I wonder if we don’t sometimes read the Bible like we watch a Hollywood movie. Hollywood has this way of portraying one person or group as inherently good and their adversary or adversaries as inherently bad. (Sometimes Hollywood will do this in a backward way, for example leading us to sympathize with a criminal on the run from the police where we see the criminal as “good” and the police as “bad.”) Is that how we tend to read Scripture? When we read the early exodus account, do we see it through a similarly sterile and lopsided lens—seeing the Israelites as “good” and the Egyptians as “bad?” The problem for Hollywood is that most of the time, who is “good” and “bad” is not so easy to discern. It is often much more complicated. Rarely is there truly a noble hero and villainous scoundrel, especially when Hollywood is attempting to tell a story from history. If we read the Bible this way—identifying who is good, like Israel, and who is not—we have a similar, yet greater problem. But it’s not because we cannot easily tell between who is good and who is not. It’s because no one, apart from God, is good (Luke 18:19). Our struggle is not to find some good in a bad Egyptian people, or some bad in a good Israelite people. It is finding good in anyone—because none can be found.
What Israel DeservedLet’s be clear: the firstborn Israelites deserved to die in judgment along with those of the Egyptians. In fact, we shouldn’t stop there—all of the Israelites deserved to die in judgment with all of the Egyptians. The Israelites were sinful, just as the Egyptians were. Sure, the Egyptians sins may have been manifested in different ways—their cruelty to the Israelites should not go unnoticed. Yet, again, we are not looking at a Hollywood movie situation. The Egyptians were not the villains and the Israelites the heroes needing and deserving rescue. From a divine judicial perspective, this was a matter of one sinful people oppressing another sinful people. God responded not because Israel deserved for Him to, but because He had graciously chosen them as His people—His sinful people through whom He would bring a greater salvation to the world.
What Israel ReceivedThe Israelites deserved judgment but that is not what they received. Instead they received grace. But God had them do something before they could experience it—He had each family slaughter a lamb and cover their door posts with its blood. Only homes in which families who obeyed this instruction would be spared the coming judgment of the death of the firstborn. Why did God do this? He didn’t have to. Yet He did. The reason is, I believe, to be crystal clear that the Israelites’ starting position was not good with God or even neutral—it was the exact same as the Egyptians, under judgment. Families had to brush the lamb’s blood around their doors to be spared. Of course that is not the only reason: this is a powerful, stunning picture of the cross.
What We DeserveAnd that takes us to what we deserve as we drive toward applying this ancient text to our lives. The reason we need to shun a Hollywood perspective of the Scriptures is so that we will see ourselves for who we truly are. We are not, as much of our culture believes, good people. We are sinners staring down God’s rightful judgment. Our clean language, church attendance, charitable giving, and obedience to the laws of our land do nothing to change this. They do not earn us an ounce of righteousness before our holy God. The very idea that it might is laughable—tragically so.
What We ReceiveWe deserved judgment but that is not what we received. Instead, we received grace. At least, not those of us who have trusted in Christ. Just as the Israelites had to trust God that painting a lamb’s blood around their door would save them (as if it makes any sense), we too have to trust in the blood of a lamb—the Lamb. Blood that did not flow down the wooden frame of a door, but the wooden crossbar and upright of a Roman cross.
The power of sin was broken at the foot of the cross. We couldn’t break it ourselves any more than the children of Israel could negotiate their own liberation pact. The only way they were getting loose from Egypt was for their deliverer to come … In the Old Testament, Yahweh sent Moses to usher His people into free living. And in the New, He sent His Son Jesus to offer it to us.”—Priscilla Shirer Preschool Tip: This is a Bible story with several details that might be challenging—death, sin, and blood. Remember that your preschoolers are likely more acquainted with these concepts than you might think. But at the same time, be gentle and age-appropriate in how you share this week. We try to do this for you as much as we can in the Preschool Leader Guide, but you know your little ones the best—so adapt as needed. But no matter what, don’t miss telling your preschoolers that God is a rescuing God, a God who loves His people even if they do not deserve it. Kids Tip: Be ready for the fun and reward of many of your kids having “a-ha” epiphanies this week. As you connect the dots of the Passover with the cross, some of your kids will be seeing this beautiful picture for the first time. Others perhaps will see it more clearly this time through. Take your time with them and prayerfully help them see the deep layers of this Bible story.  Priscilla Shirer, One in a Million (Nashville: B&H, 2010) [eBook].