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.
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.