Last week, in our Old Testament Study, we looked at The Passover Lamb in Exodus 12 and how it points to Christ as explained in Hebrews. This week, we will move ahead in Exodus to see how the consecration of the firstborn of Israel also continues to point to the Messiah, Jesus the Christ, Son of the Living God.
Consecration of the Firstborn
Exodus 13 (ESV) | Consecration of the Firstborn
13 The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Consecrate to me all the firstborn. Whatever is the first to open the womb among the people of Israel, both of man and of beast, is mine.”
The Feast of Unleavened Bread
3 Then Moses said to the people, “Remember this day in which you came out from Egypt, out of the house of slavery, for by a strong hand the Lord brought you out from this place. No leavened bread shall be eaten. 4 Today, in the month of Abib, you are going out.5 And when the Lord brings you into the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, which he swore to your fathers to give you, a land flowing with milk and honey, you shall keep this service in this month. 6 Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a feast to the Lord. 7 Unleavened bread shall be eaten for seven days; no leavened bread shall be seen with you, and no leaven shall be seen with you in all your territory. 8 You shall tell your son on that day, ‘It is because of what the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt.’ 9 And it shall be to you as a sign on your hand and as a memorial between your eyes, that the law of the Lordmay be in your mouth. For with a strong hand the Lord has brought you out of Egypt.10 You shall therefore keep this statute at its appointed time from year to year.
11 “When the Lord brings you into the land of the Canaanites, as he swore to you and your fathers, and shall give it to you, 12 you shall set apart to the Lord all that first opens the womb. All the firstborn of your animals that are males shall be the Lord‘s. 13 Every firstborn of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb, or if you will not redeem it you shall break its neck. Every firstborn of man among your sons you shall redeem. 14 And when in time to come your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ you shall say to him, ‘By a strong hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, from the house of slavery. 15 For when Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the Lord killed all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man and the firstborn of animals. Therefore I sacrifice to the Lord all the males that first open the womb, but all the firstborn of my sons I redeem.’16 It shall be as a mark on your hand or frontlets between your eyes, for by a strong hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt.”
Here we again see that God is instituting a statute of reminder for the people in that context, and we also see a shadow of God’s coming Salvation, the promised seed that would crush the head of the serpent. As with the feast of unleavened bread, the offering of a sacrificial lamb for the redemption of the firstborn is to serve as a reminder of what God has done for Israel, and for what He will do for Creation. The latter might be more difficult to see since what takes place here is a shadow of things to come. As always, to rightly understand the Old Testament, we need to draw our understanding from the New Testament. There are two key terms or concepts that connect this statute of the Law to the Gospel of Jesus Christ: Redemption and Firstborn.
Redemption. Now, in our culture we feel we have an understanding of the concept of redemption. When a store issues us a 25% off coupon, we know that if we decide to shop at that store and present the coupon, the redemption of which means that the store pays for 25% of the item, and we pay only 75%. The store redeems the coupon by paying for (or absorbing the cost of) the discount. But this is a poor explanation for the concept of our redemption. What we have here is a declaration that every firstborn belongs to God. Either it is redeemed by an atoning sacrifice of a lamb, or it must die. Clearly, this is only expected for livestock as all male children must be redeemed and not killed. Still the statute remains as both a reminder and a promise.
Firstborn. As soon as Adam sinned, and he and his wife were made aware of their nakedness in sin, blood was shed to cover their nakedness. This animal sacrifice was not enough to fully redeem Adam (the man, or all of mankind). God promised a seed of woman would crush the head of the serpent. We saw last week that the Passover Lamb pointed to Christ. Now we see that the Lamb is needed to redeem the firstborn. But we also know that Jesus is the firstborn (John 3:16-18) Son of God. Jesus is both the firstborn (that belongs to God) AND the sacrificial Passover Lamb. Now, there was no way of knowing this was God’s plan for redeeming all of mankind at this point, for God will continue to reveal His plan throughout the Law and the Prophets. For now, this is a statute of the Law set as a reminder of His favor, His love, His Grace, and His Mercy for the children of Israel. Let us now look at how the New Testament writers drew their understanding of the Law under the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit with the Gospel of the Cross as their focal point.
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.
11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) 12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.13 For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.
15 Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. 16 For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. 17 For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive. 18 Therefore not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood. 19 For when every commandment of the law had been declared by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, 20 saying, “This is the blood of the covenant that God commanded for you.” 21 And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship. 22 Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.
23 Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. 25 Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, 26 for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, 28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.
All praise, glory, and honor be to the our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. This week’s reading is a bit short because I want to save the crossing of the Red Sea for next week. For now, let us close this post with the realization and understanding that we, who are in Christ Jesus, have been fully redeemed by God in the sacrifice of the spotless Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, on the cross. By His blood you have been redeemed, once and for all. Remain in Him, holding firmly by faith to the promise of the inheritance of eternal life with Christ.
We will continue studying the Exodus and how it points to the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. I do hope you will join us again. if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to share.
Romans 16:25-27 (ESV) 25 Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages 26 but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— 27 to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.
May the Grace of God be with you today and always,
In Christ Jesus,