Through faith he kept the Passover

When we read the record in Hebrews 11 carefully, we find some enlightening information about Moses. The choice of pronouns in verses 28 and 29 is quite telling. The Passover was kept in faith primarily by Moses. The people did not, as a whole, display faith until they moved through the Red Sea. This I believe is telling us that Moses (and possibly only Moses) saw Christ in the inaugural Passover. That some in Israel later came to see the Messiah typified in the Passover lamb is almost certain but it would seem only Moses perceived it at the time. Hebrews 11 gives us two details, the Passover and the sprinkling of blood. We can be sure that most of Israel observed the details of these two rites but we may be equally certain that many did not comprehend Christ in the ritual.

Our Lord said of the inaugural breaking of bread service, “With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer” (Luke 22:15). We know that the Passover meal itself is based upon the last supper. It may seem odd to express it that way since the Passover preceded the last supper. The fact remains that the shadow is cast by the substance and the substance is Christ. The lamb and the meal line up with the details mentioned in Hebrews 11, “the passover, and the sprinkling of blood” (v28), and these in turn connect with Christ and the breaking of bread. These details are neither new nor difficult for us to grasp in the era subsequent to the first advent of Jesus but they would have been a challenge to many before then. It is not hard to see why many might have kept the Passover in a perfunctory manner and not according to faith.

As the Jews came to celebrate the Passover, there were associated with it four cups of wine. One of these was called the Cup of Blessing. The Apostle Paul made a deliberate connection to this and so draws the parallel even more closely when he said, “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ?” (1 Cor 10:16). When we look closely at the whole chapter, we discover that Paul commenced by comparing the experiences of Israel to ourselves and taking lessons from their story.

Christ and the memorials

There are, by my reckoning, fourteen direct types of the memorial meeting in the Passover meal and five types of Christ in the Passover lamb. We can­not know that Moses saw them all but clearly he saw the picture. Moses said in summary, “this day shall be a memorial for you”, reminding us again of the words we use of this gathering. The words of 1 Peter 1:10-13 are quite apposite here: “Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into. Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end …” Did you also notice an oblique reference to the Passover in those final words, “gird up your loins” (cp Exod 12:11)? Peter makes it quite clear that the spirit of Christ was in Moses and Paul has already given us to know that he saw Christ in the Passover. Jesus simply said, “he (Moses) wrote of me” (John 5:46).

Passover is styled by God in Exodus 23:18 as “my sacrifice”: “Thou shalt not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leavened bread; neither shall the fat of my sacrifice remain until the morning.” Exodus 34:25 makes it clear that Passover is being referred to: “Thou shalt not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leaven; neither shall the sacrifice of the feast of the passover be left unto the morning.”

Two points emerge quite readily. Whenever we meet to remember Christ in a meeting of memo­rial, it is God’s meeting or “It is the sacrifice of the LORD’s passover” (Exod 12:27). Secondly, let us not forget that the sacrifice was made by God. Peter drew all these threads together when he said, “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you” (1 Pet 1:18-20).

Deliverance from sin

Moses well knew, perhaps better than most, what Egypt represented: sin and death, slavery and frustration. That deliverance from Egypt (sin, and all its burden) is accomplished through Christ is clear. I think it likely that Moses connected the lamb slain to provide coats of skin in Eden with the Passover and also with Jesus.

Now concerning the sprinkled blood of which Paul in Hebrews wrote, Peter in his first letter, writing to Jews, said, “Elect according to the fore­knowledge of God the Father, through sanctifica­tion of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ” (1:2). They would not have missed the point; the sprinkled blood of the Passover was, in type, the blood of Jesus shed for us.

We may simply summarise, in conclusion, this line of thought with the words of the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 5:7-8: “Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth”.

The serpent on a pole

The Passover was a national deliverance. The work of salvation is intended to be much more personal than that. The other major type of the Lord is seen in the incident with the fiery serpents. Having been constituted a nation and delivered through the Passover and baptized unto Moses, there was still the recurrent problem of sin. The people murmured against the gracious provisions of a loving heavenly Father with a fourfold complaint and the result (Num 21:6) was that the serpents with a burning bite killed many people. There seems no other reason for this particular form of punishment other than a connection back to the Garden in Eden and forward to Christ. God could have, and indeed on other occasions did use, other means to pun­ish the people. Referring back to Genesis 3, the serpent is a particular reference to sin and the death it produces. So the problem to be dealt with was sin. Moses was instructed to make a brazen effigy of a snake and set it upon a pole. Those who looked upon it, in faith (as we shall see from the NT interpretation) would live.

Let us now look at Jesus’ connection as recorded in John 3. It is actually part of the discussion with Nicodemus, who was then a ruler of the Sanhedrin and it appears had come to Jesus to sound him out and see if there was any hope of a mutually profit­able association. Jesus said, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:14-17). Clearly these words are primarily telling us that salvation from sin is through Jesus. Secondarily, he was telling Nicodemus that Moses prefigured salvation through Christ when he erected a pole and lifted up the serpent upon it. It was quite an odd requirement of God, demanding that the people look at a brazen serpent in faith. It was only in this way that salvation was to be had. John, in fact, made that very point, which is clear when we read, “This is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life” (NET v16). The way of salvation was through Christ, a representative sacrifice. On the surface, the words in John 3:16 present a conundrum; clearly God does not love the world. John himself was later to write, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world” (1 John 2:15-16). How do we resolve these two seemingly mutually exclusive passages? The holy harmless and undefiled Christ was placarded by crucifixion; as men and women from all over the world look upon him in faith, God loves them. God does not love the world for what it is; He loves it for what it can become through Christ. That the word “so” in John 3:16 is intended to mean ‘in this way’ is clear from John’s own interpretation: “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us …” (1 John 3:1).

There were two further truths unpalatable to the Jewish psyche. The Messiah would be made of brazen flesh, or as Paul said, “in the likeness of sinful flesh” (Rom 8:3), and be lifted up or crucified that all people may thereby be saved. Nothing could have been further from the Jewish mind than the death of Messiah, despite the fact that their hands caused it, as Peter indicated when he said, “Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee” (Matt 16:22). Moses was told to set the brazen serpent upon a pole so all could see it. The Hebrew word for “pole” (nes) is the same word translated “ensign” in Isaiah 11:10 in reference to Messiah: “In that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek”. Clearly, salvation through Christ was for Jew and Gentile. The record in Numbers 21 says, “that every one that is bitten …” (v8) and “that if a serpent had bitten any man …” (v9), indicating the universality of salvation.

Interestingly, the very last picture in Isaiah before the words about the Messiah being lifted up is of a baby playing with a cobra and a toddler playing with an adder and not being harmed. This is very different from the scene that Moses faced where the serpents bit with burning fatal results. As a result of the work of Christ, sin is now subdued and all people are blessed. Jesus himself taught both of these truths when he put together the words in Numbers 21 and Isaiah 11 and said, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. This he said, signifying what death he should die” (John 12:32-33). Conveniently bypassing that “all men” included Gentiles, the Jews then swooped on the notion of a dying Messiah and said, “We have heard out of the law that Christ abideth for ever: and how sayest thou, The Son of man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of man?” (John 12:34).

Whoso believeth

The lesson for us is that we must have faith, faith that we can be saved and faith that it will work. When one considers the cure for the serpent’s bite, it was quite improbable from a human perspective. It had no basis either in science or medicine. Such is Christ crucified, “unto the Jews a stumbling-block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor 1:23-24). The faith that will look at a bra­zen serpent on a pole or a Messiah on a stake is prepared to accept God for who He is. Such faith sets aside human reasoning and trusts the wisdom of God. Without such faith we cannot please God (Heb 11:6). Men today, and sadly even some in the brotherhood, question the workings of God on the basis that they seem improbable or without reason. We must simply trust and obey. John 3:16 has three phrases with import for us; many forget the middle one: “whosoever believeth in him”. Everlasting life does not come spontaneously because God sent His Son, as is popular in ‘Christian churches’; it comes because we look to him in faith.

The grand work of salvation in Christ was en­acted by Moses in at least these two incidents. It is no stretch to suggest that Moses understood the significance of both. When the Apostle Paul said of the Law that is was a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, we must be drawn to the idea that Moses understood the significance of what he enacted and taught. The schoolmaster was a servant whose task it was to take children to school and see that they learned. That was Moses, reaching out with precept and example, showing us Christ’S salvation.


We have seen Moses as the premier type of Christ in the Scriptures. We have seen him as a leader, an intercessor and a deliverer. We have marvelled at his faith, courage and meekness and the record of his trust and acceptance of the will of God, almost as if he might have said, “not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42). Moses was truly a remarkable servant of God and we would do well to follow him.