On the evening of the fourteenth day of the month, while camped at Gilgal on the plains of Jericho, the Israelites celebrated the Passover. The day after the Passover, that very day, they ate some of the produce of the land: unleavened bread and roasted grain. The manna stopped the day after they ate this food from the land; there was no longer any manna for the Israelites, but that year they ate the produce of Canaan. – Joshua 5:10-12
There are interesting things to be seen by paying attention to the details in today’s passage. For example, the Israelites are camped in the plain outside the great city of Jericho and they are eating the grain of the land. The people in the area had fled from their fields to hide behind the gated walls of the city. The Israelites are now eating “from fields they did not plant,” in fulfillment of the LORD’s promise in Deuteronomy 6:11.
Of course, we don’t want to miss the forest for the trees. Adolph Harstad writes:
The Passover Feast was far more than food for the body. Instituted by the LORD Himself, it was a time of rich spiritual nourishment through food for the soul. The Passover celebration recalled the great release from Egypt (exactly forty years to the day prior to Joshua 5:10). Passover meant deliverance and redemption. Like the sparing of Israel and the exodus from bondage that it celebrated, it was a proof and seal of the LORD’s resolve to rescue His people from all their foes. Nothing could stop Him from fulfilling all His covenant promises. He had pushed aside a mighty pharaoh and the waters of the Red Sea so that He could keep His word to Abraham. In the fulness of time, He would redeem [His people] through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, His true Passover Lamb.
The church’s hymnody affirms this fulfillment in Christ. For example, an eighth-century A.D. Easter hymn by John of Damascus pictures the church as God’s “Israel” and the resurrection of Jesus as the church’s deliverance through the Red Sea:
Come, you faithful, raise the strain of triumphant gladness!
God has brought His Israel into joy from sadness,
Loosed from Pharaoh’s bitter yoke Jacob’s sons and daughters,
Led them with unmoistened foot through the Red Sea waters.
The last time Israel had celebrated Passover was one year after the exodus, while in the Desert of Sinai. The nation had observed only two Passovers to date, the original one in Egypt and the one in the desert. This is the very first Passover in the promised land. Moreover, this Passover is a new experience for the vast majority in Israel. Those younger than thirty-nine years old had never participated in a Passover, not even as infants. Even some of those over thirty-nine would have been too young to remember the previous two observations.
This year with the full moon of Passover over Gilgal, not just children but grown men and women would perhaps be asking the traditional Passover question: “What do you mean by this ceremony?” (Ex 12:26; 13:14). This holy meal was intended by God to be the setting for teaching and catechesis about God’s salvation. Therefore, it anticipated the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ, in which He often used meals as occasions to teach about the Kingdom of God.
MEMORY WORK – Shorter Catechism Q/A 28
Q. 28. Wherein consisteth Christ’s exaltation?
A. Christ’s exaltation consisteth in his rising again from the dead on the third day, in ascending up into heaven, in sitting at the right hand of God the Father, and in coming to judge the world at the last day.