THE DIVINE ARCH OF HUMAN REDEMPTION (9)

THE PASSOVER

Our consideration of the subject of the Atonement has so far revealed in what detail and depth this vital matter was divinely taught to God-fearing men and families of men from the time immediately subsequent to the fall of Adam and Eve through to the time of Jacob over two thousand years later. In the Scriptures it is that period which is covered in the book of Genesis. Throughout our considerations what is revealed is not only the teaching concerning our subject but at every point there is emphasized the fact that the provision of a Saviour is all of God. Everything connected with the subject is a revelation of the mind of our Father and is a constant source of wonder, awe and yet delight, to the man of God. Now we are about to discover how God all in the furtherance of His purpose taught, not just individuals, but a whole nation, concerning the subject under review. In the process all the principles concerning life and death are set out and that in a manner which completely excludes all the wisdom of men and reduces to folly the greatest of this world’s philosophers of whatever age or country. In teaching men concerning the Truth in its all-embracing comprehension God uses every known means of communication, from plain speech to poetry, allegory, parable, metaphor, simile, irony, oratory and even visual aids, so that men of whatever degree of intelligence may if they seek aright come to an understanding of the way of salvation. What is required is an emptying of one’s own thoughts and ideas and in humbleness and reverence allow the scriptures to impress the mind with the messages they convey. Gradually there will be built up an understanding of all the precepts and counsel of God concerning the earth and its inhabitants and the means by which this revealed purpose will be attained. In the process, all the whys and wherefores, all the seeming paradoxes of life both in their individual and collective sense find their complete and satisfying answer.

Keeping these facts in mind we return to our consideration. We left Jacob and his sons in Egypt, where over a period of some 220 years their families increased in number to an extent which caused the rulers of Egypt considerable concern. Fearing that they would become too powerful to control, they enslaved them and imposed a pernicious edict which was intended to wipe out the whole nation of Israel. Then, as now however, men in power had forgotten or were willingly ignorant of the purpose of the Almighty. God had made plain to Abraham that subsequent to his decease “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 (Gen 15:13,14).

The time for this deliverance which was tantamount to a deliverance from death as well as bondage was about to expire and the scriptures reveal to us in the opening chapters of Exodus the manner in which God operates through the angels of His Power in the manipulation of men and circumstances to effect His Will. It is not now our purpose to enlarge upon that aspect of divine superintendence of events, but rather to dwell upon the fact that the exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt, wonderful and miraculous as it was, served also as a living illustration to a nation of all the principles relating to the atonement and the resulting salvation. It is important at this point to note that God before making manifest his power in the plagues upon Egypt and the subsequent deliverance of Israel emphasized to Moses the reasons for his actions. The record in Exodus 6:6-8 gives us the details:

“Wherefore say unto the children of Israel, I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will rid you out of your bondage, and I will redeem you with a stretched out arm and with great judgments, and I will take you to me for a people and I will be to you a God and ye shall know that I am the Lord your God which bringeth you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will bring you in unto the land, concerning the which I did swear to give it to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob, and I will give it to you for an heritage, I am the Lord”.

We observe that it was the great promises made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the furtherance of which formed the mainspring of the events shortly to be enacted, a fact which evidently Israel were to keep paramount in their minds, for Moses spoke to them accordingly. “But they hearkened not unto Moses for anguish of spirit and for cruel bondage” (v9). Their inattention to and forgetfulness of these vital foundation truths in no small measure contributed to their failure to respond then or thereafter. The implications arising from God’s message should have immediately relieved their straitened circumstances and lifted from them all doubts as to their future well-being. The lesson -6- should not be lost upon us. Following the plagues poured upon Egypt and immediately prior to their deliverance God gave detailed instructions concerning the observance known as the Passover. Ex. 12 gives us the details. Its importance relative to our study of the Atonement is made clear to us by the apostle Paul who states, “Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us” (1Cor 5:7). Its first enacting became an historic occasion, the remembrance of which is the only sacrifice still observed by the Jewish people – a telling fact both now and hereafter! We cannot do more than comment upon it’s salient features.

It is significant that as the record is careful to state that it was “in the land of Egypt” that God gave his commands concerning the observance (v1). The Passover was the first of the Mosaic ordinances. It preceded the Law, which was instituted whilst Israel were still in Egyptian bondage and was in fact the means of deliverance from it. This is altogether fitting when we consider the antitype who was sent “to proclaim liberty to the captives and the opening of the prison to them that are bound” (Is 61:1). This, whilst we were yet sinners – in darkness!. We note that the inauguration of the Passover was to be the commencement of a new beginning (v2). The month Abib was thereafter to be the first month of their year so that the event with all its significance was in essence the very foundation of their existence as a nation. We then learn that on the 10th day of Abib each household was to select a lamb or a kid which they must be careful to see was without blemish. They were to keep it separated for four days until the 14th day of the month and then kill it in the manner prescribed. We recall that the one whom it prefigured was slain 4000 years after that first lamb provided by God was slain in Eden and whose skin was used as a covering for our first parents after their transgression and before they could again approach unto God.

In passing it is interesting to note that it was on the 10th day of Abib, exactly 40 years later than the Passover, that Joshua led Israel across the Jordan into the Promised Land. It was also on that same day that Jesus rode into Jerusalem and was acclaimed as Son of David and King, the Jews thereby, albeit unwittingly, choosing out their Passover lamb of deliverance for the work of the latter had to precede the former. It will also, we believe, be the same day of the same month that all that it prefigured in the final deliverance of God’s people and his acclamation as their king as well as their redeemer will come to pass. The sacrifice, be it Lamb or Goat, was to be male and of the first year and without blemish. The essential characteristics of these animals especially when young is self-will that has to be controlled. Jesus did that completely and was morally without blemish. He was young when he was cut off in the midst of his years. The animal in being kept for 4 days before slaying was to be guarded carefully – as the words “ye shall keep it up” in verse 6 means. We too have to exercise diligence and care in all that is involved both in relation to our understanding and guarding of the Truth especially concerning the Atonement. The sacrifice was to be killed in the evening, or as the margin has it, “between the two evenings”. Jewish days began in the evening, and end in the evening 24 hours later. Sometime therefore during this period the Passover was to be slain. If this be the correct understanding, it is fitting in as much as it allows Jesus to both partake of the Passover and be killed as the reality of that represented, all within the appointed time. Then the blood of the Lamb was to be struck on the two side posts of the doorway of each house as well as on the lintel across the top of the door which connected the two posts – verse 7. By so doing, the life of the first born was preserved from the Angel of Death. The blood therefore both covered and protected. Hyssop, a small bushy aromatic herb was to be the means by which the blood was sprinkled (verse 22). In Scripture, we find that Hyssop was used in cleansing. In Leviticus 14, we find its use in the cleansing of lepers, as also in respect of the ordinances relating to the Red Heifer (cp Num 19). David, after his great sin prayed, as Psalm 51:7 records: “purge me with hyssop and I shall be clean”. In all these cases it is associated with sin and the cleansing from it and its effects. How appropriate therefore in the context of our subject that at the crucifixion of Jesus, a Roman soldier totally unaware of its significance gave our Lord vinegar, and put it upon hyssop for him to drink and it was at that moment that Jesus said “it is finished” (Jno 19:30). It was, for in his death the power of sin was overcome and removed in himself and the way opened to eternal life for all those in him.

In all this then we see facets of our Lord’s redemptive work. He is the door of the house – the sheepfold (Jno 10). He forms the constituent parts of the framework of the door. He is himself the lintel uniting and holding together the door posts – faithful Jew and Gentile comprising the multitudinous Christ, all delivered from death by his sacrificial sprinkled blood.

We are then informed in verse 8, that the children of Israel were to roast the sacrifice and eat it that night with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. All this finds it’s spiritual counterpart. Night was to be the time of partaking and digesting the life-giving strength from the meat, supplying the energy enabling them to escape from Egypt and all it represented. How is our Egyptian night when we must feed upon the Lamb of God’s provision for Jesus said, “my flesh is meat indeed” (Jno 6:55). It was at midnight, the darkest hour that the Angel of Death struck the oppressor and Pharaoh ordered Israel out. It will be when the Gentile night has reached it’s darkest pitch that Divine judgment will again be manifest to save Israel. We need to remember too that it was at midnight that the call came to the ten virgins to immediately to out to meet the bridegroom. Only those with the necessary oil in their vessels to see clearly and be recognized will find escape. Then the unleavened bread and bitter herbs – what significance have these?

Some aspects of the Passover are by way of emphasis repeated several times. The matter of unleavened bread is one of them and mark its use as of crucial importance. Thirteen times in Exodus 12, it is referred to. The penalty for not complying with the command was to be “cut off from Israel” (verse 15). This expression as Exodus 31:14 makes plain was synonymous with being put to death. Such a punishment seems, superficially, to be extremely severe, especially as it is not said of any other instruction regarding the Passover. What then made disobedience in this particular such a heinous matter? It is the Apostle Paul who supplies the clue to the answer. Speaking of the Passover in 1Cor 5:8, he tell us that leaven represents “malice and wickedness”, and unleavened bread, “sincerity and truth”. From this, we are able to discern why the warning is so emphatic, oft repeated and clear. Malice is defined as ill-will, desire to do harm”. It is a word closely allied to “Malign” and “malignant” – malign meaning to speak ill of, to slander; malignant meaning the feeling, or showing of intense ill-will – cancerous, as in Leprosy. This takes us back to the Serpent in Gen 3; it’s mind manifested in words and actions, and the effects of both. The word “devil” in Scripture means an accuser, a slanderer, derived from the Greek, “Diabolos” (See Vine’s Expository Dictionary). This ill-will, this enmity, this malignancy, originating in the Serpent, transferred to Adam and Eve by their own responsible choice, forming the mainspring of those impulses which -8 culminated in transgression and which by inheritance we all possess, had to be eliminated. The writer to the Hebrews 2:14, referring to the sacrifice of our Lord says, “forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death, he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil diabolos”.

How needful therefore in a right appreciation of the Atonement that in the type there should be a clear, albeit picturesque reference to this vital element in the subject. Leaven with it’s peculiar properties is altogether an appropriate type. It’s lessons to us and the need for it’s eradication is evident. Not only were Israel to eat the Passover with unleavened bread, that is on the 14th day of Abib, but it’s use had to be continued from the 15th to the 22nd day of that month – 7 days. Seven is the number of fulness and completeness, in this case, of time. So it speaks to us of the fact that leaven and all it represents, must first be put away by all who aspire to salvation, not only in it’s individual, but collective manifestation.

Not only so, but not a trace of it should be found in the house for the whole period, or the offending soul is “cut off from the congregation” (v 15). What discipline the Truth entails! It is however the purpose of God that in the fullness of time – 7000 years – sin in all it’s hideous forms is to be expunged from the earth, by means and because of him who first expurgated it from himself. The sin constitution of things which now obtains can form no lasting part of God’s domain, for it is utterly at variance with His Character, out of harmony with His Mind, and contrary to His Purpose. Its utter annihilation therefore is the remedy prescribed and the replacement by all that is sincere (without impurity) and true as those terms are illustrated by our Lord in action. There is no other way.

The eating of the Passover with bitter herbs has reference in its antitype to the fact that the assimilation of spiritual food and the creation out of it of a Christ-like character will indubitably involve much bitterness. The Truth is a separating force before it can become a unifying element. It distinguished between light and darkness, falsehood and truth, righteousness and wickedness. It can only bring peace to those of it’s adherants who by its teaching recognize the demarcation and in practice maintain it. This involves complete opposition to the World, and all it stands for with the separation, bitterness and tribulation which must inevitably follow. It involves a daily inner battle against oneself as well as enduring the animosity of the friends of this world. Its perfect exhibition and consequences are clearly seen in the life of our Master.

Then we read the Passover was not to be eaten raw or sodden (v9). The former prohibition we can readily understand, but why not sodden or boiled? In Leviticus 8:31, we observe that at the consecration of Aaron as High Priest the ram of the burnt offering was boiled, as was the case in the arrangements in the separation of the Nazarite (Num 6:19). In these cases the sacrifice was evidently separated bone from bone, one part from the other. But in this one unique sacrifice of the Passover, this was not to be. It was to be roasted (v8). This would keep it entire – whole. So in the one to whom it pointed forward, after passing through the fire of affliction, culminating upon being hung upon the tree, not a bone of him was broken, he remained entire as to his body though it was broken in the sense of ceasing to function in death, all befitting what is comprehended in -9- his atoning work as we in due course will see. For ourselves, we can heed the lesson that the bitter experience of affliction and tribulation should be the means of purifying, unifying and perfecting the believers individually and collectively. Of the sacrificial lamb nothing, we are told, was to remain till morning (v 10). All was to be consumed and absorbed by the participants. So now in the night of Gentile dominion with the means of deliverance provided, we are wholly to assimilate Christ our Passover. He is the Word. We must endeavour to absorb it all. If for any reason any was left, it was to be burnt. This was fitting for not only was our Lord not allowed event to begin to see corruption, but when the morning of the New Day dawns, nothing will remain of the mortal flesh of those who have aspired to become constituent parts of the symbolic Body of Christ, for it will either have been transformed or consumed by the Spirit.

We then go on to read of four further related requirements concerning the Passover. It was to be eaten, not as one would normally eat a family meal together, relaxed and comfortable and at one’s ease, but with “loins girded, your shoes on your feet and your staff in your hand (v 11). This forms in our minds a picture of a man about to set out upon an urgent and arduous journey prepared and ready for what may befall – precisely the exhortation of the apostle Paul to those undertaking the Gospel journey (Eph 6:14-15). Moreover the meal was to be eaten in haste – not we feel in the manner of a glutton voraciously swallowing down as quickly as possible the food provided, but rather with an urgent sense if its importance with all the elements of life and death embodied in it. In their spiritual significance, these requirements are to be in evidence with all those who are on their pilgrimage journey; there is no respite in the Gospel race until we have entered the Gates of Zion. The crucial importance of the Truth, it’s solemnity, it’s inviolable requirements, its urgency over all other mundane matters are all here bound up in this ordinance and are salutory reminders of what is required of us.

It is set within the context of the escape from bondage and death. Every individual in every family in Israel was involved and conformity to the requirements in every respect was essential.

“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” (v 13). The substance of the blood of the Passover lamb is the atoning work of Jesus. As the blood of the lamb applied in faith shielded Israel from the Angel of Death so that of Christ will save the faithful of all ages who likewise have responded to the beneficence of their Creator. It forms the very heart of all that is involved in the salvation of men and as the Passover was to be a memorial for ever to Israel in all their generations, as indeed it is in this day, so all that it bespeaks must ever be remembered by those who are the subjects of it’s efficacy. So it is we meet each week in loving memory and partake of Bread and Wine as our Lord commanded. It is a providential and wise arrangement, for our minds must continually be focussed upon these vital truths. The commands of God form the walls of each house insulating and protecting from the ravages of the world outside. Inside the blood sprinkled door alone, it safety and salvation. The command to Israel was urgent and uncompromising. “None shall go out of the door of the house until morning”. In these days of liberal thought and action, may the lesson serve to confirm our resolve to remain faithful.

Eric Phipps