“Beginning of Passover”
Lesson Text: Exodus 12:1-14
Background Scripture: Exodus 6:2-30; 12
Devotional Reading:John 1:29-37
Exodus 12:1-14 (KJV)
1 And the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying,
2 This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you.
3 Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house:
4 And if the household be too little for the lamb, let him and his neighbour next unto his house take it according to the number of the souls; every man according to his eating shall make your count for the lamb.
5 Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats:
6 And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening.
7 And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses, wherein they shall eat it.
8 And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs they shall eat it.
9 Eat not of it raw, nor sodden at all with water, but roast with fire; his head with his legs, and with the purtenance thereof.
10 And ye shall let nothing of it remain until the morning; and that which remaineth of it until the morning ye shall burn with fire.
11 And thus shall ye eat it; with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and ye shall eat it in haste: it is the Lord's passover.
12 For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the Lord.
13 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, when I smite the land of Egypt.
14 And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the Lord throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever.
To understand the details of the first Passover meal, just before the Israelites left Egypt, and how it became a celebration and commemoration for generations to come.
To know the importance of keeping alive the memory of events that have spiritual significance.
To live daily under the royal authority of a loving, miracle-work God.
Beginning to Remember
People like to remember how things began. Nations celebrate their origins with holidays, solemn ceremonies, and raucous parades. Families celebrate marriages and the anniversaries that follow with parties, gifts, and cakes. Organizations celebrate their founding with employee picnics, commemorative products, and contests.
We need to celebrate important events because it is all too easy to forget what has brought us to the point where we are now. "The daily grind" may consume our time and energy to the point that unless we plan to slow down and contemplate what is important, we will not say the "deeper" things that need to be said, think what needs to be thought, and do what needs to be done. Important people and historic moments will fade from memory as we forget what made them special.
Forgetfulness can lead to disaster as mistakes are repeated and purposes (reasons for being) are lost. The meaning of life can get swallowed up by life's demands; the direction God has given world history can be replaced with a pointless, repetitive cycle.
God knows the importance of remembering beginnings. He gave the ancient Israelites three practices by which to remember their founding event, the exodus from Egypt: (1) the rite of the firstborn son, (2) the meal of unleavened bread, and (3) the celebration of the Passover feast. Today's lesson focuses on the third of these.
The Passover feast, like other commemorations, must be considered within the historical context in which it occurred. Further, we must look not just to the immediate context, but also to the larger context of history for fullest comprehension.
For Passover, that context goes all the way back to Genesis 1. In the first 11 chapters of Genesis, we see God's good creation collapsing under the weight of human sinfulness. Not even the catastrophic event of the great flood could cure what ailed the world. Rather than forsake humanity, however, God formed a people through whom He would bless all nations. They would be His vehicle for ushering in the Messiah to reconcile a wounded world to Him.
This people began with Abraham and Sarah. Generations later, the growing nation of their descendants found itself enslaved within the confines of Egyptian civilization. Pharaoh, feeling threatened by their growth, suppressed them with harsh toil and deadly population control. After centuries of progressively worse treatment, the cries of the Hebrews moved God to action. He rose up a figure who would lead the Israelites out of Egypt as God willed to develop them as a light to the nations.
Moses was that leader. Through Moses, God unleashed a barrage of plagues against the Egyptians. These plagues eventually broke Pharaoh's stubborn will, but he has not yet conceded defeat as today's text begins. In anticipation of the tenth and final plague, God established the Passover instructions as specified in today's text. By these, generations of Israelites were to remember their exemption from the associated catastrophe (Exodus 12:24-27).
Preparations for the Passover (Exodus 12:1-11)
1. What was God’s purpose in preparing Moses, Aaron, and the people for the 10th and final plague? (Exodus 12:1)
Having shocked Egypt with nine devastating plagues to this point, God is on the verge of delivering His people from their oppressors. From God's perspective, the "what for" of this deliverance matters more than the "what from." God is not liberating all oppressed peoples throughout the world; He is liberating a specific group of slaves for His mission of forming a new people that He will use to bless all nations.
Because Pharaoh remained unrelenting in his refusal to let God’s people leave Egypt, God was about to launch the tenth and final plague that would devastate the nation. Bible scholars have noted that the number 10 symbolizes completeness, which indicates the Lord’s wide-ranging and thorough judgment.
God accomplished at least three objectives by sending the 10 plagues on the Egyptians. First, He showed them that He is the Lord and the one true God. Second, He demonstrated His concern for the Israelites. Third, He proved Himself superior to the Egyptians’ many false gods. When God spoke to Moses and Aaron (12:1), He apparently never revealed to them how many plagues He intended to send upon the Egyptians. The brothers neither knew what the next, plague would be nor which would be the one to break Pharaoh’s will. Moses and Aaron simply obeyed. Moses was 80 years old at the time, and Aaron was 83 (7:7). If age was any factor at all in their selection to be leaders, advanced age apparently was a positive factor. Specifically, their age indicated they had a degree of wisdom and experience. God could have chosen a young man to confront Pharaoh, but instead He chose two elderly men-Moses and Aaron.
2. What date did God set for the people’s deliverance? How was it to be remembered? (Exodus 12:2-5)
What God was about to do for His people would be momentous. So, when the Israelites counted months, the month in which the exodus from Egypt occurred was to be remembered first (Exod. 12:2). After all, the Israelites’ freedom from Egypt would be for them a new beginning as God’s people. Therefore, even though the events that were about to occur would happen in the seventh month of the civil year (known as Abib, which straddled March and April in our modern calendar; see 13:4), God declared that the month of Abib should be recognized as the first month of the religious year.
God revealed that, while striking down the firstborn of Egypt, He would pass over the people of Israel. This act would lead to the Israelites’ deliverance from bondage. Thus, the celebration of Passover would become for the Israelites the most significant of holy days. The account of the Passover would be recited repeatedly to remind each new generation of the Lord’s redemption of His people. God still wants us to recite to others the story of our salvation. The Father longs for us tell our family and friends about His Son’s crucifixion and resurrection. The Father yearns for us to explain how the Son’s sacrifice for our sins exemplifies both the Father’s love for all humanity and His desire that we have eternal life.
The Lord told Moses and Aaron to let the entire covenant “congregation” (12:3) know that on the “tenth day” of this “first month” (v. 2), they were to remember His act of deliverance by formally celebrating the occasion. God’s instructions on how to celebrate the event were the only regulations He gave the Israelites while they were still being held as slaves in Egypt. To institute this day of commemoration, each Israelite household was to begin making preparations by selecting a lamb for roasting on this “tenth day.” If there were too few people in a household to eat a whole lamb, two or more households could share one (v. 4). The lamb the Israelite households were to select for roasting was a one-year-old male that had no physical defects (in other words, being free from any blemishes or diseases). Moreover, the animals could come from either “the sheep” or “the goats” (v. 5).
3. How did the preparation of the animals for slaughter also prepare the hearts of the people? (Exodus 12:6, 7)
The Lord, through Moses and Aaron, directed the Israelites to take special care of the animals selected for slaughter (for four days) until twilight (evening) on the fourteenth day of Abib (Exod. 12:6). At that time, the members of the covenant community were to apply the blood from the animals to the two side posts and the top of the doorframe of the houses where the participants consumed the sheep or the goats (v. 7). The tenth plague would be unlike the other plagues in its scope and severity, during which God promised to protect His chosen people (see also 9:7, 26; 10:23). Due to the nature of the final calamity, each Israelite family had to prepare for and act on God’s warning. By doing so, they would be demonstrating their faith in the Lord’s provision for their lives.
4. What instructions did God give concerning eating the lamb? (Exodus 12:8-11)
Exodus 12:8-11 states that on that same night of the Passover, the Israelite households were to roast the whole lamb with its head and legs intact. In addition to eating the lamb, the participants were to eat bitter herbs (to remind them of their years spent in oppression) and unleavened bread (to remind them of the hurriedness with which they would leave Egypt). God said the whole meal was to be eaten hastily and with an air of expectancy. Therefore, their robes should be tucked into their belts, their sandals should be on, and their staffs should be in hand. If any meat remained after the meal, it was to be burned before daybreak.
Centuries later, the Passover that Jesus ate with His disciples followed a well established Jewish pattern for celebrating this feast. During an opening prayer. The first of four cups was blessed and passed around. Each person at the table then took herbs and dipped them in salt water. Next, the host took one of three flat cakes of unleavened bread, broke it, and laid some of it aside. Typically, the youngest member of the group then asked the question “What makes this night different from all others?” The host responded by recounting the events of the Passover. This was usually followed by the singing of Psalms 113 and 114 and by the filling and passing around of the second cup.
Before the actual meal was eaten, all the participants washed their hands. Thanksgiving to God was prayed, and more of the bread was broken apart. The host dipped bread in a sauce usually made of stewed fruit, and then distributed a portion to each person gathered at the table. Finally, the time for the meal arrived. Eating a roasted lamb was the high point of the evening. It was after Jesus and His disciples had eaten the Passover meal that He instituted the Lord’s Supper. Jesus took the third cup, which was known as the “cup of blessing,” and uttered a prayer of thanks to God. He then instructed each of His disciples to take the cup and share its contents among themselves. Then He took a flat cake of unleavened bread, broke it, and passed it around so that each of His disciples could eat a portion of it.
The Meaning of the Passover (Exodus 12:12-14)
5. Why was it important that God’s ordinance be obeyed? (Exodus 12:12-13)
Exodus 11:4-6 reveals that at about midnight, the Lord had sworn to go throughout the land, killing the firstborn sons of the Egyptians from the highest to the lowest social levels. He would also kill the firstborn offspring of the Egyptians’ livestock. The preceding details are recapped in our lesson today, 12:12-13. Through Moses and Aaron, God once again informed the Israelites what He was about to do. By sending nine plagues, God had judged both Pharaoh and many of the pagan deities of Egypt. Now in one final calamity, He would execute “judgment” (v. 12) on all Egypt’s false “gods.” The Lord asserted the right to do so, for He is the one true God, as well as the Creator and moral Governor of the universe. That night the Lord’s holy presence would roam throughout Egypt, bringing about the deaths of the firstborn offspring of both humans and animals. Yet God does not want to punish the Israelites along with the Egyptians. So He uses the lambs' blood that is smeared on the doorposts (v. 7, above) as the distinguishing mark regarding who shall live. In anticipation of Jesus, the lambs' blood is to "cover" God's people, and they will be spared from death. Of course, God does not need the blood to tell who is who. But the Israelites need to learn to follow God's instructions since they are in the process of becoming His set-apart people.
6. How was Israel supposed to remember this event from then on? What spiritual truth needed to be passed on to future generations? (Exodus 12:14)
The night of Passover was to be only the beginning of the Israelites’ observance. God wanted His people to commemorate the event by celebrating a weeklong festival (Exod. 12:14). On the first day of Passover, they were to remove all yeast. , from their houses (v. 15). Then, for the following seven days—representing the beginning of the exodus from Egypt—they were to eat bread that had been made without yeast. A “holy convocation” (v. 16)—that is, a time to worship God—would mark the beginning day and ending day of the festival.
The lessons God is teaching the Israelites through the Passover event are relevant to future generations. If the lessons are not to be forgotten, then God's people will have to instill them into each subsequent generation (compare Deuteronomy 6:20-25). This is the purpose of the meal. It is to serve as a permanent fixture in the calendar of Old Testament Israel. As the Israelites continue to observe Passover, their children will not forget who they are, where they came from, and where they are going as God's chosen people!
What Do You Think?
What traditions can we establish in our family celebrations to pass along spiritual truths to children and grandchildren?
Talking Points for Your Discussion
Regarding Thanksgiving | Regarding Christmas | Regarding Easter| Regarding birthdays
POINTS TO PONDER
1.There is importance in doing things as a congregation! (Exodus 12:1-7, 14-20, 47)
2.We trust Christ that we might be saved from our sins by His sacrifice, but we must also feed on Christ in order to have strength for our daily pilgrim journey. As we worship, meditate on the Word, pray, and believe, we appropriate the spiritual nourishment of Jesus Christ and grow in grace and knowledge. (Exodus 12:8-11)
3.When you are obedient, God will always fight your battles! (Exodus 12:12-13;Romans 12:19)
4. Let us often take time to commemorate the sacrifice Jesus made for us on the cross as we partake of Holy Communion together. Let us share our testimonies of faith. We can make it be a celebration for generations to come! (Exodus 12:14; 1 Corinthians 11:25).
An Unforgettable Ending
People may try to avoid remembering how certain things come to an end (jobs, marriages, the lives of loved ones, etc.). Endings tend to be sad because we do not like to let go. We do not like the instability that the end of something familiar brings into our lives. An ending of something often signals entrance into the unknown as comfortable routines must be abandoned and new ones developed.
Yet endings sometimes are gateways to new beginnings that far outshine the past. The Passover was just such a gateway. In this vein, Christ has given us the Lord's Supper for us to remember the end of Jesus' earthly life that leads to resurrection life in Him. The facts surrounding the ending of Jesus' earthly ministry belong in our memory because they are the foundation of our new life in Him. It is thus fitting that Jesus instituted the Lord's Supper in the context of the Passover meal. Remembering what Jesus has done is a vital foundation to being able to "teach all nations" as Jesus would have us do (Matthew 28:19).
Thank You Heavenly Father, for new beginnings! Thank You for Your spotless Lamb, Jesus, that came to bear all our sins. Each day let us be reminded of Your grace and mercy. This we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
THOUGHT TO REMEMBER
God's deliverance is always there for us.