Pesach: The Passover
With the celebration of Passover we see God’s plan of salvation prophetically revealed to a world lost in sin and rebellion. With the celebration of Passover (Pesach) we begin Israel’s spiritual new year. Israel has two distinct new year celebrations, so let’s eliminate any confusion about that up front. The first new year is spiritual, which begins in the Spring with Passover when the full moon appears. The second new year is their civic new year, when the Hebrew calendar begins another annual cycle. That second new year is celebrated on Rosh Hashanah in the Fall when the new moon appears. Therefore, Passover is the first of the seven holy feasts of the Lord when the spiritual journey begins for Israel — and for all believers who would follow Christ, our Messiah.
The Significance of Passover
To fully understand Passover, we must understand Israel’s captivity before we can appreciate the miraculous salvation and deliverance God executed on their behalf. When Abraham was given the covenant promise of becoming a father of nations, God prophesied to him specifically of Israel’s captivity. To Abraham, this seemed contrary to God’s covenant plan, and there is no doubt he was alarmed. However, as we will see, it was actually necessary — being very much a part of His covenant plan in raising up a nation wholly unto Himself while bringing the knowledge of Him to a lost and dying world. After God visited Abraham by cutting covenant with him, He visited him in a dream and spoke the following:
And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and, lo, and horror of great darkness fell upon him. And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; and also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance,” (Genesis 15:12-14, KJV).
For nearly half a millennium Israel dwelt in the land of Goshen, where Joseph brought Israel following the famine. This is where God strategically planted the seed of Israel in the earth. Here she was kept safe, prospering and growing into a mighty nation where there was an abundance of wealth, knowledge, and power. It was here in this “suburb” of Egypt that God nourished up His infant nation, Israel, feeding her with the choicest fruits of the land.
However, that changed as Israel grew and began to outnumber the Egyptian people. Soon their presence became a threat, and their census was one that could no longer be sustained upon the terms outlined by Joseph. As time passed Egyptian rulers changed. When Ramses took the throne, a mandate was given to kill all Hebrew males. That was a sentence God would one day enact holy vengeance upon, which we will see take place in the Passover. However, scripture clearly reveals in Exodus that the more Israel was oppressed, the more they multiplied. God simply added to their number. What began as a haven of rest, nourishment and protection under the rule of Joseph ended with slavery, punishment and genocide under the tyrannical rule of a Pharaoh who despised the Hebrews and their God. Israel was perceived as a danger to Egypt’s economic stability, their culture, and the rule of their god. The Hebrews and their God were entirely incompatible with those of Egypt. This became a serious problem. Israel, although residents of Egypt who remained subservient, were feared by the Egyptians. Egypt’s only means for solving this conundrum was to enslave them.
At this time, Egypt was the wealthiest and most powerful nation on earth. They were a pagan nation bestowed with vast knowledge and an abundance of resources. They practiced the arts and advanced in the sciences of math and writing. They enjoyed extensive trade, and as a result Egypt was feared among all. The power of their Pharaoh was known by the symbol of the viper; a snake native to their region, which was sculpted upon his crown. To look upon Pharaoh was to look upon the sun, thereby invoking the curse of death. Pharaoh, who was considered the supreme god, was a god who ruled by fear. Make no mistake — when God spoke to Moses in the burning bush and gave him the sign of a viper with the command to grasp it by the tail — He was speaking to Pharaoh in terms he understood. His power would be subdued by one greater than he. And when God spoke to Moses in Numbers 21:8, commanding him to place a viper upon his rod so that all who look to it may be healed — He was speaking to Israel in prophetic and relational terms, revealing Himself as a God upon whom they could look who brings healing and deliverance, in contrast to Pharaoh who brings fear and death. It is for this very reason that we see the symbol of the viper upon the rod used for the medical arts and sciences to this very day.
Israel’s bondage and suffering was nothing we can possibly understand in modern terms. It was grueling, torturous, and inhumane — and with quotas that brought severe penalties if they were not met. Sadly, the nation of Israel had little knowledge of their covenant God. Their time in the pagan land of Egypt pre-dated the Law, and their limited knowledge of Abraham and his covenant promise was an oral history passed down through their tribesmen which was overshadowed by the rule of pagan gods. As such they grew up with a slave mentality, which is one characterized by victimization. Although they partook of Egypt’s remarkable wealth and vast knowledge, their hearts had known nothing but fear and trepidation for that four-hundred year period. This was painfully contrary to their God who ruled with righteousness, loving-kindness, mercy and justice. Things came to a proverbial head with Ramses mandate. Israel cried out to their God — and He heard them and responded. The scales were finally tipping, and if God would have for Himself a people who were able to subdue the earth and bring the knowledge of Him to the world, He would need them to love Him wholeheartedly and obey Him irrevocably; understanding His ways and eternal covenants. In response, God gave Israel a gift. Moses was born, being miraculously saved from Pharaoh’s mandate by his own daughter. Ironically, he was raised in Pharaoh’s household as an adopted son with all the privileges and rights that came with royalty. God had a masterful plan…
Moses became a powerful man — one who would mediate effectively between God and the nations of Israel and Egypt. As a firstborn son, he was one of Hebrew birthright with all the wealth, power and notoriety of Pharaoh’s household and Egyptian rule. God’s plan was to deliver Israel, revealing Himself through mighty signs and wonders that could not be denied or replicated. This majestic and unprecedented show of power and display of justice was not only for His covenant people, but for the enlightenment of the pagan nation of Egypt. However, that deliverance would need to bring more than a freedom from Egypt’s tyranny. He would also have to liberate Israel from a gripping slave mentality that debilitated their faith and obedience. What took four hundred years to build, God would break in a mere forty. That is a 400% reduction rate in mathematical terms — one that is miraculous. And the manner in which He accomplished this feat was absolutely brilliant, but brutal. God brought Israel into the wilderness, sequestering them unto Himself, where there was no water, food, or shelter. In doing so, they became utterly dependent upon Him alone for their substance and survival. This is a stark contrast to the wealth and abundance of Egypt and the daily rations they were provided. With that being said, the children born in the wilderness were a new generation with fresh perspective. They knew nothing of slavery. Quite the contrary. In fact, they knew nothing of Egypt. They knew only God’s daily miracles of manna and meat, His intimate presence among them in the pillar of cloud and fire, and His glorious covenants. This would be the generation who inherited the promised land. In this manner and through their uprising, the deliverance of Israel was fully accomplished. The slave mentality of victimization was not only broken — it was completely eradicated.
It is imperative that we understand Israel’s deliverance was much more than being freed from Egypt and its enslavement. They had to be liberated from the mindset accompanying that victimization which held them captive to it. Only once this was achieved, was Israel’s deliverance fully accomplished. Only then, were they ready to take the land promised to them as God’s covenant nation; chosen to reveal the knowledge of Him to the entire world which was lost in sin and rebellion. Through Israel, the promised Messiah would come.
Today we see the landmarks of the ancient Hebrew people in Egypt’s greatest monuments, the pyramids, which were built by the Israelites while enslaved under Pharaoh’s rule. They stand as a solemn reminder to all of us of Israel’s suffering, the horrific injustices they endured, and the glory God revealed to us in their miraculous deliverance. Their deliverance was a deliverance for us all. And it begins with the observance of Passover.
READ: Exodus 12-15
And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you. Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house: And if the household be too little for the lamb, let him and his neighbour next unto his house take it according to the number of the souls; every man according to his eating shall make your count for the lamb. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats: and ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening.
And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses, wherein they shall eat it. And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs they shall eat it. Eat not of it raw, nor sodden at all with water, but roast with fire; his head with his legs, and with the purtenance thereof. And ye shall let nothing of it remain until the morning; and that which remaineth of it until the morning ye shall burn with fire. And thus shall ye eat it; with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and ye shall eat it in haste: it is the LORD’s passover.
For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the LORD.
And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt. And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the LORD throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever.
Seven days shall ye eat unleavened bread; even the first day ye shall put away leaven out of your houses: for whosoever eateth leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall be cut off from Israel. And in the first day there shall be a holy convocation, and in the seventh day there shall be an holy convocation to you; no manner of work shall be done in them, save that which every man must eat, that only may be done of you.
Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel, and said unto them, Draw out and take you a lamb according to your families, and kill the passover. And ye shall take a bunch of hyssop, and dip it in the blood that is in the bason, and strike the lintel and the two side posts with the blood that is in the bason; and none of you shall go out at the door of his house until the morning. For the LORD will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when he seeth the blood upon the lintel, and on the two side posts, the LORD will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you.
And ye shall observe this thing for an ordinance to thee and to thy sons for ever,” (Exodus 12:1-16 and 21-24, KJV).
I encourage you to read the full text when you have time. The Passover is one of the most powerful and majestic of all feasts, which holds incredible prophetic insights and significance for us. In this feast, we clearly see the Lamb of God revealed, which we will soon discuss.
The yearling lamb without blemish is central to the Passover. Who can think of taking such a beautiful yet innocent animal and sacrificing it as God required? I would be blubbering. And this is precisely why God demands it. The significance here is a very clear picture for us of the reality taking place in the spiritual realm. One of such innocence and purity would die for those who would be spared death and destruction. That is what Christ did for us. God demanded that sacrifice so we could live. There is no greater act of love.
That is how desperate we are for God’s salvation. Our need is dire. The good news is that God also lovingly supplies the covenant sacrifice which He justly demands.
READ: Matthew 26-28
And it came to pass, when Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said unto his disciples, Ye know that after two days is the feast of the passover, and the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified.
And he said, Go into the city to such a man, and say unto him, The Master saith, My time is at hand; I will keep the passover at thy house with my disciples. And the disciples did as Jesus had appointed them; and they made ready the passover. Now when even had come, he sat down with the twelve.
And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.
And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives,” (Matthew 26:1-2, 18-20, 26-30, KJV).
As I write this I am in tears. The wonder of what Christ fulfilled for us is so magnificent. I am continually reminded of how unworthy I am of His lavish sacrifice. I am forever grateful for His gift, and the love He has shown me. That same sacrifice is for you — for all of us who would believe upon Him and receive it. His love is unlike any I’ve ever known, or will ever know. All of us who eat this bread and drink this cup offered to us are partakers of Christ. This feast of Passover and the Unleavened Bread is one that satisfies the soul. Christ is the pure unblemished firstborn yearling Lamb of God. He is the Bread from heaven — unleavened and pure from anything that would defile us, bringing us the spiritual sustenance and nourishment only God can provide.
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth,” (Isaiah 53:7, KJV).
When John the Baptist came, he made a proclamation:
And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God!” (John 1:36, KJV).
There is no doubt that the Israelites understood this. Their deliverer had come! He was in their very midst. But were they ready to receive him? That was John’s mission: to prepare the people of Israel for the Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world.
As we move forward in the New Covenant Christ instituted, we see the Lamb of God upon the throne depicted here:
And I beheld, and lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth,” (Revelation 5:6, KJV).
And this is the invitation:
For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto the living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes,” (Revelation 7:17, KJV).
This lamb revealed in Exodus speaks directly to the Messiah. Israel’s covenant with hell and death would be broken (see Isaiah 28:18).
Your Personal Celebration
Contrary to popular belief, Passover (Pesach) has no relation to Easter, although they many times coincide on the calendar.
Easter, as many know it in modern terms today, celebrates the resurrection of Christ from the dead. However, that is not the original meaning of Easter. This is where the myth of Easter as it relates to Christ’s resurrection needs to be dispelled. Easter was a pagan holiday celebrating fertility, hence its annual Springtime festival and the many eggs. This is where the history of the Church becomes complicated and uncomfortable for many. Easter, as many churches celebrate it, still mixes and incorporates many of these fertility practices with the celebration of Christ’s resurrection. These two events are totally unrelated, and trying to mix them is unbiblical. Most modern-day Christians are not aware of this error, although those who celebrate it as such are completely pure in their heart toward God. The heart is what God honors, and although it is not wrong to celebrate the resurrection of Christ — we must do so appropriately.
With that said, it may surprise you to find that the resurrection of Christ is not what Passover is really about. On the contrary, Passover is the celebration of His covenant sacrifice made for all, which delivered us from death and destruction.
The resurrection of Christ is celebrated specifically in the Feast of Firstfruits.
So how are new covenant believers to celebrate the Passover? Just as Christ did. As Paul the Apostle says,
Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and the table of devils. Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? are we stronger than he?” (1 Corinthians 10:21-22, KJV).
We are to keep the feast, even as Paul delineates here:
For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come. Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world,” (1 Corinthians 11:23-32, KJV).
It’s important that we understand what we’re celebrating. As new covenant believers, we must understand Passover before we can appreciate all Christ fulfilled for us.
We should celebrate all Christ has accomplished, and God has given us a beautiful way to commemorate His gift of life. In the Passover celebration, we are reminded of the following:
• Israel’s four-hundred year slavery in the bitter herbs.
• In the unleavened bread we see the haste of Israel that night as the fled from Egypt.
• We also see the deliberate removal of sin from our lives in the Feast of Unleavened Bread which is part of Passover (sin is represented by yeast, a leaven). Christ is that pure unleavened Bread from heaven which sustains us.
• We see Christ sacrificed in the firstborn yearling lamb, a male who is without blemish.
• Finally, we see the precious blood of the lamb which saved us from death spread upon the doorposts of the house of Israel when God exacted a fatal vengeance upon their enemies.
And this is where the glory of Passover is revealed. In one night God would pass over both Egypt and Israel, marking a difference between them — not by birth — but by the lamb’s blood. As such, Israel would be spared from the one whom God names “the destroyer” (see Exodus 12:23).
God brought a holy vengeance upon Egypt when He passed over them. The tenth and final plague was to kill all their firstborn males. Sound familiar? All Egypt’s firstborn males died — of both man and beast, reducing their population significantly, by as much as twenty-five percent. The scriptures tell us plainly that there was not one house which had not known a death, and that there was such a wailing in the night as has never been or shall ever be thereafter. As a result of these slain men, Egypt’s women and children were left extraordinarily vulnerable. And not only did Egypt lose their men, but they lost their livestock. This was a monumental blow of enormous proportion with long-term consequences that would be devastating. It is with this Passover that Pharaoh’s heart was finally broken. He and his people thrust Israel out. Yet he did not relent in Israel’s destruction. He avidly pursued them, chasing after them violently — taking his entire army with an intent to exact justice. But God was fully prepared.
As Pharaoh pushed the proverbial envelope, God shut Israel in by the Read Sea, which struck their hearts with fear. But God was ready to do something so phenomenal and miraculous that it is known as one of the greatest miracles He has ever performed. The LORD parted the Red Sea, allowing Israel to cross over into the wilderness on dry land. Surprisingly, Pharaoh’s army pursued, and as God gave command the waters returned, and the army perished. Consequently, the entire nation of Egypt was left absolutely defenseless. Pharaoh had overplayed his hand. Not only were their men and livestock gone, but their entire army was destroyed in this single act of defeat. God demonstrated Himself not only as a glorious LORD and Savior — but as an omnipotent Warrior. That was the final blow of vindication that sealed Egypt’s fate and Israel’s destiny. The remains of Egypt’s chariots, horses, riders, and weaponry can be found littering the bottom of the Red Sea to this very day. It is now a graveyard of ruin. There is no one who can exact vengeance upon our enemies like God.
In conclusion, Israel took Egypt’s wealth as well as their power. Israel fled with the spoils of Egypt that very night, and when word spread (which it did) — all nations feared Israel and their God with great dread. The viper had been grasped by its tail! What God did to Egypt, He has executed for us through Christ. Because of His glorious passover sacrifice our enemies are left plundered, vulnerable, defenseless — and destroyed.
That is what we are celebrating.
Through the Passover, God has vindicated us in Christ from all that would steal, kill and destroy us. His covenant is one that will last forever, bringing salvation and deliverance. It is for all generations who would believe and receive Him as the sacrifice for their sin. In that believing God demands repentance and faith toward Him as LORD and Savior.
In Israel’s Passover they were set free from Egypt and set apart unto God. This feast begins Israel’s year, and commemorates the beginning of their journey into the promised land.
As new covenant believers, Passover has tremendous significance for us as well. Passover is for all of us, even as it was for Israel. In Passover, Christ’s sacrifice is both revealed and fulfilled. Our Messiah has finally come. He has laid down His life in obedience to His Father for the entire world. We have been set free and set apart unto Him by His blood. Our enemies are defeated. We are delivered from death and destruction. We are in eager anticipation of the Promised Land, our New Jerusalem.
If you would like to celebrate Pesach (Passover), I encourage you to visit a Messianic place of worship where the Feast of Passover is traditionally kept. The biblical traditions outlined in the Exodus are powerful and you will be blessed to partake of Christ’s precious body and blood just as He demonstrated and commanded.
Until that day when we drink with Him again in the New Jerusalem, I bid you a blessed and glorious Pesach celebration!
Cheers & Shalom,