Last night was Erev Pesach (the evening before the day of Passover, which is actually the beginning of Passover – “there was evening and there was morning, one day [Gen. 1:5]). Yet, most of the world focuses on yesterday as being “Good Friday”, the day that Messiah Yeshua was crucified. The importance of the day is related to what occurred in it. Yet, so much of the modern celebration misses the Biblical essence of the “why” that particular day in history became and remains so significant.
The Tenach, the Older Testament, consisting of Torah (Law), Neviim (Prophets) and Ketuvim (Writings) are intertwined like an intricate tapestry, whose beauty consists in the individual strands, each unique in itself, all of which are woven together to reveal, among other things, an unbroken theme: God’s love for His creation and His redemptive work through His chosen people, Israel. At the outset, it should be clarified that “chosen” is for a purpose, not because of anything special emanating from themselves (Deut. 7:7-8).
A few words of background are important. After the Fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, God punished the participants (Adam, Eve and the serpent), but indicated that there would be a way to overcome the punishment of banishment from fellowship with God, which resulted from their disobedience – the Seed of the woman, who would be wounded, yet would conquer the one who wounded him (Gen. 3:12-15). After being expelled from the Garden of Eden, Eve gave birth to her first two sons, Cain and Abel. When they grew up, each of the sons brought an offering to God, Cain from the fruit of the ground, Abel from the “firstlings of his flock and their fat portions”. Abel’s offering was accepted, Cain’s was rejected and he ended up killing his brother (Gen. 4:3-8). From peace in Paradise to murder regarding one family, as related in two chapters of the Bible.
Time passed and God called Abram (later to be called Abraham) and promised to give him a land, to bless him and make his name great, to be a blessing make him a great nation and to make him a blessing, to bless those who bless him and curse those who curse him, and in him all the families of the earth would be blessed (Gen. 12:1-3). God covenanted with Abram regarding Abram’s offspring through a ceremony that required the death and separation of certain animals (Gen. 15:2-11). God later revealed to Abram that his descendants would be strangers in a land not theirs, where they would be oppressed for four generations over a period of four hundred years. But, God covenanted with Abram that He would judge that nation and Abram’s descendants would return to the land with many possessions (Gen. 15:12-16). The promise made earlier (Gen. 12) was repeated to him (Gen. 17:1-8), but at the same time, God instructed Abraham to keep the covenant of circumcision, for himself and for every male descendant of his, as well as his servants (vv. 9-13), adding that an uncircumcised male would be treated as having breached God’s covenant and would have no part in the inheritance promised to Abraham (v. 14). Abram’s name was changed to Abraham. His son, Isaac, inherited the blessings (Gen. 26:1-5), which were also passed on to Isaac’s son, Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel (Gen. 28:3-4, 13-15; 32:28).
In due course, Jacob’s descendants went down to Egypt – first Joseph, who, after being sold into slavery by his siblings, achieved status as second only to Pharaoh, and then, the rest of his family followed. There, they prospered, grew in numbers to become a nation, and were eventually enslaved by Pharaoh, who did not know Joseph. They were afflicted and suffered becaused of their taskmasters. The time came for God to fulfil His promise to Abraham.
He raised up Moses, who at the age of 80, was directed by God to deliver His people who were in Egypt and “to bring them up from that land to a good and spacious land … flowing with milk and honey” (Exo. 3:7-9).
Moses tried to resist God’s call to be His instrument to deliver His people, Israel. He felt he was not the appropriate person to do this, undoubtedly remembering that he failed to do so forty years earlier and had to flee Egypt. God gave him two demonstrations that were to be repeated before Pharaoh: (1) his staff, which later became “the staff of God”, was turned into a snake and then turned back into a staff and (2) Moses’ hand became leprous and was then healed (Exo. 4:1-8). Moses was being instructed that serving God requires dependence upon His presence and ability, not on his own abilities. God was showing Moses that He is able to create a danger to life and remove the danger as well. Still, Moses persisted that he was not the right person for the job, as he was “heavy of speech and heavy of tongue” (v. 10). God rebuked Moses for his lack of faith. It is recorded: “Then the anger of the LORD burned against Moses, and He said, ‘Is there not your brother Aaron the Levite? I know that he speaks fluently. And moreover, behold, he is coming out to meet you….” (v. 14 – emphasis mine) We need to remember that there was no telephone, fax, email or internet in those days. A period of 40 years had passed since Moses left Egypt, in haste. Now, Moses is told to return and is also told that his brother, Aaron, is on his was to meet him. Both were being divinely directed and only God could accomplish this task.
Was Moses right? Was he the wrong man for the job? After all, he was 80 years old when God called him to deliver the children of Israel from Egypt. He spent the first 40 years of his life in Egypt, learning to become “something”. Then, the next 40 years of his life, he spent on the backside of the desert, being humbled and learning to become “nothing”. Finally, he spent the last 40 years of his life, leading and shepherding the children of Israel and learning the God can make “something out of nothing.”
The Biblical narrative continues: “The LORD said to Moses, ‘When you go back to Egypt see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders which I have put in your power; but I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go. Then you shall say to Pharaoh, “Thus says the LORD, ‘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‘.” ‘ ” (vv. 21-23; emphasis mine) This was not what we, in our twenty-first century lexicon, would refer to as the most politically correct statement that could be made in the circumstances to someone who was considered to manifest in his being the Egyptian god of the sun, Ra, and the god of death, Horace, who were sovereign over all other gods.
God lets Moses in on His plans and adds that Pharaoh is not going to be impressed with what he has to say, that he won’t listen to him and that he won’t let the people go. What an incredible announcement! It is not surprising that the messenger, Moses, would not want to undertake a mission which, in his mind, is doomed to failure.
Up to this point, we see that Moses is the reluctant deliverer. He doesn’t quickly say “Yes, Lord!” Quite the opposite. “Here I am Lord, please send someone else!” But, God wasn’t going to let him off the hook. And so Moses finally consents, fearful of what lies ahead, but with the assurance that God will be with him. God is the Redeemer. Moses is merely His spokesman. But, in order to lead God’s people, there was one seriously problematic sin and disobedience that needed to be removed from Moses, as we will see.
As the story continues, while Moses was on the way back to Egypt with his wife, Zipporah, and two sons, Gershom and *******. It was then that “the LORD met him and sought to put him to death” (4:24). Moses’ wife, Zipporah “took a flint and cut off her son’s foreskin and made it touch his [Moses’] feet” (v. 25), saying “You are indeed a bridegroom of blood to me…regarding the circumcision” (v. 26). As a consequence, God left him [Moses] alone.
Moshe’s mission and the redemption of Israel were in jeopardy. Why would the LORD want to put him to death? Sometimes, we look for answers and try to blame someone else, when we should first take a good look at ourselves, before pointing a finger at someone, or something, else. Immediately preceding these verses are God’s statements to Moses about what is to be said to Pharaoh, namely, His relationship to Israel as a father to a son. Pharaoh needed to be told, “You are killing My firstborn and if you don’t let him go, I will kill your firstborn.” An “eye for an eye”.
The translation of the Hebrew “Çhatan Dameem” as “bridegroom of blood” in many English translations miss the point of the story, which is succinctly pointed out in the last words of verse 26: “regarding (or because of) the circumcision”. The fact that Tzipporah had to circumcise her son meant that Moses failed to do so in accordance with the covenant that God made with Abraham, as indicated in Genesis 17. The words “Çhatan Dameem” are of Akkadian origin, a dialect of Arabic, which was known to Zipporah, a Midianite, and, obviously, also to Moses after living with her and her family for 40 years. Between the different dialects, the term “Çhatan” means both circumcised and defended. In other words, the shed blood of the circumcision, in obedience to God’s covenant with Abraham, will protect Moses, at whose feet the blood was applied, from the dangers that lie ahead and threaten his life.
Moses was on his way to deliver the children of Israel. In the process, he was told in advance what the end of the day would bring forth, namely, the death of the first born of Pharaoh and all in Egypt whose homes were not protected by the Passover lamb that was to be sacrificed and whose blood was to be smattered (not spread out) on the doorposts and lintel of their homes. The expression, “Çhatan Dameem”, therefore, is directly related to the story of the Passover, which was about to unfold in the following chapters of Exodus.
Why would this be important for us? Sometimes, familiarity with a story causes us to miss the forest through the trees. At the beginning of Chapter 4 of Exodus, Moses is given two illustrations of God’s ability to deliver from impending danger and death – the rod-to-snake-to-rod and the leprous hand-to-healthy hand. In other words, God revealed to Moses that he could protect and heal. These signs were to be displayed before Pharaoh. Moses needed to experience them and follow God’s instruction to free him from those dangers. The same is true of the last plague – the death of the firstborn. The life-threatening situation that will come upon all who are in Egypt can be averted by following God’s instruction – protection from death by the shedding of blood.
Zipporah, the wife of Moses, was able to make the connection between the failure of obedience that would result in death and immediately undertook to repent and to prevent the consequences of the sin of disobedience. Why was repentance necessary? Moses was a Levi, a descendant of Abraham through Jacob (Exo. 2:1). Zipporah was a Midianite, the daughter of a priest of Midian (Exo. 2:16, 21). Midian was also a son of Abraham, but through his second wife, Keturah (Gen. 25:2). Both were under the command of the covenant made with Abraham regarding circumcision. Obedience to the covenant meant life and God’s blessings. Disobedience meant death and being disinherited.
In Chapter 4, verses 25 and 26, God revealed His sovereignty by bringing deliverance of His servant, Moses, through a woman. He displayed His sovereignty by using women at the outset of the story (Exo. 1:17 – the midwives; 2:1-4 – Moses’ mother and sister; 2:6, 10 – Pharaoh’s daughter). In Chapter 4, it is Moses’ wife, Zipporah, whom God used to deliver Moses – not from Pharaoh, but from God Himself. Zipporah intercedes for the one whom God chose to intercede for Israel.
Time after time, Moses urges Pharaoh to comply with God’s demands and to let the people go. The original request was not to free the people, but to let them go “that they may celebrate a feast to Me in the wilderness … a three days’ journey into the wilderness that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God…” (Exo. 5:4). When Pharaoh’s obstinance and disobedience to God’s commands reached its peak, God instructed Moses to choose a lamb, which became the, which became your lamb (Exo. 12:4-5). It was to be killed and the Israelites were to “take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses in which they eat it” (v. 7). The Word does not say to spread it, but to put it. The LORD would “pass through to smite the Egyptians and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to come in to your houses to smite [you]…And when your children say to you, ‘What does this rite mean to you?’ you shall say, ‘It is a Passover sacrifice to the LORD who passed over the houses of the sons of Israel in Egypt when He smother the Egyptians, but spared our homes’.” (Exo. 12:23, 26-27) And so it was. The children of Israel did what God had instructed and they lived. But, “the LORD struck all the firtborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon and all the firstborn of cattle. Pharaoh arose in the night, he and all his servants and all the Egyptians, and there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was no hone where there was not somneone dead” (Exo. 12: 29-30). The power of Egypt was crushed and the children of Israel were no longer subject to it.
Fast forward 2,500 years. Another deliverer is sent. This time, the message was: “… [The] Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10) He is the One, Who said: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have [it] abundantly. I am the Good Shepherd; the Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” (John 10:10-11). More than being the Good Shepherd, He, Himself, is “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). His message was first and foremost for the lost sheep of the House of Israel, but God’s greater plan was to save all Who believe in Him. The promised child Who was born to us, the son Who was given to us, the One Who would be called “Mighty God” (Isa. 9:6), our Messiah, “our Passover, has been sacrificed for us (1 Cor. 5:7). He was betrayed by those whom He came to save, placed on a piece of wood that was from a tree that He brought forth, pierced by nails made of material that He created. He was crowned with thorns and his blood stained the top of the altar upon which He was sacrificed. His blood from His hands stained the crossbeam. From the torture rack of the cross, He called out: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). When His shed blood made atonement for us, the Lamb of God gave up His spirit. It was the event that made the day, not the day itself. What we refer to as “Good Friday” was the saddest Friday in all of creation.
God’s Lamb died for our sins according to the Scriptures and He was buried, and He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Cor. 15:3-4). His message that remains is simple and straightforward: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but inherit eternal life” (John 3:16). God loves us with an everlasting love and with His lovingkindness continues to call us. This is our reason to celebrate.
Your Word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path (Psalm 119:105).
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding (Prov. 3:5).
This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it (Psalm 118:24).
Bless, be blessed and be a blessing.
Have a great week.