Shadow and Substance

Anniversaries are very often stimulants, stimulants that stir up past remembrances, and frequently and consequently arouse future hopes. Memories can often be stimulated by incidents, be events, and even by perfumes!

If we find ordinary anniversaries in human history are sufficient to stimulate our memories and engender within us very intimate emotions, what shall we say of Biblical anniversaries? My experience is that Biblical anniversaries are not only stimulating, but are also highly significant in their past occurrences, and pronouncedly prophetic in their forward applications.

It will be appropriate, therefore, for us to observe this backward look of memory and forward look of prophecy in some salient Biblical incidents.

In the twelfth chapter of the Book of Exodus we find recorded the first Pesach Mitzraim, Passover in Egypt, that is observed by the Jewish people as it happened all those thousands of years ago. This really inaugurated Israel's national existence; Israel was brought to the birth as a nation on this great occasion by the rigid and faithful performance of the Divine instructions to them through Moses.

We recall that the people were in bondage in Egypt and under the lash of Pharaoh's taskmasters. And they groaned and travailed under the hardships and rigours which were being inflicted upon them. In their distress and agony " they cried out; and their cry came up to God because of the bondage. So God heard their groaning " (Exodus 2:33), and God heard their prayers.

The time was ripe, for their deliverance, and ripe for judgement upon Pharaoh. This great deliverance was effected by the instructions God gave them. God first commanded that the Jewish seventh month Abib would henceforth be known as the first month of the year – Nisan. Here we see a change of the calendar – rather a fitting incident to inaugurate the birth of a nation!

It is also highly prophetic. Israel the new nation was to have a new calendar, and we read in the New Covenant that " if anyone is in the Messiah, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new " (Paul's Second Letter to the Corinthians 5:17).

The Passover lamb in Egypt was therefore a type and shadow of the " Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world " (John 1:29).what a beautiful truth is this typical shadowing forth of the new birth which Messiah Yeshua would give to those who receive Him as their Passover.

On the tenth day of the same month Nisan the people were to take a male lamb one year old and without blemish. It was to be kept to the fourteenth day, and then between the two evenings, that is, from afternoon to sunset, it was to be slain on the threshold of the door of each house.

The blood of the innocent lamb was to be sprinkled on the lintel and the two side posts of their doors, and then those who had so applied the blood were to enter indoors dressed for journeying, eat the roasted lamb, and wait the deliverance of the Eternal God amidst the surrounding midnight judgements upon Egypt.

The people's faith in God's instructions translated belief into action, and so all came to pass exactly as God had planned and promised. And when the midnight hour struck the mocking jeers of the Egyptians were transformed into howls of anguish as the hand of God smote Egypt in judgement from the throne to the fields.

The children of Israel were led by the mighty power of God through the Red Sea and out towards the promised land. And three days after this Passover, on the seventeenth day of the month, Israel sang the song of deliverance on the safety side of the Red Sea, whose waters, parting for their safe passage, returned to overwhelm the pursuing hordes.

The seventeenth day of the month was also the day when Noah would have felt that he had emerged from the waters of judgement into a new beginning, for it was on the seventeenth day that the ark had rested on Mount Ararat centuries earlier. What and anniversary! Surely the seventeenth day was a date long to be remembered!

Israel was a redeemed people, redeemed from their bondage in Egypt, and seven weeks after that fateful Passover when the lamb was slain, and on the fiftieth day, God descended in fire on Mount Sinai, and the people of Israel received the Ten Commandments.

Because the Law was given on the fiftieth day it was afterwards remembered by the word Pentecost, meaning fifty. But whereas the first Passover brought gladness to Israel in their great joy and deliverance, and the blood of the lamb brought their freedom, by contrast the first Pentecost brought sorrow and bondage to sin.

Voluntarily affirming the covenant with God at Sinai and exclaiming " All the words which the LORD has said we will do " (Exodus 24:3), the people nevertheless disobeyed immediately following in the incident of the golden calf, and this resulted in three thousand souls being slain with the sword of judgement.

We can see a great Scriptural truth illustrated here, for we read: " For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: he condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the spirit " (Paul's Letter to the Romans 8:3,4).

Thank God that although " by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in his sight " (3:20), yet by the blood of the Lamb of God there is a deliverance that is deliverance indeed. The blood of Messiah Jesus brings deliverance, but the tables of the law engraved on stone bring death.

We human beings can never gain heaven by our own merits, law-keeping or otherwise. The law serves to show us that we are incapable of keeping it, but the precious blood of Messiah Jesus is the open door into regeneration by a Divinely initiated action, where the Holy Spirit of God takes up His life abode in the body of the believer.

The lamb was taken on the tenth Nisan, it was slain on the fourteenth Nisan, the song of deliverance was sung on the seventeenth Nisan, and fifty days later came the giving of the Law and subsequent death of three thousand. We will find all these events to be both symbolic and prophetic of greater and even more wonderful events.

In the ninth chapter of the Book of Daniel the prophet foretold the exact day of the Messiah's first coming to earth. There we read that " from the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince " was to be a period which has been calculated to be equal to 173,880 days, and after that period " Messiah shall be cut off, but not for himself ," meaning shall have nothing.

In other words the Messiah was to die a substitutionary and atoning death just as Isaiah the prophet in chapter 53 had also foretold, using the very expression " cut of from the land of the living. "

We read of the edit or command given by Cyrus to restore and build Jerusalem in the Book of Esra 1:1, and also of the implementation of this command in Nehemiah chapter 2, which we know to be the year 445 B.C.

The 173,880 days from that date bring us to the sixth of April in the year the Messiah entered Jerusalem as described in Zechariah 9:9: " Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; he is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey. "

That particular date was the tenth Nisan, a date that speaks of an anniversary as we remember that that was the date when the Passover lamb was taken. The Messiah was publicly shown to Israel on that date as Zechariah has shown us.

He was 'kept' in trial and examination to see if there was any defect in Him for a further four days, and even Pilate, the representative of the Gentile supremacy of that time declared: " I find no fault in this man " (Luke 23:4).

It was at the ninth hour, about 3p.m., on the fourteenth Nisan that the Messiah cried "It is finished!" In other words redemption was completed, the blood of the Passover lamb shed in Egypt had found its completion and its fulfilment in the atoning death of the Lamb of God on that memorable anniversary. The great work of atonement was finished once for all! The substance had come; the shadows were destined to pass.

What of the resurrection of the Messiah which was implied by Moses, foretold by David in th Psalms and indicated by Isaiah in chapter 53 and in other prophets? Lo, within three days the Lord Messiah rose bodily from among the dead, and His resurrection was the seventeenth Nisan!

It was on the seventeenth day of the seventh month that the ark brought its eight occupants to safety as those alive from the dead; it was on the seventeenth of the seventh month (then changed to the first month) that Israel sang the song of deliverance as being alive from the dead; it was on the seventeenth day of the first month (the old seventh) that the Messiah rose bodily from the dead, on the Lord's day.

Let us follow one step further. Fifty days after Israel's deliverance god descended in fire and gave the Law brought death to three thousand who had sinned so grievously in the incident of the golden calf. The sword of judgement destroyed three thousand.

Now are we to receive no instruction from the fact that fifty days after the resurrection of the Messiah God the Holy Spirit descended in fire upon those beloved Jewish believers assembled in the upper room in Jerusalem at Pentecost? As an immediate consequence Peter wielded the sword of the Spirit in his great initial message and three thousand souls were gloriously saved.

What a contrast! What an illustration of the harmony and balance between the Old and New Testaments! And what a lesson this brings to our souls! The first Pentecost of Law spelt death because of inability to keep the Law, but the last Pentecost of the Spirit of life in Messiah Jesus speaks life for all who trust the atoning blood and finished work of the Lamb of God.