Scripture: The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, “This month shall be for you the beginning of months. It shall be the first month of the year for you. Exodus 12:1-2 ESV
Observation: In Chapter 12, the author begins with an instructional interlude on how to observe the Passover here and each subsequent year commencing on the tenth day of the now-designated first month of the Hebrew calendar (Abib):
- Select a śeh (lamb or kid) according to the number of people who are present (v.4)
- The animal must be a year-old male without defect (v.5)
- Slaughter the animal at twilight on the fourteenth day (v.6)
- Apply the animal’s blood to the doorframe (v.7)
- Eat the roasted lamb or kid with bitter herbs and unleavened bread to remember the anguish of slavery (v.8)
- Roast the meat in whole with the head and legs intact and the washed intestines left inside (v.9)
- Burn all leftovers before sunrise to prevent the profaning of the sacrifice (v.10)
- Eat the meal with haste and expectancy, symbolized by tucking the robe in the belt, wearing sandals, and holding the staff in hand (v.11)
- For seven days, starting on the 14th, remove all leaven from the house and eat only unleavened bread (v.15)
- Observe a holy assembly of rest on the first and seventh day (v.16)
Thus, proper observance of the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread (14th-21st) required that future generations vigilantly wait, watch, and act their part in this reenactment of the Exodus to freedom. And with the advent of a new calendar year, Passover signaled new beginnings for God’s people (echoing their Creation story).
Takeaway: So what are we to make of this sacred ceremony that entails the loss of lives? As Peter Enns notes, “The Passover is not simply a matter of a lamb replacing the Israelites’ firstborn. It is also God purchasing, so to speak, the redemption of his firstborn son Israel through the death of the Egyptian firstborn, since it was precisely this catastrophe that led Pharaoh to call for Israel’s release” (The NIV Application Commentary, Exodus, p. 254). In sum, Enns says that the shedding of blood symbolizes God’s ownership of the firstborn and his means to protect his firstborn son: Israel then, the Church today.
So is the Passover ceremony relevant to us? Absolutely! Under the New Covenant, the Passover points us to the Cross where the Father’s only begotten Son laid down his life, shedding his blood to ensure that we are the Father’s protected possession. And the observance of the Last Supper in the sacrament of Holy Communion is our regular “holy assembly.”
Then how should we respond? Like Israel, we wait, watch, and act. In Jesus’ last hours, he commanded his disciples to wait for the gift of the Holy Spirit, to watch (tarry) prayerfully, and then act (go and make disciples). The same applies to us today. We remember the sacrifice of our Lord in the eating of the bread and drinking of the wine. Then, empowered by his presence, we prayerfully wait on the direction of the Holy Spirit, observe where God is working, and act. As the hands, feet, and voice of Christ, we co-labor in setting others free from the bondage of sin into new creations as our Beloved Savior’s protected prized possession.
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for the sacrifice of your Son, our Passover Lamb, who has set us free from the grip of sin, ensuring our protection as your prized possession. So would you please help us wait, watch, and act according to the lead of your Holy Spirit that we might pay it forward in doing our part to set others free? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling