Our family, like Jewish families across the globe and across the centuries, celebrates the Passover – the story of God’s deliverance of the Israelites from the tyrannical Pharaoh, who, with each successive plague, promised freedom from oppression, only to change his mind repeatedly. It was the final plague, the death of the first-born, of “every firstborn son of Egypt … from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, to the firstborn son of the female slave … to the firstborn of the cattle as well,” (Exodus 11:5) that Pharaoh finally relented and let God’s people go.
The story is filled with sadness and horror as the land and seas were covered with blood, frogs, gnats, flies, torrential hail, locusts and more and yet … in the land of Goshen, where the Israelites were … not even a dog barked … demonstrating, with vividness, that the LORD made a distinction between Egypt and Israel (Exodus 11:7). And it was the blood of a spotless lamb that was slaughtered as a sacrifice that was put on the sides and tops of the door frames that spared the Israelites from the death of their firstborn (Exodus 12:12, 13).
Even today, at Passover Seders around the world, a place is set for the great prophet Elijah, who is to come before the great and terrible day of Yahweh, the Messiah (Malachi 4:5). A full wine glass is reserved for him and the door of the house is propped open so that he may herald the coming of the Messiah.
As a child, I remember watching and waiting for Elijah and, we were often told, that the wine in the beautifully adorned glass, had indeed gone down some and that Elijah had come to our home. But as the years went by, I wondered, “If Elijah had come, where was the Messiah?,” a question that never received a full or satisfactory answer.
It was only when I became in believer in Yeshua (Jesus), who I and many other Jews believe was and is the long-awaited Messiah, that all of this began to make sense. It was John the Baptist, who predicted a day of judgment, similar to what Elijah had preached, who was the spiritual successor to Elijah. John “will turn many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God,” and he will go forth “in the spirit and power of Elijah,” (Luke 1:16-17.)
As our family celebrates the Passover annually, we remember the toil and tragedy of the Israelites and the Egyptians, yet we also celebrate, with thanksgiving, that the blood of Jesus “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world,” (John 1:29) has brought us true and eternal freedom – from sin and from judgment.
And even more spectacular than all of this is the coming Kingdom of God where we will see and worship “a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne,” (Revelation 5:6) when we, with “every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them,” are saying, ‘To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” (Revelation 5:13).
Even so, come quickly Lord!