The Passover – A Blood Covenant

The Passover is one of the seven annual festivals of God listed in Leviticus 23. However, in the book of Exodus is where we first see its meaning and celebration explained. It was kept in remembrance of the Lord freeing His people from slavery by passing over the houses of the Israelites (Exodus 12:13) while the Egyptian’s first born were killed.

The word ‘Passover’ comes from the Hebrew word – pesach– meaning to ‘pass over’ or ‘to leap over’. The Passover, like all of God’s festivals, occurs at an appointed time. Passover is held right before the full moon, in the first month of the year-on the 14th of Nisan, commencing the Days of Unleavened Bread on the 15th with the full moon. These heavenly bodies were first set in motion at the beginning of creation seen in Genesis 1:14. This verse describes the sun, moon, and stars, as light bearers and a means for establishing God’s calendar. These heavenly bodies were to serve as signs for seasons and days, and years, for God’s given appointed times.

As we approach this appointed time, it is generally encouraged to take some time to examine ourselves (1 Corinthians 11:27-29) and our own worthiness in partaking of the solemn emblems. Why is examining oneself at this time important? Let’s look at the scriptures to see why we should examine ourselves this Passover.

Early in Genesis 3:22-24 God exiles Adam and Eve, “passing-over”  them, delaying their death. It was after Adam and Eve sinned that God clothed them both physically and spiritually.  Why did God choose to “Pass-over” Adam and Eve’s sin when the penalty was death? As God clothed them (Genesis 3:21) He connected their coming deliverance with the “lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world” (1 Peter 1:18-20), which connects back up with the prophetic statement of a “Seed” that would bruise the serpent (Genesis 3:14-15. Clearly, we are immediately introduced to the making of a covenant for the universal salvation of mankind–by the act of “passing-over.”  Therefore, Jesus Christ-the “Seed” of reference–is rightly called the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world,” (John 1:29).

A covenant is an agreement between two parties. In this case it  was made by passing between two pieces of flesh; a testament. Ultimately, a lamb was slain in order to provide redemption even to Adam and Eve–to make a covering for humanity’s first parents. This act–of clothing them–must be seen far more comprehensively than a just covering up their physical nakedness. The act serves to illustrate God cannot tolerate sin–it must be covered up–confirming there can be no atonement for sin apart from the shedding of blood (Hebrews 9:22).

Leviticus 17:11-14 tells us the life is in the blood, thus the shedding of blood–the substitution of one’s life for another- brought atonement for sins. It was the sacrificing of animals (Genesis 1:20, 21, 24) that were used in making atonement for sin but their blood was not sufficient (Hebrews 10:4) for man’s redemption. Hebrews 9:9 speaks of the inadequacy of the animal that could not perfect the conscience (the spirit in man) of the worshipper.

God leaped over the sin of the first Adam placing it on the second Adam – Jesus Christ. In the story mentioned in Exodus 12 we read in verse 12 “For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will smite all the first-born in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord.” This shows Israel’s redemption as an allegory of both the universal promise in the Garden of Eden as well as the revelation of the sacrificial ministry of Jesus Christ and His empowered role as Saviour to save mankind from sin (1 John 2:1-2).

In like manner, God passed over the sins of the children Israel. God ‘passed over’ the homes of those who trusted in Him to impart His protection from the plague of death? The answer is given in verse 13 of the same chapter. “The blood shall be a sign for you, upon the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall fall upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt.” God was saying when I see the blood of the Passover Lamb, He would Passover to enter the house and ‘cover’ its occupants from the judgement of death.

The blood of the Passover Lamb sheltered the people from the plague of death by the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ.

The first time the word ‘blood’ mentioned in scripture concerns the death of the son of Adam and Eve–Abel, whose brother Cain, murdered him. One will note that God spoke with Cain about his attitude towards his brother after God accepted his sacrifice. Our heart towards our brother must be examined before we partake in the sacrifice of the Lamb so that we may not be violators of the law of God, as did Cain. Our examination must be to save our brother and ourselves, as we are our brothers’ keeper (Gal. 6:1-2, Rom. 15:1-4).

After the death of Abel, God confronted Cain, What hast thou done? The voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground. As the carrier of life, blood has its own spiritual ‘voice,’ figuratively, and likewise, so does the blood of Jesus Christ. The true Lamb of God who died upon the cross, speaks on our behalf, and reverses the power of death by creating a barrier that death can no longer cross, since the sacrificial victim ‘exchanges’ the merit and power of life. Unlike the blood of Abel that ‘cries out’ for justice, the blood of Jesus cries out for mercy (Hebrews 12:24). Putting our trust in the provision of God’s sacrifice causes His wrath (or righteous judgement) to pass over while simultaneously extending love to the sinner. This is the essential message of the Gospel itself: that we have atonement through the sacrificial death, burial and resurrection of Jesus our Saviour. As Jesus said “I tell you the truth, the one who hears my message and believes the one who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned, but has passed over from death to life,’(John 5:24).

This is why we are encouraged in 1 Corinthians 11:28-29 “But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.”

Unworthily does not refer to the person of the one partaking, but to the manner–the attitude, approach–of his partaking. All are unworthy always and guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. Guilty of sin against the body and blood. Paul introduces the proper alternative; it is self-judgment. There must be preparation before participation. The reason that self-judgement, or confession of sin, must precede the partaking, is that otherwise, the believer makes himself liable to God’s judgement. The preventive measure is to judge ourselves rightly so that God does not judge us. Judgement is designed to be a family discipline, a chastening of the Lord, to prevent judgement with the world. Paul is making a practical appeal to the members of the church to remember the importance of unity  in their observance of the feast.

As we come to the Passover, we should do so in a deeply reverent, respectful, appreciative, and thankful, attitude. Sin should be confessed and forsaken; restitution should be made; apologies should be offered to those we have offended. In general, we should make sure we are in a proper state of mind and emotion. Failure to exercise self-judgment results in God’s disciplinary judgment upon some in the church. Because they did not judge sin in their lives, the Lord was required to take disciplinary action against them.

We judge ourselves so we can do right, unlike Cain who failed to examine himself and take correction. Read the conversation between God and Cain in Genesis 4:3-7. It was the appointed time that sacrifice was to be made, but Cain offered a bad sacrifice unlike his brother Abel. He became jealous when he noted his brother’s sacrifice was accepted. When we meet to observe the Passover, we must examine ourselves and not one another; and we must be honest with the Lord as we confess our sins. God noted the countenance of Cain and questioned him about it, but also encouraged him to do good and to let him know the consequence if he failed to listen. Like Cain, if we fail to examine ourselves before partaking of the emblems we ourselves will become sick due to sin.

As we examine ourselves individually, we also need to examine ourselves as a church so that we can live unleavened lives as Paul admonished in 1 Corinthians 5:1-13. The congregation was partaking of the emblems but had the sin of a brother sleeping with his father’s wife. Paul reproves the Corinthian brethren for their boasting. Had they examined themselves they would have known that a little leaven leavens the whole lump. Leaven here is a picture of moral sin. The apostle is saying, if they tolerate a little moral sin in the church, it will soon grow and expand until the whole fellowship is seriously affected. Righteous, godly discipline is necessary to maintain the character of the church. Thus, they are commanded to purge out the old leaven. In other words, they should take stern action against evil so they might be a new “lump,” in the sense of a pure lump, figuratively speaking. Paul is saying their state should correspond with their standing. For indeed Christ, our Passover was sacrificed for us. Jesus is the Lamb of God who shed His blood to deliver us from sin (John 1:29; 1 Peter 1:18–25).

The death of Christ imposes a similar obligation on us to purge out the yeast of sin. Christ is our Passover Lamb, because He does for us what the Passover lamb did for the Hebrews. As the blood of that lamb sprinkled on the doorposts secured exemption from the stroke of the destroying angel, so the blood of Christ secures exemption for us in like manner. Had they failed to secure their lives by applying the blood, their lives would have been snuffed out similar to those of the Egyptians. Christ was slain for us in the same sense in which the Passover lamb was slain for the Hebrews.

As God began anew with those who left Egypt so He does with us each New Year. Our blood will be required if we fail to begin anew. We are in a blood covenant and it behooves us not to take the body and blood of Christ lightly.


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