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The Plague, the Passover and the Propitiation

The greatest plague that infected virtually the whole world was the Spanish Flu (1918–1920). In Spanish: La Gripe Española. It infected over 500 million people, about a quarter of the world’s population at the time.  Possibly 50 million people died in countries from France to Brazil to India to Ghana.

The Plagues of Exodus

The greatest grouping of plagues in the Bible is found in Exodus 7–12. The 10 plagues sent by God through Moses his messenger on their Egyptian oppressors are well known. They were God’s acts of judgement on Pharaoh and Egypt for enslaving his people. But God’s acts of rightful judgement were accompanied by whispers of mercy. Why ten and not merely one or two? Was it not God’s mercy to repeatedly send his messenger with his message and with a sign? We often speak of the God of the 2nd chance. Here in Exodus, it is the God of the 9th chance!

Why ten and not merely one or two? Was it not God’s mercy to repeatedly send his messenger with his message and with a sign?

A clear sign of God’s mercy in the midst of judgement is the fact that there were Egyptians who listened to God’s messenger. Heeding his message they were saved from certain judgement and death. In the 7th plague of hail, some of the servants of Pharaoh feared the Word of the Lord and hurried their slaves and livestock into the houses. (Exodus 9, 20) This reminds us that God’s covenant with Abraham was not only for Israel but for all nations. Israel was not saved from death because of her DNA, but because she listened to God’s message from the lips of God’s messenger.

The Passover

Central to the message of the Old Testament must be the Passover (Exodus 12, 1-30). The final sign of God’s judgement on Egypt was the death of the firstborn throughout the land. From Pharaoh to the slave girl to cattle grazing in the fields. It must be central to the Old Testament, as there is no other event in Old Testament history where God tells Israel to change their calendar. Surely this event will never be forgotten. God intended for his people to remember it.

God’s covenant with Abraham was not only for Israel but for all nations. Israel was not saved from death because of her DNA, but because she listened to God’s message from the lips of God’s messenger

But was the death of the firstborn the final word? Is that how Israel would commemorate that dark night? No, it was the death of a lamb, the Passover lamb. Whose warm blood was painted onto the door and lintels of houses. What a strange and gory sight! Yet it was precisely this sight of blood that would cause God to avert his wrath. Quite striking that in each of the previous nine plagues we read that Moses’ outstretched hand brought destruction. But in the 10th plague, God himself causes death.

The Greatest Plague

For any Christian who knows their Bible, we all know that the greatest plague on planet earth is not described in numbers such as COVID-19. For it is described in letters. In fact three letters, one word: sin. That is the greatest plague and pathology haunting the human race. The mother of all plagues has been with us since the Fall. When God’s creatures, Adam and Eve, rebelled against their Creator and brought God’s justifiable judgement and curse upon the human race. Our world hates the concept of original sin. But how else can we even begin to describe the destruction of the original plague on both the universe and every single human being through the ages?

Our world hates the concept of original sin. But how else can we even begin to describe the destruction of the original plague on both the universe and every single human being through the ages?

Good Friday: Propitiation and Passover

Today is Good Friday. Good Friday is always on the day of the Passover. The Jewish Passover commemorates that first Passover where God’s wrath was averted by the blood of a lamb.

Strikingly, when John the Baptist first saw Jesus he said, “Behold the Lamb of God”. Not the lion of God but the lamb!  Equally striking is that when Jesus the lamb of God was crucified, Matthew the Jew tells us that it is the Passover (Matthew 27). Knowing that Jesus dies on the Passover, Matthew reminds his readers of the last two plagues before the original Passover. Just as there were 3 days of darkness in Egypt, so there are 3 hours of darkness in Jerusalem. Just as the last plague was the death of the firstborn in every home in Egypt, so we now see the death of the firstborn from a home in Bethlehem. The greatest plague and pathology of the human race deserves the greatest outpouring of God’s wrath.

Just as the last plague was the death of the firstborn in every home in Egypt, so we now see the death of the firstborn from a home in Bethlehem

The Blood of the Lamb

How monstrous it is that the creature should rebel against her Creator. No wonder we see death and judgement. So the Creator himself acts in judgement when his only begotten Son cries,” My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Yet again, we see God’s judgement accompanied by God’s mercy. But this time not in black and white, but in full technicolour. God’s full and perfect wrath is poured out upon the firstborn from Bethlehem. But this firstborn did not deserve to die. He knew no sin and was eternally begotten. Propitiation simply means to turn aside the wrath of God. The final lamb of God from Bethlehem shed his blood so that those who believe in Him shall not perish, like the many firstborn spared in Egypt.

It’s not called Black Friday but Good Friday, the day when God’s mercy and justice met on the cross.

 

How extraordinary! God’s eternally begotten firstborn, God’s final lamb quenches the wrath of God so that we might receive mercy and be forgiven. The curse of the final plague is broken. The sting of death is lifted. Those who believe are free! It’s not called Black Friday but Good Friday, the day when God’s mercy and justice met on the cross. The astounding result was an offer of forgiveness for those who bowed the knee to the eternal lamb of God. God’s final messenger brings God’s final message of mercy to whoever will believe. Whoever. Even you. If not today, when?

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