Understanding Passover - Exodus 12:13-14
Every spring, the Jews celebrate Passover. It’s a special feast commemorating when God delivered the Hebrew people from the Egyptians. Exodus 12:13-14 says, “The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live; and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt. Now this day will be a memorial to you, and you shall celebrate it as a feast to the LORD; throughout your generations you are to celebrate it as a permanent ordinance.” The verb “pass over” has a deeper meaning here than the idea of stepping or leaping over something to avoid contact. It is not the common Hebrew verb, a-bhar, or gabhar, which is frequently used in that sense. The word used here is pasah, which is translated Passover. This word has no connection with any other Hebrew word, but it does resemble the Egyptian word pesh, which means “to spread wings over.”
The Hebrews had moved to Egypt in the days of Jacob when his son Joseph was in command. But time had passed, over 400 years and God had blessed the Hebrews incredibly. Their number had grown from around a hundred to well over a million. They grew so fast, a new Pharaoh grew scared and put the Hebrews into slavery. They cried out to God and He is going to deliver them from the hand of the Egyptians. This ‘Passover’ was the last plague God is going to do and afterward, the Hebrews would be freed to go by Pharaoh. They would leave in a hurry. But this last plague was a death sentence on every first born in a home.
“God includes everyone in the death sentence in Exodus 11:5: “Every firstborn son in Egypt will die.” God must do the just thing because He is God, but He balances His righteousness with His loving mercy. He decrees judgment for all sin and all sinners; then He provides a way of escape, a kiporah, or covering. While rain falls on everyone, those who have an umbrella do not get wet. For those who seek His way to satisfy the demands of His Law, God provides the blood of the lamb as a covering. Israel’s redemption began that night behind the safety of blood-sprinkled doors. It was a night of horror and grief for anyone who had foolishly disregarded God’s command. It was a long night of vigil mixed with hope for the obedient. Perhaps wails of anguish could be heard from outside as the grim reaper of death went from house to house. Perhaps there was only thick, ominous silence. The people knew that terror and death lay outside that door, which they dared not open until morning. It was a night of judgment, but the substitutionary death of the Passover lamb brought forgiveness to God’s people.” As a result, God’s people would go untouched because of the blood applied. They would be sent away by the Egyptians to go to the promised land.
Father, thank You for how you delivered the Hebrews. Thank You for how you delivered me from bondage to sin through Your blood on the cross. Thank You for being my Passover Lamb so I would not have to suffer death. Amen. Now let’s go live the transformed life because of the Lamb of God!
Unleavened Bread - Exodus 12:15
Every spring, the Jews celebrate Passover. It’s a special feast commemorating when God delivered the Hebrew people from the Egyptians. To prepare for the Passover meal, leavened items are removed from the home. Exodus 12:15 says, “Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, but on the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses…”. This process of removal includes all breads, cakes – anything containing leaven – also known as yeast. It also involves a thorough cleaning culminating in a ceremonial search for leaven, called bedikat khameytz where a small crumb of bread is placed in each room of the house (except the bathrooms) and ‘searching’ for it by the light of a candle. When a crumb is ‘found’ it is brushed into a wooden or plastic spoon with a feather or toothbrush. All of the leaven, together with the implements used in the search, are tied together in a cloth and disposed of by burning the following morning prior to 10 am. This ceremony is symbolic of the removal of every last crumb of leaven from Jewish homes before Passover so that no leaven can be seen or found in the hoe. Prior to beginning the search for leaven, the following blessing is said: “Praised be you, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with your commandments and enjoined upon us the joy of removing leaven before the Passover.” After the search is completed, the following legal declaration is made: “May all leaven in my possession which I have not seen or removed be regarded as mere dust of the earth.” It is forbidden by Jewish law to possess any chametz (leaven) for the entirety of Passover.
As believers, we understand the symbolism of leaven is sin. 1 Corinthians 5:6-8 says, “…Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough? Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed. Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” Jesus equated the teachings of the Pharisees and Sadducees with leaven. (Matthew 16:6-12). We must cleanse all parts of our lives of sin, selfishness, pride, greed and lust. We need to have a spring cleaning where we ask God to show us if there is any sin or leaven we need to get out of our lives. It is only then we are truly prepared to receive all that the Lord Jesus has for us. It is then we can celebrate His goodness and mercy and the fact He has set us free from the bondage of sin. The Psalmist understood this well in Psalm 139:23-24 when he said, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.” The cleansing process takes time before God and asking Him to expose any sin in Your life. But the cleansing is refreshing as a house that has been cleansed thoroughly.
Dear Jesus, I want to ask You to come in and cleanse every part of my life. Show me any sin I may have or wickedness in me. Cleanse me I pray. I choose to repent of the sin and follow You. Amen. Now let’s go live the transformed life cleansed of leaven.
The Kadaysh and the Cup of Sanctification - Deuteronomy 7:6
Deuteronomy 7:6 says, “For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.” Every spring, the Jews celebrate Passover. It’s a special feast commemorating when God delivered the Hebrew people from the Egyptians. The official name of the celebration is a Passover Seder. The word seder means ‘order’. It is the order in which the Passover is carried out. The first activity of the Passover Seder Dinner is called the Kadaysh which is the lighting of the candles, performed by the woman of the home. In Jewish homes, the lighting of the candles separates the sacred from the mundane, the Sabbath of rest from the week’s cares. At Passover, the candles give a sense of holiness. Its illumination reminds us that God is our light. Psalm 27:1 says, “The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? …”
As the candles are lit, there is a prayer of blessing by all who are present. The prayer is based on Deuteronomy 7:6 as the people blessed God for making them holy. Its reading may be, “Blessed are You, O Lord our God, Ruler of the universe, who has set us apart by His Word, and in whose Name we light the festival lights.” As the candles are lit by the hand of the woman, Christ-followers recognize that our Messiah Redeemer, the Light of the world, came into the world as the promised seed of a woman (Genesis 3:15).
Four cups are present at a Seder. It is at this time the first cup is consumed. It is called the cup of sanctification. All four cups are based from Exodus 6:6-7 where four “I will statements” are given by God to the Israelites. God told them first “I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. The word Sanctification means to be made holy. The drinking of this cup consecrates (makes holy) the whole meal. God called the Israelites His own people. They were a called people out of the bondage of Egypt and God declared them holy. For believers in Jesus Christ, we have been called out of the bondage to sin. We are holy because God has made us holy through the forgiveness of sin brought by Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:9-10 says, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” Sometimes people do not treat the things of God as holy as ought be. But when God calls something holy, we should honor, cherish and respect that which He has called holy. We need to take the time to realize God has made some things holy, including His chosen people.
Father, I thank You and bless You, Ruler of the Cosmos. I recognize as You called the Israelites out of Egypt and made them holy, You have called me out of sin and made me holy through Jesus Christ. Help me to walk in holiness. Amen. Now let’s go live the transformed life, holy.
The Urchatz and the Karpas - Exodus 2:23
Exodus 2:23 says, “Now it came about in the course of those many days that the king of Egypt died. And the sons of Israel sighed because of the bondage, and they cried out; and their cry for help because of their bondage rose up to God.” The second portion of the Passover Seder is called the “Urchatz” or the Washing of the Hands. This is a symbolic act of purification, which precedes our participation in the Passover. This goes to underscore the reverence for which this service should be held.
After the hands are washed, the leader will take the karpas aka parsley and dip it into a small cup of salt water. The Passover occurs in the spring time when the earth is becoming green with life. The karpas represents life, created and sustained by God. The parsley dipped into the salt water reminds the Jews the tears that were shed because that life in Egypt was a life of pain, suffering, and tears. Life is sometimes immersed in tears. Job 14:1 says, “Man, who is born of woman, is short-lived and full of turmoil.” No one knew turmoils, trials and tears more than Job. Sometimes life is difficult, and it is especially true when those hardships come at the hands of someone else. That is what the Israelites endured for many years in Egypt. While we do not know when they became enslaved to the Egyptians, they were slaves for many years. This had become a way of life for them. In bondage, the Egyptians were unusually cruel even attempting to kill all the male children that were born to them. But God heard their cries and responded by sending Moses to deliver them from the Egyptians.
For the believer in Jesus Christ, this karpas being dipped is symbolic of our life before Christ where we were enslaved and in bondage to sin. There is a pain that comes from such bondage. Sin does that. It has consequences more than we realize. Sin will hurt you more than what you want to know, will take you further than you want to go, will keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay. As painful as the bondage to sin is, God knew our need before we did. He knew the tears that would come. The best part of the news is found in Romans 5:8, which says, “But God demonstrated His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us”. God knew our need for the forgiveness of our sin and provided a way out of the bondage. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and life, no man comes to the Father but through me” (John 14:6).
In Passover, before everyone eats of the parsley dipped in salt water, everyone recites together: “Blessed art thou, Lord God, King of the Universe, who creates the fruit of the earth.” It is God who gives life. It is God who sets us free. He did so with the Hebrews in Egypt, and He will give each of us life from our bondage to sin. He is worthy of all praise, glory, honor and blessing!
Thank You Jesus for setting me free from the bondage of sin. Thank You for the gift of eternal life. Blessed are You, Lord God, King of the Universe, who creates the fruit of the earth. Amen.” Now let’s go live the transformed life with gratitude.
The First of Four Questions and Matzah - Exodus 12:25-27
Welcome to today’s 180 – a three-minute devotional to help you get your life turned in the right direction. Exodus 12:25-27 says, “When you enter the land which the LORD will give you, as He has promised, you shall observe this rite. And when your children say to you, ‘What does this rite mean to you?’ you shall say, ‘It is a Passover sacrifice to the LORD who passed over the houses of the sons of Israel in Egypt when He smote the Egyptians, but spared our homes.’ And the people bowed low and worshiped.” During Passover, the children ask four questions which will be answered. It is considered both a duty and a privilege to answer the four questions of Passover and to recite the mighty works of our faithful God. The first question is: “On all other nights we eat bread with leaven, but on this night why do we eat only unleavened bread?”
The leader begins by sharing that on other nights we eat bread with leaven (yeast) but on Passover we eat only matzah (unleavened bread or bread without yeast). As the children of Israel fled from Egypt, they did not have time for their dough to rise. Instead, the hot desert sun baked it flat. The leader will then lift the plate containing the three matzot (or three pieces of unleavened bread). The leader points out the matzot is the bread of affliction, the poor bread eaten in the land of Egypt. Anyone who is hungry is invited to come and eat and share in the hope of Passover. The three matzot are wrapped together for Passover. The rabbis call these three a “unity.” Some call it a unity of the Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Some the unity of worship – the priests, Levites and the people of Israel.
For the believer, the three matzot wrapped is symbolic of God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The matzot is clearly symbolic of Jesus Christ when you observe several aspects. First, it is unleavened. Leaven represents sin. Our Messiah was sinless, perfect and holy. Second, matzot has stripes (from the baking process). It is also pierced – you can see holes in the matzot. Isaiah 53:5 says, “But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.” Zechariah 12:10 says, “I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced…”. The middle piece of matzot is broken demonstrating that our Messiah was afflicted and broken. One half is now called the afikomen which we will discuss later.
The other half is then broken and distributed to the remainder among the people at the table. They share the this piece of unleavened bread saying, “Blessed are You, O Lord our God, Ruler of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth.” At Jesus’ last supper with the disciples, they were celebrating Passover. It tells us in Luke 22:19, “And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’” Jesus Himself told us the bread was symbolic of Him being broken for us.
Thank You Jesus for loving us and dying for me. I thank You for the forgiveness of sins, and the healing You provide. I thank You that the gift of eternal life is free to everyone who comes. Amen. Now let’s go live the transformed life!
The Second and Third of Four Questions:
Bitter Herbs and Kharoset - Exodus 12:25-27
Exodus 12:25-27 says, “When you enter the land which the LORD will give you, as He has promised, you shall observe this rite. And when your children say to you, ‘What does this rite mean to you?’ you shall say, ‘It is a Passover sacrifice to the LORD who passed over the houses of the sons of Israel in Egypt when He smote the Egyptians, but spared our homes.’ And the people bowed low and worshiped.” During Passover, the children ask four questions which will be answered. The second question is: “On all other nights we all kinds of vegetables. On this night, why do we eat only bitter herbs?” Passover is unique in that Jewish people will not eat all kinds of vegetables, but on Passover, they only eat bitter herbs. As sweet as life is today, we are to remember how bitter life was for the children of Israel in the land of Egypt. The leader scoops some maror (horseradish) onto a piece of matzah, the bitter taste causes everyone to shed tears of compassion for the sorrow that the Israelites experienced thousands of years ago. Everyone prays “Blessed are You, O Lord our God, Ruler of the universe, who has set us apart by His Word and commanded us to eat bitter herbs.” Then they eat to remember the bitterness of life. For the believer, we remember the bitterness of life before knowing Jesus Christ, our Messiah.
The third question children ask is: “On all other nights we do not dip our vegetables even once, on this night why do we dip them twice?” The answer is the children of Israel toiled to make treasure cities for Pharaoh, working in brick and clay. This task is remembered through the mixture called kharoset, a mixture of chopped apples, honey, nuts and wine. It is a very tasty sweet mixture. The participants scoop the bitter herbs onto a small piece of matzah. But this time, everyone dips the herbs into the sweet kharoset. This is to remind ourselves that even the most bitter of circumstances can be sweetened by the hope we have in God.
As a believer, I must recognize that even in the most difficult times, I have hope in God. He is on His throne and nothing I go through catches Him by surprise. He knows my every need. Psalm 39:7 says, “And now, Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in You.” Jesus spoke of this hope no matter the difficulty of life when He said, “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me…I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; … But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world give do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful” (John 14:1,16,26-27). We can have hope because God has given us the Holy Spirit to walk with us, guide us and comfort us.
Father, thank You for the hope I can have in the midst of difficulty. Before coming to You, there was no hope. But now, I can say as the Psalmist, my hope is in You. Thank You for the Holy Spirit. Amen. Now let’s go live the transformed life in hope!