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God’s Word for You

Numbers 9:1-8 The Second Passover

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, July 22, 2021

Regulations for Observing the Passover
9 The LORD spoke to Moses in the Wilderness of Sinai, during the first month of the second year after they had come out of the land of Egypt. He said, 2 “The people of Israel are to observe the Passover at its appointed time. 3 On the fourteenth day of this month, at twilight, you will observe it at its appointed time. You will observe it according to all its regulations and all its ordinances.” 4 Moses told the Israelites to observe the Passover. 5 They observed the Passover on the fourteenth day of the first month, at twilight, in the Wilderness of Sinai. The Israelites did everything just as the LORD had commanded Moses.

This was the second Passover celebrated by Israel. It was just one year since the nation left Egypt, and by this time they had received all of the laws from the Lord. The tabernacle was complete (Exodus 40:2), the Ark was in its place (Exodus 40:3), the army was counted (Numbers 1:2); the priests were ordained (Leviticus 8:33; 9:1) and the Levites were consecrated (Numbers 8:21-22). God had prepared them for their march. They were organized into religious and military divisions. They knew their order of marching and they knew their place when it was time to encamp once again. In all of these ways, they were a different people than they had been when they came out of Egypt. At that time they were really just a mob running away from oppression with a single charismatic leader. Now they were truly a Church, a State, and even an Army. This Passover promised to give them a regimen, a calendar, a cycle of festivals to be observed.

The idea of the Passover was to give Israel a physical reminder of the coming of the Savior whose blood would cover the guilt of the people. They were supposed to celebrate it again and again, year after year. They were the people of God with the promise from God.

One question to be asked is, where did the people smear the blood of the sacrificed lambs, since in Egypt they had used the lintels of the doors of their houses (Exodus 12:7) and here in the desert they had no houses or doors? The simplest answer is probably the best: they smeared some of the lamb’s blood on the front post or flap of each tent.

This year, the beginning of the second year, there was a little wrinkle. Moses took it in stride…

6 There were some men, however, who were unclean because of contact with a dead body. So they were not able to observe the Passover on that day. They went before Moses and Aaron on that same day. 7 These men said to him, “We are unclean because of a dead body. Why should we be kept from presenting the offering of the LORD at its appointed time among the people of Israel?” 8 So Moses said to them, “Wait and let me hear what the LORD commands concerning you.”

Naturally there would be a few out of 2 million who would have been in contact with a corpse. They had a desire to keep the Passover. Even though the calendar was known to everyone, you can’t stop grandpa from dying just because you have an important holiday coming up. This hadn’t been an issue in Egypt for one reason: the laws about being ceremonially clean had not yet been given. The people had listened; they were aware of the new law, and they weren’t sure what to do.

To his credit, Moses didn’t just make something up on the spot. Human reason might present a solution, but reason is not supposed to be the Lady of the House when it comes to our lives. Reason is a serving-girl; she should not and must not be allowed to make the important decisions. Faith is the Lady of the House. Reason is Faith’s subordinate in everything. “Reason plays only a servant role, not a teaching role, in the interpretation of the Scriptures. That is, if reason contradicts the Bible, then reason is faulty and mistaken. Reason does not instruct or correct the Word of God” (Deutschlander, Grace Abounds p. 83).

The desire to celebrate the Passover was the desire to experience God’s grace. The blood, the bread, and the flesh of the lamb in the Passover prefigured Christ and his sacrifice in a clear and vivid picture. “Beyond all measure,” Luther almost sings, “with absolute conclusiveness, through and through, in every respect, and quite beautifully this represents and prefigures and typifies the Lord’s body which was given for us and his blood which was shed for us for the forgiveness of sins, as all the world well knows” (LW 37:264). We cannot speak of any sacrament or figure without using simple, distinct, clear, and ordinary words, otherwise nobody would understand what it means, and it would be useless. The Israelites understood perfectly well that when they ate that meal (lamb, unleavened bread, special herbs, etc.), they were celebrating and remembering the grace of God and having their faith strengthened by it in the same act.

So the desire to have this Passover was surely genuine. It just happened that a few men, not many, but as many out of two million as we might expect, had come into contact with uncleanness because of a few deaths. One or two deaths in the entire nation would have accounted for this. Contact with a dead body caused a person to be unclean for seven days (Numbers 19:11-12), and they had to purify themselves with water twice (on the third and seventh day, Numbers 31:19).

Moses asked the Lord what was to be done. Moses doesn’t make a show out of his request. He doesn’t record for us whether or not he even asked the Lord specifically about this. He just tells the people to wait for him to hear the Lord’s answer. This is a reminder for us that God knows what’s in our heart. Even the devil doesn’t know what we’re thinking silently to ourselves, but God knows (1 Kings 8:39; Luke 16:15), and he will give us an answer. When we pray, we remember that God invites us to pray, that he will always give us an answer, although there are some cases in which the Lord said “no” to a request, such as to David (1 Chronicles 28:2-3), to Paul (2 Corinthians 12:7-9), and even to Jesus (Mark 14:36). If God said no to them, I shouldn’t feel bad if sometimes he says no to me. But mostly he will say yes, or not yet, or he will show me that he had more in mind to give than what I asked for. So pray! Ask! Thank him for what he has done, and don’t be afraid to petition him for your daily bread. His mercy endures forever.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith

About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.


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