PASSOVER: Redemption through the Lamb
Paramount to all other thoughts in the Passover is the one of redemption. As Jewish people the world round sit at the Passover table every year, they remember God’s faithfulness in delivering His people Israel. Burdened for 400 years under the heavy hand of Egypt’s taskmasters, redemption finally came through the hand of Moses, the servant of God.
Since that epochal moment in the history of Israel, the telling of the Passover story every year is one of the highlights in every Jewish home. Children sit mesmerized wondering if this will be the year that Elijah will come through the door heralding the age of peace, hope and prosperity promised to all mankind when Messiah comes. Expectantly waiting, Jewry longs for that promised time of deliverance and redemption to be wrought by the hand of Messiah. It was the Hebrew prophet Jeremiah who spoke of this greater redemption still to come: “Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that they shall no more say, The LORD liveth, who brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt, But, The LORD liveth, who brought up and who led the seed of the house of Israel out of the north country, and from all countries to which I had driven them, and they shall dwell in their own land” (Jer. 23:7, 8). One day in the future the people of Israel will not look back to the deliverance from Egypt and give thanks to God, but will praise Him for the deliverance from alt the nations to which He has scattered them. Truly, today, we can see the beginnings of this taking place.
One of the central elements in any Passover service is the four cups of wine to be offered during the service. In the Haggadah (the book telling the story of the exodus) that my family used in my youth, it very clearly tells the purpose of these cups as based upon the Scripture in Exodus chapter 6: “These four cups symbolize the fourfold promise of redemption which, according to the Bible, God pledged to Israel; ‘I will bring you forth,’ (Ex. 6:6); ‘I will deliver you,’ (Ex. 6:6); ‘I will redeem you,’ (Ex.6: 6); and ‘l will take you,’ (Ex. 6:7)” (The New Haggadah, Behrman’s Jewish Book House). Four cups of wine, all symbolizing redemption, speak very clearly of God’s future promise of redemption for Israel. It is the fourfold meaning of redemption embraced in these cups of wine, commonly referred to as the cup of sanctification, the cup of praise, the cup of redemption and the cup of acceptance, that I wish to look into in light of God’s future promise of deliverance for Israel.
CUP OF SANCTIFICATION
The first cup of wine drank during the Passover service is called the cup of sanctification. To sanctify means ‘to set apart’. For almost 2000 years the people of Israel have been scattered among the nations of the world. Many of the Hebrew prophets foresaw a time of regathering in the land of Israel after worldwide dispersion. A recurring theme from Moses through all the prophets was redemption from the nations back to the land of Israel.
Ezekiel, as much as any of the prophets of Israel, graphically portrayed this truth. In chapter 37 of his book, Ezekiel was taken by the hand of the Lord and set down in a valley of bones — very dry bones. There is no question as to the identity of these bones because in verse 11 it says: “. . . these bones are the whole house of Israel …” Two things in relation to these dry bones will be helpful. “Bones” speak of death, cessation of life, and “very dry” (v. 2) tells us that this condition has lasted for a long period of time. Destroyed as a nation in 70 A.D. and scattered throughout the world for 19 centuries as a people without a home, the Jews have just recently started going back to the land of Israel. Ezekiel’s vision of Israel as ‘dry bones’ has vividly come to pass.
Within this section of Ezekiel, though, there is another amazing promise. It is the promise that the bones (Israel) will live again. “And when I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered them above, but there was no breath in them” (v. 8). The bones taking sinew and flesh upon them speak of Israel becoming a nation again. In our lifetime we have seen this come to pass. On May 14, 1948 David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, declared Israel as a free nation in this world. As Christians, there is one thing we need to realize: Israel, back in the land today, is God’s plan. God promised that He would bring them back to the land in unbelief (physical restoration), as a requisite to life (spiritual regeneration). A para)llel is Adam who was created from the dust of the ground, and following his creation, God breathed into Him “. . . the breath of life. . .” (Gen. 2:7), and he became a spiritual being. Israel had no spiritual life and with the beginning of her return to the land God has begun His work of sanctification, setting Israel apart from all the nations so that His plan for redemption might come to pass. Illustrated in the last 3 cups of wine is an amazing picture of Israel’s future redemption.
CUP OF PRAISE
The second cup of wine is called the cup of praise. As God delivered Israel from the burden and bondage of the Egyptians and the testings in the wilderness, so He will deliver Israel from a greater trial. Israel’s immediate future is laden with traps and snares. There is a time of unparalleled trouble ahead for that nation, and yet God will once again deliver them. Israel’s weeping prophet, Jeremiah, said about that time, “Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it; it is even the time of Jacob’s trouble, but he shall be saved out of it” (Jer. 30:7).
Once Israel would be back in the land following worldwide dispersion, the Hebrew prophets foretold a time of suffering ahead: a seven-year period (Dan. 9:27) of trouble that will climax with all the nations of the world coming against Israel at the battle of Armageddon. It is “… a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of waste and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness” (Zeph. 1:15); a time characterized “As if a man did flee from a lion, and a bear met him; or went into the house, and leaned his hand on the wall, and a serpent bit him” (Amos 5:19). The portrait painted by Israel’s prophets of this time is one of immense suffering and tribulation; a time of worldwide holocaust, famine and war.
Nevertheless, the God of Israel has promised to be “. . . the hope of his people, and the strength of the children of Israel” (Joel 3:16). His promise is to be with them and deliver them from this time of trouble. As God delivered Israel from Egypt, Babylon, the hand of Haman, worldwide dispersion, Hitler, and the rest of her enemies, so He will deliver her from this time also. It will be a time of deliverance unparalleled in the history of that great nation; a time of deliverance for which Israel will continuously praise the Lord during the Millennial Kingdom.
CUP OF REDEMPTION
It is at the end of the meal in the Passover service that they come to the third cup of wine. Tremendously significant in itself, it is known as the cup of redemption. As Jesus sat at His last Passover before His death, He gave added meaning to this cup of redemption. “. . . He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying. Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Mt. 26:27-28). This cup of redemption was symbolic of the redemption that He would provide in a few hours by the shedding of His blood. The long awaited, promised new covenant (Jer. 31: 31-34} would be instituted with the sacrificial death of Christ, the Passover Lamb.
It is the new covenant of Jeremiah, promised to the nation of Israel, that will be fulfilled at the end of the time of Jacob’s trouble, that seven-year period of tribulation. At that time redemption will come to the whole house of Israel. That greatest of all Jewish men, the Apostle Paul, said: “And so all Israel shall be saved; as it is written, There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob; For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins” (Rom. 11:26-27).
In that day Israel will recognize that Jesus is truly the long-awaited and promised Messiah.. They will realize that not only is He here to bring physical deliverance from their enemies, but to bring spiritual redemption from the effect of sin. Israel will finally find redemption; a redemption that will bring forgiveness of sin, peace to the earth and joy for all mankind; a day when the blood of the true Lamb of God, Jesus -the Messiah, will cleanse that people from their sins.
CUP OF ACCEPTANCE
As the Passover service comes to a close, there is one last cup of wine offered — the cup of acceptance. It is this cup that Jesus referred to when He said, “… I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom” (Mt. 26:29). Jesus knew that He would be despised and rejected by the nation of Israel, just as the prophets had predicted, Israel would turn her back on God’s promised Messiah. Instead of the Kingdom being set up at this visit, the Messiah became the sacrificial Lamb of God who would provide spiritual redemption for all people. John the Baptist’s announcement of Jesus a number of years earlier, “Behold the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29), started to become clearer in the minds of those Jewish disciples. No, it was not at this time that He would drink this last cup of wine with His people. That would have to wait for His second coming, the Kingdom Age, the promised time when Israel would embrace Him as their Messiah and King and they would be received as the children of God.
The prophet Zechariah foresaw this day when he penned that the nation of Israel would “. . . look upon me [the Lord] whom they have pierced . . .” (Zech. 12:10). The promise from God at that time would be “. . . I will say, It [the remaining remnant of Israel] is my people; and they shall say, The LORD is my God” (Zech. 13:9). As Israel accepts her Messiah Jesus, God, in return, will receive them into His family and Kingdom. The lime for the drinking of that fourth cup of wine will have arrived. Jesus, who came first to die sacrificially as the Passover Lamb, will have returned as the Lion of Judah, King of kings, and Lord of lords. Jerusalem will be made a rejoicing and her people a joy, because they will know their Messiah and God.
The fourfold picture of redemption tells a beautiful story of God’s faithfulness. Today Jewish people look back and see that redemption in the Passover story of Egypt, when God through His mighty power redeemed them from Egyptian slavery. We can rejoice, though, in the knowledge that soon Israel will embrace the true Passover Lamb and understand the real promise of redemption in Passover. Jesus, Israel’s Messiah and Passover Lamb, will become a reality to all Israel. May God hasten that day.