Light from the Sidra


Exodus 12:21-51; Numbers 28:16-25; Joshua 5:2 - 6:1,27

Hag Sameach for Pesach!

The people of Israel walked free from Egypt; those who were slaves were free to serve the LORD. How good is the LORD to his people! How great is his power! These are the feelings we should have as we read the story of the departure from Egypt because that is what God intended, as he said to Moses earlier in the book of Exodus, “Tell in the hearing of your son and your son’s son the mighty things I have done in Egypt, and my signs which I have done among them, that you may know that I am the LORD.

And yet, in the midst of this display of divine power, there is another element just as crucial to the deliverance but which is marked by weakness and innocence - the Passover lamb. It almost seems out of place. Have you ever asked yourself how the lamb fits into this scene of drama and power? Was the killing of the lamb really necessary? What did the slaying of this weak, innocent creature achieve?

The LORD’s own words make that very clear, “The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.” The lamb was sacrificed to prevent the firstborn of Israel being destroyed in the final plague. Not that God needed help to know where the Israelites were; the blood of the lamb served to draw their attention to something. What was that?

Imagine yourself in Egypt at the time of the Exodus. As you heard the cries of anguish in the Egyptian homes what would assure you that the plague would not kill you too? Only one thing - the blood of the Passover lamb. It saved their lives. The lesson was clear: The people of Israel were equally deserving of death, and they knew it. They had sinned just as the Egyptians had, but they were redeemed by the death of a substitute.

How good the LORD was to his people! He not only delivered them from the slavery of Egypt, but also provided an even greater deliverance - a deliverance from the judgement that their sin deserved. This is why the sages taught that Messiah would come at Passover; they saw the deliverance from Egypt as a picture of an even greater deliverance for Israel and the world from sin and its consequences, which Messiah would accomplish. This is why there is a cup for Elijah at the Seder and the door is opened for him to come in, because Elijah is the one who announces Messiah’s arrival. This, too, is why we read that the stranger is welcome, for it is God’s purpose that all mankind should benefit from the work of Messiah. The LORD invites all to shelter under his wings.

But how long must we wait for the days of the Messianic deliverance? They seem to be further away than ever.

Some years ago in the land of Israel, by the river Jordan, a man of the tribe of Levi began to preach repentance. Nothing new about that, you might think; we hear plenty about repentance. However, you would certainly have been struck by the way he dressed - just like Elijah of old in camel skin and a leather belt. What’s more, many of the people listened to him and repented, as in the time of Elijah. What would have struck you most, though, was that whenever he saw one particular man he pointed to him and said, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”. What on earth did he mean? He could have meant only one thing. The one he pointed to was the Messiah because, like the Passover lamb, Messiah is the one who deals with sin. Just as the lamb died in the place of Israel’s firstborn, Messiah would die for the sins of the entire world.

The preacher of repentance was called John. He came in fulfilment of the prophecy of Malachi, “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me…I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and dreadful day of the LORD” (Malachi 3:1, 4:5). He was Isaiah’s “voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the LORD’.” (Isaiah 40:1). Many in Israel followed the man he identified as the “Lamb of God”. His name was Jesus of Nazareth.

Like the Passover lamb Jesus was put to death, but for others. And God raised him from the dead on the third day. He died in the place of sinners, whether of Israel or from the nations of the world. We do not have to wait any more for the days of Messiah because he has come! For those who trust in Jesus, their sins are forgiven and they now enjoy his righteous reign in their lives. What better time to join them than at Passover.

It is time for you also to repent and, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”

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