Passover 2001 (Pesach 5761)
begins April 7 at twilight.
And the Feast of Unleavened Bread
continues for the next 7 days.
Warm Greetings in the Lamb!
BLOOD SACRIFICES IN JUDAISM
Following the exodus from Egypt, God instituted a sacrificial system through which He would establish relationships with His people. Offerings by fire were made according to specific instructions. God’s instructions for the Daily Offerings were as follows: “Now this is what you shall offer on the altar: two lambs of the first year, day by day continually. One lamb you shall offer in the morning, and the other lamb you shall offer at twilight… and you shall offer with it the grain offering and the drink offering, as in the morning for a sweet aroma, an offering made by fire to the Lord. This shall be a continual burnt offering
throughout your generations at the door of the tabernacle of meeting before the Lord, where I will meet you to speak with you. I will dwell among the children of Israel and will be their God.” ([biblegateway passage=”Ex. 29:38-42;45″ display=”Ex. 29:38-42;45″])
Lambs were slain day after day in Israel so that God’s people might have fellowship with Him. The Torah makes it clear that according to God’s rules, atonement for sin involved the shedding of blood: “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.” ([biblegateway passage=”Lev. 17:11″ display=”Lev. 17:11″]) A lamb died in place of a man. The Israelite did not have to die for his own sin. An animal took his place. Year after year. Why blood? Sin is serious to God. Sin brings death. Blood had to be shed for atonement.
THE PASSOVER LAMBS SACRIFICED
Sacrificing of lambs began with the Feast of the Lord called the Passover. Passover is a festival of freedom. It commemorates the time when the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob took His people by the hand and delivered them from Egyptian bondage. Passover is a holy convocation, a “mo-ed” or appointed time on God’s calendar. The Jewish people are instructed by God in the Holy Scriptures to keep the Passover as a feast to the Lord throughout their generations ([biblegateway passage=”Ex. 12:14″ display=”Ex. 12:14″]).
Passover is of such importance that it is mentioned forty-seven times in the Hebrew Scriptures and thirty times in the Brit HaDasha (New Covenant).
A major feature of the first Passover was the sacrifice of innocent lambs. We read in Exodus chapter 12 that the children of Israel were commanded by God to take a lamb for each household, keep it in their home for four days, and kill it at twilight on the 14th day of the month Nisan. The blood of the innocent lambs was to be placed on the doorposts and lintels of all the Jewish dwellings in the land of Egypt as a sign. The God of Israel said to His people: “… and when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.” ([biblegateway passage=”Ex. 12:13″ display=”Ex. 12:13″])
Imagine the quantity of blood in Egypt that night! Imagine the odor! Imagine the impact on the children! Why did so many lambs have to die? Was this the price of freedom?
PASSOVER IN BIBLE TIMES
In first century Israel, at the time of Yeshua, no less than three men were assigned to each paschal lamb. One did the actual killing and skinning, while the other two assisted. These men gathered at the Temple gates at midday as a trumpet blast from the pinnacle of the Temple announced the beginning of the evening sacrifice. The men had already gathered around the lamb with their families and had placed their hands upon its head to officially recognize that the offering was theirs. The lamb was taking their place. The worshippers had also been to the mikveh (ritual bath) and were now clothed in white outer garments. The Passover lambs were carried on their shoulders as they approached the Holy Temple. The men would take
turns carrying the lambs and singing Psalms of Ascent ([biblegateway passage=”Psalms 113-118″ display=”Psalms 113-118″]).
The Passover sacrifice was offered in three divisions. The first group entered through the Temple gates at about noon. They were met by a huge quantity of priests (“cohens”) holding large basins of either gold or silver. When the Temple court was full, the Levites in charge of the Gates closed them. A ram’s horn was blown to signify the beginning of the sacrifice. The Levite choir began to sing the Hallel. Positioned in front of the priests, the man assigned to be the shochet (slaughterer) quickly sliced the lamb’s neck severing both the carotid arteries (the most humane way to kill the lamb). The animal dropped instantly into unconsciousness. The priest caught its blood in the basin while the three men lifted the carcass up so that all
of its blood would flow freely into the basin. The blood of the paschal lambs was poured against the sides of the altar. Below the Altar of Sacrifice, large cisterns cut into the rock received the blood.
THE VERY FIRST BLOOD SACRIFICE
Passover was not the first time that innocent animals were sacrificed so that God’s people could go free. An early example of this substitutionary concept is seen in Genesis chapter 22 in the “Akedah” or Binding of Isaac. Abraham’s son Isaac was on the altar, ready to be slain, when God, who was testing Abraham, called him to stop. God had provided a ram in Isaac’s place. The ram, caught by his horns in the bushes, was subsequently slain and offered up to God as a sweet-smelling sacrifice.
Well before Abraham’s sacrifice, we see the first blood sacrifice mentioned in the Bible in Genesis Chapter 3. Immediately following the fall of man, when Adam and Eve disobeyed God and sin entered the world, blood was shed for the first time. While blood is not specifically mentioned, it must have been shed because the Bible says the following: “Also for Adam and his wife the Lord God made tunics of skin, and clothed them.” God Himself killed an animal after His children sinned. Blood was shed. Skins were removed. Sin was “covered.”
YESHUA AS THE LAMB OF GOD
Following a long history of animal sacrifices and atonement through blood in Israel , Yeshua arrived on the scene. He was immediately identified by a symbol-laden title, spoken through the lips of John the Immerser who proclaimed: “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” ([biblegateway passage=”John 1:29″ display=”John 1:29″]) Seven hundred years before Yeshua was born the Jewish prophet Isaiah had spoken of this Lamb of God who was to come:
“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth …He was cut off from the land of the living… He had done no violence… Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him…” ([biblegateway passage=”Isaiah 53:6-7, 8-10″ display=”Isaiah 53:6-7, 8-10″])
Yeshua’s last night on earth was spent at a Passover seder: The first thing He told His disciples as they reclined at the table was: “With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” ([biblegateway passage=”Luke 22:15-16″ display=”Luke 22:15-16″])
How was Passover fulfilled in the Kingdom of God? Yeshua, Himself became God’s Passover Lamb, His final sacrifice. He revealed Himself to His disciples as the Lamb of God when He took the matzot, gave thanks in the traditional way broke it and said, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” ([biblegateway passage=”Luke 22:19″ display=”Luke 22:19″]) Yeshua’s disciples understood that He was identifying Himself with the paschal lambs because the matzah of Passover had already been completely identified with the Passover sacrifices. Yeshua was essentially saying to His followers: `I am your real Passover sacrifice.’ ([biblegateway passage=”Luke 22:20″ display=”Luke 22:20″]) When He took the cup after supper and identified it with His blood, Yeshua continued the paschal symbolism and pointed to his coming sacrificial, atoning death.
Yeshua’s vicarious death makes it possible for us to be passed over by the angel of death. When we apply the blood of His sacrifice by faith to the door posts of our hearts, we automatically pass from death to life and are redeemed, set free, from the power of sin and death. We are delivered from spiritual Egypt, a kingdom of darkness, selfishness, pride, greed and lust into the kingdom of light, life and love ([biblegateway passage=”I Peter 2:9″ display=”I Peter 2:9″]).
The early believers in Yeshua saw Him as their Passover as evidenced by such verses as I Corinthians 5:6-8 and 1 Peter 1:18-19: “Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Messiah, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” “Knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Messiah, as of a lamb
without blemish and without spot.” _ God’s question for each of us today is: “Is Yeshua your Passover?”
FROM DEATH TO JOY
In the mind of God, death and joy are not necessarily contradictory concepts. The Holy Scriptures tell us that Yeshua, the Lamb of God, embraced a horrifying death with a vision of joy at the end of His suffering: “…for the joy that was set before Him (Yeshua) endured the cross, despising the shame.” ([biblegateway passage=”Hebrews 12:2″ display=”Hebrews 12:2″]) We were the joy set before Yeshua as He laid down His life for each one of us. To see a redeemed people free from sin and guilt, caused rejoicing in the heart of a man who was about to take upon Himself the sin of the world. This same idea echoes through the words of Psalm 30:5 as King David proclaims: “…weeping may endure for a night, but JOY comes in the morning.” The joy of freedom _ the joy of victory over sin _ the joy of forgiveness _ the joy of Passover.
While we as believers rejoice that salvation has been purchased for us through the blood of God’s Lamb, most traditional Jewish people 1) do not see redemption as an individual concept, 2) do not believe in the need for blood atonement because they do not see man as a fallen creation with a sin nature, and 3) believe that prayer, Torah study and good works are what pleases God and will cause the Messiah (or the Messianic Age) to come.
Our hearts are burdened for our Jewish brothers and sisters. We want them to have the JOY of sins forgiven, the JOY of meeting their Messiah, the JOY of knowing God in a personal way, the JOY of knowing that their names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, and the JOY of looking forward to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb!
A JOYFUL GIFT
We have found a unique love gift for you this month that is guaranteed to bring a smile to any Christian or Jew (believer or nonbeliever). His name is Harvey Magila. He is 8″ tall, dressed like an Orthodox Jew and is sound-activated. When you turn on a switch under his feet, he begins to sway and dance to the song “Hava Nagila” (“Let us Rejoice”). When he stops, all you have to do is clap your hands and the “dancing rabbi” begins again (batteries are included). This is a great gift for a Jewish friend, doctor or businessassociate. Buy one for yourself to cheer you up when you need a lift. Use Harvey as a prayer prompter to remind you to pray for the lost sheep of the House of Israel, especially the Orthodox Jews! Thank God with us that His ancient people will recognize Yeshua as their Messiah and receive His joy and His abundant life ([biblegateway passage=”John 15:11″ display=”John 15:11″]).
“L’Shanah Ha Ba’ah B’Yerushalayim”
For over 3500 years Passover Seders have ended with the Hebrew words shown above which mean “Next year in Jerusalem.” Come with us to Israel in 2002, in the month of May, at the conclusion of the Passover Season during the feast of Shavuot or Pentecost (50 days after Passover). This is the time of year when we celebrate the Giving of the Torah and the Giving of the Ruach Ha Kodesh. It is harvest time, the setting of the Book of Ruth, a special time to glean Jewish Jewels from the Word of God. More details of the tour will be available next month. Start planning now. (You have 13 months to save up for the trip.) To get you in the mood, we have very anointed music from Jerusalem for you this month. The worship team of King of Kings Assembly has recently released a CD entitled Out of Our Hearts. The songs, in English with some Hebrew, are absolutely beautiful. Learn them now, and go to King of Kings Assembly while in Jerusalem to experience the worship in person.
Neil and Jamie