The following is adapted from Tony Merida's Exalting Jesus In Exodus (Christ-Centered Exposition):
In the United States, significant events can result in scheduled holidays. We take time each year to celebrate Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Veterans Day, and many more. These days are a time to remember what has happened in the past. They tell of where we have been and where we are going. In Exodus 12, we find God doing something on a much grander scale. God changed the calendar of the Israelites so that they would celebrate the Passover. He told Moses and Aaron that there would be a new calendar and it would be a sign of a new beginning. This tells us of the importance of the event.
God established their calendar based on theology. At the beginning of each year, they would remember God’s great salvation. God came first in their lives and was central to all that they did. This change in their calendar to focus on theology points us to transformation. God calls us to keep Him at the center of our lives. Because of this, we are continually going through a transformation process for God’s glory and our sanctification.
The instructions for the Passover were given twice in chapter 12 (vv. 1-13, 21-23), separated by instructions regarding the Festival of Unleavened Bread (vv. 14-20). Verses 1-13 include the Lord’s instructions to Moses. Then in verses 21-23 Moses relayed the instructions to the elders.
They were to take a lamb on the tenth day of this month for each household or for the number of people who could eat a lamb (v. 4). The lamb served as a substitute. However, the lamb was only acceptable if it was a one-year old male without blemish (v. 5). It was selected on the tenth day and kept until the fourteenth day. These qualifications were very important. In Deuteronomy 17:1 God said that a blemished animal used for a sacrifice was an abomination. Israel needed a perfect substitute, a perfect sacrifice.
This need for a perfect sacrifice reminds us of our own state. We, being corrupted by our sin, cannot save ourselves. Our good works are like the blemished lamb—unworthy before a holy God. We need One who serves as a substitute on our behalf. Jesus is the lamb for the household of God. Only through faith in Him are our sins covered. He alone is our hope.
In verses 6-7 we see what was to happen to this unblemished lamb. It was killed at twilight. The slain lamb vividly reminded everyone that all deserve judgment (cf. Rom 3:23). Consequently, a blameless life had to be sacrificed in the place of the guilty who needed salvation. The blood of the lamb was applied to the doorposts (v. 7). The obedience of placing the blood on the doorposts showed that a person believed God would keep His word and pass over him, sparing him from judgment. So Israel escaped judgment through this sacrifice, and salvation was accomplished by faith in the substitute.
In verses 8-11 God also provided instructions on how to serve and eat the lamb. It would be eaten with unleavened bread. The use of unleavened bread and the instruction to wear their clothes in a certain manner revealed that they needed to be prepared at any moment to depart. It was a reminder that they must be ready to follow God at a moment’s notice. In addition, they ate bitter herbs as a reminder of the bitterness they experienced in Egypt. The Passover would serve as a reminder of their time and escape from Egypt.
We likewise should remember the bitterness from which God has saved us. We were in a bitter bondage to our own sins, yet through Christ, our perfect Passover Lamb, we were delivered from the wrath of God and given new life (see 1 Cor 5:7; Heb 9:14). Many do not praise the God of grace with passion because they have a low view of sin. Thomas Watson said, “Till sin be bitter, Christ will not be sweet.” Remember what God has done for you in delivering you from bondage and giving you life.
Next we see a transition to the Lord’s response to the blood that is placed on the doorposts (vv. 12-13). God would now act decisively against the powerless gods of the Egyptians. While some had already been judged, all would now be judged. In His mighty judgment, God signaled that the real King is present. Yahweh was to be feared, not Pharaoh! Only the Lord is the true, righteous judge, and He would make Himself known. The events of Passover are an awesome demonstration of God’s holy judgment on Egypt and their false gods.
It is also important to recognize the sign imagery of verse 13. The blood on their doors served as a sign that judgment had already fallen at that house. Just as the plagues were a sign to Egypt of God’s justice and judgment, now the Passover was a sign of God’s mercy to Israel! God continued to keep the promise of Genesis 3:15 and the Abrahamic covenant. In the midst of looming judgment, God provided for the seed of woman. He protected Israel from slavery and death for future salvation. In accomplishing this, He said, “when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No plague will be among you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.” God accepted the blood of the sacrifice and passed over their sin. Similarly, those who have been born again have Christ’s blood covering them. God sees Christ’s blood on us and passes over our sin. He forgives our trespasses and sees Christ’s righteousness as our own. What a merciful God!