Numbers 9:9-12 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites: ‘When any of you or your descendants are unclean because of a dead body or are away on a journey, they may still celebrate the LORD’s Passover. They are to celebrate it on the fourteenth day of the second month at twilight. They are to eat the lamb, together with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. They must not leave any of it till morning or break any of its bones. When they celebrate the Passover, they must follow all the regulations.’”
In our rather ‘laissez-faire’, do-your-own-thing society, we might wonder why the LORD gave Moses such detailed, rigid and non-negotiable instructions regarding something like the celebration of the Passover. But we notice two significant things in the instructions in today’s verses.
Firstly, although it was ALWAYS to be celebrated ‘at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month’ every year (see verse 5), allowance could be made for people who found themselves UNAVOIDABLY excluded at that time, to celebrate it a month later. Throughout Scripture we see our HOLY God making very clear rules about how we are to relate to him, but we also see this same COMPASSIONATE God actually BREAKING his own rules for OUR benefit.
The Prophet Micah captures this tension between rigidity and flexibility for us when he says, “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To ACT JUSTLY and to LOVE MERCY and to WALK HUMBLY with your God.” (Micah 6:8). Are we too rigid about rules when a particular situation calls for compassion? Are we too off-handed when God’s holiness demands unquestioning obedience?
Secondly, we notice the rule that no bones of the sacrificial passover lamb were to be broken, which is obviously a pointer to the future TRUE, Once-for-All, Passover Lamb whose bones, uncharacteristically, would NOT be broken as he hung on the cross for us. Probably Moses himself wondered why this ‘rule’ was so important, but we benefit from having this significant confirmation of the fact that the Passover was a foreshadowing of Jesus’ substitutionary Atonement that would set us free from the bondage of slavery to sin. Let us be very careful about making our own (uninspired) assessment of what is important and what isn’t!