In today’s reading we find ourselves with the Israelites between the passover escape and the crossing of the Red Sea toward God’s promised land. Moses declares God’s instructions for Israel and for the future generations to come, which centre around the remembrance of their deliverance from Egyptian slavery. Two specific rituals are instructed:
The Feast of Unleavened Bread
Previously mentioned before the passover, this feast is a continuation from the Passover Feast and sees all Israel refrain from keeping and using any leaven, such as yeast, in their bread for seven days and it concludes with a feast. A couple of theological points could be drawn from this Feast. Firstly, leaven served to symbolise sin which when present increases; putting away leaven was a reminder to put away all sin before a holy God who judges righteously.
Secondly, the putting away of Leaven was to remind the Israelites of how suddenly and quickly God moved to rescue Israel from enslavement wherein they had no time to even allow their bread to rise.
Consecration of the Firstborn
The Israelites were to set apart sacrificially to God all the firstborn of Israel and of their livestock (vv.1-2, vv.12-14). For the Israelites, every firstborn child was to be redeemed (or reclaimed), by the price of a substitute lamb sacrificed in their place. For the much needed load-bearing livestock, namely donkeys, a lamb could be sacrificed as a substitute for their firstborn to be redeemed and if not the animal must be killed.
All this served to communicate a number of points. Firstly, the Israelites were to remember how God required of the Egyptians their firstborn and by the sacrifice of a substitute lamb God’s wrath passed over Israel and they escaped Egypt unscathed. Additionally, the Israelites were to remember that God’s salvation was costly – it came at the price of death to a substitute. Millions of livestock would die yearly to commemorate this event and highlight this point. Moreover, It was a prophetic signpost to the greater and more costly sacrifice of God’s Son Jesus Christ for the redemption of all mankind.
As believers in Christ we must never lose sight of the sheer magnitude of the cost of our salvation – the spilt blood of God. In essence, we are indebted to God, and compelled to consecrate and devote ourselves to serving him though we could never fully pay for what God had sacrificed for us. Paul captures this in his letters to the churches where he implores “..You are no longer your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your bodies” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) and “present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1). God’s redemption translates to deliverance from sins followed by transformed lives.
Pillar of Cloud and Pillar of Fire
The story of the exodus points to the deeper spiritual reality that God’s deliverance from death isn’t His chief blessing, rather his uppermost blessing is His presence. We see in the account following their deliverance, God doesn’t simply now leave the Israelites to fend for themselves. Instead God’s presence leads the Israelites in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. His glory was incredibly physically manifested before them, as if He were almost taking them by the hand through their hard journey. What joy and security they must have felt. Whatever journey you’re on today, trust that God intends the very best for you; you knowing, enjoying and being led by His presence into all good paths, are all part of this..