Shadow And Substance

by Joseph Hunting

It was Spring in Jerusalem and the air was crisp and invigorating. Little fires were still smouldering when orthodox families observed the ritual of purging their homes of leaven.

The previous night had been spent with friends at a Passover service. There was no need to conclude this commemorative feast of deliverance with the prayer: "Next year in Jerusalem" for we were already there. But there were Jews in other places that needed deliverance just as desperately as their ancestors in Egypt 3,500 years ago.

A steady stream of Israelis, both Jews and Arabs, and the usual milling mob of tourists jostled through the Damascus Gate, and a constant flurry of buses and taxis weaved their way through the throngs adjacent to the Old City walls.

As I watched the bustling stream of humanity and little donkeys carrying terrific loads, I thought of the great miracle wrought by God on the occasion of the first Passover. At that time Egypt was at the peak of its power. The contempt Pharaoh felt for Israel's God was reflected in his reply when Moses demanded the release of the Hebrews. "Who is Jehovah that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I know not Jehovah, neither will I let Israel go." (Exodus 5:2)

In spite of the might of Egypt's army and the apparent hopelessness of Israel's plight, in spite of the floggings and increased burdens, God had a plan for Israel's deliverance. The Divine strategy ruled out every human factor except faith and obedience on the part of the Hebrews. Note the plan as it unfolds step by step.

  1. Israel was commanded to destroy its existing Egyptian calendar: "this month shall be unto you the beginning of months, it shall be the first month of the year unto you." (Exodus 12:2) Redemption is ever linked with a new beginning. The failures and frustrations of the past, the beatings and bondage, were to be left behind for ever.
  2. "In the tenth day of the month they shall take them every man a lamb." (Exodus 12:3) God appointed the time, and the means of redemption.
  3. "Your lamb shall be without blemish" (verse 5). This little creature foreshadowed "the Lamb of God Who taketh away the sin of the world."
  4. "And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month, and the whole assembly of Israel shall kill it in the evening." (verse 6) This plan of redemption was so utterly unrealistic that implicit obedience and faith were required to execute the Divine command.
  5. "And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts, and on the upper door posts of the houses, wherein they shall eat it" (verse 7). While the lamb lived Israel could not be saved. Its life's blood had to be shed and splashed on the doorposts of the Hebrews' homes. Could anything be more distasteful and seemingly unnecessary? But God "hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the kings that are mighty; and the base things of the world, and things which are despised hath God chosen . . . " (1st Corinthians 1:27-28).
  6. "And the blood shall be for you a token upon the houses wherein ye are. AND WHEN I SEE THE BLOOD I WILL PASS OVER YOU" (VERSE 13). Thus the plan unfolded. God would look for the blood, and pass over that home, whilst the firstborn in every home in Egypt that was without blood died. Truly, God's ways are not our ways. Who but God would have planned a nation's release from slavery through the blood of a slain lamb?
  7. "And this day shall be unto you for a memorial, and ye shall keep it a feast to the Lord throughout your generations, ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever." And so, for thirty-five centuries Israel has observed the Passover on the evening of the fourteenth day of the first month.

Just as a new calendar was necessary for Israel at the time of their redemption, so those who put their trust in the blood shed by the Lamb of God commence a new life in Him, for it is written: "If any man be in Christ he is a new creature, old things have passed away, behold, all things are become new." (2nd Corinthians 5:17)

Even the calendars used by the nations of the world have their beginnings with His first advent. The date on every bank cheque, every magazine or newspaper testifies to the new beginning that has been made possible for all mankind through "the Lamb of God Who taketh away the sin of the world".