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Notes On The Passover

The sacrifice of the Passover is not classed with the offerings of Leviticus, for it was neither a burnt-offering nor a sin-offering, nor was it burned on the altar.

It was killed and roasted with fire in the homes of the people. A change took place in later years when Israel were settled in the land, for then they sacrificed the Passover at the house of God. Even then it was not offered upon the altar, though it was still roasted and eaten by the people (compare Deut. 16:1-8; and also Josiah's Passover in 2 Chron. 35). There is something of a parallel to this in New Testament times in connection with the service of the Breaking of the Bread which is so precious to the Lord's people today, for it was first instituted by the Lord and kept by His disciples in the upper room of a man's house. Subsequently it was kept by disciples gathered in churches of God (see Acts 2:42 and 1 Cor. 11:17-22). The Breaking of the Bread is not the function of an individual believer, or even a group of believers as such, it is the function of a church of God. See 1 Cor. 11:18- "When ye come together in the church".

The sacrifice of the Passover in the land of Egypt was a prerequisite to Israel's deliverance from the bondage of that land, and presents a clear type of the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ who gave Himself for us that He might redeem us from the bondage of this present world, and grant us the liberty to serve God. Our authority to interpret Christ in the Passover is clearly given to us in the words of 1 Cor. 5:7, "Our Passover also hath been sacrificed, even Christ" so we may freely study the subject with Christ in our minds.

Exodus 12 gives a detailed description of the lamb and of the two main features of the Passover, namely the sprinkling of the blood on the door, and the eating of the roast flesh.

The sprinkling of the blood on the door took place on the night of deliverance from Egypt, but on subsequent Passovers there was no need for the sprinkling of the blood, though the slaying and eating of the Passover continued as a memorial feast (Exod. 12:14).

The lamb was of the first year, thus presenting a picture of undefiled innocence and purity, and foreshadowing the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ, who was unspotted from the world and unspotted by the flesh. The former is defilement from without and the latter is defilement from within. The Lord had no sinful nature within Him to cause any blemish; and at the end of His sojourn in this world He said, "The prince of the world cometh; and he hath nothing in Me" (John 14:30).

The lamb was kept from the tenth day up till the fourteenth day. This is significant, for the word "kept" in Hebrew is the word shamar, which means really "to watch or to observe" and conveys to us the attitude of mind of the persons in the house as they waited those four days. It wasn't an idle "killing of time", but an industrious observation of the innocent purity of the lamb, and a contemplation of its impending death. We can imagine the effect upon them as the lamb wove its way into their affections until they felt a personal involvement in its death; especially the firstborn son, for he knew it was dying that he might live.

The Passover night is called "a night of watching (Heb. shamar) unto the LORD" (Exod. 12:42 RVM) for this was not a night for sleep, but what shall we say of that night of the Saviour's sorrow in Gethsemane, when He came and found His disciples sleeping, and said unto them, "What, could ye not watch with Me one hour?" Let us ponder His night of sorrow and let us watch with Him!

The lamb was slain at even (Hebrew: between the two evenings). The expression "two evenings" is a dual word in Hebrew meaning the early and later part of the same evening, giving them a margin of some hours in which the lamb could be slain. This is the opinion of some authorities, but others think that "between the two evenings" was a specific period of time. One cannot be certain. The moment of the slaying of the lamb must have been tense, especially for the firstborn son, as he watched it being slain that he might live.

We are told in Heb. 11:28 that the Passover was kept "by faith" but so also was the sprinkling of the blood, for it was not sufficient that the lamb had died, however grateful they may have been. They must now appropriate its death to themselves by sprinkling its blood on the doorposts and lintel of their houses, for the Lord had said, "When I see the blood, I will pass over you".

One construction put on the word pasach (passover) is that of a man who is lame, who does not put his feet down regularly and in sequence, but misses a step here and there. So when the Lord was going through the land of Egypt in that night slaying the firstborn of each house, seeing the blood on the doorposts, He was caused to halt in His judgements and He passed over the door. What an arresting thought to us that God looks upon us and sees us sheltered under the blood of Christ, and He passes over us!

Inside the house the lamb was roasted with fire and eaten. This was not for their salvation, for that was secured for them by the sprinkling of the blood on the doorposts, but it was their communion, so to speak, with the lamb that had died. The effect of this "meditative" eating would be twofold - firstly, the lamb that had died was now living in them, and secondly, they would be strengthened to turn their backs upon Egypt in the morning and start out on a new life with God. It was not an eating to merely fill their stomachs. They were eating the roast flesh, but they were thinking of the lamb they had been watching for the previous few days, for this was the purpose in the eating of sacrifices. May we learn this lesson for ourselves, for we feed upon the Person of Christ so that He may be formed in us.

Eating of the sacrifice speaks of communion with the sacrifice and eating of it roast with fire speaks of communion with its sufferings. This is what will enable the disciple of Christ to turn his back on the things of this world, and will deliver him from its bondage. As he feeds himself on Christ's sufferings not only is Christ formed in him, but, like Christ Himself, he will overcome the world.

The Israelites ate the Passover with bitter herbs, to impart to them a "lingering" taste or a lasting memory, and with unleavened or unsweetened bread, which could not affect the taste of the bitter herbs, for unleavened bread is tasteless to the natural appetite.

What practical lessons abound in these things for disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ We gladly do as they did that night - put on the character of those who are ready to leave, for they had their loins girded, shoes on their feet, and staff in their hand. The internal change they experienced as they fed upon the roast lamb was to have external manifestation in their deportment as pilgrims and strangers in the land.

The effect of the eating of the roast lamb was the building up within them of a resistance to the land in which they had been in bondage so long. The disciple of Christ today must build up a similar resistance by his feeding in communion on his Passover, for if he does not feed on Christ, he will not go very far on the Christian pathway.