Pesach (Passover) 2001
Sabbath Day Sermon, Saturday 7 April 2001
Brethren and sisters, in a few hours' time it will be sunset and we shall begin our celebration of the first of Yahweh's annual festivals. What some of you may have forgotten or not noticed is that the sacred New Year began on 25 March (last year it was on 6 April). The world makes such a fuss about 1 January that few people even know that God has a sacred calendar which He has commanded His people to observe in all generations forever. So before I forget it, may I wish you all a "Blessed New Year".
For the last year we as a fellowship have been celebrating Yahweh's sacred feasts for the very first time. You have heard me preach many sermons on the Nine Festivals of Yahweh most of which, I know, has been new to you. As a Church family it will probably take us a little while to get accustomed to God's Ways and so I thought I would begin today by quickly reviewing just what it is we have learned.
First, I wonder how many of you can name all nine festivals in your own language and in Hebrew? The worried looks on some of your faces would indicate that some of you are struggling! It doesn't matter - the important thing is that we understand why Yahweh has commanded His people to celebrate them and to obtain the maximum spiritual benefit from them. Actually, the fact that some of you have forgotten some of the names is why we have these festivals in the first place - as a race we tend to be very, very forgetful, and so need constant reminding. But before I review what we have learned, I thought I would give you a little quiz so that you can assess your own memories. Don't worry, it's a very easy test and I'm sure you'll all pass with flying colours! You'll now get two sheets of paper and a pencil. The first sheet is a banner divided into nine squares, and in each square is a symbol representing one of the nine feasts. The second sheet lists the nine festivals in Hebrew, English, and Norwegian. Each is numbered. What I would like you to do is match the symbols to the names by writing a number a number alongside each symbol. I reckon three minutes should be enough ...
As you can see, two of them were out of order. The next chart shows them in the correct order, with Yom Kippur before Hanukkah. I hope the symbols all make sense to you. We',, run through them very quickly and then I want to show you something rather special.
We begin with Passover (Pesach) which is represented by a Lamb who represents Yah'shua (Jesus), the Lamb of God. Second, we move on to Unleavened Bread (Chag haMatzot), which we observe for a week the day after Passover. You will see a symbol of flat, unleavened bread which the ladies have been baking in large quantities to last us seven days. The third is Firstfruits (Yom haBikkurim), symbolised by harvested and bundled cereal. The fourth, which may have baffled some of you, is Shavuot (Pentecost), which is represented the First Commandment, and marks the end of the whole Passover Season. The reason we use this symbol was this was the time that Moses was given the Torah, or Law, of which the Ten Commandments are a summary. The fifth is Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah), represented by the shofar. The sixth is Atonement or Judgement (Yom Kippur), symbolised by a gavel as used by judges in courts of law. The seventh is Tabernacles or Booths (Sukkoth), represented by branches. These are seven festivals commanded by Yahweh in the original Torah or Law which are to be observed for ever. Had it not been for the Catholic Church and its compromise with paganism, all Christians would be celebrating these festivals today. In fact, more and more of them are as they have discovered how they have been tricked. Millions of Christians today not only observe the true Sabbath but also the Seven Festivals.
But as you will see from the chart there are two more festivals which came into existence later but which were recognised by Christ when He used them to illustrate important Gospel principles. The eighth is Hanukkah, the most recent festival, and finally Purim, the ninth and last, which we celebrated recently.
No doubt some of you are wondering about the number "10" I have written at the top of the chart without a symbol, and that of course is the weekly seventh-day Sabbath, which in a way is a summary of the seven main festivals commanded in the Torah. Thus we have seven compulsory festivals plus two voluntary ones, making a total of nine. To this add the Sabbath, and you have the number Ten, representing the Ten Commandments.
In the Gospel of Luke Yah'shua tells an interesting parable about ten lepers who begged Him to have mercy on them and heal them (Lk.17:12ff). He ordered all ten of them to go and show themselves to the priests and as soon as they had done this they were completely healed. But of all those who were healed only one came back to Yah'shua (Jesus) praising God to thank Him for what He had done for him. And do you know what else was special about this man? He wasn't even Jewish! He is described as a "foreigner".
I don't want you to miss the significance of this for in this event there is a prophetic message for those who will hear. The nine Torah-observant Jews showed no gratitude and went their way, just as the Jews have done historically, rejecting their Messiah. They thought themselves pure and holy, set apart by Yahweh, the sons of Abraham, but they were spiritual lepers like the nine here who ritually observed the nine festivals without understanding them. Then there was the tenth, who represents the Sabbath, who was also diseased, but who praised God and thanked the Messiah. Who, then, was he?
Some friends of mine who are missionaries in Africa tell this story that I would like to relate to you to help you understand who this tenth leper represents.
"Once upon a time, there was a great king who had ten sons. Then one day, the king decided to go on a journey. He called his ten sons before him. He also called for the Prime Minister. He embraced each of his sons, one by one, saying 'Oh, my son.' The king then turned to the Prime Minister and said, 'While I am away, take care of my sons.'
"Soon after the king was gone, the Prime Minister called the sons and lined them up before him for inspection. When he came to son number four, the Prime Minister said, 'You do not look like a royal son.' He took him out of the line-up and sent the boy into the fields to work with the slaves. Then the Prime Minister took his own son and put him in the place of the king's son.
"But the king came back one day, and called the Prime Minister to give an account of how he had taken care of his sons. The Prime Minister said, 'O king live forever. I have done as you have commanded.' He told the king that his sons were well.
"Then the king said, 'Bring in my sons.' As he had done at the first, he embraced them all until he came to the fourth son. Then he said, 'You are not my son. You must be an imposter.' The king turned to the Prime Minister and said, 'Who is this?'
"The Prime Minister replied, 'Your Majesty, your son did not look like a royal son, and so I removed him from the line-up and put my son in his place.'
"'Who gave you permission to do that? 'the king demanded. The Prime Minister was speechless. 'But where is my son?'
"The Prime Minister responded, 'He is in the fields, Your Majesty, working with the slaves. 'This made the king very angry. He banished the Prime Minister and his son from the realm and restored his own son to his proper place in the line-up."
"Tell us, what is the meaning of the story?" the Africans usually ask. The missionary would answer: "The king is Yahweh our God, and the ten sons are the Ten Commandments. The fourth commandment is the commandment that says 'Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.' The Prime Minister is the church, the one He left in charge of the commandments. But the church changed God's day of rest and put another day in its place, a day it chose. But the King is coming back!"
Now as you know the early Church consisted for the most part of Judahites, whom we wrongly call "Jews" (which is a politico-religious description), but were eventually overwhelmed by gentiles. The early Church rapidly apostatised, rejecting more and more of the Gospel, and adding paganism. The result was the Roman Catholic Church. In spite of its apostasy, though, it did preserve the Ten Commandments ... well, nine of them, at least. It changed the fourth commandment by moving the Sabbath say from Saturday to Sunday. The Catholic Church is centred in Rome, Italy, the Romans and Italians being descended from the son of Noah called Japheth.
Several centuries later a monk named Martin Luther discovered that what the Catholic Church was teaching was false and started what we know as the Protestant Reformation. he changed many things that were wrong but never completed what he should have done. The Protestants still only observed nine of the ten commandments, never restoring Seventh Day Worship.
If you look at a religious map and see which areas of Europe you will notice something remarkable: they all belong to the same racial family with the exception of the Finns, Estonians and Latvians: Britain, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Germany, Holland, and Denmark. All of these nations are descended from the northern Ten Tribes collectively known as Ephraim. It was the Ephraimite nations, spearheaded by Britain and her descendants in North America, South Africa, Australia and News Zealand, who took the Reformation across the whole planet, to over one third of the world's people.
The tenth leper who came back to Yah'shua (Jesus) was Ephraim. Though his Gospel was not pure, symbolised by his continued observance of Sunday as the Sabbath, and though as a "foreigner" he never observed the Seven Festivals of Yahweh, but followed the same pagan ones invented by the Catholics like Christmas, Easter, and Lent, yet he was healed and was thankful.
Throughout the Ephraimite lands of Great Britain, Canada and the United States in particular, there is a longing on the part of millions of Protestants to return to the Biblical Truth. Not only are they returning to proper Sabbath Day Observance, but to ALL the Festivals of Yahweh. That's why I put the Sabbath at the top, because once people start obeying the Fourth Commandment, they automatically start obeying all the rest! Obeying nine out of ten isn't enough - in fact, it causes them to disobey many if not most of the 300 or so other commandments which Yahweh has given to us. That is why I have been telling you in recent sermons that it is fatal to ignore what you may suppose are "unimportant" commandments - God demands nothing less than complete obedience. And then His blessings start flowing.
The same process happened with us. The moment you obey the Sabbath along with the other Nine Commandments, you start desiring with all your heart to obey all the rest. Soon after we returned to Sabbath observance we began observing the Festivals of Yahweh, followed by the dietary code, etc.. So why is this tenth leper Ephraim? Because Ephraim is to lead the Church of God in the last days, just as he has been doing since Martin Luther and the Reformers. But he was diseased - unclean - until he learned to obey all the commandments, and in truth no better off than the unbelieving Jews represented by the other nine lepers, who represents the nine festivals of Yahweh being lived without Christ. The tenth leper had the Messiah but he was lacking in Torah.
This evening we shall be celebrating the Passover. This is a special time for us, not just because Passover is so important, but because for the first time ever we have faithfully observed, in the Spirit of Christ, all Ten Festivals - the Sabbath, Passover, Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits, Pentecost, Trumpets, Atonement, Tabernacles, Hanukkah and Purim. It is the first time in our history that we have been true for a whole annual cycle. I will not say that we have done it perfectly, for we are learning, and we have been a bit disorganised for some of the festivals, but our heart was in the right place, I believe. We have come to the number Ten, to the Sabbath, to the grateful Ephraimite, who has been cleansed from the impurity of false religion and worship.
Of course we have nothing to boast of ourselves - all of this has been made possible by the Lamb of God, whose sacrifice we remember this evening in our Passover meal (the Passover Haggadah). Every single item on the Passover Table is of deep symbolic importance and I would like to ask you all to think about what it is we are doing. This is not an ordinary meal - it is a commandment. And because it is a commandment, those who partake of it with pure and honest hearts are promised blessings from it. This is a meal that not only commemorates our distant past when the children of Israel escaped from slavery in Egypt - which is how the Jews celebrate Pesach today - but it is a meal which commemorates our deliverance from the slavery of sin through the blood of Christ. The first was about liberation from physical bondage, the second about liberation from spiritual bondage. And it is for that reason that it is the most involved and elaborate of all the Festivals of Yahweh. It is a sacred gathering. It takes place in the home which is the heart of the Church - remember that the word "Church" in the scriptures means an "assembly", "gathering" or "fellowship" - remember that in the Bible there is no such thing as a "church building" or a "church organisation" - the first Christians met in family homes in small groups, and they were most certainly not registered with the state as legal institutions. Though Christians are, of course, free to meet in large buildings if they want to (and sometimes that is desirable), for the most part Church is a family affair. Our Passover Haggadah is therefore a family occasion - the family of Yahweh.
The key symbol of Passover is the LAMB. Why is this such an important symbol? And why does God use it to represent Himself? What is so special about this animal that it plays such an important part of the Passover Season?
To begin with, the sheep is one of the oldest domesticated animals know to man and has been known to him from remotest antiquity. But it has several other qualities of note. Firstly, it is a very clean animal, unlike a pig, for example. Not only has the sheep been a source of food (mutton) (e.g. Dt.14:4) but also clothing (Job 31:20; Heb.11:37). Who, especially the old, has not appreciated the warmth of sheep's wool? The sheep also has an interesting nature: it is docile and responds to affection. It is a harmless animal. God has used sheep in all sorts of ways. You've all heard of Balaam's ass which God used to rebuke the disobedient prophet, but how many of you know that God also used a herd of sheep rebuke disobedient and rebellious King Saul? Yes, it's true (1 Sam.15:14).
Now you might think that sheep were perfect animals considering the way they are used in Scripture. But they suffer from one major weakness: they suffer from a lack of initiative. And for this reason they are easily lost or led astray. It is for this reason that the prophets, and Christ Himself, compare human beings with sheep (Jer.1:6; Mt.10:6; Is.53:6; 1 Pet.2:25; Mt.18:12, etc.). Take the shepherd away, and it is utterly helpless (Num.27:17; Mt.9:36; cp. Is.14:14; Zec.13:7). Time and time again Yahweh compares His human servants to sheep (Ps.100:3; Ezek.34:31; Jn.21:16ff, etc.) who, inspite of their boastful claim to be able to manage on their own, have shown throughout history how empty that claim is. History is the story of moral degeneration, death and destruction, which repeats itself time and time again because man repeatedly declares his independence from God. The sheep is utterly and pathetically defenceless against the person who would steal his coat (Is.53:7) or demand its life for their own ends (Is.53:7; Ac.7:32; Ps.44:22; Rom.8:36; Jer.12:3, etc.). A sheep is therefore a perfect symbol of man's own morality (Ps.49:14). We read, don't we, of false prophets who go around in "sheep's clothing" because the sheep is symbolic of innocence (Mt.7:15). And when sheep are amongst wolves, they are utterly helpless; however Christ's human sheep, who would otherwise be helpless without Him, have divine protection (Mt.10:16-19).
So here you have the biblical symbol of the sheep - kind, innocent, helpless, useful, and hopeless. Yahweh created this animal to teach us about ourselves - or at least the good part of ourselves. The bad part He likens to other animals like goats and wolves. In many ways the goat is the counterfeit sheep, having a superficial resemblance but having different qualities. False Christians are called goats in the Bible.
That is the story of the sheep. But what of the baby sheep, or lamb? If a sheep may be said to be innocent, then a lamb is surely the epitome of innocence. Think of all the children's fairy tales and nursery rhymes which use lambs to depict sweetness and gentleness. The young of most animals tend to evoke our sympathy and our "Ahhhh!"s, but the lamb is the most special of all. It is not hard for a small child to identify with a lamb. Yah'shua (Jesus), you will recall, had a special heart for children, so much so that he pronounced the greatest condemnation upon those who might harm them in any way, saying it were better for them to be drowned in the depths of the sea with a millstone tied around their necks (Mt.18:6). God has a heart for children - God loves innocence, gentleness, and purity. And He loves it so much that He represented His Son as a little Lamb.
Set alongside this beautiful symbol in the Scriptures is another which can only be described as ghastly for those who are sensitive and love such things. Right along side this picture of tranquility and bliss, as represented by a little while lamb, is another horrific one which is its very opposite.
Even before the Law of Moses lambs were offered as sacrifices until Christ became the last sacrifice. They were killed, roasted and eaten. Why would the God of love, gentleness, purity, and innocence therefore institute such a system? Why would He wish the tender-hearted to be appalled? For only a hardened heart would not be able to feel anything but deep sorrow in watching such a little one die. And yet, the one who feels sympathy and even grief for a little lamb often feels nothing at all for the terrible suffering that he causes the Lamb of God, Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ), when he breaks the commandments. They would rather save an innocent little lamb before living a pure and holy life so as not to cause the most unspeakable suffering to our Saviour. Every wrong do - large or small - has to be punished, otherwise there would be no law of Justice - no equality, no fairness and, ultimately, no love. The sympathy and love you feel for the lamb is supposed to pass to He whom the lamb represents. If you have not felt the same feelings for Christ - and much more - that you may feel for a sacrificed lamb - then you have missed the entire point. The chances are that you have never known the Holy Spirit.
It will not surprise you, having discovered that there are nine Festivals of Yahweh, that there are also nine prophetic symbols concerning Christ and the ritual lamb sacrifices that predated His own death and resurrection. Every single instruction on how the priests anciently were to sacrifice the paschal lamb was fulfilled in Christ's own sacrifice:
(1) The sacrificial lamb had to be without blemish = Yah'shua (Jesus) was examined and found to be without blemish in His character, moral live, and obedience to Yahweh (Mt.21:23; 27:1-2: 11-14; 17:26; Lk.3:2; Jn.11:49-53); (2) The sacrificial lamb had to be the firstborn of that year = Yah'shua (Jesus) was the firstborn Son of God; (3) The lamb was set aside for four days on the tenth day of the month of Nisan = Yah'shua (Jesus) entered Jerusalem and the temple on public display for four days on the tenth day of Nisan; (4) The penalty was imposed the moment the lamb was chosen = Christ received the death penalty for our sin before He was born; (5) The lamb was killed between the evenings at 3 p.m. = Yah'shua (Jesus) died in the seventh hour, 3 p.m. (Mk.15:33-37); (6) The lambs bones were not broken (Ex.12:46; Num.9:12) = Yah'shua's (Jesus') bones were not broken (Ps.34:20; Jn. 19:31) even though the victims of crucifixion always had their bones broken to kill them; (7) The blood of the lamb applied to the door saved the Israelites' firstborn = the blood of Christ saves us; (8) The body of the lamb must be eaten the same night (Ex.12:8) = Yah'shua (Jesus) was crucified, suffered, and died in the same night; and (9) No work was to be done on the Passover. The Israelites could not save themselves. Even if they had spent all night in prayer, the destroying angel would have broken in upon them, and slain their firstborn if the blood was not on the door = the blood of Yah'shua (Jesus) saves us, not our works (1 Pet.1:18-21).
It is a good thing to be revolted by the death of an innocent lamb but until we are revolted by our own sins and broken-hearted over what our sins did to Christ on the cross, we have not really understood the Christian message at all. Although a Christian is to live a moral life, that is something that must flow naturally out of our salvation in Christ, and not be viewed as something we must do to be saved. For in truth we can never save ourselves. And the nine-fold prophecy about the Sacrificial Lamb is supposed to teach us that.
Christ taught in parables to teach us difficult concepts and unfortunately He must do them same by using the living symbol of animal sacrifice to reveal to us the terribleness of our sin and the hopelessness of our ever saving ourselves. If there had been another way, you can be absolutely sure that he would. This graphic symbol, horrible as it is, is frankly the only way that our hearts can ever be penetrated. The natural man simply has no idea of either the consequences of his own lost state - an eternity cut off from all other living beings suffering for the sins which Christ could have forgiven us if we had but accepted Him as Lord and Saviour - or of what He does to God's heart when he lives an impure life of rebellion and sin. If he had any idea, Yahweh would never been forced to resort to so terrifying a symbol of the sacrifice of an innocent beast.
Passover is a time for thanksgiving for those who are saved and a time to be shocked out of complacency for those who are not. This evening we are going to eat roast lamb. One or two of you may find that shocking, but I assure you that the Judeans who were told that they would have to eat Yah'shua's (Jesus') flesh and drink His blood (Jn.6:53-56; Mt.26:26) were a lot more shocked than that. In fact, thousands of His disciples deserted Him when He said that to them. Listen carefully:
"Yah'shua (Jesus) said to them, "I tell you the truth, unless you can eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him" (Jn.6:53-56. NIV).
To be a Christian means nothing less that complete and utter identification with everything that is Yah'shua. That is what we do when we partake of the Lord's Supper every week. In the Passover we shall share tonight we shall be fulfilling His commandment to remember what He did for us - we will be commemorating His death for us. To understand the symbolic meaning of the Passover Haggadah is to understand the meaning of the greatest and most important mystery of the universe. For the Passover Meal is actually a spiritual instruction manual on the mechanics of salvation - what it actually means to be saved, and what living the saved life is. The Passover Meal is therefore to be partaken of with the deepest of respect as though you were there with the twelve apostles during that Last Supper in Jerusalem before Yah'shua (Jesus) was taken away to be crucified for our sins. You will not understand all the symbols in one go - it may take you many years to understand its deeper meaning - and indeed millions of unsaved people partake of it without having a clue as to what it means in the least, failing to see that it is a dramatisation of the lifeline that God is throwing to us before it is too late.
The Passover Meal is God's invitation to you to save your soul, and for the one who is already saved, to abide in Him in love and faith. That innocent Man - guiltless of even one single sin - the unblemished Lamb of God - went to His death on our behalf. By simply accepting that death, by trusting in Christ to purge us of all sin, and to be our Lord and Saviour for the rest of our lives, we are delivered from death itself and all fear of death. Once we are in Christ, we can face the grave knowing that it is but a transit point to something infinitely better. But without Him, there remains only a fearful judgement.
Yah'shua (Jesus) said: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light" (Mt.11:28-30, NIV).
Let us trust in the meek and gentle Lamb of God who went to that terrible place called Golgotha on our behalf, and may He bless you with understanding and a spiritual anointing as you partake this evening in the first and most blessed of the Nine Annual Festivals of Yahweh. Amen.
This page was created on 7 April 2001
Last updated on 7 April 2001
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