Posted by Craig Borlase on 10 June 2014

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, ‘This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year. Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household. If any household is too small for a whole lamb, they must share one with their nearest neighbour, having taken into account the number of people there are. You are to determine the amount of lamb needed in accordance with what each person will eat. The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the members of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the door-frames of the houses where they eat the lambs. That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast. Do not eat the meat raw or boiled in water, but roast it over a fire – with the head, legs and internal organs. Do not leave any of it till morning; if some is left till morning, you must burn it. This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the Lord’s Passover.

‘On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord. The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.

Exodus 12:1-13

This passage comes on the eve of the Israelite's miraculous escape from the hands of the Egyptians - you know, the one with Moses, the parting of the Red Sea and all that. So here we are as God prepares to send his judgement down on the people who have enslaved and oppressed his own. To say that it's scary stuff is a bit of an understatement: this is a matter of life and death and if the instructions are not carried out to the letter then death will come to the firstborn of the house.

These instructions are full of meaning, like the fact that the lamb or kid was to be a year old male - much more expensive than a female - that was perfect. The blood loss that caused its death was to be a token of the sacrifice, one that God would recognise. The way that it was to be completely consumed showed that the whole animal was to be considered part of the sacrifice. 

So what do we have? God's judgement was due on a whole bunch of people who had done wrong. For others - for his own people - these instructions were the way to avoid that judgement. Only something that was costly could pay price, and what's more, only someone who obeyed his instructions would know how to prepare themselves. Oh, and one last thing, God told them to remember this Passover every year from then on.

The pattern formed here, with God saving his people from his judgement, is significant. As God guides them carefully through steps which will in turn become deeply symbolic rituals, He isn’t jet foreshadowing the ultimate sacrifice that His Son will pay, He is demonstrating the way that the physical is all part of the spiritual.

We talk a lot about our sung worship as an offering, and to some this can be quite confusing. How can singing be something that God finds especially pleasing? Is it too quiet in heaven? Is there some strange energy transfer when we get goosebumps from a euphoric chorus?

No. But our bodies - and what we do with them - matter. It’s good that we gather together to remind ourselves of God’s love, mercy, sacrifice and commission. But these moments in themselves are not the total - or the pinnacle - of our worship. The choices we make when we’re away from the worship service matter more than the emotions we feel or the grand words we sing when we’re up the front of church. 

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