Passover: Timing is Everything (Part 4)

If you’ve read  part 3 of this series, I ended with my understanding of the beauty of the precision of the moment of the meal.  However, there’s another aspect of the timing of Passover that is unique but still consistent with the core theme.  In Numbers 9, on the anniversary of the original Exodus, some additional guidelines are put in place. 

Numbers 9:5 “And they kept the Pesach in the first month, on the 14th day of the month, between the evenings, in the wilderness of Sinai, according to all that YHWH commanded, so the people of Israel did. And there were certain men who were unclean though touching a dead body so that could not keep the Passover on that day, and they came before Moses and Aaron on that day. And those men said to him, “We are unclean though touching a dead body. Why are we kept from bringing YHWH’s offering at it’s appointed time among the people of Israel?”

Certainly, these men weren’t guilty of a sin. Touching a corpse is a dirty job but somebody has to do it. Would YHWH point to the door to freedom, peace, and divine protection, and then bar the innocent from entry?  Moses goes to YHWH to get clarification, which demonstrates an important principle about how YHWH’s instructions work. They are often delivered with certain and heavy language to demonstrate the Holiness of the principle, but on a case-by-case basis, the nuances are endless. This is what’s known as the “Divine tension” (not a contradiction nor an inconsistency) between the spirit and the letter of the law. Here is YHWH’s response to Moses intersession:

If any one of you or of your descendants is unclean through touching a dead body, or is on a long journey, he shall still keep the Pesach to YHWH. In the SECOND month on the 14th day, between the evenings, they shall keep it.” (Numbers 9:10-11)

This backup date has become known as Second Pesach.  Pesach magnifies His mercy and grace, and the very existence of Second Pesach underscores that truth.  Although his grace is amazing, there’s no other feast which offers such a failsafe.  You can’t postpone the Sabbath day to Wednesday, for example, and despite Jewish tradition to the contrary there’s also no do-over Sukkot.  It’s not within our jurisdiction to create new holidays or change the dates of His to suit us.  With Pesach, however, YHWH so desires that we come in through the door, that he makes this one exception.  YHWH isn’t done:

“But if anyone is clean and is not on a journey fails to keep the Pesach, that person shall be cut off from his people, because he did not bring YHWH’s offering at its appointed time; that man shall bear his sin.” (Numbers 9:13)

This back-up date does not mean we come to YHWH on our own terms.  The idea of coming to the cross “as we are” has been highly abused. Grace is not free, and salvation does not work according to our plans, or definitions, or on our own schedule.  His grace is not chaotic. His plan is perfect, it is specifically defined, and we enter into His kingdom only on His terms and on His schedule.  Second Pesach shows YHWH’s heart to make Himself and His promises available to everyone, especially since he knows the chaotic nature of the world we are desperate to exit.  However, the invitation still requires us to align our lives with His grace—not the other way around.

If you’ve been taught that the New Testament expands YHWH’s grace beyond the restraints of the Old Testament, consider the parable Messiah told in Matthew 22:1-14.

“And again Yeshua (Jesus) spoke to them in parables, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come.  Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready.  Come to the wedding feast.”’  But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them.  The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.  Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy.  Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’  And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment.  And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless.   Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’  For many are called, but few are those who choose.”

The actual wedding supper itself is a feast called Sukkot that occurs in the fall, but Pesach represents the perpetual invitation offered to all of humanity since the invitation was first given to Abraham.  Most of the invitees assume its just junk mail and throw out the envelope, unopened. Even many of those on the mailing list, those who supposedly know scripture and prophecy, self-defined Jews and Christians, have also ignored this invitation—instead choosing to go about their own business uninterrupted.  Throughout history, prophets both famous and unnamed, have been sent out to the nations to amplify and clarify this same invitation.  But Yeshua is telling us in no uncertain terms that we are not allowed in “as we are”.  Yes, we read the invitation “as we are” but like any important occasion, there are expectations before we walk in the door. “Becoming clean”, the condition of the men in Numbers 9, is the same criteria Messiah uses in this parable.  In less Levitical terms we’d call this cleanliness “repentance”, or as “circumcising our heart”.

The third greatest Passover in history (after Messiahs death and the original Exodus template) exemplifies the spirit of both Second Passover and Messiah’s parable.  It occurs in 2 Chronicles 30.  It’s lengthy, so stop and read it for yourselves. If you’re a cry baby like me, and can’t finish it through your tears, here’s a breakdown:

Due to the sin of Jeroboam, which I’ve brought up ad nauseum in several prior posts, the majority of the People of God had NO IDEA that Passover was for them. Jeroboam had created false holidays, specifically to distract from YHWH’s holy days, and this era in 2 Chronicles is literally Israel’s LAST CHANCE to accept the invitation.  The very next year their nation would be invaded by Assyria, and they’d be somewhat permanently banished from the Promised Land.  Just like in the parable, they would be punished for their lack of repentance and obedience, despite their fleshly desire to associate themselves with YHWH’s name, without following the directions.  Knowing time was short, The King of The Jews (Hezekiah) sent out an invitation far and wide to everyone who was willing to repent and return to the true ways of YHWH.  This is what the invitation said:

“O people of Israel, return to YHWH, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, that He may turn again to the remnant of you who have [thus far] escaped from the hand of the kings of Assyria. Do not be like your fathers and your brothers, who were faithless to YHWH, God of their fathers, so that he made them a desolation, as you see. Do not now be stiff-necked as your fathers were but yield yourselves to YHWH and come to his sanctuary, which he has consecrated forever, and serve YHWH, so his fierce anger may turn away from you. For if you return to YHWH, your brothers and your children will find compassion with their captors and return to this land. For YHWH is gracious, and merciful, and will not turn his face way from you, IF YOU RETURN TO HIM.”  (vs 6-8)

The response was so great that Jerusalem was overwhelmed with wholehearted non-Jews, many of whom were ceremonially unclean (exactly like the men in Numbers). Hezekiah prayed for these unclean men:

“May good YHWH forgive everyone who sets his heart to seek God, YHWH, the God of his fathers, even though not according to the sanctuary’s rules of cleanness.”  And YHWH heard Hezekiah and healed the people! 

Not only did YHWH’s grace allow for a Second Pesach to honor the invitation, but their unclean flesh was made clean through contrite, circumcised hearts, in line with intercessory prayer from a righteous King of the Jews. This event wraps up with “the Levites and the priests praised YHWH day by day, singing with all their might to YHWH.” “Then the whole assembly agreed together to keep the feast FOR ANOTHER 7 DAYS!” “So there was great joy in Jerusalem, for since the time of Solomon the son of David king of Israel there had been nothing like this in Jerusalem.” (vs. 21, 23, 26)

Could this upcoming spring be our last chance to repent, our last chance to enter the door of Pesach, the final call to enter the ark?  It sure is raining hard if you haven’t noticed. “Concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of the heavens, nor the Son, but the Father only.” (Matt 24:36)   My prayer is that before that final day and hour, we see a revival like Hezekiah’s.  We might not see the crowds centralized around a physical temple.  It’ll be one family at a time, one house at a time, one death-proof door at a time.  We need to personally answer that invitation as well as encourage our neighbors to do the same.  The spirit behind the Feast is even more powerful today as it was in the very last days of ancient Israel.  We have the additional evidence of it’s truth, through the testimony of Yeshua, and the powerful intercessory prayer of the Eternal King of the Jews.

Even a month late, timing remains everything.

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