Day 9: Consecrating the firstborn

Luke 2:22-38 (5-4 BC)

The Exodus of around 1500BC played a huge role in the religious life of God’s people. It was during the Exodus that God gave Moses all the laws that the Hebrews were to live by. And it was the fact of the Exodus that provided God with some of the most important rituals of remembrance and reminder. Rituals designed to point the Hebrews back to the saving mercy of God.

The final plague on Egypt that triggered Pharaoh into expelling all one million Hebrews from Egypt, was the death of every Egyptian firstborn male – human and animal. God redeemed his people, sparing every one of them who obeyed him by sprinkling the blood of a sacrificial lamb on their doorpost.

The ‘consecration of the firstborn’ that followed was a ritual in which every firstborn animal was slaughtered. In the case of a donkey – a large, valuable animal that could not easily be replaced –they could be ‘redeemed through the sacrifice of a lamb’ (of which the Hebrews had numerous). Every firstborn human male was ‘redeemed’ through the slaughter of another animal.

If your response to that is something like, ‘Wait…what? Why the sacrifice to consecrate the…eh…why?’, then I’m here to tell you that God anticipated just such a question:

“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. 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.’ 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.”

(Exodus 13:14-16)

The sacrificial system was designed to remind the Hebrews of the huge thing God had already done for them (the Exodus), whilst pointing them towards the enormous thing he WOULD do for them (sending Jesus to save them from their sins). The thread linking those two things was the death of the firstborn generally, and the death of a lamb specifically. The lambs that were sacrificed to redeem the people on the night of the Exodus, the lambs that were sacrificed to redeem the firstborn thereafter, and the death of the ‘firstborn’ Son of God, who was the Lamb, to redeem his people.

So…why wasn’t a lamb sacrificed to ‘redeem’ Jesus? Because if a mother can’t afford a lamb, “she is to bring two doves or two young pigeons” (Leviticus 12:8).

Jesus came in fulfilment of God’s promises, in obedience to God’s commands, as the climax of the entire sacrificial system, so that you can be saved.

Praise God for how he built up such a clear picture, over 1,500 years, of what he was doing and the role that Jesus would play. Praise him for his clearly fulfilled promise in Jesus and for his saving mercy, providing us with a means of redemption, a sacrificial lamb to take our place and take our punishment.


2 thoughts on “Day 9: Consecrating the firstborn

  1. You really need to go back and familiarize yourself with the Exodus myth. It was 600,00 MEN, not 1,000,000 PEOPLE. this would have translated into approx 2,000,000 total people with wives & children, animals, carts, pottery, etc. Also, this ridiculous amount of people and materiel wandering through the desert for 40 YEARS and didn’t leave a single scrap of archeological material at all! Now THAT’S truly a miracle! And god “saved ghisown people after what, 400 of servitude? He couldn’t get to it any faster than that, huh?

    Also Jesus being sacrificed for the sins of others is tantamount to human sacrifice, an idea the Israelites completely and summarily rejected. Jesus himself would have been repulsed by such an idea and yet it has been sold to the ignorant masses for 2,000 years.

    When are you going to stop selling this nonsense? Have faith in yourself and those whom you love and treat people as you would wish to be treated. The world would be a much better place.

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    1. I sense – given that you’re on something of an insult-driven crusade rather than a desire for truth – that this won’t be a long conversation, but I’m happy for your comment to appear here, and to give at least an initial response to some of your points.

      1.) 2,000,000 is a subjective estimate – of yours – it’s not a rebuttal of anything and it’s disingenous to portray it as such.

      2.) If it’s a myth why, and how, are your critiquing the numbers?

      3.) How much pottery do you think was being made in the middle of a desert? My guess is more or less none. Leatherware on the other hand would have been made all the time, and is completely biodegradeable. Also…carts? In the desert? Have you been to a desert? Everything was carried by animals and people, not dragged. Civilisations leave archaelogical remnants, campsites using biodegradeable materials…not so much.

      4.) Re God “waiting” 400 years. They weren’t in servitude for 400 years – that’s merely how long they were in Egypt, since Jacob went there with all his sons not named Joseph or Benjamin. I totally understand your wondering about waiting centuries – it’s hard to us who don’t see the big picture to understand why God would do that. But there were multiple lessons being taught to thousands of years worth of people about the reality of God’s existence, the extent of his power and the depths of his love for his people, by waiting longer than you or I would.

      5.) Jesus wasn’t repulsed by the idea of being the sacrifice. Scared, yes, because he knew it would be horrible. But he was entirely content to be that sacrifice, because it meant the salvation of millions of people and glory for his Father. In fact he kept telling his disciples that that was going to happen. And yes, of course they rejected that idea, because he was their friend and it sounded like a terrible idea. Fortunately for us, Jesus knew better than them. Finally on this point, the idea of sacrificing yourself to save other people is pretty much everyone’s idea of the ultimate act of heroism. Would you sacrifice yourself to save your child? If you’re a parent, then the answer is yes.

      6.) “treat people as you would wish to be treated”. I assume that insulting my integrity and intelligence is a permissible exception to this general rule?

      7.) Jesus came to be a sacrifice. He also taught and set an example of what it is like to treat people with total love, kindness and respect. Anyone genuinely trying to follow Jesus is going to be a great example of the virtues you’re looking for in other people.

      8.) I’ll stop “selling” the truth about God, the Bible, our need for reconciliation with God, and the saving love of Jesus, when I’m dead.

      All the best.

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