The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, 2 “This month shall be for you the beginning of months. It shall be the first month of the year for you. 3 Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month every man shall take a lamb according to their fathers’ houses, a lamb for a household. 4 And if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his nearest neighbor shall take according to the number of persons; according to what each can eat you shall make your count for the lamb. 5 Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats, 6 and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs at twilight. (Exodus 12:1-6)
Today we begin a very significant portion of Holy Scripture. As we read we begin with God’s instructions to Moses and Aaron concerning the institution of the Passover. It will take a little bit of time to work through this section which goes into great detail. The extent of the detail in this section shows us the significance of this event, as we then see references to it all throughout Scripture in the continued remembrance of it, and in the significance of it in the gospels accounting the relevance of it to the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. The Passover is all about the gospel of Jesus. It is filled with the most glorious types of the person and work of Jesus Christ and finds its fulfillment in Him.
In our text today, we are actually going back in time from where we were in our previous passage in Exodus. This communication from God to Moses and Aaron took place before the 9th plague of darkness and Moses’ final warning to Pharaoh. Previously in chapter 11 when Moses warned Pharaoh of the final plague of death, he says that God will do it about midnight. It was that night that God struck down the firstborn. So the Lord’s instructions here in chapter 12, go back several days before that warning, as Israel was to make preparations for the Passover that night. Then after all the instructions in chapter 12, it catches back up to chronological order in chapter 12 verse 29 saying, “At midnight the LORD struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt…” So verse 1 of chapter 12 could very well be translated as “The LORD had said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt…”
In the Land of Egypt
Now why does it say that the Lord said this to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt in verse 1? We already know they are in Egypt. Well, I think it is emphasizing what we could already deduce which is that contained in these instructions for Passover are instructions that are unique and specific to that first actual Passover event, not simply for the continued remembrance of it thereafter. There are unique instructions that were only for that first Passover in Egypt, such as the eating of the lamb in haste with the belt and sandals fastened, the application of the blood to the doorpost and things like that.
In other words, this is THE Passover, all the others to follow were memorial days, or remembrances of Passover.
Now as we get into chapter 12, it begins in verse 2 with this discussion of the beginning of months and days of months. God sets this month as the new first month of the year for Israel. There are several things going on here. First, we must recognize that in Pharaoh’s war against God, he has essentially declared a war for time. We’ve seen Pharaoh’s battle for sovereignty, authority, dominion, the future, and things like that. And in his battle for sovereignty and the future, it is also then a battle for history – who will be the sovereign of history? Who will write the history? Who will be the champion in the history books? In other words, it is a battle for time.
By giving time marked instructions to Israel, God is the one writing the future and writing history. God is the one showing His dominion and sovereignty over time. By declaring a new year, a new beginning of months for His people God is staking His victory flag over time. It is not Pharaoh who prevailed in determining when and for how long the Hebrews may go and worship. Rather, God is freeing His people from a false sovereign and giving His people a new calendar. This is something God does at various times throughout redemptive history.
The New Testament teaches us that there are no days that are more holy than other days and we are not bound by the Jewish feasts and festivals which were fulfilled in Christ. This does not mean that God has surrendered time, but He has now further claimed time through the substance of what those shadows pointed forward to. Jesus Christ died, and rose from the dead on the first day of the week. And so now, by Apostolic precedent, our time is marked a week at a time, gathering for worship with God’s people on the Lord’s Day, the first day of the week. We are commanded not to forsake the assembly, showing that Christ is preeminent over our time and the ruler of it.
Time is marked by God’s redemptive work. At this first Passover, God declared that Pharaoh, the Egyptian gods, and the Egyptian calendar would not mark time for His people. Rather, the time of His people would be marked by His redemptive work.
So what was this new beginning of months for Israel? It would’ve been what would become known as the Hebrew month Nissan, which would’ve been in the spring, somewhere around March or April. Previously, Israel began their year in the fall or autumn, around our September. The fact that God refigured their year to begin with the Passover in the spring is a sign of the renewal of all things, which spring signifies as life and growth and light happens again after the cold and dark of the winter – a seasonal death and resurrection if you will. This of course prefigures the death and resurrection of Christ which took place around the time of the Passover – Christ Himself being the Resurrection and the Life, the renewal of all things.
So God institutes a new era for Israel, a new year, that is instituted with the killing of the Passover lamb. We could say that in a sense an old age is ending and a new age, or era, is beginning with the Passover lamb. Theologically we know that this too signifies the death of Christ, for in His death and resurrection an old world, an old age, an old covenant era was coming to a close, and a new world, a new age, a new covenant was instituted. Not only theologically, but the New Testament itself tells us this, in Hebrews 9:26, it says, “But as it is, he [Jesus] has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” So just as the death of the first Passover lambs signified the end of old age of Israel’s bondage to Egypt and the beginning of a new age under God, so the death of Jesus came to put away the age of bondage to sin and Satan, and begin a new age under the rule of Jesus Christ. Time does not belong to man or to Satan, but to Jesus Christ. He is the first and the last, the beginning and the end, the Alpha and the Omega. Sacrifices and rituals and penance for the putting away of sin do not belong in this time, they do not work in this world. Forgiveness of sins comes only through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ in this time that He has instituted.
Endless sacrifices are done away with, sinners are freed from the bondage of guilt and condemnation for there is NOW now condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. We are freed from the elemental spirits of the world, heathens and pagans may now be freed from the bondage of demons and idolatry. Where is now Pharaoh? Where are the gods of Egypt? Where is Muhammed or Darwin or Marx? In vain do people follow after such false gods, for sin is ended only in Jesus Christ since He appeared at the end of ages to make sacrifice for it. Christ has won the victory over time, for since His death and resurrection sinners have been and continue to be freed from the bondage of sin to worship Him in Spirit and in Truth all over the face of the earth.
So God sets a new time for His people and gives them these instructions for securing a Passover lamb for this Passover event for the number within their households, or with their neighbors if their household is too small to eat an entire lamb.
Lamb without Blemish
In verse 5 it says, “Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old.” Why was it to be without blemish? To show them that that is what was required to cover them from sin and cover them from death. So many ancient religions and false gods required the blood of child sacrifice. That was, for example, the Canaanite religion Israel was continually warned against. And what a dark stain and blemish that was and is. But God is not like those gods. He is doing something different. Indeed animal sacrifice was an abomination to the Egyptians in their false religion. A lamb without blemish, in its prime, the best of the best. But even this would not do forever. This was ultimately about something else. It was not about the sacrifices they had to offer, but about the sacrifice they needed.
Christ is our Passover Lamb
This image of the Passover lamb was carried all throughout redemptive history, in the Passover, in the sacrificial laws that would be established, in the prophecies of the Christ.
Isaiah 53:7, speaking of Christ, “He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet he opened not His mouth; like a lamb that was led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth.” Imagine the numerous laws on sacrificing animals and lambs in the Old Covenant, all the prophets that talked about Israel’s sacrificing of lambs in various ways, this messianic prophecy in Isaiah 53, and then imagine being a Jew and hearing the cry of John the Baptist as in John 1:29, “The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” Imagine the great light of salvation that some saw, and the intense hatred that filled the eyes of others who considered such to be blasphemy. How profound from a prophet as John such as there never was before! The sacrificial messianic Lamb of God is seen and named! John isn’t making up this reference to the Lamb of God that takes away sin on the spot, He is interpreting Scripture through Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Lamb!
And then a former Jew of Jews, the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 5:7, in really what is a passing remark, assuming Christians are reading the Scriptures this way and knew the teaching of the disciples, as John for example clearly shows Christ to be the Passover Lamb in his gospel, Paul then says, “Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed.” When Jesus says in John 5 “Moses wrote about me,” this is one such place – Jesus is the Passover Lamb.
Christ is without Blemish
And in this requirement for a lamb to be without blemish we see the requirement for Jesus Christ, our Passover Lamb. He had to be without blemish. That is to say, without sin. The death of a sinner cannot take away the sins of sinners. Christ had to be without blemish, without sin. Such fundamentals of the gospel are denied even today from heretics and woke false teachers. Even one I saw recently said this: “Racism is sin. Jesus was a racist. Jesus repented of racism.” What vile heresy! Such ones have erased salvation from their false gospel. A Jesus with sin cannot save and is no Savior!
Christ had no spot or blemish from original sin. This is why He was born of the virgin Mary, and not of man. And neither did or does Christ have spot or blemish from actual transgressions committed. He was and is without blemish. Isaiah 53:9, “And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.” 1 Peter 1:19, “but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” Where did Peter get that language? The Passover, the sacrificial requirements!
1 Peter 2:22, “He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.” Where did Peter get that language? Isaiah 53.
Hebrews 4:15, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”
1 John 3:5, “You know that He appeared in order to take away sins, and in Him there is no sin.”
Even from the mouth of Pilate who the Jews were clamoring to to crucify Jesus, Pilate declared the judicial innocence of Jesus in John 19:4, “Pilate went out again and said to them, “See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him.”” Behold the perfections of Jesus Christ, that He was without blemish. Without sin. Without spot. The sinless Lamb of God. We have a Savior who actually saves. We have a gospel that is actually the power of God unto salvation. If there was but one blemish in Christ we would have no hope. He was born without original sin and He remains without committing any sin, in thought, word, and deed! Never once a sinful thought, never once a stray foul word, never once a small slight when no one was looking. What a Savior.
Christ died “Young”
Furthermore, the requirement in Exodus was that it be a lamb without blemish, a male a year old. Why was it to be a male a year old? On the male aspect we certainly see the biblical themes of the son dying for the bride. Certainly there is some play with the boys that were killed – the Hebrews and then in the land of Egypt. And it certainly points to the Son of God. But what about at the age of the lamb? A lamb that is a year old is not like a person that is a year old. A lamb is not an infant at a year old, nor is it in old age. It is not an infant, yet tender. It is grown, but not aged. In this too we see the sacrifice of Christ. Christ was crucified at the age of 33. It is interesting that the requirements for priesthood were that you had to be 30 years of age. So Christ qualified and grown enough, yet He was not old and aged.
In His prime, Christ offered Himself up. He was not in infancy, nor was He in old age, just as a year old lamb was not an infant, nor in old age.
Lamb without Blemish Killed
So they were to get this lamb without blemish a male a year old and have it ready for the 14th day of the month when the congregation of Israel was to sacrifice these lambs at twilight, or between the evenings. And this is the striking thing about this spotless young Passover lamb. This is the vivid picture of the Passover, that all of these lambs would be slaughtered together. All of these slaughterings together between the evenings increased the vivid awareness of death and blood. The striking thing is that the lamb without blemish was killed. It was killed for them.
How we are to be struck with the death and sacrifice of our Passover Lamb, Jesus. How such a one without sin was slain and that He was slain for sinners! How much more awesome is it that the man Christ Jesus was without spot, blemish, and sin, than it was that a literal lamb was without sin! And yet it was that this perfectly righteous Son of God, who did no wrong was violently put to death, and that, in the midst of the congregation of Israel, at their hands, as they cried out for His blood to be on their hands, as if we are to see they killed the Lamb. Oh how awesome in all the weightiness of that word, the death of the Lamb of God in the midst of the congregation of Israel! Yet it was God’s will to crush Him. Yet, as a lamb silent before His shearers so was He. Yet, no one took His life from Him, but He laid it down of His own accord.
Hebrews 9:13-14, “For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit OFFERED HIMSELF WITHOUT BLEMISH TO GOD, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.”
The killing of the Passover Lamb was to show the death of Christ that it was the Sinless dying for sinners. The One without blemish, for those with nothing but blemishes.
2 Corinthians 5:21, “For our sake He made Him to be sin WHO KNEW NO SIN, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”
The Lamb is our Portion
In Exodus we see that they were to take enough of the lamb for each person to have a sufficient portion, and to go in together with neighbors if necessary, for the whole lamb was to be eaten, we see later on. Each one was to have a sufficient portion of the whole lamb. All of the lamb was to be effectual, thus we see the effectual or limited atonement. And herein we also see the sufficiency of the atonement for all to take and eat and have his portion.
The Passover Lamb was to be taken, killed, and eaten. It was not only to be looked upon as a symbol, it was to be taken by each one, and to be fed upon. Here we see how Jesus is to be our portion. He offers Himself to us as our food, our portion, our life. He tells us to take and eat of His body, that we might have life. John 6:53-56, “So Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.’”
After this the disciples’ response is “Lord, this is a hard saying.” “Do you want to go away to?” Jesus responds. And Simon Peter responds, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” To whom else shall you go? Take the Lamb, or die. That was the only two options for Israel. Obey, the Lord, eat the Lamb, or die.
The beautiful thing about Christ, our Passover Lamb, who is without blemish is that He is purifying us His bride in order to present us without blemish, as He is. He takes our sin and puts an end to it in His sacrificial death, and then by His Spirit He sanctifies us and purifies us, and cleanses us from all unrighteousness.
Ephesians 5:25-27, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” The Lamb without blemish is working to present us His bride without blemish. So husbands, love your wives like Christ loved the Church. His love for you and work in you enables you to do so.
In Revelation 20 John saw “the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” Then a few verses down the angel said to John, ““Come, I will show you the Bride, THE WIFE OF THE LAMB.” And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.”
So Church, let no sin be tolerated in your life. For Christ is making us into this beautiful new creation to be His spotless bride, as He his. Let no sin be little enough to tolerate in your life, for your Passover Lamb was without blemish and was put to death for you.
“How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.”
Let us serve the Living God. Amen.