Saturday, September 15, 2012

Stay Inside!

The story of Passover in Exodus 12 is one I've heard many times.  Today, I noticed something about the story I never noticed before. First, some background...

The Israelites are slaves in Egypt.  Through Moses, God tells the Pharaoh of the land to let the Israelites go.  Pharaoh refuses.  So, the Lord rains down a wide array of nasty plagues on the land – from frogs to flies to bloody rivers, and when none of these change Pharaoh's hardened heart, the Lord says he has one final plague that will ensure freedom for the Israelites.  He tells Moses exactly what the Israelites are to do if they want to be spared from the horror that is to come with this plague.  Here it is straight from Exodus 12:

Then Moses called all the elders of Israel together and said to them: 
Go pick out a lamb for each of your families and slaughter it.  Drain the blood…then take a bundle of hyssop branches and dip it into the blood.  Brush the hyssop across the top and sides of the door frames of your houses.  And no one may go out until morning.  For the Lord will pass through the land to strike down the Egyptians' first born sons.  But when He sees the blood on the top and sides of the door frame the Lord will pass over your home.  He will not permit his death angel to enter your house and strike you down.
Wow! Those are very specific (and bloody) instructions.  It's the short line in the middle of it all that caught my attention today. 
And no one may go out until morning.

In other words, Moses tells them: 
If you read earlier in the chapter, you will notice that God didn’t include this line when he was giving the instructions to Moses to pass along to all the Israelite families.  Moses seems to have added that line himself, at least according to what I can tell from Scripture.  My guess is he was concerned.  Very, very concerned.  Yes, he’s Moses – one of the greatest men of the faith, but he was also human.  He was worried.  He didn’t want his people to take any chances -- didn't want them wandering out in the middle of the night or poking their head out to see what was going on and paying for their curiosity with their life.  Therefore he required a strict curfew. Can't you just hear Moses admonish them:
Listen up my people!  Do exactly what God says with the blood of the lamb then get inside your houses before the sun goes down and STAY THERE.  Do not come out until morning - - you hear me?
What a night it must have been.  As the sun begins to set, the Israelite families hurriedly smear blood in long streaks around the outside of their doors. (My guess is they used A LOT of blood, just to be sure that the Angel of the Lord wouldn't miss it.)  There had to be drops of blood on the ground by the doors, maybe even trailing into the house.  Then, as the sun falls lower in the sky, they go inside to hunker down behind those blood soaked doors, holding on to each other, wide-eyed and worried.   Then darkness falls and the Angel of Death comes.  Could they hear the wailing and screaming coming from the Egyptian houses as the firstborns were killed?  Or were they on the outskirts of town left in terrible silence inside their homes to imagine what was happening, with only the sound of their own anxious breathing and worried whispers? I am not sure.  Exodus 12:30 says that the crying was heard all over Egypt.  This makes me think they did hear it all, but either way, shrieks or silence, what a terrible night!  No wonder Moses added the warning to stay indoors until sunrise. 
Death came to every Egyptian home that night.  Pharaoh became so disturbed by what was happening, that right in the middle of all the death and darkness, he called for Moses and Aaron.
Get out!  He said.  Take your stuff, your people, your animals, your God and get out!
And the Israelites did.  All 600,00 of them.  After 430 years of captivity, they were finally free.  
What if they hadn't listened? 
Kill a lamb.  Paint your doors in blood.  Stay inside.
Those who did as God commanded and as Moses warned, were spared.  And they were more than spared -- Before the sun came up, they were free!  I imagine Moses hurrying them out of their houses - -
Come out!  Come outside!  We're free!  Hurry!  God has set us free!
Israelites rush out through blood red doors, shouting, hands shaking, hearts pounding, no sleep in their eyes, their stomachs full of lamb. Over their shoulders are sacks full of clothes and other personal belongings.  Women carry moist rolls of unleavened dough in one hand and hurry along their first-born with the other.
Come on!  Let's go!  Moses said we don't need to stay inside any more. Pharaoh is letting us go! The Lord has delivered us!  Hurry!
They listened.  They obeyed.  They were free.
-Hope A. Horner, 2012
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