Exodus 11 – On Promises and the Killing of the Firstborn

Exodus 11 Bible with Equal Exchange Organic Dark Chocolate Mint Crunch

Today’s ChocolateEqual Exchange Organic Dark Chocolate Mint Crunch

Today’s PassageExodus 11

We’ve got a short one today. This chapter serves as prelude to the last plague, the calm before the final storm. It calls back to several events that God predicted previously, so we’re going to look back at those previous passages, in the interest of actually having something to talk about. Ha! I’m not being entirely facetious.

After all, we’re coming to this chapter in a chronological context. And in the burning bush, the very first time that Moses spoke with God, God made a promise to him. He told him: “I will grant this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, and it shall be that when you go, you will not go empty-handed” (3:21). And today, after eight long chapters of not becoming outrageously wealthy, the Israelites become outrageously wealthy. Via Moses, God commands the people to ask the Egyptians for gold and silver items, and the Egyptians are glad to give them, because “he Lord gave the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians…so that they let them have their request” (11:2, 12:36). God is able to affect not only our bodies via natural physical phenomena, he’s also able to move our inner persons toward affections like generosity, even if we, like the Egyptians, are largely in the practice of worshipping things that are not him. He can, in fact, do anything whatsoever. He’s our Creator.

God also has promised to slay the firstborn child of every living being in order to convince Pharaoh to release Israel, and here Moses delivers that promise to Pharaoh. When Moses returned from Midian to Egypt, God gave him a message for Egypt’s ruler: “Israel is My son, My firstborn. So I said to you, ‘Let My son go that he may serve Me,’ but you have refused to let him go. Behold, I will kill your son, your firstborn” (4:22-23). Pharaoh has enslaved the children of Israel and disrespected their God. In order to free them, God will take Pharaoh’s own heir; only then will Pharaoh stop standing between the children of Israel and their own inheritance as God’s firstborn.

I can’t help but think that Luke has this idea in mind when he calls Jesus “firstborn” (Luke 2:7, 2:23), or when John refers to him as God’s “only begotten Son” (John 3:16). God chose Israel, actually the marginally-younger of two twins, to be his actual heir. But if we look ahead, we’ll see the people of Israel failing time and time again to behave as an heir should. They disobey, they neglect or forget to observe the Torah, and they leave their true Father for other gods. Jesus is the firstborn son that the entire nation should have been, the true and obedient son; Jesus is the Israel that Israel was meant to be. Yet, strangely enough, his perfection as the Son is what allows him to step into the role of the condemned firstborn, the one killed to pay the price for humanity’s sin and to secure humanity’s freedom.

Jesus Christ is both the Son who dies and the Son who lives. He died to free us from our oppressors without and our hard-heartedness within, and he died to give us life.

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