Read Exodus 13:1-16
The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Consecrate to me every firstborn male. The first offspring of every womb among the Israelites belongs to me, whether human or animal.”
3 Then Moses said to the people, “Commemorate this day, the day you came out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery, because the Lord brought you out of it with a mighty hand. Eat nothing containing yeast. 4 Today, in the month of Aviv, you are leaving. 5 When the Lord brings you into the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Hivites and Jebusites—the land he swore to your ancestors to give you, a land flowing with milk and honey—you are to observe this ceremony in this month: 6 For seven days eat bread made without yeast and on the seventh day hold a festival to the Lord. 7 Eat unleavened bread during those seven days; nothing with yeast in it is to be seen among you, nor shall any yeast be seen anywhere within your borders. 8 On that day tell your son, ‘I do this because of what the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt.’ 9 This observance will be for you like a sign on your hand and a reminder on your forehead that this law of the Lord is to be on your lips. For the Lord brought you out of Egypt with his mighty hand. 10 You must keep this ordinance at the appointed time year after year.
11 “After the Lord brings you into the land of the Canaanites and gives it to you, as he promised on oath to you and your ancestors, 12 you are to give over to the Lord the first offspring of every womb. All the firstborn males of your livestock belong to the Lord. 13 Redeem with a lamb every firstborn donkey, but if you do not redeem it, break its neck. Redeem every firstborn among your sons.
14 “In days to come, when your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ say to him, ‘With a mighty hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 15 When Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the Lord killed the firstborn of both people and animals in Egypt. This is why I sacrifice to the Lord the first male offspring of every womb and redeem each of my firstborn sons.’ 16 And it will be like a sign on your hand and a symbol on your forehead that the Lord brought us out of Egypt with his mighty hand.”
“Consecrate to me every firstborn male.”
Sacrifice them. That’s what it means.
But He doesn’t want human sacrifice. Only kill the animals, He says, buy the sons back.
Why though? Why does He want all the firstborns?
Or maybe He doesn’t.
He doesn’t want them – they’re already His.
That’s the point.
Consecrating the firstborn males is a way of continuously saying thank you. Thank you for sparing ours, for sparing us. Thank you that from us, you’ll accept animals instead of … well, us.
God wants the Israelites to remember this night.
He wants them to remember how it felt to stand there listening to the screams and knowing the angel of death was passing over their homes only because of some smeared blood on their doors.
I’d think it would be impossible to forget, but God seems to disagree. He rearranges their entire calendar so that this day – this cold morning in the desert – is the first one of a new year (12:2). From now on, all their days will count from this one, and their years will rotate around this event.
Today is day one and God wants them to re-enact this fateful night at the start of each new year. What a powerful way to remember, especially for the children. And it’s the children He has in mind because, as usual, He’s doing something that will reach far beyond this one generation.
So it’s imperative that His people remember: dedicate every firstborn male, celebrate the ‘Passover’ festival, and count their days from today.
It all begins to come together.
Long ago, God promised Abraham his descendants would grow into a nation and the nation would be slaves for four hundred years, then set free (Gen 15:12-16). More recently, God told Moses, “Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh.”
It’s all part of the plan.
God wants this ‘created’ nation, His people, to be uniquely defined by this one event, like a tattoo clearly visible on each one – a ‘sign on your hand, and a reminder on your forehead’.
They are a rescued people: slaves set free.
And you know what that means?
It means they have a rescuing God.