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5. The Truth And Consequences Of A Hardened Heart, Pt. 2 (Ex. 11:1-12:42)

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In the last article in this series, I covered the first nine plagues (Ex. 7:14-20:29). In each case, Moses has acted as the spokesperson for God to Pharaoh, despite his earlier protestations of not being able to speak in public.

Three observations stand out that we need to notice:

1. After each plague, God graciously gave Pharoah the opportunity to relent from the hardness of his heart and escape His continuing acts of judgement by granting Moses’ request to lead the Israelites out of Egypt into the wilderness to worship the Lord. This is ample evidence that “the Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and full of faithful love” (Ps. 103:8; cf. Ex. 34:6; Num. 14:18).

2. You would think, after experiencing nine plagues of increasing intensity and scope, that by now Pharaoh would have willingly confessed and submitted to God’s supremacy and power. But Pharaoh was governed by a hardened heart, such that despite the evidence and despite the widespread suffering he stubbornly continued to rebel against God. Evidence, you see, is not enough to convince unbelievers of the reality of who God is. There has to also be submission of the will and repentance of the heart.

3. God keeps his word and sovereignly achieves his purposes. The deliverance that God promised to Moses (Ex. 3:7-10) he will carry out. No earthly power can withstand or withhold him. He will demonstrate to the Egyptians as well as the Israelites that He is the LORD (Ex. 6:6; 7:5), even though, in His grace, the timing may be prolonged for ten long and destructive plagues.

So now we come to the tenth and last plague that caused the midnight cry “throughout Egypt because there wasn’t a house without someone dead” (Ex. 12:30; cf. 11:6).

The overall truth that we are going to discover in this study is that Despite the opposition of the strongest earthly powers, God is supreme above all. He always keeps his word and accomplishes his purposes.

I. The Final Warning: The Death Of The Firstborn (11:1-10)

The Prediction of the Midnight Cry. Moses said to Pharaoh: 4 This is what the Lord says: About midnight I will go throughout Egypt, 5 and every firstborn male in the land of Egypt will die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sits on his throne to the firstborn of the servant girl who is at the grindstones, as well as every firstborn of the livestock” (11:4-5). The death of the firstborn was the ultimate judgement because it would effectively end the entire social structure of succession, as it was practiced in the ancient world. So devastating would it be that Then there will be a great cry of anguish through all the land of Egypt such as never was before or ever will be again” (11:6).

The Israelites’ anguished cry for mercy and deliverance, as they suffered for the past 400 years under the relentless and unmerciful hand of their Egyptian slave masters, would now be replaced by the anguished cry of the Egyptians themselves. God did not forget the cry of His people, nor did He turn a blind eye to the wickedness of the Egyptians. Punishment for sin is inevitable, even though God graciously gives ample opportunity to repent, “not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9).

The Preservation of the Israelites. To further underscore that God is the author of such an horrific judgement, there would yet again be a distinction between the Egyptians and the Israelites for “against all the Israelites, whether people or animals, not even a dog will snarl, so that you may know that the Lord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel” (11:7). This is a discriminating judgement in which God will show that the Israelites are his chosen people by protecting them from the devastation that will befall the Egyptians. How dare Pharaoh not recognize this and submit!

And God will once more at the end of this age inflict discriminate judgement. God clearly and decisively separates all human beings into the saved and the lost. At the final resurrection, “those who have done good things” (i.e. those who have repented of their sins and placed their faith in Jesus Christ as their Savior) will be raised to eternal life, while “those who have done wicked things (i.e. rejected Jesus Christ) to the resurrection of condemnation” (Jn. 5:29).

Remember that God “has set a day when he is going to judge the world in righteousness by the man he has appointed. He has provided proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead” (Acts 17:31). The same Man whom wicked people crucified is the One who will judge the world. So, don’t ever confuse or conflate God’s grace and God’s judgement. It is only God’s grace that holds back his judgement. But one day, the day which God has already set, the Man whom he has appointed as judge of all the world, Jesus Christ, will sit on his judgement throne and every person who has rejected him will be cast eternally into the lake of fire. Then they will hear those awful words, “depart from me, I never knew you” (Matt. 7:23). This is the sovereign right of our Creator who said, “I will show mercy to whom I will show mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion” (Rom. 9:15). God has the sovereign right but not the obligation to do or not do anything for or to anyone.

The Persistence of Pharaoh’s Resistance. Despite Moses’ tenth warning, Pharaoh “would not let the Israelites go out of his land” (11:10). Little did Pharoah know that, this time, he would have no further opportunity to comply with God’s demands. Perhaps he had convinced himself that God would never do what He said, that God’s word was just one big threat. Perhaps Pharoah thought that if he could only hang on long enough God would give up and go away. Or, perhaps Pharaoh thought that, in the end, he would be victorious - his tenacity and stubbornness would outlast God’s persistence and ability. Little did Pharoah know that preparations were being put in place for the last plague – the plague of death.

II. The Final Preparation: The Passover (12:1-28)

The Purpose of the Passover. The Passover was God’s provision for the identity of the Israelites and their security from His judgement. Just as God provided safety for Noah and his family from the flood judgement, so now God provides the blood of a lamb for the safety of the Israelites. All they had to do was “select an animal from the flock according to their fathers’ households, one animal per household…You must have an unblemished animal, a year old male; you may take it from the sheep or the goats” (12:3-5). Then, at twilight, they were to kill the animal and apply some of its blood to the two doorposts and the lintel of their houses (12:7; 22). That night they were to roast its meat over a fire and eat it in its entirety, all the while being dressed and ready to depart in a hurry (12:8-11).

Notice that this ritual included and protected all members of a household. One lamb was sufficient to cover the entire home (12:3, 21) but there was a provision that if the household was too small for a whole animal, they could share it with a neighbour (12:4). Notice that there is no thought of the lamb being to small for the household, but of a household possibly being too small for a lamb. Furthermore, the stipulation was that the animal must be “unblemished” (12:5). The sacrificial lamb must be perfect in every respect

Those were their instructions, a very simple and yet profound ritual. And this is what God said would happen. “12 I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night and strike every firstborn male in the land of Egypt, both people and animals. I am the Lord; I will execute judgments against all the gods of Egypt. 13 The blood on the houses where you are staying will be a distinguishing mark for you; when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No plague will be among you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt” (Ex. 12:12-13). The sprinkled blood on the two doorposts and lintel of their houses was the sign that protected them from the death of their firstborn that night.

This was the night of nights, the moment of deliverance for which the Israelites had hoped and cried out in prayer for so long. The Lord had heard their cries and he had come to deliver them (Ex. 2:23-24; 3:7-10). The devastating judgement which God is about to inflict on Egypt would not touch the Israelites – they were safe and secure under the blood of the lamb. “When I see the blood, I will pass over you.”

The Passover is a remarkable preview and type of the gospel and the scene that would transpire some 1500 years later at the cross of Calvary, when the Lamb of God shed his precious blood to wash away our sins. Do the qualifications for the perfect sacrificial animal and the instructions regarding the application of its blood to their houses remind you of the perfect sacrifice of the Lamb of God and the efficacy of his blood which was shed on the cross? Leviticus 17:11 says, “For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have appointed it to you to make atonement on the altar for your lives, since it is the lifeblood that makes atonement.” In the N.T., Hebrews 9:22 says, “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” The apostle Peter puts it this way: “For you know that you were not redeemed, from your empty way of life inherited from the fathers, with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish” (1 Pet. 1:18-19).

The Lord Jesus Christ was the only perfect sacrifice who was acceptable to God and who could, once and for all, make the one and final sacrifice, which would forever fulfill God’s holy requirements for sin and eternally redeem those who put their faith in Him. For the Israelites, their sacrifices could never permanently wash away their sins. Their sacrifices had to be repeated year after year, “for it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Heb. 10:1-4). But through the “offering of the body of Jesus Christ once and for all” we have been”sanctified” (Heb. 10:10). Unlike the priests who stood day after day offering repeated sacrifices “which can never take away sins… this man, after offering one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God” (Heb. 10:11-12).

Isn’t that the most wonderful good news? His sacrifice never had to be repeated because it was perfect and it was final. And as a result, when we find shelter under His shed blood through repentance and faith, we are forever cleansed from our sins, made right with God, and eternally secure in Christ.

The Significance of the Passover for the Israelites. The very simple yet profound Passover ritual provided for the Israelites unfathomable benefits:

1. It marked the beginning of a whole new life, a new era (12:1). The Passover celebration in the years ahead would mark “the beginning of months for you; it is the first month of your year” (12:2).

2. It distinguished them from the Egyptians (11:7; 12:13a). They were God’s chosen, special, separated people. Their houses were marked by the blood of the lamb.

3. It protected them from God’s judgement on Egypt. God said to Moses, “When I see the blood, I will pass over you. No plague will be among you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt” (12:13b). And Moses told the Israelites, “When the Lord passes through to strike Egypt and sees the blood on the lintel and the two doorposts, He will pass over the door and not let the destroyer enter your houses to strike you” (12:23).

4. It was to be a permanent memorial throughout their generations of their deliverance from slavery in Egypt (12:14-20; 24-27). This miraculous event would be enshrined not only in their history but also in their entire future, as they remember and recount to subsequent generations that momentous night in Egypt, the night of their redemption from slavery.

5. It was to be imbibed into their innermost being by eating the sacrificial lamb, thus signifying that they made it their own, they identified personally with the sacrifice.

While the Israelite Passover experience and ritual provided for them unquestionably tremendous benefits and blessings, one overwhelming aspect that they did not know or enter into was the permanent removal of their sins. That is a truth that Christians can claim exclusively, as I have demonstrated from Scripture above.

The Significance of the Passover for Christians. When we look at this from our N.T., Christian perspective, the lamb speaks of Christ - Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us” (1 Cor. 5:7). The Passover pointed forward to the perfect Lamb of God (Jn. 1:29), whose substitutionary sacrifice on the cross fulfilled and brought to an end all the Passover sacrifices of the Israelites. Notice the following Christian truths in comparison and contrast to those I have listed above for the Israelites:

1. Upon expressing our faith in Him, Christ’s death is the beginning of a whole new life (2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 2:20), the demarcation between the old life and the new (Eph. 4:24; Rom. 6:4).

2. Our identity with Christ separates and distinguishes us from the world – we are God’s special people, set apart for him exclusively (1 Pet. 2:9-10; Eph. 5:11; 2 Cor. 6:14).

3. Christ’s sacrifice on the cross is our protection. His shed blood is the means of our cleansing from sin (Lev. 17:11; Heb. 9:22; 1 Jn. 1:7-9), by which we are protected from the coming judgement of God.

4. The memorial feast speaks of the Lord’s table of remembrance (Lk. 22:19; 1 Cor. 11:24).

5. Christians are those who have imbibed Jesus into their innermost being by, spiritually, eating his flesh and drinking his blood (Jn. 6:53-56), thus signifying that his life is our life, we have made him our own, we are identified personally with him and his sacrifice.

What a wonderful preview in the Passover of what was to come! What types and illustrations God has given throughout his word of that one final sacrifice of our Lord, a sacrifice that would never be repeated and that would appease (propitiate) God’s wrath on account of our sins (1 Jn. 2:2; Heb. 9:26).

Let me ask you, is your house, like the Israelites’ houses, marked by the blood of the Lamb who was slain for you? Do you speak and act as one who has been redeemed by the precious blood of Christ (1 Pet. 1:18-19)? Do others recognize that you are different, in your attitudes, relationships, morality, values, priorities? How has your faith in Christ set you apart for His exclusive use and service? Is your life committed to serving him with the gifts he has given you? May the blood of Christ be a distinguishing mark for every believer. Oh, I know that the blood of Christ is not a popular topic, especially not in the world. In fact, they probably think we are a bit weird to speak of blood in this way. But the imagery is simply that the blood speaks of Christ’s life poured out for us. Just as blood is the fluid that cleanses our body of toxins and delivers life-giving nutrients to our vital organs, so the blood of Christ cleanses us from all sin (1 Jn. 1:7). His blood is our distinguishing mark.

When you look back on your Christian life, surely you must be so thankful that there came that moment when you were delivered from your old life and brought into the new life in Christ. I sometimes wonder, where would I be if Christ was not the Lord of my life. If there had not come that time when I knelt by my bed as a boy and expressed my repentance for sin and my faith in Christ, where would I be today? What hope would I have? What kind of life would I be living? But the reality is that those questions are rendered irrelevant because God had chosen me before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4). He loved me, not because of any merit in me, but purely because he loved me (Deut. 7:7-8). That’s God’s sovereign grace.

III. The Final Deliverance: The Exodus (12:29-42)

The Midnight Judgement Executed. Just as Moses had warned Pharaoh earlier (11:4-8), so now his warning comes true (12:29). Now at midnight the Lord struck every firstborn male in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the prisoner who was in the dungeon, and every firstborn of the livestock” (12:29). God had given Pharaoh and the Egyptians nine opportunities to obey him, but they had refused God’s grace. Now, His judgement in Egypt is swift and certain.

Today, there are many who doubt and mock the notion that Jesus is coming again and that He will execute a universal and final judgement. As Peter tell us, 3 Scoffers will come in the last days scoffing and following their own evil desires, 4 saying, ‘Where is his coming that he promised? Ever since our ancestors fell asleep, all things continue as they have been since the beginning of creation’” (2 Pet. 3:3-4). We are living in the last days (i.e. the time between Christ’s first and second coming) and we are witnessing a significant increase in the intensity and extent of those who scoff at the second coming of Christ. They just don’t think it is true or even that it might happen, despite previous historical experiences. “ 5 They deliberately overlook this: By the word of God the heavens came into being long ago and the earth was brought about from water and through water. 6 Through these the world of that time perished when it was flooded. 7 By the same word, the present heavens and earth are stored up for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly” (2 Pet. 3:5-6). That’s the truth. Just as the ancient world was warned by God through Noah for many years that judgement was coming, and just as the people back then refused Noah’s warning and mocked his message, so now God has been warning people through the gospel for 2,000 years since the death of Christ and people generally still refuse to heed the warning and mock those who preach it.

“Don’t be deceived: God is not mocked. For whatever a person sows he will also reap” (Gal. 6:7). If you “sow” mockery against God’s word and His servants, be prepared to “reap” the consequences, which are clearly spelled out in Scripture. The apostle John puts it this way: 11 Then I saw a great white throne and one seated on it. Earth and heaven fled from his presence, and no place was found for them. 12 I also saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life, and the dead were judged according to their works by what was written in the books. 13 Then the sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them; each one was judged according to their works. 14 Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire” (Rev. 20:11-15). The consequence of mocking God and refusing to heed His warning of coming judgement is consignment to the lake of fire, forever. What an horrific prospect! And all because they refused to believe and obey God’s word.

Listen to Jesus’ words of warning: 24 Truly I tell you, anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not come under judgment but has passed from death to life. 25 Truly I tell you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. 26 For just as the Father has life in himself, so also he has granted to the Son to have life in himself. 27 And he has granted him the right to pass judgment, because he is the Son of Man. 28 Do not be amazed at this, because a time is coming when all who are in the graves will hear his voice 29 and come out—those who have done good things, to the resurrection of life, but those who have done wicked things, to the resurrection of condemnation” (Jn. 5:24-29).

It’s all a question of hearing Jesus’ voice and believing. It seems so simple and yet, like Pharaoh, man’s heart is so hard and man’s will is so stubborn. As with the Israelites who applied the blood to their houses, so all that is required now is to apply the blood of Christ to your life and be protected from coming judgement. Remember, God has “set a day when he is going to judge the world in righteousness by the man he has appointed. He has provided proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead” (Acts 17:31). Imagine that - the Lamb of God who was slain for the sins of the world will one day be its Judge.

The Wail of Death. In his righteous judgement, God struck every firstborn male in the land who was not covered by the blood - both human and animal, both rich and poor, powerful and weak, rulers and subjects, those in palaces and those in prisons. “During the night Pharaoh got up, he along with all his officials and all the Egyptians, and there was a loud wailing throughout Egypt because there wasn’t a house without someone dead” (12:30). That cry was so loud and so pervasive that it woke everyone from sleep, for every household had been struck with the death of their firstborn – everyone, that is, except the Israelites, for they were covered by the blood of the lamb and God was faithful to his promise to “not let the destroyer enter your houses to strike you” (12:23).

Pharaoh Relents. This time, Pharoah paid attention. Summoning Moses and Aaron during the night he told them to take the Israelites and their flocks and herds and “leave my people… and go, worship the Lord as you have asked, and leave, and this will also be a blessing to me” (12:31-32). Such is the fear that they were all going to die that the Egyptians couldn’t get rid of the Israelites fast enough (12:33-34). In fact, in response to their request, the Egyptians gave the Israelites their silver and gold jewelry and clothing. “In this way they plundered the Egyptians” (12:35-36). Those who had been plundered by the Egyptians for the entire time of their slavery were now the plunderers, as God had promised Moses (cf. 3:21-22). As the secular saying goes, “What goes around comes around.” God is a God of retributive justice and restitution.

A Mixed Crowd Leaves Egypt. The details concerning the exodus route, the people, and animals included in this vast crowd of migrants are interesting and informative (12:37-42). Of note is the expression “an ethnically diverse (i.e. “a mixed”) crowd also went up with them” (12:28). It seems that a crowd of non-Israelite people took advantage of the opportunity to leave Egypt. The reason is not given but we hear about them again described (lit.) as a “rabble, riffraff” (Numbers 11:4,) and again as “foreigners” (Deut. 29:11 ). Perhaps they had suffered so badly under the adverse conditions of the plagues that they saw this as their opportunity to escape. Or, perhaps they, like the Israelites, were foreigners who had been held in slavery in Egypt and were only too glad to get out of the country. But since they are described as a “rabble,” it is most likely that they were simply a conglomeration of discontented people, similar to those who joined David in his exile (1 Sam. 22:2). What is pertinent about this description is that they were non-Israelites, who evidently thought they could benefit from the Israelites and their God but who soon proved to be a thorn in Moses’ side, a greedy, discontented group of hangers-on. For, hardly had they been in the desert for long and they “craved” (hankered after, lusted intensely for) the food they had been used to in Egypt (Num. 11:4).

As is often the case, people with this kind of attitude always seem to infect the rest – people who don’t belong there but are going along for ride; people who don’t have the same faith, the same goals, or the same values as the rest; people who are not believers in the one true God but who are “mixed” in with those who are; people who only want personal benefit without personal cost; people who seem to always drag others down to their level. Once this factious group started complaining, it soon spread to the Israelites as well. 4 The riffraff among them had a strong craving for other food. The Israelites wept again and said, “Who will feed us meat? 5 We remember the free fish we ate in Egypt, along with the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic. 6 But now our appetite is gone; there’s nothing to look at but this manna!” (Num. 11:4-6).

Rankling among a fringe crowd burdens the others down, especially the leader, dragging everyone else down to their spiritual level. Their spiritual condition comes out under pressure and quickly taints the believers around them. When their hopes are not immediately satisfied, they turn on you. They are always comparing their present circumstances with the “good old days.” The present, for them, is never as good as the past. Funny, isn’t it, that such good old days should produce a people with such bad attitudes toward present circumstances.

In this case, the complaint was about the food. Egyptian food now never looked or tasted so good to them. They wanted the variety and taste of the old food, not this bland, repetitive food in the desert (Num. 11:7-8). Then Moses heard the people actually crying at the entrance to their tents, standing around complaining to one another, and he was provoked and “the Lord was very angry” (Num. 11:10).

Do we not see the same in evangelical churches? – a mixed crowd of believers and unbelievers; those who are sincere about their faith and others who are merely religious; some who genuinely desire to worship God and grow in their faith and others who want the benefits of a church community without embracing its spirituality. Of course, we want unbelievers to come to our churches, in the hope that they will be saved. But we need to be careful that we don’t let unbelievers mix in so secretly and pervasively that we lose sight of who is real and who is not. That’s when churches suddenly find themselves, unwittingly perhaps, admitting non-believers into membership and the whole tenor and structure and doctrinal beliefs of the church begin to be compromised.

A Night of Praise to God. Well, it’s only appropriate that this section concludes with a note of praise to God, reflecting on the Israelites’ history of slavery and their miraculous escape. 40 The time that the Israelites lived in Egypt was 430 years. 41 At the end of 430 years, on that same day, all the Lord’s military divisions went out from the land of Egypt. 42 It was a night of vigil in honor of the Lord, because he would bring them out of the land of Egypt. This same night is in honor of the Lord, a night vigil for all the Israelites throughout their generations” (12:40-42).

Final Remarks

The journey that we have taken in this study, and the previous study, has truly been extraordinary. I think we become so familiar with the Exodus story that we often lose sight of the magnitude of God’s sovereign power that is at work here. God’s statement to Moses when he commissioned him to lead his people out of slavery has come true (Ex. 3:7-10), despite all the opposition of the greatest power on earth. No one can withstand Him. By this demonstration of His great power, the Israelites now knew that “I am the Lord their God, who brought them out of the land of Egypt, so that I might dwell among them. I am the Lord their God” (Ex. 29:46) and that “there is no God but me” (Isa. 45:5-6; cf. 43:11).

Remember my thesis at the beginning of this study: Despite the opposition of the strongest earthly powers, God is supreme above all. He always keeps his word and accomplishes his purposes.

Though God is a God of grace and mercy, “not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9), there is a limit to His patience. We see that here in this final judgement in Egypt. And we will see it again at the end of this church age, when the Lord Jesus Christ will complete the redemption of his people by translating them from earth to heaven (Jn. 14:3; 1 Thess. 4:14-18) and unbelievers will remain to face his wrath and final judgement (Jn. 3:16-18, 36; Rev. 20:11-15).

Then, God’s awesome power and supreme authority will be confessed by all, for in that day “every knee will bow - of those who are in heaven and on the earth and under the earth - and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:10-11).

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