“The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt.”[Exodus 12:13]
The LORD established the Biblical feasts for His people to serve as holy convocations (literal rehearsals) both to remember God’s faithfulness in the past and also to foreshadow symbolic pictures of the good things to come in Messiah.
When it comes to understanding these sacred feasts, the Passover is the natural place to begin. Passover not only represents God’s unforgettable work of redeeming His people Israel out of Egyptian bondage, but also it signifies the literal birth of a new nation and beginning of a new year of liberty for God’s people. As we will see with all of the feasts, Passover is abundantly rich with Messianic hope and fulfillment, as Yahweh used this monumental and miraculous occasion to point His people to even greater things to come.
As the Apostle Paul says …
“Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a feast or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.”[Colossians 2:16-17]
The only way to understand and appreciate the Passover is to revisit its origin in the true account of the Exodus. Yahweh — the LORD — had entered into an everlasting covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their descendants after them. This covenant included the land, a nation, blessing, and the Seed of promise — Messiah. The LORD made a promise to Abram that later would be realized through the Exodus from Egypt.
Then the LORD said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions.”[Genesis 15:13-14]
As predicted, the Israelites became enslaved in Egypt under the heavy hand of Pharaoh and suffered for 400 years, while at the same time growing into a great nation. When the fullness of time had come, the LORD raised up a deliverer in Moses and sent him to bring judgment on Pharaoh and redemption for His people.
After a barrage of plagues solidified the hardness of Pharaoh’s rebellious heart, the LORD informed Moses that a 10th and final plague was coming upon the land of Egypt — a plague of death for every firstborn son. Before sending the destroying angel to carry out this severe judgment, the LORD told Moses how the Israelites would be saved from certain death.
The LORD provided only one way for His people to be saved, which required unwavering faith and total obedience. The Passover would become the day of salvation for Israel. The day of new birth. The day of deliverance.
Let’s revisit some of the critical details about the Passover.
- The LORD commanded each family to select a lamb on the 10th day of Nisan and examine and care for it until the 14th day Nisan [Exodus 12:1-6]
- The lamb had to be a male, one year old, and most importantly without blemish or defect [Exodus 12:5]
- Just before sunset on the 14th day of Nisan, each family was then to sacrifice the innocent lamb and smear its blood on the doorframes of each dwelling using a hyssop branch [Exodus 12:6-7]
- The family was then commanded to eat the lamb, along with other bitter herbs and unleavened bread [Exodus 12:8-10]
- All of the Israelites were to pack up and eat in haste and be prepared to leave at a moment’s notice [Exodus 12:11]
- All of the Israelites were to remain inside their dwellings until the destroying angel passed through the land, killing every firstborn son in Egypt [Exodus 12:12]
- The lamb’s blood on the doorposts would serve as a “sign” for God’s people, as the angel of the LORD would passover the bloodstained wood, saving them from God’s destructive judgment [Exodus 12:13]
- This is the LORD’s Passover, which “shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast.” [Exodus 12:14]
The Observance of Passover in Israel
The Feast of Passover/Unleavened Bread was one of three appointed feasts in which the LORD required all the eligible men of Israel to present themselves in Jerusalem [Deuteronomy 16:16]. Despite the LORD’s clear command that the Passover was to remembered as a holy convocation each year, the Bible says that by the time of the Judges, God’s people neglected to keep the Passover for 500 years! It wasn’t until King Josiah discovered the scroll of Torah in the Temple that the Passover was reinstated in Judah.
“And the king commanded all the people, ‘Keep the Passover to the LORD your God, as it is written in this Book of the Covenant.’ For no such Passover had been kept since the days of the judges who judged Israel, or during all the days of the kings of Israel or of the kings of Judah.”[2 Kings 23:21-22]
We also know that Passover was observed within the religious culture of Jesus’ day because Jesus commanded His own disciples to prepare the Passover meal before his death. He would have observed all the appointed feasts in order to fulfill all righteousness and satisfy the requirements of the law.
“And they went and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover. And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them, ‘I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.’”[Luke 22:13-16]
As we will see next time, Passover ultimately strikes at the heart of the gospel and provides one of the most significant pictures of the sacrificial death of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Stay tuned.
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