Posts Tagged ‘passover


famous lambs

Passover begins tomorrow night so I thought it would be interesting to see how lambs are written about in the Bible.

Sheep are often mentioned in the records of the ancient Near East. They were valued for a great many things such as being a source of milk, meat, and wool for clothing. Lambs were particularly valuable for their future – what they would produce. In addition sheep were used to tread grain into the soil and as sacrificial animals.

The first place that sheep are mentioned in the Bible is in Genesis when we read the Abel “brought the firstborn of his flocks” to the Lord. The Hebrew word for “flock” is “tzon” which is often translated “sheep.”  So the first offering that we read about in the Bible is a lamb.

The next famous place we read about a lamb is when Abraham tells Isaac that God would “provide for himself a lamb” rather than making Isaac be the burnt offering. But when God does indeed provide a substitute for Isaac, it is a ram and not a lamb. What does this mean? I will come back to this, but the point is that the second famous lamb gives us the picture of a the offering as a substitute for a person.

The most famous lamb in the Hebrew Scriptures is the Passover lamb which died so the first born could live and the Jewish people could be redeemed out of Egypt. We see in the first three well know uses of the lamb in the Bible is as an offering; a substitutionary offering and an offering for deliverance. In the Torah lambs are also used in the levitical offerings. Isaiah builds on these themes when he refers to the suffering servant who takes out sins upon himself as a lamb led to slaughter in Isaiah 53:7.

In the New Covenant, John builds on the lamb themes of offering, substitution and deliverance when we read of Yeshua, “behold the Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world!” He is using the concept of the Passover lamb, and the sacrificial lambs as well as Isaiah’s lamb – offering, substitution and deliverance –   to describe Yeshua. But Yeshua is not just described as a lamb – but rather the “lamb of God” the greatest lamb of all. Yeshua identified himself as the “Passover lamb” when he told his disciples at a Passover seder that the  matzo and the third cup symbolize his body and blood. Throughout the New Covenant, Yeshua is identified as the Passover/sacrifice lamb. See Acts 8:32; 1 Cor. 5:7 and 1 Peter 1:18-19.

The pinnacle of New Covenant references to Yeshua being the lamb is in the book of Revelation. In this book, he is identified as a lamb more than any other name or title! In fact the whole book of Revelation can be framed as a “second exodus.”  There are plagues, there is an evil regime, and there is deliverance by the blood of a lamb – there is even a seder!!.  When you read this apocalyptic book carefully you see that the lamb is the hero. the lamb is the only one who can bring forth the historical developments that will result in the final redemption. The lamb is the judge of the earth; the lamb defeats the enemy, the lamb redeems the righteous remnant. The lamb has the identity of God – not another god but the God of Israel.  In revelation 5, we read about the lion from the tribe of Judah   becomes a lamb. The powerful lion is victorious but not by military means but rather by being a lamb, a valuable, vulnerable, precious lamb who was slain. This lamb is described as having horns. I have a friend who is a farmer who told me that when a lamb grows horns, it becomes a ram. So the lamb in Revelation 5 is a lamb/ram. If you go all the way back to the first book of the Bible we read that Abraham told Isaac that God would provide a lamb but what did he provide? A ram!!  The lamb was a ram! In the last book of the bible,  the lamb  who was slain is a ram.   In his humiliation and suffering, Yeshua brought deliverance and victory. What looked like his most humiliating moment was in reality his finest hour.

There is much more to say about the lamb of the apocalypse of John. But for now, let us rejoice that when we celebrate Passover, we can point back to  our redemption out of Egypt.

But through the blood of the passover lamb of God, Yeshua,  we can look to the present where we can experience the forgiveness of sins and deliverance from the bondage of sin  we can   look  forward to our final redemption – the redemption of our bodies and of the world – through Yeshua the blood of the lamb.

“Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.” (Rev 5:12 NAU)

Happy Passover!


Passover Journey

I am writing this post as I wait for a connecting flight from Newark to Columbus. I am returning from officiating at my aunt’s funeral and visiting family. My aunt was 100 years old and died very peacefully. It was my first visit to my hometown without having a home in the town. A little over a year ago my parents sold their home and moved to Columbus to be near me and my family. With no siblings it was a little different staying in a hotel in the city where my parents have always lived and where I always have had a home. I still have several cousins and an aunt and uncle whom I am in close contact but it is still a little strange.  My father is in his 90’s and my mother is in her late 80’s and neither is in good health. With Passover so close, my mind has been preoccupied with the thought of the “journey of life.”  Passover is about the journey. Every year it reminds us of the long journey of the history of the Jewish people as well as our own personal journey of life.  There are sweet times like the charoses and there are bitter times like the maror.  But when does the journey end? What is the final destination? Are we always waiting for a connecting flight as I am here in Newark? Will there always be celebrations and difficulties – the ups and downs of life? Are we forever on the journey?   The answer depends on how much weight you put on the truthfulness of the Scriptures and in the reality of God.

The prophet Isaiah wrote these encouraging words to Israel during a time of great turmoil and disappointment.

Though youths grow weary and tired,
And vigorous young men stumble badly,
Yet those who wait for the Lord
Will gain new strength;
They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary. (Is. 40:30-31)

Isaiah says it is not about being young or strong or vigorous –it is about waiting; hoping in the Lord. So no matter what happens in life, God will never abandon us; he will comfort us; he will sustain us. This is true for us as individual Jews and Gentiles who are followers of the Messiah   as it is true for us as the Jewish people.  In the Brit Chadashah, Paul writes about the trials and tribulations of being a follower of the Messiah.

we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing;
 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;
 always carrying about in the body the dying of Yeshua, so that the life of Yeshua also may be manifested in our body. 2 Cor. 4:8-10
He is saying that there is great difficulty but he endures. He is not forsaken; he is not destroyed; he is not lost.  He can say that because he trusts in the Lord. He knows that the Messiah has come. He know that the Messiah has risen from the dead, assuring his own resurrection.   The sufferings of the Messiah gives meaning to his own suffering.   The sufferings of Yeshua displayed the power of God. Paul is saying that his own sufferings display the power of God in the fact that he can endure and therefore “defeat” the suffering like the Messiah did. He knows that there will be a resurrection of the dead. We can also say that our own suffering has meaning in the suffering of the Messiah.  By enduring the difficulties of life, we display the power of God as we endure and remain faithful to God and to his promise of resurrection.  This does not mean that we should suffer; it means that when we suffer there is meaning  just as there was meaning in the sufferings of the Messiah. This is our personal hope and it the hope of Israel. The sufferings of the Jewish people also display the power of God. Historians will tell you that given the history of the Jews, there really should not be a Jewish people today. Our survival is a testament to the power of God and to his faithfulness to his covenant promises. From a human perspective, the survival of Israel is a testimony to the hope that has sustained our people for thousands of years. Even though most of our people do not yet accept Yeshua as the Messiah, many still hope in the promises of God.   The suffering of Yeshua give meaning to our people’s sufferings in that Yeshua is the personification of the history and destiny of Israel. He suffered and died and rose from the dead.  This is a powerful statement that   sustains us on the journey. It is prophesied in the 37th chapter of Ezekiel which describes dry bones which enter a process of coming together and rising from the dead – the sufferings, death and resurrection of Israel. There will be a day when our people will indeed recognize Yeshua.

This leads us to   the destiny of the journey. I have spoken here mostly of the journey itself but the Scriptures are clear that there is a destination.  As I wrote above there is a resurrection of the dead. This is our hope. Daniel writes about the destiny of individuals – that those who follow the Lord will arise to everlasting life and the rest to everlasting contempt.  The destiny to those who arise to everlasting life is described as a place called a “New Heaven and a New Earth.” We read this is Isaiah ch. 65 and in Rev. 21. It is described in glorious terms. It is important that we read these passages often and remember that the journey does indeed have a destination. It is a wondrous place in which there is not more death, or crying, or disappointment or misunderstanding or persecution or war or suffering of any kind. It will be a place in which there will be world peace and security.  When life gets us down let us remember that the Messiah came in order to prepare us and to prepare this place for us.  At his last Passover Seder he taught his disciples:   

In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. Jn. 14:2-3.

This is the hope of Israel. The day will come when our people will recognize that Yeshua is the Messiah. Israel as a people will reach the destination. The journey for Israel will end with a glorious arrival.  But for individual Jewish people as well as all people our personal journey ends when we die. That is why it is so important to repent of our sins and turn to God and believe in the Messiah who takes away our sins. In this way we assure our own future destiny in the New Heaven and New Earth. This is my hope and I trust it is yours as well.  Yeshua is our Passover!  Chag Sameach!