What radical steps would you take to prove your faith?
How far would you go if you felt the Lord telling you to do something radical?
What if it could cost you everything?
There are many examples in the Bible of women and men risking everything for God. But one of the greatest examples of an entire people group risking everything, even their entire history, to prove their faith is often lost in the shuffle of glossing over a story many Jews, Christians and even non-believers know quite well.
If God is all knowing, why did the Hebrews have to paint their lintels and doorposts with blood for Passover? After all, wouldn’t He know who was Hebrew and who wasn’t?
Haven’t you ever wondered? On the surface, it just doesn’t make any sense.
God is God, right? God knows everything, right?
So why the heck did the Hebrews have to paint their houses in blood so He would know who was who?
If God is “all knowing” and “all powerful,” why did the Hebrews have to paint their lintels and doorposts with lamb’s blood for Passover?
I am going to assume you know the basics of Passover and that you are Biblically familiar with Exodus (or maybe Exodus: Gods and Kings. My friend, Tim Albury, has a great blog entry on this movie, if it’s your only source of knowledge on the subject).
But if you aren’t familiar, and even if you are, let me reacquaint you:
Moses is told by God to go before Pharaoh to demand the release of the Hebrews, slaves of the Egyptians for 400 years. Under God’s authority, nine plagues have struck the land, yet Pharaoh still refuses to release his cherished slaves (Exodus 5-10). Moses & Aaron go again before Pharaoh and tell him that if Pharaoh again refuses, that God will release upon Egypt the most devastating plague of all, the 10th plague, the death of the firstborn.
And Pharaoh, since his heart is hard and he‘s recognized as a god himself, refuses (Exodus 11).
Personally, I would have let them go at the boils. Yechhh. But of course, I’m no god-king (but I’ve been known to think I’m one according to people who don’t like me).
The Lord commands Moses to tell the Hebrews that on the 10th day of the month that each Hebrew household must select an unblemished 1 year old male sheep (also referred to as a ram-lamb). This animal will be set apart and tended to for 4 days, and then killed at twilight on the 14th day of the month. The Hebrews are told to eat the animals & then to paint the lintels and doorposts of their homes with the lamb’s blood. The blood of these animals will mark the homes of the Hebrew faithful so that when the destroyer passes through Egypt to strike down the firstborn of the land, the Hebrews will be spared (Exodus 12:1-28).
True to His word, the Lord allows the destroyer to pass through Egypt & strike every firstborn down. Amidst the sounds of wailing and the death of his son, Pharaoh summons Moses and Aaron, ordering the Hebrews to leave Egypt. These events mark the beginning of the exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt, and as a people they are to observe this Passover event for all time (Exodus 12:29-51).
Every Jew and most Christians can tell you this story. Christians especially delight in talking about covering the lintels and doorposts with the blood of the lamb because we believe that the Passover Lamb was a foreshadowing and symbolic of the sacrifice of Jesus as a release from our slavery to sin. And that is all true. There are plenty of New Testament verses to directly and indirectly back that up: 1st Corinthians 5:7, John 1:29, 1st Peter 1:19, Hebrews 4:15, Revelation 5:6 and Mark 14:12.
And I get that. It is a proper answer. It is a true answer.
But there is another answer to why the Hebrew people had to use the blood of the lamb-ram on their lintels and doorposts…an answer that goes much deeper into the war between the belief in God and that of the gods of the Egyptians, and what faith can cost to those who say they believe in Yahweh.
And it has nothing to do with God not knowing who was Hebrew and who wasn’t.
Did you know that the plagues of the Bible weren’t just random occurrences? Most folks read of the plagues and go, “wow, that sucked for them,” but they have no idea what those plagues were signs of.
Take a look at the accompanying graph. Each plague was designed with an Egyptian deity in mind, weakening their status in the minds of the Hebrews in comparison with Yahweh.
After all, doesn’t God say, “I will execute judgment against all the gods of Egypt, for I am the LORD!” in Exodus 12:12?
What, did you think Exodus was just about the Lord freeing His chosen people?
But back to our focus question.
If God is omniscient and all powerful, why did He require the Hebrews to paint their lintels and doorposts with lamb’s blood when he passed over? Wouldn’t He know who was Hebrew and who wasn’t?
I was in 1st grade in Christian school when I asked a teacher this question.
I still remember her looking at me like I had five heads. She had no idea how to respond.
I got that A LOT when I was a kid. Okay, in all honesty folks still look at me that way now.
So let’s just dive in.
For over 400 years the beliefs of the Hebrews had intermingled with those of the Egyptians and they had begun to worship the gods of the Egyptians (and now you understand why they were so quick to build a golden calf a short time later (but that’s another blog post for another time)). Throughout their history the Hebrews were known as an idolatrous lot & this was true while they were in captivity. In order for the Hebrews to see the might of the God of their fathers, the I AM, and see that He was the Most High God, they had to witness momentous plagues, abandon their beliefs in the Egyptian gods and then commit a radical act of faith.
Something that said we believe.
Like Abraham, the Hebrews would have to demonstrate a radical act of obedience.
Let’s just get this out there…God knows everything. He knew who was where. And He knew who was loyal to him. He knew the hearts of His people.
But His people had to show their faith. They had to be obedient.
They had to face a test of belief.
The ram (a one year old male sheep is called a ram-lamb) was sacred to the Egyptians. The ram symbolized the god Khnum. He was worshiped as the creator of life and of the Nile, the lifeblood of the god Osiris. Also known as the father of fathers, the Egyptians believed Khnum created children on his potter’s wheel & placed them in their mothers’ womb. It was against the law to harm a lamb-ram (outside of temple sacrifice).
And, this is important, it was a crime punishable by death (forced suicide).
So let’s step out of our 21st century mindsets and honestly look at what Yahweh was asking the Hebrews to do. And don’t forget, they were slaves in the land of cruel masters:
- Each household was to take a one year old unblemished male lamb-ram from their flock.
- Tend to this ram-lamb for four days publicly.
- Ignore the beliefs and laws of their masters and kill the sacred animals at twilight four days later in public.
- After killing the lamb, they were to consume them in private.
- And finally, in a demonstration of protection of their God, they were to paint their lintels and doorposts with their blood!
Holy lamb-chops, Batman!
What do you think the Egyptian reaction to this would be?
Do you think the Hebrews would have done this if they hadn’t seen the newly re-acquainted God of their fathers moving in power? Once again, we have to remember that the Hebrews had forgotten much of their past and had instead turned to the gods of Egypt. The other plagues were not just warnings. They were systematic strikes against the gods of Egypt, each plague demonstrating the power of the Hebrew God over the gods of their oppressors…gods they had come to worship as their own.
Can you imagine the faith it took for the Hebrews to commit to this request, knowing that if their God did not come through, that they faced death? Not only did they have to kill these animals, but they had to cover their doors with the animals’ blood. If God didn’t come through, it wouldn’t be hard to track the families down who committed these acts.
Just imagine! It was an either/or situation. Either don’t kill the lambs and maybe have your firstborn taken by the destroyer sent by God…or definitely die at the hands of the Egyptians for sacrificing the one animal that represented their creator god and creator of children.
What would you do in that situation?
This was a gut punch to the Egyptians who viewed the lamb-ram as symbolic of the powerful creator god Khnum. Think about how many Hebrews were in Egypt at that time. Some estimates put the number at 3.5 million! So let’s divide that number arbitrarily by 10. That means at twilight on the fourteenth day of Nisan, its possible 350,000 lamb-rams were sacrificed all at once! Imagine what this sounded and looked like to the Egyptians. And not only that, but for those same Egyptians to awaken in the morning to find all their firstborn dead.
Their symbolic representation of their Egyptian creator god had been slain on a mass scale. ALL of their firstborn…dead.
It is no accident that Yahweh selected the god Khnum & Pharaoh as the focus for the tenth plague. This was a demonstration of the fact that only one God creates life, that Yahweh is the only God who can create something from nothing and that there will be only ONE God-King to walk upon the face of the earth.
There is only one giver of life. But if you believe, you have to put your faith out there. We are all called to demonstrate our faith no matter the cost.
And there is only one holy Lamb, and His blood would cover the sins of the world.
Wow. Exodus just took on a whole deeper meaning.
So what do you believe? And just how far would you go to prove it?
There is another reason that blood on the lintels and doorposts is important. But this one is quick.
The Egyptians believed that to have your name forgotten was the worst fate imaginable. It actually impacted their afterlife. Great care was taken by Egyptian leaders to make sure their names lived on by chiseling their names and glyphs into stone. Stone, being expensive and used by the upper classes, was not readily available to those in the lower social strata.
The lower class homes and slave huts were made of mud and straw, materials that were not designed to withstand the test of time. If you left your name on a mud-hut, the chances were good it would vanish before a decade passed. That lead to a quick end in the afterlife for you, and that, to the Egyptians and their slaves, was a fate worse than death.
However, there was one place in a lower-class or slave home that your name would remain for quite awhile. It was the only place that stone (albeit cheap stone) could be found…that of the lintels and doorposts!
That’s right, each home would have the name (or mark) of the family that lived there chiseled into the lintels and doorposts. So when the I AM said to cover your lintels and doorposts with the blood of the lamb…the blood actually covered the family’s name and generations living inside.
Now stick that in your hopper…because THAT is awesome!