When God Passes Over
When God Passes Over
By Aaron Derstine
We are now entering the Passover season (Pesach) on the Biblical calendar, the season of the great deliverance that God performed on behalf of the people of Israel as they were in captivity in Egypt.
In this meaning-filled celebration, we will stop to remember the moment when in the midst of the destructive plagues that God brought upon the land of an increasingly belligerent Pharaoh – who refused to let the Israelites go free – the God of Israel declared to His people:
“Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt” (Ex. 12:13).
Israel was instructed in each of their households to take a lamb without blemish, kill and eat it as part of a hastily prepared meal before their imminent escape from Egypt, and spread some of the lamb’s blood on the doorposts of their homes as a sign of their identification with God’s command. He would then pass over them and not strike them with the plague of the death of the firstborn.
Many times we consider the phrase “pass over” to have a negative connotation: we think of an experience of being forgotten, cast aside, or “passed over” in exchange for something better. We equate the idea of being passed over with an experience of rejection. What Scripture describes is quite the opposite: the idea of passing over represents God’s saving of His people.
Later in Israel’s journey, after they fled Egypt, the same Moses who delivered the divine Passover command to the people encountered Israel’s God on Mount Sinai. There in His awesome glory, God spoke to Moses:
“I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion… So it shall be, while My glory passes by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock, and will cover you with My hand while I pass by.” (Ex. 33:19,22, emphasis added)
When God passes over us, it is a sign that He chooses to not treat us as we deserve – which would be to cast us away from His holy presence. When God passes over, it is not an act of judgment or rejection but an act of mercy and compassion.
One of David’s memorable Psalms tells us that God in His mercy does not give us what we deserve or punish us according to what we have done wrong. But rather, the enormous and immeasurable height of the heavens gives us a glimpse of the greatness of His mercy for those who revere Him. (See Psalm 103:10-11).
May this Passover remind us all of our frail, helpless state before God, and our need for Him as a God of mercy. As He passes over us, may we encounter His goodness more powerfully than ever before, knowing that the same God who delivered His ancient people from bondage still delivers those who call on Him today.