Shalom fine Kineti reader, and chag sameach. Here are some notes I jotted tonight for the significance of the 4 cups of Passover for Messianic believers. I hope you enjoy!
The Jewish people have several traditions around the 4 cups. One prominent tradition is that the 4 cups correspond to the 4 “I will…” statements of Exodus 6:
I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will save you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. I will take you to be my people…
We take these 4 cups remembering the works of God, aspects of his saving Israel, facets of his salvation:
- “I will bring you out” – sanctification
- “I will save you” – deliverance
- “I will redeem you” – redemption
- “I will take you as My people” – restoration
We also take these 4 cups in remembrance of Messiah. At Passover, Messiah commands us to “do this in remembrance of Me” – but what are we remembering about Messiah?
- Messiah calls us to be holy – sanctification – by living the life of a disciple.
- Messiah has saved us from sin – deliverance – through the shedding of his blood.
- Messiah has redeemed mankind, as the prophet Isaiah spoke “the righteous one, my servant, shall make many accounted righteous, because he poured out his soul to death and bore the sin of many.” Through Messiah pouring out his blood, God redeemed from every nation a people for himself.
- The coming Messianic Era, the Kingdom of Heaven, is the restoration of the world, in which there is only one nation – the Kingdom of God – with one king, the Messiah.
Cup 1: Sanctification
“I will take you out…”
With this first cup we remember God pulling Israel out of the nations and setting them apart from the world.
We remember how God took a bunch of nobody slaves and called them to be distinct from the nation they were living in. He took people that were suffering and dissolving and disappearing, he listened to their cries for help, and responded to their cries, “I will take you out!”
This separate-ness – called sanctification – is why God blessed Israel but judged Egypt. This separate-ness is why God sent plagues on idolaters, but peace and safety to His people. This separateness is why God killed the firstborn of Egypt, but gave life and deliverance to his people Israel.
When we drink this cup of sanctification, we remember the Messiah, who called us to the difficult and life-long path of a disciple: separate from the world, distinct from sinful people, a higher calling of discipline and obedience and service to God.
We remember that Messiah has taken us out of the world, as it’s written, “Do not love the world, or the things of the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lusts of the flesh and the lusts of the eyes are not of the Father, but of the world. And the world and all of these lusts are passing away. But the one that does the will of God abides forever and ever.”
God has called each person in this room to live a holy life. Not one that is so like the world, that we’re indistinguishable from unbelievers. But a life marked by holiness, characterized by shalom, distinguished by obedience to God’s commandments, filled up with the fruit of the Spirit and producing good works for God and the Messiah who sanctifies us.
Cup 2: Deliverance
“I will save you…”
Have you ever experienced a difficult time in your life? Maybe you’re struggling with depression, battling addictions, barely surviving a fight-filled marriage?
In such times, we call out to God for help. We’re at the end of what we can humanely do. We don’t know how else to fix the situation. “God, help me, I don’t know what else to do!”
This is what the people of Israel did in Egypt. Being worked to death in a burning desert for hundreds of years, people were losing hope. At that point, all of God’s promises must have seemed ridiculous. That old promise that God would make them into a great nation must have seemed entirely laughable, a fairy tales you tell to children, but not a tangible reality.
Then, God intervened. Then, God performed a divine reversal. Instead of a forgotten people dying in a desert, God puts on a show of divine power, his right arm bared for everyone to see, miracles worked one after another, judgment brought on the captors, release and favor on the captives. This was the salvation of Israel that was to be remembered for generations to come, this was the deliverance of God’s people that became etched throughout the Scriptures, ingrained even in the 10 commandments which begin, “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt, and delivered you from the land of slavery.”
Had God not delivered them at that time, there would have been no Exodus from Egypt, no commandments given to Israel, no land of Israel, no prophets of Israel, no books of the Bible, no kings of Israel, no King David, and if not David, then no son of David, the Messiah, and if no Messiah, no disciples, no disciples, and we wouldn’t be here today.
As we drink this cup of deliverance, let’s remember that God came through, he didn’t disappoint, and made good on his promise to deliver Israel. Let’s remember that God sent the Messiah, his own Son, who delivers us from sin; we no longer need to be slaves to sin, because we have repentance leading to forgiveness of sin in Yeshua’s name. We will overcome even the difficult circumstances because God will deliver us, as Messiah encouraged us saying, “Have no fear, have no fear, I have overcome the world!”
Let’s remember and trust and believe that every man who puts his trust in the Lord will not be disappointed, but will see in his own life God’s complete and total deliverance.
Cup 3: Redemption
“I will redeem you…”
The idea of redemption is foreign to us in the 21st century. We might redeem a coupon code, or talk about a person’s sole redeeming quality, but we otherwise don’t deal in redemption.
To redeem something is to regain it in exchange for payment. To buy back something. To repurchase or win back something.
God is in the redemption business. God is called the Redeemer of Israel repeatedly in the Torah and in the psalms and in the in the prophets. In this 3rd Passover cup, the cup of redemption, we remember that God redeemed Israel from slavery, reclaiming his people for himself through what the Scriptures call an outstretched arm – God’s power on display through repeated miracles for Israel and plagues against Egypt.”
This 3rd cup is the cup that our Master Yeshua also said, “This is the cup of the b’rit hachadasha (new covenant, new agreement, new deal), ratified by my blood, which is poured out for you.”
This new covenant, this new deal was an agreement in which God agreed that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved, spared from sin and death and judgment.
Yeshua said this 3rd cup, the cup of redemption, is the cup of the new covenant, the cup of his blood poured out for humanity.
His blood being poured out was what made this new deal possible. Isaiah spoke in advance of Messiah’s coming, foretelling that God’s righteous servant – the Messiah – will justify many people before God. This new deal was made possible by God laying on Messiah the guilt of humanity, that by his being beaten, bruised, and whipped, and speared, and nailed to a tree, Messiah’s shed blood will redeem mankind. This is the blood of the new covenant, the cup of redemption that we are about to drink.
The book of Hebrews puts it this way: the priests in the Temple offering sacrifices and appearing before God’s presence is an earthly shadow of a heavenly reality: Messiah shedding his perfect blood, cleaning us of our sin and appearing before God on our behalf. Through Messiah’s shed blood, he took on himself the sins of many, becoming God’s Salvation and God’s Redemption.
And because of this Messiah, we are all here today. Because of the merit of Messiah’s life and the pouring out of his blood, God has purchased from all nations a people for himself, a people who once were not a people. We, the billions of believers who call on the name of the God of Israel, have been redeemed by God, purchased through the precious blood of his own son, the spotless Passover lamb, to him be the glory forever!
Cup 4: Restoration
“I will take you as My own people…”
The hope we have as disciples of Yeshua is the hope promised in the Scriptures: God is restoring all things to their pristine state, turning evil on its head, rewarding the righteous, setting things straight.
Are you distraught at how wicked and sinful people are today? Don’t worry, God will bring every evil act of men into judgment. Do you see confusion among secular people, in the media, and even in the church? God promises he will seal up the deceiver, cast him in the lake of fire, and Satan will no longer be able to deceive the nations. Are you ill? God has promised that when the Kingdom of Heaven arrives, disease will be taken away. Are you suffering? God will wipe every tear from your eye, remove pain and suffering. Are you old and frail? God will raise you up in the last day, give you a new immortal body, and you will reign with him from Jerusalem.
In this final cup of Passover, the cup of Restoration, we remember that God kept his promise to restore Israel. It was seemingly impossible – the sons of Abraham to whom God has promised a nation and a great people had been reduced to a lowly group of slaves subject to a harsh master, a disorganized and bickering people dying through forced labor in the desert.
God came through and restored the people to the glory he promised them. Abraham’s seed, the Jewish people, saw God at work, restoring his people to their honored state as kings and priests of God, making a reality his promise of a great nation through whom all the families of the earth would be blessed. That nation and that people are still alive today as a testament to God’s faithfulness.
It’s important we remember this restoration! In the 1800s, even many of the Jewish people forgot that God is serious about restoration. After nearly 2000 years of being a disorganized, disunited people outside of the land God promised, one of the major branches of Judaism decided God wouldn’t restore the land after all; the Jewish people would never return to the land of Israel, never again to be a nation. That branch of Judaism decided to remove from the siddur all prayers mentioning Israel, Zion, Jerusalem.
The Christian world, too, discarded God’s promise of restoration, with one Vatican official writing in the early 1920s that God has “forever cursed the Jewish people to be nomads without a homeland.”
But, to the surprise of even the religious, God didn’t forget his promise of restoration. On May 14th of 1948, the nation of Israel was reborn, the Jewish exile ended, the land of Israel brought forth fruit again, and the Hebrew language was restored.
God is in the business of restoration, even in the modern age, yes, even in this generation.
In the last 20 years, we have seen a renaissance of disciples of Yeshua who love the Torah, look at God’s commandments as holy and good and righteous. That you are here today, celebrating Passover on the other side of the planet from where Messiah lived, 2000 years after his day – this too is a testament to God at work, God restoring what once was and what will soon be in the Messianic Era.
This final cup of Passover Yeshua our master did not drink. He said, “I will not drink of this cup until it finds its fullness in the Kingdom of Heaven”, that day when God wipes every tear from our eyes, when he takes away suffering and pain, causes death itself to die, resurrects his loved ones, all of his holy, faithful children reigning with him, bringing to earth a new earth, a new heaven and a new Jerusalem. Then Messiah’s name Immanuel – God with us – will have its full meaning when God dwells with mankind and restores creation itself, making all things new.