If you’re a firstborn, did you know there was a price on your head?
If you’re a firstborn, did you know there was a price on your head? This headline is a tad old (about 3,500 years or so), but nevertheless it’s true. On that dark and fateful night that the slave kingdom of Israel fled Egypt in the mighty Exodus, God declared that the firstborn of every Israelite family (and flock and herd) belonged to him, “It is Mine” (Exodus 13:2).
Was God playing favorites? Not at all. Rather, he was branding deep into that slave community’s perpetual consciousness the supernatural deliverance Israel’s firstborn received on the night of the tenth plague. Remember the story? Through Moses God warned both Egyptians and Israelites alike that death would “pass over” the land at midnight, and only those homes that had painted the blood of a lamb upon their doorposts and lintels would be spared the death of their firstborn. “And it came to pass at midnight” that it happened just as Moses had decreed, and “there was a great cry in Egypt” (Exodus 12:29, 30). Only the firstborn “under the blood” had been spared.
So that they would never forget that mighty deliverance, God later instituted in Israel a “head tax” for every firstborn, five shekels of silver (see Numbers 3:47; 18:16), a perpetual reminder that God alone was their Deliverer, firstborn and all born.
But when the story of the greatest Exodus of all (from the bondage of sin) is told in the New Testament, the fate of the firstborn is reversed! For the sacrifice of Christ is portrayed, not as the deliverance but rather as the death of the Divine Firstborn: “Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead . . . who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood” (Revelation 1:5). For at Calvary the death angel of divine judgment did not pass over the Firstborn. Rather “he was wounded for our transgressions, and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:5-7).
I happen to be my mother’s firstborn. But no matter your birth order, the deliverance we have gathered to celebrate today declares us all “the church of the firstborn” (Hebrews 12:23)! And who’s complaining? After all, the sacrificial love and death of our Savior truly is a one-way ticket to the Promised Land for all “the chosen” who believe. Chosen as you are, then, do you believe?