One of the greatest things about this album is how relatively easy it is to reproduce. A songbook is available which includes all the instrumental and vocal parts necessary to perform all of the songs. Of course, you still need talented musicians to pull it off, but I’ve seen a couple really good local productions of Behold the Lamb of God that rivaled the quality of the “real deal”.
Here’s a church group performing the second track, called “Passover Us”:
Well, we all remember Moses on the banks of the river
He said “Pharaoh, you’ve got to let my people go.
You don’t want me to have to tell you this ten times over–
Denial ain’t just a river, you know”
And we all remember Pharaoh, he just wouldn’t do it
So the plagues they came upon Egypt one by one
His heart was hard and the other nine just couldn’t move it
So the last was the worst: the death of the firstborn son
But the Lord, he gave to Moses a word for the people
He said their firstborn sons could live to see another day
“Put the blood of a lamb on the doorway and death will pass right over”
That night all of the children of Israel prayed,
“Lord, let your judgment passover us
Lord, let your love hover near
Don’t let your sweet mercy passover us
Let this blood cover over us here”
So the years went by and the people they whined and they wandered
And only sacrifice atoned for the sins of the land
So you see the priest he placed upon the holy altar
The body of a spotless lamb
And he prayed,
So you might be asking, “What’s a song about Moses and the 10 plagues doing in a Christmas program?” Good question!
Before we can understand what it means for Jesus to be the redeemer of God’s people, we have to know the history of how God has acted to redeem His people in the past. The Exodus account tells the story of the greatest act of redemption prior to Calvary, when God delivered the Israelites from their captivity in Egypt.
As the song says, we all remember the story. Even those who didn’t grow up in the church are at least vaguely familiar with Moses. There’s a reason we remember this, by the way. After the exodus, God commanded the Israelites to remember the day when He delivered them out of Egypt (Exodus 13:3). Every time Israel would stray from the Lord, or would complain or worry about things, God reminded them that He was a faithful, promise-keeping God (see Exodus 6:1-8) who had redeemed them, and that because of this, they were obligated to keep His commandments (for example, Deuteronomy 5:15, 15:15, 16:12, 24:18, etc). God’s faithful people have indeed remembered and passed on this story of deliverance as God commanded, and so we, too, are familiar with it, many thousands of years later!
God himself helped Israel to remember this in many ways. He instituted the Passover feast, so that every year they would have a symbolic reminder of how the blood of a lamb saved them from God’s wrath. He even commanded them to change their calendars so that the month of their deliverance would now mark the beginning of their year (Exodus 12:2). And, of course, He gave us the Holy Scriptures, which is how we come to know this story today.
In the years that followed Israel’s exodus from Egypt, despite God’s miraculous deliverance from and defeat of the Egyptian army, and His provision of food in the wilderness, and His leading them by a pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire, the people whined and complained. You would think that if anybody was ever going to trust and obey the Lord, it would be those who encountered Him in such a tangible, visible way, right? But like us, the Israelites were rebellious by nature, and provoked God to wrath (Deuteronomy 9:7).
God again displayed His mercy, though, and gave the people the Law. The Law revealed God’s character to the people in a way that nothing else could, and showed them what was expected of them. It also explained, in tremendous detail, that the consequence for sin is death. In order that He might not destroy them utterly (and thus be unable to fulfill His prior promises), God gave Israel a complex sacrificial system, allowing the blood of animals to temporarily cover their sins. But as the author of Hebrews reminds us, “It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4). A more perfect sacrifice was needed to make a final atonement for the sins of men.
We are blessed now with the knowledge of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, whose precious blood was like that of a spotless lamb (1 Peter 1:19) and whose death was the substitutionary atonement that put an end to the imperfect sacrificial system (Hebrews 9:13-14) by making a “once for all” covering for our sins (Hebrews 10:10).
But for the next few tracks on the album, try to put yourself in the position of a first century Jew. You know all about Moses and the Law. You know all of God’s promises. You are under oppression from the Romans, and believe (or at least hope) that God will answer your prayers by sending the promised Redeemer… but you have no idea what that might be like.
This is the “mood” Peterson is setting with these early songs, and though the sense of anticipation it builds for the arrival of the Messiah may only be a fraction of what it was on the night of Jesus’ birth, it’s still REALLY cool! Stay tuned!