On Passover, Easter: Look for biblical patterns

Opinion: "Pesach is a story of patterns," writes Pastor Trey Graham.

 Bernie Faller attends a Passover seder for 10 people vaccinated against COVID-19 in Louisville, Kentucky on March 27, 2021.  (photo credit: AMIRA KARAOUD/REUTERS)
Bernie Faller attends a Passover seder for 10 people vaccinated against COVID-19 in Louisville, Kentucky on March 27, 2021.
(photo credit: AMIRA KARAOUD/REUTERS)

Holy days are upon us.  Shopping and house cleaning and family gatherings are on everyone’s mind.  Even post-COVID travel plans are an option for families this year.  

Hopefully, deliverance and obedience and grace are also on everyone’s mind. 

Your household may have years of traditions and routines that guide your holiday preparations.  You likely have generational patterns that you follow, passed down from parents and grandparents.

As Christians and Jews enter the seasons of Easter and Passover, Bible students everywhere are reminded that the Lord Almighty is a God of patterns.  Like the structure of the six days of creation, the annual calendar of feasts and fasts, the consistent beauty of the weekly Shabbat and the detailed instructions for sacrifices (korbanot) in the book of Leviticus, the Lord established patterns for His people as they seek His grace and deliverance. 

Sinful people are allowed access into the presence of sinless God by following His patterns. We serve a God who so wants to forgive that He graciously provides His children important spiritual instructions.  God’s patterns guide God’s people.

What happens when a person attempts to approach the Lord in ways that violate His patterns?  

Sadly, many of us were reminded of that answer as we recently studied the parasha of Sh’mini and read about the tragic and preventable deaths of Nadav and Avihu, the sons of Aaron who “offered strange fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them” (Leviticus 10:1).

Jews understand that Passover is a story of patterns.  Family traditions and Bible teachings during the Seder Meal are powerful lessons for the next generation about God’s righteousness and sovereignty.  Haggadah readings remind the listeners of God’s power as evidenced by the horror of the plagues and God’s mercy as evidenced by the freeing of the slaves.  The pattern of Moses repeatedly calling for freedom is contrasted with Pharaoh’s stubborn refusals to let the slaves go.

Ten plagues finger puppets (Credit: Flickr)Ten plagues finger puppets (Credit: Flickr)

Pesach is a story of patterns because the one, true God consistently and deliberately demonstrated His power over Egypt’s deities.  Did you know that the ten plagues, also known as “wonders,” were not random demonstrations of heavenly power?  Instead, each supernatural action by the God of Israel was a purposeful reaction to and victory over the various gods of Egypt. 

For example, the second plague of frogs was sent by Israel’s God to demonstrate authority over Egypt’s deity known as “Hapi,” the frog goddess. 

The fourth plague of flies came from heaven’s throne to dominate the fly-like deity of Egypt, known as the god “Khepri.”

When the unimaginable destruction of hail descended from the skies in plague number seven, the Israelites (and the Egyptians) must have recognized that HaShem was greater than “Nut,” the Egyptian sky goddess.

We could go further down the list, but I think you get the idea.  

The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob defeated pagan deities in the Exodus, proving undeniably that He possessed sovereign spiritual power over every aspect of His creation.  As we see when we study the list of plagues, the Lord used a logical pattern to proclaim His victory one miracle at a time.

Speaking of the plagues, what distinguished the homes devastated by the final plague and the homes protected from the sorrow of death?  The blood of the lamb on every doorpost.  The Passover story illustrates one of God’s most important patterns … there is power in the blood.

“The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live; and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt" (Exodus 12:13).

“For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement” (Leviticus 17:11).

Fellow Christians, are you aware that the man from Galilee named Jesus of Nazareth annually celebrated the Seder Meal, including the night before He was crucified, just a few days before He was resurrected?  To best understand His life and ministry, followers of Jesus should know that He lived a Jewish life regulated by the patterns of the Bible’s holy days.

In Jerusalem, during a Passover meal in the upper room, Jesus said to His disciples as He was partaking in the Seder’s third cup of wine, “for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins”  (Matthew 26:28).  Jesus, the one worshipped by Christians as the Messiah, understood from the Passover story that there is power in the blood.

Weekly gatherings for worship, daily opportunities for prayer, annual celebrations of the birth and resurrection of our Savior – these are all patterns that encourage spiritual growth for Christians.  Becoming more like Jesus is the calling of His followers.  

You can mention spiritual disciplines or faithful obedience or consistency in one’s spiritual walk.  These various terms used by Christian teachers to encourage their congregations are all reminders of a lesson from Passover: there is power in patterns. 

As Easter approaches, do you know what distinguishes the homes where Resurrection Day is just another Sunday in the spring and the homes where spiritual power is present and salvation has come?  

Look for biblical patterns.  And, look for the blood of the lamb, not on doorposts but on hearts.  

Trey Graham is a pastor and radio host in Texas who leads tours of Christian pilgrims to study the Bible in Israel. Learn more at www.IsraelByTheBook.com.