06 October 2011

A Survey of the Old Testament Law--"You shall keep the Passover" (Part 3)

On the day when Christ entered into Jerusalem, He knew that in just a few days He would be crucified. He knew He was to be the Passover lamb, the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29). That He would be led as a lamb to the slaughter (Isaiah 53:7). That all those people who were cheering Him on, throwing their palm branches and their blankets before Him—many of the same people would be calling for His death by Thursday. But He also knew that He must allow His blood to be poured out so that God’s wrath could pass over the people. Today we’re going to finish up looking at the Passover by looking at the final official, God-sanctioned Passover.

But for now, let’s read Exodus 12:13-20“13 Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt. 14 So this day shall be to you a memorial; and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD throughout your generations. You shall keep it as a feast by an everlasting ordinance. 15 Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses. For whoever eats leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel. 16 On the first day there shall be a holy convocation, and on the seventh day there shall be a holy convocation for you. No manner of work shall be done on them; but that which everyone must eat—that only may be prepared by you. 17 So you shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this same day I will have brought your armies out of the land of Egypt. Therefore you shall observe this day throughout your generations as an everlasting ordinance. 18 In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at evening, you shall eat unleavened bread, until the twenty-first day of the month at evening. 19 For seven days no leaven shall be found in your houses, since whoever eats what is leavened, that same person shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he is a stranger or a native of the land. 20 You shall eat nothing leavened; in all your dwellings you shall eat unleavened bread.” 

The Passover was one of three “Great Feasts” that were to be kept by all Jewish males. And at around this time of year, about 2000 years ago, all of Israel was gathered in Jerusalem—some estimates put the population at the time of Passover at around 2,000,000 people. All these people had gathered to take part, since God commanded “You shall keep it as a feast by an everlasting ordinance.” Now, before we get started let me point something out. How long would you say an “everlasting ordinance” would be in effect? There are indeed some who think we should still be keeping all the feasts and all the holy days, since God Himself does indeed refer to them as “memorials” or “ordinances” that are for “all generations, even forever.” You can find some of these people on TV on Sunday mornings. One such program is called “Tomorrow’s World”, then there’s Gerald Fleury and his show “The Key of David”, the late Garner Ted Armstrong and his late father Herbert W. Armstrong—and there are many more. They teach that even now we should be keeping the Passover—and all the other feasts—in the same way as it was kept in Christ’s day.

At the other end of the spectrum are people who take a machete, if you will, and they make a perfect cut between Malachi 4:6 and Matthew 1:1. And they try and make two different Gods, one mean, angry, nasty God of the OT, and another kind, gentle, tolerant God of the NT. And both of these extremes are wrong. When God says something is an “everlasting ordinance,” He means it’s an “everlasting ordinance.” But, by the same token, He has done away with the formal, ritual, ceremonies that were connected to these various feasts.

Now, does it sound like I'm talking out of both sides of my mouth yet? Well, it’s not that God changes His requirements. “I am the LORD, I change not” (Malachi 3:6). What He does is He gives us types and pictures and prophecies—all of which are but shadows of the reality. And when He gave the Passover as an “everlasting ordinance,” He didn’t mean that every generation of people would smear the blood of sheep or goats on their door frame until the end of time. This was a type, a shadow, a prophecy—that was fulfilled by Christ. And in the NT we see that the feasts—including the Passover—were inextricably linked with Christ. First Corinthians 5:7Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Christ fulfilled the shadow that was the Passover. Colossians 2:16-1716 So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, 17 which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. And gave even gave knowledge of Christ to men like Moses and Abraham and Jacob.

It was in Christ that God made a covenant with Abraham, Galatians 3:17The law…cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ. Abraham saw that promise fulfilled, as Jesus told the Pharisees in John 8:56“Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” Jacob saw Christ even though he didn't realize what he was seeing. Genesis 28:12Then he dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set up…and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. The apostle that Jesus loved wrote in John 1:51"Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man." And even Moses saw Christ. Hebrews 11:24-2624 By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, 25 choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, 26 esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt... Notice what he says in Hebrews 11:26Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt. Moses looked forward to Christ. We don’t have it written down in the OT that Moses saw Christ—but then again, we don’t know everything that God told Moses—we simply know what God told Moses to write down. So Christ, rather than being this figure that suddenly appeared on the scene out of nowhere, has existed for all eternity, being known to the Patriarchs and prophets—although not known to the people.

There are times in the NT where you will find the word translated “mystery.” We think of “mystery” as something shadowy and something that only the greatest detectives and the deepest thinkers can figure out. Or, like last week, when I mentioned the Gnostics. The Gnostics were known for seeking out “mysteries,” and to them it was secret knowledge that only the most spiritual person could understand. But in the Bible, when we see the word “mystery,” we shouldn’t think of it as something that we humans have no hope of ever understanding. While it does indeed mean “hidden knowledge” it is not hidden to the point that no human of average intellect could ever grasp it. But only those who have received the Holy Spirit will understand them. The biblical meaning of the word “mystery” is
“Not the mysterious (as with the English word), but that which, being outside the range of unassisted natural understanding, can be made known only by Divine revelation, and is made known in a manner and at a time appointed by God, and only to those who are awakened by His Spirit. In the ordinary sense a ‘mystery’ implies knowledge withheld; its Scriptural significance is truth revealed.” 
First Corinthians 2:7-87 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, 8 which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. To those that do not know Christ, the words of Scripture are still a mystery. They are hidden from their understanding because they have not been given the spirit of understanding.

The true meaning of the Passover was another “mystery.” It was a picture, a shadow, a prophecy of Christ hidden in the commands and ordinances surrounding it—the lamb signified Christ Himself, the blood of an innocent animal was a figure of the blood of the innocent Jesus, the vertical doorpost and horizontal beam of the doorway signified the upright post and horizontal beam of the cross. Knowing all that, we can see now that when God gives an “everlasting ordinance” or a “statute forever” He does not mean “for a couple thousand years, then we’ll change it up a little.” But He may not necessarily mean “It will be done exactly like this forever and ever.” Many of the “everlasting statutes” were shadows, pictures, and prophecies of Christ, and now that we have the substance—whereas before we only had the shadow—we do not fulfil the Law outwardly with ritual and ceremony. We keep the Law inwardly, by faith in Christ who kept the Law for us. Romans 8:3-43 For what the Law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh…4 that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us. 

So with all that being said, let’s see how the Passover was fulfilled in Christ. Luke 22:7Then came the Day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover must be killed. This was the night before the crucifixion, when Christ and His apostles met in the upper room. It was the 14th of Abib (Nisan). This was the day when the people took that “lamb without spot or blemish” that they had been setting aside for the last four days and they brought it out and killed it and roasted it with fire and ate it. And Christ, not having yet fulfilled all things concerning Himself, was still under obligation to keep the Passover. Galatians 4:4God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law. What was the number one requirement for the Passover lamb to be acceptable? “Without spot or blemish.” First Peter 1:18-1918 You were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold…19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. He was born under the Law so that He would have to keep the Law. And that He did. First Peter 2:21-2221 Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example…22 "Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth." Again, what did that Passover lamb do to deserve being killed and burned? Nothing. What did Jesus do to deserve being put to death? Nothing. So in that innocent lamb we have a picture of the innocent Christ.

Now, the focus of the Passover feast was the lamb. What other two elements were included? Unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Let’s talk about the unleavened bread. Exodus 12:15—“On the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses. For whoever eats leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel.Exodus 13:7 (NASB)“Unleavened bread shall be eaten throughout the seven days; and nothing leavened shall be seen among you, nor shall any leaven be seen among you in all your borders.” In other words, get it out of the entire camp. Leaven—yeast—what does it do to bread? Makes it look bigger than it really is. Well, the reason yeast (leaven) was to be excluded for the seven days that made up the Feast of Unleavened Bread was as a reminder of the haste with which God brought their 430 some-odd years of bondage to an end in one night.

But Christ applied another meaning to it. Matthew 16:6-126 Then Jesus said to them, "Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees." 7 And they reasoned among themselves, saying, "It is because we have taken no bread." 8 But Jesus, being aware of it, said to them, "O you of little faith, why do you reason among yourselves because you have brought no bread?...11 How is it you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread? But to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees." 12 Then they understood that He did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees. The doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees was full of spiritual leaven—they had puffed themselves up with human teachings in order to make themselves look greater in the eyes of men than they really were. Anybody ever make bread from scratch? You know what it means to “proof” the dough? That’s when you add the yeast, and what do you do with the dough when you add the yeast? You put it in a dark, lukewarm oven, excluding any light. That is when yeast grows most quickly—in darkness and lukewarmness. And by extension, Christ tells us to beware of the doctrine of false teachers, because when does bad doctrine grow best? In spiritual darkness and spiritual lukewarmness.

And 1500 years before He sent His Son, God warns the people to avoid leaven, and to even get any leaven out of their house during the feast. Paul gives us this same warning, as he does many times in his letters to the Corinthians, he tells us in First Corinthians 5:6-86 Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? 7 Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. 8 Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. We keep the Passover—indeed, the entire Feast of Unleavened Bread—by purging out those things that puff up and corrupt, and by living a life of truth, in Christ. Albert Barnes— 
“The sense is this - ‘As the Jews when they celebrated the Passover, on the slaying and sacrifice of the lamb, put away all leaven - as a symbol of sin - so let us, in the slaying of our sacrifice, and in all the duties, institutions and events that follow, put away all wickedness from our hearts, and from our societies and churches.’” 
Also, in the original commands, there were commands to not boil the Passover lamb. Exodus 23:19“You shall not boil a young goat in his mother's milk.” Ralph Cudworth, a Hebrew scholar in the 1600’s, said
“It was a custom with the ancient heathens…to take a young goat, and boil it in the mother's milk; and then…to go about and sprinkle all their trees, and fields, and gardens, and orchards with it, thinking by these means, that they should make them bring forth more abundantly in the following year. This is why God’s people, the Jews, were forbidden to use any such superstitious or idolatrous ritual.” 
And many times in the Scriptures, over and over and over again, God gave them strict commands about how He was to be worshipped, and He was not to have His people mix the worship of the One True God with the customs of the pagans. Ezekiel 22:26“Her priests have violated My law and profaned My holy things; they have not distinguished between the holy and unholy, nor have they made known the difference between the unclean and the clean.” And again, we have similar warnings in the NT. Second Corinthians 6:14-1714 Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? 15 And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? 16 And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” 17 Therefore “Come out from among them and be separate,” says the Lord. 

Now, about the command to break none of its legs. Exodus 12:46In 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. There was a reason they were not to break its legs. This was the only animal sacrifice that was not cut up. To the people of Israel, this was meant to signify the unity of the people as a nation. It was not cut up; it was roasted whole on a spit. Now, think about a sheep. Its legs are not very agile. So to put that lamb on a spit, what do you need to do with its legs? You gotta pull them out of joint. It is believed that Jesus quoted all of Psalm 22 on the cross, and in Psalm 22:14I am poured out like water, and all My bones are out of joint. His bones were out of joint, but they were not broken. And even in death, Jesus fulfilled the Law. This came to pass, of course, as we read in John 19:32-3632 Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who was crucified with Him. 33 But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs…36 For these things were done that the Scripture should be fulfilled, "Not one of His bones shall be broken." 

Christ was the fulfillment of what the OT Law only gave a picture of. He was the Lamb without spot or blemish. There was no leaven—no sin nor deceit—in Him. He never mixed the holy with the profane. And not one of His bones was broken. And just as the blood of the Passover protected the house from the Destroyer the night of the Exodus, the blood that Jesus shed protects us from the wrath of God. Next week we’re going to begin a study of the Old Covenant and the New Covenant, and how they were both ratified—made official—by blood.

Jesus is Lord. Amen.