And they’re off! All 600,000 men, plus women and children. Perhaps making our grand total of Israelite’s hittin’ the road between two and three million. It’s only a guess, we won’t argue about it. But keep in mind Exodus 1 said God multiplied them greatly. And Moses says to the people in Deuteronomy 10:22, “Your Fathers went down to Egypt seventy persons, and now the LORD your God has made you as numerous as the stars of heaven.”
Devotional Scripture: Exodus 12:37-13:16
Key Verse: “Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the age has come.” 1 Corinthians 10:11
Can you imagine the potty stops with all those people? This was some caravan. Laden with the treasury of Egypt, did they have carts to pull and wagons to pile their stuff in or did they carry it all?
According to Exodus 3:22 they were to have their sons and daughters wear the jewelry they’d acquired. Perhaps here is where we get the phrase “travel in style.” Those kids were looking good. With moms and dads keeping close watch on their littles, I imagine an air of excitement permeated the people.
“Can you believe we’re doing this?”
“I never thought it’d happen!”
“Joseph, slow down, wait for mommy” (Oh you know there was some of that.)
Fresh off the heels of God’s deliverance, I’d say they were happy to carry their kneading bowls of unleavened bread on their shoulders. Shifting baskets of goods from one hip to another. “Don’t worry about it, we’re free!” I’d have been giddy – a fresh start before me.
Like we often are when someone comes to Christ. Freed from the grip of sin, granted new life in Christ, we celebrate, don’t we? We hug and cry tears of joy, exhaling big sighs of relief that our dear friend is now a sister in Christ. And they, cleansed, made new, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, experience a fresh start.
But then what? Usually it doesn’t take long and we (they) are back to reality. Oh yeah, I’m still a sinner. The Christian walk a little more taxing than we thought, we grumble. We grow weary. We sit down. We question. We waiver. We doubt. (See any of that in the book of Exodus? Um, yes.)
Because their story of redemption, echoes ours not only in the rescuing part, but in the journey also. So by stepping back and looking at Israel’s ride, we can gain a better understanding of not only God’s expectations for us. (And His love and patience.) But it also offers a glimpse of what might be waiting for us over the horizon. 1 Corinthians 10:11 says, “Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction.”
Specifically, I see five takeaways in today’s passage:
- The Feast of Unleavened Bread was immediate.
Directly following the Passover (the night of their redemption) came the Feast of Unleavened bread. From the fourteenth through the twenty-first of the month of Abib, they were to eat nothing with yeast to commemorate their Egyptian exodus. “For seven days no leaven is to be found in your houses” (Ex. 12:19).
Yeast or leaven often a picture of sin in Scripture, Jesus told the disciples to be careful of the leaven of the Pharisees (Matthew 16:6). (Because a little bit of sin can permeate the whole batch of dough. You get the idea.) But what got me here is the timing of the feast. It started the day of Passover. Not a few days later or two months down the road, but that day. A picture to us of immediately, in Christ, leaving our life of sin behind. Not next month or two years from now. But at the point of salvation, having been cleansed by the blood of the Lamb, we’re called to live a righteous, holy life.
- God took them the long way.
Verse 37 says, “The people of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth.” Away from the land of the Philistines, though that would have been the shortest route (Ex. 13:17). Then from Succoth they went to Etham and then turned back to Pi-hahiroth (Ex. 14:2), where they found themselves in a bit of a pickle. But it was there between the Sea and an approaching Egyptian army (because Pharaoh had changed his mind), that they experienced one of the most remarkable miracles of all time – the parting of the Red Sea.
Ever feel like God’s taking you the long way? Uh-huh. Yet just like with Israel, maybe he’s protecting us from a battle we aren’t prepared to fight. (They weren’t ready to face the Philistines.) Or maybe he’s leading you to a place where his power and protection and providence will be so evident, like the parting of the Red Sea, you’ll praise him for it the rest of your life. Keep in mind the route made no sense to Israel, but made perfect sense to God.
- They were told to remember.
“This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast” (Ex. 12:14). Remembering was everything. If they forgot, they’d turn away. So, from the get-go they were told to celebrate annually the Passover and Feast of Unleavened bread.
We’re not to forget either. Meeting together on Sunday’s, we remember. Partaking in communion, we remember. Annually celebrating the resurrection at Easter, we remember. Or do we? Distracted by the music we don’t like or the events going on later that day or Aunt Margaret’s comment to me last year at the Easter gather, do we remember?
- They were to consecrate to God all the firstborn.
Whether it was an animal or a child, the firstborn belonged to God. The firstborn acting as a representative of each one to come after, it established God’s ownership over a family. How’d they do this? Well, if it was a firstborn ox, sheep, or goat, it was sacrificed on the altar. But if it was a donkey or a child, a lamb was offered in its place. (Anyone else find it interesting we’re in the same category as donkeys? Both stubborn, both unclean – the only answer is a substitute!)
Later on, in Numbers 18 the redemption price for a firstborn son was set at five shekels of silver. (Joseph and Mary even paid this for Jesus.) A reminder to every set of new parents that they’re kids belonged to God. Today we might do a baby dedication at church, and the idea is the same. The key is to follow through with it, trusting that God loves our kids even more than we do.
- The enemy wasn’t far behind.
Fresh out of the gate and who was behind them? Pharaoh and the hosts of Egypt. A vivid reminder there’s an active enemy out there, pursuing us with all they’ve got. 1 Peter 5:8 says “Be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
So what do we do? We stand firm in our faith (1 Peter 5:9). Because just like God showed up for Israel, he’ll show up for us. Restoring, confirming, strengthening, and establishing us in Christ (1 Peter 5:10).
The parallels are many my friend, but the promises are more. So don’t lose heart – take heart. Jesus will walk us through it. Just like He did, hour by hour, day by day, with Israel.
Contemplate and Evaluate:
What parallels do you see between Israel’s journey out of Egypt and the Christian life?
Which parallel are you dealing with right now?
What promise can you hold onto to make sure you are standing firm in the faith?