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A Lamb for a Household

A Unique Passover 2020

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6 Apr 2020
A Lamb for a Household

“This year’s Passover will be different to all Passover celebrations,” an Israeli friend recently told me. “We all will be celebrating it household for household and family for family. No extended family visits are allowed.”

The new health regulations to curb the spread of the Coronavirus have changed for the first time many ancient Passover traditions for the Jewish people in Israel. Passover observances were usually big family gatherings where everybody came together to celebrate this major feast of the Lord. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently declared in his annual pre-Pessach address that this year’s Passover will be different: “… we will adopt the celebration of Passover like our forefathers in Egypt – Passover at home! Every father and mother will celebrate Passover with the children that live in their home.”

As my friend spoke to me, I was reminded of the very inception of Passover, when Israel was in Egypt. God commanded the Israelites: “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.’” (Exodus 12:3)

Household redemption
The concept of household redemption lays at the very core of the biblical Passover account. The blood of the Passover lamb was to be applied to the doorpost of every Jewish home in Egypt. “For the Lord will pass through to strike the Egyptians; and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the Lord will pass over the door and not allow the destroyer to come into your houses to strike you.” (Exodus 12:23) The blood of the Passover lamb was a sign to God that blood had been shed in every household where it was applied, and they were spared. In a way, the Coronavirus regulations have forced a reset of traditions – at least for this year – back to how it began some 3500 years ago.

I had the very same feeling of a reset when our congregation in Jerusalem gathered for the first time after the new health rules were put in place. We did not meet in our usual meeting hall, but we met at home. We were all connected via Zoom and sang worship songs, while our pastor shared from the Bible. Then we had Communion and I saw on the screen how we shared bread and wine, like every month, yet we all did it in our homes.

“This is how the early church started!” I thought; “… breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart” (Acts 2:46) . Back 2000 years ago, it was a church that had its nucleus in the various houses, yet it was so powerful that it impacted and changed the entire world.

Talking recently to a pastor from China, I discussed with him the recent wave of repressions that the Chinese government is carrying out against the churches in his nation. I was surprised at his reaction. “This is good,” he said. “The freedom in recent years had turned us into very ‘Western‘ churches where we held large gatherings that were platform driven. Now we are forced to go back to our homes,” he added. “This is how revival came to China.”

Today, in the midst of the Corona crisis, I sense that God has pushed the reset button in our lives and we are forced back to the essentials, to the nucleus of society. We are reduced to our relationships to our Lord and to our families! While the crisis is a difficult season that is costing many lives and livelihoods, it also can represent a tremendous opportunity which we should not miss. Being confined to our homes can be a rare moment that might not come back to us again – an opportunity to renew and restart our relationship with God. This unique time should invigorate our prayer life, our time in the word of God, and the fellowship with His presence.

It also provides an opportunity to refocus on our families. Make sure to establish a family altar in the midst of this unusual time. God commanded His people: “A fire shall always be burning on the altar; it shall never go out.” (Leviticus 6:13) Let me ask you: Is the fire burning on your family altar? Are you using this time to gather as a family in prayer and studying the word of God?

Remember, Passover is about family salvation. When God called Noah, He commanded him: “Come into the ark, you and all your household, because I have seen that you are righteous before Me in this generation.” (Genesis 7:1) The ark was built for Noah and all his household. Jesus did not just die for individuals but for “you and your house.” Abraham was promised that in him all the “families” of the earth shall be blessed (Genesis 12:3).

Joshua also, in his last speech to Israel, took a bold and prophetic stand. He was not sure if Israel would decide to fully follow God. Yet he declared – no matter how Israel would choose – “as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!” (Joshua 24:15) So use this unique time to make the same commitment for your own family. Jesus is the lamb for your household!

Unusual Times in Israel
Here in Israel, this Passover is indeed different from any other year I have experienced it, and most likely to any year before my time in Jerusalem. On the first day of the month of Nisan (March 26th), the month when the Passover holiday is celebrated, the Chief Rabbinate of Israel called for a period of national repentance leading up to the actual Passover holiday. He referred to Exodus 12:2, which states that the month of Nisan is the beginning of the biblical year and he declared this season should be like the ten days of awe between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur – a season of repentance, prayer and fasting.

Israel as a nation demonstrates a spirituality different to most nations in the world today. In a recent TV interview regarding the Corona crisis, Prime Minister Netanyahu was asked about what his message is to Israel in the midst of this global health scare. His reply was to the point: “First, we all must pray to God that the Corona plague ends.” The journalist rudely interrupted him, suggesting the nation should pray to the Weizmann Institute of Science where critical Corona research is occurring. To which he responded: “Yes, but they are also praying at Weizmann.” Unusual words for a prime minister.

Days later in his Passover address, Netanyahu made a unusual reference to the blood at the doorpost in the Passover account of Exodus: “Just like the Exodus from Egypt, our mission is clear: and God will pass over the door and not let the Destroyer enter and plague your home.”

Here in Israel, we all sense it is a special time. When my friend stated: “We all will be celebrating it household for household and family for family.” … another passage came to my mind from the Hebrew prophet Zechariah:

“And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn. In that day there shall be a great mourning in Jerusalem, like the mourning at Hadad Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. And the land shall mourn, every family by itself: the family of the house of David by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Nathan by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Levi by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of Shimei by itself, and their wives by themselves; all the families that remain, every family by itself, and their wives by themselves.” (Zechariah 12:10-14)

God showed Zechariah that the time of spiritual renewal and the revelation of “him whom they have pierced” will take place family by family and household by household. Never in the history of Israel was a there a time when Passover was celebrated in such a manner like today, household by household. The Talmud asks the intriguing question for whom do they “mourn as for his only begotten son”? The Sages answer in the tractate Sanhedrin that it was on behalf of ‘Mosiach ben Yoseph’ who was killed.

Jewish tradition distinguishes between Mosiach ben David, the kingly Messiah who will rule like David over His people, and Mosiach ben Yoseph – the suffering Messiah who is to be killed to place the kingly Messiah on the throne.

Christian tradition also views Joseph as the greatest foreshadow of Jesus Christ in the book of Genesis. Sold by his brethren (and intended to be killed), he became a lifesaver and redeemer among the Gentiles. All the world came to Egypt to buy bread from Joseph (Genesis 41:57). And just as all the nations came to buy bread, his own brothers, the other sons of Jacob, arrived as well to seek his favor. Yet they did not recognize their brother, as he looked, talked and behaved like an Egyptian, a foreigner. After hiding his identity from his brethren for some time, the moment came when Joseph could not hold back anymore and he finally revealed his identity to his brethren (Genesis 45:1ff). But before he did so, he did something interesting: “he cried out, ‘Make everyone go out from me!’ So no one stood with him while Joseph made himself known to his brothers.” (Genesis 45:1)

Early in March, Israel began closing down its borders and ports of entry to foreigners, with only Israeli citizens and full-time residents allowed in. No one else was allowed entry and every visitor already here had to leave. In a similar way, the revelation of Joseph to his brothers was a personal, intimate affair within the family, with no Gentiles present.

I never could have imagined how both Zechariah 12: 14 and Genesis 45:1 could possibly be fulfilled. Is this the season of the fulfillment of these prophecies? I do not know. But it is surely an unprecedented dress rehearsal of that glorious future day. What amazing times we are living in!

Conclusion
In closing, I ask you to pray for Israel in these days as never before. This is an unusual Passover and we are praying and believing that God will do mighty and unusual things in our midst, as in days of old.

Also, in whatever part of the world you read this, remember that Jesus is the lamb for your and my household. No matter how big your family problems might be, Jesus is more than able to help. Maybe you have given up hope for close family members that are not following the Lord. Jesus is the lamb for your house. Make a bold statement today and declare like Joshua did: “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” May the Lord bless and answer you as you do so! 

 

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