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Christ in the Passover
By Ceil Rosen, Moishe Rosen, Ali Diaz
Moody PublishersCopyright © 2006 Ceil & Moishe Rosen
All rights reserved.
When Abraham, the first Hebrew, left Ur to follow God's call, he sacrificed a life of comfort and ease. Ur was no small village. It was one of the oldest, most important cities of Mesopotamia, covering an area of about four square miles by the Euphrates River, which empties into the Persian Gulf. The citizens of Ur, numbering well over half a million, lived in walled safety. They enjoyed the advantages of the highest culture and civilization of their time. The outstanding architecture of their temples, which they built in honor of their numerous deities, was a source of great pride.
From the comfort, advantages, and sophistication of Ur, Jehovah called Abraham and his family to a seminomadic way of life. They were not nomads in spirit, for they were headed for the Promised Land, but they did not yet possess it. They wandered with the seasons, seeking pasture for their flocks, and they also tilled the ground. Tents were their only shelter from the scorching sun and cruel desert wind. But they believed that one day the land really would be theirs, evidenced by their burying those who died along the way in permanent caves.
Then a great drought and famine drove Jacob, a grandson of Abraham, to leave Canaan for the promise of food in Egypt. Once again the seed of Abraham dismantled their tents. Packing all that they had left, they headed south with their wives, their little ones, and their flocks. Because Jacob's son Joseph had found favor with the current pharaoh, they were welcomed as honored quests and given the land of Goshen as their dwelling place (Genesis 47:6). Goshen was a fertile area along the delta of the Nile River, lying in the northeast portion of an area between what is now Cairo to the southeast and Alexandria to the northwest. Here the Hebrews felt respected and secure.
Egypt Is Our Home—Why Bother About Canaan?
Because of the devastating drought that drove Jacob to seek refuge in Egypt, many of the Egyptians eventually ran out of food too. Some sold their cattle, their land, and finally themselves to Pharaoh in exchange for room and board. Because the pharaohs of that time were of Semitic descent, they favored the seed of Abraham, who also were Semites. For the first time since Abraham left Ur, the Hebrews enjoyed a feeling or permanence. They lived a quiet, secure life in Goshen. The Nile overflowed its banks once a year, bringing life-giving water to the earth. There was lush, abundant pasture for the flocks and rich soil to grow their food.
Here the Hebrews watched their children grow tall and brown in the sun. At night they slept in safety behind the thick walls of their adobe homes. No longer did they wake to the distressed bleating of hungry flocks. Their Egyptian neighbors were people of high morals and advanced culture. Not only did they produce literature and music, but they also knew mathematics and some of the healing arts, and many were skilled architects. They accepted the Hebrews as equals and even bestowed high honors on some of them. Life was pleasant indeed.
Under these circumstances the descendants of Abraham prospered for hundreds of years. Exodus 1:9 indicates they multiplied so fast that a later pharaoh grew concerned that there were more Hebrews than Egyptians in the land. The children of Israel were so comfortable and secure that it was easy to forget that Egypt was not the land God had promised to their fathers. Maybe some of them even forgot God Himself.
They were no longer following God's directives. The covenant Jehovah had made with Abraham was two-sided. On God's part, He promised them land (Genesis 15:18). On Abraham's part, he and his seed were to go where they were told and bear the physical marks of the covenant-circumcision (Genesis 17:10). The Hebrews forgot to seek the Promised Land and forgot to circumcise while they were in Egypt (Joshua 5:5). They would need to be redeemed, to be "deemed again" the people of the covenant, the people of God.
O Lord, Forgive Our Complacency—Get Us Out of Here!
For more than four hundred years the Israelites lived at the edge of a volcano without knowing it. The volcano that was Egypt erupted and its flames threatened to consume them, for there arose a new pharaoh who "did not know about Joseph" (Exodus 1:8). Fearing the strength and power of the vast multitude of Hebrew foreigners, he turned against them and made them his slaves. The children of Israel continued to live in Goshen, but the land no longer belonged to them. Now they belonged to the land, to Egypt, and to the pharaoh. They had to serve him with backbreaking labor, sweating in the fields, building his treasured cities, without compensation or even dignity. There were no strikes or unions to file a complaint. Pharaoh appointed foremen to give his slaves more work than they could do. If a man dropped from exhaustion, the taskmasters left him to die and quickly whipped another into line to take his place.
Under this regime, the children of Israel toiled and suffered, but still they grew in number. Enraged, Pharaoh ordered the Hebrews' male babies murdered in an attempt to wipe out the entire nation. Then the Israelites remembered the God of their fathers. They knew they needed to be delivered, not only from Pharaoh but also from Egypt. They cried out to God in their bondage and distress, and He heard their anguished pleas. Now that they were ready for His help, He remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. Deliverance was near.
Jehovah could have slain the wicked pharaoh in an instant and brought about a new, more favorable order in Egypt. But that would not have been enough. The sons of Jacob had to leave Egypt in order to serve God. Old things, old attitudes, old affections had to pass away. The nation of Israel also needed a new beginning. Thus the redemption at Passover prepared the sons of Jacob for another covenant to be made at Mount Sinai, which would reestablish and reaffirm them as the nation of God.
The Passover redemption from Egypt changed Israel's reckoning of time. God commanded the Hebrews to count the month of the deliverance from Egypt as the first month of the year. He was basically saying, "This event is so historic that you are to rearrange your calendar because of it." They were to start counting their history from the month of Nisan. (Similarly, we mark our history BC and AD, basing our calendar on what happened at Calvary.) The great nation that God had promised to Abraham was about to become a reality.CHAPTER 2
The Original Passover
In order to redeem His people from Egypt, Jehovah chose a man who was, in many ways, as much an Egyptian as he was a Hebrew. Moses was born an Israelite, but he grew to manhood in the palace of Pharaoh's daughter. He was raised by his Hebrew mother, but he learned worldly wisdom from Egyptian schoolmasters. God chose him to deliver Israel, to show to all that "the Lord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel" (Exodus 11:7).
As a young man, Moses fled Egypt in disgrace under penalty of death. When God called him to lead Israel out of bondage, he had been away from Egypt's culture and sophistication for forty years. He had long given up his princely robes for the rough garb of a shepherd. He would stand before the successor to the pharaoh who had sought his life. His eyes blazed with the fire of the living God, whom he had encountered in the wilderness. His hands, calloused by the shepherd's crook, wielded a staff that was an instrument of God's power. His lips were the mouthpiece of the Lord as he confronted Pharaoh with his words: "Let my people go!"
When Pharaoh refused, the Lord demonstrated His might by bringing down judgment on Egypt's false gods. Through Moses, He turned the water into blood, showing He was greater than the Nile, which the Egyptians worshiped as the sustainer of life. He darkened the sky, proclaiming His superiority over the sun god, Ra. He made pests of the frogs, which Egyptians had respected as controllers of the undesirable insects that followed the annual overflow of the great river.
While the Lord poured out plague after plague, Pharaoh's heart was still hard. God ruined the Egyptians' crops with hail and locusts, killed their cattle with disease, and afflicted the people with painful boils, loathsome vermin, and thick darkness. And when the cup of iniquity was full, Pharaoh hardened his heart even further. Through Moses, God adressed Pharaoh: "Israel is my firstborn son, and I told you, 'Let my son go, so he may worship me.' But you refused to let him go; so I will kill your firstborn son" (Exodus 4:22–23; cf. 11:4–8). Now He determined to break the iron will of Egypt with one last plague. The specter of death was to fly by night over the land, interrupting the line of inheritance, bringing tragedy to every home where Jehovah was not feared and obeyed.
Although their redemption was at the door, the Israelites were not automatically exempt from this last plague. God tempered His final judgment on Egypt with mercy and perfect provision—the substitution of a life for a life. The Lord said:
On the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household.... Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month ... slaughter them at twilight ... take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses.... I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn ...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. (Exodus 12:3, 6–7, 12–13)
The verb "pass over" has a deeper meaning here than the idea of stepping or leaping over something to avoid contact. It is not the common Hebrew verb, a-bhar, or gabhar, which is frequently used in that sense. The word used here is pasah, from which comes the noun pesah, which is translated Passover. These words have no connection with any other Hebrew word, but they do resemble the Egyptian word pesh, which means "to spread wings over." Arthur W. Pink, in his book Gleanings in Exodus, sheds further light on this:
The word is used ... in this sense in Isa. 31:5: "As birds flying, so will the Lord of Hosts defend Jerusalem; defending also He will deliver it; and passing over (pasoach, participle of pasach) He will preserve it." The word has, consequently, the very meaning of the Egyptian term for "spreading the wings over and protecting"; and pesach, the Lord's Passover, means such sheltering and protection as is found under the outstretched wings of the Almighty. Does this not give a new fullness to those words, "O Jerusalem! Jerusalem! ... How often would I gave gathered thy children together, as a hen does gather her brood under her wings?" (Luke 13:34).... And this term pesach is applied (1) to the ceremony ... and (2) to the lamb ... the slain lamb, the sheltering behind its blood and eating of its flesh, constituted the pesach, the protection of God's chosen people beneath the sheltering wings of the Almighty.... It was not merely that the Lord passed by the houses of Israelites, but that He stood on guard protecting each blood-sprinkled door! ["The Lord ... will not suffer the destroyer to come in" (Exodus 12:23.)]
God includes everyone in the death sentence in Exodus 11:5: "Every firstborn son in Egypt will die." God must do the just thing because He is God, but He balances His righteousness with His loving mercy. He decrees judgment for all sin and all sinners; then He provides a way of escape, a kiporah, or covering. While rain falls on everyone, those who have an umbrella do not get wet. For those who seek His way to satisfy the demands of His Law, God provides the blood of the lamb as a covering.
Israel's redemption began that night behind the safety of blood-sprinkled doors. It was a night of horror and grief for anyone who had foolishly disregarded God's command. It was a long night of vigil mixed with hope for the obedient. Perhaps wails of anguish could be heard from outside as the grim reaper of death went from house to house. Perhaps there was only thick, ominous silence. The people knew that terror and death lay outside that door, which they dared not open until morning.
It was a night of judgment, but the substitutionary death of the Passover lamb brought forgiveness to God's people. It washed away 430 years of Egypt's contamination. The blood of the lamb protected them from the wrath of the Almighty. Its roasted flesh nourished their bodies with strength for the perilous journey ahead. They ate in haste, loins girded, staff in hand, shoes on their feet, prepared to leave at any moment at God's command. In that awe-filled night of waiting, they experienced Jehovah's loving protection even in the midst of His fierce judgment. They gained a trust that was deep enough to see them through another black night soon to come. They would stand at the edge of the churning waves of the Red Sea with the entire host of angry Egyptians at their backs, and they would trust the words of Moses: "Stand firm and you will see the deliverance [of] the LORD" (Exodus 14:13).
The Lord often works on behalf of His people when things look darkest. In the words of the psalmist, "weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning" (Psalm 30:5). And so the morning came, and with it joy and freedom.
Out of His mercy, and because He would keep His covenant, the Lord rescued Israel. The seed of Abraham must not forget their commitment to the Holy One of Israel, and they must not forget His promises. They must remember that He brought them out of Egypt with a strong hand and with His outstretched arm.CHAPTER 3
God's Object Lesson
The Lord's redemption of Israel needed to be stamped on the minds and hearts of future generations. How can a people best remember their history? Books and scrolls may only capture the interest of the scholarly, and in time, words can lose their meaning. God, the master Teacher, devised the perfect method. He commanded the annual reenactment of that first Passover night, a ceremony that would appeal to the senses. Even as we teach children today through object lessons, Jehovah used everyday acts of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and touching to teach holy truths to His people.
God began His object lesson to Israel with the Passover lamb. First, the people had to single out from their flocks the handsomest, healthiest looking yearling. An animal of this age, just approaching the prime of its life, was frisky and winsome. Then the family had to watch it carefully for four days before the Passover to make sure it was perfect in every way. During this period of close observation, they fed and cared for the lamb and grew accustomed to having it around. By the end of the fourth day, it must have won the affection of the entire household, especially the children. Now they all must avoid its big, innocent eyes as the head of the house prepared to plunge in the knife. While meat was a treat in ancient times, how could they enjoy eating their lamb's flesh? The lesson was painful. God's holiness demands that He judges sin, and the price is costly. But He is also merciful and provides a way of escape (redemption).
The innocent Passover lamb foreshadowed the One who would come centuries later to be God's final means of atonement and redemption:
THE PASSOVER LAMB WAS MARKED FOR DEATH
In Isaiah 53:7 is the prophecy that the Messiah will be led as a lamb to the slaughter. First Peter 1:19–20 says Jesus was foreordained to die before the creation of the world.
THE PASSOVER LAMB WAS TO BE PERFECT
According to Deuteronomy 15:21, only that which is perfect can make atonement. Jesus the Messiah presented Himself in public ministry for three years and showed Himself perfect in heart and deed. Even Pilate found no fault in Him. Hebrews 4:15 says that He was tempted (tested) in all points, yet was without sin. First Peter 1:19 describes Him as a Lamb without blemish or spot.
Excerpted from Christ in the Passover by Ceil Rosen, Moishe Rosen, Ali Diaz. Copyright © 2006 Ceil & Moishe Rosen. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers.
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