The Romance Of Passover

Many Christians have a complicated relationship with the Song of Solomon, or Song of Songs as it’s also called. They skip it when reading through the whole Bible, ignore it in study, and struggle to explain what it’s doing in scripture. Even the idea that the Song is an allegory for the love between God and His people and/or Christ and the church (the dominant interpretation for thousands of years) has been largely abandoned by modern Bible scholars.

In Jewish tradition, the Song is associated with Passover (Pesach) and is read at this time of year. Some say this is just because the song references the spring season. But other rabbis describe this book as the “holy of holies” in the canon of scripture. They accept as a matter of fact that “Israel, in it’s covenant with God made on Mt. Sinai, was married to God” and the people owed Him their “absolute fidelity” (quotes from “Why Do We Sing the Song of Songs on Passover?” by Benjamin Edidin Scolnic).

This assumption explains why the prophets speak so often of Israel’s unfaithfulness to God as marital infidelity. In reference to Hosea, Gerson Cohen said this was “because his Israelite mind had been taught from childhood to think of the relationship between God and Israel in terms of marital fidelity, in terms of love” (quote from “The Song of Songs and the Jewish Religious Mentality”). The Song of Songs might be the most explicitly romantic book in the Bible, but it’s certainly not the only time romantic imagery is used to teach us something about the relationship between God and His people. The Apostle Paul (also a Jewish rabbi) even said after giving instruction to human husbands and wives that “this mystery is great, but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church” (Eph. 5:32, LEB).

Covenants and Romance

So what does all this have to do with Passover? For some writers, the Song actually functions as a midrash on Exodus — a commentary in the form of a poetic, figurative retelling of the Exodus story. With this interpretation, “the Song of Songs, according to the rabbis, is a text which describes the very events that Pesah celebrates and commemorates.” You can read more about this viewpoint in Scolnic’s paper (click here).

Even without turning to Jewish midrash, though, we can find connections between God’s romance of Israel and the Exodus story. Take, for example, one of my favorite passages from Hosea: Read more

Exodus To Corinthians: A Passover Message For The New Testament Church

In 1 Corinthians, Paul makes several references to leavening and to Passover. For many readers today, these references mean very little because so many Christian churches have strayed from the roots of their faith, which Paul was referencing here. In order to really understand key passages of 1 Corinthians, we need to understand Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

I know some (perhaps quite a few) of you are Christians who don’t keep Passover, but I hope you’ll keep reading today’s post. I think you’ll find it interesting and maybe it’ll give you something new to think about and study.

Passover Background

The Passover story begins in Exodus 12. We’re nearing the end of the plagues of Egypt, and the Lord is telling Moses what the Israelite must do to avoid the final plague — the death of the first born. In the first month of the year, on the evening that begins the 14th day (Hebrew days begin at sunset), Israel was to kill a young male lamb, paint the door posts of their houses with its blood, then roast the lamb whole and eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs (Ex. 12:1-13).

This day shall be to you for a memorial, and you shall keep it a feast to Yahweh: throughout your generations you shall keep it a feast by an ordinance forever. (Ex. 12:14, WEB)

The Lord goes on to describe a festival of unleavened bread (matzah) that follows the Passover. For seven days, no leavening (hametz) is permitted in anyone’s house and whoever eats leavened food will be cut off from God’s people (Ex. 12:15-20). Later instructions in Leviticus clarify the timing of all this, stating that Passover is on the 14th and Unleavened Bread begins with a holy convocation on the 15th, then ends with another holy convocation on the seventh day (Lev. 23:4-8). The two holy days are Sabbaths of rest where you are not to work, much like the weekly Sabbath.

The New Covenant Passover

Moving into the New Testament, the gospels make careful note of Passovers that Jesus kept during his ministry. The first is recorded in John 2:13-23. The second is skimmed over, though Luke 6:1 probably references the last day of Unleavened Bread. John 6:4 mentions the third Passover, and Christ’s final Passover is recorded in detail by all four gospels because that was the day He died.

He said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer, for I tell you, I will no longer by any means eat of it until it is fulfilled in God’s Kingdom.” (Luke 22:15-16, WEB)

He then proceeded to institute new Passover symbols for New Covenant believers. Jesus will not partake of the Passover again until the kingdom of God comes in the future, but He tells us to do so in memory of Him (Luke 22:17-20).

For I received from the Lord that which also I delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night in which he was betrayed took bread. When he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “Take, eat. This is my body, which is broken for you. Do this in memory of me.” In the same way he also took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink, in memory of me.” (1 Cor. 11:23-25, WEB)

Exodus To Corinthians: A Passover Message For The New Testament Church | LikeAnAnchor.com
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Honoring Jesus By Keeping The Passover

The passage we just read from 1 Corinthians is one of two obvious Passover references in this letter. Paul goes on to share instructions on how we’re supposed to prepare for Passover, as well as warnings about the dangers of not keeping Passover the correct way. Read more

Finding Hope In Lamentations Through Christ Our Passover

Lamentations is a depressing little book, at least on first glance. It’s composed of 5 poems of mourning that were once part of the book of Jeremiah, but were then isolated so they’d be easier to read in public. Traditionally, the Jewish people read Lamentations each year on Tish B’av, a fast day commemorating the destructions of the temple in 586 BC and 70 AD.

The first poem speaks of sorrow, weeping, misery, and desolation that has come upon Israel. Jeremiah describes the Lord as righteous for bringing such punishment to those who rebelled. The second poem is about the Lord fighting against Israel as an enemy. As a result, there is weeping, misery, and no comfort.

The fourth poem recounts more horrors that happened because of Israel’s sin. It talks about persecutions and punishment brought on them by the anger of the Lord. The fifth poem cries out to God to remember His people, recounting the punishments they’ve already suffered for their iniquities. It ends by talking about God forgetting and rejecting Israel, begging Him not to do so forever.

We now know that God answered this last prayer. He didn’t forget His people or cast them off forever. In fact, God the Father sent God the Son to die in our place and redeem us. The Word became flesh and brought about reconciliation between God and man as our Passover sacrifice.

Even without this perspective, though, Jeremiah was able to have a surprisingly hopeful outlook in the midst of incredibly difficult situations. In the third poem, nestled right in the middle of Lamentations, we find a determination to continue believing in the Lord’s goodness no matter what comes. That’s an outlook we would all do well to imitate. Read more

How Should We Honor The Days God Sets Apart For Him?

Practicing righteousness. Learning to love. Developing the mind of God. Following Christ. Those are all essentials of the Christian life, and there are many “tools” God has given us to help us succeed in these goals. These include prayer, Bible reading and study, the Holy Spirit inside us, and fasting.

God’s Sabbaths and holy days are also vital, and often overlooked, gifts given to help us align with God and His ways. Keeping these days as God commanded helps line us up with His will, reinforces His plan, and deepens our relationship with Him. Just as responding to an invitation to get together with your physical family lets you build relationships with them, so does responding to our heavenly Father’s invitations help us build relationships with Him, our Bridegroom, and the other children in His family.

For many Christians, keeping God’s holy days is a foreign concept because they’ve been (incorrectly) told “that’s just a Jewish/Old Testament thing. But when you start to recognize there’s lasting value in the days God calls holy to Him, you come up against the question, How do you keep the Sabbaths in a way that honors God?

Even if you have been keeping these days for a while, you know this isn’t always an easy questions to answer. There are certain rules and guidelines in scripture, but they don’t answer all our questions. Plus, knowing what to do, and what not to do, in keeping the holy days is about more than a list of rules. It’s about honoring God’s instructions on how to come before Him. So let’s take a look at what God says to do for these days and how we can obey those commands in the spirit and from our hearts. Read more

Understanding The Days That God Calls Holy To Him

Did you know that there are certain days in the Bible that God calls holy? One of these holy times happens every 7 days and we call it the weekly Sabbath. The other 7 holy days happen at set times in the spring, early summer, and fall.

If you’re reading this when it was posted, the fall holy days ended a couple weeks ago and the spring ones won’t start again for 6 months. This in-between time seems to me like the perfect opportunity for those of us who do keep the holy days to reflect on their meaning, along with how and why we keep them. And if you’ve never observed God’s holy days before, I hope you’ll find value in learning about them and maybe even join us in keeping them.

All the holy days are outlined in Leviticus 23, and then expounded on in other passages as well. In this chapter they’re all called “set feasts” (mo’ed) and “holy convocations (miqra). This identifies them as appointments that God has set at specific times for specific reasons. We talked about these Hebrew words, and others that describe God’s holy days, in last week’s post (click here to read it).

Sabbath

“The children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between me and the children of Israel forever; for in six days Yahweh made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed.” (Ex. 31:16-7, WEB)

As spiritual Israel (Rom. 9:6-8; Gal. 3:29; Eph. 2:12-13), this covenant is transferred to us (see post “Inheriting Covenants“). The author of Hebrews talks about this from 3:7 to 4:9, which concludes, “There remains therefore a Sabbath rest for the people of God.” The Greek word sabbatismos literally means “keeping Sabbath” (G4520, Thayer’s dictionary).

The Sabbath (which happens every Saturday) is a time when we stop doing work and other things that clutter our weeks and enter God’s rest. It’s a time to gather with other believers in God’s presence, to learn from Him, and take on His delights as our own. The Sabbath reminds us of His plan, purpose, and presence, and let’s us practice His rest. Read more

What Are God’s Holy Days and Why Would We Care?

Prayer is a time we can choose to come before God however we are, whenever we want, and whatever we need. In these cases, we’re sort of “in control” of the interaction. There are also times when God commands/invites us to come before Him on His terms. Those times when God “hosts” us are His weekly Sabbath and the yearly holy days.

Though I’ve been keeping the holy days outlined in Leviticus 23 my whole life, I hadn’t thought about them quite like this before. My family and I kept the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) with a group in West Virginia this year, and one of the Bible studies there was called “Keeping A Holy Convocation.” It’s one of the best, most thought-provoking messages I’ve ever heard and it’s what prompted today’s post (click here to listen to that Bible study).

I won’t take the time here to address the question of whether or not modern believers should keep these holy days, but you can check out my posts “Top 5 Reasons for Christians to Keep God’s Holy Days” and “Rhythms of Worship” if you’re curious. One reason these days are important to us is that they teach us about God’s plan and His priorities, including who we’re meant to be in Him. They’re part of our identity as God-followers, which makes them a key part of our faith and it also relates to this blog’s theme of finding our true selves in God.

This is probably going to be the first post in a series, since there is so much to explore in this topic and I don’t want today’s post to become unreadably long. So for now, let’s just take a look at the ways God describes His holy days. There are 5 key Hebrew words that give us a picture of what these days are and why we should care about them. Read more