In our study of Exodus chapter thirteen, we look at the new start that was given to the people of Israel when they chose to obey God.
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ADONAI said to Moshe, "Set aside for me all the firstborn. Whatever is first from the womb among the people of Isra'el, both of humans and of animals, belongs to me."
In the last chapter, we saw that God brought Israel out of Egypt and they were driven out because of the plague on the firstborn of Egypt. Now, we see that God is telling Moshe that all the firstborn children and animals of Israel are to be set aside and recognized as holy to God. The firstborn represents a manifestation of life and the children represent the family while the animals represent the wealth. In this, God is showing Israel that our reaction to redemption is sanctification which is setting ourselves apart from the world as holy to God to be used for His purposes.
Moshe said to the people, "Remember this day, on which you left Egypt, the abode of slavery; because ADONAI, by the strength of his hand, has brought you out of this place. Do not eat hametz.
This verse speaks of remembering the salvation experience and we notice that emphasis is placed on the fact that it is God that has done the work. Then, we see the command to not eat hametz which is anything with grain or flour that has soured with the presence of moisture and the passage of time. These products will rise or swell up and it represents a prideful mind. Anytime that we see the word remember in the Torah, we should think of the covenant and this reminds us that we are not saved because of anything that we have or we have done but simply by the fact that God promised redemption in the covenant that He made with Avraham.
You are leaving today, in the month of Aviv. When ADONAI brings you into the land of the Kena'ani, Hitti, Emori, Hivi and Y'vusi, which he swore to your ancestors to give you, a land flowing with milk and honey, you are to observe this ceremony in this month.
Here, we see five groups listed in the land of Canaan and other times the list includes seven or eight groups. When there is a different number of groups listed, their is a purpose and here the number five is associated with being incomplete and in need of grace. This is to show us that the redemption of Israel from Egypt was not the final redemption as that comes through Yeshua Messiah. In the original Hebrew text the phrase "observe this ceremony" actually literally means "serve this service" and it speaks of the fact that, through redemption, we have the capacity to serve God and this serving is an act of worship.
For seven days you are to eat matzah, and the seventh day is to be a festival for ADONAI. Matzah is to be eaten throughout the seven days; neither hametz nor leavening agents are to be seen with you throughout your territory. On that day you are to tell your son, 'It is because of what ADONAI did for me when I left Egypt.' "Moreover, it will serve you as a sign on your hand and as a reminder between your eyes, so that ADONAI's Torah may be on your lips; because with a strong hand ADONAI brought you out of Egypt. Therefore you are to observe this regulation at its proper time, year after year.
The Festival of Unleavened Bread is described here and a festival refers to worship. We see that both hametz and yeast are to be removed from the nation and this speaks of not only the removal of sin but also avoiding the causes of sin. We see that the purpose of this time is to keep the instructions of God in our minds and to share them with our children as well as the reasons and meaning for the instructions.
When ADONAI brings you into the land of the Kena'ani, as he swore to you and your ancestors, and gives it to you, you are to set apart for ADONAI everything that is first from the womb. Every firstborn male animal will belong to ADONAI. Every firstborn from a donkey, you are to redeem with a lamb; but if you choose not to redeem it, you must break its neck. But from people, you are to redeem every firstborn son.
In this passage, the phrase that is translated as "set apart" gives us the image of consecration but that it not what it is speaking of in the original Hebrew text which speaks of a transfer. We see that this was not to be something that you "dedicate to God" but still keep in your possession but it was to involve a physical transfer. In the case of a donkey, a lamb was to be used in the place (to redeem) of the donkey. If that donkey was not redeemed, then it was to be put to death but we see that redemption was not optional for the firstborn son.
When, at some future time, your son asks you, 'What is this?' then say to him, 'With a strong hand ADONAI brought us out of Egypt, out of the abode of slavery. When Pharaoh was unwilling to let us go, ADONAI killed all the firstborn males in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of humans and the firstborn of animals. This is why I sacrifice to ADONAI any male that is first from the womb of an animal, but all the firstborn of my sons I redeem.' This will serve as a sign on your hand and at the front of a headband around your forehead that with a strong hand ADONAI brought us out of Egypt."
This passage speaks again of sharing the things of God with our children and the fact that it is the responsibility of the father to do so.
After Pharaoh had let the people go, God did not guide them to the highway that goes through the land of the P'lishtim, because it was close by - God thought that the people, upon seeing war, might change their minds and return to Egypt. Rather, God led the people by a roundabout route, through the desert by the Sea of Suf. The people of Isra'el went up from the land of Egypt fully armed. Moshe took the bones of Yosef with him, for Yosef had made the people of Isra'el swear an oath when he said, "God will certainly remember you; and you are to carry my bones up with you, away from here." They traveled from Sukkot and set up camp in Etam, at the edge of the desert.
In this passage, we see that God's leadership began at redemption but He did not lead Israel on the easy route. Instead, they took the long way to get to the point where God wanted them to be because they were not prepared for battle and this time would allow them to mature in their faith. We also see that the bones of Yosef were taken up as had been promised and this reminds us that redemption is a complete break from the ways of the world to follow the ways of God.
ADONAI went ahead of them in a column of cloud during the daytime to lead them on their way, and at night in a column of fire to give them light; thus they could travel both by day and by night. Neither the column of cloud by day nor the column of fire at night went away from in front of the people.
We see that God was always with the people that He had redeemed and He provided what they needed. When they travelled in the heat of the day, God showed up in the form of a cooling cloud and, when they travelled in the darkness of night, He showed up in the form of a fire to provide light.