I once had a staff member who worked for me. His nationality and religious background was contrary to mine, while I tried to be respectful of his beliefs, I often plunged into discussions about upcoming Christian and Hebrew celebrations. After a time, he made a statement which took me by surprise. His observation was that our holidays seemed to be joyous occasions that included feasting and time with family and friends; remembering when something good from our history. He further explained the two main religious events for his people were times of fasting as a sacrifice with no particular reason or purpose of remembrance, just obedience to a command. Therefore, the fasting was without an emotional attachment, only an act of obedience out of fear or retribution. I was sorrowful for this young man. How sad that he could not proclaim the greatness of the Creator God Almighty in his life and rejoice in the history of the people he identified with.
“Celebrate the Festival of Unleavened Bread, because it was on this very day that I brought your divisions out of Egypt. Celebrate this day as a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. Exodus 12:17 NIV
In our ongoing Lenten conversations, we will begin to look forward to Pesach, Passover; discussing the history and purpose of these holy days. History and lineage is extremely important to the Hebrew people. They often know from which particular tribe of Israel, like Judah, Levi, Gad, etc. their family belongs, providing a strong sense of belonging to this rich culture. As Christians we are also part of this ancient story, a romance novel started once upon a time, long ago in a garden. During the Passover Sedar, there is a time of telling the Exodus story, called the Maggid. The following is an exerpt:
"When your son asks you in time to come, saying, 'What is the meaning of the testimonies, the statutes, and the judgments which the Lord our God has commanded you?' then you shall say to your son: 'We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, and the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand; and the Lord showed signs and wonders before our eyes, great and severe, against Egypt, Pharaoh, and all his household. Then He brought us out from there, that He might bring us in, to give us the land of which He swore to our fathers. And the Lord commanded us to observe all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, for our good always, that He might preserve us alive, as it is this day. Then it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to observe all these commandments before the Lord our God, as He has commanded us.' Deuteronomy 6:20-25 NKJV
The story of Pesach: Exodus 2-12
The Israelites had moved to the land of Egypt. They became fertile and multiplied and increased in numbers, so that the land was filled with them. A Pharaoh came to power over Egypt, who did not know the good that Joseph had done. He imposed great labor and hardship on the Israelites, but the more the Israelites were oppressed, the more they increased. The Pharaoh then ordered that all newborn baby boys killed. The Pharaoh charged all his people, saying, "every boy that is born you shall throw into the Nile, but let every girl shall live.”
A Levite woman conceived and bore a son and hid him for three months. When she could no longer keep him safely hidden, she prepared a wicker basket, place the child in the basket. She released the basket with the baby among the reeds by the bank of the Nile. The daughter of Pharaoh was bathing in the Nile when she saw the basket among the reeds. A slave girl retrieved the basket for the Pharaoh's daughter who took pity on the child and took him as her own son. She named the baby Moses, explaining, "I drew him out of water."
Moses grew and had learned of his heritage. One day he witnessed an Egyptian beating an Israelite, he struck down the Egyptian, and hid him in the sand. When Pharaoh learned of the matter, he sought to kill Moses, but Moses escaped to the land of Midian.
Many years lapsed and the Pharaoh died. The Israelites were groaning under harsh bondage and cried out to YHVH, who heard their cries. The great I AM appeared to Moses in a burning bush telling him that He would use Moses to lead His people out of Egypt into a land "flowing with milk and honey." Moses returned to Egypt with the staff the L-RD had given to him.
Moses and his brother, Aaron, went to the Pharaoh to request the release of their people. Pharaoh's heart was hardened against the Israelites and would not release them from the bondage of slavery. Each time the Pharaoh refused to let the Israelites go, the land of Egypt came under a great plague. With the tenth and most awful plague, the heart of Pharaoh would be pierced.
There were 10 plagues described in Exodus: Blood! Frogs! Gnats! Wild Beasts! Disease to Livestock! Boils! Hail! Locusts! Darkness! Death of the Firstborn!
As you begin to prepare for the arrival of Passover and Easter, share the Exodus story with your family. Remember... As Christian's our history is tied to that of the Hebrew Children of Israel. Our Savior and Redeemer is a Jewish rabbi, from the line of Judah. It is important to remember that as Christians although we were not born into this heritage, we have come through adoption. Our salvation originated from the rich legacy of the Jewish people. This should not make us arrogant, but grateful to share in these deep roots which nourish our faith in Jehovah.
LORD, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant of love with those who love Him and keep His commandments, let Your ear be attentive and Your eyes open to hear the prayer Your servant is praying before You day and night for our family and the people of Israel. I confess the sins we have committed against You. We have acted wickedly toward You. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws You gave Your servant Moses. We are Your servants and Your people, whom You redeemed by Your great strength and Your mighty hand. Lord, let Your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your servant and to the prayer of Your servants who delight in revering Your name. (Nehemiah 1:5-11). Hear our prayers this day in Your Holy Name, Hashem, our Savior Yeshua ha Messiach, as guided by our counselor the Ruach ha Kodesh. Amen