26 September 2011

A survey of the Old Testament Law--"You Shall Keep the Passover" (Part 2)

Last week we used Exodus 23:15 as a jumping-off point for part 1 of what will be a 3-part study of the Passover. So if you have your Bible let’s go ahead and turn to Exodus 12:43-4943 And the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, "This is the ordinance of the Passover: No foreigner shall eat it. 44 But every man's servant who is bought for money, when you have circumcised him, then he may eat it. 45 A sojourner and a hired servant shall not eat it. 46 In one house it shall be eaten; you shall not carry any of the flesh outside the house, nor shall you break one of its bones. 47 All the congregation of Israel shall keep it. 48 And when a stranger dwells with you and wants to keep the Passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as a native of the land. For no uncircumcised person shall eat it. 49 One law shall be for the native-born and for the stranger who dwells among you." Before we start, I want to mention something. Right in the middle of this paragraph, we see God command the people, at the end of Exodus 12:46“…nor shall you break one of its bones.” We’re gonna skip that for now, come back to it later

Under the Old Covenant, God split the world up into two groups of people: Jew and Gentile. It was easy. If you were born to a Jewish family, you were a Jew. If you belonged to any other ethnic group, you were a Gentile. The lines were drawn and they were very distinct. And one sign that one was a Jew was circumcision. Today parents have their children circumcised for any number of reasons. But under the old covenant, circumcision was a sacred rite, one by which one was permitted into the nation of Israel. Another sign that separated Jew from Gentile was the feasts. If you were a Jew, you took part in the feasts. If you were not a Jew, you could take part in the feasts—if and only if you had been circumcised. These commands were given because of what we see in Exodus 12:37-3837 Then the children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides children. 38 A mixed multitude went up with them also, and flocks and herds—a great deal of livestock. The “mixed multitude” was made up of Egyptians who feared the LORD and who saw His mighty hand and wanted to worship this One who could do such mighty works and topple the gods of Egypt. Now, if we fast-forward to the NT, we find the question of circumcision being one of the most hotly-debated issues in the early church. We, who are living today, tend to think that many of the errors we see today are ones that have taken 2000 years to develop. That is not quite true. There were, I dare say, just as many heresies trying to creep into the church in its infancy as there are now. And in fact, many of the NT epistles were written to correct those heresies. Colossians and 1st John were written to denounce the heresy called “Gnosticism”, which was a heresy that taught that to attain salvation one had to gain this mystical, secret knowledge. They also taught that material things are evil; therefore Christ could not have had an actual body of flesh and bone. Which is why 1st John 4:3 says Every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God.

Probably the most common heresy in the early church was the issue of circumcision, and whether a Gentile had to be circumcised in order to be saved. The reason this was an issue was many Jews brought up the fact that for one to take part in the Passover, one had to be circumcised. They then applied that to Christ—He being our Passover. So they said, “If you have to be circumcised to eat the Passover, then it’s obvious you must be circumcised to partake of Christ’s life.” And time after time the apostle Paul—a Jew among Jews—soundly rejected that thinking. We could spend weeks going through all the verses that pertain to circumcision, but we’ll just hit on a few. Galatians 6:6For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love. Romans 2:28-2928 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; 29 but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God. Ephesians 2:11-1311 Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh—who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands—12 that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. Under the old covenant one could not be joined to the nation of God except through circumcision of the flesh—that is, by becoming a Jew. But now, under the new covenant, one is joined to the family of God through circumcision of the heart—being adopted as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself.

Now, many years after the Passover was instituted, another question arose about if certain people were to keep the Passover. We find these questions in Numbers 9:6-136 Now there were certain men who were defiled by a human corpse, so that they could not keep the Passover on that day; and they came before Moses and Aaron that day. 7 And those men said to him, "We became defiled by a human corpse. Why are we kept from presenting the offering of the LORD at its appointed time among the children of Israel?" 8 And Moses said to them, "Stand still, that I may hear what the LORD will command concerning you." 9 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “10 Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘If anyone of you or your posterity is unclean because of a corpse, or is far away on a journey, he may still keep the LORD's Passover. 11 On the fourteenth day of the second month, at twilight, they may keep it. They shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. 12 They shall leave none of it until morning, nor break one of its bones. According to all the ordinances of the Passover they shall keep it. 13 But the man who is clean and is not on a journey, and ceases to keep the Passover, that same person shall be cut off from among his people, because he did not bring the offering of the LORD at its appointed time; that man shall bear his sin.’” Question: The command in verse 10, about men who have been defiled because they touched a corpse right before Passover—we read about two men in the gospels that command applies to. Who would those two men be? What two men handled a corpse at the time of Passover in the gospels? Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus. John 19:38-4038 After this, Joseph of Arimathea…came and took the body of Jesus. 39 And Nicodemus…also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds. 40 Then they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in strips of linen with the spices. These men would not be allowed to keep the Passover the next day, because they would be considered unclean. And I think it might have shocked even Pontius Pilate that these two devout Jewish men—Joseph of Arimathea being a member of the Sanhedrin—would handle a dead body the day before the Passover. But, because they did, they would have had to wait until the 14th of the next month, which would be the month Ijar to observe it. But I think Joseph and Nicodemus knew something that even the Pharisees, the guardians of the Law of Moses, didn’t know. That the Passover has come, has been slain, and never needs to be slain again. They knew that when they lay Christ, our Passover, in the tomb, He wouldn’t be there very long.

In this section of Numbers, we also see the provision for those who are away from home to keep the Passover. Numbers 9:10“If anyone of you or your posterity is far away on a journey, he may still keep the LORD's Passover.” These were the only two reasons a person may be excused from keeping the Passover on the 14th of the month Abib (Nisan). However, if they just didn’t feel like going through all the hassle of finding a perfect lamb or goat, and wanted to put it off until next month, and observe the “little Passover” as it was called. Well, we find God saying this in Numbers 9:13“13 But the man who is clean and is not on a journey, and declines to keep the Passover, that same person shall be cut off from among his people, because he did not bring the offering of the LORD at its appointed time; that man shall bear his sin.” Sorry! Unless you are unclean or on a journey, you MUST keep the Passover on the 14th of Abib (Nisan). If you delay without reason, you are cut off from the nation of Israel. Period, paragraph, end of story. God had set up some very distinct regulations concerning how He was to be worshipped. If someone wanted to say, “Well, I know what it says, but I worship God in my own way.” Well, you go ahead and do that—and then, when you stand before Him, you can explain to Him why you thought you knew better than He did. And He can then explain to you why He did not accept that kind of worship. And you can have a chat with Nadab and Abihu, whom we will talk about further down the road.

Now, there is one last aspect of this feast that we’re going to look at today. In the middle of all the regulations concerning the Passover, God says in Numbers 9:14“And if a stranger dwells among you, and would keep the LORD's Passover, he must do so according to the rite of the Passover and according to its ceremony; you shall have one ordinance, both for the stranger and the native of the land.’” Real simple—there was but one Law for both Jew and for Gentile. There was not one Law for the Jew and another, separate Law for Gentile. One Law covered them both. Four times, God repeats this command. Once in Leviticus, three times in Numbers. God makes it very clear that He does not set one standard for one group of people, and another standard for others. Romans 3:19Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. The ONE Law of God shuts EVERY mouth, and declares ALL THE WORLD—Jew and Gentile—to be guilty before God. Romans 3:28-3028 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law. 29 Or is He the God of the Jews only? Is He not also the God of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also, 30 since there is one God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. See, one thing we need to understand about the OT Law is that it was not simply God’s standard for a specific group of people for a specific period of time. While the Law was indeed given only to Israel, and it was only the Israelites who suffered the temporal punishments for violating its various commandments (for example, the Hivites were not stoned with stones for working on the seventh day of the week), it’s not as though God ignored murder before that moment when the people of Israel got to Mt. Sinai. Listen to what He said to Cain after he killed his brother Abel, Genesis 4:10-11“10 What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood cries out to Me from the ground. 11 So now you are cursed from the earth, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand.” And of course we know why God sent the flood to wipe out all but the family of Noah. Genesis 6:5-75 Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually…7 So the LORD said, "I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth." And after the flood was over, Genesis 9:6“Whoever sheds man's blood, by man his blood shall be shed; for in the image of God He made man.”

When God gave the Ten Commandments in the hearing of all the people, and when He spoke the entire Law to Moses up on Sinai, God was not really introducing any new commandments; He was not all of a sudden prohibiting things that He had previously condoned. When God gave the Law, He was simply telling Moses to put in writing those things that had been understood by all mankind even from the time of the Fall, when sin and death entered the world. Listen to Romans 5:12-1412 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned—13 (For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam). Over the 1500 or so years before the giving of the Law, men died. The reason we die is because of sin. Sin entered the world, and death through sin. So when Paul says in Romans 5:13 that sin is not imputed when there is no law, he’s saying that there must have been some kind of Law in existence before Sinai, because men died. And men died because of sin. So that one Law covered every single man—except Enoch, who was taken out of the world before he died.

 Now, just as there was one Law for both Jew and Gentile, there is also one gospel for both Jew and Gentile. There is not one gospel for Jew and another, separate gospel for Gentile. There’s a real popular preacher on TV who says that Jews don’t need to accept Christ as their Savior, since they are Jews and the Jews are God’s chosen people—therefore Jews are saved because they're Jews. And I'll tell you his name, it’s John Hagee. That teaching is heresy—that was the very same error that the Pharisees were guilty of. Matthew 3:7-107 But when [John the Baptist] saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, 9 and do not think to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones.10 And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” John the Baptist was saying, “Yep, you guys are sons of Abraham. Whoopty-doo! That and a dollar will get you a cup of coffee, but it ain't gonna get you into the kingdom of God!” That’s just a loose translation from the Greek. There is ONE GOSPEL for the Jew and for the Gentile. Listen to what Peter says in Acts 15—and keep in mind, if there were ever a devout Jew, it was Simon Peter. Acts 15:7-11 (NASB)7 After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, "Brethren, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles would hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8 And God, who knows the heart, testified to them giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us; 9 and He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith. 10 Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? 11 But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are." Jew and Gentile are both saved in the same way—by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone according to the Scriptures alone for the glory of God alone.

Paul tells us the following, in Ephesians 2:14-1814 For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, 15 having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, 16 and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross…18 For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. Colossians 3:11There is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free—and to expand that thought, there is neither white nor black, American nor Canadian, Latino nor Japanese, African nor Asian, French or English, Russian or Mexican—but Christ is all and in all. Galatians 3:28There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Albert Barnes—“Every man, on whom is the image and the blood of Christ, is a brother to every other one who bears that image, and should be treated accordingly. What an influence would be excited in the breaking up of the distinctions of rank and class among people; what an effect in abolishing the prejudice on account of color and country, if this were universally believed and felt!” There was one Law for both Jew and Gentile—there is one gospel for both Jew and Gentile.

Jesus Christ is Lord.