1. Passover, a Memorial Day
14 “This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast.
One very wise Christian historian commenting on these verses, told his students that the Christian life is a combination of amnesia and déjà vu…He said, I know I have forgotten this before. He’s right.
If we are not careful, we can forget even the most basic components of the Christian life. God’s people have always been somewhat forgetful. We can easily be guilty of spiritual amnesia. This is why, by God’s grace, He commands us to remember.
Forgetting God and His power can cause us to be afraid…
Nehemiah 4:14 (ESV)
14 And I looked and arose and said to the nobles and to the officials and to the rest of the people, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes.”
Remembering what God has done will give us confidence in the future when we face trials…
Isaiah 46:8–10 (ESV)
8 “Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors,
9 remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like me,
10 declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done,
saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’
God has set the Passover as a memorial feast for Israel so that they will not forget what God did for them in the Land of Egypt…remember.
Remembering that they were slaves and it was God who rescued them would help them stay faithful to His commands.
Deuteronomy 5:15 (ESV)
15 You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.
2. Unleavened Bread
15 Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall remove leaven out of your houses, for if anyone eats what is leavened, from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel. 16 On the first day you shall hold a holy assembly, and on the seventh day a holy assembly. No work shall be done on those days. But what everyone needs to eat, that alone may be prepared by you. 17 And you shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this very day I brought your hosts out of the land of Egypt. Therefore you shall observe this day, throughout your generations, as a statute forever. 18 In the first month, from the fourteenth day of the month at evening, you shall eat unleavened bread until the twenty-first day of the month at evening. 19 For seven days no leaven is to be found in your houses. If anyone eats what is leavened, that person will be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he is a sojourner or a native of the land. 20 You shall eat nothing leavened; in all your dwelling places you shall eat unleavened bread.”
There are numerous regulations here regarding the future Passover meals. Central to these regulations is that they were not to eat any bread with leaven in it. This is central because the term leaven or unleavened occurs 9 times.
So, lets focus for a few minutes on this prohibition of God and why He sees it as important.
It is so important that God tells the Israelites if they fail to observe this prohibition concerning leaven that they will be cut off from Israel. No longer will they be able to be part of the community that worships God.
During the Passover and during the week of Unleavened Bread festival, the Israelites had to not only not eat any yeast (leaven) but not have any in the house.
The first time God commanded them to not eat bread with leaven or yeast in it was at the first Passover…
Exodus 12:8 (ESV)
8 They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted on the fire; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it.
The purpose here is because they were to eat the Passover meal in haste not eating bread that would have to sit around a few hours to rise.
Throughout Israel’s history leaven has been understood to represent the way sin spreads. Just like the yeast spreads throughout the entire lump of dough so to just a little sin can also spread and be a corrupting force within a person’s life.
When they ate the unleavened bread on that first Passover, they were shown to leave all the sins of Egypt behind them as they left on the Exodus. Leave Egypt behind.
During the days of Israel in Egypt, they didn’t have yeast packets like we do today, the way they made bread would be to have someone give them a pinch of their dough and when the new batch had the pinch added, it too would rise from the previous batch of dough. Just a pinch of old dough would permeate the new batch. Just a little sin will permeate the entire person and can also even affect others.
To take just a pinch of Egypt with you would permeate the entire group. Just a pinch of Egypt would corrupt the entire group.
We must see something here, God’s desire was more than to simply get His people out of Egypt, He also wanted to get Egypt out of His people. He was saving them to also sanctify them.
This is true for us as well. God does not just save us but He saves us to sanctify for Himself a people who love Him and walk in His ways.
1 Corinthians 5:6–8 (ESV)
6 Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? 7 Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 8 Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
Paul also interprets the leaven as a symbol of sin. Specifically, the sin of the old life prior to Christ.
Jesus also took the same interpretation of the Feast of Unleavened Bread as He compared the corruption of the Pharisees to the leaven of the bread…
Luke 12:1 (ESV)
12 In the meantime, when so many thousands of the people had gathered together that they were trampling one another, he began to say to his disciples first, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.
Even what we might consider a small sin is dangerous because like leaven, it wants to spread.
This is why during the traditional meal the Jew would take a broom and sweep out the dust and any yeast that was on the floor and sweep it out the door as a symbol for making a clean sweep of sin…no sin allowed.
17 And you shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this very day I brought your hosts out of the land of Egypt.
I want to bring your attention to verse 17. There is something significant here. God speaks of them celebrating the Feast before He even rescues them. God tells them how to observe the Feast before He even does what the Feast is intended to commemorate.
What’s significant here when God speaks of these things like this as if they’ve already happened?
3. The Israelites Obeyed God’s Instructions
21 Then Moses called all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Go and select lambs for yourselves according to your clans, and kill the Passover lamb. 22 Take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and touch the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood that is in the basin. None of you shall go out of the door of his house until the morning. 23 For the Lord will pass through to strike the Egyptians, and when he sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the Lord will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to enter your houses to strike you. 24 You shall observe this rite as a statute for you and for your sons forever. 25 And when you come to the land that the Lord will give you, as he has promised, you shall keep this service. 26 And when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ 27 you shall say, ‘It is the sacrifice of the Lord’s Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, when he struck the Egyptians but spared our houses.’ ” And the people bowed their heads and worshiped.
28 Then the people of Israel went and did so; as the Lord had commanded Moses and Aaron, so they did.
Now Moses turns to the elders of Israel and gives them instructions that they are to relay to their people.
They were to kill the Passover lamb
They were to take hyssop and dip it into the blood and apply the blood to their doorposts and lintels.
Hyssop is a mossy type plant with very small flowers. It would serve as their paint brush to paint the blood on their doors.
It was vitally important that no one go outside of their house that night.
This event was to be remembered through the Passover and Unleavened Bread Feast. It was important that parents understood the true meanings behind the events so they could tell their children when they asked them questions about why they do these things every year…
25 And when you come to the land that the Lord will give you, as he has promised, you shall keep this service. 26 And when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ 27 you shall say, ‘It is the sacrifice of the Lord’s Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, when he struck the Egyptians but spared our houses.’
We must always be ready to teach our children the spiritual meanings and theology behind the things we do. If we forget to tell our children the true meaning, these acts of worship and obedience with quickly become meaningless rituals.
Why do we take the Lord’s Supper? What does it mean? What does Baptism mean? Why do we go to church every Sunday? Why do we tithe? These and other things have significant meanings and we must teach the next generation.
The practice of teaching each consecutive generations coupled with the command to do this every year throughout the generations worked to guarantee that the Passover and Unleavened Bread Feast would be around when Jesus came onto the scene.
The Passover had much more theological meaning than even the most devout Israelite understood. This continual practice would pave the way for the true Lamb of God.
It would be a picture of the true Passover Lamb that would be slain once for all. The purpose was that every Israelite properly instructed as to the meaning of Passover would be ready to receive the full revelation of God. Some were. However, the vast majority were not ready.
4. And the people bowed their heads and worshiped
Passover is to be a perpetual remembrance for Israel. The next generation is to be taught of the wonders of the Lord in the context of worship. God is establishing a sign here that is a memorial of redemption. Notice His words. “You shall observe this event as an ordinance for you and your children forever.” Isn’t it interesting how worship works in conjunction with God’s deliverance in this book? We are told at the beginning of the book that God is going to save Israel in order to worship. But in Exodus 12, here’s how the pattern goes: The people worship, thanking God in advance for their deliverance. He responds in deliverance, but as He gives them instruction on how to worship prior to deliverance, He tells them that after the deliverance, they are always to remember the deliverance in their worship. And so worship precedes deliverance and follows deliverance in this passage, and in the pattern that it sets forth. But whatever the case, worship and redemption are tied together.
And of course, this sign is transcended for Christians by a greater event and a greater sign. Luke tells us in Luke 9:31 that what Jesus did in Jerusalem on the cross was His Exodus. And the Lord’s Supper commemorates that greater Exodus by the greater Passover Lamb, the last Passover Lamb, the ultimate Passover Lamb. And so we see at the heart of the various covenant signs that God gives to His people the deeds of the Lord. The signs that God gives us are to set forth His deeds of redemption. And when we participate in the covenant signs, we are both rehearsing His promises and remembering His deliverance. And so we see here in verse 24 this sacrament as a perpetual remembrance for Israel. And it is one that is taken over by Christians and transcended in the service of the Lord’s Supper.
24 You shall observe this rite as a statute for you and for your sons forever.