We should never tire of reviewing the historic and miraculous events surrounding the first Passover celebrated by Moses and the Israelites while captive in Egypt. Even though these events happened over 3,400 years ago, they carry deep spiritual meaning relevant to every human being alive today—or who has ever lived—but especially for all those who desire to live the truly Christian life.
The record of the events leading to the Passover and Israel’s release from slavery begins in Exodus 5. Moses and the Israelites were thrust out of Egypt by chapter 12. The period covered is approximately one year. Chapter 13 is a summary of the vital importance of the Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread, which follow immediately after the Passover.
We must remember that God established the Passover and Days of Unleavened Bread to be kept forever (Exodus 13:10; Leviticus 23:5-8). In the near future, God’s true Church will teach the entire world to observe these spring holy days.
For truly converted Christians, Moses and Israel’s history in Egypt is metaphorically a telling of our own spiritual history—just different names and places. Every human being desperately needs to undergo a real Passover experience. Every human being needs to be set free from bitter, bone-crushing slavery. The Days of Unleavened Bread reveal what true slavery is. Every human being needs to escape the clutches of the Pharaoh. Of course, we are talking about escaping Satan’s broadcast (Ephesians 2:2) and his attempt to maintain an iron-fisted hold on our human nature by entrapping us in sin (Romans 8:7; 2 Timothy 2:26).
There is one more important aspect to the Passover that we must always seriously consider: Every true Christian still needs protection from the 10th plague, spiritually!
Return To Egypt
In a previous article, we showed how Moses was reluctant to return to Egypt. He feared both Pharaoh’s resoluteness to execute him for killing an Egyptian taskmaster and the rejection he received from the ill-tempered Israelites when he attempted to set them free his own way—before God’s time had come (Exodus 2:11-14). Yet after miraculous encounters with God on Horeb (when Moses surrendered to God’s will) and in Midian (where God revealed to him that Pharaoh was dead), Moses returned to Egypt in confidence with his brother Aaron as his companion and spiritual support (Exodus 3 and 4). God was then ready to use him as His instrument to lead Israel from slavery.
As Moses and Aaron crossed the border into Egypt, it is likely Moses was still not enthused about facing the elders and the rebellious children of Israel. He likely doubted that 40 more years of hard bondage would have softened their attitude toward him. Immediately upon arrival in Egypt, Moses and Aaron arranged a meeting with all the elders of Israel. As commanded by God, Aaron spoke for Moses. With enthusiasm, he recited “all the words which the Lord had spoken unto Moses, and did the signs in the sight of the people” (Exodus 4:30). What an incredible sight this must have been for a discouraged slave people.
When they heard Aaron and saw the supernatural signs from God, the elders of Israel believed, bowed their heads, and worshiped God. The people were greatly comforted. God had visited them and seen their affliction, and He was ready to take action to free them from cruel slavery (verse 31). Seeing the reaction of the elders and people, Moses and Aaron were ready to take God’s message to Pharaoh. The faith of the elders and people filled Moses and Aaron with courage.
The two brothers marched with zeal to the palace to confront Pharaoh. It is unlikely that Israelite slave leaders could just waltz in to see Pharaoh. The king had probably heard about Moses—he was likely at the top of the Egyptian most-wanted list—so we can assume Pharaoh’s curiosity peaked when the two slave leaders showed up at his door. From the biblical account, it appears Moses and Aaron got right to the point. “Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Let my people go, that they may hold a feast unto me in the wilderness,” they stated (Exodus 5:1).
We can imagine that Pharaoh flared his nostrils and sneered at the aging men. “Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go?” retorted the vain king. “I know not the Lord, neither will I let Israel go” (verse 2). God had told Moses that Pharaoh would stubbornly resist, dig in his heels, and refuse to let Israel leave Egypt. If Moses had doubted God’s view, he did not doubt it now. Yet God’s man was not going to back down.
Moses and Aaron moved closer to Pharaoh and looked him in the eyes. “The God of the Hebrews hath met with us: let us go, we pray thee, three days’ journey into the desert, and sacrifice unto the Lord our God; lest he fall upon us with pestilence, or with the sword,” they said forcefully (verse 3). In other words, they essentially told Pharaoh that the God of the Hebrews was most powerful and would strike him with pestilence and a mighty sword if he did not do as requested.
Pharaoh studied Moses and Aaron. Their eyes were filled with an intensity he had not seen in the other Israelites. These men were not weak. They were leaders, and their people would follow them—unless he could turn the people against them. Pharaoh decided to play hardball! “Wherefore do ye, Moses and Aaron, let the people from their works? get you unto your burdens” (verse 4). The wily king stood and prepared to leave. He took one final glance at them: “Behold, the people of the land now are many, and ye make them rest from their burdens,” he said with disdain. He turned his back and walked away from God’s messengers. With evil vindictiveness, he charged the taskmasters to stop giving the Israelites straw to make bricks. The slaves would have to gather their own straw and still make the daily quota of bricks—an impossible task!
The I Am’s Plans for Pharaoh
For a brief time, Pharaoh gained the upper hand. “Let heavier work be laid upon the men that they may labor at it and pay no regard to lying words,” the arrogant king commanded his ruthless officers (Exodus 5:9; Revised Standard Version). This malicious move created confusion within the work-worn slaves and frustrating turmoil for Moses and Aaron. Crazed with fear, disheveled slaves swarmed the Egyptian countryside to gather stubble, since Pharaoh would no longer give them straw. Inspired by Pharaoh’s evil command, the Egyptian taskmasters became even more brutal than before. When the people could not produce the daily quota of bricks, the Egyptian thugs beat the Israelite foremen mercilessly (verse 14). Pharaoh quickly achieved the effect he wanted.
The Israelite foremen rushed to the palace and cried out to the Gentile king for mercy. The foremen asked why he was treating them and their people so badly. Essentially, Pharaoh pointed his finger at Moses and Aaron. “You are idle, you are idle; therefore, you say, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to the Lord’ (verse 17; rsv). The Israelite officers were furious on hearing Pharaoh’s words. The people who, just a few days before, were so thankful that God had visited them, quickly turned on God’s messengers.
As they came out of their meeting with Pharaoh, they met Moses and Aaron, who were waiting for them. “The Lord look upon you and judge, because you have made us offensive in the sight of Pharaoh and his servants, and have put a sword in their hand to kill us,” they shouted (verse 21; rsv). The bedraggled and dirty slaves scoffed at Moses and Aaron, accusing them of making them stink even worse before Pharaoh.
Moses lost heart. He rushed off to God, fell on his knees, and prayed. “Lord, wherefore hast thou so evil entreated this people? why is it that thou hast sent me? For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in thy name, he hath done evil to this people; neither hast thou delivered thy people at all,” he begged God for understanding (verses 22-23). God answered Moses immediately. “Now shalt thou see what I will do to Pharaoh: for with a strong hand shall he let them go, and with a strong hand shall he drive them out of his land” (Exodus 6:1). These verses are so important to understand. They represent a great breakthrough for Moses.
Remember, Moses had attempted to deliver Israel his own way (Exodus 2:11-14). That plan failed miserably. Here God helped Moses and Aaron see that it would be the I am, who later became Jesus Christ, who would actually deal with Pharaoh. Moses and Aaron were just His messengers.
Study the first eight verses of chapter 6. In these verses, God reveals to Moses a detailed plan on how He would deliver the children of Israel out of Pharaoh’s hands. This was going to take time. Read again the last two verses of Exodus 5. It is obvious that Moses thought God would set Israel free as soon as they arrived in Egypt. Yet God needed time so that all of Egypt (especially Pharaoh) and Israel would come to know Him. God wanted a miraculous deliverance to display His glorious power and almighty strength (Exodus 7:3-5).
Long Patience Everyone
God expected Moses and Aaron to go right back and meet again with Pharaoh. He warned them that they should not expect the obstinate man to obey; however, they were still expected to say everything God told them to speak (Exodus 7:2-4). That’s real pressure. Of course, we must recognize that God was testing and preparing these two men for even greater responsibility. The same God is doing the same thing with His leaders and spiritual Israelites today.
For example, Pastor General Gerald Flurry must speak everything God commands him to say—even knowing that few will act upon hearing the message (Ezekiel 33:31). This is God’s will. Even though it produces pressure, it is wonderful to work with and for God.
Notice Moses’s and Aaron’s great attitude: “And Moses and Aaron did as the Lord commanded them, so did they. And Moses was fourscore years old, and Aaron fourscore and three years old, when they spake unto Pharaoh” (Exodus 7:6‑7). These were older men, but they had a sincere fear of God and were committed to His Work.
Let’s take this thought one step further. Do we see that God uses our personal trials to prepare us for greater responsibility? We must never lose heart during times of severe trial. Every converted member of God’s Church is a king-priest in embryo. We have an awesome calling. However, our calling requires intense preparation and the willingness to do hard spiritual things as required (James 1:2-4). We need to follow the example of the dedicated leaders God has given us since the time of Moses, including Herbert W. Armstrong and Gerald Flurry.
Moses and Aaron marched back to Pharaoh like soldiers on a mission. It was a relief to understand that securing freedom from Egypt was not going to happen overnight. They knew it would happen, just not when. Why did the two men have such zeal? Because they had the faith that the I am would get the job done. God told them clearly what He wanted them to do. Moses and Aaron did exactly as God directed.
Let My People Go—Or Else!
“And the Lord spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying, When Pharaoh shall speak unto you, saying, Shew a miracle for you: then thou shalt say unto Aaron, Take thy rod, and cast it before Pharaoh, and it shall become a serpent” (Exodus 7:8‑9). The message God sent to Pharaoh was direct and simple to understand: “Let my people go, that they may serve me in the wilderness” (verse 16). Then came the “or else” clause, which generally meant a different supernatural plague.
On this, Moses and Aaron’s second visit, Pharaoh did exactly as God said he would: “Show me a sign,” he told God’s messengers. Aaron threw his rod to the ground, and it became a menacing-looking snake. The smug Pharaoh had his answer. He called in his demon-inspired magicians, and they cast down rods that also became snakes. The only difference being, the snake created by the I am ate the other snakes. Still Pharaoh did not budge: “No one leaves!”
Study the following events. Excluding the incident with the serpent, Moses and Aaron returned to Pharaoh nine times with God’s simple message. Nine times Pharaoh returned his “No!” Then came the “or else” clause. It all started the very day after the “serpent” meeting. In the morning, God sent Moses and Aaron to the river near the king’s residence. It was Pharaoh’s habit to either bathe or perform a religious ablution every morning. Moses delivered God’s message (verses 15-18). Aaron, at the command of Moses, turned the waters of the Nile into blood (verses 19-21). Pharaoh’s magicians also did the same, so Pharaoh said, “No” (verses 22-23). The next time it was a plague of frogs (Exodus 8:2). Pharaoh’s magicians also produced frogs. Pharaoh remained unimpressed with God.
It took the 10th Plague
Pharaoh pleaded for a reprieve from frogs. If the plague stopped, he promised to let the people go. It was a lie. Once God had lifted the plague, he said, “No deal.” What was God’s next move? No words delivered—just a plague of lice (Exodus 8:16). When the Egyptian magicians could not produce lice, they delivered their own message to Pharaoh. “This is the finger of God: and Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he hearkened not unto them” (verse 19). Unbelievable! Pharaoh refused to listen to his own magicians.
This is such important history. Please study all the way through chapter 11. As Pharaoh hardened his position, the curses brought on by the plagues intensified. After the plague of lice, all their cattle died of disease. The entire populace suffered miserably from painful boils. God rained down hail with white-hot lightning that caused property-destroying fires and death to humans and animals alike. Armies of ravenous locusts devoured every green leaf and plant in the land. Blinding darkness consumed every bit of light. Each new plague exploded in Egypt because of Pharaoh’s refusal to obey God’s Word delivered by His messengers. It took the most devastating, mind-bending, heart-wrenching plague to convince Pharaoh to set Israel free.
“And the Lord said unto Moses, Yet will I bring one plague more upon Pharaoh, and upon Egypt; afterwards he will let you go hence: when he shall let you go, he shall surely thrust you out hence altogether” (Exodus 11:1). We should recognize that, by this time, the economy of Egypt had been decimated. The plagues had exacted a devastating toll.
Pharaoh is a prime example of the stubbornness of human nature. Yet the all-wise, Almighty God never gives up. He truly wanted Pharaoh and the Egyptians to come to know Him. And if it took the death of Pharaoh’s own firstborn, so be it! The truth is, there are times we can all be as hardheaded as Pharaoh. God continually sends us messages to help us battle against Satan and the sins that “so easily beset us” (Hebrews 12:1-2). Yet we often resist.
The Laodiceans are a prime example. To this day, a vast majority of them have remained unrepentant though God has sent them many messages—including Malachi’s Message, the Trumpet newsmagazine and the Key of David television program. Like the Laodiceans, if any one of us continues to resist God by rejecting His loving messages to us and failing to repent of our sins, we could also end up in the Great Tribulation—the time of the most horrible plagues to ever strike mankind. Fifty percent of the Laodiceans will not repent in the Tribulation, and they will suffer the eternal punishment of the lake of fire—the second death. There is more written in the Bible about the 10th plague than all the other nine. Yet God’s focus in the writing is how to be protected from it.
We Must Keep the Passover
The deep spiritual meat and significance of the Passover account is recorded in Exodus 12 and 13. We should review this history each year in preparation for the Passover. These chapters show us how to obtain protection from the second death. The Israelites’ physical protection from the plague of the firstborn centered on the sacrifice of a lamb. Our protection from eternal death centers on the sacrifice of the Lamb.
Here are God’s instructions to Moses: “Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house …. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year … And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening” (Exodus 12:3, 5-6).
The Apostle John explains that this Passover ceremony is a type of the life, work and person of Jesus Christ (John 1:29). Christ came to Earth as the Lamb of God to take away the sin of the world. This refers to every human being—not just Israelites. We must see how big-minded God truly is. Jesus Christ died for all mankind, which shows that this is not the only day of salvation as many preachers falsely preach.
“And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses, wherein they shall eat it,” God continued instructing Moses. “And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs they shall eat it” (Exodus 12:7-8). Notice that it was the blood of the lamb on their doorposts that protected the Israelites from death. Yet it was eating the flesh of the lamb that provided them with the strength to walk free from Pharaoh and Egypt.
Our Eternal Protection
There is deep symbolism here. “Just as Egypt is a type of sin, Pharaoh is a type of Satan the devil, and Pharaoh’s armies are a type of Satan’s demons! While in Egypt, the Israelites were Pharaoh’s slaves, helpless and powerless under his taskmasters, just as the sinner is in the power of the devil. But when Israel took the blood of the lamb, God acted, and as a result, Pharaoh released Israel. When we accept Christ’s blood [at baptism], God acts, and the devil must release us” (Herbert W. Armstrong College Bible Correspondence Course, Lesson 30).
I recently looked at a Christian commentary on these chapters. I was amazed to discover that even though the author stated that the first Passover represented Christ’s sacrifice at Golgotha, not once did he mention the word Passover—as if it were just a Jewish term. Passover should be a term every Christian knows well and is concerned about. Sadly, this is not the case.
Immediately after the Passover is a second festival called the Days of Unleavened Bread. In Exodus 12, God explains how this festival is to be kept: “Seven days shall ye eat unleavened bread; even the first day ye shall put away leaven out of your houses: for whosoever eateth leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall be cut off from Israel” (verse 15). “Leaven is referred to in the Bible as a type of, or symbol for, sin. For those who have been called to Christ by the Father [John 6:44], putting all leaven and leavened products out of their dwellings and off their property for the seven days of this festival pictures their putting sin out of their lives” (ibid). When a true Christian accepts the blood of Christ, he must strive to come completely out of sin. Not doing so would be the same as remaining a slave in Egypt. The Bible’s instruction on this issue is easy to understand.
Both the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread are to be kept by true Christians forever (Exodus 13:9-10). “Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth,” the Apostle Paul exhorted (1 Corinthians 5:7-8). There are severe spiritual consequences when a true Christian decides not to keep these meaningful festivals.
Keeping the Passover is critical to entering eternal life. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you,” Jesus Christ taught. “Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:53-54). To escape eternal death, a true Christian must feed on Christ, which means doing what He says. It also means loving passionately what Christ is doing through His Church. Do we fully support our Savior and Husband as He expands His Work and the way He works?
Each spring, God gives His people the opportunity to renew their commitment to live the Christian way. It is not the easy way. It is a life of obedience to the Ten Commandments, extensive personal Bible study and personal sacrifice. “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me,” Jesus Christ taught His disciples (Luke 9:23). Jesus Christ risked His eternal life and died for our sins so we can live eternally in the God Family. Now He wants us to follow His example. Are we doing that? If we are, the joy of the reward for doing so—eternal life—will never end. Set aside time to study the wondrous miracles surrounding the first Passover.