Passover begins Friday night. This morning, I want to get us ready for Passover by looking at the first part of the key chapter in the Word of God about Passover – Exodus 12.
Most peoples, if not all peoples, have special days to celebrate or remember important events. Israel’s annual holidays, which are outlined for us in Leviticus 23, are unique because they were given to the Jewish people by God Himself.
These holidays accomplish multiple purposes. They keep us in touch with the seasons God has designed into creation. They remind us of the great things God has done in Israel’s history. They look forward to what God will do to redeem humanity from Satan and the demons, sin and the sin nature, and death.
In Exodus 12, Moses teaches us about the origins of two of these holidays, Passover and Matza, and how they were to be celebrated.
These two holidays are, of course, very meaningful for the Jewish people. They help us remember one of the greatest events, not only in our history, but in the history of the world – our deliverance from slavery in Egypt. They are also very meaningful for Messiah’s people, Christians and Messianic Jews, because they were prophecies of the greater deliverance that comes through Messiah, our sinless and risen Passover Lamb. There is much to be learned from the holidays of Passover and Unleavened Bread.
The Lord said to Moses and Aaron. Adonai, the eternal Lord of all things gave these instructions to Moses and Aaron, who were two very special men. Moses wrote down what the Lord said to him and his brother. We can trust that what the Lord said to Moses and Aaron was faithfully communicated by Moses to us.
The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt. 3500 years ago, while we were slaves in Egypt, the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron. That’s a very long time ago. That makes Passover one of the oldest religious holidays continuously celebrated by human beings. In spite of its great antiquity, it’s still very relevant and very meaningful, and even more relevant and more meaningful now that Messiah, our Passover Lamb, has arrived. When we celebrate Passover, we are participating in a holiday that the Jewish people have observed for 3500 years and that has been intensified because of Messiah.
The month in which Passover and Matza occur is the first month of the calender God gave to His chosen nation. The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, “This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year.” God created the Earth, sun and moon so that we can have days and nights, weeks and months and seasons and years. The month in which Passover occurs, Nisan, is the first month of the calendar.
So, why is the seventh month, Tishri, called the Jewish New Year? I’ve heard various explanations, but whatever the explanation, the real Jewish New Year, God’s New Year, occurs in the Spring. That’s fitting. The Spring is a time of new beginnings – new beginnings for the life-cycles of many plants and animals. And it’s the time in which Israel was rescued from slavery in Egypt and had a new beginning as a free nation.
More instructions: Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household. The whole community was to participate. No one was to be excluded. No one was to excuse himself from participating. The lesson for us: Christians and Messianic Jews have been made into a community. We are individuals, but each of us is also a member of Messiah’s Community. It’s not just us and the Lord. It’s us and the Lord and everyone in Messiah’s Community. We participate with everyone else in the life and work of the community. We don’t excuse ourselves from taking an active part in the life and work of the community.
The whole community of Israel participated, but they participated family by family. Tell the whole community of Israel that each man is to take a lamb for his family. This teaches us the importance of the family; and the need to work on maintaining good family relations – and it can take work; staying connected to our family; worshiping the Lord with our family; serving the Lord with our family.
Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family. For important events, advance preparations may be required. Passover was a very important event, and advance preparations were required. On the tenth day of Nisan, four days before Passover, the man of the family, who was the leader of the family, chose the lamb to be sacrificed. That enabled the family to observe it for a period of time, making sure it was fit to be sacrificed. And maybe during those four days, the family formed an emotional attachment to the lamb, making its death more personal and more meaningful.
In a similar way, the Messiah was chosen to be our Lamb by God the Father, the Father of the family of Israel. Yeshua was with us for three or four years, and many of us observed Him during that time Him and knew He was a good and holy man; Many of us formed a deep attachment to Him, making His death very personal, very meaningful.
More instructions: We were slaves. We were poor. A lamb was valuable. It was not to be wasted. The right amount of people needed to share the lamb so it wouldn’t be wasted. If any household is too small for a whole lamb, they must share one with their nearest neighbor, having taken into account the number of people there are. You are to determine the amount of lamb needed in accordance with what each person will eat.
Why share the lamb with the nearest neighbor? Why not share the lamb with family or friends? Sharing the lamb with the nearest neighbor was convenient; and it strengthened relationships with neighbors, which is a good thing. God has designed neighbors to help each other, as Proverbs teaches us: Do not go to your relative’s house when disaster strikes you – better a neighbor nearby than a relative far away. It’s valuable to have good relationships with our neighbors. In our society today, many people barely know their neighbors; don’t help their neighbors. We should be different. Let’s work at developing good relationships with our neighbors.
More instructions: The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. We are more familiar with Passover lambs, but goats could also be sacrificed. The lambs or goats had to be male, not female. They had to be a year old. They could not have any defect.
Of course, the young and healthy male lambs and goats, without defect, point us to Messiah. Yeshua was a man who was in the prime of his life, without any defect whatsoever – perfect, sinless, blameless – the best humanity had to offer.
The Lord Yeshua is the best and He gave the best – Himself – fully, completely, totally. And in return, He deserves the best from us – the best of our lives; the best of our hearts and minds; the best of our efforts; the best of our time, talents and treasures.
A lamb or goat that is one year old or less is tender and tasty to eat. That’s Messiah! Taste and you will know that the Lord is good. He is delightful to know; a pleasure to get close to. His yoke is easy and His burden is light.
More instructions: Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the members of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. Four days after the lambs and goats were chosen, the animals were slaughtered by the members of the community. Later, after the Mishkan was built and the priesthood installed, we went to the Tabernacle to sacrifice the lambs and goats; and then, after that, we went to the Temple.
All of the lambs and goats were slaughtered at the same time – at twilight, the time of the two lights, late afternoon and early evening, the end of the fourteenth day and the beginning of the fifteenth.
All the members of the community of Israel must slaughter them. 600,000 men left Egypt. Let’s assume that most of them had families. That means that approximately six hundred thousand lambs and goats were killed that first Passover. That’s a lot of dead animals. That’s a lot of blood. Contrast those hundreds of thousands of animals to the sacrifice of Messiah, whose one sacrifice enables God to passover the sins of everyone who has ever lived.
More instructions: blood is special, and the blood of the lambs and goats was treated in a special way. Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs. Because animals and humans need blood to live, blood is a symbol of life and it is a symbol of death. With blood we live. Without blood we die. The blood that was applied to the sides and tops of the doorframes protected the lives of the firstborn sons from death.
The blood of the lambs and goats was used for protection, and their bodies were eaten to give nourishment to the members of the community for their journey – which would begin the following morning. This was Israel’s last supper in Egypt.
For us today? We have the body and blood of Messiah, our Passover Lamb. Yeshua’s blood that was spilled protects us from death; and His body was resurrected so that He is alive now, full of life and power. As we get close to our living and powerful Lord and Savior, we receive life and strength from Him for our journey.
More instructions: That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast. Do not eat the meat raw or boiled in water, but roast it over a fire – with the head, legs and internal organs. Do not leave any of it till morning; if some is left till morning, you must burn it. The meat was not eaten raw because blood would be eaten, and we are not to eat blood. The meat was not boiled in water, perhaps because the lamb or goat would have to be cut up to get it in the pot, or it might break apart while being boiled. The lamb was to remain whole.
We too need the whole lamb, not just part of the lamb. We need to believe in everything that Messiah is and everything that Messiah has done for us and is doing and will do for us. We need to believe in everything that Messiah taught. We need to be united to all of Messiah – Yeshua’s life and death and resurrection. We need to be united to His Lordship; united to His sufferings; united to His victory; united to His Spirit. No, “I’ll take the Savior part of the Lamb but not the Lord part. I’ll take the blessings that come from the Lamb, but not the service part, or the suffering part.”
Why was the lamb or goat roasted in fire? Roasting the animal enabled it to remain whole; taste delicious; eliminated the blood. And maybe it was roasted because fire cleanses; fire purifies, and the roasting of the lamb points us to Messiah, who, at His death, experienced a baptism of fire, an immersion of intense suffering. Yeshua learned obedience by the things He suffered. Roasting meat makes it taste better. Messiah got even better because of the things He suffered. The One who baptizes with the Holy Spirit and with fire was Himself baptized with fire.
Bitter herbs were eaten. This is to remind the Jewish people that God saved us from great suffering in Egypt. Messiah’s followers also suffered much before we saved by Messiah. We suffered because we were slaves to Satan and the demons, sin and the sin nature, and death. Although the sons and daughters of God still suffer, our suffering now is different. It is higher, purposeful, redemptive; and it is mixed with joy because we know that God uses suffering to improve us; and even when we are suffering, we know that our sins are forgiven and we will live forever in a world without suffering.
Matza, unleavened bread, bread without yeast, was eaten. This reminds us that we left Egypt so quickly there wasn’t time to add yeast to the dough so that it would rise. For Christians and Messianic Jews, we should be living with a sense that Messiah might return soon, or that our own personal exodus might happen at any time.
Matza is yeastless. Yeast represents sin. The followers of the Sinless One need to continually remove sin from our lives, so we can maintain a good relationship with Yeshua, who is the fulfillment of the matza.
The Passover lamb or goat was to be eaten. If any was not eaten, it was not to be disposed of in a disrespectful way. It was to be burned. The animal was to be used for this holy purpose only. The Son of God is holy. We must use Him for any dishonorable purpose. We must always treat Him with the great respect He deserves.
More instructions: This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the Lord’s Passover. Cloak, sandals and staff are used when traveling outside the home, not used while eating a meal inside the home. And we were to eat in haste because very shortly, we would be leaving Egypt. We needed to be ready.
We too need to be ready to travel. Each day we should live with the thought that we might make our exodus from this world. We should be living with a sense of urgency, that time is short and precious and shouldn’t be wasted. It should be lived for the Lord.
It is the Lord’s Passover. This was a special meal with special requirements that the Lord commanded us to observe. Those who feared the Lord would be careful to do everything He commanded. Messiah’s incarnation, life, death and resurrection is the Lord’s Passover for us today. We should be careful to do everything the Lord wants us to do in connection to the Lord’s Passover.
God told His people what they were do to that night. Now He told them what He would do that night. On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord. The Lord Himself would bring sudden judgment on the firstborn sons of the Egyptians. The Egyptians had killed our firstborn sons. Adonai would kill their firstborn sons.
It’s horrible when a substantial percentage of a population dies because an enemy attacks. Think of the 3,000 that were killed on 9-11 and how much that impacted us. It’s horrible when an earthquake or flood or plague decimates a nation. Those kinds of calamities are horrible – but are something that people are familiar with. However, the calamity that would befall the Egyptians was worse because, not only was a very substantial percentage of the population killed, those who were killed were killed selectively and supernaturally by the God of Israel.
And it wasn’t the weakest or youngest or the oldest or the sickest or the criminals who were killed. It was the firstborn sons, the principle heirs and leaders of the families of the nation. A deadly judgment like this had never happened in all of human history. It must have been incredibly terrifying.
Ladies, you want to receive equal treatment with men in all things? Be careful what you wish for. This is one instance when it was not good for the women to be treated the same way as the men.
And it was intensified and made even more horrifying by the death of the firstborn males of the animals. The dead bodies of millions of animals would have been scattered throughout Egypt.
I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. The death of the firstborn of people and animals demonstrated the superiority of the God of Israel over all the gods of Egypt. The Egyptians worshiped gods represented by animals and men. Pharaoh too was considered to be a god, so when the firstborn males of people and animals were killed, the God of Israel was shown to be more powerful than the gods of Egypt.
I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord – the true God, alive and powerful – to be feared, respected, obeyed by all. He wants everyone to know that.
The Lord is alive and all-powerful and supremely moral. He is completely righteous. Therefore He favors the righteous and disfavors the wicked. He knows how to protect the righteous and punish the wicked. The Lord would punish the Egyptians but spare His people – if they applied the blood of the lambs and goats to the doors of their houses. The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.
I will pass over you – pesach – pass over with the purpose of sparing life. What a great name for a great holiday – Passover!
Even though Passover happened 3500 years ago, the Passover story is not over – in the sense that human beings are like the Egyptians – wicked, far from the true God, servants of demonic powers; defying the true God. If we do nothing, the Lord will eventually kill us like He killed the firstborn sons of Egypt.
The Passover story is not over because the Lord is going throughout the world today, like He did that first Passover, looking for those He can spare. The good news is that there is a way that He can pass over people today. When we know who Yeshua is and become loyal to Him, His blood is applied to our lives and we are protected from death. We may die in this world, but we will live forever in the World To Come. Make sure that’s you. Make absolutely sure Yeshua is your Passover Lamb. And if He is, won’t you tell others about their need to be passed over – by turning to Messiah, our Passover lamb?
What the Lord was about to do was so special, so amazing, revealed so much about who He is and what He is capable of doing – that He is great and powerful and wise and righteous; that He is able to intervene, save, deliver, rescue, redeem; that He distinguishes between the righteous and the wicked; that He is worthy of being loved and served; that this holiday would be fulfilled by Messiah, our Passover Lamb – this holiday is to forever be remembered and celebrated by the Jewish people. This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a holiday to the Lord – a lasting ordinance.
Lord, those of us who are observing Passover and Matza this year, may it be very meaningful to us. This week, as we remove the yeast from our homes, help us remove the sin from our lives.
Just as the Jewish people applied the blood of a spotless lamb to our doors, may we truly apply the blood of Messiah, our Passover Lamb, to the doors of our hearts.
Just as the Jewish people left Egypt, may we turn our backs on the world.
Just as the Jewish people clothed ourselves for travel and left Egypt, help us walk through this world in newness of life, clothed with Messiah’s character and resurrection power.
Just as the Jewish people sang a joyous song on the other side of the Red Sea, put a new song in our hearts.