God provided Israel’s freedom from Egyptian bondage through the sacrifice of the Passover lamb. By using the Passover lamb to redeem Israel from bondage, God gives us a vivid illustration of our redemption from sin through Jesus Christ. The ceremony surrounding the Jew’s use of the Passover lamb illustrates almost every characteristic of Christ’s redemptive work on the cross of Calvary.
During a great famine in their own land, God moved His chosen people into Egypt giving them time to grow into a great nation. Egypt would also provide enough food to sustain them. At the beginning of their stay they found a happy and free environment for growth. Then the Egyptian pharaohs began to fear their growth and murdered and enslaved them (Ex. 1:8-9).
God immediately set into motion His plan to free the nation from this slavery. His redemptive tactics involved placing on display His awesome power to the Egyptians. He brought upon them ten plagues, the final plague being the worst. He decreed that every firstborn in Egypt, both man and animal would be executed.
“For I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the LORD.” (Ex. 12:12)
However, to reveal Himself as a merciful God, He provided a way for the Israelites to escape death. His way of escape was through the Passover lamb.
“Speak to all the congregation of Israel saying: On the tenth of this month every man shall take for himself a lamb, according to the house of his father, a lamb for a household. And if the household is too small for the lamb, let him and his neighbor next to his house take it according to the number of the persons; according to each man’s need you shall make your count for the lamb.” (Ex. 12:3-4)
Selecting the Lamb
God told the Jews to choose a lamb, but this lamb was not to be ordinary. The first command from God was that none of this special lamb was to be wasted. It was to be considered a very precious commodity.
The lamb was to symbolize the value of God’s real Passover Lamb, the Lord Jesus Christ. He is a precious commodity of immeasurable worth. We are also to take Him very seriously.
“Of how much greater punishment shall he be thought worthy who has trodden underfoot the Son of God and counted the blood of the covenant with which he was set apart an unholy thing and done despite to the spirit of grace.” (Heb. 10:28-29)
The Jewish Passover lamb was also to be without blemish.
“Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year. You may take it from the sheep or the goats.” (Ex. 12:5)
They were to choose a perfect specimen. The lamb was to have no scurvy of the skin, no matted wool, or no split hooves. He was then to be penned up and observed for several days, until the fourteenth day of the month to make sure that no blemish would develop.
The Lamb of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, was a perfect specimen. Peter said He was “as a lamb without spot or blemish” (1 Pet. 1:19). He was born of the virgin Mary in order to miss the sin of Adam that was passed down through man. He was observed for 33 years to make sure that no blemish would develop in Him. He never sinned. He never lied, cheated, stole, had bad thoughts about anyone, nor did he ever do or say anything unkind about anyone. He could even ask His enemies “which of you convicts me of sin?” without fear (Jn. 8:46). He was “in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15).
Sacrificing the Lamb
“Then the whole assembly of the congregation shall kill it at twilight.” (Ex. 12:6b)
This perfect lamb was to be killed in the evening. The Jewish evening was from 3:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. This marked time at first seems to have little significance until we read these words found in Matthew’s gospel:
“And about the ninth hour. . .Jesus cried with a loud voice. ‘My God, my God, why have your forsaken me?” (Matt. 27: 46)
The ninth hour is 3:00 p.m. Jewish time. It was at this very moment that Jesus Christ became sin for us.
Striking the Blood
Next came the placing of the blood on the doorposts of their houses and the eating of the lamb.
“And they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses where they eat.” (Ex. 12:7)
The blood placed upon the doorposts was of extreme importance. According to the Bible, blood is symbolic for life.
“The life of the flesh is in the blood.” (Lev. 17:11)
The blood carries out the life processes of the body. It carries food and oxygen to the cells and eliminates the waste products. For this reason, to shed someone’s blood would mean the same as taking his life.
This truth becomes important when we realize that God made it clear from the beginning of man in the garden that the only payment for man’s sin was death (Gen. 2:17). By spreading the blood on the doorposts, God also made it clear that He was willing to substitute the life of the Passover lamb for the life of their firstborn.
“Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin.” (Heb. 9:22)
Why was the blood to be placed on the doorposts? Just to kill the lamb was not sufficient. The blood was effective only when it was by faith applied to the doorposts. The door supplied the only way into the dwelling. Placing the blood on the door symbolized the importance of this shed blood. It was to be the only way to life. To kill the lamb and not apply the blood would have had absolutely no effect. Life would come only one way. Through the blood!
This is also true of God’s Passover Lamb- the Lord Jesus Christ. He was to be the only way to receive life from God (Acts 4:12; Jn. 14:6).
Roasting the Lamb
“Then they shall eat the flesh on that night; roasted with fire, with unleavened bread and with bitter herbs they shall eat it.” (Ex. 12:8)
Fire in the Bible is the perfect symbol for God’s judgment being satisfied because like God’s judgment it purifies that which is not pure.
“For the Lord your God is a consuming fire.” (Deut. 4:24)
Fire can sterilize a needle or smelt impure metal, thus removing the impurities and making it pure. Both the Greek and Hebrew words for fire contain the idea of purging, cleansing or refining.
When God’s holiness was violated by man’s sin, His divine justice of death became His just judgment. This judgment was pictured as being satisfied by the “burnt offerings” in the Mosaic Law. God would symbolically touch the fire of His judgment to the innocent substitute (an animal sacrifice) in order to balance the scales of His divine justice. From the fires of the altar of incense and the brazen altars of the Old Testament, to the fire of the Judgment Seat of Christ and the Great White Throne judgment of God, fire has and will forever reveal that He is a God who satisfies His judgment (Ex. 37:25, Ex. 38:1,1 Cor. 3:13, Rev. 20:11-15).
The roasting with fire symbolized that the Passover lamb was to touch the fires of God’s just judgment in the place of the firstborn. This is why it was not to be eaten raw or boiled.
“Do not eat it raw, nor boiled at all with water, but roasted in fire -its head with its legs and its entrails.” (Ex. 12:9)
Likewise, God touched His fiery judgment of death to His only Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, as our Passover Lamb. Jesus Christ bore the flames of God’s judgment that was meant for us.
Eating the Lamb
The nature of eating food is that it is personal and it is the means of sustaining physical life. Because of this, the act of eating to the Jew became a picture of personal faith. Eating the lamb was God’s way of allowing every individual Jew to become personally involved with the Passover lamb. Each one may not have had a part in securing the lamb, observing the lamb, killing the lamb, or striking its blood on the doorposts, but they all would have a part by eating it.
This is God’s way of impressing upon the Jew, and upon us, the necessity of becoming personally involved with the lamb. The individual eating of the lamb allowed the spiritual benefit of the blood which was spread on the doorposts to be applied to each one personally. No one could eat the lamb for someone else.
Jesus said clearly to the Jews in the gospel of John that unless one would be willing to eat His flesh and drink His blood, he would have no life in him (Jn. 6:53-58). This cannibalistic thought seems a little strange at first, but it is extremely important. Just because Christ’s death was sufficient to pay the sin debt of the entire human race does not mean everyone will be saved. Each individual must personally appropriate the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ by faith.
- Bitter Herbs
“Then they shall eat the flesh on that night; roasted in fire with unleavened bread and with bitter herbs they shall eat it.” (Ex. 12:8)
The eating of the bitter herbs would become God’s method of reminding the Jews of their stay in Egypt. God did not want them to forget the tar pits, heavy labor, and the lash of the whip, which would come back to their minds when they ate the herbs. God may also have chosen to leave the Adamic sin nature in believers today as a continuous reminder of our lives before the Lord Jesus Christ.
- Unleavened Bread
The lamb was to be eaten with unleavened bread. Leaven later became a symbol for sin (Matt. 16:11; Mk. 8:15, Gal. 5:9). This was to remind the Jew, and us today, that in order to restore personal fellowship with God, personal sin must be removed. This is accomplished in the life of believers today by privately confessing our sin to God (1 Jn. 1:9).
Salvation by the Lamb
God’s curse of death was upon the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast. On the day of Passover, He would execute this judgment of death, and the gods of Egypt would be helpless to do anything about it.
The specific application to us should be very clear. The judgment of God is coming upon the world one day. The human race has a date with destiny.
“God has appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness by that Man who he has ordained, concerning whom He has given assurance that He raised Him from the dead.” (Acts 17:31, see also Rev. 20:15)
Exodus 12:13 is the key to the whole Passover narrative.
“And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt.” (Ex. 12:13)
The blood of the Passover lamb that had touched the flame of God’s judgment and had been spread on the doorposts, at that precise moment had become the most precious commodity in the entire world. When God saw the blood, He passed over the home and the firstborn did not die. Salvation came by means of the Lamb. That is still true today.
- “Being justified freely by his blood through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 3:24)
- “Forasmuch as you know that you were not redeemed with corruptible things like silver and gold, from your vain manner of life received from the tradition of your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as a lamb without spot or blemish.” (1 Pet. 1:18-19)
- In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins.” (Eph. 1:7)
- “In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins.” (Col. 1:14)
- “For even Christ, our Passover, is sacrificed for us.” (1 Cor. 5:7)
Have you received the gift of life resulting from the shed blood of the Lamb of God? In order for His blood to be applied to your sin debt, you need only to by faith believe that His blood was shed for you. Won’t you trust Him now if you never have?