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A Personal Passover

by Dan Stolebarger


We must see ourselves not just as a corporate group of Believers rejoicing over what has been done in the past; we must see the Passover as part of our present-day experience.

Before Egypt, Yahweh revealed Himself to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (later to be renamed Israel), ending with the chosen son, Joseph. Then there were four hundred plus years of captivity, which evolved into slavery before Yahweh “called” out His people. Until this time God was known as the God of the Patriarchs (I Am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) but soon that title came to an end because He now was calling out a People. So, a leader was chosen and the saga of the Exodus began.

“Let MY People GO!”

Then one plague after another, which interestingly reflected the judgments against the gods of Egypt by the only true God, culminated in the last plague that caused the death of the firstborn; and this we know as the Passover.

Pharaoh could not get rid of the Israelites fast enough. They did not flee in panic but left in an organized manner, taking the time to receive from the Egyptians the spoils and treasures of Egypt. Soon after their departure, Pharaoh had a change of heart and went after them. God had chosen a route to the promised land of Canaan that was not the shortest way (which would have taken them along the Mediterranean), but He chose the way of the desert wilderness, which left the people boxed in with the Egyptian army on one side and the Red Sea on the other. There is a principle here that needs to come to the surface: Have you noticed that God rarely takes shortcuts? And the way of the desert is often the place of both calling and revelation.

Let’s take a moment to recount as best we can the God-consciousness of these people. Remember, before Sinai/Egypt God was known as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. So what understanding of God did the common man have after 470 years of slavery in Egypt? The Sages comment on the importance of the Name of God, for in the giving of His name comes a deeper understanding of who He is.

When Moses encountered God at the burning bush, He asked the Lord a simple question:

Then Moses said to God, “Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they say to me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?”

Exodus 3:13

The Sages in the Chumash give us the following insights regarding this Name:

3:13-17: The Names of God. What is His Name? Obviously the Jews knew the various names of God so that the question cannot be understood literally. God has many names, each of which represents the way in which He reveals Himself through His behavior toward the world. When He is merciful, He is called HaShem, which represents compassion. This Name also represents the eternity of God, for it is composed of the letters that spell, He was, He is, and He will be, meaning that God’s being is timeless. When He exercises strict judgment, He is called Elohim. When He exercises His mastery over nature and performs hidden miracles as He did for the Patriarchs, He is called Shaddai. Thus Moses was saying that once the Jews accepted him as God’s emissary, they would want to know which of God’s attributes He would manifest in the course of redeeming them from Egypt.

 

The name used here is more than a descriptive Name; it is a proper noun, for it is the actual Name of God, and is known as Shem HaMeforash, or the “Ineffable Name.” In respect for its great sanctity, it is not pronounced as written. Instead it is pronounced Adonoy during prayer or when reading from the Torah; in ordinary speech, the word HaShem (the Name) is substituted for it.

I Shall Be As I Shall Be”: This is in itself a Divine Name, as implied by Onkelos, since he does not translate these three words. Rashi explains that the import of the word “I Shall Be” is as follows: “I shall be with them in this sorrow as I shall be with them in other sorrows.” To this Moses replied: “An evil in its own time is enough!” i.e., why should You imply to them that there will be future exiles; isn’t it enough that they suffer now in Egypt? Accepting Moses’ argument, God instructed him to say, “I Shall Be (with them in this sorrow) has sent me to you” (Rashi from Berachos 9b). According to the Midrash, this word also describes God as timeless and eternal.

God is identifying Himself as the timeless and eternal God who is with Israel as a people! So now, as God continued to reveal Himself to this people, we come to the event of the Red Sea where the Sages comment that this was part of the actual “birthing process” going through the water and emerging as a “born again” people of whom it can be said that God is their Lord! But their continued fear of slavery required them not only to see “the horse and rider thrown into the sea” but also to see with their own eyes the Egyptian bodies spewed upon the shore! But the birth process was not over; one thing remained and if this was refused then the Rabbis suggest that the entire universe would have come to an end! What was this dramatic event? The giving and receiving of the Torah.

When the Holy One, Blessed is He, presented the Torah at Sinai, not a bird chirped, not an ox lowed, not a fowl flew, not an angel ascended, not a seraph proclaimed Holy. The sea did not roll and no creature made a sound. All of the vast universe was silent and mute. It was then that the Voice went forth and proclaimed, I AM HASHEM, YOUR GOD! When God revealed Himself to Israel, the world fell silent because this moment was pivotal, not only to Israel but to all of Creation; had Israel not accepted the Torah, the universe would have come to an end.

Chumash – Shabbos 88a

Here we have the marriage—the time and place where God chose a people. And it was through this people that God’s ultimate plan for redemption would continue. A scarlet thread woven throughout the entire fabric culminating at the same mount of the Akedah, where Abraham first heard another name for God, Jehovah Jireh. But this time there was no ram caught in the thicket; this time the One (Yeshua) was to be the ultimate Passover Lamb that was offered for the sin of the entire world.

But the story does not end at Calvary, it just starts a new chapter, one in which we as Gentiles are grafted into the root and thus Jewish history becomes our history. And although the Feasts are not mandated, we should understand them, because in the midst of all the Feasts of Israel is that scarlet cord.

As Believers we should add Passover to our celebration of Resurrection Sunday. We should raise the four cups in remembrance of Him. We should drink the cup of Consecration, Deliverance and Redemption! And we should remember the fact that Yeshua held off from the drinking of that fourth cup, promising to partake of that at our upcoming Marriage Feast! We should hold the matzahs in our hands and see them striped and pierced and be able to understand why the middle was broken, hidden and then revealed!

All of this is a part of Passover and we must see ourselves not just as a corporate group of Believers rejoicing over what has been done in the past, both in the coming forth out of Egypt as well as the coming forth out of Golgotha, but just as the Haggadah states, we too must see the Passover as part of our present-day experience. We must tell our children how God has delivered us out of Egypt! Because simply put, Passover is Personal!


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