we are most welcome in the presence of God. And there is nothing more comforting than that.

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