The Exodus account is one of my favorite stories in the Bible. Seeing the faithfulness of God all through-out the narrative is a depiction of unfailing grace and renewed mercy. The temporary uprooting of Jacob and his family was pre-planned by God in eternity past so that the lineage of Christ will be preserved. It gives you a glimpse of God’s love towards His beloved. Then, the time came for the Israelites to return.
When you read the first chapter of Exodus starting at verse 8, you would see that the suffering of the Israelites started when a new pharaoh came into power without being oriented to the history and origin of Joseph’s people. Fear was somehow instilled in the mind of this new leader. A major detail to the story of the Passover.
I will not be tackling the whole story – you can read the detailed account in Exodus chapters 1 – 12. You may have basic knowledge of the Exodus story, or even the Disney adaptation – Prince of Egypt — let’s fast forward to the very last plague that would be the key to the Israelite’s release.
Now the Lord had said to Moses, “I will bring one more plague on Pharaoh and on Egypt. After that, he will let you go from here, and when he does, he will drive you out completely. (Exodus 11:1 NIV)
Let’s pause. You might be thinking – “Why didn’t God just jump to this plague right here? Why go through all the trouble of sending nine plagues?” Well, it’s a very valid question. I asked myself that years ago, and I came across this study on how all the plagues God sent may have been a direct contradiction to one or two specific gods of the Egyptians. Just like how the last plague hits the ultimate power of Egypt – Pharaoh! The Egyptians worshipped Pharaoh. They even believe that he is the actual son of Ra – the sun god. So, when you think about it, the nine plagues before the final one is a precursor to the ultimate knockout move God has planned out. Now that God has the attention of both the Israelites and the Egyptians, it’s time to show grace and judgment in one pass.
So Moses said, “This is what the Lord says: ‘About midnight I will go throughout Egypt. Every firstborn son in Egypt will die, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, to the firstborn son of the slave girl, who is at her hand mill, and all the firstborn of the cattle as well. There will be loud wailing throughout Egypt – worse than there has ever been or ever will be again. But among the Israelites, not a dog will bark at any man or animal.’ Then you will know that the Lord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel. (Exodus 11:4-7 NIV)
There’s the knock-out punch! I love how Moses wrote the last part of verse 7 – “Then you will know that the Lord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel. God has drawn the line and made sure that the world will know the difference between those He has chosen and those whose heart has hardened from the mere revelation of His character. Let’s move on.
The Lord had said to Moses, “Pharaoh will refuse to listen to you – so that my wonders may be multiplied in Egypt.” Moses and Aaron performed all these wonders before Pharaoh, but the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let the Israelites go out of his country. (Exodus 11:9 & 10)
TIME OUT! That’s not fair! Pharaoh was bound to lose in the first place! Let’s clarify. First of all, God will always judge fairly (Psalm 9:8). If we understand the nature of God, we must trust that everything God has willed and purposed, IS and WILL BE “good” (Romans 8:28) – final and beneficial. Secondly, God is also a God of mercy, compassion, and grace (Lam 3:23). Never will God contradict His essence just to prove a point. His characteristics operate simultaneously without any contradiction. Remember the above mentioned statement? GRACE AND JUDGEMENT IN ONE PASS! Now, let’s go back to the first question – Why did it take 10 plagues when it could have been finished in one? What if, it’s also a show of grace to Pharaoh to acknowledge God’s power and sovereignty over everything? I love how an article in The Gospel Coalition explained that for the first five plagues, Pharaoh hardened his heart. It was not until the end of the sixth plague (Exodus 9:12) that it mentioned the Lord hardening Pharaoh’s heart. Then, the article said this:
“Well how did God harden Pharaoh’s heart? God simply revealed himself. He revealed his power, supremacy, love for his people, hatred of sin, etc.. through the signs and wonders of the plagues. It was this revelation of God that hardened his heart.”
Even before the plagues happened, in the first verse we read, the information Pharaoh decided to believe was the foundation of his heart being hardened. He did not know who Joseph was, therefore the existence of the Israelites became a threat.
We have come to the part of the story where God gave the Israelites the whole day to prepare for His visit. This part amazes me because of the way God has included specific instructions for the people to follow. The details include what meal to eat, how to prepare the meal, how to eat the meal and even what to wear during the meal. The most interesting part is when Moses said this:
“Obey these instructions as a lasting ordinance for you and your descendants. When you enter the land that the Lord will give you as he promised, observe this ceremony. And when your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ then tell them, ‘it is the Passover sacrifice to the Lord, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when He struck down the Egyptians.’” Then the people bowed down and worshipped. The Israelites did just what the Lord commanded Moses and Aaron. (Exodus 12:24-28)
This was an event worth remembering. This was an event that future generations needed to hear about. It’s like God telling the Israelites – Don’t you forget that I chose you! And when I come passing through your homes, remember that I showed you grace! Grace to the Israelites. Judgment to the Egyptians. All in one passing.
So how does this story help us?
Well, dearly beloved, if you are a follower of Christ, do not forget that God chose you. Before the foundation of the world, we have been purposed to be “in Christ”. Spiritual death passed over us the moment we were reconciled in Christ. Grace pursued us the moment we were born to this fallen world. The elaborate story of the Exodus was given for us to deeply appreciate the extent of God’s faithfulness towards us. Even during the times when we fail and complain, just like what the Israelites did after they were freed, God continued to show grace.
Now, hold on to these principles. Live life with a better perspective. Look at your circumstances through the lens of grace. Remember this fact – that through Christ’s loving mercy, He called onto death to pass over His beloved and offered Himself in our stead. The passing over of death is in itself an act of grace.
Writer’s Bio: TJ Ermitano, also known as TEEDJ, is a full-time follower of Christ. A husband to the lovely Neth and soon to be the father of two! Teedj has actively pursued involvement in various ministries since 2002 that range from teaching, arts, and even music. He is currently serving in a non-profit organization that has been the proponent for Christian education here in the Philippines.