Over the past month or so, we’ve been studying the people and events surrounding the Ten Plagues of Egypt—everything from the great and powerful to the small and slightly hilarious. We’ve seen magic men try to replicate God and simply fall short and make the situation worse, and we’ve watched Moses’ rise from outlawry to greatness. But most of all, we’ve witnessed God’s awesome power and glory, His intense judgment on the people of Egypt, and His goodness and kindness towards His chosen people.
As we near the end of the plagues of Egypt, we come to one of the most beautiful pictures in the Old Testament—the Passover. Its institution was in the land of Egypt before the Israelites were free, and it has been carried on over the past six thousand years. One of the most important events in the Jewish year, thousands continue gather to celebrate the Passover to this day.
Therefore, this special event is worth taking some time to look over and ponder, especially as it directly foreshadows and illustrates the most important event for the Christian—Jesus’ death on the cross. So let’s take some time to look at the first Passover and all the significance it holds for us as 21st century Christians. Below, I will share important excerpts from the institution of the first Passover. However, I would encourage you to go read the whole passage of Exodus 12:1-28 to get a complete picture of what is happening and the importance of it.
“The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, ‘This month shall be for you the beginning of months. It shall be the first month of the year for you. Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month every man shall take a lamb according to their fathers’ houses, a lamb for a household. And if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his nearest neighbor shall take according to the number of persons; according to what each can eat you shall make your count for the lamb. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats, and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs at twilight.”
“Then Moses called all the elders of Israel and said to them, ‘Go and select lambs for yourselves according to your clans, and kill the Passover lamb. Take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and touch the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood that is in the basin. None of you shall go out of the door of his house until the morning. For the LORD will pass through to strike the Egyptians, and when he sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to enter your houses to strike you.’”
The Passover was intended to be a celebration and reminder of the Israelites’ redemption from slavery and God’s mighty acts of deliverance. It was meant to be a memorial of all that God had done on their behalf—how He had rescued them and spared them from His judgment against Egypt. However, let’s note who instituted the first Passover and when.
Passover was God’s idea.
Moses didn’t come up with it and the people of Israel definitely didn’t think it up. No, the Passover, and all its parts and rituals, was God’s idea. He designed it to have a purpose far beyond the Israelites’ time in Egypt. Not only would it remind His people of all that He did for them, but the Passover would also point the way to the ultimate Savior and paint a beautiful picture of God’s great love for us.
Each year, many spotless lambs are slain to remember the first lambs whose blood saved the children of Israel from the plague of death. However, the countless sacrificed lambs since the Exodus point to the ultimate spotless Lamb who was slain on our behalf. Under the new covenant, we no longer need to sacrifice year-old lambs, because Jesus—the Lamb of God—was sacrificed on our behalf. His blood covers us and delivers us from eternal death.
There is so much symbolism between the Passover and the work of Jesus on the cross that whole books have been written and I, in my limited knowledge of Jewish tradition, am not going to pretend to be an authority on this. However, I hope you are able to see the profound meaning for us in the Passover—especially the original one as recorded here in Exodus. Just like the Israelites in Egypt, the blood of a perfect Lamb covers us and allows God’s judgment to pass over us and spare us from the punishment of death.
Passover started before the Israelites were free.
God instituted a feast and celebration of the Israelites’ deliverance from Egypt before the Israelites were even free. This is huge! It was a test of faith and a promise. After 400 years of slavery and weeks of plagues, God was finally saying that they would be free. However, the Israelites had to believe this and step out in faith by putting the blood on the doors of their houses; otherwise, they would experience the death of their firstborn.
How often does God give us a promise but also a test of faith? For us, what we do with Jesus is like what the Israelites did with the first Passover. Jesus is a promise, a promise of God’s love and redemption. However, we have to step out in faith and accept His gift of salvation; otherwise, we’ll experience death. We won’t be able to walk in freedom until we receive and believe the promise and do something about it.
God was merciful to the Israelites during the Exodus, and He is merciful to us today in this century. And just like the Israelites so long ago, we must receive God’s mercy in order for it to change and transform our lives. Passover was a pinnacle event in the story of Israel—it totally transformed the lives of the people and ushered in a new era in their history. And as the Lord commanded, Passover is still celebrated today among Jews as a remembrance and memorial to what God did so long ago.
In closing, what can we learn and take-a-way from the first Passover? We’ve seen so many corollaries between it and the atoning sacrifice of Jesus and how, in fact, Passover was a foreshadow of what Jesus did on the cross. Now what are we going to do with that information? Will we believe and accept the mercy of God? Will we remember it and celebrate each year as the Israelites celebrate Passover?
Just as God didn’t want the Israelites to forget the wonders He had done, we should never lose sight and forget God’s mercy toward us on the cross. So let’s take a minute or two and ponder all that God has done in our lives and celebrate His mercy, love, and grace.
Your turn: what corollaries do you see between Passover and Jesus’ sacrifice for us?
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