Patterns of Evidence: Exodus

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My most popular post on this blog has been, by far, Meshing Egyptian and Biblcal Timelines, which has prompted a lot of discussion in its comments section. The issue of Egptian chronology is one I had absolutely no knowledge of before a homeschool World History course I was teaching brought it to my attention. I did a little reading on it, not much, and learned the currently “accepted” chronology allows no evidence for Joseph, Hebrew slaves, or the Exodus within the centuries that line up with a biblical reckoning. I also learned that plenty of scholars, both secular and biblical, hotly debate the accuracy of the “accepted” chonology; there is simply too much they don’t know to put these dates so solidly in stone. And I learned that there happens to be a wealth of archeological evidence to support Joseph and the Israelite presence, as well as their sudden absence, that would fit perfectly with secular history if the “accepted” chronology shifted slightly.

Not long ago, I found a documentary on Netflix entitled Patterns of Evidence: Exodus. It’s well done, clear, concise, interesting, and shows how well the evidence really does line up with the bibilcal account. It also reveals the rigid resistance within the secular archeological community to take the Bible as a reliable historical document or adjust their dates. I thought this would be an excellent time to feature this documentary, as the Passover season and its celebration of the Exodus approaches.

If you don’t have Netflix, Paterns of Evidence: Exodus is also available to stream on Amazon for 3.99.

 

Hold a Seder in Your Home

You don’t have to be Jewish to celebrate Passover. The symbols in the Seder meal point directly to Jesus Christ, the Messiah. As Christians, this holiday takes on significant meaning. But undertaking a festival from a culture you didn’t grow up in can be daunting. So I’ll lay out the resources and recipes that have held me in good stead.

First, read up on the symbols and meanings. This is an excellent Messianic website explaining all the elements of the meal from a Jewish perspective so Christians might understand. Or check out my favorite reference, a book by Barney Kasdan that includes explanation of all the Jewish feasts, God’s Appointed Times. Here are a few of my blog posts you might find helpful, as well. (You can find similar posts covering other Jewish festivals in my “Holidays” category in my sidebar.)

Brush up on the Passover and Easter stories. Reread the Exodus story. Watch the old Ten Commandments  movie. My kids like to compare it to the biblical account. The animated movie Moses, Prince of Egypt is another great one for little guys. After the Exodus story, read the account of Christ’s triumphal entry, the last supper, the crucifixion. The Passion of the Christ is another excellent movie night choice for older kids. Then talk about how Jesus fulfilled the picture of the original Passover.

Plan a Seder dinner. It’s not hard. The downloadable documents below will give you a hand. Keep Kosher dietary rules in mind. Yeast is an important symbol in this meal and is completely avoided. Meijer and other big food stores will have boxes of Matzah (yeast-free bread like crackers) in their ethnic food sections. Milk combined with meat is another obscure rule for this meal that I usually ignore. We’re not really bound to the food rules, but I do follow the “no yeast” and the general “no pork” rules.

The Haggadah file below will be your best friend. Let me say that again. The Haggadah file below will be your best friend. This is the traditional “script” that is placed at every seat and followed the same way each year. It ties in the Exodus story and explains the symbols used during the meal. A Messianic script, which this is, also explains how each symbol points to Christ. It also explains all the symbols and items necessary and helps immensely with meal set up. Read it next. Take notes. I’ve posted it on my blog here, but the file below is formatted and printable (and updated from the blog post).

Seder Haggadah

You will also need a Seder Plate. The symbols used on the plate are explained in the Haggadah. Festive plates are available for purchase online but not necessary. Make your own using a nice platter and small bowls. (It calls for a lamb bone as one of the symbols. I use a chicken bone.)

Traditional recipes:

A few planning helps:

  • Seder checklist (Includes items mentioned in Haggadah.)
  • Food sign up list (This is the actual list I’m using this year. It might help you gauge numbers and dishes.)

Have fun! Hosting a Passover Seder is a great way to fellowship, teach Old Testament Jewish culture, and connect it to Christ’s death and resurrection. It gives a much deeper appreciation of Easter.

Shalom

Passover is only two weeks away. I’ve fallen in love with this holiday in the three years we’ve been celebrating it. It completes Easter for me. It puts the crucifixion in context. And I anticipate the Seder dinner with friends and family nearly as much as Christmas.

Even if you don’t want to hassle with a Seder, I’d encourage you to consider the educational value of simply learning about Passover with your kids. The week of Easter, read the Exodus story together. Each year, my family watches the old Ten Commandments  movie.  (I found it new on ebay for two bucks.) My kids like comparing it with the actual Bible account.  The animated movie Moses, Prince of Egypt is another great one for little guys. After the Exodus story, read the account of Christ’s triumphal entry, the last supper, the crucifixion. The Passion of the Christ would be another excellent movie night choice for older kids. Then talk about how Jesus fulfilled the picture of the original Passover.  From a doctrinal standpoint, Easter is more important than Christmas. Take advantage of this season to teach it to your kids.

If you want more information, scan my categories for Jewish holidays. There’s some basic, interesting stuff in there to get you started.

Hanukkah Candles

Tonight, I am watching the flicker of five colored candles.  It’s the fourth night of Hanukkah.

I’m not Jewish, but I’ve claimed this beautiful holiday as my own.  The four candles on either side of center remind me of the awesome miracles God sometimes chooses to perform.  There is nothing too difficult for him, certainly not the simple task of stretching one day’s worth of oil to last eight days.  The victory he gave a small band of peasants over the greatest army in the world is far more amazing.  Yet, if He had allowed the Greeks to destroy the Jewish people, His promise to send a Deliverer would have been wiped out with them.  And God is a God of his word.

The middle candle reminds me that God did, indeed, fulfill his promise.  It is the candle that stands above the others, the one used to light the others.  The shamash, it is called.  The servant.

How approapriate that Hanukkah ushers in the celebration of the birth of the Promised One, the birth of the Servant.  How appropriate that the Light of the World is represented by a lit candle elevated above all others.  What beauty, what celebration fills a room with a lighted menorah.  What joy and gratitude wells within me.

Happy Hanukkah, everyone.  And a blessed season remembering Messiah’s birth.

Sukkot

We have reached the last Old Testament feast. Sukkot, also called the Feast of Tabernacles, is an eight-day holiday that begins five days after Yom Kippur. After the solemnity of the High Holy days, Sukkot is a light-hearted feast of Thanksgiving for the bounty of the harvest. In fact, it is widely believed that Sukkot was the template for the Pilgrim’s celebration.

But Sukkot has a second, more important theme. In Leviticus 23:33-44, God outlines the instructions for observing the Feast of Tabernacles, including the command to live in booths for seven days. This is done to commemorate the forty years Israel spent wandering in the desert, the years in which God dwelt among them.

Herein is the key to Sukkot’s prophetic fulfillment. As you recall, only the spring festivals have been completed with some important event in scripture. God has yet to bring about the rest of his plan. As the very last festival, Sukkot’s fulfillment will be the most distant, when all others have come to pass. Just as God dwelt with His people in the wilderness, so He has promised to dwell with them for all eternity. The second to the last chapter in the Bible, Rev. 21, begins, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them (italics mine). They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.’” What an awesome picture Sukkot is!

As with all the other feasts, Sukkot also points straight to Messiah. In fact, the apostle John paints Jesus’ birth in terms of Sukkot. “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). This, along with other evidence, has led many to believe Christ may even have been born during Sukkot. (See my post “When was Jesus really born?” under the Christmas category.) Clearly, Sukkot points to the incarnation of Messiah.

While researching this holiday, I came to understand one other very interesting fact. Sukkot, in Bible times, included a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. On the last night of the festival, a priest would take a pitcher to the Pool of Siloam and carry water back to the temple. Jubilant crowds would form a parade behind him and snake through town, singing and praising. You can imagine the celebration! The priest would then dramatically pour the water out at the Temple alter and the crowds would go wild! Why? The symbolism was two-fold. First, it was a supplication to God for the winter rains on which their crops depended, an act of trust in his physical provision. But second, water was a symbol of salvation. Isaiah 12:3 reads, “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” The pouring out of water was an acknowledgement of God’s promised spiritual provision of salvation.

This background information puts into context another event recorded in John’s gospel. “On the last and greatest day of the Feast (of Tabernacles), Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him” (John 7:37-38).

Imagine! Just as the priest is pouring out the water before a jubilant crowd, Jesus stood up and made a very bold claim. You better believe those in attendance knew exactly what he was telling them. “I am the Messiah! I am the way of salvation!” God has provided for His people. Knowing this, what Christian wouldn’t want to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles?

Traditional Jewish observance begins with the building of a sukkah, a booth. It’s a temporary structure built out of whatever materials are handy and decorated with a harvest theme. Families eat at least one meal inside. Some live in it for the week. I hope to sleep at least one night in ours with my kids, depending on the weather.

Of course, the holiday kicks off at dusk with a special meal which features many harvest foods. Before eating, the candles are lit, the wine and the challah are blessed, then special blessings are said over a palm branch and a citron, a fruit from Israel. This comes from Leviticus 23:40 “On the first day (of the festival) you are to take choice fruit from the trees, and palm fronds, leafy branches and poplars, and rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days.” And, of course, participants remember the forty years in the desert when God dwelt among His people. My kids and I, as believers in Yeshua, on the eve of our first Sukkot, will also be looking ahead to the time we will dwell with Him forever.

Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement, is the second fall feast and considered the holiest day of the year. It’s the day the Jewish high priest entered the Holy of Holies in the temple and offered sacrifices for the sins of Israel. This regeneration completes the repentance begun during Rosh Hashanah ten days earlier. It is a time of joyful optimism that Israel has been made right in the eyes of God for another year.

Yet the system has some obvious flaws. Hebrews 10 explains that the old way could not take away guilt. “Just the opposite happened: those yearly sacrifices remind them of their disobedience and guilt instead of relieving their minds. For it is not possible for the blood of bulls and goats really to take away sins (TLB).” The old system illustrated the need for a perfect sacrifice, made once, to cover all sin. The Day of Atonement points out the need for Messiah, and Jesus Christ completed it on the cross. Now, “he cancels the first system in favor of a far better one. Under this new plan we have been forgiven and made clean by Christ’s dying for us once and for all…there is no need to offer more sacrifices to get rid of them…Now we may walk right into the Holy of Holies where God is, because of the blood of Jesus (TLB).”

Yet Yom Kippur is not a fully realized holiday. There remains prophecy that has not yet come to pass. Just as Rosh Hashanah predicts a future day when Israel will look in repentance to the one they have pierced (Zech. 12:10), so Yom Kippur looks to the day God will regenerate his chosen people. “Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: ‘The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins’” (Rom. 11:25-27). I am thrilled that God has allowed for a time for Gentiles. He’s allowing me into the kingdom! But at the second coming, God will turn the hearts of Israel back to himself. That is the future fulfillment of Yom Kippur.

Since the temple was destroyed in 70 AD, this High Holy Day is no longer observed with the sacrifices of Bible times. Today its defining feature is a Biblically-prescribed fast (Lev. 23:26-32). The holiday begins with a festive meal similar to the one eaten at Rosh Hashanah. Sweet wine, honey cake and other sweet foods are eaten, again in hopes of a sweet new year. Challah is shaped as a ladder, hand, or bird with the hope that prayers and atonement will reach heaven. At sundown, a twenty-four hour fast begins, in which no food drink or luxuries may be partaken of. Jews spend much of the evening and the next day in synagogue services, seeking atonement for another year before breaking the fast at sundown with another sweet, light meal.

What an excellent time to pray for the salvation of Israel! May God’s chosen ones come to understand during these harvest days of thankfulness for God’s physical provision that he has provided spiritually as well. Atonement has already been made for them! That will be my own prayer this year as my kids and I participate in this ancient holiday for the very first time.

Rosh Hashanah

In my ongoing study of the Jewish feasts, I’ve learned that there are three fall holy days, all occurring within a three week period. Rosh Hashanah is the first. Also called the Feast of Trumpets, its name literally means “Head of the Year,” not because it is the beginning of the Hebrew calendar (it takes place in the seventh month) but because its message of repentance is so important it is considered the start of a new spiritual year. It marks the beginning of the Jewish High Holy days which conclude ten days later with Yom Kippur.

Rosh Hashanah is a time to take stock of the heart and turn it once again toward God. It’s a collective regathering of the people. Lev. 23:23-25 spells out God’s instructions. Specifically, a trumpet (a ram’s horn called a shofar) is to be sounded. In ancient times, the shofar was blown in anticipation of a king’s appearance. Each year on this holy day, the Jews spiritually “appear before God” in anticipation of judgment. The shofar is a reminder to prepare, to make sure their lives are aligned with God’s commands. This repentance is closely tied to Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Traditionally, the forty days before Yom Kippur (thirty days before Rosh Hashanah) are an important time of preparation, and the shofar is sounded each morning.

Rosh Hashanah takes place just prior to the fall harvest and provides an excellent time to thank God for his provision. The symbol of the harvest is very significant when contemplating the prophetic nature of this feast. It is important to note that while all three of the spring festivals have been fulfilled, the fall feasts have not. In many places, scripture speaks of the harvest as the time God will bring about a new order. “Then another angel came out of the temple and called in a loud voice to him who was sitting on the cloud, ‘Take your sickle and reap, because the time to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is ripe’’’ (Rev. 14:14). So we may assume these three fall festivals will be fulfilled during the end times. And as the spring festivals were fulfilled rapidly, within fifty days of each other, my guess is that once God brings the first fall feast to completion, the others will follow relatively soon.

So how will God fulfill Rosh Hashanah? The shofar may give us our best clue. It is often mentioned in reference to the gathering of the saints. “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God (shofar), and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever” (I Th. 4:16-17). It seems Rosh Hashanah is a picture of the rapture. God says no man knows the day or the hour, so this could be dangerous speculation, but God orchestrated some powerful events on Passover, First Fruits and Shavuot. Could it be that the rapture will take place on Rosh Hashanah? What an exciting possibility!

There seems to be a second fulfillment to Rosh Hashanah that I don’t fully understand. Scripture indicates a gathering of the Jewish remnant in the later days that will be commenced with a shofar blast. Matthew 24:31 reads, “And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.” And Isaiah 27:12-13 says, “In that day the LORD will thresh from the flowing Euphrates to the Wadi of Egypt, and you, O Israelites, will be gathered up one by one. And in that day a great trumpet will sound. Those who were perishing in Assyria and those who were exiled in Egypt will come and worship the LORD on the holy mountain in Jerusalem.” Is this the same as the rapture? Or Christ’s second coming? It remains mysterious to me.

Until its fulfillment, however, the Feast of Trumpets will continue to be observed. Traditionally, this involves a special meal at sundown with slightly altered blessings. The customary candlesticks should be white this time, to signify the purity being sought through repentance. The wine is sweetened, and challah is round instead of braided and contains raisins, in anticipation of a full, sweet year. Several other sweet foods are eaten as well, like tzimmes (carrots and honey), honey cake and apples dipped in honey, all to signify the sweetness of life brought into accord with God.

Rosh Hashanah has one more interesting event. It is traditional for a family to visit a body of water and toss pebbles into it, illustrating how God removes our sin when we ask forgiveness. “You will hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:19). The New Testament tells us how God has already made provision for the forgiveness of sins through his Son, the Messiah. He has promised that “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9). This ancient Tashlich service is a beautiful illustration of grace.

Rosh Hashanah is a sober time, a time of serious contemplation and repentance, but it is also a time of joy and hope, both for God’s provision (spiritually as well as physically) and for the assurance that God DOES forgive. Both themes, you will notice, point straight to the Messiah. What beautiful lessons God laid out in this holy day! How excited I am to be leading my family in their discovery this year!

The Summer in Between

Many of you know that my kids and I have been studying the Jewish holidays this year. We have already worked our way through the three spring feasts: Passover, First Fruits, and Shavuot. (You can read what we have learned so far in my “Jewish” category.) Three more occur in the fall: Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot. These mysterious holidays still feel strange on my tongue, but I’m looking forward to researching and experiencing them when the calendar rolls us closer. But right now we are in the summer months in between – a very interesting place to be.

You see, these six holidays were given to the Jewish people by God himself so they might know him. They are a revelation of his personhood. But they also serve as sort of a road map for his great plan. God knows exactly what he’s going to do before he brings Time to a close, and he has laid out many clues in these feasts. The first three, the spring festivals, have been fulfilled. (Again, see former posts.) The last three, which will take place in the fall, have not yet come to pass. So figuratively, we are in the long, hot summer before the harvest.

“Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door.” (Matt. 24:32-33, NIV)

Are we ready for that harvest? Are we watching for the signs? I know I’m eager to gain a better understanding of it, and I’ll share my findings as the last three holidays grow nearer.

Shavuot

Continuing in my study of the Jewish feasts, Shavuot is the third and final spring holiday. Similar to Thanksgiving, it celebrates the wheat harvest in Israel. It is also called by several other names: later First Fruits (Bikkurim), as it follows the barley harvest (First Fruits); the Festival of Weeks, because it marks the end of the seven week count that began with Passover (called the Counting of the Omer) which is dictated in Leviticus 23:15; and also Pentecost, Greek for “50th day.” It is one of three festivals (Passover, Shavuot and Tabernacles) which required a pilgrimage to Jerusalem of every able male.

In Old Testament times, the law demanded that each household bring two leavened loaves made of wheat flour to the temple to be waved for all to see, as a testimony to God’s provision, and in anticipation of God’s further provision of the fall harvest. It also required animal sacrifices to remind them of their need for atonement (which Jesus fulfilled at Passover), and it was a day of no work. In later days, Shavuot has also come to be a celebration of the Law and the Ten Commandments, which were given to Moses seven weeks after he led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt (the day that would become Shavuot). Today, traditional observation of Shavuot consists of a feast which features fruit and spring harvest foods and dairy, decorations using flowers and greenery, and an all-night session studying the Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament, or the books of the law).

For Messianic Jews and for Christians who believe Jesus of the New Testament is the promised Messiah, Shavuot takes on an even greater meaning. After Christ’s death (which fulfilled Passover) and resurrection (which fulfilled First Fruits), Jesus appeared to believers for 40 days before ascending to heaven. He commanded them to wait in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit was given to them. This, we know, occurred ten days later on Pentecost, or Shavuot, when Jews from all around were in Jerusalem bringing their harvest offerings to the temple. What an amazing, receptive audience Peter had for his sermon that day (Acts 2)!

And what an amazing fulfillment to a Holy Day ordained thousands of years earlier. You see, just as Christ’s resurrection fulfilled early First Fruits, so the salvation (promised resurrection) or harvest of 3,000 Jews fulfilled later First Fruits – Shavuot. And as the Israelites looked forward to a fall harvest, so prophecy looks forward to a later harvest, when a great number of Jews will also turn to Christ. In Romans 11:25-26, Paul writes, “Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: ‘The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob (Is. 59:20)…’”

I love that phrase about Gentiles coming in. That’s me! God had me in mind, even when he was creating his great plan and ordaining these feasts to illustrate it for his people. And I especially love the book of Ruth (traditional reading for Shavuot as it takes place during the spring harvest) because Ruth was a Gentile grafted into the Jewish faith. Like Ruth, I too am adopted, and I’m finding particular pleasure in studying and learning from these feasts.

Shavuot is this week, and I’m excited to be able to observe it with my family this year.

Seder Haggadah

(A Haggadah is the booklet given to each participant at a Seder meal. It is simply an order of service that includes all the elements covered during the meal. This is the one I use with my family. Much of it was adapted from the website http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/haggadah.html#RmLxQ5sFfA92.)

SEDER HAGGADAH

Introduction: Why celebrate Passover?

*Because God chose to reveal himself to the Jews, and to bless all nations through them.

*Because God includes believers among his chosen people.

Eph. 5:1 “…he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ…”

Rom 11:17 “… you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root…”

*Because it is a picture of Jesus, Our Messiah, and his accomplishment.

Lighting of Candles – Performed by Mother.

Mother – Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has sent Thy Son, Jesus our Messiah, to be the light of the world and our Passover Lamb, that through him we might live.

Father – The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

The First Cup – of sanctification and blessing

Father – Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who creates the fruit of the vine. Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who chose us from the peoples of the earth and sanctified us by Thy commandments. Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who has given us life and brought us to this happy season.

Everyone drinks.

The Washing of Hands – picture of confession and forgiveness, as demonstrated when Jesus washed the disciples’ feet.

Parsley dipped in salt water– the green vegetable is symbolic of the new life God brought his people to, the salt water a reminder of the tears of slavery.

Father – Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who creates the fruit of the earth.

Everyone dips parsley in salt water and takes a bite.

The Symbols of the Seder Plate
• Matzah, The unleavened bread, the bread of affliction. The Israelites fleeing Egypt had no time for it to rise.
• The Roasted Lamb Bone is a reminder of the first Passover Lamb.
• Bitter Herbs (horseradish) recall the bitterness of slavery, the suffering of Christ.
• Parsley represents the hyssop branches used to apply the blood to the doorpost.
• The Charoset of apples, nuts, cinnamon, and wine, represents the bricks and mortar the Israelites were forced to make under Pharaoh’s taskmasters.
• A Roasted Egg is a reminder of the holiday sacrifices offered at the temple during the feasts of Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles.
• Salt Water symbolizes the blood of the first Passover lamb, also the tears shed by the Israelites slaves, and the parted waters of the Red Sea.

(Only the Lamb, Matzah, and Bitter Herbs are commanded by the Torah for Passover, but the other foods have been part of the Passover tradition for centuries. Since the temple was destroyed, Jews no longer sacrifice lambs or require one at the meal.)

Matzah

Three Matzahs are placed in a special white linen. The middle one is removed, broken, wrapped in white cloth and hidden. It will later be retrieved for a reward. Everyone takes a piece of Matzah.

Father – This is the bread of affliction which our forefathers ate in the land of Egypt. Though Jews believe it represents unity, believers understand it is a picture of God revealed in three persons: the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Son left heaven, was broken, buried, and brought back. He who finds Him receives a great reward, Eternal Life.

Everyone eats matzah.

The Four Questions

Child – Why is this night different from all other nights? On all other nights we may eat either leavened or unleavened bread; but on this night why only unleavened bread?

Father – We eat matzah because when our ancestors were told by Pharaoh that they could leave Egypt, they had no time to bake bread with leaven, so they baked it without.

Child – On all other nights we eat herbs of any kind; but on this night why only bitter herbs?

Father – We eat bitter herbs to remind us of the bitterness our ancestors experienced when they were oppressed by the Egyptian slave drivers.

Child – On all other nights we do not dip our herbs even once; but on this night why do we dip them twice?

Father – We dip the parsley in salt water, as we have already explained, and the matzah into bitter herbs, as we shall soon explain.

Child – On all other nights we eat our meals sitting or reclining; but on this night why do we eat reclining?

Father – Only slaves eat standing, while free people recline. To show that Israel is now free, we recline while eating. Since we do not have couches for each person, the leader has a pillow to represent this.

Telling the Passover Story – Responsive Reading

Leader: The Bible teaches that during a great famine in the land of Canaan, the sons of Israel journeyed to Egypt to purchase food. There they were reunited with their brother Joseph and permitted to remain. At first, they numbered less than 80 souls. But in time, they became a mighty people.

All: And then there arose a new Pharaoh, one who did not know Joseph. He saw the might of Israel, and he feared that in time of war, the sons of Jacob might join themselves with Egypt’s enemies.

Leader: So he subdued the Israelites, and made them slaves. Task masters were placed over the Israelites, to compel them to make bricks and to build Pharaoh’s great storage cities of Ramses and Pithom.

All: But despite their hardship, they continued to thrive, just as God had promised. This caused Pharaoh even greater alarm, and he ordered every male child born to the Hebrews was to be cast into the Nile and drowned.

Leader: In anguish, we cried to the God of our Fathers. And God heard our cry. God remembered His covenant. And God raised up a deliverer, a redeemer, the man Moses. And He sent Moses to Pharaoh’s court to declare the commandment of the Lord…

All: Let my people go.

Leader: But Pharaoh would not listen. And so plagues were poured out on the Egyptians, upon their crops, and upon their flocks.

All: But Pharaoh’s heart was hardened. He would not yield to the will of God.

Leader: Then the tenth plague fell upon the land of Egypt: ” Every firstborn son in Egypt will die, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, to the firstborn son of the slave girl, who is at her hand mill, and all the firstborn of the cattle as well. (Ex.11:5)” But to protect the children of Israel, God commanded the head of each Jewish household to sacrifice a spotless lamb, without breaking any of its bones, and to apply it’s blood to the doorway of our homes, first to the top of the doorway, then to the sides.

All: “The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt (Ex. 12:13).”

Leader: By the blood of lambs was Israel spared.

All: By the blood of lambs was Jacob redeemed. By the blood of lambs was death made to pass over.

Leader: Passover; the night death passed over the houses of Israel because of the blood of the Passover lamb. What a mighty act of redemption. And what a beautiful picture of redemption yet to come. For just as no bones of the first Passover lambs were broken, so none of the Messiah’s bones were broken.

All: And just as the blood of the first Passover lambs was applied by faith to the doorposts, so the blood of Messiah must be applied by faith to our hearts.

Leader: Tonight, we worship God not only because the angel of death passed over our ancestors homes, but because all of us whether Jewish or Gentile, may be redeemed from an even greater bondage through our faith in Jesus, the Messiah of Israel. Through Him, we may pass over from death to life.

The Second Cup – of Plagues

Children name all the plagues. Mother keeps track by dipping a pinkie finger in the wine and placing a drop on her plate for each…blood, frogs, lice, swarms of insects, cattle disease, boil, hail, locusts, darkness, slaying of the first born.

Father – Blessed art Thou, O Lord Our God, King of the universe, who creates the fruit of the vine.

Everyone drinks.

Bitter Herbs

Everyone takes a piece of Matzah.

Father – Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth. Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who sanctified us by Thy commandments, and commanded us to eat matzah. Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who sanctified us by Thy commandments, and commanded us to eat bitter herbs.

Everyone dips the Matzah in horseradish and charoset and eats.

Say grace and enjoy the meal

Finding the broken Matzah

The children search for the hidden bread. The one who finds it receives a prize.

The appearance of the bread reminds us of Messiah. It must have stripes, be pierced and without leaven (sin). Jesus was afflicted, striped, pierced and without sin. The afikoman is eaten to remind us of Jesus’ broken body.

I Cor. 25:24 “…and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.’”

Pass the bread. Everyone eats.

The Third Cup – Redemption

With this cup we remember Israel’s deliverance from 430 years of slavery, and their redemption from the plague of death by the blood of the first Passover Lamb. As believers, we also recognize the final fulfillment of this picture: Christ’s shed blood.

I Cor. 11: 25-26 “In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”

Father – Blessed art Thou, O Lord, Our God, King of the universe, who creates the fruit of the vine. Let us remember that Jesus’ blood was poured out for the forgiveness of sins, and be thankful.

Everyone drinks.

Fourth Cup – Thanksgiving (The Cup of Elijah)

Elijah is the bearer of good tidings of joy and peace. His name is especially associated with the coming of the Messiah, whom he is expected to announce.

Malachi 4:4-6 “I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers.”

The children run to the doors to see if Elijah has come back.

Collective Reading of Psalm 100, a Psalm of Praise

1 Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.

2 Worship the LORD with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.

3 Know that the LORD is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.

5 For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness endures through all generations.

Father – Blessed art Thou, O Lord Our God, King of the universe, who creates the fruit of the Vine.

Everyone drinks.

Traditional Conclusion

Father – Have compassion, O Lord our God, upon us, upon Israel your people, upon Jerusalem your city, on Zion the dwelling place of your glory, and upon your altar and your temple. Rebuild Jerusalem, your holy city, speedily in our days. Be gracious to us and give us strength.

Blessed art Thou, Lord our God, King of the universe. We thank Thee for sustaining us all to this day. Blessed be the Lord.

Everyone shouts, “Next Year in Jerusalem!”

(In addition, because we celebrate Passover the Saturday before Easter, we like to conclude with John’s account of the crucifixion to make the connection between Passover and Christ’s resurrection (see my First Fruits blog) and to prepare for the Easter service at our church the next morning.)