One of the top questions I received this year was, “What kind of meat is your family eating for Passover?” and when I mentioned a meat that wasn’t lamb, the next question was, “Why not?”
Some of my closest friends served lamb at their Passover seders this year, and this post is not meant as a slander against them in any way. In fact, in the twelve years our family has been observing Passover, we ourselves have served or eaten lamb for at least half of them! It would be extremely hypocritical of me to accuse them of doing wrong when they might have even learned it from me!
However, the Spirit used this as a teaching tool this year, to try to show me how to give mercy to others who are trying to obey the Law of God, even though we differ on the finer points, including those of my friends in former Baptist and Christian circles. In other words, He used this humble me. Let me show you why.
Why Lamb Is Served
Lamb is served in many homes for Passover for a very good reason:
Now YHVH 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. And if the household is too small for the lamb, let him and his neighbor next to his house take it according to the number of the persons; according to each man’s need you shall make your count for the lamb. 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. Do not eat it raw, nor boiled at all with water, but roasted in fire—its head with its legs and its entrails. You shall let none of it remain until morning, and what remains of it until morning you shall burn with fire. And thus you shall eat it: with a belt on your waist, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. So you shall eat it in haste. It is YHVH’s Passover. (Exodus 12:1-11)
It seems very straight-forward, doesn’t it?
Why Lamb Is Not Served
Our family chose not to serve lamb this year because we went over to the book of Deuteronomy and read the following passage. Please note that the word “sacrifice” in our English Bibles simply means to slaughter or butcher in Hebrew. (See Strong’s #2076, zabah, the killing of an animal for food or sacrifice.)
“All the firstborn males that come from your herd and your flock you shall sanctify to YHVH your God; you shall do no work with the firstborn of your herd, nor shear the firstborn of your flock. You and your household shall eat it before YHVH your God year by year in the place which YHVH chooses. But if there is a defect in it, if it is lame or blind or has any serious defect, you shall not sacrifice it to YHVH your God. You may eat it within your gates; the unclean and the clean person alike may eat it, as if it were a gazelle or a deer. Only you shall not eat its blood; you shall pour it on the ground like water.
“Observe the month of Abib, and keep the Passover to YHVH your God, for in the month of Abib YHVH your God brought you out of Egypt by night. Therefore you shall sacrifice [slaughter, butcher] the Passover to YHVH your God, from the flock and the herd, in the place where YHVH chooses to put His name. You shall eat no leavened bread with it; seven days you shall eat unleavened bread with it, that is, the bread of affliction (for you came out of the land of Egypt in haste), that you may remember the day in which you came out of the land of Egypt all the days of your life. And no leaven shall be seen among you in all your territory for seven days, nor shall any of the meat which you sacrifice the first day at twilight remain overnight until morning.
“You may not sacrifice the Passover within any of your gates which YHVH your God gives you; but at the place where YHVH your God chooses to make His name abide, there you shall sacrifice [slaughter, butcher] the Passover at twilight, at the going down of the sun, at the time you came out of Egypt. And you shall roast and eat it in the place which YHVH your God chooses, and in the morning you shall turn and go to your tents. Six days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a sacred assembly to YHVH your God. You shall do no work on it.” (Deuteronomy 15:19-16:8)
This is a passage removed by four books from the other passage, and it’s not immediately obvious. It also helps to read the entire chapter of Deuteronomy 12, which also explains where meat may be slaughtered and how it may be eaten.
But you shall seek the place where YHVH your God chooses, out of all your tribes, to put His name for His dwelling place; and there you shall go. There you shall take your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the heave offerings of your hand, your vowed offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks. And there you shall eat before YHVH your God, and you shall rejoice in all to which you have put your hand, you and your households, in which YHVH your God has blessed you. You shall not at all do as we are doing here today—every man doing whatever is right in his own eyes. (Deuteronomy 12:5-8)
Take heed to yourself that you do not offer your burnt offerings in every place that you see; but in the place which YHVH chooses, in one of your tribes, there you shall offer your burnt offerings, and there you shall do all that I command you. (Deuteronomy 12:13-14)
The “place where YHVH your God will choose” is Jerusalem, and He has placed His Name there forever.
In this house and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, I will put My name forever. (2 Kings 21:7)
We cannot just eat the meat of a lamb in remembrance of the Passover wherever we would like. No, if we want to be obedient to the Torah, we must refrain from eating it anywhere else.
You may not sacrifice [slaughter, butcher] the Passover within any of your gates which YHVH your God gives you; but at the place where YHVH your God chooses to make His name abide, there you shall sacrifice the Passover (Deuteronomy 16:5-6).
In other words, in contrast to a short verse that seems extremely clear in its meaning, we deliberately chose what appears to be “disobedience,” so that we could obey the instructions given in a another passage of Scripture. We are not to butcher a lamb for Passover unless we are in Jerusalem, where He has placed His name. (Our family understands this that neither we ourselves should butcher a lamb for that purpose or pick one up at our local grocery store or butcher’s shop.)
However, if it’s meat for an occasion other than a Feast Day, we are allowed to butcher and eat animals. Note that the English translators chose to use the word “slaughter” here, rather than “sacrifice” — but in Hebrew, it’s the same word: Strong’s #2076, zabah.
Take heed to yourself that you do not offer your burnt offerings in every place that you see; but in the place which YHVH chooses, in one of your tribes, there you shall offer your burnt offerings, and there you shall do all that I command you.
However, you may slaughter and eat meat within all your gates, whatever your heart desires, according to the blessing of YHVH your God which He has given you; the unclean and the clean may eat of it, of the gazelle and the deer alike. Only you shall not eat the blood; you shall pour it on the earth like water. You may not eat within your gates the tithe of your grain or your new wine or your oil, of the firstborn of your herd or your flock, of any of your offerings which you vow, of your freewill offerings, or of the heave offering of your hand. But you must eat them before YHVH your God in the place which YHVH your God chooses… (Deuteronomy 12:13-18).
If it’s a firstborn lamb, part of the burnt offerings that belong to YHVH, we are not to eat them unless we are in Jerusalem.
The Desire to Obey
Now, again, if that’s not how you saw it, and if you served lamb for dinner this year, don’t fret. I’m not condemning you!
However, it is a big deal to the Father. He even says to the Israelites that if someone sacrificed [slaughtered, butchered] a lamb for Passover at any place other than the place He chose, they were to be cut off from the people of God.
And YHVH spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to Aaron, to his sons, and to all the children of Israel, and say to them, ‘This is the thing which YHVH has commanded, saying:
“Whatever man of the house of Israel who kills an ox or lamb or goat in the camp, or who kills it outside the camp, and does not bring it to the door of the tabernacle of meeting to offer an offering to YHVH before the tabernacle of YHVH, the guilt of bloodshed shall be imputed to that man. He has shed blood; and that man shall be cut off from among his people, to the end that the children of Israel may bring their sacrifices which they offer in the open field, that they may bring them to YHVH at the door of the tabernacle of meeting, to the priest, and offer them as peace offerings to YHVH. And the priest shall sprinkle the blood on the altar of YHVH at the door of the tabernacle of meeting, and burn the fat for a sweet aroma to YHVH. They shall no more offer their sacrifices to demons, after whom they have played the harlot. This shall be a statute forever for them throughout their generations” ’ (Leviticus 17:1-7).
So this is serious. I hope you won’t do it again.
However, I’m mentioning it because it occurred to me that this is exactly what our Christian friends do when they say they are obeying the Law of Christ, even as they disregard clear instruction in the Torah.
They do desire to obey the Law of God, but they feel that parts of the Law have been set aside or done away with for this short season of time in which we live, known as the Church Age, even though they would agree that it was to be obeyed before the time of Christ and will be obeyed again during His coming thousand-year reign on this earth.
For instance, they eat pork because Peter was told that it was now declared to be clean.
There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment, a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always. About the ninth hour of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God coming in and saying to him, “Cornelius!”
And when he observed him, he was afraid, and said, “What is it, lord?”
So he said to him, “Your prayers and your alms have come up for a memorial before God. Now send men to Joppa, and send for Simon whose surname is Peter. He is lodging with Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the sea. He will tell you what you must do.” And when the angel who spoke to him had departed, Cornelius called two of his household servants and a devout soldier from among those who waited on him continually. So when he had explained all these things to them, he sent them to Joppa.
The next day, as they went on their journey and drew near the city, Peter went up on the housetop to pray, about the sixth hour. Then he became very hungry and wanted to eat; but while they made ready, he fell into a trance and saw heaven opened and an object like a great sheet bound at the four corners, descending to him and let down to the earth. In it were all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air. And a voice came to him, “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.”
But Peter said, “Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean.” (Acts 10:1-16)
And a voice spoke to him again the second time, “What God has cleansed you must not call common.” This was done three times. And the object was taken up into heaven again.
It seems very straight-forward, doesn’t it? God has cleansed all the meat in the sheet, including all the creeping things that the “old law” of Leviticus 11 declared an abomination, and Peter is to rise up, kill, and eat it.
However, they seemingly miss the longer passage, where we must do a bit of digging to get to the meaning, in contrast to a short verse that seems extremely clear in its meaning.
Now while Peter wondered within himself what this vision which he had seen meant, behold, the men who had been sent from Cornelius had made inquiry for Simon’s house, and stood before the gate. And they called and asked whether Simon, whose surname was Peter, was lodging there.
While Peter thought about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Behold, three men are seeking you. Arise therefore, go down and go with them, doubting nothing; for I have sent them.”
Then Peter went down to the men who had been sent to him from Cornelius, and said, “Yes, I am he whom you seek. For what reason have you come?”
And they said, “Cornelius the centurion, a just man, one who fears God and has a good reputation among all the nation of the Jews, was divinely instructed by a holy angel to summon you to his house, and to hear words from you.” Then he invited them in and lodged them.
On the next day Peter went away with them, and some brethren from Joppa accompanied him.
And the following day they entered Caesarea. Now Cornelius was waiting for them, and had called together his relatives and close friends. As Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him. But Peter lifted him up, saying, “Stand up; I myself am also a man.” And as he talked with him, he went in and found many who had come together. Then he said to them, “You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean. (Acts 10:17-28)
Peter says that “God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean.” In other words, the interpretation he had of the dream was not that he could now disobey the entire law of God, by eating pork and shellfish, but rather that Cornelius and his company were not to be called “common or unclean” simply because they were not Jewish. This is repeated in the next next chapter of Acts, just so that we can be sure. (See Acts 11:1-18.)
I’m not justifying the consumption of pork. Quite the opposite! God calls it an abomination and tells us instead to “be holy” as He is holy. This instruction is repeated multiple times in the New Testament, such as this quotation, again from Peter:
As He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:15-16)
When a writer of the New Testament begins to quote a passage from the Old Testament, we need to remember that he didn’t have chapters and verses to insert from specific books of the Bible. In addition, he was often working (amazingly) from memory of the Tanakh (Old Testament scrolls of the Scriptures), and as he starts to quote a passage, he is expecting that we will also start to quote from that passage in our minds. The beginnings of that quote are meant to refer us to the entire context and passage of that quote, so that we will clearly understand what he is saying.
In other words, the New Testament writers are expecting us to have a working knowledge of the Old Testament. If we don’t have that, we should at the very least use the study tools available to us in this computer age and look it up and read it!
So when Peter says, “Be ye holy,” he wants us to go back to Leviticus 11 and quote the entire passage, which also contains the phrase “Be ye holy.” In this passage are all the commands about foods we should not eat.
Whatever crawls on its belly, whatever goes on all fours, or whatever has many feet among all creeping things that creep on the earth—these you shall not eat, for they are an abomination. You shall not make yourselves abominable with any creeping thing that creeps; nor shall you make yourselves unclean with them, lest you be defiled by them. For I am YHVH your God. You shall therefore consecrate yourselves, and you shall be holy; for I am holy. Neither shall you defile yourselves with any creeping thing that creeps on the earth. For I am YHVH who brings you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy. (Leviticus 11:42-45)
Yes, this is the same Peter who had the sheet lowered in front of him in Acts 10. He is telling us that we are to continue to be holy by not eating unclean foods.
Of course, in the same way that Yeshua would use commands from the Torah to go on to reveal deeper issues in our hearts (see Matthew 5-7), Peter was using the example of disgusting pig and shellfish to teach us many deeper heart issues that we need to be sure to cleanse, so that we are like Yeshua, our Passover Lamb, without blemish and without spot.
Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Yeshua the Messiah; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”
And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear; knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Messiah, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. (1 Peter 2:13-19)
So What about Lamb for Passover?
Obedience to the Torah by not eating it can go on to teach us deeper heart issues. For instance:
- Why was the Temple destroyed? Because of Israel’s sin and disobedience to the Law of God! As Yeshua bemoaned, not one stone would remain upon another of the Temple that stood gleaming in front of Him.
“Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate; for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of YHVH!’ ”
Then Yeshua went out and departed from the temple, and His disciples came up to show Him the buildings of the temple. And Yeshua said to them, “Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down.” (Matthew 23:39-24:2)
- Why was Israel scattered all over the world, far from Jerusalem, the place where He had set His name? In Deuteronomy 28, we read that Israel would be scattered across the face of the entire earth, because she would not give up her idolatrous ways (see also last verses of 2 Chronicles):
If you do not carefully observe all the words of this law that are written in this book, that you may fear this glorious and awesome name, YHVH YOUR GOD, then YHVH will bring upon you and your descendants extraordinary plagues—great and prolonged plagues—and serious and prolonged sicknesses. Moreover He will bring back on you all the diseases of Egypt, of which you were afraid, and they shall cling to you. Also every sickness and every plague, which is not written in this Book of the Law, will YHVH bring upon you until you are destroyed. You shall be left few in number, whereas you were as the stars of heaven in multitude, because you would not obey the voice of YHVH your God. And it shall be, that just as YHVH rejoiced over you to do you good and multiply you, so YHVH will rejoice over you to destroy you and bring you to nothing; and you shall be plucked from off the land which you go to possess. Then YHVH will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other, and there you shall serve other gods, which neither you nor your fathers have known—wood and stone. (Deuteronomy 28:58-64)
- Why would God do this to His people? Why would He make it so difficult for them to obey the Torah by scattering them across the earth? In Deuteronomy 30, we read that in future generations, the people of God would begin to realize that all of these curses had come upon them, and it would bring them to repentance. When they realized what they could have had — but did not, because of their own sin and the sins of their forefathers — they would turn around, repent of their sin, and begin to obey again.
Now it shall come to pass, when all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse which I have set before you, and you call them to mind among all the nations where YHVH your God drives you, and you return to YHVH your God and obey His voice, according to all that I command you today, you and your children, with all your heart and with all your soul, that YHVH your God will bring you back from captivity, and have compassion on you, and gather you again from all the nations where YHVH your God has scattered you. If any of you are driven out to the farthest parts under heaven, from there YHVH your God will gather you, and from there He will bring you. Then YHVH your God will bring you to the land which your fathers possessed, and you shall possess it. He will prosper you and multiply you more than your fathers. And YHVH your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love YHVH your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live. Also YHVH your God will put all these curses on your enemies and on those who hate you, who persecuted you. And you will again obey the voice of YHVH and do all His commandments which I command you today. (Deuteronomy 30:1-8)
Yeshua knew the Temple was going to be destroyed, yet He gave His disciples instruction of what to do, even in that case. He was not instituting a new Law. No, He was upholding the old Law, given by His Father to Moses, which clearly instructed the people to only eat the Passover Lamb in the place where His Name had been placed.
For I received from the Master that which I also delivered to you: that the Master Yeshua on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Master’s death till He comes. (1 Corinthians 11:23-26)
However, He also wanted them to continue to “keep the feast” of Passover and Unleavened Bread, as a perpetual statute and wherever they lived, in “remembrance of Him” and as a way to be annually reminded to keep the sin out of our lives.
Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Messiah, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (1 Corinthians 5:7-8)
Yes, the Lamb is definitely a clear picture of Yeshua, our Passover Lamb, and we should teach this to our children. However, Yeshua also taught us that whenever we drink the cup and eat the unleavened bread, we also show His death until He comes.
For the first-century believers, they continued to bring Passover lambs until the Temple was destroyed (disciples after the cross, Paul in Acts, references in Corinthians). But they also began to take an everyday cup of wine and the Unleavened Bread that was eaten for seven days each year during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and they began to teach that these were also to remind us of Yeshua’s shed blood for us (Isaiah 53, Matthew 26:17-30, 1 Corinthians 5:7-8, 1 Corinthians 11:23-26). Can you imagine their distress when the Temple was destroyed in 70 AD? They could no longer bring a lamb! However, history clearly shows us that they continued the tradition Yeshua taught His disciples. That tradition has been marred in many cases, blended to look like other pagan religions and brought into Catholicism, but yet it remains clear that Yeshua did tell His disciples to do it.
So on the night of the Passover, as we start our seven-day observance of the Feast of Unleavened Bread nearly two thousand years later, we “eat this bread and drink this cup to show the Master’s death” until He comes. And He is coming again! He will restore all things, and according to Deuteronomy 30, the Father will bring us all back from where we have been scattered. He will restore the ability to fully and completely keep the Torah, removing the full curse of death and sin from us so that we can walk with perfectly circumcised hearts before Him (Deuteronomy 30:6, Jeremiah 31:31-34, Ezekiel 36:24-32). His Law will be fully restored, and we will finally be able to completely obey Him in every way.
We All Need to Repent
Sometimes I mourn that we live in this age because I so badly want to obey Him fully. Deuteronomy 30 says that would happen. I know that many Christians are mourning as well. They want to obey Him, too. Yes, they could start by throwing out the packages of bacon in their freezers, and I would certainly advise that.
But for those of us trying to obey the Torah completely, let us not realize our sin only to run ahead of God by disobeying His other instructions. This happened in when they sent ten spies into the land but feared the giants rather than YHVH. After they repented, they determined to try to defeat the giants rather than accept that they would have to wander in the wilderness for 40 years, (Numbers 14:39-45), and it did not turn out so well. No, we need to take our punishment and wait for Him to bring us back to the Land.
We all need to repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
Isn’t that the lesson we are to be learning this feast? Let’s clean out the leaven in our own hearts. Is He showing you some way in which you do not obey Him? Then repent and start to obey today!
Is He showing you some way in which you wish you could obey but truly cannot yet, because of circumstances you wouldn’t even be in if you had never sinned in the first place? Then repent and beg Him to restore your life, to bring you back from your captivity. Because of the promises of Scripture, I can tell you that He will do that! It might not be today, but it will be soon, or else His Word is untrue. Meanwhile, obey Him in every way that you can, now, in the small ways, in the quiet ways, trusting, holding His hand, prayerfully. Show Him that your decision is true, as your eyes are to the skies, awaiting His return.
All Scripture in this blog post taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.