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  • Daniel Botkin

PASSOVER: A Time for Separating Hebrews from Egyptians

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who put everybody into one of two categories, and those who don’t. I do because the Bible does.

The Bible teaches that humanity is divided into two groups. These two groups are called by many names: the redeemed and the unredeemed, the saved and the lost, the forgiven and the unforgiven, the justified and the condemned, the righteous and the unrighteous, the spiritually alive and the spiritually dead, believers and unbelievers, those in Messiah and those in Adam. Thus humanity is separated into two groups.

As we observe the Passover season, this is a good time to remember the importance of separation. During the first Passover, God demonstrated His fierce determination to separate His people, the Hebrews, from the Egyptians.

The Hebrews were already somewhat separated from the Egyptians. Since the days of Joseph, the Hebrews had been living in their own community in the land of Goshen, apart from the Egyptians. But the God of the Hebrews was determined to separate His people not only from the Egyptians but also from Egyptian influence and ultimately from Egypt itself.

Passover is a good time to remember that you are either part of Israel, or you are part of Egypt. You are either living as a Hebrew, one who has “crossed over” by being “delivered from the power of darkness and translated into the kingdom of His dear Son” (Col. 1:13), or you are living as an Egyptian, one who is still enslaved to sin in a fallen world system that is under the rule of a Devil who is far more evil than Pharaoh himself. You are either with the Hebrews, or you are with the Egyptians. You are either with the good guys or the bad guys. If you are with the bad guys, you can repent and join the good guys, like many Egyptians did in the days of Moses. But there is no middle ground. You are either with the Hebrews or the Egyptians.

During the first Passover season, God made a distinction between the Hebrews and the Egyptians when He poured out His plagues upon the land of Egypt. Pharaoh’s stubborn refusal to acknowledge Israel’s calling to be a separated people caused Moses to grow very frustrated. After nine plagues, Moses announced to Pharaoh the tenth and final plague, the death of the firstborn. Then Moses “went out from Pharaoh in a great anger” (Ex. 11:8).

Anger is not always a sin. One Sabbath day in the synagogue, Yeshua “looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts” (Mark 3:5). And of course there were those times when He made a whip, overturned some tables, and drove out the buyers and sellers. There was some righteous anger involved in those actions. So it was with Moses’ “great anger.” Moses’ great anger was simply an expression of God’s great anger at Pharaoh for his stubborn defiance of God and his refusal to let Israel be separated from Egypt.

Yahweh is a jealous God, the Bible says. He wants His people Israel to be separate from the Egyptians of this world. He wants to see separation, holiness, distinction. God wants to make it clear that every individual is either with Israel or with Egypt.

If you are with Israel, you need to understand that you are called to be different from the Egyptians. If you live and talk and think and look like the Egyptian worldlings around you, you may provoke God to anger like Pharaoh did, because like Pharaoh, you are blurring the distinction between Hebrews and Egyptians.

If we live our lives the way God wants us to live, we are not going to blend in with the rest of the world. On the contrary, we are going to stand out as peculiar oddities in this world. We will look like weird, eccentric people who belong in a freak show.

If we appear odd, it is not because we are trying to look weird for the sake of weirdness. It is simply because we are loving God and obeying His commandments in the midst of a world that hates God and disobeys His commandments. Our love for God and our obedience to His commandments is the cause of our peculiarity.

If you doubt this, suppose a kindergarten teacher says to the children in her class, “Put away your crayons now and lie down on your mats and rest for a while.” Only one boy obeys her, and all the others ignore her instructions and continue coloring. Who is going to look like the oddball? The obedient one.

The Lord says to stop working on the seventh day and take some time to rest and assemble with others for worship. Most of the world ignores these instructions and continues working and doing business as usual every Saturday. Only a small percentage of people keep the Sabbath. In a world where Saturday is just another day to work and shop, Sabbath keepers look like weird, peculiar people.

The same is true for other aspects of our faith. In a world where most people know little or nothing about the Biblical holy days but instead celebrate holidays borrowed from pagan idolatry, people who celebrate the Biblical holy days are considered peculiar. In a world where most people put their own desires first, people who deny themselves to help others look like suckers. In a world where sexual immorality and perversion are tolerated and even celebrated, people who live by Biblical standards of sexual morality are viewed as eccentric and archaic and as a threat to progress. In a world of immodestly dressed Egyptians, modestly dressed Hebrews are going to be conspicuous.

Yes, not only our behavior but even our outward appearance will make us look peculiar in this ungodly world. Some Bible believers think that inward holiness of heart is the only holiness that matters to God. They think that God is not concerned about external matters like gender-specific modest clothing, hair, head coverings, etc.

“Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart,” they say. Ignoring the context of that statement, they erroneously conclude that God cares nothing at all about outward appearance. But the fact is that God cares about both inward and outward holiness. Holiness must start on the inside, in the heart, but if it is real, it will work its way out and produce external holiness.

When Yeshua rebuked the Pharisees for their obsession with external matters, it was only because they were neglecting the weightier internal matters of the heart: “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess” (Matt. 23:25). Then, lest anyone erroneously think from this remark that Yeshua is concerned only with what’s on the inside and cares nothing about the outside, He immediately adds: “Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also” (vs. 26).

These two statements clearly show two things: 1) that the Lord is concerned about both inward and outward holiness, and 2) that He expects true inward holiness to precede outward holiness and to produce outward holiness.

It is true that proper outward appearance and abstinence from external bad habits do not produce inward holiness of heart. But it is equally true that genuine holiness of heart will produce outward holiness.

When the outward appearance and external habits of God’s people are not as they should be, the real issue is not the outward and external things themselves. These things are merely symptoms of a much deeper problem below the surface. The real problem is an unsanctified heart, a heart that has not yet surrendered to God’s standards of holiness.

If a heart has surrendered to God’s standards of holiness, it will soon begin bearing the fruit of holiness in outward appearance and external habits. If a person is not showing signs of holiness on the outside, this is a sure indication that he is not holy on the inside either. It is possible to look holy on the outside and be unholy on the inside, but you cannot be holy on the inside and remain unsanctified on the outside.

With Yeshua’s illustration of cleansing cups and platters in mind, suppose you are at my home for a cup of tea. While the tea is brewing in the teapot, I set four empty cups on the table and tell you to choose which cup you want to use. The first cup is dirty and sticky and cruddy on both the inside and outside. You certainly don’t want to drink from that cup. The second cup is clean and spotless on the outside, but it has flakes of crud and gunk stuck all over the inside. You don’t want to drink tea from that cup either. The third cup is nice and clean and shiny on the inside, but the outside is all greasy and smeared and filthy. If this cup were the only option left, it would be better than the first two cups. However, the fourth cup is clean on both the inside and outside. This vessel is the obvious choice for you to use.

When God decides who He is going to use as a vessel, He looks for people who have holiness of heart on the inside and holiness of habits on the outside. To further affirm that God is concerned about outward holiness as well as inward holiness, here are four passages that speak of both outward and inward holiness:

l “Who shall ascend into the hill of Yahweh? And who shall stand in His holy place? He that hath clean hands [outward holiness], and a pure heart [inward holiness]” (Ps. 24:3f).

l “Cleanse your hands, ye sinners [outward holiness]; and purify your hearts [inward holiness], ye double minded” (James 4:8).

l “...let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh [outward holiness] and spirit [inward holiness], perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Cor. 7:1).

l “For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body [outward holiness], and in your spirit [inward holiness], which are God’s” (1 Cor. 6:20).

Again, the real issue is not external matters per se. The real issue is an unsanctified heart. A stubborn refusal to live like a Hebrew is the result of unresolved rebellion in the heart.

“Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry” (1 Sam. 15:23).

You may as well be guilty of witchcraft if you, like Pharaoh, stubbornly rebel against God’s efforts to make a distinction between Hebrews and Egyptians - especially if you are the Hebrew whom He is in the process of trying to separate from Egypt.

In preparation for Passover, let’s purge out the leaven of unresolved rebellion from our hearts. Let’s come to the table this year with the heart of a Hebrew, a redeemed child of God who has no more desire to live like an Egyptian.

Happy Passover!

| DB


Image: A Time to Build up ~ A Time to Break Down by Daniel Botkin from his To Everything There is a Season Gallery. See this painting and more art pieces on

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