Exodus 13:1-16

January 15, 2018

More unleavened bread. You never did know there was so much on unleavened bread in such a section of the Bible, did you? You signed on for plagues and confrontations and the Exodus itself. Charlton Heston’s got to strike his pose at the climax of this thing, after all. 


Yet right here when things have amped up and gotten exciting, we’re treated to instructions on firstborn people and animals and a reminder about unleavened bread. It is unlikely Moses would have gotten this manuscript past an associate editor at HarperCollins or Simon & Schuster with such a break in the narrative. Yet, the Holy Spirit occupies the office of editor (and author) here, so we have an interestingly structured narrative. 


So why bother with the firstborn and the unleavened bread (again)? 


In bringing up the firstborn, the children of Israel immediately find themselves reminded of the action God took to judge Egypt. Recall Exodus 12:30 reported no house in Egypt remained untouched by death. The Egyptian firstborn died under God’s judgment. God now calls his people to forever remember his work in saving them. The Egyptian firstborn lay dead while the Israelite firstborn live. All of this came to pass because of the action of God. The people must remember they owe their lives and the lives of their children to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The sacrifice of the animals good for eating calls their minds to meditate on the provision of God for them great and small. The redemption of their firstborn children as well as their work animals does the same. 


Why the unleavened bread then? As Moses already related, the unleavened bread served as a food easily consumed in haste, and its institution as a permanent ordinance would remind the people of God delivering them from Egypt. Its employment in the situation served the purpose of making the people of God ready to make a rapid departure. Its continued use by the people of God would firmly root a cultural memory of God’s action to swiftly remove them from the land of slavery. 


Simple enough, right? 


Perhaps, but what does it have to do with a person reading it today?


There could possibly be more than one answer to that question, but one of the primary answers is this: to know God as a saving God, we must know how he saves. 


In the case of Israel exiting Egypt, God saved through the judgment on the Egyptians for their enslavement of the people of Israel and their complicity in Pharaoh’s plan to murder their children as babies. He then caused the people of Israel to make their exit from their captors hastily. Knowing that he saved them certainly remained a matter of importance. Knowing how he saved them proved equally as important. 


The primary place of such knowledge persists today.


This of it this way: what is the Christian gospel without the cross? Is this not how God saves his people? If it does not have the primary place in the Christian gospel, then why would Paul resolve only to know the crucified Christ (1 Corinthians 2:2)? A gospel without the means of salvation turns out to be no gospel at all. God as a saving God with no action to it is nothing more than an abstraction. He’s certainly not saving anyone from anything. The Exodus saved the people of Israel from slavery, and the cross saves Christians from their sin and its penalty. 


Jesus is no one’s Savior by simple fiat. The plan of God to save those whom he foreknew played out on the cross. The decree in eternity past became fulfilled in space and time on a tree staked atop Golgotha. Jesus does not save abstractly, but in the concrete. Abstract salvation will comfort no soul in its darkest night, but a Savior bleeding out his very life for the ones he loves will prove his care and desire for the salvation for any who would come to him.


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