Thursday, January 31, 2013

Death Angel?

One Year Bible
Old Testament passage for Thursday, January 31, 2013:  Exodus 12:14-13:16

When the Lord goes through the land to strike down the Egyptians, he will see the blood on the top and sides of the doorframe and will pass over that doorway, and he will not permit the destroyer to enter your houses and strike you down.  Exodus 12:23 (NIV)

As a kid growing up in Sunday School I remember being taught the story of the first Passover.  A major part of that story is the sprinkling of the blood on the doorpost and the death of all the firstborn in Egypt.  I remember learning about the "death angel" that went throughout Egypt killing kids.  Not a really exciting topic for an eight year old, I might add. 

This "death angel" idea was pretty frightening.  Angels, it seemed to me, were nice guys who wore white and sang a lot.  This bad angel was no one you would want to mess with. 

For years, I figured the story of the Passover went something like this:  God was ticked at Egypt because Pharoah wouldn't let Israel go.  He repeatedly tried to soften Pharoah up, but it hadn't worked.  So, God pulled out His ultimate weapon.  Actually, this weapon was the devil (a.k.a. the death angel).  All along, God had been holding the devil at bay not allowing him to do his worst.  But, as a last resort, God allowed the devil to go through the land of Egypt killing all the firstborn.  He graciously protected the children of Israel by the power of the blood of the Passover lamb that had been sprinkled on their doorposts. 

By this understanding, the term "passover" meant that the death angel would pass over the Israelite houses and couldn't hurt them.  The one actually doing the passing over was the devil.  This plays out pretty good because it means that we, following Israel's lead, can tell the devil to take a hike.  "The blood of Jesus is on my house, so don't stop here!"  That's pretty good preaching.

BUT --- that's really not how the story goes in Scripture.  We actually don't have a reference at all to a "death angel."  The closest thing to the "death angel" idea is here in Ex. 12:23 when it says that God will "not allow the destroyer to enter."  At first glance, it seems that there is an individual called "The Destroyer" (sounds like a professional wrestler, doesn't it) who was doing the Lord's bidding.  The actual Hebrew word destoyer, however, is a verb used as a noun (we call them gerunds).  So, it could read like this, "God will not permit the destroying to enter your houses."  Rather that there being an individual called "the destroyer", there is a process called "the destroying."

Please understand, I do very much believe in the existence of the devil who comes to steal, kill, and destroy.  However, this story may not be the best example of the devil's work.  IT IS THE LORD WHO BRINGS THE JUDGMENT.  It is the Lord who passes over.  It is the Lord Himself who strikes the firstborn of the land of Egypt! (see Ex. 12:29)

I must admit to you that this is breathtaking to me.  It is amazing and sobering.  In our modern world, we do not like the picture of a God who brings judgment -- who does such things.  We recoil from it to the point that we can only imagine an evil devil ever being the instigator of such judgment.  Our gracious God is reduced to passivity as He reluctantly allows the devil to do his work.

In all the plagues of Egypt, it is God Himself who brings down the fire.  It is God Himself who authors it and finishes it.  Amazing!  When we speak of the Passover, it is God in His wrath that passes over.  He does not bring His holy wrath down on those who are sprinkled with the Blood.

This takes us in a far deeper topic than we can delve into today.  I am speaking of the character and nature of our great God.  It is so common today to see only half of God's Person.  We see His love, mercy, and kindness (and I DO like these characteristics), but we forget His justice, His truth, and His wrath.

It is worth our time to regularly stop and consider ALL the many ATTRIBUTES of God.  If we do, we will find a full picture of glory and blessing.  We might be shocked, but we will be blessed.  This is truly the highest place.  After all, He is the great I AM. 

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