I don’t typically read Exodus at Christmas. Exodus is not one of the “baby Jesus” books that describes God’s gentleness and compassion and care. It reeks of destruction. It’s laced with death. Plagues upon plagues, judgement upon judgement.
Merry Christmas, right?
But this year, I am reading Exodus at Advent—my whole church is. We’re diving into the text line by line over the course of a year, and when December began, we reached Exodus 7-12: the plagues. And the last plague is by far the worst—the death of every firstborn, people and animals included. The only way to be passed-over was to wash your doorposts in a lamb. To make a sacrifice. To be covered by the blood.
Verse 29 says, “At midnight the Lord struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of the Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon.”
To the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon. Imagine a man trapped in a dungeon, whether guilty or innocent, trapped just the same. Even if he’d wanted to wash his door in blood, he couldn’t. He was a captive, and his firstborn would die.
It seems hopeless. Heartbreaking. But what if the captive was set free? What if there was someone who could set him free—someone to at least tell him about the chance to put blood on his door?
There are millions of “captives in the dungeon” all over our world. Not those who don’t believe in Christ, but those who have never even heard His name…those who are trapped. Those who cannot paint their doors.
I’ve met them. I’ve met people who have never received a visitor from another country. Who have never heard the name of Jesus. Who have been trapped in a dungeon for generations and generations, while Christians all over the world have hoarded the key to their prison cell.
But we’ve been sent with that key to set them free—to unlock the door and share the Gospel and invite them: Come be covered by the Blood of the Lamb.
“How, then, can they call on the One they have not believed in?
And how can they believe in the One of whom they have not heard?
And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?“
They can’t. So we must go.
In his book Radical, David Platt says,
Some wonder if it is unfair for God to allow so many to have no knowledge of the Gospel. But there is no injustice in God. The injustice lies in Christians who possess the Gospel and refuse to give their lives to making it known among those who haven’t heard. That is unfair.
And that’s where Exodus collides with Christmas—in the setting free of captives. In the deliverance of Good News of great joy.
Because on Christmas day, a baby was born to set free that captive who was in the dungeon. Jesus said, “The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, for He has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free.”
And in His grace and love, He has decided to release His captives through us. Us—His broken, selfish, key-hoarding children. We fail, He succeeds. We shrink, He rises. For He alone has the power to save through our testimony. We can unlock the dungeon and proclaim mercy in the painting of doorposts. But He is the one who gave us the blood. He is the one who passes over.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His name all oppression shall cease…
It’s Christmas. There are songs playing, decorations being hung, cookies baked.
And there are captives in the dungeon.
He will break their chains. Their oppression shall cease—the weary world rejoices.