The Passover

i. The Passover. Suggested readings: Exod. 12; Deut. 16. 1-8; Num. 28. 16-25; 1 Cor. 5. 7; Ezek. 45. 21.

In Leviticus 23 the feasts are proclaimed in verse 2; in verse 3 God informs His people of His intended result for them, and in verse 4 the panoramic view of the dealings of Jehovah with men is presented.

The fifth verse of the chapter introduces to us the first feast proper. It is the “Lord’s passover’ which was to be celebrated by His people on the fourteenth day of the first month (i.e. of the religious year) between the two evenings. In Deuteronomy 16. 1-8 we are told that the feast was to be observed in the month Abib (Nisan), for it was in that month that the Lord had brought His people out of bondage. Thus every time that the children of Israel celebrated this feast it would remind them of the work of the paschal lamb sacrificed to God for their deliverance from His righteous judgment in Egypt. Here in Deuteronomy 16 the agricultural year is predominant and in the month Abib the barley harvest came to maturity. The keeping of the passover was an injunction of the Lord in Exodus 12. 25, and was to be kept not only when journeying to the promised land, but also after entry into Canaan. More-over, the truth concerning the paschal lamb was to be com-mitted to each successive generation. The children of Israel were also told in Deuteronomy 16. 2 that the passover was only to be celebrated “in the place which the Lord shall choose to place his name there”. They were not to please themselves where to sacrifice, but they were to be obedient to the word of the Lord. Notice too, the feast united the people around their God, It was to be a feast which involved the fellowship of the Lord’s people and their subsequent communion with Himself, suggesting that there should be no isolation or estrangement with His redeemed people. The bringing out of bondage and the bringing in to Canaan is linked with the lamb.

In Exodus 12 we have the institution of the passover, in Leviticus 23 we have the celebration of the passover, and in 1 Corinthians 5. 7 we have the typical meaning of the passover. Note the new celebration which the people of God now keep for a remembrance:

The Lord’s Supper

In the Gospels – Institution,
In the Acts – Celebration,,

In 1 Corinthians – Meaning.

Exodus 12 - The Institution. One cannot fully appreciate the celebration of an observance without knowing the reason for its institution. Israel were in bondage in Egypt and God, hearing the forlorn cries of His people, came down to deliver them. (Note, God never sets His people free, whether that people be under law or grace, but He makes them free. To set free implies being entangled again, but making free suggests not being brought into another form of bondage; see John 8. 36; Gal. 5. 1). Despite the nine plagues brought upon Egypt, Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he would not let die children of Israel go out.

Chapter 11 of the book of Exodus gives us the initial preparation for the journey and also the plan of the exodus. Chapter 12 introduces us to the historical setting of the feast. Jehovah had allowed His people to endure so much from Egyptian bondage, but now He gives them a new beginning. The children of Israel had passed through six months of the civil year, but God blots out the past and starts afresh with His people. Their title, however, to this new beginning and new relationship with God is the blood of the lamb slain on the fourteenth day. The unblemished lamb was taken out of the sheep or the goats on the tenth day, and was publicly scrutinized until the fourteenth day when it was killed between the two evenings. When we come to the New Testa-ment, it appears that the Hebrew day had two evenings and went from sundown to sundown. The passover might be kept after sundown at the beginning or before sundown at the close. The close of Egypt’s day! The blood of the slain lamb was then to be applied to the two side posts and also on the upper door post on the houses of the Israelites. Thus, when Jehovah brought the final judgment upon Egypt and all the firstborn in the land were slain, Israel was as a whole screened from the judgment by the blood of the lamb. Whilst Jehovah’s eye was upon the blood of the slain lamb the Israelites were perfectly sheltered from judgment. Sir Robert Anderson states that the Hebrew word for passover is pesakh, and in Isaiah 31. 5 the same root word is used relating to a bird hovering over or covering her young with the wing. Protecting those under her wing from impending danger, she literally becomes their saviour, and Jehovah is none less than this to His people; see also Hosea 13. 4.

The blood of the lamb was applied to certain of the exterior parts of the house, but inside the children of Israel were feeding on the roast lamb and were well prepared to make a hasty exodus out of Egypt. The judgment of God is executed, the firstborn of every family not shielded by the blood are slain, but the children of Israel are redeemed out of bondage and separated unto their God. From the historical setting we pass on to the feast itself.

Leviticus 23. 5 – The Celebration. The celebration of this feast was to be on the same day of the month Abib or Nisan and also at exactly the same time of day as the historical event it recalled, but it must be noted that certain other commandments given in Exodus 12 were not now necessary and were not, therefore, continued; e.g., the blood applied on the side posts, etc. These initial instructions are connected with a people who were about to be redeemed out of bondage, whereas the celebration of the feast in later days was connected with a people who should be living in the enjoyment of liberty.

The people were enjoined to sacrifice the passover only in the place where God chose to place His name, Deut. 12. 1-3. The children of Israel were not to be like the nations indigenous to Canaan whose idolatrous worship was repugnant to God. Instead they were to gather to the one place where the name of their God had been placed. It was all of God; He provided the lamb whose blood was shed, gathered the people to Him-self, and made them obedient to His Word.

A people redeemed and separated are connected with the celebration of the feast, but the most profound truth which God was revealing in type to His people was concerning the true Paschal Lamb who would die. His precious blood being shed, to redeem men and women from the judgment of sin and deliver them from the yoke of Satanic bondage. From the type therefore we move to the antitype:

i Corinthians 5.7 – The Typical Meaning. The historical passover was a type of the historic Christ, 1 Cor. 5. 7. On the basis of apostolic authority we can compare the historical events of Exodus 12 with the life and death of our Lord Jesus Christ. Have you ever been transported with the meditation of the true Paschal Lamb? When you gaze upon the emblems each Lord’s day;, what is the depth of your appreciation of His mighty work at Calvary? Exodus 12, in the light of 1 Corinthians 5. 7, becomes more precious to the soul. Think of our previous condition, lost, forlorn, bound by sin with Satan as our taskmaster, the children of disobedience. Yet the Eternal God in His grace and mercy, to free us from bondage, provided a means of deliverance. God was now to inaugurate a new creation headed by His only begotten Son. The Christ of God was provided for this plan of redemption to be accom-plished. The moment that one puts trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour, God gives us a new beginning, 2 Cor. 5. 17; Gal. 6. 15. Just as Israel had experienced a new beginning because of the grace of God, so we as believers can rejoice in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. The past has been blotted out, the handwriting of the bond that condemned us has been cancelled, and we have been brought into the liberty where-with Christ has made us free.

Notice again that the lamb was to be taken on the tenth day, it was to be without blemish, and was to be taken out of the flock of sheep or goats. These are blessed shadows of the life of our Lord Jesus Christ, His public ministry commencing at flock. To make atonement through death the Lord was mani-fested in flesh. He identified Himself with humanity, but the salient difference was that He was intrinsically holy. He was the Lamb of God without blemish and without spot. As Paul says in Romans 8. 3, God sent forth His Son “in the likeness of sinful flesh".

Concerning thirty years of His life, the Word of God is almost completely silent but at Jordan’s bank God gives a public testimony to the unblemished character and intrinsic holiness of His Son before His ministry ever began. The voice from heaven said “Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased”, Luke 3. 22. The second verb is in a tense pointing to the past; thus God the Father was referring to those years before the public ministry began.

The four days during which the lamb had been publicly scrutinized by the children of Israel (from the 10th day to the 14th day) would also correspond to the three and a half years of our Lord’s public ministry as recorded in the Gospel narratives. The Jew always reckoned any part of a day as a whole day, similarly with years so three and a half years could be reckoned as four years. The paschal lamb of Israel would have been viewed by all kinds of persons to see if they could find any flaws. The Lord Jesus for three and a half years was viewed by many different kinds of people yet none could ever find blemish in Him, 1 Pet. 1.19. He was absolutely impervious to sin, yet was made sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.

Not only did the Lord Jesus fulfil the type in His unblem-ished life, but He died on the fourteenth day of Nisan (Abib) thus fulfilling the type in every detail. The Passover was observed by our Lord and His disciples at the beginning of the fourteenth day but He died on Calvary’s cross just before the fourteenth day was merging into the fifteenth day.

Finally, let us never forget that the redemption in Exodus 12 took a whole nation out of bondage, but the work of Christ at Calvary is sufficient to redeem a whole world.

Also note:

(a) The second passover sanctioned by God, Num. 9. 11; 2 Chron. 30. 2.

(b) Israel’s abandonment of this feast but the obedience of the pious Josiah, 2 Chron. 35. 18. Israel prospers when they keep the feast.

(c) The lamb’s bones were not to be broken, Exod. 12. 46; Num. 9. 12; Psa. 34. 20.

(d) Penalty of excision for default, Num. 9. 13. Compare and contrast with 1 Cor. 11. 27.


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