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Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. - Deuteronomy 6:4-5 (NLT)
Oh, boy! This is where it gets really good!
Y’all know I like food. I like to cook, I like to entertain, and I don’t even mind the cleanup. Basically, if there’s a party going on, I want to be right in the middle of it. #extrovertlife #poorintrovertedhusband
I’m so glad our God is a partying kind of God! You realize we’re going to party forever, right? God Himself established seven feasts for His people to enjoy. They were designed to remind us that the outward requirements of the Law are meaningless without an inward relationship with the living God.
God is serious about His parties, too. He actually got on (that’s Southern-speak for reprimanded) the children of Israel (Isaiah 1:13-14) because of the hypocritical way in which the feasts were kept.
Here’s why: These feasts are shadows, friends, prophetically pointing to Yeshua Ha Meschiach, Jesus the Messiah. The words attributed to them should be an easy connection for us to make.
Unleavened Bread: Sanctification
Trumpets: Messiah’s Return
Yom Kippur: Repentance and Salvation
It’s a swim in the deep end, but hang with me.
There are four feasts in the Spring and three in the Fall. Three of the seven were known as “pilgrimage” feasts, during which all observant Jews were required to travel to Jerusalem to celebrate together.
The first feast of Spring is Passover, the foundational feast established for God’s people, memorializing the flight from Egypt into the wilderness, heading to the Promised Land. It celebrates God’s work of rescuing and redeeming His people from slavery into freedom.
The hair on the back of my neck is starting to stand up, friends! We’ll spend the rest of the week talking about what it means to have God “pass over” the death and decay in your life to rescue you for REAL life. No more shadow-life. It’s Son-life for you and me.
Let my people go so they may hold a festival in my honor in the wilderness. - Exodus 5:1 (NLT)
I know you heard it, too. … as you read the first four words of today’s verse. The voice of Charlton Heston. Fresh from an encounter with a burning bush, eyes ablaze as he confronted Pharaoh in the classic movie, The Ten Commandments.
Ten plagues followed, Pharaoh’s own son perishing, before he relented and sent Israel packing into the desert. It’s estimated that the time from beginning to end of the plagues was several months. Blood, frogs, lice, locusts, flies, livestock, boils, hail and darkness didn’t quite do the trick for arrogant Egypt.
But God was about to demonstrate that He alone holds the keys to death and life. The hour was midnight. The Lord passed over the land, striking the firstborn of each family, including livestock. Men and beasts, wiped from existence in an instant.
Only the Israelites were left intact -- kids, cows and all. Enslave My people, practice idolatry, refuse to acknowledge Me, and all you hold dear will disappear. In a snap of His mighty finger. He ain’t playin’.
God had asked them to paint their doorposts with lamb’s blood. His Spirit would pass over their houses, leaving them unharmed. Ever wonder why He had them paint the opening of their homes with lamb’s blood that night? And why did it need to be a lamb?
So He would recognize them? Really? The God who knitted them together in their mothers’ wombs (Psalm 139:13) wouldn’t know His own? No, the lesson of the lamb would come later, once the commemoration began.
Before one step was taken toward the wilderness, God began the redemptive rescue of His children. Paint the posts, people.
Exactly 430 years of bondage and slavery caused the children of Israel to cry out to the one Person who could deliver them. Listen, when you’re finally tired of what binds you up, cry out to the right One. He will answer.
And what His mouth speaks, His right arm of power delivers.
This is a day to remember. Each year, from generation to generation, you must celebrate it as a special festival to the Lord. This is a law for all time. - Exodus 12:14 (NLT)
In my family, two celebrations are sacred. Christmas Day is at my house. I cook for weeks, so it’s a feast to ring in Jesus’ birthday. At Easter, we’re in church together, the tall and the small. Don’t be teachin’ my grandbabies that Easter is mainly about chocolate bunnies and hunting eggs. All other celebrations are negotiable. But those two? Make no other plans, kids, lest the wrath of The Mimi find you.
More than a million marched past the Sphinx that day on the exit from Egypt. They had barely cleared the Red Sea when God’s Passover instructions came.
Passover memorials included the selection of a year-old male lamb in its prime, without flaw or defect (Exodus 12:3-5). You see, sheep don’t mature until they’re a year old. Before this lamb could reach his prime, he was to be cut down, slaughtered.
He was taken out of the herd on the tenth day of Nisan and kept until the fourteenth day - inside the home -- becoming a “pet. ” This allowed the family to observe his perfection, and become personally attached. He was no longer just a lamb, but their lamb.
It impressed upon them the costly nature of the sacrifice – an innocent would die in their place; a substitute. Imagine the sobs of children as their sweet lambs were taken to slaughter. Tiny voices, begging, “Daddy, please don’t kill my lamb!”
God’s imagery, designed to prepare the people to later recognize their Messiah.
Jesus was led as a lamb to the slaughter on our behalf, to reconcile us once and for all to God. Oh, I could weep at the spiritual implication of Passover!
Friends, it’s no coincidence that Jesus is referred to as the Lamb of God. Every word from the mouth of God is a deep well of meaning. God offered a way out for His people. A way back to Him. First with a Paschal lamb. Then with the real thing. You see, in Jewish culture, a man was not considered fit to lead until he was 30. Mature at 40.
Cut down in His prime. For you. For me. Are you weeping yet?
These are your instructions for eating this meal: Be fully dressed, wear your sandals, and carry your walking stick in your hand. Eat the meal with urgency, for this is the Lord’s Passover. - Exodus 12:11 (NLT)
God is a God of details. Specific instructions were given the Israelites on the commemoration of the Passover feast. It wasn’t just the meal. It was the memory.
Each moment of the the Passover Seder has great significance. Before the first step was taken toward the desert, the Lord used four statements to describe His deliverance to Moses.
Exodus 6:6-7 reveals, “‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God.’"
A central part of the Seder involves four cups of wine. Wine is often a symbol of the joy of the harvest, so celebrations happen when God’s people are thankful for His provision, right?
Cup of Sanctification
The father pours the first cup. Everyone rises from the table as he proclaims thanks to God for sanctification. Sanctification basically means being put to one’s proper use. Children of God were never meant for slavery. God’s own hand releases His people from bondage. God says, “I will bring you out.”
Not your hard work, not your good work. None of your work. God alone. He will rescue you from wherever your Egypt is.
He rescued Israel, displaying His great power and might along the way. He rescued you and me through Jesus. Whatever “use” you’ve been put to in the past, God has a different plan. Because you’re His.
I’m gettin’ all misty, because that’ll flat preach! By the end of tomorrow and three more cups of wine, I’ll be a bawlin’ mess!
You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book. - Psalms 56:8 (NLT)
The Passover Seder is immeasurably significant in that it honors both joy and tears. Three cups remain.
Cup of Suffering
The second cup retold the suffering in Egypt, and the plagues. A bit of wine was poured out at the recounting of each blight.
Celebrating and receiving spiritual freedom must pass over a full accounting of our own slavery. Brennan Manning once wrote, “To live by grace means to acknowledge my whole life story, the light side and the dark. In admitting my shadow side I learn who I am and what God's grace means.” (Ragamuffin Gospel)
Cup of Redemption
Passover is intrinsically tied to Messianic hope. During the third cup, a child is sent to the door in hopeful anticipation of Messiah. This cup is mentioned as Jesus declared, “...‘This cup is the new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood, which is poured out as a sacrifice for you.’” (Luke 22:20)
Listen, if you aren’t singing right now that we have a God in whose Word we can trust (because it’s all connected -- from Genesis to the maps), you might have a praise deficit!
Cup of Praise
The final cup of Passover is the one Jesus said He would not drink until He drank it with the disciples in the Kingdom (Matthew 26:29). He knew His acceptance by His own people was yet future. His joy would be complete when they accepted Him in full.
It isn’t hard to attest to the existence of suffering, redemption and praise -- in each of our lives, yes? I love the fact that our God made a way to help us recognize our Messiah. Passing over the sin and decay in our lives, redeeming us, counting our tears, taking us to a whole new place of freedom and security, sending hope in the person of Jesus. Passover is as relevant to us today as it was 3,500 years ago. Friends, that’s a great reason to party!