Another Perspective on Observing Passover
“Blasphemy,” you say to consider another way to observe Passover from its 3500 years of tradition. Bear with me, I respect and honor God’s command to observe Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread, but I believe I have an emphasis on the celebration that should be incorporated into the observance.
Consider that Joseph, a mighty man of God, was in Egypt enjoying the favor of Pharaoh for close to 20 years before he brought his family to Egypt. Consider further, that Joseph and Jacob (the Israelites) enjoyed the favor of Pharaoh1 and the Egyptian people for at least another 70 years until Joseph’s death at 110 years of age.2 It was sometime after Joseph’s death that the Israelites fell out of favor with Pharaoh and then into slavery.
For close to 90 years, beginning with Joseph, there were men and women of God present in the pagan land of Egypt, a land and people ripe for the knowledge of the God of the Israelites. But there seems to be no evidence that this knowledge was being shared.
If my understanding is correct, then it appears to me Joseph and Jacob (the Israelites) all fell short in understanding an important reason for their being in Egypt. They brought with them, to the nation of Egypt, the belief in the power and authority of the One True God, but kept it to themselves.
Perhaps they misunderstood the part of God’s promise to the Patriarchs that His chosen, Abraham’s seed, were to be a blessing to the nations.3 The purpose of the blessing was that those observing and hearing the testimony of this blessed people would seek after a relationship with the God those blessed people served.
God loves His creation. He did not create it for the purpose that He might destroy most of it. Even with Noah He gave His creation plenty of notice to change their ways.
And so with Egypt, He sent His emissaries, the Israelites, to be His witness. He was focusing on turning the greatest nation on earth, at that time, from its pagan ways.
A further underlining of God’s plan for Abraham’s descendants is set forth in Genesis 15:9-13, 17.4 (I suggest you read the footnote.) It is at this time God lays out His vision for Abraham and his descendants with an awesome, graphic demonstration—a diverse sacrifice visited by the flame, smoke and dread of God Himself.
This sacrifice ordered by God is the only place in the Torah where the animals are specified to be three years old. It was with this sacrifice that God affirms His covenant with Abraham. It was here He speaks of the years of bondage, but also opportunity, for Abraham’s future descendants.
Since this is the only time in Torah a three year old sacrifice is specified, I considered what might be the significance of such an event. As the owner of a small flock of sheep, I know that to be able to select three year old animals, you have to have an intimate knowledge of your herd or flock to know the ages of the animals.
Perhaps God is emphasizing His intimate knowledge of His “flock,” His creation. The variety of the sacrifice: heifer, goat, sheep, birds indicated the inclusiveness of the entirety of God’s creation. The specification of female and male indicates the inclusiveness of gender in His plan for Abraham’s descendants.
He underlines His seriousness with palpable dread, fire and smoke much as He would do all those hundreds of years later at Mt Sinai. It was at Sinai that He manifested in fire and smoke before a mixed multitude of native-born, sojourner and gender—heifer, goat, ram, birds as on Abraham’s altar.
God’s heart has always been, that all might be saved. Was is any different toward the Egyptians? Were Joseph and subsequently the Israelites not there on a mission?
The years of bondage in Egypt could, instead, have been years of preeminence. Had the Egyptians turned from their idol worship, God would not have had to make His own case against their false gods with His ten plagues. His promised judgment would have been on an entirely different spiritual basis.
It seems God finally expresses His feeling toward the Egyptians and what could have been the purpose for the Israelites being in Egypt at the crossing of the sea, where He states: “…So I will gain honor over Pharaoh and over all his army, his chariots, and his horsemen. Then the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I have gained honor for Myself over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen.”5
The Israelites could have been those whose testimony brought honor to God. The Israelites could have possessed the gates of Egypt, instead of the gates of Egypt imprisoning them. Talk about lost opportunity to change world history.
God told Jacob He would make Israel a GREAT nation in Egypt.6 Maybe it was easier to believe God meant GREAT in number rather than GREAT because of recognition for the God they served. It is much easier to default to the easy way. Had the Israelites chosen a God-honoring GREATNESS, I believe God’s favor would have given them an eminence in the “opened eyes” of the Egyptians. The Israelites would have left Egypt with possessions given from gratitude, rather than of “good riddance.”
Joseph certainly had his opportunity through the favor he was given with Pharaoh. Yet, Joseph’s own descendant through his son Ephraim would reintroduce a false god—the infamous golden calf.7 It seems no coincidence that this future betrayer of the faith fled to Egypt while awaiting his timing. Perhaps Joseph, too, failed at being an effective witness of the mighty God he knew. Perhaps God allowed Joseph to be the forerunner of His witness to the Egyptians.
That was then, what about now? Let me heed my criticism with a little personal application. What is my response to the sin, paganism and idol worship that abounds in the U.S. today? What bondage am I
experiencing—will yet further experience? Am I a convincing witness to the God I serve? Or, will I fall into the same camp as Joseph and Jacob?
Let me observe and celebrate Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread with a different emphasis than I have in the past. It now becomes an opportunity to repent for my spiritual ancestors’ failings, for my failings to be a more faithful witness. A time not to celebrate the death of an “enemy.” but the grace of God for another chance to share the good news to a corrupt and pagan world.
1 Genesis 47:5-6 …Have your father and your brothers dwell in the best of the land….
2 Genesis 50:26
3 Genesis 22:18
4 Genesis 15:9-13
So He said to him, “Bring Me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old female goat, a three-year- old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” Then he brought all these to Him and cut them in two, down the middle, and placed each piece opposite the other; but he did not cut the birds in two. And when the vultures came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.
Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, horror and great darkness fell upon him. Then He said to Abram: “Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years.
And it came to pass, when the sun went down and it was dark, that behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a burning torch that passed between those pieces.
5 Exodus 14:17b-18
6 Gen 46:3
7 1Kings 12:28