Today is Passover and the first day of Matza, the seven day holiday when we don’t eat unleavened bread.
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 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 Passover and Unleavened Bread.
Let’s continue our consideration of these holidays starting with verse 15. More instructions: For seven days you are to eat bread made without yeast. On the first day remove the yeast from your houses, for whoever eats anything with yeast in it from the first day through the seventh must be cut off from Israel.
Why no yeast? Two reasons: first, this reminds us that we left Egypt so quickly there wasn’t time to add yeast to the dough and wait for it to rise. Our deliverance, when it finally happened, happened suddenly. And second, yeast is a symbol of sin; the God of Israel is holy, pure, separate from sin and we were leaving sinful Egypt behind with its sinful practices and beginning a new life as the Lord’s free and holy people.
We eat matza, not just for one day, but for seven days. We spend an entire week considering God’s amazing and sudden salvation, and the need for holy living which honors the holy God who saved us so suddenly, so thoroughly and so wondrously.
More instructions: On the first day hold a sacred assembly, and another one on the seventh day. Do no work at all on these days, except to prepare food for everyone to eat; that is all you may do. The first and last days of this week receive special treatment – no work and a special assembly.
It wasn’t just those who experienced this great rescue from Egypt who were to celebrate. Every subsequent generation was to celebrate Passover and Matza too. Celebrate the Holiday of Unleavened Bread, because it was on this very day that I brought your divisions out of Egypt. Celebrate this day as a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. Great national salvation experiences are to be celebrated and remembered, not forgotten, and this was the greatest national salvation experience of all time.
For the followers of Messiah, we are to celebrate the great salvation Messiah made possible for us – not just when we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, eating the bread and drinking the wine – but every day. Each day we celebrate Yeshua’s great life; His sacrificial death; His resurrection; His victory over sin and death; the giving of His Spirit. By doing that, we stay firmly connected to our Sinless and Risen Lord, who is the fulfillment of the Passover Lamb and the Unleavened Bread.
It’s easy for people to forget the most important truths. Each year, for an entire week, eating unyeasted bread reminds us of the holy God who delivered us so suddenly and so amazingly from such a terrible and hopeless situation – a holy God who wants us to be holy. Anyone who violated this command was to be removed from the community. No one, not even foreigners living among us, was exempted.
In the first month you are to eat bread made without yeast, from the evening of the fourteenth day until the evening of the twenty-first day. For seven days no yeast is to be found in your houses. And anyone, whether foreigner or native-born, who eats anything with yeast in it must be cut off from the community of Israel. Eat nothing made with yeast. Wherever you live, you must eat unleavened bread.
More instructions: Then Moses summoned all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Go at once and select the animals for your families and slaughter the Passover lamb. Take a bunch of hyssop, dip it into the blood in the basin and put some of the blood on the top and on both sides of the doorframe. Many pagan religions required people to drink the blood of the animals that were sacrificed; or the blood was applied to the bodies of the people. While there were a few instances in which blood was applied to the Jewish people, like the blood that was sprinkled on the people when the covenant was made at Sinai; and when the blood was applied to the priests when they began their ministry – blood was not applied to the bodies of the people; or in this case, even touched. The blood of the lambs and goats was applied with branches from the hyssop plant to the top and sides of the door.
More instructions: None of you shall go out of the door of your house until morning. We were to stay in the house on which the blood of the lamb or goat was applied to the door. Inside we were safe. Outside, the firstborn sons were at risk. And no morbid curiosity or rejoicing over the deaths of the Egyptians was allowed: “Now that I am outside the house I can really hear the cries of those horrible Egyptians. Listen, someone just died over there, and there and there. That’s so interesting. I want to hear the cries of even more of them.” No, we were to focus on God and family and the passover lamb and the joy that comes from salvation – not the suffering and deaths of our enemies.
More about the importance of the blood: When the Lord goes through the land to strike down the Egyptians, he will see the blood on the top and sides of the doorframe and will pass over that doorway, and he will not permit the destroyer to enter your houses and strike you down. The Lord was directly involved in that first Passover. He Himself participated in the Passover. He observed the Passover. He went through the land of Egypt. He saw the blood. He passed over. And He also was working with the “mash-cheet” – the destroyer. Some angels have specialized ministries, special spheres of operation. The destroyer is one of them – an angel who kills – the angel of death. If the Lord saw the blood – the first-born son was safe. The mash-cheet was not allowed to kill him. If the Lord did not see the blood, He allowed the destroyer angel to kill that firstborn son.
Blood is special. Blood protects. Blood atones. Blood saves. Blood was essential to the first Passover and the next 1500 Passovers – until Messiah, our Passover Lamb arrived; and then 40 years later, the temple was destroyed. There is no real Passover without the shedding of blood. Today’s bloodless and Messiahless Passovers do not provide any safety, any protection from death.
But there is good news! Even though the temple was destroyed, and we can’t sacrifice lambs and goats, the blood of Yeshua, our Passover Lamb, is available! When anyone, Jew or Gentile, responds to the Good News with faith, with belief, with commitment and loyalty, Messiah’s blood is applied to that person and death passes him over. He is safe. He is protected. He is redeemed. He is delivered. He will live forever.
Observing Passover and Matza was not to be a one-time event. This salvation experience was so important; revealed so much about who God is and how He works that the Jewish people were to observe this ceremony throughout our generations. Obey these instructions as a lasting ordinance for you and your descendants. When you enter the land that the Lord will give you as he promised, observe this ceremony.
The Passover/Matza ceremony is to teach each generation about the God who is able to differentiate between those who are His, and those who aren’t; the God who is able to save those who are His, and destroy those who aren’t. More instructions to help us teach each generation these truths: And when your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ then tell them, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the Lord, who passed over the houses of the Israelis in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians.’”
Moses had given these instructions to the elders of Israel. They and the people responded in the right way. Then the people bowed down and worshiped – showing they believed in the Lord; and that Adonai had sent Moses and Aaron; and they believed the Lord would save them as He said; and their worship resulted in action. The Israelis did just what the Lord commanded Moses and Aaron. And may that be said of us – that we worshiped the Lord in spirit and in truth, and did just what the Lord commanded us. Amen?
On the tenth of Nisan, the families chose the lambs and goats to be sacrificed. At the end of the fourteenth day, we killed the lambs and goats; applied their blood to the doors of our houses; roasted them; ate them and the matza and bitter herbs; with our cloaks tucked into our belt, our sandals on our feet and our staff in our hand. We ate the meal in haste.
That night was the middle of the first month. The moon was full. Not early in the night, and not at the end of the night, but at midnight the Lord struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh, who sat on the throne, to the firstborn of the prisoner, who was in the dungeon, and the firstborn of all the livestock as well. It’s horrible when a substantial percent of a population dies because an enemy attacks, or an earthquake or flood or plague decimates a nation. Those kinds of calamities are horrible but they are known to happen. This calamity had to have been even worse because, not only was a very substantial percent of the Egyptian population killed, it was clear that those who were killed were killed selectively and supernaturally by the God of Israel. A calamity like this was unknown among human beings.
A deadly judgment like this had never happened before. It must have been incredibly terrifying; and it was intensified and made even more terrifying by the death of the firstborn males of the animals. The dead bodies of millions of animals would have been scattered throughout Egypt.
And it wasn’t the weakest or the youngest or the oldest or the sickest or the worst of the population like the criminals, who were killed. It was the firstborn sons, the principle heirs and the leaders and future leaders of the families of the nation, who were killed. It must have been incredibly terrifying for the Egyptians.
And not just terrifying; it was also grievous. It is said that the suffering that results from the death of a child is one of the worst kinds of suffering. That Passover, no home was spared, no matter how rich or powerful. Every Egyptian family was in anguish. Pharaoh and all his officials and all the Egyptians got up during the night, and there was loud wailing in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone dead.
This was the tenth plague and by far the worst. Pharaoh finally had enough. He capitulated that night. During the night Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Up! Leave my people, you and the Israelis! Go, worship the Lord as you have requested. Take your flocks and herds, as you have said, and go. Then he added a request. And also bless me.” The king of Egypt knew that the God of the Israelis was real. He had power to harm. Therefore He had power to bless. Now that he had submitted to the will of the God of Israel, why not ask His representatives to bless him?
When we are fighting against God, resisting Him, opposing His will, He is not inclined to oppose us, not bless us. When we humble ourselves and yield to His will, He is inclined to bless us. So, may we humble ourselves and continually submit to His will. Amen?
We asked the Egyptians to allow us to leave, but they had refused to let us leave – multiple times. The ten plagues, with the tenth being the worst of them, affected the attitudes of the Egyptians toward us. Everyone now wanted us to leave, and leave quickly. If we didn’t, they were afraid the God of Israel might send the eleventh plague that would kill all of them. The Egyptians urged the people to hurry and leave the country. “For otherwise,” they said, “we will all die!”
More details: it was time to leave Egypt. There was no time to delay. We couldn’t wait for yeast to be added to the dough so that the bread would rise. So the people took their dough before the yeast was added, and carried it on their shoulders in kneading troughs wrapped in clothing.
More details: before we left, Moses instructed us to ask the Egyptians for their valuables – which was appropriate, since they had enslaved us and taken advantage of us for many years. The Israelis did as Moses instructed and asked the Egyptians for articles of silver and gold and for clothing.
And the Lord prepared the Egyptians so they did not refuse our request for restitution. The Lord had made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and they gave them what they asked for; so they plundered the Egyptians – which fulfilled the Lord’s promise to Abraham: for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions.
For the Lord’s people today, we should be encouraged because something similar will happen. A day is coming when those who have oppressed us and taken advantage of us will lose everything; and we will be enriched beyond measure.
The Passover and the Exodus really happened. Moses gave us other details which reinforce the historicity of these events. The Israelis journeyed from Rameses to Sukkot – which were two real places.
Another historical detail: There were about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children. That’s approximately two to three million people – roughly the same population as Chicago, the third largest city in the U.S. That’s a lot of people.
Another historical detail: Many other people went up with them. People from other nations who were in Egypt, and had seen the power of the God of Israel, joined our exodus. This is the “mixed multitude.”
Another historical detail: and also large droves of livestock, both flocks and herds. Not just people, but a lot of livestock went up with us.
Another historical detail: we left so suddenly there wasn’t time to bake the more desirable leavened bread. With the dough the Israelis had brought from Egypt, they baked loaves of unleavened bread. The dough was without yeast because they had been driven out of Egypt and did not have time to prepare food for themselves.
Moses gave us other historical details. Now the length of time the Israeli people lived in Egypt was 430 years. At the end of the 430 years, to the very day, all the Lord’s divisions left Egypt. 430 years is a long time. That’s the amount of time the Lord told Abraham we would be strangers in a foreign land where we would be enslaved and mistreated; and after that we would return to our land. God fulfilled His word to Abraham. And, everything that the Lord has told us about the future will take place – exactly as He has said.
In spite of being enslaved, mistreated, our firstborn sons killed, the Lord had preserved us – and not only preserved us, He had greatly increased our numbers and freed us and enriched us so we could return to the land He promised us. What a great God!
Because Passover is so important, and because the Lord Himself took part in that first Passover, to honor the One who brought us out of Egypt, every generation is to observe it. Because the Lord kept vigil that night to bring them out of Egypt, on this night all the Israelis are to keep vigil to honor the Lord for the generations to come.
More instructions: The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “These are the regulations for the Passover meal: No foreigner may eat it. This is a special meal, a special communion to only be enjoyed between God and His chosen ones.
Foreigners could participate with us, but only if they were joined to us, which necessitated faith in the God of Israel and circumcision. Any slave you have bought may eat it after you have circumcised him, but a temporary resident or a hired worker may not eat it.
For us today: There are special things we don’t allow spiritual foreigners to participate in, like the Lord’s Supper; I would include prayer meetings where spiritual intimacy is required; and engaging in evangelism.
More instructions: It must be eaten inside the house; take none of the meat outside the house. The people were to remain in the house and so was the lamb or goat. The meat was not to be taken outside or to another house. One lamb, eaten in the house.
The lesson for us today: the Lord and His people are holy and united. The Lord and His people are separate from the world. We are in the world but not of the world. There is a hidden place of salvation, of spiritual intimacy, of communion and fellowship that only we can know.
More instructions: Do not break any of the bones. The lamb or goat was to be roasted whole, and none of its bones were to be broken. There was to be unity and wholeness between the lamb and the family.
In the same way Messiah, our Passover Lamb, restores wholeness to broken human beings, and brings unity between God and people. He died in such a way that none of His bones were broken. He died not broken – enabling us to be not broken.
More instructions: The whole community of Israel must celebrate it. Everyone in the community of Israel was required to participate. For us today: there may be various denominations, but there is only one community of the Lord’s people.
All true believers are to be celebrating through Messiah, our Passover Lamb – by participating in the life and worship and the service of Messiah’s Community. Those who claim to be Christians or Messianic Jews and don’t regularly participate in the life and worship and service of Messiah’s Community – I doubt they are part of us.
More instructions: A foreigner residing 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 it. The same law applies both to the native-born and to the foreigner residing among you. As a result of Passover, the Egyptians and other peoples would know that the God of Israel is the true God; and that He did amazing things in Egypt and rescued His people with a great salvation. Some of them would be attracted to the God of Israel. They would want to join us in celebrating Passover.
They could – if they demonstrated their faith by circumcision. Then the same Passover laws and rights applied to the Jewish people and the other peoples.
For us today: Because of Messiah, our Passover Lamb, a remnant of the Chosen People and the other peoples have been saved with a great salvation. Jews and Gentiles become one new man, a new united humanity. The same law applies to us. We have the same God and Father; serve the same Lord; share the same Spirit; believe the same Gospel; share the same holy ceremonies; serve the Lord hand in hand. All of us are the sons and daughters and heirs of God; citizens of the New Jerusalem.
Our nation was off to a good start. The Lord was our God. We had great, God-ordained leaders. We were free. We were organized. We were enriched. We were headed home. More great things were in store for us – and also great failures. All the Israelis did just what the Lord had commanded Moses and Aaron. And on that very day the Lord brought the Israelis out of Egypt by their divisions. Sadly, in spite of such a great start, only two of the men who left Egypt that day would enter the Promised Land – which is a warning to us.
Lord, those of us who are observing Passover and Matza this year, may it be very meaningful to us.
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 by having true faith.
Just as You commanded Israel to celebrate the Passover throughout our generations, You want us to celebrate Messiah our Passover Lamb – not just when we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, eating the bread and drinking the wine – but every day. Each day help us celebrate Yeshua’s great life; His sacrificial death; His resurrection; His victory over sin and death; the giving of His Spirit. Help us stay firmly connected to our Sinless and Risen Lord.
Avinu Malkaynu, our Father and our King, Messiah our Passover Lamb, is indeed risen, full of life and power. Help us to constantly receive that life and power from Him!
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.