It All Begins With Faith

28 By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them. – Hebrews 11:28 ESV

The author of Hebrews skips over a large section of the biography of Moses, leaping straight from his hasty departure from Egypt after killing another Egyptian to the days just prior to his second departure when he led the entire nation of Israel into the wilderness. The account in Hebrews leaves out large, seemingly significant sections of Moses’ life, including his call at the burning bush, his somewhat reluctant return to Egypt, his encounters with Pharaoh, and the first nine plagues. Yet, all of these events in Moses’ life required faith. From the moment God called Moses in Midian and told him he would be the deliverer of God’s people, Moses had to have faith in the word of God.

When God had appeared to him at the burning bush in Midian, He told Moses:

“I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them.– Exodus 3:7-9 ESV

This would have been good news to Moses. But then he heard the rest of God’s plan.

Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” – Exodus 3:10 ESV

Moses was reluctant, even resistant to God’s plan. But God told him, “I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain” (Exodus 3:12 ESV). God had given Moses a promise; an assurance that he was the one to do the job. God would be with him and God would bring him and the people of Israel back to the very same spot – Mount Horeb, also known as Mount Sinai. God went on to tell Moses the rest of His plan.

“But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless compelled by a mighty hand.  So I will stretch out my hand and strike Egypt with all the wonders that I will do in it; after that he will let you go. And I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians; and when you go, you shall not go empty, but each woman shall ask of her neighbor, and any woman who lives in her house, for silver and gold jewelry, and for clothing. You shall put them on your sons and on your daughters. So you shall plunder the Egyptians.” – Exodus 23:19-22 ESV

So Moses eventually obeyed God, and everything went just as God had said.; all the way up to the point to which the author of Hebrews refers in verse 28 of chapter 11. There was going to be one last plague that God would bring to the land of Egypt. And while the first nine had been troubling and even devastating at times, the final plague would be deadly. God warned Pharaoh through His servant Moses.

Thus says the Lord: ‘About midnight I will go out in the midst of Egypt, and every firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sits on his throne, even to the firstborn of the slave girl who is behind the handmill, and all the firstborn of the cattle.’” – Exodus 11:4-5 ESV

While God had protected the people of Israel from most of the other plagues, this one was going to be nationwide and non-discriminatory. All the first-born males throughout the land would die, both man and animal, including the firstborn of the Israelites – unless they followed God’s directions.

On the tenth day of the month, every household was to select a lamb – a one-year-old, unblemished male lamb. They were to “keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs at twilight” (Exodus 12:6 ESV). What the Israelites were to do next was not left up to their imaginations or up for debate.

“Then they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted on the fire; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it. Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted, its head with its legs and its inner parts. And you shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn. In this manner you shall eat it: with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you shall eat it in haste. It is the Lord‘s Passover. 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 execute 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 befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt. – Exodus 12:7-13 ESV

The people of Israel were instructed to take the blood of their lambs and sprinkle it on the doorposts and lentils of their homes. This final step was essential for their salvation. God had told them, “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” (Exodus 12:23 ESV).

The blood of the innocent lamb would protect them. But this entire process would require both faith and obedience. Of all the plagues, this one hit the closest to home – literally. If the people of Israel failed to follow God’s commands, they would suffer the same fate as the Egyptians. Their protection and preservation required faith and action. And Moses led the way.

He placed his faith in God and did as he was told to do. The whole scenario must have sounded bizarre to Moses. There was no precedent for killing a lamb and sprinkling its blood as a form of protection from death. The sacrificial system had not yet been given. In addition, this would have been a costly command to keep because as shepherds the people of Israel put a high value on their livestock, especially those that were one year old and without blemish. A male lamb would have been prime breeding stock and invaluable to the future value of the flock.

God’s plan would have sounded far-fetched and fairly sketchy to most of the Israelites. They most likely had doubts as to whether it would work. You can imagine their fear and dismay as the “destroyer” passed over the city that night and they heard the cries coming from the homes of all those who had lost a firstborn. They would have wondered if the blood would work. But as the dawn came and they discovered their firstborn alive and well, they were greatly relieved. But what saved them from the pain of death and loss was not the quantity or quality of their faith, but the presence of the blood. The death angel looked for the sign of the blood. It was the blood of the unblemished lamb that saved them, not their faith. It was God who protected them, not their faith. Their faith was simply an instrument through which they expressed their trust in God. Moses and the people had to put their faith in God’s plan of salvation. And when they did, it worked. 

So, the author of Hebrews states that it was Moses’ faith in the word of God that ultimately convinced the people of God to sprinkle the blood on their doorposts and lentils. He believed what God had said, and his faith was influential and infectious. By faith, he obeyed the command of God. By faith, he instructed the people of God. His faith in God was instrumental in saving tens of thousands of firstborn Israelites. By faith, he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood. His faith showed up in action. He took God at His word and took steps to obey God’s word. And his faith in God resulted in the salvation of God’s people. His obedience led the Israelites to do the unimaginable and sprinkle the blood of a lamb on the doorposts of their home. And because they did, they were spared the penalty and pain of death. The death angel “passed over” their homes and their firstborn were allowed to live. And it all began with Moses’ faith in God.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Plague Number Ten

29 At midnight the Lord struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of the livestock. 30 And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he and all his servants and all the Egyptians. And there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was not a house where someone was not dead. 31 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. 32 Take your flocks and your herds, as you have said, and be gone, and bless me also!” – Exodus 12:29-32 ESV

God had warned His chosen people about the tenth and final plague that would befall the land of Egypt and, this time, Goshen would not be spared the devastating consequences of His judgment. When the death angel passed through the land, he would enact God’s divine order to take the lives of all the firstborn within the land, including those of the livestock.

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 execute judgments: I am the Lord.” – Exodus 12:12 ESV

This plague would indiscriminate in its effect. There would be no protective barrier placed over the land of Goshen, where the Israelites lived. Their flocks and herds would not be set apart and spared from the death angel’s dark designs. Death was coming to all the firstborns in the land of Egypt, including those of the Israelites – unless they believed God’s warning, obeyed His command, and fulfilled every part of His plan for their salvation.

“Go, pick out a lamb or young goat for each of your families, and slaughter the Passover animal. Drain the blood into a basin. Then take a bundle of hyssop branches and dip it into the blood. Brush the hyssop across the top and sides of the doorframes of your houses. And no one may go out through the door until morning. For the Lord will pass through the land to strike down the Egyptians. But when he sees the blood on the top and sides of the doorframe, the Lord will pass over your home. He will not permit his death angel to enter your house and strike you down. – Exodus 12:21-24 NLT

These instructions make it quite clear that obedience must accompany belief. To accept the reality of the coming judgment but to do nothing to prepare for it would result in certain death. Any Israelite who refused to follow God’s detailed plan of salvation would expose all the firstborns in his home to the judgment of God. Their Hebrew heritage would not save them. Being a Jew would not immunize them from God’s wrath. The death angel would visit any and all homes where the sign of the blood was missing. Living in Goshen would not be enough. Being a descendant of Abraham would not provide built-in protection. And refusing to sacrifice their unblemished lamb and sprinkle its blood on the doorpost and lintel of their home would leave any Israelite exposed to the wrath of their own righteous and just God.

And that very evening, at the stroke of midnight, the death angel passed through the land and meted out the justice of God.

…that night at midnight, the Lord struck down all the firstborn sons in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sat on his throne, to the firstborn son of the prisoner in the dungeon. Even the firstborn of their livestock were killed. – Exodus 12:29 NLT

Moses reveals that “There was not a single house where someone had not died” (Exodus 12:30 NLT). This plague was widespread and left no home unaffected by its gruesome consequences. It all happened just as God had predicted to Moses.

“All the firstborn sons will die in every family in Egypt, from the oldest son of Pharaoh, who sits on his throne, to the oldest son of his lowliest servant girl who grinds the flour. Even the firstborn of all the livestock will die.” – Exodus 11:5 NLT

As the Egyptians slept soundly in their beds, their firstborn sons took their last breaths and died. Sometime during the early hours of the morning, the grim reality of what had just happened became apparent. An audible sound of mourning emanated from all over the land of Egypt, including from the halls of the royal palace, where Pharaoh had awoken to find the lifeless body of his own firstborn son, the rightful heir to his kingly dynasty.

This latest plague accomplished its objective. Pharoah, distraught with grief, ordered Moses and Aaron to the royal palace, where he issued the following long-delayed order:

“Get out!” he ordered. “Leave my people—and take the rest of the Israelites with you! Go and worship the Lord as you have requested. Take your flocks and herds, as you said, and be gone. Go, but bless me as you leave.” – Exodus 12:31-32 NLT

Long before Moses left Midian for Egypt, God had told him exactly what was going to happen. The Lord had given him a preview of coming attractions, including the death of Pharaoh’s own son.

“When you arrive back in Egypt, go to Pharaoh and perform all the miracles I have empowered you to do. But I will harden his heart so he will refuse to let the people go. Then you will tell him, ‘This is what the Lord says: Israel is my firstborn son. I commanded you, “Let my son go, so he can worship me.” But since you have refused, I will now kill your firstborn son!’” – Exodus 4:21-23 NLT

Now, God had Pharaoh’s full and undivided attention. The lifeless body of the heir to his throne was lying in his royal bed chamber. The most powerful man in all of Egypt had suffered a devastating and irreversible blow, and he had been powerless to do anything to prevent it.

The stage was set. The time for Israel’s departure had finally come. The ten successive plagues had primed the pump and prepared the hearts of the Egyptians to abide by God’s demand. Even the recalcitrant and headstrong Pharaoh had been broken by this latest outpouring of God’s divine judgment. This time, he demanded that Israelites leave, and as soon as possible. But before they left, he asked Moses and Aaron to pray a blessing over him.

It seems that Pharaoh wanted some kind of reward from the Israelite God for having graciously allowed His people to leave. Pharaoh wanted credit for doing what God had forced him to do. And, as the story unfolds, it will become clear that Pharaoh still expected the Israelites to return from their brief religious pilgrimage into the adjoining wilderness. After all, Moses and Aaron had always stated that their desire was to travel three days journey into the wilderness so that they might worship their God. And, as far as Pharaoh understood, that was still the case. So he boldly requested that they put in a good word for him when they worshiped their God.

But little did Pharaoh know that Moses and Aaron had no intentions of coming back. s

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.