God’s Sacrifice in the Wilderness | Exodus 12

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  • God’s Sacrifice in the Wilderness | Exodus 12
  • Joseph is the bridge between Genesis and Exodus. Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery. But the Lord was with him. Joseph arrived in Egypt as a slave. He became a wrongly convicted prisoner. But he was promoted to Prime Minister. Before his death, his reconciled family – seventy persons – moved to Egypt with him. After Joseph’s death, the people of Israel became large, strong, and great. Then the drama begins. 

     A pharaoh emerged who did not know Joseph. Pharoah viewed the Hebrew population as a threat to national security. Pharoah oppressed the Israelites. But the Lord raised up Moses to deliver his people. The Lord revealed himself to Moses as the “I Am” at the burning bush. He compelled Moses to return to Egypt to tell Pharaoh to let his people go. In Exodus 5:2, Pharaoh asked, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice and let Israel go?”

    The Lord answered by striking Egypt with severe plagues. The Ten Plagues forced Pharaoh into submission. They also proved Yahweh was greater than the gods of Egypt. These idols could not stay God’s hand, thwart God’s plans, or match God’s works. The bombardment of blood, frogs, lice, flies, pestilence, boils, hail, locusts, darkness, and death proved that God is God alone. Exodus 12 records the Tenth Plague. This climatic plague is recorded more fully than the previous ones. But it is presented in a way that sets this tenth plague apart. 

    • The first nine plagues were a message to Pharaoh. 
    • The tenth plague was also a message to Israel. 

    Exodus 12 reports the tenth plague from that perspective. The chapter narrates the tenth plague with a focus on the Passover. 

    • The Passover is commanded in verses 1-28. 
    • The Passover is enacted in verses 29-40. 
    • The Passover is instituted in verses 43-51. 

    After Israel crosses the Red Sea, Exodus details how God makes these freed slaves his covenant people. He will prove his faithfulness repeatedly; they will prove their unfaithfulness repeatedly. The relationship between this holy God and his sinful people will not be based on their ability to be faithful. It will be based on the blood of atonement. This bloody basis of redemption and relationship is the “scarlet threat”from Israel’s wilderness wanderings to the cross, where Christ’s blood and righteousness opened a new and living way to God. Hebrews 9:22 says, “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin.” The redemptive strategy of divine covenant through atoning sacrifice begins with the Passover in Exodus 12. 

    The chapter begins with the Lord’s commands to Moses. Verse 2 says, “This month shall be for you the beginning of months. It shall be the first month of the year for you.” This time reference emphasizes the revolutionary nature of the Passover. 

    • A fiscal year may be more critical to a company than the calendar.  
    • A school year may be more important to an educator than the calendar. 
    • A new season may be more significant to an athlete than the calendar. 

    The Passover was God’s New Year. Israel’s new orientation of time revolved around this sovereign act of redemption. Moses instructed the men to take a lamb for their household. The family would share it with neighbors if they could not afford a lamb. No family was to be left out. The young lamb was to be without spotor blemish. It was to be selected on the tenth day. It would not be sacrificed until the fourteenth day. 

    Verse 7 states the purpose of the sacrifice: “Then they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the house in which they eat it.” The lamb’s flesh was to be eaten that night with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. None was to remain until the morning. The people were to be dressedand ready to move. Verse 11 asserts: “It is the Lord’s Passover.” The Passover was a historical event of divine intervention. God himself visited his people in the Passover. The Passover was an annual feast, so Israel would never forget what the Lord did for them when he appeared in Egypt in judgment.  

    Verses 12-13 explain: “For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will executive judgments: I am the Lord. The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will before you to befall you, when I strike the land of Egypt.” 

    The Passover was both judgment and salvation. The divine work of redemption was to be reenacted each year so the Israelites would never forget the revelation of God to them in the Passover. Verse 14 says, “This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast.” 

    What does the Passover reveal to Christian pilgrims? 


    Before and beyond what the Passover says about the lamb, the blood, or the exodus, it is a statement about God. It is the Lord’s Passover. God displayed his sovereignty to Pharaoh and the Egyptians. Verse 12 says, “On all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord.” Egypt’s oppression of the Israelites was rooted in more than a sense of ethnic superiority. It was rooted in theological ignorance and arrogance. The Passover rebuked and refuted their theological errors.

    God will strike down the firstborn of Egypt. Their gods cannot save them. God’s sovereign judgment was poetic justice. When Moses was born, Pharaoh had the male Hebrew babies thrown into the Nile. This wicked seemed to go unanswered and unpunished. Evil would not have the last word. God would have the last word. He always has the last word. 

    The Passover was not just God’s sovereignty on display for the Egyptians; it was also God’s sovereignty on display for the Israelites. Exodus 2:23-25 says, “During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue came up to God. And God heard groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel – and God knew.” Moses’ confrontation with Pharaoh was a message from God to his people that he saw, heard, and knew.

    The Passover was a divine announcement that he was able to save his people with a mighty arm and outstretched hand. The memorial of the Passover was to remind them how great their God was as they wandered to the land of Promise. As you follow Christ through your wilderness, look back at the Passover and remember who God is. Psalm 145:3 says, “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable.”


    The Passover declares the sovereignty of God. It also declares the holiness of God. Holiness is the defining attribute of God. If you look at the attributes of God without holiness, you will only see an idol made in your image. Isaiah 6:3 says, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.”The Passover displayed the surpassing glory of God’s perfect and infinite holiness.

    The Passover was God’s judgment against Pharaoh, the Egyptians, and their gods. The children of Israel were not spared from judgment because they were better than the Egyptians. God passed over the households covered with blood on the doorposts by his sovereign grace and mercy. 

    Exodus 12:13 says, “The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to befall you, when I strike the land of Egypt.” Exodus 12:23 says, “For the Lord will pass through to strike the Egyptians, and when he sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the Lord will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to enter your houses to strike you.” 

    The “destroyer” was scheduled to visit every household – Egyptian and Hebrew. The destroyer did not pass over the Israelites because they deserved to be spared. God made promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that he would keep the children of Israel. God was faithful. The Israelites were not. 

    • They had sinned against the Lord. 
    • They did not believe God’s word to them. 
    • They were as idolatrous as the Egyptians. 

    The Passover confronts us about the sinfulness of sin. Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” At our best, we still fall short. We are all sinners by nature and conduct.Romans 6:23 says: “The wages of sin is death.” We all deserve sovereign, righteousness, and eternalpunishment. Ephesians 2:4-5 says, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.”


    The Passover is not just a statement about the sinfulness of sin. It is also a statement about the salvation of sinners. How does God save sinners? God saves by the blood of a substitutionary atonement. After Adam and Eve sinned, God covered their nakedness with coats of sin. Isaac asked, “Where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Genesis 22:8 answers, “God will provide for himself the lamb.” In the Passover, what is hinted at is made explicit. 

    The Israelites were to select a lamb. It had to be without spot or blemish. The innocent lamb was to be sacrificed. Its blood was to be placed on the wood beam of the door. Exodus 12:13 says, “The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are.” And when I see the blood I will pass over you.” The blood of the Passover lamb was a sign to God and Israel.

    The people were to see and know what it meant. Exodus 12:26-27 says, “And when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ you shall say, ‘It is the sacrifice of the Lord’s Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, when he struck the Egyptians but spared our houses.” He passed over their houses when he saw the blood. 

    The blood of the lamb signified the Passover, the tenth plague, and exodus. Moreover, it is a type of Christ. 1 Corinthians 5:7 calls Christ “Our Passover lamb.” God began with one lamb for one person. The Passover was one lamb for the household. The high priest sacrificed one lamb for the nation on the Day of Atonement. John 1:29 says, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” 

    The bad news is we are guilty sinners. The worst news is we cannot fix what our sin has broken. The good news is God’s Son died for our sins and rose from the dead. 1 Peter 3:18 says, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteousness for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit.” The best news is that if you repent of your sins and trust in Christ, you can have free forgiveness, new life, and eternal hope. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”


    • Exodus 12 records the Passover as a historical event. 
    • It also records the Passover as an ongoing memorial. 

    Verses 14-27 detail the instruction of the Passover as an annual feast. The tenth plague is recorded. God struck down all the firstborns of Egypt. Exodus 12:31-23 says, “Then he summoned Moses and Aaron by night and said, “Up, go out from among my people, both you and the people of Israel; and go, serve the Lord, as you have said. Take your flocks and your herds, as you have said, and be gone, and bless me also!” 

    • Hardhearted Pharaoh asked, “Who is the Lord.”
    • Humbled Pharaoh prayed, “And bless me also!”

    Then the exodus from Egypt began. The chapter ends with the institution of the Passover. Verses 43-49 emphasize the feast was not for strangers or foreigners. To participate, one would have to be circumcised. It was a family meal in which redeemed people celebrated God’s sovereign grace, sparing mercy, and steadfast love. On the night Jesus was betrayed, he observed the feast of the Passover with his disciples. During the Last Supper, Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper. He said, “Do this in remembrance of me.”

    The Passover is also a call to sanctification. 1 Corinthians 5:6-8 says, “Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” 

    • The blood of the Lamb covers our sins!
    • The blood of the Lamb cleanses our sins!

    H.B. Charles Jr.

    Pastor-Teacher at the Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church of Jacksonville and Orange Park, Florida.