The time has come for the final plague on Egypt; death of the firstborn. This is also the moment of Israel’s release from 430 YEARS of slavery!
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The elders of the tribes have just left Moses and Aaron. The countdown has begun. Before morning the Hebrews will be a free people.
“This is it! This is the night that we finally will be free. I can hardly wait to see how the Lord does all this.” Aaron is almost giddy as he shares with Moses.
Moses nods his head. “Remember though that no matter how badly you want to see the Lord’s work DO NOT OPEN YOUR DOOR!”
“No brother. I wouldn’t dream of it! I’m just excited” replies Aaron honestly.
“Good. I pray that all the others feel as restrained as you.”
There is a lot of action in the homes of the Hebrews. There is still work to be done this day in the slave pits for Egypt. The people set off for their daily work with a song instead of grumbling today. Their excitement is contagious. They know the importance of this night but they have to maintain their normal routine so the Egyptians won’t catch on.
On the home front, the women begin to prepare the homes for departure and the other ingredients for the evening meal. The sacrifice has to wait until twilight but the rest can be prepared now. But they also have to be cautious so as not to alert any of the Egyptians of their impending departure.
The day seems to drag on forever simply because of the great anticipation building in the people. Children are given extra tasks or organized into games to keep them busy throughout the day. Wives tie bundles of clothes together with the gold and silver gathered from their neighbors safely concealed in the middle. Nonperishable food is tucked into bags for easy carrying. Dishes will be packed after the evening meal. No nonessentials will be brought on this trip. Everything belonging to Egypt has been ordered to be left behind, including ANY idols that have made their way into the homes of the Hebrews.
Finally the last day of labor in the slave pits comes to an end. The people make their way home with more haste than usual. The Egyptian slave masters were kept unaware of the excitement running through the people during the day but a few eyebrows raise at the speed of the departing workers.
“Maybe we should call them back for a few more hours since they have so much energy” comments one of the slave masters.
“They might have the energy but I don’t. Let them be. I want to go home myself” is his partner’s reply. Both men turn towards their own homes and forget about the retreating Hebrews. Tomorrow is another day. They will plan ways to use up the Hebrews’ energy then.
As the men return to Goshen there is a mass rush for the river where they will wash. Moses insists that they be clean inside and out for this sacrifice. Their wives, and mothers for the younger workers, have laid out clean clothing for each of them.
Slaughtering an animal is not a clean job. Coverings are donned to keep the blood from soiling their clean robes. Outer robes are also laid aside to keep them out of the way. This is the first group sacrifice the Hebrews have ever made and they want to be sure everything is done with care and honor to the Lord.
Just before twilight the men gather with their lambs. The women bring bowls to catch the blood. Even the children gather outside this inner ring to observe and take part in this holy occasion. As soon as the sun dipped behind the last mountain, knives fly across the necks of the lambs. All bleating stops in that same instant. Then the sound of blood hitting pottery is the only sound heard for a moment.
Moses then begins to pray for the people as the blood continues to flow from the sacrifice offered to the Lord. “Lord God of our fathers, we offer this sacrifice to You just as You have commanded. Please watch over each of us tonight as we await Your deliverance. Instill in each of us a true understanding and reverence of the mighty works You are about to do and have already done on our behalf. We leave our lives and our future in Your faithful hands. We await Your direction and fulfillment of Your promises to our fathers and to ourselves.”
As the last drops of blood fall the group breaks into families and returns to their homes. Their fires are already laid waiting for the lamb to be placed on them. But first there are a few preparations needed. The skin must be removed and the lamb skewered for roasting. The doorposts must also be anointed with the blood of the lamb, but this will wait until the lamb is brought into the home and right before the door is shut for the night.
Roasting a lamb takes time. During the wait many families spend time in reflection over the past several months in Egypt. Others spend time in praise and worship. Moses spends his time in prayer. Prayer that ALL the Hebrews will follow the will of the Lord to the letter. He even prays for Pharaoh and the Egyptians. He knows this night will bring them great sorrow. He prays for healing later on for them, NOT for protection from the Lord’s work. He knows this work is essential for Israel’s freedom.
The last lamb has been removed from the roasting pit and placed on the table. The head of each house takes the hyssop and blood and anoints the door frame of the home then goes inside and locks the door.
Each family, dressed with their shoes on their feet, belt on their waist and staff in hand gather around the table to eat the meal the Lord commanded. All eat as quickly as they can without choking. Not a word was spoken from the time the blessing ended and the last stomach was filled to capacity. Nothing could be left of the lamb. Everything was to be eaten. Because of the late hour the feast started, due to cooking time, it is well into the night when the last morsel leaves the table.
Midnight is fast approaching. There is no sundial to mark the night’s passage but the people are accustomed to accurately counting out the hours of the night. As midnight finally arrives there is a hush in each Hebrew home. It is as if ALL the Hebrews are holding their breath. There is also silence in the Egyptian home as they are sleeping soundly, without an inkling of what is coming.
A wind stirs outside. It seems to be making its way through the hills, valleys, alleys and homes. It is a cold wind and it carried death wherever it touched. But it did not touch the land of Goshen for the blood of the lamb kept it from the homes and the fields belonging to those within those walls.
This cold wind stirred the people of Egypt from their beds. At first it was just one or two homes that woke to its touch. Others would sleep on until another phenomenon woke them; that of screaming! As each household roused, one of its members didn’t. That member was the firstborn of each family. No household was without death from Pharaoh’s palace to the lowest prisoner in the dungeon’s home. It didn’t matter if the household was all together under one roof or not. The death would find the firstborn wherever he lay. This included the cattle belonging to those households too, but that was a much lesser matter to those involved.
Those woken by the cold wind went to locate the source and protect the family from its draft. In doing so they would inevitable check on each member to ensure they were warm and secure. That is when the purpose of the wind was revealed. It brought death. And with that death came mourning. Resounding cries of heartbreak began to reverberate through the cities. First in one home then another and another until the whole nation was wailing.
In the land of Goshen the Hebrews waited and listened. They knew what was coming and recognized its sound as it reached them in the night. The heartbreaking sound of mourning touched them with sympathy but also excitement. They recognized Egypt’s pain as they were mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters too, but Egypt’s pain also signaled joy for the Hebrews. It was the final price of freedom.
Moses and Aaron were not surprised by the sounds of rushing soldiers outside their door. They knew Pharaoh would be calling for them. They went willingly with the guards to Pharaoh’s palace where his family too was in mourning.
Pharaoh was a broken man. He showed none of his superiority attitude. Instead he clutched at Moses robe. With tears streaming down his face he commanded Moses. “Up, go out from among my people, both you and the people of Israel; and go, serve the Lord, as you have said. Take your flocks and your herds, as you have said, and be gone” (verses 31b-32a). Pharaoh released Moses robe and began to turn away. Just before falling into the arms of his wife he looked at Moses one last time to make one final request, “and bless me also!” (verse 32b). He needed ALL the help he could get to make it through this night. He was not only grieving the loss in his own home but in those of every home in Egypt. His arrogance had brought this tragedy on his people.
Moses nodded his head at Pharaoh’s request then he and Aaron left for their home. This night was FAR from over. There was much to do now that Pharaoh had finally given his command, in front of his guards also so there would be no interference with the Hebrews as they followed his command.
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Father God, I feel for the Egyptians who lost their children that night. I know there was no other want to make the desired impact on the world. That night wasn’t just for Egypt but put the fear of Israel in the hearts of all those she would encounter. You know how to make a statement! But I would not be at all surprised to know that this night hurt Your heart too. You don’t enjoy inflicting pain on Your children.
I also identify with the excitement Israel was feeling. I LOVE watching You in action working on my behalf. My experiences haven’t been nearly as dramatic as those of the Hebrews but they are just as exciting. Thank You for each and every one of my blessings! Even those I don’t recognize until after the dust settles. Thank You also for watching over my children and grandchildren. I can’t imagine losing one of them! I want to see them part of Your family forever.
Thank you for sharing Your stories with me and for letting me move into them. I love seeing where the Spirit will take me.