The Passover - Exodus 12
G. B. Fyfe, London
The first in order, and no doubt in importance, of the seven Feasts of Jehovah recorded in Leviticus 23 is the Passover. This was essentially the feast of the slain lamb. It points us to the cross and to the sacrificial death of Christ. God bases everything upon the finished work of Calvary and He alone can estimate the full value and significance of the cross.
The Paschal Lamb
The first Passover meant for Israel a new beginning. Prior to this their year was calculated from the middle of September. Now it commenced in the middle of March, from the date of the first Passover. This was the point at which Israel as a nation began to move in association with God. Similarly we make a new start in our lives when we are cleansed by the blood of the Lamb shed for us on the cross.
The lamb, then, is conspicuous in the Feast of Passover. We observe first of all that there are two important time pointers in connection with the lamb.
- The tenth day. The paschal lamb was withdrawn from the flock on the tenth day of the month. Ten is the number of human responsibility, and before God intervened in human affairs to provide himself a Lamb, man was thoroughly tested in many ways - under conscience, human government, law and so on - after which on the tenth day, as it were, Christ the Lamb foreordained before the foundation of the world was manifested in the fulness of time to bring salvation to the fallen sons of men. Nor is it surprising to note that Christ made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, presenting himself thus publicly to the nation of Israel as their rightful Messiah and King, on the very same day in which the paschal lamb was segregated from the flock - that was, four days before the Feast of Passover, the day of His crucifixion.
- The fourteenth day. Having been separated from the flock on the tenth day the passover lamb was kept under close scrutiny until the fourteenth day. Thus three and a half days ran their course before the lamb was slain. Typically speaking, those three and a half days of waiting correspond to the three and a half years of Christ’s public ministry, the period during which he was seen by men to be without fault or failure. He was indeed the Lamb without blemish and without spot, inwardly as well as outwardly perfect, alone qualified to take ruined man’s place in death and judgment and to become thereby his Redeemer.
Careful instructions were also given concerning both the blood and the flesh of the paschal lamb. The blood had to be caught and conserved in a basin. The blood in the basin was the visible evidence that a life had been taken, for the life is in the blood. It proclaimed the fact that God’s holiness had now been satisfied, and also that a righteous provision was available to meet the need of sinful man. On the basis of the slain lamb and the blood shed, God was now ready to offer salvation to mankind that men might escape the judgment of their sins.
But the blood in the basin was not enough to avert the approaching judgment. That blood had to be appropriated, (“take of the blood”); and applied (“strike it” on the doorposts and the lintel). The verb “strike” implies a definite and decisive act which involves the will of the individual. In relation to our salvation the teaching of all this is crystal clear. The blood of God’s Lamb has been shed at Calvary, but it must be personally applied. The provision for man’s need is universal - the application individual. Faith, as represented by the bunch of hyssop (that most common of plants in the East) is the appropriating principle by which we as individuals accept the blessings procured by the precious blood of the slain Lamb.
Having applied the blood as instructed by God, the Israelites rested on the divine assurance, “when I see the blood, I will pass over you”. And that is why the first of the seven annual feasts is called the Passover.
In the same way, equally detailed directions were laid down regarding the flesh of the paschal lamb. The blood on the outside of the house screened them from judgment; the flesh, inside the homes of the people, had to be eaten. They had to feast that night on the flesh of the sacrifice, and this they could do in perfect safety.
Attention is called to the time of eating, as well as to the method and manner of eating the lamb’s flesh.
i. The time of eating. It had to be eaten “that night”; surely a momentous night in Israel’s history - a night of death and judgment without, and yet a season of calm within their dwellings. For the Christian this present period is night. The world around us is enshrouded in moral darkness. As we await the morning we too should find our sustenance and satisfaction in feasting upon the Person and work of the Lamb of God. By faith we feed upon Him during the long dark hours of night. Do we really find our delight in Christ?
ii. The method of eating. The flesh had to be “roast with fire”. The intensity of the Saviour’s sufferings is typified in this expression - “roast with fire”. He absorbed and quenched the fire of divine judgment during those hours of soul-agony in the darkness of Calvary.
iii. The manner of eating. Here again the Israelites were left in no doubt as to details. They had to eat it in haste. with girded loins, shod feet and staff in hand. In other words, they had to feast that night all ready for a sudden departure. I wonder if this presents a true picture of us today? Are we actually so little entangled with the affairs of this doomed world that we also are ready for immediate departure should the Lord come to receive us to be with Himself forever? Such is the Christian’s blessed hope!
The New Testament statement regarding the fulfilment and application of the Passover is positive and clear. We read in I Corinthians 5. 7, “For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us”. Tremendous words, that minister to our souls the full assurance of eternal security from the doom and judgment of our sins.
To be continued.