Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
His love Endures forever…
…to him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt
his love endures forever
Psalm 136 vs.1 & 10 (NIV)
3. The Moral Sense
The moral (or tropological) sense of Scripture instructs us in regard to action. It concerns how we should live, and informs our understanding of good and evil.
The Slaying of the First Born
The moral sense of the slaying of the firstborn instructs us in two ways:
- That which is first is the natural man, second the spiritual.
- Our first efforts & attachments are not always the best or even good
1. First the Natural, Then the Spiritual
(1st Corinthians 15:44-45 & Romans 5:12-21)
First and foremost, unless we are born again, we cannot see the kingdom of heaven. In our baptism, through faith we die in Christ that in him we might be raised.
2. Our First Efforts & Attachments
This follows in the vein of Murder your darlings. The privilege of the first born is challeged by scripture: Able is preferred to Cain; Jacob to Esau; David to his other brothers. Just as the first born in scripture may not be of highest esteem, so too are our first (natural) efforts and desires suspect and imperfect.
We must put to death the deeds of the flesh. These deeds, like firstborn children, are precious to us. They appear as deeply desirable and can even take on a pseudo-salvific aspect. Will not this job, this girl, this marriage save me?
That which is of our own we tend to defend, idolize, and overestimate. We defend our unkindness and failures; we idolize those desires and goals we have chosen for ourselves; we overestimate the goodness and value of our works.
Let us rest in the Author and Finisher of our faith. He can purify our hearts and even separate us from these most cherished firstborn attachments of the heart. We can come to believe and even experience that the beauty, glory, happiness we thought could only be had in a certain way is truly present in God. St. Augustine puts it thus:
“Whoever confesses his sins . . . is already working with God. God indicts your sins; if you also indict them, you are joined with God. Man and sinner are, so to speak, two realities: when you hear “man” – this is what God has made; when you hear “sinner” – this is what man himself has made. Destroy what you have made, so that God may save what he has made …. When you begin to abhor what you have made, it is then that your good works are beginning, since you are accusing yourself of your evil works. the beginning of good works is the confession of evil works. You do the truth and come to the light”
–Augustine, In evangelium Johannis tractatus