The parasha this Shabbat is titled Bo, meaning “Go!” and takes us from Exodus 10 through most of chapter 13. We have already witnessed the depths of this pharaoh’s cruelty. His efforts at Jewish infanticide, and the ongoing and even intensified enslavement of our people. Adonai saw these things, heard the cries of our people, and remembered the covenant He had made with Abraham. Four centuries earlier, God told him:
Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years. But I will also judge the nation whom they will serve; and afterward they will come out with many possessions… in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete
The time was at hand. God was fulfilling His promise. But Pharaoh wasn’t about to free all his slaves. His heart was hardened. Repeatedly refusing God’s warnings, Pharaoh invited horrific plagues upon the land of Egypt. We have learned of seven of them already: blood, frogs, lice or gnats, swarms of insects, the death of almost all of Egypt’s livestock, painful boils on the bodies of the Egyptians, deadly hail destroying the few surviving animals and all of Egypt’s crops.
We find two constants throughout this narrative. The first is Pharaoh’s stubbornness and deceit. At first, he simply refuses to let Israel go. Later, when the cumulative effect of the plagues takes its toll, he pleads with Moses and Aaron to intercede with God, promising to let Israel go if the plague will just cease. And repeatedly, as soon as the plague is over, he reneges on his word. The other constant is that Goshen, the city where the Jewish people lived, is shielded repeatedly from these plagues. It had become pretty obvious to the Egyptians that Israel’s God was protecting them, while their own gods were powerless to help.
Chapter ten chronicles the 8th and 9th plagues. Swarms of locusts covered the surface of the entire country, like nothing that had ever been seen before. What few crops had survived the hail were now completely devoured. Pharaoh, in a panic, hurriedly summoned Moses and Aaron and confessed his sin, asking them to pray to the Lord. They did so, and again, the plague ceased almost instantaneously. And again, Pharaoh broke his oath.
God then told Moses to stretch out his hand toward the sky, and suddenly darkness settled over the entire country – a darkness so thick it could be felt! For three days no one went anywhere. Only in Goshen was there light. Imagine you’re an Egyptian, and you’re in complete darkness – you cannot even see your own hand in front of you, and the only light in all of Egypt is in the city where the people of Israel live. Some Egyptians were beginning to get the picture. Pharaoh, however, was not one of them. He was engaged in a losing battle of wills with the Lord God of Israel, and all of Egypt was paying the price
Pharaoh summoned Moses again, and tried to negotiate his way out of this, but Moses was resolute: all the Israelis must be allowed to go, as well as all their cattle. Pharaoh became furious and sent Moses out, warning him that if he shows his face again he will die – an interesting choice of words, considering the last plague in store – the most painful of all.
In chapters 11 and 12 God gives specific instructions to Moses and Israel, to be followed to the letter, for this tenth plague will mean the death of every first-born throughout the land of Egypt. Israel’s first-born will be spared, provided they follow God’s instructions. Each family was to take a year-old male lamb – one without any blemish at all. It was to be brought into the house on the 10th of Nisan, and at twilight on the 14th the lamb was to be killed. The blood of that flawless lamb was to be put on the outside lintel and doorposts of the house. The lamb was to be roasted, not boiled, it was to be eaten in haste with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. We were to eat it with our sandals fastened, staff in hand, dressed and ready to go, and not a single bone of the lamb was to be broken. It was the Lord’s Passover. It was to be a perpetual statute – every generation was to observe it and teach it to their children.
And that is precisely what happened. 430 years to the day from the time our people arrived in Egypt, we went out. That night God went through the land and all the first-born of Egypt died – all who did not have the blood of a spotless lamb applied to their doors. According to God’s instructions, Israel requested articles of silver and gold from the Egyptians and they were only too happy to give them – if we would just leave and leave quickly.
Scripture tells us that Israel departed Egypt a mixed multitude (12:38). The Egyptians witnessed the power of Adonai over all the false gods of Egypt. Many of them left with the Israelis, and joined themselves to the God of Israel. In that sense, those plagues weren’t only judgment, but God’s gracious invitation to people of other nations to become one with His people.
1,500 years later Passover realized its fullest meaning, when another male Lamb, One in the prime of His own life, gave His blood to save not only Israel, but also the nations. Like those first lambs, He was flawless. Just as those lambs had been observed in the home three or four days, He would be publicly seen for three or four years before the Passover on which He was put to death. Just as none of the bones of the former lambs were broken so not one of His bones was broken. And just as God’s conditions for our rescue from Egypt were firm, so this Lamb is the only means by which we may be saved. This Lamb has a name: Yeshua. His blood, applied to our lives, promises that God will pass over our sins, and we ourselves will pass over from death to eternal life. That we are alive and reading this passage today is proof that God always makes good His word!
The parasha is called Bo, meaning “Go!”. There are three ‘goings’ to consider this morning. God told Moses to GO to Pharaoh. After God’s signs and wonders, Pharaoh at last told our people to GO. We, like Israel of old, are shielded by the blood of a Lamb from God’s judgment. But what of those still outside? If we do not want to see our friends, neighbors and co-workers perish, we need to GO and tell them about Yeshua, and urge them to come under His covering.