Passover: Celebrating the Redemptive Power of YAHWEH

We celebrate Passover because it pictures our deliverance from the bondage of sin.  Christ would like us to focus on His redeeming grace by remembering His death—the ultimate sacrifice—until He comes again into His kingdom.  On the night of His betrayal, Christ took the bread and wine and instituted a version of Passover that we will participate in under the new covenant. However, Passover captures more than what is in it for us.

Our Father in heaven, YAHWEH, identifies Himself closely with the events of Passover in a manner that shows His prowess in executing our salvation.  He is Almighty and He demonstrated His might over Pharaoh. Thus, we plan to show how YAHWEH, since that Passover event, has used it to define clearly Himself to the saints.

Right from the onset, God told Moses ahead of time about what he intended to do with Pharaoh in order to cause him to let Israel go to worship Him.  Back in Exodus 6:1 “Then the LORD said unto Moses, Now shalt thou see what I will do to Pharaoh: for with a strong hand shall he let them go, and with a strong hand shall he drive them out of his land.  God executed His judgement because He “…heard the groaning of the children of Israel, whom the Egyptians keep in bondage; and I have remembered my covenant,” (Exodus 6:4-5).

God remembered His existing covenant and would not let His word fail for nothing, He clearly showed Moses His execution was going to be with might, “a strong hand” that would compel Pharaoh to break his resolve and stronghold over YAHWEH’s heritage.  God sent plague after plague on the land of Egypt but each plague hardened Pharaoh’s heart toward the penultimate expression of His power over the gods of this world.

James declared in Acts 15:18 “known to God from eternity are all his works.” This is so true in the deliverance of Israel.   God knew Pharaoh would fight back and He knew how to break Pharaoh’s will.

YAHWEH told Moses:

And I am sure that the king of Egypt will not let you go, no, not by a mighty hand. And I will stretch out my hand, and smite Egypt with all my wonders which I will do in the midst thereof: and after that he will let you go.” (Exodus 3: 19).

God knew what would break Pharaoh’s resolve.  “And the LORD said unto Moses, When thou goest to return into Egypt, see that thou do all those wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in thine hand: but I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go. And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD, Israel is my son, even my firstborn:  And I say unto thee, Let my son go, that he may serve me: and if thou refuse to let him go, behold, I will slay thy son, even thy firstborn,” (Exodus 4: 21-23).

With the stage set Exodus 6:6, the Lord said, “Wherefore say unto the children of Israel, I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will rid you out of their bondage, and I will redeem you with a stretched out arm, and with great judgments”

What God had in mind was a powerful redemption of His firstborn and this redemption was about removing them from the bondage and burdens of Egypt by slaying Egypt’s firstborn to deliver Israel as the Lord’s firstborn.

When Pharaoh doesn’t respond to the first nine plagues, God told Moses “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,” (Exodus 11:1).  Essentially, Pharaoh would not stand the 10th plague and eventually “throw in the towel,” conceding defeat. He would cause the bondage, and burden to cease and Israel would be REDEEMED by the blood sacrifice, and sever the physical relationship with Egypt.

This event is a defining moment for our God. He defines Himself with reference to His redemptive prowess. In the Decalogue, the Lord said, “I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage,” Exodus 20:2.  Similarly, Moses appeals to what God did when he addressed the Israelites in Deuteronomy 4: 20, “But the LORD hath taken you, and brought you forth out of the iron furnace (burden and hardship),even out of Egypt, to be unto him a people of inheritance (redeemed unto himself), as ye are this day.”

Even Jethro, looking in from outside, understood what God was all about as he:

rejoiced for all the goodness which the LORD had done to Israel, whom he had delivered out of the hand of the Egyptians.”  He said “Blessed be the LORD, who hath delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of Pharaoh, who hath delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians,” (Exodus 18:9-10)

Jethro identified YAHWEH by his acts… the LORD, WHO did something… and what did He do?… He delivered Israel out of the hands of the Egyptians.  Obviously, God revealed Himself to Jethro so he could see His unquestionable power and might. God, subsequently attach Himself with His mighty works.  When the time came for God to dictate terms of the covenant, what Israel heard in the first line was the undeniable facts of the tangible power and authority of God.  So, as previously noted in Exodus 20, He said…

“I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.” Before God would say anything, He wanted Israel to understand what they experienced in Egypt was, exclusively, His doing!

Even before Israel as a nation reached Mount Horeb, YAHWEH had already impressed upon them that when their children ask about the meaning of the Passover service, they should respond  “by strength of hand the LORD brought us out from Egypt, from the house of bondage.”  God wanted His name to be closely associated with His mighty act, the deliverance of His precious possession.  In Deuteronomy 8:14, God did not want Israel to forget him when they arrived on the good land and were enjoying its benefits.  He did not want them to “forget the LORD thy God, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.”

Hosea declared if Israel were to forget God, there would be no other god who can do the saving work He did among them. He said “Yet I am the LORD thy God from the land of Egypt, and thou shalt know no god but me: for there is no saviour beside me.” (13:4). Moreover, as Moses issued caution to Israel with respect to idolatry—referencing the one enticing the community into idol worship—Moses puts it in the context of the defining redemptive work of God.  This is his caution “And thou shalt stone him [one who entices secretly to the worship of other gods] with stones, that he die; because he hath sought to thrust thee away from the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.

Why is God so passionate about defining and identifying Himself with the Passover event? Well, we can only surmise we are the sheep of His pasture.  Israel is His firstborn but it also took His firstborn (Jesus Christ) to pay the ultimate price of our redemption.  God would not pay such a costly price for our redemption only for Him to marginalize it, knowing that Jesus Christ is truly our Passover. No, he cherishes the sacrifice He made through Jesus Christ.  Peter captures it beautifully:

“…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 Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you,” (1 Peter 1:18-20).

The knowledge and acknowledgement of a mighty and powerful act of love and sacrifice behind our salvation should never be lost on us.  Unfortunately, there was once a generation who forgot YAHWEH and could not even bring into focus His redemptive acts. They were just a few generations from the very fathers who walked in freedom from Egypt through the Red Sea.  Without anything to remember, that generation gave in to idolatry and the consequences were disastrous (see Judges 2:7-15). Living in such oblivion is only possible if we fail to connect God with our deliverance and keep Him in focus.  We are beneficiaries of His mighty works, and we better sing with Moses and Israel as in Exodus 15 (a must read!).

In expository notes by Dr. Thomas Constable, we agree,

“the Exodus was one of the foundational events of Israel’s religion. It marked the liberation from Egyptian slavery, which in turn made possible the formation of a relationship of covenant between Israel and God. And nowhere is the Exodus given more powerful expression than in the Song of the Sea (Exodus 15:1-18), a great victory hymn celebrating God’s triumph over Egypt at the sea. To this day, the ancient hymn continues to be employed in the synagogue worship of Judaism. Its continued use reflects the centrality of its theme, that of God’s control over the forces of both nature and history in the redemption of his people.”

And when we put Christ in the center, we certainly can see YAHWEH so loved the world He gave Jesus Christ. With His death, we have received pardon but we still need to keep the events of the real Passover in mind and agree with Paul to “proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes,” 1 Corinthians 11: 26. That is an observance of the mighty act of God, a true “man of war.”


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