Shabbat shalom, and Chag Samayach – a joyful Passover to you all! This is a special Shabbat, the first full day of Passover and of the seven days of the Holiday of Unleavened Bread. This morning we’re going to look at Exodus chapter 12, verses 43-49, which is really an abbreviated repetition of God’s rules for Passover. As you’ll see, the way it is worded anticipates future Passover observances once our Jewish people will have settled in the Land.
For those of you who have long been part of the Messianic Community, these regulations are nothing new. We know Passover, and the amazing symbolism contained in it. For us it is self-evident that Passover was a prophecy of the greater Lamb and the more profound redemption that was to come through the atoning death of Yeshua, Jesus the Messiah.
So let me assure you, this isn’t going to be merely a review of the A-B-C’s of Passover. While to some people all these rules and regulations about a meal and who may or may not participate might seem like just so much minutiae, I promise you, they are anything but that. They contain profound meaning. The entire story of the first Passover and the Exodus from Egypt is one big remez – a ‘hint’ of greater things to come. I’d like us to see them in the light of the big picture of God’s plan of redemption for mankind; and how 3,500 years later the particulars of how to eat that meal have something to say to us about how to live out our faith in Yeshua as a community of Jews and Gentiles.
The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “These are the regulations for the Passover: No foreigner is to eat of it. Any slave you have bought may eat of it after you have circumcised him, but a temporary resident and a hired worker may not eat of it. It must be eaten inside one house; take none of the meat outside the house. Do not break any of the bones. The whole community of Israel must celebrate it. An alien living among you who wants to celebrate the Lord’s Passover must have all the males in his household circumcised; then he may take part like one born in the land. No uncircumcised male may eat of it. The same law applies to the native-born and to the alien living among you.
The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “These are the regulations for the Passover: No foreigner is to eat of it.
The immediate thing that ought to come to our minds is that Adonai instituted Passover. He is the Rule-Maker. As the One who rescued us from 400 years of slavery in Egypt and made us a free people, He has every right to dictate the terms of Passover observance. We are not free to “do Passover” any way we choose. Furthermore, the regulations He established are not only authoritative, but they are good and right.
The first regulation restricts who may participate. Foreigners are excluded. But as we’ll see, being a ‘foreigner’ isn’t the same as being a Gentile. The foreigner is the one who wants nothing to do with the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. But we remember people like Rahab and Ruth and Naaman and Cornelius the God-fearing Roman Centurion; all of whom were born non-Jews, but joined themselves by faith to the people and the God of Israel.
Any slave you have bought may eat of it after you have circumcised him, but a temporary resident and a hired worker may not eat of it.
This verse, and the passage as a whole, makes it clear that Adonai is giving Israel instructions, not only for that first Passover, but for all ensuing Passovers once we entered the Land. After all, the Jewish people didn’t own slaves in Egypt. We were the slaves!
And His rules allow for slaves to celebrate Passover with the Jewish family they served, provided – and this is crucial – they were circumcised. This isn’t merely sitting down for a dinner (although, sadly, for many Jewish families it has been reduced to that). And it isn’t merely remembering something God did in the past for the Jewish people. If you intended to participate in the Passover meal, you needed to have entered the covenant. And that’s what circumcision was about; a choice to become one with God’s people; to follow in the footsteps of Abraham; To make Adonai your God.
This is the basis for restricting the Lord’s Supper, which was itself inaugurated on a Passover, to those who are baptized believers in Yeshua. According to Scripture only those who have willingly entered the New Covenant may participate. As circumcision was the inaugural event, the outward, physical sign of being part of God’s covenant people Israel, immersion or baptism (in Hebrew: Tevilah) is the inaugural event – the outward demonstration of the individual coming into the New Covenant Community.
We don’t exclude non-believers from taking the Lord’s Supper in order to show disdain, but rather to help them realize that this isn’t some meaningless ritual, but has extraordinary significance; and also to help them acknowledge that there is unfinished business between themselves and God. If anything, that exclusion is meant to encourage the person to make their own sincere commitment to Messiah.
It must be eaten inside one house; take none of the meat outside the house.
We can easily understand why this directive was given when we remember that that first Passover meal took place the evening of the last and most terrifying of the Ten Plagues – the death of all Egypt’s firstborn. Only those inside a home that had the blood of a flawless, year-old male lamb on the doorposts would be spared from the death of their firstborn. And so it made sense that no one was to venture outside the house during that meal.
Furthermore, since that lamb foreshadowed Messiah Yeshua, who Himself died on Passover, it must remain in the house, in other words, identified with Israel. In a sense, taking any of that meat outside the house would be to identify it with Egypt. Yeshua said, “I was sent to the lost sheep of the House of Israel” and again, “Salvation is of the Jews.”
It must be eaten inside one house…
By extension this also foreshadows the “One New Man” idea that Rabbi Paul was emphasizing in Ephesians 2. For He Himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier… and he went on to write, His purpose was to create in Himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace. We who love Yeshua, whether Jew or Gentile, are in one House – one family in Messiah, and He is the one Lamb for the whole family of God. It works out this way:
Nobody (Jew or Gentile)
who remains outside the house experiences redemption
on the other hand…
Everybody (Jew or Gentile)
who remains inside the house experiences redemption
Scripture tells us that Israel left Egypt as “a mixed multitude”. Presumably many Egyptians figured it out: after nine terrible plagues, each one worse than the last, and each one a humiliation to one or another of the Egyptian deities, it became obvious that there was something wrong with the gods they had been worshiping. The God of the Hebrews clearly was in control.
Perhaps many Egyptian families, seeing their Jewish neighbors applying lamb’s blood to their doorposts, and upon learning why, and what was to come, pleaded with them to be allowed to bring their own families into those homes. Their first-born would be saved if they came under the covering of an Israeli home that night.
One lamb for a household.
So how might we apply this today? Here’s a thought: don’t keep yourself aloof from the kehilah – the congregation of God’s people. Think about that night in Egypt. If you refused to come into the house, you didn’t participate, and you had no covering. Messiah’s purpose in saving us wasn’t to turn us into millions of self-willed rebels. It was to make us into a new community – a united community.
We live in a day (and to me it’s evident that we are in the Last Days) where many people enjoy thumbing their nose at authority, and take a certain pride in being non-conformist. You hear it in statements such as “I don’t believe in organized religion” (to which I always reply, “Well, how do you feel about disorganized religion?”).
As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. Sometimes it’s difficult to live in community. There are times for all of us where we are tempted to walk away. After all, iron sharpening iron produces sparks. Inevitably there will be misunderstandings, hurt feelings, disagreements and disappointments. Iron sharpening iron is a metaphor for working through those tensions, not running away from them. We need to remain together. Don’t kid yourself; every one of us needs the strength of community.
We’ll talk more about it in a few minutes. Verse 46 continues:
Do not break any of the bones.
This is the first time we read of this injunction. It doesn’t appear in the Passover instructions earlier in the chapter. But why such a command? I wasn’t able to find very much written by the rabbis about it. The best they could come up with was that, unlike people in desperate situations, who might break the animal’s bones while eating out of desperation, God wanted Israel to carry themselves with dignity. Okay, there may be some merit to that argument, but to be honest, I find it wanting.
Maybe it’s because the rabbis have been unwilling to consider the much more obvious implication: that this was a foreshadowing of the Suffering Messiah, namely Yeshua, who would fulfill the type of the Passover Lamb, and in whose death no bones were broken.
During the Roman period, at the time of a crucifixion, if it became necessary to hasten the death, Roman soldiers would break the legs of the condemned to prevent them from being able to push themselves up to get a breath, and suffocation would quickly ensue. To accommodate the Chief Priests of the Jewish people, who needed to attend to Passover, that was what was done to the criminals crucified on either side of Yeshua. And they intended to break His legs, too. But when they came to Him, He was already dead. So they didn’t break his legs, and Yeshua’s beloved disciple, John, who witnessed that scene, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit made the connection between this Passover command to not break any bones of the lamb, and put it together with Psalm 34:20 and wrote, “These things happened so that the Scriptures would be fulfilled: ‘Not one of His bones will be broken’”.
The whole community of Israel must celebrate it.
Non-participation wasn’t an option. For an Israeli to refuse to observe the Passover would be to consciously, intentionally remove himself from the community of the people of God. From this we derive the part of the Seder known as The Four Sons; and in particular, the wicked son.
Let’s extend this principle into the New Covenant economy. You were redeemed as an individual, but you were not redeemed as a “free agent”. Participation in Aruchat Adonai – the Lord’s Supper, and more broadly, participation in the life of the New Covenant Community is not a matter left up to your personal preference.
Scripture strongly advises against a maverick, rebellious spirit. Wise King Solomon wrote, He who separates himself seeks his own desire, he quarrels against all sound wisdom (Proverbs 18:1). And given the increasingly dark days in which we find ourselves, the writer of The Letter to the Messianic Jews (Hebrews) admonished us, saying, Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Not forsaking our own assembling together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another– and all the more as you see the Day approaching (Hebrews 10:23-25).
According to Messiah, the days leading up to His return will be characterized by increasing violence, ruthlessness and spiritual darkness, and will bring greater and greater persecution for His followers. If this admonition to stay in community is too difficult, how on earth will you endure when things really go south?
An alien living among you who wants to celebrate the Lord’s Passover must have all the males in his household circumcised; then he may take part like one born in the land. No uncircumcised male may eat of it.
Passover is a time of joy and remembrance, and God beckons everyone who is of a willing heart to come and celebrate it with Israel. But once again, we are reminded that we must comply with God’s terms if we would enjoy its benefits. It is for the people who are in covenant with Him.
I want to stress again the important distinction between ‘foreigner’ and ‘Gentile’. It isn’t about ethnicity or national origin, but rather with the choice either to identify or to refuse to identify with the Chosen People. If I were to wake up tomorrow morning, look in the mirror and discover that overnight I had become Norwegian, I would be no less a child of God and co-heir with Messiah, and no less your brother. A Chinese person who becomes a follower of the Jewish Messiah becomes a chosen Chinese person. An Italian or African or Hispanic person who identifies him or herself with the Jewish Messiah becomes a chosen Italian or African or Hispanic person; no less a child of God and no less an heir of eternal life.
Hear the words of Isaiah: Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the Lord say, “The Lord will surely separate me from His people.” Nor let the eunuch say, “Behold, I am a dry tree.” For thus says the Lord, “To the eunuchs who keep My Sabbaths, and choose what pleases Me, and hold fast My covenant, to them I will give in My house and within My walls a memorial, and a name better than that of sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name which will not be cut off. Also the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to Him, and to love the name of the Lord, to be His servants, every one who keeps from profaning the Sabbath and holds fast My covenant; even those I will bring to My holy mountain and make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be acceptable on My altar; for My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples.” The Lord God, who gathers the dispersed of Israel, declares, “Yet others I will gather to them, to those already gathered” (Isaiah 56:3-8).
Hear the words of Messiah Yeshua: “I am the Good Shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one Shepherd” (John 10:14-16).
And hear the words of the Apostle Peter: I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him (Acts 10:34).
That last night in Egypt, there was a necessary choice; a choice to come into the home with the blood of the lamb on the doorpost and experience protection and covering.
And this also reminded me of Noah’s prophecy, at the time he and the family came off the ark. Noah declared, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem… may God enlarge Japheth, and let him dwell in the tents of Shem” (Genesis 9:27).
I believe this prophecy was a foreshadowing of people from all nations coming into the household of Israel, and enjoying that covering and covenant relationship. And this would explain why we have the admonition that there be no double-standards, as we conclude with verse 49.
The same law applies to the native-born and to the alien living among you.
In Messiah Yeshua, we are not all the same, but we are all equals. We come from different nations and tribes and people groups and languages, yet in Him we are all co-heirs of eternal life, and will reign with Him. All that is required is that we enter by faith into the house that has the covering.
One Lamb for the Family
Don’t you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast– as you really are. For Messiah, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore, let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth (I Cor. 5:6-8).