Week 5 / Exodus 11-13
In the Bible, ‘Remembering’ is a critical spiritual discipline. We have a tendency to a kind of spiritual amnesia, which is not just unfortunate, or even merely damaging, but in the light of Divine commands, is sinful. Even within Moses’ own lifetime the call to remember is repeated, and is built in to the worshipping life of the ancient Church. Indeed, the deep necessity of the Church to remember accounts for the origins of Scripture itself: ‘Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered…’ (Ex.17:14). The repeated calls and aids to remember saturate the writings of Moses. The redeemed people of God, for example, are to remember their experience of slavery (Ex.12:8; Dt.5:15); and the LORD’s acting on their behalf to deliver them (Dt.7:18). Similarly, they must never forget their ongoing sinfulness (Dt.9:7), or the covenant the LORD has made with them (Dt.4:23 & 31). It isn’t just religious festivals that are calculated to help them remember, but even their clothing (Num.15:37-41) is designed to evoke their spiritual memories. Perhaps the deepest of all such calls is the simple command to remember the LORD Himself (Dt.6:12 & 8:11-19).
And it isn’t simply for their own benefit that the people of God are to cultivate the discipline of remembering. It is also for the sake of their children. Deut.4:9, ‘Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them’. This is a recurring mandate for the embryonic Church: Remember the days of old; consider the generations long past. Ask your father and he will tell you, your elders, and they will explain to you (Dt.32:7, also Ex.13:8). Even those who weren’t directly involved in the Exodus are commanded to remember it. The whole family of the Church is to develop a corporate memory that shapes, defines and informs not just our own generation, but also the generations to come.
Our relentless tendency to spiritual amnesia is not merely an unfortunate characteristic. Remembering is of course a God-like quality, and it is only because the LORD remembers His people and His Covenant (Ex.2:24 & 6:5) that the Church has anything to remember in the first place. And so our persistent failure to remember proves to be more than a minor inconvenience, or irritation, perhaps on par with forgetting where we have left our keys. It is symptomatic of our lack of God-likeness. It is the far more devastating and disorienting experience of forgetting who we are, and why we are. In the light of the plethora of commands to remember, to forget is not just damaging, but sinful. Generations later, the same LORD who had redeemed His people from slavery in Egypt would look askance at the life of Israel. ‘Enquire among the nations: Who has ever heard anything like this? A most horrible thing has happened … my people have forgotten me’ (Jer.18:13 & 15).
What is the significance of the ‘firstborn’ (see Gen.27; Gen.48:12-18; Ps.89:27)? Why does the LORD call Israel His ‘firstborn son’ (Ex.4:22)? Do you think there is any connection between passages like Exodus 11-13 & Jesus being spoken of as the ‘firstborn [son]’ (e.g. Lk.2:7; Rom.8:29; Col.1:15 & 18; Heb.1:6 & 12:23; Rev.1:5)?
We are taught that the plagues are an expression of God’s judgement on Egypt (Ex.6:6; 7:4; 12:12 etc.). And we can see that they are proportionate, that they fit the crime, and that they are just (see e.g. Rev.16:4-6). How is the plague of the death of the firstborn proportionate and just?
Generations later, the Psalmist reflects on the plague of the firstborn, and finds that it evokes deep worship: ‘Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good … to Him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt, His love endures forever’ (136:1 & 10). As you reflect on this last and final plague, do you respond in the same way as the Psalmist? Do you think you should? How do you think you could draw closer to the Psalmist’s thinking and experience of worship?
Ps.78 is a remembering of the events of Egypt. In Psalm 78:51 Egypt is called ‘the tents of Ham’ (see Gen.9:18-29). Why do you think this is? Why is it significant, and how does it affect your understanding of the Exodus?
Given that the LORD prophesied in Exodus 4:21-24 that He would kill Pharaoh’s firstborn son, do you think there was any way Pharaoh could have avoided bringing this plague on Egypt? How can we reconcile this to any concept of human responsibility for decisions we make?
In 12:33-34, the Israelites take dough without yeast. This will be a feature of the Feast of the Passover & Unleavened Bread for generations to come (see 12:14-20 & 13:7-8)? Why was this important? What did it signify… and what would it signify if the Israelites had eaten bread with yeast? Can you find any other bread-without-yeast- references in the Bible? What do they teach us about being the redeemed people of God?
How does the Passover Lamb teach us about Jesus (see Luke 22:7-20; I Cor.5:7 etc.)? Why were the family to ‘take care of it’ from the tenth day until the fourteenth day (12:3-6)? How do passages such as Gen.22:8-14 deepen our thinking of the Exodus?
How does familiarity with the Passover help us to engage more meaningfully as we celebrate communion? If you are a parent, how does the model of teaching your children in the midst of the Passover inspire and help you as you think about bringing up your own children in the training and instruction of the Lord?
How does the LORD’s striking down the firstborn bring ‘judgement on the all the gods of Egypt’ (12:12; Num.33:4)? Why does the firstborn son of every family in Egypt have to die (11:5; 12:29)? …and why the firstborn of the cattle and livestock?
Who is the ‘destroyer’ of Ex.12:23 (see also 12:29; 13:15)?
12:35-36. Why do you think the LORD made the Egyptians ‘favourably disposed to the Israelites’ in this way (see also 3:21 & 11:2-3)? What will these riches be used for (see 25:1-9 & 32:2-4)? What lessons can we learn from these passages for how we use the resources God provides?
12:42. How did the people manage to hold on to their faith that God would deliver them for 430 years? …or did they? How would their perspective on the events of this night be different depending on whether they were trusting this prophecy?
Why is the land of Canaan described as a ‘land flowing with milk and honey’ (13:5)? And as we are going to have to face the question sooner or later: what do we make of the fact that there are already people living in the land the LORD has promised to Israel? What is the connection between the time Israel spends in the land of Egypt, and the land the LORD has promised them (see Gen.15:16)?
In chapter 13:1-16, the LORD commands His Church to redeem their firstborn sons. They belong to Him because He spared them in Egypt. Luke quotes Ex.13:1 when he tells us that Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the Temple (Lk.2:22-24). Every firstborn son in the history of the Church was reminding God’s people of the Firstborn Son who would come to redeem the people from slavery! Elsewhere in the New Testament are accounted as first-born because of their union with Christ. In addition we are called ‘saints’ i.e. the set-apart / consecrated ones’, belonging to the LORD. This moment in Exodus – the death of the Passover Lamb - is our history. It defines our present. It is the focus of our future. For all eternity, the redeemed will declare the worthiness of the Lamb who was slain (Rev.5).