What Does the Word Passover Mean?

On Passover night, God told Moses that He would protect the Israelites if they would slay a lamb as a substitute and put the blood of the lamb upon the lintel and sides of the doorframes of their houses. It had to be a life for a life.

12“On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn—both men and animals—and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the LORD. 13 The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt (Exodus 12:12-13).

God was requiring faith in the blood of the Passover lamb. Without faith it is impossible to please Him (Hebrews 11:6). The Israelites were to take a bunch of hyssop plant and dip the hyssop in a bowl of some of the blood from the sacrificed lamb. The word that is translated into English as bowl is the word sap. It is a word rooted in the Egyptian language meaning the threshold or ditch that was dug in front of the doorways of houses in Egypt to avoid flooding. The blood was shed from the lamb on that night and collected in the sap, the gulley or bowl at the foot of the door. The hyssop plant was dipped in the blood and used to strike the lintel and each side of the doorframe. God wanted to leave the Israelites with an image of a cross over the door. Can you imagine listening to the screams from neighboring houses that had just lost their first-born? “I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture” (John 10:9). There is more to this than first meets the eye. For a number of years, I thought that it was God who was passing by the household of those who had faith in the shed blood of an innocent sacrificial lamb, but this is not the case. The Lord describes what is actually happening in Isaiah 31:5:

5Like birds hovering overhead, the LORD Almighty will shield Jerusalem; he will shield it and deliver it, he will ‘pass over’ it and will rescue it” (Isaiah 31:5).

The context of this passage is one of protection to the city of Jerusalem. He describes Himself as hovering over the city and shielding them from harm. Ceil and Moishe Rosen, in their book Christ in the Passover, has this to say about the word that is translated “pass over:”

The verb “pass over” has a deeper meaning here than the idea of stepping or leaping over something to avoid contact. It is not the common Hebrew verb, a-bhar, or ga-bhar, which is frequently used in that sense. The word used here is pasah, from which comes the noun pasha, which is translated Passover. These words have no connection with any other Hebrew word, but they do resemble the Egyptian word pesh, which means “to spread wings over” in order to protect.

The picture we are to hold on to is that of the Lord protecting us from harm. It brings new light to the passage where Jesus was grieving over the city of Jerusalem when He said: “O Jerusalem! Jerusalem…How often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” (Luke 13:34). The God we have come to know and love wants to bring us close to His heart and to wrap His arms around us as a hen would gather her chicks under her wings and protect them.

23When the LORD goes through the land to strike down the Egyptians, he will see the blood on the top and sides of the doorframe and will pass over that doorway, and he will not permit the destroyer to enter your houses and strike you down (Exodus 12:23).

God Himself is our protection and help. As a separate destroying angel goes through the land, God was hovering over the household—those who had faith in the innocent blood of the substitute lamb over the door. There had to be an element of obedience to God in what He had told them. He comes close, wrapping His arms around His people to protect them and bind them to Himself, not permitting the destroyer to enter their houses. This is what the Passover celebration meal is all about. It is to remind the Israelites of their deliverance from bondage and slavery. What happened in the book of Exodus was just a picture of what God wanted to do through Jesus becoming our Passover Lamb, the substitute that we are to place our faith in. Pharaoh is a picture of Satan, who has had us under cruel slavery to our sins. Egypt is a picture of the world in which we live. Christ is our sacrificial Lamb who has lain down His life to deliver us, if we will place faith in His shed blood applied to the door of our hearts. God wants to presence Himself over the homes of our hearts and to live with us for eternity. Keith Thomas

Who Will Pay Your Debt of Sin?

During a war between Britain and France, men were conscripted into the French Army by a kind of lottery system. When someone’s name was drawn, he had to go off to battle. On one occasion, the authorities came to a certain man and told him he was among those who had been chosen. He refused to go, saying, “I was shot and killed two years ago.” At first the officials question his sanity, but he insisted that was indeed the case. He claimed that the military records would show that he had been killed in action. “How can that be?” they questioned. “You are alive now!” He explained that when his name first came up, a close friend said to him, “you have a large family, but I am not married and nobody is dependent on me. I’ll take your name and address and go in your place.” And that is indeed what the record showed. This rather unusual case was referred to Napoleon Bonaparte, who decided that the country had no legal claim on that man. He was free. He had died in the person of another. This is what God has done for all of us who will receive the full payment of our debt of sin by the sacrifice of Christ

And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors (Matthew 6:12).

In the above scripture, Jesus compares our sins to debts. When we sin we violate the moral law of God and expose ourselves to the penalty of exclusion from God for eternity because of the sin debt that we bring upon ourselves. As debtors of God, in His love for us, He has made a way for us to be forgiven our debt of sin before Him. The only way was for someone to pay the debt. This was what Jesus did at the cross. He died in our place to pay our sin debt and to justify us before God. Here’s how Paul the apostle described what happened at the cross of Christ:

…and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith (Romans:3:24-25).

Simply put, we are justified by God’s goodness to us, just as if we had not sinned. Debt is not a problem confined to the present day; it was a problem in the ancient world as well. If someone had serious debts, their only way out was to sell themselves to pay their debts, either that or the law courts forced slavery upon them. Suppose a friend happened into the market just as he was being sold and asked the price. Suppose that friend then paid his debt and let him go free. He would be redeeming him. In a similar way Jesus paid the “redemption fee” to buy us out of Satan’s slave market of sin.

Paul uses the words “justified freely.” Justification is a legal term. If you went to court and were acquitted, you were justified. Two people went through school and university together and developed a close friendship. Life went on and they both went their different ways and lost contact. One went on to become a judge, while the other one ended up a criminal. One day the criminal appeared before the judge. He had committed a crime to which he pleaded guilty. The judge recognized his old friend, and faced a dilemma. He was a judge so he had to be just; he couldn’t let the man off. On the other hand, he didn’t want to punish the man, because he loved him. So he told his friend that he would fine him the correct penalty for the offence. That is justice. Then he came down from his position as judge and wrote a check for the amount of the fine. He gave it to his friend, saying that he would pay the penalty for him. That is love.

This is an illustration of what God has done for us. In His justice, He judges us because we are guilty, but then, in His love, He came down in the person of His Son, the Lord Jesus, and paid the penalty for us. In this way He is both ‘just’ (in that He does not allow the guilty to go unpunished), and the one who justifies—Romans 3:26 (in that by taking the penalty Himself, in the person of His Son, He enables us to go free). Isn’t it time you received for yourself the payment of your sin by another—the Lord Jesus? Keith Thomas

The Main Thing Must be the Main Thing

I have spent a lot of time at sea being a commercial fisherman in my younger years. When you are out there in one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world, the Dover straits of England, you get to see all kinds of boats and ships designed for all kinds of jobs. But for us as fishermen, our purpose was to catch fish. It could have been easy to waste time doing all kinds of things out at sea that we were not designed for. Now that God has called me to work on His net, I don’t want to get to the end of my life and find that I invested myself doing things that wasted a lot of time, energy and money. The main thing must be the main thing! What is the main thing the church of Jesus Christ is called to spend herself on? Paul says that it is the gospel: For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile (Romans 1:16). The gospel of Jesus Christ, when it is presented correctly and believed, brings about a radical change in the very core being of the believer. Paul, in the passage above, called it the power of God. Without this encounter with Christ, there is no change within:

And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3).

Every effort of the Church is to preach the gospel to bring about this change in the hearts of people all over this world. Some people believe that if they work hard at reforming their lives and live like a Christian, that is being a Christian. Let me tell you something important: You cannot become a Christian by living the Christian life. To live the Christian life, you have to have the Spirit of Christ living in you. He is the only One that can live the Christian life. Here is how Merrill Tenney put it,

“Christianity is not a system of philosophy, nor a ritual, nor a code of laws; it is the impartation of a divine vitality. Without the way there is no going, without the truth there is no knowing, without the life there is no living.”[1]

You must have Christ in you, living and seated on the throne room of the temple of your life. God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27).

We can help feed people, we can teach them to have better marriages, we can bring them into community with others, but if we do not help them to see that they need the main thing—to be reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:20), all our efforts are for nothing. The main thing is to help each person we can to be born-again of the Spirit and living the life of Christ. This is not the job of the professionals or the gifted leaders; it is the job of all that name the name of Christ. I am convinced that if we can help each Christian to learn how to share the gospel, a revival will break out that will be world wide.

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have (1 Peter 3:15).

As Christians, we should be ready and prepared at any time to share the essence of what the gospel is, and how the person interested can know peace with God through what Christ has done for them.

Keith Thomas

[1] Merrill C. Tenney, John: The Gospel of Belief (Grand Rapids, Mich: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1948) Pages 215-216.

The God Over All Impossibilities

15God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. 16I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.” 17Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?” 18And Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!” 19Then God said, “Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him (Genesis 17:15-19).

Imagine what that was like when Abraham and Sarah had to tell their neighbors and friends that their names had now been changed to mother of princes and father of many with Abraham being 100 years old? Do you think they were ridiculed? Sometimes the people of God, in order to follow Him wholeheartedly, must endure ridicule in their walk of faith.

Moses, the person who wrote the Book of Genesis, spells it out plainly to us, the person leading the team of three is YHVH. In the English translation of the Bible, whenever the name LORD is capitalized, as it is in verse one, thirteen and fourteen, the Hebrew word is YHVH. We have added vowels to the name to help us to pronounce the name more clearly, making it JeHoVaH, or YaHVeH. YaHVeH says that He will return to them about the same time next year and that when He does, Sarah will be a mother to a son (v. 10).

Inside the tent, Sarah, when she heard the LORD say that she would be a mother at ninety years old, laughs within herself (Verse 12). She thinks of the impossibility of it all, a woman of ninety that is worn out with age and long past childbearing ability, and Abraham being even ten years older than her, how could this be possible? Inside her mind she laughs at the thought. She utters not a sound, but the Lord knows her thought. He asks Abraham:“Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ 14Is anything too hard for the LORD? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.” 15Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, “I did not laugh.” But he said, “Yes, you did laugh” (Genesis 1813-15).

God is omniscient, which is a word that means that He is all knowing. He knows all things in the universe and in all creatures at all time, whether it is something in the past, present or future. God knows them all perfectly. God’s knowledge is absolute and unacquired. He never has to learn anything. This is omniscience.

29Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. 30And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows (Matthew 10:29-31).

The writer, A.W. Tozer, has spoken of God’s omniscience in this way:

“God knows instantly and effortlessly all matter and all matters, all mind and every mind, all spirit and all spirits, all being and every being, all creature hood and all creatures, every plurality and all pluralities, all law and every law, all relations, all causes, all thoughts, all mysteries, all enigmas, all feelings, all desires, every unuttered secret, all thrones and dominions, all personalities, all things visible and invisible in heaven and in earth, motion, space, time, life, death, good, evil, heaven, and  hell.”[1]

This is an appearance of YaHVeH in human form that is visiting with Abraham along with two of His angels. Most scholars believe that this divine being that is talking with Abraham is the Lord Jesus before His birth by Mary. The Lord Jesus is revealed as the divine YaHVeH (John 1:1-3), who hears every thought, and knows all things:

30Now we can see that you know all things and that you do not even need to have anyone ask you questions. This makes us believe that you came from God” (John 16:30).

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you” (John 21:17).

There was a gentle rebuke about Sarah’s laugh of unbelief. How would you feel about hearing from a total stranger that you were going to have a baby next year, when you have been waiting for a baby all your married life? Oh yes, and now it is physically impossible, and you hear that it is going to happen at the age of ninety! Sarah realizes that this being called YaHVeh has heard her thought while in her tent—her laugh was not audible, and He is speaking about her personal future and the dream that she has waited for all this time! To realize that God knows her every thought is to also know that this same God can do anything. She is told by the messenger, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” (Verse 14). Whatever you are dealing with, know this; God understands your frustration, unbelief, and your struggles, and is aware of your thoughts. It does not stop Him from being able to provide the answer. Keith Thomas

[1] A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy (New York, Harper and Row, 1961) p.63.

Waiting for God.

16Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael. 1When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. 2Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.” 3Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, 4“As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. 5No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. 6I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you (Genesis 16:16-17:6).

When we look at the life of Abraham, we see a man who had learned to wait. The end of Genesis chapter sixteen points out to us that Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael, but chapter seventeen tells us that nothing had happened for 14 years until God finally spoke to him again at ninety-nine years of age (Genesis 17:1). What can we learn from what is not written about that time?

Why do you suppose God made Abram wait so long? What work does God do in a person through making him or her wait? Some of the greatest lessons I have learned have been in times of waiting. God does His best preparation work in His servants in the waiting times. The prophet Isaiah gives us a picture of the preparation of a servant of the Lord:

Before I was born the LORD called me; from my mother’s womb he has spoken my name. 2He made my mouth like a sharpened sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me into a polished arrow and concealed me in his quiver (Isaiah 49:1-2).

For every servant of God called to do an important task for the Kingdom of God, there is a preparation time that is compared to the making of an arrow. There is a personal calling, then a preparation of what issues out from his lips, a cleansing of his language. He or she are also drawn close to the Lord, an intimacy under God’s hand before a polishing of his character.  And then, lastly, there is the concealment in the quiver. During this phase of training and preparation, a man or woman of God are not allowed to do anything that is “seen” by the world, at least for a time. He or she is called to be in hidden ministry that has to wait until the right timing to be shot in ministry from the Lord’s bow. Think of Moses and his having to wait forty years while shepherding his father-in-law’s sheep in the wilderness of Midian. God made him wait until he was eighty years of age before the Lord would use him to bring the children of Israel out of Egypt. He definitely had to endure the hiddenness and waiting of the quiver!  Imagine how hard it would have been for him to be trained in the best schools of Egypt, and then do nothing seemingly of value while he shepherded the sheep in the desert. Why would God do that to a man? The greater the task, the greater the training. It is hard to wait for God’s timing, but it is part of the training. Keith Thomas