The Passover People

Passover celebrates the deliverance of the people of Israel from Egyptian bondage. An annual event Passover will be celebrated this year on 5th April, some 3,500 years since the first Passover in Egypt. At that time the people of Israel were being mistreated and abused by their Egyptian taskmasters. But it was not always so.

Decades previously Joseph, a patriarch of Israel, governed the great Egyptian empire. He was honoured by Pharaoh who promoted him to the position of Prime Minister after Joseph had interpreted two of Pharaoh's dreams. The Pharaoh believed Joseph would benefit the Kingdom. He did. He saved the Kingdom from economic collapse. Years of poverty became years of glory and prosperity for the Egyptians. During seven years of severe famine the Egyptian empire enjoyed the commerce and dependency of surrounding nations who came to buy food. Because of this, Joseph and his people were greatly honoured by the Egyptians.

After Joseph's death, a new generation of Egyptian leadership rose to power, and so began Israel's suffering. The abuse and servitude would have continued but for God's appointment of Moses and Aaron to lead His people to freedom and life.

God remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to bring their descendants to the Promised Land. It was time for them to take possession. God told Moses and Aaron that they would lead His people to freedom. He warned them that Pharaoh would be stubborn and would refuse to let them go. Pharaoh would harden his heart despite the great and awesome miracles the LORD would perform.

Some nine powerful miracles later, the mighty Egyptian empire and economy were accelerating into a decline. The slaves of the empire had revolted, or so it seemed. The Pharaoh god and his advisers could not match the power of the God of the Hebrew slaves. The people of Israel had become an enigma – no one wanted them around, but neither would anyone let them go.

The final demonstration of God's power and authority came when He instructed His people to sacrifice a lamb, and to place its blood on the door posts and lintel of their homes. The occupants of these houses where the blood was placed would be saved from death. In all the other houses, where there was no blood, death would strike at the firstborn of both man and beast. The grief was severe. The cry was heard throughout the Kingdom. Every Egyptian home suffered the loss of a firstborn; even Pharaoh's son lay dead. Pharaoh could no longer endure his own stubbornness, he commanded the people of Israel to leave, immediately.

The people of Israel packed up their belongings and departed from Egypt. From that time, God walked before His people, a pillar of cloud by day and of fire by night, leading them to Sinai and the Promised Land, where they would become a nation of priests.

The celebration of Passover has changed little since the days of Egypt. After Israel took possession of the Land, they were commanded by the LORD to celebrate Passover in Jerusalem. Every male was required to celebrate the Feast in the city of the Great King, in anticipation of the arrival of the King Messiah. When gathering His followers at Passover, Yeshua commanded that the third cup and unleavened bread, within the celebration, be drunk and eaten in remembrance of Him.

The sacrifice of the Passover lambs was no longer possible in the holy city, following the destruction of the Temple by the Romans in AD70. However, the Jewish home and local synagogue combined to facilitate the Feast. Thus, even when Israel was scattered, dispersed among the nations, they continued to faithfully keep the Feast. This is truly remarkable.

The amazement grows when we understand that this was achieved despite strong opposition by the hosting nation, which perceived the traditions of the Jewish people as an obstacle to assimilating them into the home culture and laws. The Jewish people knew that they were strangers in a foreign land – home was always Israel. While the nations assumed that God had rejected them, and that He would never allow them to return.

In some cases, the Jewish communities were attacked by their host nations following false reports which were spread in an attempt to discredit their traditions. Many Jewish people were killed, homes were destroyed and they were robbed of their possessions. Yet the people of God remained steadfast. Every year Passover was celebrated in the host country with a prayer, "Next year in Jerusalem!"

Both Jeremiah and Isaiah prophesied of a future exodus, which would be greater than the one from Egypt, at the first Passover. According to the prophets the Jewish people would return home to Israel in huge numbers.

"'Therefore behold, the days are coming,'" says the LORD, 'that it shall no more be said, "The LORD lives who brought up the children of Israel from the land of Egypt," but, "The LORD lives who brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north and from all the lands where He had driven them." For I will bring them back into their land which I gave to their fathers.'" (Jeremiah 16:14, 15; see also Isaiah 43:5, 6)

Praise the LORD! The Jewish people have returned home, exactly as foretold. And with the reestablishment of the State, in 1948, Passover has once again been celebrated in Israel, and more particularly, in Jerusalem, since 1967. Whilst the sacrifice of the Passover lamb has not been possible, because the Temple has not been rebuilt, nevertheless, His people celebrate Passover with great freedom and exuberance of life. With fervent and heavy heart, they long for the Messiah to come. Passover reminds them He will come to deliver His people.

In those days, the Messiah will establish His throne in Jerusalem, and reign as King over all the earth. The prophet Ezekiel declared that the King Messiah will build His Temple in the holy city. Significantly, the feast of Passover will continue to be celebrated at that future time.

"In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month, you shall observe the Passover, a feast of seven days; unleavened bread shall be eaten. And on that day the prince shall prepare for himself and for all the people of the land a bull for a sin offering." (Ezekiel 45:21, 22)

Passover as it is celebrated today is more than a memorial to an event long ago. It is a tribute to the integrity of a unique people in the face of overwhelming odds. It is a testimony to the faithfulness of the LORD God, the Creator of Heaven and Earth, toward His ancient covenant people, Israel.