A Chosen People

Most of us will be passed-over at some time in our lives! If we are no good at sports at school, then in the PE lesson, when it comes to choosing who will be in the team, and the ‘captain’ chooses his or her team mates, they will pass over the weakest and less capable candidates, focusing first on those team members who will, most likely, bring success on the sports field! The “duds” get selected only when all the capable ones have already found their place – it can be a slightly humiliating experience! The same is often true in working life. Many will “go” for a promotion interview, only to find themselves ‘passed-over’ as someone else is selected. This article argues, however, that there is a far more fundamental way in which, not only do we need to be passed-over, but that indeed we should rejoice that this Passover is available to us. The Bible uniquely tells us that we MUST be passed over, not for promotion, but for eternal salvation. So how does this ‘work’? The whole Bible, the whole of God’s redemption plan, leads up to this point of being passed over. Let’s dig into this ….

When the children of Israel were in slavery in Egypt, probably in the Middle Bronze Age and approximately 1998BC to 1598BC coinciding with the Hyksos Dynasty of Pharaohs[1], they were kept as slaves. We should note there is some debate among scholars and theologians as to when / where / which dynasties were involved. These details are not of particular interest for the purpose of this article. Extended slavery in Egypt was foretold [Genesis 15:13], and this was foretold in the context of the granting of the lands of Israel to the nation of Israel [Genesis 15: 18-21]. Pharaoh had to be compelled to release the Hebrews, as we read in Exodus 3:7 through 12:51. The final event, however, that forced his hand – the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back – was the plague on the firstborn (Exodus 11: 4-10). The Israelites were to avoid the outworking of the plague by daubing on their door frames the blood of a slaughtered lamb, and in preparation for the flight from Egypt, the slaves were to eat a hasty meal which is today celebrated as Passover. God was clear what would happen – Genesis 11: 1.

The Bible uniquely teaches that we must be passed-over, not for promotion but for Salvation. [ 1 Corinthians 5:7; John 13: 1 (actually all of John chapters 13 through 17 is relevant background, in the context of what we call “the last supper”); 1 John 2:2; 1 Peter 3:18; John 10:17]. These texts emphasize the sacrificial nature of the Messiah’s ultimate act – going on our behalf to the cross of crucifixion. We can fairly say that the whole Bible, and the whole of God’s redemptive plan, leads up to this point of Passover. We should dig a little more into this ………….

From where did the feast (or moedim) of Passover emerge? We recall a few simple facts:

  • for 400 years the children of Israel were in a foreign land, in slavery, and under hard task-masters
  • the slavery they suffered was real and there was a desperate need to end it. In fact the slavery of Israel and its subsequent abolition was specifically foretold to Abraham [Genesis 15:13 – see also Acts 7:6 in this regard].

 

[1] It is interesting that the Exodus account in the Bible does not mention the name of the Pharaoh. Since Moses was the author, he certainly could have named Pharaoh. So why didn’t he?  I believe that Pharaoh’s name is intentionally omitted. Throughout the Exodus narrative, Pharaoh either implies or asks “Who is the Lord that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I do not know the Lord, nor will I let Israel go” (Ex. 5:2). The irony, perhaps intentional, is that we don’t know Pharaoh’s name, but we do know the Lord’s

name (Yahweh – “I AM”). The book of Exodus, was not written to exalt the Egyptian Pharaoh (who was considered to be a “divine god-king”), but rather the God of Israel.

The titanic struggle between the devil (and his proxy, Pharaoh) and Almighty God (and His proxy, Moses) is the subject matter of Exodus chapters 3 through 13. This is one of the key themes of the entire Bible. Our word ‘Passover’ emerges from the Hebrew verb, pesach, which signifies to pass, to leap, or to skip over. God gave the name Passover to the moedim that He inaugurated just prior to the permanent exodus of the children of Israel from their cruel bondage in Egypt. On the night preceding their escape the angel of the Lord passed through Egypt and made good on God’s promise to destroy all the first-born that were not marked with the sign of blood. The angel passed-over all those Israelite households (all?) that had daubed the sign of blood outside their houses. Plainly this was an act of faith on their part, but it was an act of faith that God honoured – as He had promised to do. The feast of Passover was to be observed for seven days, according to the more detailed instructions given in Deuteronomy 16: 1 – 8; God had already instructed that this Passover moedim would be a permanent, all time fixture for the chosen people (specifically Exodus 12: 14). Believers in Jesus are not obligated to the “rules” (e.g. Genesis 12: 43-49) but rather are to marvel at what God has done for us in His Passover lamb – Jesus our Lord. Christians, too, have a huge stake in Passover! Passover is the perfect “type” of the penal substitution of Messiah Jesus for His people – first to the Jew, and then to the Gentile (Romans 1: 16). There is an old and a very true saying that “Jesus rescues us from the Egypt of sin, and takes us to the promised land of salvation”.

What a joy is this Passover! Every human being TRULY wants and needs to be passed-over for promotion to Glory:

  • promotion from slave to free [Galatians 5:1]
  • promotion from “heathen” to the chosen people of God [Galatians 3:7 and 3: 29; Romans 2: 28-29; Romans 9:6-8]
  • promotion from death to life [John 5:24; Ephesians 2:1-6]
  • promotion to a mansion! [John 14:2 – this comes out best in the old King James version, but the idea is common throughout the various translations – there is a special place in God’s kingdom just for you!]
  • promotion to a family [Romans 9:8; 1 John 3: 1-2]
  • promotion to a friend of Jesus [John 15:15]

These wonderful blessings arise directly from being passed-over through the forgiveness of God the Father, “earned” by the sacrificial act of Jesus, God the Son. Passover was the number 1 mission of Jesus! And what is the proof that all these amazing claims are true? The irrefutable proof is the empty tomb and the risen Saviour! It is well beyond the scope of this article to explore the glory of the resurrection, and many competent writers and historians have done this more than adequately down through the centuries. I have nothing to add except to remind readers of 1 Corinthians chapter 15 (all) and especially verse 2. Christians are, first and foremost, the Passover people! Halleluja![2]

 

Jesus

Jesus is, of course, THE Passover lamb. The night before His crucifixion, precisely what sort of meal did He consume?

  • a “communion”?
  • a “last supper”?
  • a Passover?

Jesus knew He would be sacrificed for us, that He would pay the price of our rebellions, of our sins. True believers have been marked with the blood of the lamb and therefore eternal judgment passes-over us – and is laid to Jesus’ account. These verses help to place this in context:

For by the blood of Christ we are set free, that is, our sins are forgiven. How great is the grace of God. (Ephesians 1:7) 

For you know what was paid to set you free from the worthless manner of life handed down by your ancestors. It was not something that can be destroyed, such as silver or gold; it was the costly sacrifice of Christ, who was like a lamb without defect or flaw. (1 Peter 1:18-19)

God bought you for a price; so do not become slaves of people. (1 Corinthians 7:23)

But by the free gift of God’s grace all are put right with him through Christ Jesus, who sets them free. God offered him, so that by his blood he should become the means by which people’s sins are forgiven through their faith in him. God did this in order to demonstrate that he is righteous. In the past he was patient and overlooked people’s sins; but in the present time he deals with their sins, in order to demonstrate his righteousness. In this way God shows that he himself is righteous and that he puts right everyone who believes in Jesus. (Romans 3:24-25)

… by whom we are set free, that is, our sins are forgiven. (Colossians 1:14) 

So keep watch over yourselves and over all the flock which the Holy Spirit has placed in your care. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he made his own through the blood of his Son. (Acts 20:28) 

What, then, of those who despise the Son of God? who treat as a cheap thing the blood of God’s covenant which purified them from sin? who insult the Spirit of grace? Just think how much worse is the punishment they will deserve! (Hebrews 10:29 )

God patiently, throughout the Tanakh (the Old Testament), pointed forwards, towards His Messiah Who would come to save the world, and so God slowly and progressively revealed His plan of salvation. Hence in Genesis 3:14-15, right at the very beginning of the Bible, we see the announcement of the judgement of God upon the devil (the “serpent”). The spiritual battle between God and the devil – through the devil’s proxy, the “offspring” of the woman – would be decisively resolved by a “he” who would “crush” satan’s head. Normative Christian theology affirms that the “he” is Jesus the Messiah. But how would this happen? And why was Mankind banished from Eden?

To answer the second question first: if Mankind was not expelled from Eden then God’s rescue plan, centered on the Messiah, could not be effected. Accordingly “Man” would not, ultimately, be able to enter into “God’s rest”[3] i.e. God’s special and eternal provision for His chosen peoples. Mankind would then be condemned eternally to death with no possibility of redemption through Messiah. Forced to stand on his own two feet, we might say, Mankind could painstakingly be prepared to encounter its Saviour, at a defined and definitive point in history (at Calvary)[4]. To answer the first question (how would Jesus “crush” satan’s head?): we need to reflect that God’s primary purpose was not to defeat the devil – the outcome of the eternal battle has never been in doubt – defeat and destruction of the devil was (is) inevitable. God’s primary purpose was to “choose” a family He could call His Own and which would be with Him throughout eternity. So God progressively revealed His purpose and His plan. God would definitively defeat the devil by defeating the only ultimately effective weapon with which satan can afflict us – death itself. Jesus’ lordship over death is demonstrated, proved, by the resurrection.

God chose a people – the Hebrews – through his covenant with Abraham. Abraham’s family line would be “reckoned” (or counted) through Isaac. In Genesis chapter 22 Abraham’s faith is tested, as God instructs Abraham to sacrifice his only son (22:2). It should be noted that Isaac was no mere boy at this time. We know for example that his brother Ishmael was grown up and married (21:21) and the age difference between them was at most a few years. It was “some time” after the treaty at Beersheba[5] that Abraham was tested by God, so some commentators suggest that  Isaac was potentially in his early thirties at this time; irrespective he was almost certainly at his physical prime and therefore no mere little boy, as so often depicted in the illustrations in childrens’ bibles! Isaac willingly placed himself in his father’s hands (22:29). Isaac could successfully have resisted, but chose not to. In this we are reminded of Jesus Who went willingly to fulfill His Father’s purposes (John 10:18). Isaac was spared. Jesus would not be spared. God Himself provided the sacrifice, just as Abraham had foretold (22:8) and what did God provide? A ram (a fully grown male sheep) caught by its head in a thicket (22:13). Its head was caught, if you like, in a crown of thorns (Matthew 27:29). We conclude that the sacrificial death “passed over” Isaac and was instead paid by the sacrificial ram.

The clearest “type” of the Passover of Jesus on behalf of Mankind is revealed to us in the events surrounding the release of the children of Israel from bondage in Egypt. We move on to Exodus chapter 12 to explore what is today universally understood to be THE Passover. In brief; in order to compel Pharaoh to release the Hebrew captives, God passes through Egypt and “strikes down” the first born (12:12). Only those whose dwellings are marked with the blood of a sacrificed year old un-blemished lamb are spared (12: 12-13). This event is the basis of the Hebrew “feast” of Passover (Deuteronomy 16: 1-8). The fact that this is a permanent ordinance for Jewsih people explains why Jesus faithfully kept the Passover feast. He knew in any case, that He would be THE Passover lamb for all time.

Today liberal theologians and church men look with great disdain at what they like to call the “butcher shop” gospel. A well known British liberal referred to the penal substitution of Christ as “cosmic child abuse”, so providing the media and press with a neat sound bite to disparage the good news of Jesus’ accomplishment on the cross. By contrast Philip Keller explores the theological and biological truth that life only emerges from death. Keller describes these liberals as showing “great nievety” in failing to understand the combined scientific and spiritual principle at work in the universe.[6] We note that by providing clear instructions in Exodus chapter 12 to the Israelite slaves in Egypt God established a pattern with deep spiritual significance. God instructed the Hebrews to consume the flesh in its entirety in one night. Not only would the blood daubed on their door lintels provide protection from the destroying angel (in a real sense, protection from ‘judgement’ by the angel) but also the lamb’s meat would energise them for the arduous escape from Egypt and the eventual “passing over” the Red Sea to freedom.

It is to me astounding that historical truth (the flight of the Hebrew nation from Egypt) should so precisely mirror spiritual truth, that Jesus is the sacrificial lamb, slain from the beginning of the world (1 Peter 1: 20 and Revelation 13:8). Let us, as a short excursus, summarise this in a simple diagram:

As we understand the chronology from the Bible, the events portrayed in Exodus involved slavery, the passing over event (which we can see, in a real sense involves both the Passover meal, the associated ‘salvation’ from the destroying angel, as well as the later passing – over the Red Sea and the associated ‘salvation’ from the pursuing Egyptian chariot army) and eventual transition, forty years later, to the promised land. The captivity in Egypt was something from which the Hebrew people were powerless to deliver themselves. Constantly they needed God’s ‘salvation’ power to rescue them. We might say that theologically, the events worked themselves out in a series of steps, as depicted here:

These historical truths mirror the spiritual truth that all Mankind is locked-in to the reality of sin – rebellion against God, whether that rebellion is conscious or unconscious. Can we say that Mankind suffers, spiritually, from ‘locked-in syndrome’? We humans just cannot wean ourselves off the tragedy of sin – we are locked-in with it. But God has graciously provided an escape route, as our next diagram illustrates:

This article is not the place to fully explore and resolve the assertions encompassed in these diagrams, but it is hoped that they ‘map out’, in a basic way, these profound truths. By the same token we cannot, here, explore the astonishing truths around the use of a “Scapegoat” as part of the Leviticus 16:20-22 ritual, as these more detailed sacrificial instructions also anticipate the atoning work of the Messiah. Nor can we here explore the amazing truths expressed in both Psalm 22 and Isaiah chapters 52 and 53, where we encounter the most graphic representation of the future crucifixion of Jesus, Son of God. These are wonderful themes, indeed, but simply beyond the scope of a single article. They do, however, add depth and breadth to our understanding of God’s salvific purposes and are well worth exploration in their own right.

We note that there are in fact seven moedim established by God as the meetings (or ‘appointed times’, ‘assemblies’ or ‘holy convocations’) for His people to come before Him and to recognize His great salvation plan. Each of the moedim speak powerfully into the life, mission, ministry and achievement of Jesus – and of God’s holy salvific purposes.

It is genuinely sad that the majority of church attending Christians live in such profound ignorance of the seven moedim and how they work together, but we do appear today to be witnessing a resurgence of understanding as well as a heartfelt rejoicing in this rediscovery.

The first moedim in any year (whether a solar or lunar year) is Passover. Jesus is our Passover lamb. Through being the sacrificial Lamb of God, Jesus takes away the sins of the world (John 1: 29). Jesus’ last meal before His crucifixion was the Passover supper. Jesus is in a very real sense the second Moses Who leads His people from the Egypt of sin and delivers them safely into the promised land of salvation. Those who are followers of Jesus from the Hebrew (Jewish) people are God’s “first fruits” (the third moedim). Those who follow Jesus from amongst the non-Jews (“Gentiles”) are the latter first fruits (the fourth moedim – although this ordering in no way implies any hierarchy in God’s favours, for all alike have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; all alike must be saved by and through Jesus the Messiah. There are no second class citizens in the Kingdom of God. God was always going to enlarge His chosen people to have representatives from every tribe and tongue. God’s Kingdom is expansive and expanded, consisting of ALL those who place their faith and trust in the Messiah, truly repenting of sins. The offer of life and eternal security in the Kingdom IS OPEN TO ALL; there are no exceptions, and no excuses either. All those who trust[7] in Jesus will be saved eternally. Those who are lost eternally are lost because they reject Jesus.

The Lord Jesus will return to take His rightful place as King of His Kingdom, reigning eternally on David’s throne. The time when the Lord returns will, we can be 99.9% certain, be at the Feast of Trumpets (the fifth moedim). We will explore this elsewhere and provide the necessary evidences. If we want to be promoted to Jesus’ Kingdom of disciples, to be given a brand new life lived in Him, then we must be passed-over for that promotion! That is really what is entailed in, and meant by, the theological term the penal substitution of Messiah. God must “see” us marked with the blood of the sacrificial lamb, marked with the blood of THE lamb. It is through the blood that eternal peace is purchased. This is a bill we simply cannot pay ourselves. The “cost” of our sins is finally laid to Jesus’ account. The bill is, as they say, paid on the nail.

These are wonderful truths indeed. No wonder God made Passover a permanent ordinance for His chosen people, who, praise God, continue to mark and observe the Passover feast to our own day. How sad that even today so many Jewish people fail to see the ultimate fulfillment of Passover in Messiah Yeshua, the Passover Lamb. How sad, also, that so many professed “Christians” also fail truly to perceive the eternal significance of Passover, and instead mark a pagan festival called “Easter” (which “feast” incidentally, God nowhere commanded nor authorized). As for myself, I am happy to be passed over for promotion and to rejoice in the glorious certainty that because Messiah Jesus gave His life in exchange for mine, so I can spend eternity in the presence of my Saviour, the prince of peace.

 

Peter Sammons © 2016                           
www.phileoyeshua.co.uk

[2] Of course there are many spiritual lessons around Passover that reemphasize this. I draw readers’ attention to Philip Keller’s lovely short book “A Shepherd Looks at the Lamb of God” (ISBN 0720805279) which appears still to be widely available in 2016.
[3] this concept is fully developed in Hebrews chapters 3 and 4.
[4] Golgotha – the place of the skull
[5] Genesis 21: 22-34
[6] Op Cit page 46
[7] This trusting is normally evidenced in repentance, baptism and new life. See David Pawson – “The Normal Christian Birth: How to Give New Believers a Proper Start in Life”, published 1997 but still widely available.