The Passover pattern

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Photo: Paurian/Flickr

Passover actually happened. It was a real historical event. Real Hebrew slaves, real Egyptian bondage, and real Ten Plagues:

  • “They journeyed from Rameses in the first month, on the fifteenth day of the first month. On the next day after the Passover the sons of Israel started out boldly in the sight of all the Egyptians, while the Egyptians were burying all their firstborn whom YHVH had struck down among them. YHVH had also executed judgments on their gods” (Numbers 33:3-4)

God created Passover to be a highly significant time for the Jewish people:

  • “For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; and all were immersed into Moses in the cloud and in the sea . . . Now these things happened to them as an example”(1 Corinthians 10:1-2, 11)

The word Paul uses here is τυπικῶς  (typikōs; see Exodus 29:40, the heavenly blueprint/pattern of the Tabernacle). It refers to a pattern given to the Jewish people which is meant to teach them something, a model for imitation. Paul is saying that Passover contains an instructional message for Israel (‘a pattern for them’): God wants Jacob to learn from the Exodus history and to take its lessons to heart.  Paul affirms that the Exodus ‘patterns’ have spiritual and practical benefit for non-Jews as well: “Now these . . . were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (1 Corinthians 10:11).

The God of the spirits of all flesh (Numbers 16:22) has revealed His Passover pattern to Israel while simultaneously sharing a complementary Scriptural plumbline with the entire human race: the Jewish people and their spiritual inheritance (Romans 15:27) have an abiding calling and irrevocable priority in human and spiritual history (Romans 11:29). And He wants the nations to gain wisdom from studying and understanding this calling. With that in mind, this newsletter takes a radical look at Passover and considers God’s original Exodus principles.

The actual day is important

Passover commemorates the actual day when the angel passed over Jewish homes in Egypt (Psalm 78:49; Exodus 12:29). Like the commemoration of America’s 9/11 or France’s Bastille Day, the actual calendar day is important here.

  • Thus YHVH spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the first month of the second year after they had come out of the land of Egypt, saying, “Now, let the sons of Israel observe the Passover at its appointed time. On the fourteenth day of this month, at twilight, you shall observe it at its appointed time” (Numbers 9:1-3)

Passover is the calendar connection between the Jewish people and God’s mighty redeeming acts on their behalf.

Location, location, location

Psalm 114:1 calls on the Jewish people to remember that “Israel went forth from Egypt, the house of Jacob from a people of strange language.” God’s real-time deliverance happened in a real neighborhood very close by.

Moses prophesied that, after the Jewish people conquered and settled the Promised Land, Passover would move to a new home in Jerusalem. Its celebration would become part of the prism of the Jewish people’s capitol city:

  • “You are not allowed to sacrifice the Passover in any of your towns which YHVH your God is giving you. But at the place where YHVH  your God chooses to establish His name, you shall sacrifice the Passover in the evening at sunset, at the time that you came out of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 16:5-6)

This centrality of Jewish Jerusalem in the Passover story is reflected in the Passover Seder’s final proclamation – “Next year in Jerusalem! L’shana haba’a birushalyim!”

Joshua’s first Passover

Three crucial events happened when Israel celebrated their first Passover in the Land of Israel:

  • The entire nation crossed the Jordan on the 10th day of the first month (Joshua 4:19). They then circumcised the new desert generation of Jewish men, who were as yet uncircumcised. These men were immobilized in pain for at least three days afterwards (see Genesis 34:25; Joshua 5:8).  YHVH declares that this physical circumcision also had prophetic symbolism: “Then YHVH said to Joshua, ‘Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you’” (Joshua 5:9). This clean physical cut spoke of a clean break with Egypt’s uncleanness.
  • The entire Jewish nation celebrated their first Passover on the evening of the 14th of the first month (Joshua 5:12) near Gilgal, on the desert plains (arava) of Jericho (Joshua 5:10). For the first time in history the Passover became an Israeli holiday, celebrated in the Land of Promise.
  • Immediately after that Passover evening, God’s supernatural provision of manna ceased on the next afternoon (Joshua 5:12). From that day forward the nation of Israel began to eat grain grown in the Land of Canaan (Joshua 5:11), the land flowing with milk and honey (Deuteronomy 26:9-10)

Joshua’s Passover is ripe with prophetic significance. God had now brought the Jewish people into their Promised Land. The byword is now ‘out with the old, in with the new.’ YHVH’s prophetic promises were now to be actualized through Israel’s physical and spiritual efforts.

The delayed Passover revival

In Numbers 9:9-13 YHVH gave instructions to Moses: any Jew who missed celebrating the Passover at the proper time due to extenuating circumstances, could celebrate it one month later on the 10th day of the second month.

Before King Hezekiah ascended to the throne, his father Ahaz had led Judah into gross idolatry and severe profanation of Solomon’s Temple (2 Chronicles 28:22-25; 29:5-9. 18-19). Hezekiah was crowned in a bit of a rush (2 Chronicles 29:36). His most pressing desire was to cleanse and rededicate the Temple (2 Chronicles 29). As soon as that was accomplished, Hezekiah and his staff set about preparing for the long forgotten Feast of Passover. But they couldn’t get it together in time for the first month of the year. They needed to resort to the ‘Numbers 9’ clause, moving the date of Passover to the second month of the Jewish calendar:

  • “For the king and his princes and all the assembly in Jerusalem had decided to celebrate the Passover in the second month, since they could not celebrate it at that time, because the priests had not consecrated themselves in sufficient numbers, nor had the people been gathered to Jerusalem. Thus the thing was right in the sight of the king and all the assembly” (2 Chronicles 30:2-4)

Hezekiah sent messengers throughout the land of Israel, proclaiming a call to repentance and an invitation to celebrate a renewed Passover (2 Chronicles 30:5-12). Some despised his call and mocked the messengers, but “the hand of God was . . . on Judah to give them one heart to do what the king and the princes commanded by the word of YHVH” (2 Chronicles 30:12). Demonic altars were destroyed (30:14) and the Passover was then celebrated with great joy: “The sons of Israel present in Jerusalem celebrated the Feast of Unleavened Bread for seven days with great joy, and the Levites and the priests praised YHVH day after day with loud instruments to YHVH” (2 Chronicles 30:21).

Repentance, rededication, removal of idols, revival, worship and joy – these six ingredients are the atomic core of Hezekiah’s Passover revival.  Covenant faithfulness (at this time in history the Sinai covenant was the focus) and obedience was a major key here as well.

Ain’t been nothin’ quite like it!

Hezekiah’s great-grandson Josiah was eight years old (2 Chronicles 34:1) when he ascended to the throne. At the ripe old age of 16, he threw his entire weight into shaping a revolutionary revival – one which hit its spiritual zenith on Passover:

  • For in the eighth year of his reign while he was still a youth, he began to seek the God of his father David. And in the twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of the high places, the Asherim, the carved images and the molten images. They tore down the altars of the Ba’alim in his presence, and the incense altars that were high above them he chopped down. Also the Asherim, the carved images and the molten images he broke in pieces and ground to powder and scattered it on the graves of those who had sacrificed to them. Then he burned the bones of the priests on their altars and purged Judah and Jerusalem.  In the cities of Manasseh, Ephraim, Simeon, even as far as Naphtali, in their surrounding ruins, he also tore down the altars and beat the Asherim and the carved images into powder, and chopped down all the incense altars throughout the land of Israel. Then he returned to Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 34:3-7)

After the cleansing and rededication of the Temple (echoing the acts of his great-grandfather Hezekiah), Josiah kicked off a celebration of the Passover greater than any other Passover up to that time:

  • “There had not been celebrated a Passover like it in Israel since the days of Samuel the prophet; nor had any of the kings of Israel celebrated such a Passover as Josiah did with the priests, the Levites, all Judah and Israel who were present, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. In the eighteenth year of Josiah’s reign this Passover was celebrated” (2 Chronicles 35:18-19)

The foundation stones of the Passover pattern were the same – a heart seeking after the God of Jacob, an honoring of and obedience to God’s enscripturated word, a holy zeal for God’s glory. These building blocks undergirded the greatest Passover revival in Jewish history.

Prophet, priest and Passover

In the days of the Persian occupation of Israel, the Jews who had returned from Babylonian Exile were encouraged by the prophetic ministry of “Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo. And they finished building according to the command of the God of Israel and the decree of Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia” (Ezra 6:14).

  • “The sons of Israel who returned from exile and all those who had separated themselves from the impurity of the nations of the land to join them, to seek YHVH God of Israel, ate the Passover. And they observed the Feast of Unleavened Bread seven days with joy, for YHVH had caused them to rejoice” (Ezra 6:21-22)

The underpinnings of this special Passover had similar spiritual dynamics – dedicating the House of YHVH, presenting a sin offering, re-establishing Levitical service and worship, and obeying YHVH’s feast calendar in Leviticus 23.  A physical return of the Jewish exiles to the Land of Israel was the first step in the process. The call to holiness then involved them distancing themselves from the surrounding nations’ paganism. These returning exiles and their Passover made it into the Bible!

What would Yeshua do?

Some of us have seen wrist bands engraved with the letters WWJD (‘what would Jesus do?’). So let’s ask the question here: what would Yeshua do on Passover? The answer is pretty clear:

  • Now His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when He became twelve, they went up there according to the custom of the Feast. And as they were returning, after spending the full number of days, the boy Yeshua stayed behind in Jerusalem. But His parents were unaware of it, but supposed Him to be in the caravan, and went a day’s journey. And they began looking for Him among their relatives and acquaintances. When they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem looking for Him. Then, after three days they found Him in the Temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions (Luke 2:41-4
  • Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the Feast, many believed in His name, observing His signs which He was doing. But Yeshua, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men, and because He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man (John 2:23-25
  • Now the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went up to Jerusalem out of the country before the Passover to purify themselves. So they were seeking for Yeshua, and were saying to one another as they stood in the Temple, “What do you think; that He will not come to the Feast at all?” Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that if anyone knew where He was, he was to report it, so that they might seize Him. (John 11:55-57)

Yeshua was at home with the Passover like a fish is at home in water. He was the Author of the Feast, and He delighted to celebrate it. And in His crucifixion and resurrection He would be the prophetic fulfilment of the Feast – the Passover Lamb who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29; 1 Peter 1:19).

Passover – a season of repentance, rededication, revival and worship

Passover was the season when powerful revival broke out among the Jewish people. This festive time shimmers with God’s redemptive purposes.

There is a prophetic future for Passover as well. Ezekiel 45:18-24 reveals that the Jerusalem celebration of Passover will be a yearly occurrence when Messiah Yeshua returns to set up His throne. As Bob Dylan says, “He’s got plans of His own to set up His throne – when He returns!”

There are some voices declaring that this specific Passover will be a milestone in the dramatic manifestation of God’s kingdom. Whatever happens in this regard, let us approach this Passover season with a sober and humble spirit, remembering the abovementioned biblical things that God challenges us to remember!

  • On your walls, O Jerusalem, I have appointed watchmen. All day and all night they will never keep silent! You who remind YHVH, take no rest for yourselves and give Him no rest, until He establishes and makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth. YHVH has sworn by His right hand and by His strong arm, “I will never again give your grain as food for your enemies” (Isaiah 62:6-8)

How should we then pray?

  • Pray for the nation of Israel to have a visitation of Yeshua the Passover Lamb as we celebrate the Seder under lockdown
  • Pray for the God of Jacob to plant His strategies in our hearts in light of future shakings
  • Pray for the raising up of Ezekiel’s prophetic Jewish army