Exodus Day Thirty-One
August 12, 2020, 5:24 AM

Exodus 12:12-15

I will pass through the land of Egypt that night,
and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt,
both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD.
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 no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt.
This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast.
Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread.
On the first day you shall remove leaven out of your houses,
for if anyone eats what is leavened, from the first day until the seventh day,
that person shall be cut off from Israel.

Pesach (pronounced pay-sock) is the Jewish festival of Passover. It is actually two observances rolled into one. The first part of the festival is the Passover meal (12:1-14). The pesach lamb, without blemish, is taken on the tenth day of the first month— remember, the new New Year – and then sacrificed on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight. The blood of the lamb is liturgically applied to the doorposts and lintel so that when the Lord sees it; he passes over the covered household. Through the night, unleavened bread, roasted lamb and bitter herbs are eaten in haste, “belt fastened, sandals on feet, and staff in hand.” (12:11).

But there is more to the festival. Exodus 12:15-20: “Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall remove leaven out of your houses...” (12:15). This is the reflective coda of the Pesach. Cleaning out all the leaven in the household. No leaven. Not any. Don’t touch it. Don’t even think about it! Eating unleavened bread all week, with a solemn assembly at the end. Obviously, this second part of the festival was not observed initially in Egypt. This would be the extension of the festival, a sort of an application of what they had observed on the hasty night they were delivered out of Egypt. This is what God was going to do for them: Remove their sin.

Further on this thought— I have noted that one of the sources I’ve been using to prepare the preaching and teaching of Exodus is from a Jewish perspective. (I find culling and interacting with various theological perspectives to be essential in preparation.) Nahum Sarna (Exploring Exodus) doesn’t see Jesus in any of this, but he certainly has all the stuff he needs to pull back the blinds and see the Lord! He notes perceptively, and instructively that leaven, as a fermenting agent in making bread, is ultimately a rotting, decaying process. Rot and decay is the perfect picture of sin, so it must be put away. As God delivered Israel from Egypt, the seven subsequent days of unleavened bread demonstrate that deliverance, spiritually. Of course, anticipating the Exodus to come in Messiah.

As a side note, many people ask me why we use leavened bread when we celebrate Communion, since leaven has such negative connotations in Scripture. I point to Matthew 13:33, where Jesus says, “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.” I think Jesus, by the work that he will accomplish on the Cross, will cleanse the “house” of all leaven, once and for all. So much so, that bread can then be enjoyed in all its fullness. When I see the beautiful, delicious loaf on the Communion Table, I am mindful of the Lord’s words here.

The blood., we must speak of the blood. The blood is key to Pesach. It is provided by the unblemished lamb and applied to the door frames and lintel with a hyssop brush. Hyssop being the instrument used in ceremonial purification rituals. Blood is symbolic of life (cf. Gen. 9:4, Lev. 17:11, 14, Heb. 9:22). Brushed on, applied, it is a ritual act of cleansing. Really, it is a gift of life. It is amazing to me, that a first-rate Jewish scholar like Sarna, misses Jesus as if missing the forest for the trees. He comes oh so close to seeing the fulfillment of this action in Christ, but doesn’t quite get there.

Sarna does ask some interesting questions about the elements of the festival. He wonders about the origins of the Passover lamb ritual. He wonders as well, about the significance of the seven days of unleavened bread. He supposes these two components of Pesach are introduced into the Story without explanation, presuming they are already well-known and need no further clarifying words. He posits that the offering of the lamb was a ritual practiced by nomadic tribes, offering the best of their fold for protection and blessing. The unleavened bread, on the other hand, was a practice of more settled, agrarian peoples for similar reasons of divine beneficence. The uniting of these two known ancient rituals in Pesach would point to the future God intended for his people: To take strangers in a strange land not their own – nomads – and planting them within their own good and stable Land, where they will dwell in prosperity. No longer nomads. Living in a Land “flowing with milk and honey.”

Those are certainly interesting takes. However, as we move into the New Testament, Pesach begins to explode with meaning in Jesus Christ. As I’ve referenced many times in this study of Exodus, John the Baptist understands clearly what Pesach means! “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” I believe the book of Hebrews to be an extended reflection, unfolding the meaning of Pesach. I close with a portion of that extended reflection —

“Every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying, ‘This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds,’ then he adds, ‘I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.’ Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin. Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful[!]” (Heb. 10:11-23).

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