by Brian G. Bettes
This is a very special time of year. We are only six weeks away from remembering the work of us being reconciled to our Father, and the salvational work, produced by the sacrifice of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. For those keeping the Holy Days as outlined in Leviticus 23, this time of year focuses our attention on the Passover, a ceremony that was a “shadow of things to come” (Colossians 2:16-17; Hebrews 10:1). Passover represents many things, but, one of the main things it points to is Jesus Christ as our perfect Passover Lamb being sacrificed for us (1 Corinthians 5:7).
The trials that the children of Israel suffered under the hand of Pharaoh prior to the Passover, while God used Moses to bring them out of Egypt, are often compared to the process of our calling and conversion as Christians. It is a process where, even against the opposition of Satan (represented by Pharaoh in the Egypt narrative), God’s delivers us. He brings us out of this world through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ (represented by the perfect, spotless lamb in the Egypt story; Exodus 12:5; 1 Peter 1:18-19).
The killing of the lamb and the application of the blood to the side posts and top of the door was the identifying mark for the bringer of death. It was a sign to pass over Israel’s firstborn and keep them safe from physical death (Exodus 12:7, 13). So the blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ is to cover the life of the first fruits called of God, and keep them safe from spiritual death (Ephesians 2:4-5,13).
To carry the comparison further, in the Egypt narrative, Israel was then led out of and away from Egypt. For a new Christian, this is a symbol of being led out of and away from the world. This occurred during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, a seven-day period when they were to eat bread with no leavening in it (Exodus 12:15). In fact, they were to not have any leavening found in their presence (Exodus 12:19). For the new Christian, this is a symbol of feeding on the body (flesh) of Jesus Christ, who is the Bread of Life (John 6:51).
As a side note, there are those who say that this period of eating unleavened bread is a symbol of putting sin out of the Christian life. However, in the Egypt narrative, that was actually to be done before the beginning of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Exodus 12:15). Looking for leaven (which is compared to sin in the New Testament; 1 Corinthians 5:6-8), and purging it before the start of these holy feasts, is what was commanded. This would also more accurately fit with the instruction by the apostle Paul to examine ourselves prior to Passover (1 Corinthians 11:28; 2 Corinthians 13:5).
The eating of the unleavened bread correctly represents and emphasizes the need for feeding on the only Source of righteousness, Jesus, the Bread of Life. It is more of a reminder of Who sustains us in our new Christian walk by total dependence on Him (John 6:35) than a directive to look for and cast out sin. They were not told to look for and eradicate leaven during these seven days. They were told to eat unleavened bread for these seven days (Leviticus 23:6).
Returning to the Egypt narrative, Israel was led up to and then through the Red Sea (Exodus 13:18). Pharaoh and his army chased after and bore down on the helpless Israelites, ready to swallow them up and destroy them. This is a beautiful comparison for where a Christian is led to a decision point. God wants a commitment from those who will follow Him (Acts 2:38). Every Christian has their story of that moment in their life where there was a very clear decision point where they knew that following God unconditionally was no longer an option. For most, there was a realization that Satan and this world (Pharaoh and his army) would devour them if they did not move forward in a relationship with God.
In the Egypt narrative, God opens the Red Sea and provides a way of escape. The Israelites have to take the walk of faith—literally. You might think this is a no brainer, but it isn’t. There is a decision to be made. Either they died at the hands of the Egyptians, or they trusted God and went through the sea. However, they did not know for certain that they would not die in the sea. They had to trust God in how He was choosing to deliver them.
I don’t know about you, but for me, walking through a channel with high walls of water on either side that could come crushing down on me any second, that is only a choice I make when there is NO chance of there being another route. The vast majority of stories that I have heard from Christians indicate to me that, at the time of choice to follow God, this was the case in their lives. They had seen what living in and following the world had done, and would continue to do to them. Almost in desperation they made a decision of faith, taking the path that God opened up to them no matter where that led them; even if it meant through proverbial high walls of water.
In the Egypt narrative, going through the Red Sea is compared to baptism (1 Corinthians 10:1-2). By tradition, this happened on the last day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The decision to get baptized is a decision of faith, and it is also an open commitment to God. It also represents a few other things. Let’s look at those.
First, this is a no-going-back situation. Once on the other side, and the sea closes back up, how would all of those people get back across even if they wanted to (which they expressed the desire several times). Was God going to open up the sea again just to let them go back into slavery? I don’t think so. The same is true for a Christian. The point here is to emphasize that, once a person makes the commitment to move forward in a relationship with God, there is no going back. Jesus makes that very clear (Luke 9:62).
Second, notice that Pharaoh and the Egyptians either died in the sea, or if any did live, they were no longer able get to the Israelites. They were separated and Israel was now protected from the Egyptians coming after them anymore. Once committed to Him, God puts a significant barrier between his children and Satan and his demons (Job 1:9-10). This does not mean there will not be attempts from Satan to reach a Christian, and that there will not be tests and trials. In fact, scripture is clear that the opposite is the case (Philippians 1:29).
Finally, baptism is a commitment. It is a representation of a death by water burial of the old life we lived, and coming up out of that grave to live a new life (Romans 6:3-4). It is something that every Christian should do. Some people don’t think it is important and that all you have to do is believe. But it is so important as a ceremony that even Jesus Christ, who was sinless, demanded that He be baptized to fulfill righteousness (Matthew 3:13-15). Those who have accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior but were not baptized should consider making that formal commitment to God.
Once on the other side of the Red Sea, the Israelites began a journey toward a land that was promised to them by God. Only a few who left Egypt made it to that land of promise. Even Moses didn’t make it there. As Christians, once baptized, we start a journey toward the promise that has been given to us by God. There is a chance that some of us who made that commitment to walk with God could not make it to our “promise land” (Hebrews 2:1, 4:1, 11). Let us be diligent to ensure we succeed.
The remaining Holy Days show Jesus’ role in fulfilling the Father’s ultimate purpose of reproducing Himself in and through humans…through us. I will cover those as we get to them.
This is an amazing time of year when we have the privilege of rehearsing, through the Holy Days, our calling and conversion. During this time, we put the greatest possible emphasis on Jesus Christ our Savior and His role in securing our place in the Family of God. It is about Him and what He did for us. But remember, He did it for us, so we could become members of our Father’s family.