Celebration of Hope will be held at the National Stadium, May 17 to 19, 2019.
Singapore – we are on the cusp of the Second Passover.
You understand the origins of the Passover.
How, to kickstart the exodus from Egypt to the Promised Land, every firstborn in the land of Egypt was destined for destruction – save for those of the Israelite slaves, who were told to sacrifice a lamb and smear its blood on their doorposts.
The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt. (Exodus 12:13)
In commemoration of their freedom from slavery, the nation of Israel celebrates Pesach – the Passover festival – to this day.
Pesach Sheni: The Second Passover. A second chance. A second shot at holiness.
You grasp with gratitude the concept of Jesus as the Passover Lamb.
Where once a nation had to rely on the sacrifice of an actual lamb, Jesus took its place for all nations, spilling His blood at Calvary, becoming a sacrifice without defect – sinless – to atone for the sins of all mankind.
The next day John (the Baptist) saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)
In celebration of the fact that Jesus died and rose again, Christians around the world celebrate Easter – Resurrection Sunday – on the same weekend as the Passover.
But maybe you haven’t heard of the Second Passover. I hadn’t.
It is described in Numbers 9. At this point, the Israelites had been in the wilderness for a year and now came the time for them to celebrate their first-ever Pesach – the festival in commemoration of the original Passover.
But some of them could not celebrate the Passover on that day because they were ceremonially unclean on account of a dead body. So they came to Moses and Aaron that same day and said to Moses, “We have become unclean because of a dead body, but why should we be kept from presenting the Lord’s offering with the other Israelites at the appointed time?”
Moses answered them, “Wait until I find out what the Lord commands concerning you.”
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 are still to celebrate the Lord’s Passover, but they are to do 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 and must not break any of its bones. When they celebrate the Passover, they must follow all the regulations.” (Numbers 9:6-13)
This new celebration, exactly a month after the original Passover, would be known as Pesach Sheni.
Pesach = Passover. Sheni = Second. Pesach Sheni: The Second Passover.
A second chance. A second shot at holiness. A second window to experience the grace of the God of the Passover, who causes death to pass over those who call out to Him for salvation.
HOW SHOULD WE POSTURE FOR THE SECOND PASSOVER?
1. We must hunger for holiness
Why were these men in contact with a dead body? My guess is, it wasn’t for a bad reason. They likely didn’t kill anyone – if they did they would be running away from Moses, not towards him!
If I could hazard a guess, I’d suggest that they had just buried a loved one who had died. We know an entire generation would pass away in those years in the wilderness. If so, they were most likely “unclean” for a good reason – filial piety. Love.
How hungry are you for the things of God? How much do you want God to move in your life? Do you want it enough to ask?
Yet, strictly by the letter of their laws, any man who touched a dead body was not supposed to be part of the religious rites.
But they boldly came to God – in this case through His chosen mouthpiece, Moses – to fight for their right to do the right thing. “Why should we be kept from presenting the Lord’s offering with the others?”
Why should they be separated from God for these good reasons? Why should they be cursed by the stain of death?
A Jewish commentary describes it thus:
“These people exhibited a passionate desire, refusing to bow to the inevitable, refusing to be excluded from participation in the covenant, they came and demanded a relationship with God. And God responded accordingly.
“This then is the lesson of Pesach Sheni – no matter how impure a person may feel, no matter how remote he may be from God, no matter how many opportunities may have been missed, God always gives us the second chance.
“The one condition is: We must want it enough to ask.”
That’s what a hunger for holiness – holy dissatisfaction! – looks like. How hungry are you for the things of God? How much do you want God to move in your life? Do you want it enough to ask?
2. We must hold fast in unity
Everyone came together to resolve an issue. Those who couldn’t celebrate the Passover banded together to present their case to their leader. Their leader, Moses, heard the case and took it before the rightful judge – God.
No division, no brinksmanship, no separate camps. Just one camp – the nation of Israel – under one God.
Unity is a characteristic of the highest order, we learn from the Bible.
Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:3)
And it brings about blessings of the highest order.
How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! … For there the Lord bestows His blessing, even life forevermore. (Psalm 133:1 & 3)
Even life forevermore! Surely that trumps any other selfish desire, any greedy gain we could otherwise imagine sacrificing unity for?
3. We must honour our leaders
It would have been so easy for the men to adopt the wrong posture towards their leaders. This was a time of complaint and criticism.
Two chapters later, in Numbers 11, many were buried in Kibroth Hattaavah, the graves of craving, for their complaints about the manna they had to eat daily; a chapter later, in Numbers 12, even Miriam and Aaron paid the price for speaking against Moses. And in Numbers 16, 14,700 died in the plague triggered by the murmurings of the Sons of Korah.
But these men chose not to.
We know their posture before Moses wasn’t one of superiority or indignance; we know this by Moses’ response: No falling face-down, no gnashing of teeth, no tearing of robes. And we know it by God’s response.
As the men honoured their leaders by presenting their cases plainly and then allowing their leaders to lead, God responded with mercy.
When the leaders lead in Israel, when the people volunteer, praise the LORD. (Judges 5:2)
A SECOND CHANCE FOR SINGAPORE
To this day, the Jews still celebrate the Pesach Sheni, their second chance to honour God each year.
The first time I came across Numbers 9 while doing my quiet time, I was excited, intrigued about this Second Passover. And a little voice told me: Check the Jewish calendar for 2019. I headed straight for Google.
This year, the Second Passover falls on May 18-19. The weekend of the Celebration of Hope.
Pesach Sheni always falls a month after Good Friday – a month after the Passover Festival, as God decreed in Numbers 9.
This year, the Second Passover falls on May 18-19.
The weekend of the Celebration of Hope.
Four decades after we had our evangelistic revival in the form of tens of thousands coming to faith in rallies led by the late Billy Graham in 1978, Singapore is being given a second chance.
For those of us who weren’t involved back then, this is our second chance to labour in the harvest.
Back in 1978, when an estimated 80% of churches were involved in the Billy Graham rallies, it has been documented that one group that sprang from one denomination not only sat out on the event, they actually lined the streets to the old National Stadium shouting invective against those attending.
In 2019, many churches of that denomination are invested participants in the Celebration of Hope. A second shot at unity.
For those of us who are too young to remember 1978 – this is our chance to experience a spiritual watershed moment across our land.
I am 39, born exactly a year after Billy Graham graced our shores. Maybe I speak for myself here – but I long to experience first-hand a generational moment where we see the spiritual needle shift across the nation. And not merely hear about it in the fading recollections of my parents’ generation.
When Israel finally began its conquest to occupy its Promised Land, all bar Joshua and Caleb fell in this category – a generation with only a second-hand knowledge of Passover. Their parents painted the blood on their families’ doorposts; not them.
Maybe, just maybe, on May 17 to 19, we will mark the moment where we can see God move in Singapore in a manner unprecedented in our lifetime. A second chance at revival.
And for those who have previously missed out on the love of God, now is the time.
Now is the time of the Lord’s favour; now is the time to accept your Creator as your Saviour, too.
We have seen, on social media, video after video of stories of hope. Hope in the face of illness; of depression; of hopelessness. When the world is unable to offer any answers.
Jesus is the answer.
From His fullness we have all received grace upon grace. (John 1:16 ESV)
The First Passover was a gesture of grace – extended that God’s people would be spared from slavery and slaughter.
The Second Passover was grace upon grace – a further opening of doors, that all who want to partake of the goodness of God can come freely into His Presence and experience the fullness of joy only He promises.
Pesach Sheni, on the weekend of the Celebration of Hope, is a week away. We are on the cusp of the Second Passover.
There is the hunger. Thousands of volunteers are now gearing up for an event which could see a quarter of a million visitors at the National Stadium.
There is the unity. The church is no longer marked by division. Hundreds of churches have hung up posters and publicity for this one event. We now truly, visibly worship under one banner.
There is the honour for leadership. Everyone has an opinion on how to get things done – and yet we’ve finally agreed to unite for this Celebration of Hope. When the leaders lead, and the people volunteer – praise the Lord!
There is hope.
The Celebration of Hope is a 3-day festival of hope, filled with songs and stories of hope, to be held in various languages for all age groups at the National Stadium. To find out more, visit celebrationofhope.sg. Admission is by ticket only – but tickets are free. To book your tickets, download the Celebration of Hope app now.