My Personal Exodus from the Bible Belt

Passover665 By: T. Michelle

Passover, or Pesach as I have come to know it in recent years, holds a very special place in my heart. Through Pesach, God unlocked a door in my heart that changed the trajectory of the rest of my life. It started six years ago with an invitation to my very first Seder, a ritual meal celebrated the first night of Pesach.

I grew up in the “Bible Belt” of the United States where there was a church on every corner and Sunday and Wednesday night church were a routine part of our family life. All throughout my childhood and into my college university years, I was trained in the theology and the value system of the conservative stream of Christianity. This is where I gleaned a love for the Word of God and developed a belief in the inerrancy of its truth. Never, in all my years of “church-going”, did I encounter teachings that spoke of the Land of Israel, fulfillment of prophecy, or the Chosen People of God with any modern-day relevancy. The stories of the Old Testament were of the past and we were to read them as a means to understand the nature of God and apply the lessons learned to our personal lives.

Hence, to my astonishment, a whole new world of understanding was opened to me the night I participated in my first Passover Seder meal. I gathered at the home of the leader of my new church community. Little did I know, but my mentor holds a great love for Israel after she spent a number of years in her early childhood living in the Land. That evening, as she and her husband led a group of us young adults through all of the elements of the Seder meal, explaining at each step the biblical and Messianic meaning behind this ancient Jewish practice, I was moved beyond words. The Holy Spirit took hold of me and began teaching me who my Savior is all over again, only now I began to see Him as Messiah. So many thoughts and questions raced through my mind. How did I not know any of this? How much more am I missing? Moreover, how is it that my faith tradition, which so emphatically impressed on me the importance of Scripture, never shared with me the wealth of wisdom that lies in studying the Word from its Hebraic origin, beginning in the book of Genesis?

I had heard the phrase “Passover Lamb” numerous times and I grasped the concept of Jesus (“Yeshua”) being the lamb that was slain for us to receive forgiveness of sins. I knew He was the blood atonement given in place of the old sacrificial system. But I had never truly known the deep, prophetic connection between the ordinances given by God to the Children of Israel in the wilderness and the death, burial and resurrection of Yeshua. The parallels between the feast of Pesach given by God and Yeshua are extraordinary. Yeshua as the Passover Lamb is one of the many symbols that God has preordained from the beginning as a fulfillment of His Kingdom plans. Pesach, as well as all of the other feasts, is associated with Messianic prophesies, both for Yeshua’s first coming and His second. It is a curriculum that God has given us to understand the depths of His Word.

Exodus 12:1-3 Now the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, “This month shall be your beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you. Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying: ‘On the tenth of this month every man shall take for himself a lamb, according to the house of his father, a lamb for a household.

5-8 Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats. Now you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month. Then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it at twilight. And they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses where they eat it. Then they shall eat the flesh on that night; roasted in fire, with unleavened bread and with bitter herbs they shall eat it.

14 So this day shall be to you a memorial; and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD throughout your generations. You shall keep it as a feast by an everlasting ordinance.

God established with the congregation of the Israelites that Pesach will take place on the first month of the Hebrew calendar, Nisan. As ordained by God, on the tenth of the month the unblemished lamb shall be chosen and for four days it shall be inspected until the 14th of the month when it is to be sacrificed. We know from the account in Luke 23:44 that Yeshua died on the cross on the same day and the same hour that the Passover Lamb was to be sacrificed and the veil of the temple was torn in two, forever removing the barrier between God and His people.

As required, Yeshua was a perfect lamb, “without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:19). He was a sinless man in order that He would become sin for us so that we would become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21). In Exodus 12:46 God says, “In one house it shall be eaten; you shall not carry any of the flesh outside the house, nor shall you break one of its bones.” When eating of the lamb, not one of its bones shall be broken. Until this day, the Lamb Shank bone that lies on the Seder plate is not to be broken. The unbroken, unblemished shank bone reminds us of Yeshua’s crucifixion.  The Gospels tell us that the legs of the prisoners on either side of Jesus had to be broken, but when the Roman soldiers came to Yeshua, “they found that he was already dead, [and] they did not break his legs” (John 19:33). Even in this detail we have a record of Yeshua fulfilling the ordinance of Passover. He also fulfilled another Passover statute when He was removed from the tree before evening.

Perhaps the most astonishing part of that evening’s Seder was learning of the matzah (unleavened bread). One large piece of matzah is broken into three pieces and hidden in a 3-pocketed linen napkin. During the Seder, the middle matzah is broken, wrapped in white linen, and then hidden, later to be found by the children at a specified time. The hidden matzah is called the afikomen. To the one who finds the akifomen, to him receives the prize. Just as is recording in the gospels of Matthew and Luke when Yeshua says, “For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” When Yeshua celebrated His last Pesach with His disciples, He gave them matzah as the symbol of His body. The matzah is unleavened, striped and pierced, just as the prophet Isaiah describes the Messiah:

Isaiah 53:5 But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.

That evening, I felt like I was a child who had discovered a hidden treasure. This experience opened my eyes to a new world of curiosity that led me on a passionate pursuit to uncover more treasures in the Word of God and in the promises and commandments He gave to the people of Israel. That same year, God miraculously opened a door for me to live as a volunteer and experience the nation of Israel for the first time, being exposed to Judaism and the traditions of the Jewish people for the first time. It was in those significant six months that I began to discover the breadth and depth of what He showed me that first Pesach. The following year for Passover, I found myself back in America sitting in that same living room listening again to the stories of the exodus of the Israelites through the desert and God’s sovereign provision for them. By the end of the Seder, I was in tears as we recited, “Next year in Jerusalem.” I felt in my heart that this was a promise God was giving me despite not knowing how my return to Israel was ever possible. But just as His promises for the Israelites were fulfilled, so He also made a way for me. Every year since, I have celebrated the Feast of Unleavened Bread in the Land of Israel and grown deeper in my love and knowledge of Him. I can look back now, six years later and recognize that it was in that evening of my first Passover meal that the Lord started a new journey in my life that led me to be living in the Land today. This year, just around the time of Pesach, my Israeli husband and I will be welcoming our first child to be born in Jerusalem. This is a testimony of the goodness and faithfulness of our God, who is committed to His Word, His covenants and His promises to deliver us from the wilderness of death and bring us into everlasting life through the blood of the Passover Lamb, the Jewish Messiah.

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