God heard the groaning of the children of Israel. The cries of the slave nation had come into His ears, and He remembered the covenant that He made long ago with their fathers.
Keeping His promise, God told the people, “I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will rid you out of their bondage, and I will redeem you with a stretched out arm, and with great judgments” (Ex. 6:6).
God promised to personally bring them out. If they obeyed Him, God told them in the wilderness: “I will put none of these diseases upon you, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the Lord that heals you” (15:26).
How did Israel show their gratitude after they were miraculously delivered from Egypt? How did they demonstrate their appreciation for all God had done in helping them escape their oppressors?
They worshipped another god—a golden calf.
The idea of forming the idol was a holdover from their days in Egypt. Cattle were sometimes used by Egyptians to represent gods. Most notable was the Apis bull, which was worshipped as a living version of a god. This deity was sought for life, health and strength. For Egyptians, he, as with all false idols, “brought much comfort to the people as a god they could see and touch,” according to The Virtual Egyptian Museum.
This last point reveals what was still entrenched in the Israelites’ thinking.
Leading up to the creation of the calf, Moses, their human leader, had ascended Mount Sinai to receive instruction from God about how to govern the people. But the children of Israel grew impatient. They began to believe God had neglected them.
As a result of their faithlessness, Aaron crafted the idol. When it was completed, the people declared, “These be your gods, O Israel, which brought you up out of the land of Egypt” (Ex. 32:4). Then they offered sacrifices before it and celebrated.
Reading the account today, the actions of the Israelites seem absurd. The true God had obviously single-handedly brought Israel out of Egypt and through a parted Red Sea (Ex. 14:29). He continued to take care of them, miraculously feeding them manna every day (Ex. 16:15). Yet, when an opportunity came for Israel to rely on Him, they longed for their days in bondage and gave His credit to a statue. Israel was presented with a test and they failed miserably.
We should not be too quick to judge ancient Israel, however. Such accounts are recorded for us. They are designed to catch our attention: “Now all these things”—the stories of Old Testament Israel—“happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come” (I Cor. 10:11).
This means what happened in ancient Israel can happen to us today! In other words, we can forget the many blessings God bestows on us and forget that He brought us out of the world and into the truth.
Hard to believe?
Just a chapter later in I Corinthians 11, the apostle Paul exhorted Christians to examine their individual lives before taking the Passover symbols. Not doing this properly, he said, would have serious spiritual and physical consequences. He told the Church, “Let a man examine himself” (11:28) prior to the Passover ceremony. Failure to do so would result in illness: “For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep” (vs. 30).
Paul explained the impact of an improper attitude when it came to reviewing Jesus Christ’s beating and ultimate sacrifice, which led to our deliverance, and gauging how well we trust Him for physical and spiritual needs.
At Mount Sinai, the children of Israel failed to obtain the full blessings God had for them. Their story becomes a cautionary tale for all who desire to be in God’s kingdom.
Ways of Egypt
During the golden calf incident, the Israelites’ minds remained in Egypt—still in bondage—even though their physical bodies were free. Prior to every Passover and during the Days of Unleavened Bread, we are to recall Israel’s Exodus. Christians were delivered from spiritual bondage in Egypt—a type of the world.
Yet Passover is not just a time of remembrance—it is also one of self-examination. We are to both thank God for our deliverance and determine our level of spiritual growth over the previous year.
When we examine ourselves, we test how well we are living God’s Way. After being called out of sin and the ungodly ways of this world, Christians must prove they are willing to stay the course.
The world is cut off from God and hopelessly lost in religious confusion, suffering, disease and death. Once set free, no one in their right mind should want to go back, right?
It is not that easy.
Look at the Israelites. Despite being enslaved and treated horribly by the Egyptians, they were willing to return. This is probably because oppression was so familiar to them.
But the Israelites did not necessarily yearn for bondage as an end in itself. They yearned for what Egypt had to offer. They thought the Egyptian way was the right course of life, even though in reality it led to death (Prov. 16:25). Life in Egypt, even as a free people, would have been detrimental for them.
Consider. God says serving other gods leads to destruction (Josh. 24:20). Ancient Egypt was filled with false gods. Hundreds of them permeated every aspect of their culture. They had gods for healing, agriculture, protection, weather, prosperity, sex, war, education, clothing, fertility and domesticated animals, to name a few. They even had a god, Tjenenet, for brewing beer!
Egyptians did not glorify God as they should have (Rom. 1:20-21). Instead, they created idols “made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things” (vs. 23).
The result was an intricate system of gods seen in few other societies. Instead of demonstrating simplicity, which is a characteristic of worshipping the true God (II Cor. 11:3), their system was complicated by various hierarchies, complex intertwined relationships, and multiple representations of the same deity.
In addition, their decadent lifestyles led to ill health. Because of this, ancient Egyptians invented the practice of medicine. They performed surgical procedures, had medical schools, and were some of the first to train specialists in treating body parts such as the eyes, teeth, feet and internal organs. Various other clues point to modern medicine’s Egyptian roots including the common Rx symbol for prescriptions, which originated from the eye of Horus—an Egyptian symbol of good health.
Scripture reveals that man’s practice of medicine began a dangerous pattern. He started to wrongly look to doctors for healing instead of God. King Asa of Judah did this when suffering a chronic disease in his feet. We see that “in his disease he sought not to the Lord, but to the physicians” (II Chron. 16:12). He died about two years later having never been cured.
Likewise, King Ahaziah was injured in a fall and did not seek relief from the true God. Instead, he looked to Baalzebub, a false deity of medicine (II Kings 1:2). God was deeply offended by Ahaziah’s actions and punished him for his terrible decision: “Is it not because there is not a God in Israel, that you send to enquire of Baalzebub the god of Ekron? Therefore you shall not come down from that bed on which you are gone up, but shall surely die” (vs. 6).
Today, mankind continues to seek cures from men—to the exclusion of God.
Egypt’s ways were clearly wrong. God set the Israelites free to experience His Way. They were not to look back, but instead draw closer to God through their experiences.
Christ Connects Physical and Spiritual
Jesus Christ demonstrated God’s care and concern for people. Early on, He showed the importance of healing and tied it directly to His mission of preaching the gospel.
Almost immediately after His ministry began, Christ became well known as a healer: “Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people. And His fame went throughout all Syria: and they brought unto Him all sick people that were taken with diverse diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatic, and those that had the palsy; and He healed them” (Matt. 4:23-24).
This was different from how man had previously dealt with his infirmities. Yet Jesus had more in mind. He wanted people to be made whole—through both spiritual and physical healing.
The religious leaders of the time questioned Christ’s authority to forgive sins. They correctly understood that only God could do this (Lev. 6:7).
In an effort to reveal His identity as well as teach an important lesson, Christ said: “Whether is easier, to say, Your sins be forgiven you; or to say, Rise up and walk? But that you may know that the Son of man has power upon earth to forgive sins [He said unto the sick of the palsy], I say unto you, Arise, and take up your couch, and go into your house” (Luke 5:23-24).
This became undeniable proof of Christ’s identity as God. Just as important, though, this tied the forgiveness of sin with the healing of physical ailments.
Christ’s purpose for coming to Earth removes any further doubt of this connection. Isaiah states: “Surely He has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed” (53:4-5).
These “stripes” are referenced in every anointing prayer to remind us that we can go to God for physical healing (Jms. 5:14).
Multiple times, Christ spoke of people being “made whole” (Mark 5:34; Luke 8:50; John 5:14). The words translated “whole” can mean: “to save, that is, deliver or protect” or “healthy, that is, well (in body)” (Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance).
Spiritual sins are a result of personal transgression of God’s Law and iniquity on the part of each of us. The same can be said of physical ailments that came as a result of the sin committed in the Garden of Eden and of our own individual day-to-day choices. While man is spiritually and physically sick, because of Christ’s beating and sacrifice, we can go to Him for complete and total healing!
The world does not have the same access to God that we have been mercifully given. Our time of self-examination should include spending time meditating on this special privilege.
The Passover, the first of God’s annual feasts, is a memorial (Ex. 12:14)—meaning it is to be kept every year. It is observed each spring and represents a renewal of the covenant, or agreement, made with God at baptism.
The first Passover was observed immediately prior to Israel’s deliverance from slavery in Egypt (Ex. 12:1-11). This event was a foreshadowing of Christ’s sacrifice as the perfect Lamb of God, who would take away the sin of the world (John 1:29).
The Passover symbols have specific meaning and purpose. Prior to His death, Christ explained what the symbols represented: “And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is My body. And He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink you all of it; for this is My blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matt. 26:26-28).
We eat unleavened bread and wine every year during the Passover as symbols of Christ’s beating and sacrifice purging our past sins.
But why two symbols?
Christ said the wine represented the blood shed for the remission of spiritual sins. He included the bread to represent His beating for forgiveness of physical sins. This should not be surprising given all that has been covered.
This dual purpose was what Paul expounded in I Corinthians 11:30. He explained why certain members were experiencing physical maladies and, in some cases, death.
Brethren at the time had become lax in the observance of the Passover ceremony. Over time, the memorial began to lose its meaning. The Passover became a festive occasion, with the bread and wine being included with other food. On top of this, there were people coming to the service hungry, eating the meal, and not leaving enough for everyone. Therefore, it became necessary for Paul to reset their priorities beginning with a review of Christ’s instructions. (Read verses 24-25.)
It is highly unlikely that any in our modern age would exhibit such outlandish behavior during a Passover service. Yet this account does speak directly to the importance of proper self-examination prior to it.
Examining ourselves helps us have the right mindset. The Passover is a time to recall the suffering and eventual death of God manifest in the flesh. Christ was beaten and tortured beyond recognition (Isa. 52:14)—all for our sakes. Therefore, this occasion must be approached with much solemnity and reverence.
Not Looking Back to Egypt
Passover is an important matter for a Christian. Approaching it “unworthily” makes us “guilty of the body and blood of the Lord” (I Cor. 11:27). In other words, we again become responsible for His death! This is serious.
Understand that while none of us are truly worthy to take the Passover, the key is to take it in a worthy manner. This means we must have an attitude of sincere repentance toward God, avoid willful sin, and set in our minds that we will not compromise God’s Law.
(Note I Corinthians 11:29, which states, “For he that eats and drinks unworthily, eats and drinks damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.” Understand that the word “damnation” is mistranslated. It should be “judgment,” not eternal damnation.)
Self-examination is not something to be done moments before taking the symbols. We are to use the weeks leading up to this special night to reflect on our deliverance from sin and all that God has done for us over the previous year.
The process of self-examination also identifies areas in our lives where we, with God’s help, have made progress and areas where further growth is required.
After the children of Israel escaped their oppressors, they had the opportunity to experience the fullness of God’s abundant blessings for the first time. He promised to be there with them and protect them: “And I will walk among you, and will be your God, and you shall be My people” (Lev. 26:12).
This equated to spiritual and physical protection. His only requirement was to “walk in My statutes, and keep My commandments, and do them” (vs. 3).
Christians have been given the same opportunity. Upon repentance and baptism, we receive God’s Holy Spirit. Christ’s sacrifice takes care of our past sins. We simply must look forward and take action.
During our self-examination process, we should consider our ways and identify areas where we are falling short of God’s standards. We must then determine to change.
Are we engaging in sufficient Bible study and prayer? (Read II Timothy 2:15 and I Thessalonians 5:17.) Both are related to our communication with God.
How are we doing with serving our fellow brethren and displaying brotherly love to those inside and outside the Church? (Read Hebrews 13:1 and Philippians 2:4.)
Do we obey God’s government in the Church and in our homes? (Read Hebrews 13:7.)
What about the words that we speak—do we strive to keep our tongues under control and our communication pure? (Read James 3:5-8 and Colossians 3:8.)
Overall, are we becoming spiritually mature with each passing year or are we running into the same roadblocks we faced years ago? We must overcome if we expect to sit on thrones next to Jesus Christ (Rev. 2:26-27)!
God knows we cannot do all of this on our own. We need His help. By admitting our faults and submitting to Him, we draw closer to Him and take on His nature. Each Passover season presents an opportunity to draw closer and closer to perfection.
Determine to claim all the promises of God. Christ’s sacrifice gives us a chance to become whole or complete. We should therefore approach God with full faith that we can be delivered from all that ails us both spiritually and physically.
But it does not stop there. Once we are delivered, it becomes our job—with God’s help!—to remain free.