1 - 5 Observing the Second Passover
1 Thus the LORD spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the first month of the second year after they had come out of the land of Egypt, saying, 2 “Now, let the sons of Israel observe the Passover at its appointed time. 3 On the fourteenth day of this month, at twilight, you shall observe it at its appointed time; you shall observe it according to all its statutes and according to all its ordinances.” 4 So Moses told the sons of Israel to observe the Passover. 5 They observed the Passover in the first [month], on the fourteenth day of the month, at twilight, in the wilderness of Sinai; according to all that the LORD had commanded Moses, so the sons of Israel did.
Here we have another time indication that heralds a historical part. On 1-1-02, the first day of the first month of the second year after the exodus, the tabernacle was erected. Next we find what is described in Numbers 7. That then runs until 13-1-02. The following day, the fourteenth day, the Passover is celebrated.
The first Passover was celebrated in Egypt. So here we read about the second Passover. Only in Joshua 5 do we read about the celebration of the Passover for the third time (Jos 5:10). Wouldn’t it have been celebrated in the wilderness? God has prescribed its celebration as an eternal ordinance for the generations to come (Exo 12:14). Yet we read in the Bible only seven times in total about an actual celebration of the Passover (Exo 12:11; Num 9:5; Jos 5:10; 2Chr 30:15; 35:1; Ezra 6:19; Lk 22:15). It is reminiscent of the sparse times that the Lord’s memorial is celebrated in Christianity.
There is a connection between the Passover in Exodus, Numbers and Joshua.
1. In Exodus, its celebration is unique. It refers to the moment a person comes to conversion, is redeemed and enters the wilderness, all on the basis of the blood. Israel could not leave Egypt without Pascha. For man there is no way out of the world without the death of Christ.
2. Also after that God wants us not to forget the Passover lamb. During our wilderness trip (Numbers) we celebrate it every first day of the week.
3. God also wants us to be aware that we owe all our heavenly blessings (Joshua) to that Lamb.
Thus we see the Passover Lamb at the beginning of the journey, during the journey and after the journey has ended.
The Passover is a reminder of their salvation and a symbol of their unity as a people. The Lord’s Supper has the same thought. It reminds the members of the church of Him Who redeemed them – “Do this in remembrance of Me” (1Cor 11:24-25) – and expresses the fact that the members of the church are “one bread, one body” (1Cor 10:17). God gives these symbols – the Passover for Israel and the Supper for the church – to prevent the thought of unity and redemption from being lost.
The Passover is celebrated here for the first time as a memorial. Salvation is still fresh in the memory. They have experienced salvation. Every child of God has that experience of salvation, but as an experience of faith. By celebrating the Supper, the salvation experienced back then comes to us again and again with power, we are always reminded of it.
6 - 12 Pascha Celebration in the Second Month
6 But there were [some] men who were unclean because of [the] dead person, so that they could not observe Passover on that day; so they came before Moses and Aaron on that day. 7 Those men said to him, “[Though] we are unclean because of [the] dead person, why are we restrained from presenting the offering of the LORD at its appointed time among the sons of Israel?” 8 Moses therefore said to them, “Wait, and I will listen to what the LORD will command concerning you.” 9 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 10 “Speak to the sons of Israel, saying, ‘If any one of you or of your generations becomes unclean because of a [dead] person, or is on a distant journey, he may, however, observe the Passover to the LORD. 11 In the second month on the fourteenth day at twilight, they shall observe it; they shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. 12 They shall leave none of it until morning, nor break a bone of it; according to all the statute of the Passover they shall observe it.
Wilderness conditions sometimes cause hindrances to the celebration of the Passover. That may be in case of defilement. It is not about someone being unfit as a believer. By nature, every believer is unworthy, but he has been made fit by the Lord Jesus. However, our walk can make us unfit and that without wanting it ourselves. This is not about a conscious sin. This is about the touch of a corpse, perhaps accidentally, perhaps necessary because someone had to be buried there. It is not impurity that has come forth from himself.
That it is not a conscious sin, is also shown by the fact that these men are going to Moses. The men show sensitivity towards the Passover by indicating that their touch with death prevents them from celebrating it now. They are also not satisfied that they will only skip it once. They go to Moses with their problem. We see their good mind and desire in two directions: they are not indifferent to their defilement, nor are they indifferent to the Passover.
Moses does not pretend to know the answer to their question. It is true greatness to say that you don’t know something and go to God with it in the confidence that He will answer. Moses approaches God on behalf of these men to ask Him and presents this case to Him. God answers. We always see that in Numbers. Ask Him and He tells you what to do. God provides for every circumstance where the people do not know what to do. God always maintains His holiness. Impurity makes unfit, but He does give a solution. He provides circumstances in which such a person can celebrate the Passover.
In His answer He gives a way out. He also adds another case that someone was unable to celebrate the Passover. That is in case someone is not able to celebrate because of a distant journey. By being on a distant journey someone has removed himself from the place where the LORD is. That is a choice of its own. Application: if we do not see someone in the meeting for a number of weeks, it may indicate that such a person is on a distant journey, i.e. spiritually far astray. We have to take care of that. We can’t miss anyone. God also values the celebration of the Passover. It is not a matter of indifference to Him if anyone does not celebrate the Lord’s Supper, the remembrance of the Lord.
13 Guilty Negligence
13 But the man who is clean and is not on a journey, and yet neglects to observe the Passover, that person shall then be cut off from his people, for he did not present the offering of the LORD at its appointed time. That man will bear his sin.
The way out which the LORD gives is that the Passover may be celebrated in the second month. In this He provides in His grace. But if the person concerned does not make use of it again this time, he must be cut off. Then there is intention. One application could be to say to someone who repeatedly for no reason does not celebrate the Lord’s Supper, that he cannot celebrate it until he realizes that he wrongs the Lord Jesus.
In a spiritual sense, we are all in the second month’s circumstances. Some have come from church systems where death has taken its toll, others have come home from a ‘distant journey’. In many local churches only a small part of the entire church meets in that place. Many are still in a place of Christianity where death reigns; many are also still on a distant journey.
God still gives this opportunity, as in the days of Hezekiah (2Chronicles 30-31). We read of those days: “For a multitude of the people, … had not purified themselves, yet they ate the Passover otherwise than prescribed. For Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, “May the good LORD pardon everyone who prepares his heart to seek God, the LORD God of his fathers, though not according to the purification [rules] of the sanctuary.” So the LORD heard Hezekiah and healed the people” (2Chr 30:18-20).
This regulation does not mean that God lowers or loosens His standards. He never does. We must not become more flexible in our assessment of who can and cannot take part in the Lord’s Supper. What applies to the first month also applies to the second month. Never should weakness in the testimony change the standards. But God does take the circumstances into account and we must do so too.
14 The Passover for the Alien
14 If an alien sojourns among you and observes the Passover to the LORD, according to the statute of the Passover and according to its ordinance, so he shall do; you shall have one statute, both for the alien and for the native of the land.’”
The alien who sojourns with the Israelites is also obliged to keep the Passover for the LORD. It is an alien who, by being circumcised, has become part of the people of God: “But if a stranger sojourns with you, and celebrates the Passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near to celebrate it; and he shall be like a native of the land. But no uncircumcised person may eat of it. The same law shall apply to the native as to the stranger who sojourns among you” (Exo 12:48-49; cf. Ezra 6:19-21).
15 - 23 The Cloud
15 Now on the day that the tabernacle was erected the cloud covered the tabernacle, the tent of the testimony, and in the evening it was like the appearance of fire over the tabernacle, until morning. 16 So it was continuously; the cloud would cover it [by day], and the appearance of fire by night. 17 Whenever the cloud was lifted from over the tent, afterward the sons of Israel would then set out; and in the place where the cloud settled down, there the sons of Israel would camp. 18 At the command of the LORD the sons of Israel would set out, and at the command of the LORD they would camp; as long as the cloud settled over the tabernacle, they remained camped. 19 Even when the cloud lingered over the tabernacle for many days, the sons of Israel would keep the LORD’s charge and not set out. 20 If sometimes the cloud remained a few days over the tabernacle, according to the command of the LORD they remained camped. Then according to the command of the LORD they set out. 21 If sometimes the cloud remained from evening until morning, when the cloud was lifted in the morning, they would move out; or [if it remained] in the daytime and at night, whenever the cloud was lifted, they would set out. 22 Whether it was two days or a month or a year that the cloud lingered over the tabernacle, staying above it, the sons of Israel remained camped and did not set out; but when it was lifted, they did set out. 23 At the command of the LORD they camped, and at the command of the LORD they set out; they kept the LORD’s charge, according to the command of the LORD through Moses.
The provisions God has given so far relate to the establishment and holiness of the camp. Now come the facilities for the trip itself. There are two: the cloud (verses 15-23) and the silver trumpets (Num 10:1-10). Both means show that the people are completely dependent on God when they walk through the wilderness. The cloud is there “continuously” (verse 16). What a special concern of God! The special privilege of the guidance of God through the column of clouds is referred to several times in the history of Israel (Psa 105:39; Neh 9:19).
With the cloud we can think of the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the believer’s life to give him directions for his going through the wilderness of this life. However, the personal aspect is not paramount. The cloud here is in fact the covering of the tabernacle, which is called here “the tent of testimony”. God has entrusted us with a testimony. He wants to give a testimony of Himself through us to the world. For this the Holy Spirit came to dwell in the church.
The first time the cloud shows the way, after the redemption from Egypt, is to lead them to the Red Sea (Exo 13:21). It is a picture of the guidance of the Holy Spirit Who, after redemption, will lead His people. The second time we see the cloud when it takes position at the entrance of the tent of meeting erected by Moses outside the camp (Exo 33:9).
The lifting and settling down of the cloud are described in detail here. The whole path of the people is connected to the lifting and settling down of the cloud. As the cloud indicates, the people must act. The people as a whole, not just the few, must aim for it. Even as local churches, we should not plan our own way, but surrender our way to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
God wants every local testimony of the church to pass through the wilderness. Every exercise in a church is related to watching the cloud. In questions about allowing someone to take part in the Lord’s Supper, or in the case of removing sin from the midst of the church or any other form of care, we must pay attention to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Also in the night the cloud is there to determine our walk. In the night the cloud looks like a fire. Everything is presented in a childishly simple way. It is the sure way of blessing for testimony. Everything must be done at or according to “the command of the LORD” (verse 18 [2x], verse 20 [2x], verse 23 [3x]), a command expressed in the movements of the cloud.
The people can go a certain way if they watch the cloud and act according to what it does. Because the people never know when the cloud will stop or move forward, it is necessary to constantly look at it. For each step we depend on the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Taking action without His guidance only brings misery, as well as staying where we are, while the Spirit urges us to do a certain work or make a certain decision.
Paying attention to the guidance of the Holy Spirit is also important in discussions of brothers with a certain responsibility in the church. It is not a matter of business minded brothers, who can talk best, but of whether there is real dependence on the Holy Spirit in a spirit of prayer. Not only a case must be clear, but also the time of action. No time is lost when we wait for God’s time. In order to act in the right way and at the right time, it is necessary to always look upwards. Our actions and the time when we should act, should not be dictated by what we see around us, for example, in business.
We must give the Lord the opportunity to lead us. He wants to lead us through His eye. He can also lead us through bit and bridle (Psa 32:8-9). In the latter case, He keeps us under control so that we do not take the wrong path. In the first case there is fellowship with Him in going the right way. Therefore, we should not ask if the Lord wants to stop us when we are in danger of going wrong, but rather entrust ourselves to Him and ask for His will. Then we will not act until we are certain that something is His will.