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Life of Moses

Passover

Exodus 12

Lesson audio

For many Christians the rite of Passover is filed under “historical use only.” But we might look at it differently. To do so, we must first make a philosophical distinction which is out of favor today. As it has proven useful in the past, I must ask you to bear with me.

That distinction is this: there is a difference between what a thing is, and what it is made of. Suppose I come to your house with my tools and totally disassemble the family car. I lay the pieces out neatly on the ground and announce that we now have complete understanding of this thing, the family car. You might make a few points to the contrary, like the mission of that car (to take you to work, for example); the mobility it gives you, and so on. A car is more than the sum of its parts.

In that same vein, we will see that Passover, far from being an empty ritual, is very fruitful in explanation. In particular, we shall see:

  • Passover as forming the nation of Israel, and thus a picture of the forming of the church.
  • Passover as the start of the Exodus, which is a picture of the flight of the church from sin to God.
  • Passover showing us Christ, the Lamb of God slain before the foundation of the world.

For reasons of space, we omit the copy of the Scripture. The lesson is based on Exodus 12.

Forming the nation

The nation of Israel was started at the first Passover, with the sacrifice of the lamb. The church has its deepest roots in the sacrifice of the Lamb of God. So let us see what nation building we have here.

Common

Three things I would put forward as common items which build community:

  • God changed the calendar for the Jews; this is the start of it. Similarly, the church reckons her dates around what was supposed to be the advent of Christ (they missed by a few years).
  • Nothing welds a group together like common suffering; the Jews in Egypt and the Christians suffering for Christ.
  • Most of all, the Jews have a common savior, Moses. The church has The Savior, Jesus, the Christ.
Sacrifice

There are three ways we see the sacrifice of the lamb as binding the nation:

  • The lamb is personal. It’s one per household, taken from your flocks. Therefore it is a genuine sacrifice. The Lamb of God is personal too.
  • The lambs are all killed at the same time, which is a common sacrifice; every one of the Jews did it. This, in type, foreshadows the fact that there would be one sacrifice for our sins (same time implies one sacrifice.)
  • The blood is on the doorposts – or it’s not. There is no half way. Similarly, either you accept the sacrifice of Christ – or not. It is by his blood that we are saved.
Memorial

A common memorial builds a nation – think of the 4th of July in America. Here are the similar points:

  • It’s described as a feast! As the Jew “celebrates” Passover, the Christian celebrates the memorial feast of Communion.
  • No stranger is to eat it, only the circumcised. But if circumcised, a non-Jew could eat Passover with the Jews. Baptism first, then Communion open to all.
  • Most important: a formal effort is made to make sure your children understand what this is about.

The Exodus

We are at the beginning of the Exodus. We need to see this as the flight from sin, through the desert of this world, coming home to the Promised Land.

Flight from

This is a picture of the Christian experience.

  • The Christian is a sojourner – just as the Jew is to eat the Passover with his sandals on, ready to march, staff in hand. This world is not my home, I’m just passing through.
  • The meal is “roasted with fire.” Perhaps this relates to the pillar of fire in the desert, but we can certainly see in the fire the fires of hell. That’s what our Sacrifice went through for us.
  • And for those left behind? Judgment!
Sinless

All through the Passover we encounter the idea that the meal, and its participants, must be sinless. One common symbol of this is the unleavened bread. Symbolically, leaven represents sin, and the Jew is to be without it for seven days (seven, the number of completeness). As the Jew is to throw out the leaven, so the Christian is to come to Communion only after examining himself.

Hyssop, strangely, makes its mark here. Hyssop was used to sprinkle the blood; it became therefore a symbol of cleansing from sin[1]. Hyssop was used to provide Christ with his last drink – sour wine (vinegar).

Flight to

One cannot just leave and wander in the desert all this time, right? Well, yes they did. But they didn’t start out with that in mind. They had a destination: The Promised Land. We may see the Christian equivalent in two ways:

  • We can equate it with heaven, or
  • We can equate it with the new heaven and earth to come.

Either way, I like the picture.

Of course, we must note that they left after they had “spoiled the Egyptians.” There is a great truth in this. In this time it would be normal for the conquering king to despoil the inhabitants of his conquest. But do you see the parallel here? The riches of a Christian are indeed great. They become great when you leave your life of sin (Egypt) and head for the Promised Land.[2]

Christ, the Lamb of God

The greatest parallel vision of Passover is to see the Lamb of God.

Sinless

We already have seen much on this, but may I point out the selection of the lamb of God?

  • He was, like the lamb, unblemished – meaning, sinless. Even Pilate found Him such.
  • He was sacrificed in the prime of life – not sinless like a newborn, sinless as a grown man.
Suffering

The Lamb of God’s suffering is shown in Passover too.

  • He was killed at twilight – after sunset, before dark.
  • Just as the Passover lamb was roasted whole, the wrath of God came upon him and He became accursed for us.
Savior

It’s not hard to see the Savior in the Passover lamb:

  • There were to be no leftovers from the Passover lamb – because one Lamb of God was all that was needed.
  • The lamb was to be eaten the same night – just as the Scriptures teach us that Christ saw no decay.
  • There were no bones broken in the lamb – just as Christ died without His bones being broken.[3]

All the Old Testament points to Christ; God spent 1500 years drumming into the heads of the Jewish people just what kind of Messiah they were to look for. They were to know Him when they saw Him – and didn’t. Yet their rejection of the Messiah meant the spread of the Gospel to the world; and when they accept Him, will it not be the resurrection of the dead?


[1] Psalm 51:7

[2] One can also see the sinner’s side of this. In the land of sin what good are riches when you die? Only when those riches are used to enter the Promised Land are they of any real use.

[3] John 19:33,36

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