Sunday February 4th
I don’t know if any of you have even noticed, but we started using gluten-free matzo a while back for communion, in case anyone in the congregation is allergic to gluten. They actually make all kinds and flavors of matzo. They have plain, whole wheat, gluten free, salted, unsalted, garlic flavored, and a new kind of bran and fiber matzo, fortified with Metamucil. The slogan for that brand of matzo is "Let My People Go".
And after many chapters and many plagues, it’s finally time for Pharaoh to let the people of Israel go!
Now the Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, 2 “This month shall be the beginning of months for you; it is to be the first month of the year to you.
The first month of the Hebrew year was to be Abib, which falls around March and April. This verse seems to show that God was instituting a new religious calendar at that time, with the Exodus as its starting point. So, for example, in 2018 Passover will begin on Friday, March 30 and it will end on Saturday, April 7.
Now starting in verse 3 God is going to give Moses the instructions for the first Passover:
3 Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying, ‘On the tenth of this month they are each one to take a lamb for themselves, according to their fathers’ households, a lamb for each household. 4 Now if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his neighbor nearest to his house are to take one according to the number of persons in them; according to what each man should eat, you are to divide the lamb. 5 Your lamb shall be an unblemished male a year old; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats.6 You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month, then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel is to kill it at twilight.7 Moreover, they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. 8 They shall eat the flesh that same night, roasted with fire, and they shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. 9 Do not eat any of it raw or boiled at all with water, but rather roasted with fire, both its head and its legs along with its entrails. 10 And you shall not leave any of it over until morning, but whatever is left of it until morning, you shall burn with fire.11 Now you shall eat it in this manner: with your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste—it is the Lord’s Passover.
The Passover observance is the oldest of all of the Jewish festivals and it is celebrated starting at twilight on the fourteenth day of that first month of Abib and then continuing for the next seven days.
The festival involved a sacrifice and a meal. The sacrifice had to be a lamb without any spot or blemish. This would also be true for all of the sacrifices of Israel in the tabernacle and the temple, as we saw in the Book of Leviticus. The idea here was to teach the people the idea of substitutionary death—the lamb was dying instead of their firstborn sons. Jesus’ death was being foreshadowed by the Passover lamb, which is why He is called the Lamb of God in John 1:29 and 36.
Also, look at 1st Peter 1:18-19
“knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, 19 but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.”
The Passover meal had a lot of symbolism, including the fact that it was to be eaten quickly and with their sandals on, as a reminder that they were about to be set free. The meat of the lamb was accompanied by unleavened bread, also a sign of hurriedness as well as an absence of sin. The bitter herbs they ate were to recall the bitter suffering of slavery that they had experienced in Egypt.
Notice also that they were to cover their doorposts with the lamb’s blood. Now God explains to Moses why this is so crucial:
12 For I will go through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments—I am the Lord. 13 The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live; 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.
There are a couple of very significant elements to this final plague. One is that it targeted only the firstborn, which makes a difference because in those cultures all of the hopes and dreams of each family were invested in that firstborn son, who had the right of inheritance. This was clearly a planned act by God. As one commentary put it “no epidemic or accident could have been so selective”.
Secondly, God says that He is pouring out His judgment “on all the gods of Egypt”. The death of the firstborn included their animals too, many of which were considered sacred animals. Furthermore, the inability of Egypt’s gods to protect the people who worshipped them was going to be very clearly demonstrated by this plague.
Now God will establish this as a permanent festival:
14 ‘Now this day will be a memorial to you, and you shall celebrate it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations you are to celebrate it as a permanent ordinance. 15 Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, but on the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses; for whoever eats anything leavened from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel. 16 On the first day you shall have a holy assembly, and another holy assembly on the seventh day; no work at all shall be done on them, except what must be eaten by every person, that alone may be prepared by you. 17 You shall also observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this very day I brought your hosts out of the land of Egypt; therefore you shall observe this day throughout your generations as a permanent ordinance. 18 In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at evening, you shall eat unleavened bread, until the twenty-first day of the month at evening.19 Seven days there shall be no leaven found in your houses; for whoever eats what is leavened, that person shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he is an alien or a native of the land.20 You shall not eat anything leavened; in all your dwellings you shall eat unleavened bread.’”
Again we see this emphasis on removing all yeast (or leaven) which was regarded as a symbol of sin or corruption. No Israelite sacrifice was ever allowed to contain any leaven. And neither did Jesus’ sacrifice!
In verses 21 through 27 Moses simply repeats to the people of Israel everything that God just told him to say.
(21 Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Go and take for yourselves lambs according to your families, and slay the Passover lamb. 22 You shall take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood which is in the basin, and apply some of the blood that is in the basin to the lintel and the two doorposts; and none of you shall go outside the door of his house until morning.
23 For the Lord will pass through to smite 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 come in to your houses to smite you. 24 And you shall observe this event as an ordinance for you and your children forever. 25 When you enter the land which the Lord will give you, as He has promised, you shall observe this rite. 26 And when your children say to you, ‘What does this rite mean to you?’27 you shall say, ‘It is a Passover sacrifice to the Lord who passed over the houses of the sons of Israel in Egypt when He smote the Egyptians, but spared our homes.’” And the people bowed low and worshiped.)
And verse 28 tells us that they were obedient:
28 Then the sons of Israel went and did so; just as the Lord had commanded Moses and Aaron, so they did.
And starting in verse 29 the plague begins:
29 Now it came about at midnight that the Lord struck all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of cattle. 30 Pharaoh arose in the night, he and all his servants and all the Egyptians, and there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was no home where there was not someone dead. 31 Then he called for Moses and Aaron at night and said, “Rise up, get out from among my people, both you and the sons of Israel; and go, worship the Lord, as you have said. 32 Take both your flocks and your herds, as you have said, and go, and bless me also.”
Do you remember how Pharaoh kept trying to bargain with Moses to settle for less than what God was asking for?
Well, he’s not bargaining anymore! He just wants these Hebrews GONE – men, women, children, flocks, herds, the whole bunch of them!
And the Egyptian people felt the same way as Pharaoh did:
33 The Egyptians urged the people, to send them out of the land in haste, for they said, “We will all be dead.” 34 So the people took their dough before it was leavened, with their kneading bowls bound up in the clothes on their shoulders.
But God wasn’t finished what He wanted to accomplish:
35 Now the sons of Israel had done according to the word of Moses, for they had requested from the Egyptians articles of silver and articles of gold, and clothing; 36 and the Lord had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have their request. Thus they plundered the Egyptians.
God wasn’t going to let His children leave Egypt empty-handed, especially since they had slaved so hard serving the Egyptians. They may not have received any wages during their time as slaves, but they were going to get some long-overdue silver and gold on their way out!
Now the journey begins:
37 Now the sons of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, aside from children. 38 A mixed multitude also went up with them, along with flocks and herds, a very large number of livestock. 39 They baked the dough which they had brought out of Egypt into cakes of unleavened bread. For it had not become leavened, since they were driven out of Egypt and could not delay, nor had they prepared any provisions for themselves.
Of course we know now that this journey to the Promised Land was going to take a whole lot longer than they anticipated, but they begin by traveling from Rameses to Succoth, which was somewhere in the eastern Delta of the Nile. And there are hundreds of thousands of them.
How did they grow into such a large people group? One reason was that they had been in Egypt for many generations:
40 Now the time that the sons of Israel lived in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years. 41 And at the end of four hundred and thirty years, to the very day, all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt.
This is pretty close to what God had foretold to Abraham in Genesis 15:13
God said to Abram, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years.
Now there are just a few more instructions about the Passover regulations, focusing on the restriction of the ceremony to the Hebrew people only, because as verse 38 mentions, there were a few non-Israelites leaving Egypt with the Hebrews.
42 It is a night to be observed for the Lord for having brought them out from the land of Egypt; this night is for the Lord, to be observed by all the sons of Israel throughout their generations.
43 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “This is the ordinance of the Passover: no foreigner is to eat of it; 44 but every man’s slave purchased with money, after you have circumcised him, then he may eat of it. 45 A sojourner or a hired servant shall not eat of it. 46 It is to be eaten in a single house; you are not to bring forth any of the flesh outside of the house, nor are you to break any bone of it. 47 All the congregation of Israel are to celebrate this. 48 But if a stranger sojourns with you, and celebrates the Passover to the Lord, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near to celebrate it; and he shall be like a native of the land. But no uncircumcised person may eat of it. 49 The same law shall apply to the native as to the stranger who sojourns among you.”
50 Then all the sons of Israel did so; they did just as the Lord had commanded Moses and Aaron. 51 And on that same day the Lord brought the sons of Israel out of the land of Egypt by their hosts.
Besides excluding outsiders, the other significant instruction in these verses is that none of the bones of the animals were allowed to be broken.
Just like the Passover lamb, none of the bones of Jesus were broken at His crucifixion.
Look at John 19:31-36
Then the Jews, because it was the day of preparation, so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. 32 So the soldiers came, and broke the legs of the first man and of the other who was crucified with Him; 33 but coming to Jesus, when they saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs. 34 But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out. 35 And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you also may believe. 36 For these things came to pass to fulfill the Scripture, “Not a bone of Him shall be broken.”
So does any of this Passover stuff have anything to do with us as followers of Jesus today?
I think that it clearly does.
Look at 1st Corinthians 5:7-8
Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed. 8 Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
Do you want to see the clear connection between Jesus’ death and the feast of Passover? Look at Luke 22:1-2
Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which is called the Passover, was approaching. 2 The chief priests and the scribes were seeking how they might put Him to death; for they were afraid of the people.
Now skip down to verse 7:
7 Then came the first day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. 8 And Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, so that we may eat it.” 9 They said to Him, “Where do You want us to prepare it?” 10 And He said to them, “When you have entered the city, a man will meet you carrying a pitcher of water; follow him into the house that he enters. 11 And you shall say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher says to you, “Where is the guest room in which I may eat the Passover with My disciples?”’ 12 And he will show you a large, furnished upper room; prepare it there.” 13 And they left and found everything just as He had told them; and they prepared the Passover.
14 When the hour had come, He reclined at the table, and the apostles with Him. 15 And He said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer;
Jesus Christ is our Passover lamb. His sacrifice cleansed us from all of the old “leaven” or sin in our lives. We celebrate our Passover every time that we take communion, like we did this morning.
Just like the people of Israel, we have been delivered from slavery to our old way of life.
Our Egypt might have been drugs, or it might have been alcohol. Maybe it was anger, jealousy, selfishness, or pride. Maybe we were in bondage to gambling or pornography – but not anymore!
Jesus came to earth to fulfill the role of the final Passover lamb. Everything that God was doing in Exodus was a prelude to what was going to happen when Jesus’ blood was shed to cover the door of our houses, our lives, to spare us from judgment and lead us to freedom.