The beginning of Exodus culminates at chapter 12, the tenth plague – the death of the firstborn in Egypt and the Passover for the Israelites. This is quickly followed by the Exodus itself. When God gives instructions to Moses and Aaron, he tells them, “This month shall be for you the beginning of months. It shall be the first month of the year for you” (Ex 12:2). There is a division introduced. What came before is marked off from what follows. Setting the beginning of months to coincide with the Passover highlights that something new is happening. The people of Israel enter into a new era, which the Passover marks. The judgment on the Egyptians was at the same time a vindication of Israel as God’s people.
For the Christian, the symbolism is clear, because Paul makes it clear. In 1 Corinthians 5:7, Paul says, “Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.” While there is symbolism surrounding the leaven and the fact that Israel was to rid their houses of it, the Passover is the thing to see here. Paul calls the Lord Jesus “our Passover.” As the Israelites were safe from the destroying angel by being “under the blood” so also is it now. The Gospel promises freedom from the slavery of sin to those—and only to those—who are under the blood of Christ. He, our Passover, redeems us from the bondage of sin.
God was demonstrating the significance of the Passover with this calendar reset, making it the beginning of their year. Directly following this came the Exodus and their departure from Egypt. They left in haste, not least because the Egyptians wanted them to leave immediately. When the Egyptians pursued them, Israel crossed the Red Sea on dry ground, another miraculous working of God on their behalf. When the Egyptians pursued, they are drowned in the Red Sea. Later parts of Scripture return to this, to remind Israel of exactly what God did for them.
The psalmist says this in Psalm 106:9-10:
“He rebuked the Red Sea, and it became dry,
and he led them through the deep as through a desert.
So he saved them from the hand of the foe
and redeemed them from the power of the enemy.”
Later in the psalm, there is a second reference to “awesome deeds by the Red Sea” (v. 22).
Psalm 136 also reminds the people that God divided the Red Sea in two and overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red Sea. (Psalm 136:13,15) These psalms remind the reader of the foundational nature of what God did for Israel in the parting of the sea and delivering the people.
For the Christian, there is a lesson that as the cross represents our redemption, we do not outgrow the need to consider it, to remember what God has done for us. We return to it, again and again, to remind ourselves of all the glorious truths bound up in redemption, and in the Redeemer. They were to give thanks to him who overthrew Pharaoh and his hosts, so also we offer glory and thanks “to him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood” (Revelation 1:5). The cross is the foundational truth of the Christian life. We don’t get beyond considering it, and what God in Christ has accomplished there.
Christian, keep the cross front and center in your thinking and in your relationship with the Lord. Do not think there is something beyond this, or that having been born-again, you can move on to “deeper truths.” There is no deeper truth or greater wonder than what God has accomplished at Calvary. We return to this as a north star, with thankfulness for such a great salvation.
Matt Ferris lives in Wheaton, Illinois and is involved in Bible study ministry in his local church. He is also active in children's ministry and has written a number of hymns. His books include Evangelicals Adrift: Supplanting Scripture with Sacramentalism, If One Uses It Lawfully: The Law of Moses and the Christian Life and Losing Religion, Finding Jesus: Moving beyond Cultural Christianity. He and his wife have been married since 1987 and have four adult children and six grandchildren. He blogs at gentlemantheologian.com. You can follow him on Twitter @ferrismattic.