Preparing the Passover

“And when I see the blood, I will pass over you . . .

Exodus 12:13

The last meeting between Moses and Pharaoh had taken place. It had been a tense, troubled affair. How Pharaoh had learned to hate these visits from Moses. Moses represented the God of Israel who now for many months had been ravaging his land. In his presence Pharaoh was torn between pride and fear; but pride had won out. Vainly he had sought a compromise, finally offering that all of Israel might go to worship Jehovah except for the cattle and sheep. But the God of Moses would not compromise. He demanded absolute obedience to his command. In spite of his inward fear, this Pharaoh would not give. His pride had broken forth in anger until he fairly shouted at Moses, “Get thee from me, take heed to thyself, see my face no more; for in that day thou seest my face thou shalt die.” 

Moses answered, “Thou hast spoken well, I will see thy face again no more.” 

It was as Moses was turning to leave that God came and spoke to him. He said, “Yet will I bring one plague more upon Pharaoh, and upon Egypt; afterwards he will let you go hence: when he shall let you go, he shall surely thrust you out hence altogether.” 

Turning once again to Pharaoh, Moses spoke his parting message. “Thus saith Jehovah, About midnight will I go out into the midst of Egypt: and all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sitteth upon his throne, even unto the firstborn of the maidservant that is behind the mill; and all the firstborn of beasts. And there shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as there was none like it, nor shall be like it any more. But against any of the children of Israel shall not a dog move his tongue, against man or beast: that ye may know how that Jehovah doth put a difference between the Egyptians and Israel. And all these thy servants shall come down unto me, and bow down themselves unto me, saying, Get thee out and all the people that follow thee: and after that I will go out.” 

While anger still contorted the face of Pharaoh, fear laid its cold grip upon his heart. Through bitter experience he had learned that the warnings of Moses were not to be taken lightly. The firstborn of Egypt were the strength of the land, and now their death had been foretold. He had tried to break the strength of Israel, and now that very destruction had turned back upon himself. But Pharaoh’s pride would not allow him to submit. His hatred for Jehovah would carry him with hardened heart to the very end. For a moment the two men stared at each other in bitter hatred and anger until Moses at last turned and went. 

Leaving the palace of Pharaoh, Moses went immediately to speak to the children of Israel. With humble fear and wonderment, they received the news. The time for deliverance had come. They were to leave the land of their affliction, not just for three days as might have been expected, but forever. Pharaoh would thrust them out and tell them never to return. Nor would their departure be in poverty. They were to demand (not just “borrow”) everyone jewels of silver and gold from their Egyptian neighbors in payment for the labor which they as free sons of Abraham had expended. In that hour the Egyptians, humbled by the judgment of Jehovah, would be more than willing to comply. The children of Israel would go forth in power and glory on the tide of Jehovah’s strength. In the Name of their God, they would conquer. 

Yet, such was the Word of God unto Israel that not one reason was left for anyone to become lifted up with personal pride or boasting. Israel was to be delivered indeed, but this deliverance was to be through judgment. The angel of God’s judgment would visit the land, and not one household that was yet guilty of sin would be spared. The firstborn, the strength of every such household would be destroyed. Could anyone of Israel forget that in the first three plagues of Egypt they had not been spared? Could anyone honestly say that his household was free from all sin and guilt? Could anyone be sure that in this final day of visitation his household would be worthy of being spared? 

With careful attention the children of Israel listened as Moses explained to them the way of deliverance. This was not going to be merely a national emigration, nor the mere conquest of one nation over another. The Lord God of heaven and earth was going to visit the land and the things which would transpire would be of importance for the wellbeing of their souls. His presence would work judgment upon all who were not found dwelling in His favor. 

“In the tenth day of this month,” said Moses, “take every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house.” The children of Israel knew well what was the meaning of the lamb. From the time that the Protevangel had been spoken in Paradise, it had been known. The lamb was a sign of the promised seed of the woman that would crush the head of the serpent; it was a sign of the seed of Abraham in which they and their children would be blessed; it was a sign of the seed of Judah from whom the scepters would never depart; it was a sign of the promised Redeemer that would save His people from the guilt and curse of their sin. Every time a lamb was brought to the altar by a believing child of God’s covenant, it was thereby confessed that this believer looked in faith to the promise of God as the only redemption from his sin. 

Now as Moses proceeded with his instructions, it became evident to every believer that this long familiar type of revelation was taking on a new dimension of meaning. The judgment of God was impending in Egypt, and, though in itself also only a figure and type, only through a confession of faith would anyone escape. As this way of redemption was unfolded, it brought new depth of understanding to those who trusted in the promise of God. 

The lamb which was taken should be without blemish. Although this had also been known in the past, it emphasized for Israel again that redemption could come only through one that was perfect. The lamb to be slain must bear the believer’s sins, and thus it could not be marred and in itself unworthy to live. The lamb in its earthly perfection must serve to foreshadow the promised seed who only in being perfect before the sight of God could be a substitute for Israel’s sin. 

It was the blood of that lamb which would be of utmost importance to the children of Israel in the midst of the judgment of Egypt. The blood was to be struck upon the two side posts and on the upper post of every door behind which dwelt the believing children of God. It was an open sign for all to see that this household felt a need of a covering for its sins; it was a public confession of guilt in the presence of man and of God. When God in judgment drew nigh, His promise would be faithful and true, “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.” 

Furthermore, the lamb whose blood would serve as a atonement to turn aside the judgment of God from the households of Israel was to be taken and roasted in the fire. It was not to be left raw, nor even boiled in water; the very body of the lamb had to pass through the fire. And this was to be done while the body was yet whole, unmutilated with a knife, and while the bones were yet unbroken. The fire symbolized the righteousness and justice of God through which the lamb of atonement had to pass. It did this in the stead of the sinners for which it was offered. The lamb had to pass through the fire of God’s justice, and it had to do this, as closely as was possible in mere symbolism, while still whole and unmutilated, in the strength of its being. Only in this way could it fulfill the demands of substitution for sin. 

It was at this point that this new form of atoning sacrifice took on an even richer and deeper meaning. The body of the lamb which was slain was given to the people of God for food. Through the events of the approaching judgment, Israel was to be saved to the uttermost. Not only were the children of God to be saved negatively from the stroke of the angel of judgment, they were also to be led forth out of the land of bondage into the Canaan of promise. As Israel went forth the very body of the lamb whose blood had redeemed them would supply the nourishment and strength in which they would go. The flesh of the lamb was a heavenly meal instituted and given by God. In the lamb that was slain was the fullness of Israel’s redemption. This lamb was to be eaten completely, and should any of it be left over it was to be burned. The nourishment of its body was only for those who were covered by the atonement, and none might be left for those to whom it did not belong. The benefits of salvation are only for the children of God. 

The meal surrounding the lamb was full of rich significance. It was to be eaten with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Leaven was the old dough which was kept from one baking to another; a small bit of it used in a new baking of bread would serve to make the new bread rise. Because it was saved from week to week and because but a small bit of it would permeate a whole loaf of bread to make it rise, leaven served well to symbolize the old way of life which in the redemption of Egypt had to be left behind. But a small bit of the old life of Egypt taken along could corrupt the whole life of Israel. The bitter herbs reminded Israel that the way of redemption would not be pleasant for the flesh. The way of God’s people must pass through bitter hardships. 

Finally, even the manner in which this meal was to be eaten was prescribed with careful instructions. “Thus shall ye eat,” Jehovah commanded, “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.” Israel must be ready to go, prepared to leave the land of bondage and sin. Even more, Israel must be willing and eager. There should be no desire to loiter. It was to be the deliverance of the Lord; it should fill the whole will and desire of His people. 

Great and unusual was the activity that filled the land of Goshen. The atmosphere was filled with the feelings of eager anticipation. With great fear and reverence, the children of Israel went about their preparations. As they looked upon the ceremonial preparations, it was almost as though they looked directly into the face of God. The true believing Israelite, though only vaguely through type and shadow, looked ahead through the ages and saw the promised Redeemer offering Himself as the Lamb on Calvary’s hill that at the sign of His blood the people of God might be redeemed. 

The Egyptians too could not help but note the great activity in Goshen. The plague of darkness had departed, but its shadows still seemed to cling to their hearts. They saw the lambs being gathered and slain, and it was an abomination to their eyes. They saw the preparations for journey, and hateful anger burned within their hearts. But none dared to try to make the Israelites stop. They had tasted the power of Israel’s God; it had ruined their land. Bitterly they watched the Hebrews work. Paralyzed with fear, they dared not interfere.