In Christ our Passover, we have been spared the "grim reaper"
And this action of God against Egypt isn’t mere vengeance. God singles out the gods of Egypt even as he strikes down the firstborn. His aim isn’t just the people of Egypt, but their belief system. He will not only crush Pharaoh, but the philosophy of the serpent acting out behind Pharaoh. God doesn’t merely verbalize his exclusivity as the One True God who created heaven and earth. God acts out his anger and his jealousy of anything that would set itself up against him and rob him of his glory. Even as Israel eats and posts the blood on the doorposts, strongholds are being destroyed. The fleeting pleasures of sin and the wealth of Egypt (Hebrews 11:25-26) that tempted Moses and God’s people are being destroyed. God exacts punishment on a rebellious Pharaoh, an oppressive people, and their false gods, while Israel partakes of the Passover meal. Israel’s table is spread in the presence of its enemies.
The “I will’s” of Exodus 12:12-13 and 12:23 note Egypt’s judgment at God’s personal hand: “I will pass through”. “I will strike”. “I will execute”. The very I AM that appeared to Moses in a burning bush that was not consumed will himself consume the Egyptians. He will pass through the land. In chapter 12 he says he will go “in the midst of Egypt”. This I AM, who the Egyptians thought was just another distant god, is going to descend from heaven and will himself walk up and down the streets of Egypt as a death angel (Exodus 12:23) . If ever there was a biblical precedent for the popular notion of a grim reaper, it belongs to this night.
The judgment theme of the Passover is highlighted by the language Moses uses to describe the event. The Passover is an early precursor or foreshadowing of “the day of the Lord”. What had earlier been described as “this day” (Exodus 12:14), is later in the chapter described as “that day” (Exodus 12:41,51) . Even as history is given a new calendar as a nation is born, the birth is couched in what is called Apocalyptic language. Later writers of the Bible will come to speak of “the day of the Lord” (Isaiah 13:6,9; Jeremiah 46:10; Ezekiel 13:5, 30:3; Joel 1:15, 2:1,11, 3:14; Amos 5:18,20; Obadiah 15, Zephaniah 1:7,8,14). “The day of the Lord” is a terrible day in which God executes judgment on his enemies and saves his people. Here in the Passover and exodus, there is a hint of that “day of the Lord” as Israel is saved and Egypt is damned.
What horrific language describes the wake of God’s death angel: “there was a great cry in Egypt” (Exodus 12:30). God executes his judgment against Egypt and its gods, leaving in his terrible wake the weeping and gnashing of teeth in every Egyptian home. As Israel makes its grand departure to a land flowing with milk and honey, it is leaving hell on earth.
Yet God’s people are spared God wrath in his “day”. The Passover sacrifice is also God’s protection of his people from judgment. Once the blood was on the doorposts and the meal had begun, no one was allowed to leave the house and only those who were in the house would be protected. The house was their “ark” of protection. God himself would protect his people even as God’s poured out his fury on the Egyptians. Why? Because the Passover isn’t just *a* sacrifice. It is an atonement sacrifice. The blood on the doorposts spares the inhabitants inside the house from God’s wrath. A life is exchange for a life. The death of the lamb gives life to the firstborn son.
In the Passover, Israel isn’t being saved merely from her slavery. In the Passover, Israel is being saved from God’s wrath. It is the death of the lamb and the proclamation of its blood that mediates God’s judgment and breathes life into Israel, sparing them from damnation and giving rise to their obedience and worship. This new people that will be birthed on the original Passover night is a people on whom God’s favor rests.
The judgment and mercy themes of the Passover are ultimately manifested in THE Passover Lamb, who provided salvation for his people and executed judgment on his enemies in his death and resurrection. It is in Christ’s death, a life was exchanged for a life, and in this instance the lamb is itself a firstborn Son. Christ the Passover lamb has spared the lives of his people in satisfying God’s wrath and keeping the death angel at bay with his blood proclaimed on the doorposts of his own body. We have been spared Egypt's damnation because God saw Christ's blood and his spotlessness as a lamb, judgment was mediated, and the Father "passed over" us even as he imputed Christ's spotlessness to us. We can say with the angels that we are a people on whom God's favor rests. -- crb; "Banquet in the Wilderness: The Passover", mp3