How do we remember God’s mighty acts of deliverance? While our memories serve to help us, the process of annual celebrations or holidays ensures that critical events are not forgotten. This is why we celebrate Independence Day or Christmas or any other Holiday. We don’t want to forget.
Similarly, God was insistent that the Exodus event not be forgotten. God never wanted his people to lose sight of the reality that they were slaves but by his mighty hand, they have been freed and will ultimately be brought into the Promised Land, a land of bounty and provision. And so, the Lord created a holiday for his people replete with symbolism to aid in recalling this truth.
The first thing that sets this holiday apart is that it is to be a seven-day celebration. Just as the creation started out under God’s care and culminated in a day of rest, so also this holiday is to begin and finish 7 days later with a day of rest- rest from the slavery of Egypt. It is allusions like these that are picked up in the New Testament to describe the rest Christ brings.
Hebrews 4 is an excellent chapter on the Sabbath rest of God and how the Israelites failed to enter into the 7th day, the day of rest, upon leaving Egypt, but that the 7th day was inaugurated and available to all who have faith in Christ.
“There remains then, a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work just as God rested from his.” (Hebrews 4:9-10)
The next thing God builds into the holiday is the ability to pass on the message of salvation to their children by instructing the Jews to eat bread without yeast. When the Jews were expelled from Egypt the order had come so quickly that the people hadn’t had time to let the bread rise but had to ‘bake and run.’ As a result, yeast took on a variety of meanings over time but was frequently associated with rebellion, sin and pride.
Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast — as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth. (1Corinthians 5:6-8)
If you recall, it was the sin and pride of Pharaoh, which kept Egypt from submitting to God, for he hardened his heart and God subsequently hardened it further. But in the celebration of this holiday, parents are instructed to teach their children about God’s saving acts and how it has been experienced in their own lives. For the Christian, it means an identifying with Pharaoh as a hardened person against God, but by God’s grace his saving act has come and freed us from our own pride and sin. As a result, we can proclaim from where we have come, the land of slavery to our sin and ourselves, and to where we are going, into the land of freedom in the Spirit, because of what Christ has done for us.
There is one last event built into the holiday, however, it is a part of the holiday that is to be remembered all year long. As each animal gave birth or each woman bore her children, the firstborn was to be given to God. Again, this has roots in the first Passover. As the angel of death went through the land, the firstborn of all Egypt was killed and only those whose homes were covered by the blood of the Passover Lamb were spared. Consequently, God instructs his people to re-live this part of history perpetually by either killing the firstborn or redeeming it. In this way not a generation could ever claim not to be saved by the gracious provision of God. Their very lives were God’s and he reminded them of this yearly.
Isn’t this the case with Christ? The Scriptures declare,
“You were bought at a price, do not become the slaves of men” (1 Corinthians 7:23).
The price of our redemption was the blood of Christ offered on the heavenly altar. As people living in this world, our Lord still demands that every family recognize their dependence upon his sovereign grace. For those who love Christ and have faith in his atonement, we are spared death and can share the story with our children, but for those who rebel against God, one thing is required – their death.
The rules around the Passover celebration and the weeklong festival were meant to re-live the truth of salvation throughout every generation. May we teach these things to our children and remember the gift of freedom, which Christ has given to all who believe.