Passover in Israel 2016
We celebrated Passover last night in Israel and for those who do not know what this is, I will tell you. We sang songs, we had nice food, the children had a wonderful time, and it was all to remember one night in the history of the world when God gave freedom to a nation of slaves. It all goes back about 3,500 years ago to a time when the Jews were slaves in Egypt. “What is different about this night?” the master of ceremonies asks the children.
It all goes back to Moses, but to really understand, you have to know about the first Jew, Abraham, a man who lived 4,000 years ago in what is now Iraq.
He was chosen by God and told to leave his homeland and go to a land God would give to him and his descendants forever (the land of Israel, then inhabited by wild tribes which have since died out). Read about it in Genesis chapter 12.
God said that Abraham would be the father of a nation which would inherit the land, but that first they would be slaves in another land for 400 years. What a thing to hear!
The good news was that they would “come out with great substance” (Genesis 15:13-14). Passover is the exciting history of just how God brought them out of Egypt and out of slavery.
What in the world were they doing down in Egypt in the first place? The book of Genesis, the book of beginnings, tells all about it. Abraham had a son, Isaac, and a grandson, Jacob, and 12 great grandsons, who headed up the 12 tribes of Israel.
The first ten sons were jealous of No. 11, Joseph, because he was Jacob’s favorite, so they sold him to slave traders who took him to Egypt. They then convinced their father that Joseph, his beloved Joseph, was killed by a wild animal.
Joseph began a life of slavery, and his ten older brothers faced life with a guilty secret haunting them. Crime pays big dividends – decades, a whole lifetime of remorse and guilt and shame.
Whatever the sin, there is always a pricetag, and the price will be huge. Our problem is that we can’t see the price on the pricetag. Satan always makes the sin look attractive, and he keeps the price hidden.
We find out the price when it is too late. That is why God gave us His commandments – to warn us not to sin, so that we would not pay those heavy prices! And that is why Jesus died – to pay the terrible price of our horrible sins.
Getting back to Joseph, God was always working behind the scenes, and you will find the sorry tale of Joseph being sold in chapter 37 of Genesis.
Then, starting in chapter 39, we have the exciting account of Joseph’s life – from slavery to stardom, from misery to glory, from ruin to rulership. He ends up running the whole country! What a God we serve!
So by now we have one Jew, Joseph, living in Egypt. God had to get the rest of the family down there because he had prophesied to Abraham that they would be slaves in Egypt for 400 years.
He brought the 10 older brothers down to buy food during a famine. Egypt did not normally suffer famine because the Nile supplied them with water during times of drought.
The 12th brother, Benjamin, stayed behind because Jacob could not bear the thought of losing him as well as Joseph.
The story is told in detail in chapters 42 – 45 of Genesis. In chapter 46 Jacob is told directly by God in a vision to go to Egypt as well and not be afraid, but that God would go with him and would make the family into a great nation.
So off they all went, to live in a fertile land ruled by Joseph, who was second only to the Pharaoh.
They lived as shepherds at first, and lived apart from the Egyptians, because Egyptians shunned shepherds. So God kept them safely apart, with the tribes all marrying within their tribes and proliferating, until they indeed became a populous nation.
The book of Genesis ends with the death of Joseph at 110 years, with the Jews still down in Egypt.
How the Jews got out of there gets a whole book all to itself in the Bible. The book of Exodus tells all about it. The children of Israel “were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed exceeding mighty; and the land was filled with them.”
But by then they were feared by the Egyptians, who enslaved them and put them to forced labor, under harsh taskmasters (Exodus 1:11). But they still increased, so Pharaoh order the midwives, who assisted at birth, to kill all the boy babies.
They feared God more than the evil Pharaoh, and did not kill the baby boys, and God honoured them. Some of their descendants may still be in Egypt, and if so, I hope they are still of that mindset!
So Pharaoh decreed instead that the baby boys should be thrown into the river. Could a king really be so cruel as to pass a law to kill babies? Our governments are doing it today. We murder our own babies, by the million. It is our “human right”.
We women have become so depraved that we demand the right to kill our babies. As Dr Vernon McGee says, when women become corrupt, the nation is finished. And unless there is deep repentance and revival, our nations are indeed finished.
So, back to Egypt, and the misery of slavery. God always raises up a man, in this case Moses, the reluctant hero. You can read his story for yourself in Exodus.
After his life in the palace as adopted son of an Egyptian princess and his 40 year apprenticeship as a shepherd in Midian (present day Saudi Arabia), God brings Moses back to Egypt to save his people.
Wow, isn’t God amazing? You really could not make it up. The slow, steady progress of God’s work in the lives of people and nations, particularly His chosen nation, is literally wonderful – full of wonders.
There were wonders aplenty when God finally got Moses back to Egypt – wonders of judgement on the nation which had enslaved God’s people and murdered their babies.
The Egyptians feared and hated the children of Israel, but wanted their free labour, so Pharaoh would not let them go. Have you noticed that evil countries today will still not let their people go?
Many risked their lives to flee Communist countries, and they still do. No one has to force Americans or Brits to stay in their homelands, because there is still a certain amount of gospel-bought freedom in the West, though the lamp is burning low.
Back to Moses. The first nine plagues shook the Egyptians rigid, but not rigid enough. God’s judgements get harsher, but still Pharaoh resists until his heart is like stone. He will not let the children of Israel go. Even the ninth plague – three days of “thick darkness”, a supernatural darkness “which may be felt” did not get results.
It takes the tenth plague- death- to change Pharaoh’s wicked mind. At last we get to Passover.
God tells Moses that they are coming out. On the 10th day of the first month (April in our calendar) each man was to select a lamb from the flocks and keep it in their house for four days.
Jesus was called the Lamb of God and for four days before He died, He entered Jerusalem where He could be inspected as the perfect, pure, holy Lamb.
On the fourteenth day each household was to kill their precious lamb and sprinkle its blood upon the doorposts and lintels of their houses.
For God was going to pass through the land of Egypt that night at about midnight, and He was going to kill all the firstborn of man and beast. But He would skip over the houses on which the blood was sprinkled. The Hebrew word for Passover means to “skip”.
Were those children of Israel all good, wonderful people that they should escape this terrible judgement? No, some of them were probably pretty rough and nasty. God is in the business of changing rough, nasty people in gentle, kind people.
So no, the children of Israel were not all good. But God had made a way of escape for them and if they were obedient, they benefited.
We have a way of escape. God has made a way for us to avoid the terrible penalty of hell, and once again it is by blood – the holy blood of Jesus, shed for us at Calvary. Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness, the Bible teaches us.
The little lamb had to die for the children of Israel to escape death that terrible night. Jesus chose willingly to suffer and die for us that we might escape God’s judgement for our sins.
During those four days of keeping the lamb, they were to ask the Egyptians for money, jewellery etc and the Egyptians who had suffered the first nine plagues were only too eager to give the children of Israel anything they had to get rid of them.
This was payment for hundreds of years of slavery. They would be going out, and not empty handed either! God had told their father Abraham four hundred years earlier that they would come out with abundance, and they did! God’s word never fails.
They were to be all ready to go that night. All packed up. They were to roast the lamb and eat it quickly, standing up, shoes on their feet, staff in their hands, all set to make their getaway – the entire nation! What could be more exciting?
Forget bread - that takes too long to rise. Eat crackers instead, unleavened bread. Matzos.
OK, honey, are the kids all ready? Everybody got their sandals on? Got our stuff all packed? The lamb is ready; let’s quickly eat it – and then let’s get out of here! We’re going home!
When God went through Egypt that night, such a tragic, mournful cry went up as had never been heard. Yet God had told Moses that the children of Israel were not to make a sound.
Not even a dog would bark in their neighbourhoods. Even this was supernatural, because the dogs would surely have started barking at all the noise.
A few years ago we heard loud mourning cries in Jerusalem in the middle of the night. Horrible wailing sounds. Someone must have died. I have never heard anything like it before and hope I never do again.
And so God passed over the homes of the children of Israel, keeping them safe. And they obeyed God’s instructions given through Moses. And out they went.
And that is Passover, folks. A mighty, miraculous deliverance for the Israelites. They were told to never forget this wondrous event, and they never have. Every single year it is celebrated by Jews all around the world.
Jewish feasts always include a lot of singing and eating, especially Passover. Jesus celebrated Passover with His apostles the night before He died. He was the Passover Lamb of God.
Unfortunately the Jewish people for the most part do not make the connection, because the nation has rejected Jesus as their Messiah. The book of Romans tells us that they have a veil over their hearts.
But always with God, good news! He will one day remove that veil and the entire nation will turn to Jesus and beg Him to return, but it will take the Great Tribulation to make them change their minds.
Still, some Jews have accepted Jesus and have a living faith. On the way home we remarked last night – what an odd gathering we were for the Passover.
Sitting down for the meal were people speaking about five different languages, some from Ukraine, Russia, America, Britain, one lady from India, some Jewish, some gentile, but united in our love for Jesus as the Messiah, the Anointed One who died for us.
Do you love the Lamb of God, dear reader? Only His holy blood will save you from a horrible eternity in Hell.
You can reject Him, sure. But you will certainly stand before the throne of God, and He will be looking for only one thing – the blood of His holy Son.
“But I lived a good life; I have all these good deeds…” That counts for nothing, my friend.
Jesus said: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
“For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved.
“He that believes on Him (Jesus) is not condemned: but he that believes not is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
“And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” John 3 16-19
I hope that anyone who reads this will put their faith and trust in the Lord of Heaven and Earth, Jesus the Savior.