Friday, April 26, 2013
In Search Of Truth, Exodus 12: 8-13
We continue our look at the first Passover, as Yahweh gives specific instructions about the meal itself.
The meat is prepared here in the way that nomadic tribes commonly would have. Unlike boiling meat, roasting is accomplished more quickly and requires less work. Ideal for people "on the go". Likewise, unleavened bread (not containing yeast) doesn't require the time to rise, and can be baked more quickly. On the night of the first Passover these elements of meal preparation facilitated a hasty exit, and in the many years following they were meant to remind the Israelites of this night.
The word for "bitter" used to describe the herbs eaten with the meal is from the same root word used to describe the hard labor forced on the Israelites in Exodus 1:14. It's widely understood by scholars that these herbs were included as a sensory experience to remind the Israelites of their bitter labor under the Egyptians.
This was a special meal with a special purpose. Leftovers were not intended to be eaten later or to serve any other purpose whatsoever. It was a sacred meal, meaning that it was "set apart" for God's purposes. To emphasize this, any meat prepared for the meal that was not consumed was destroyed.
Why did God strike the animals, too? Aren't they the innocent party here? And what's this about executing judgment on the gods of Egypt?
First, regarding the seemingly "unfair" treatment of animals here, it's worth remembering that God made every animal and can do what he wants with them, and since animals are not like humans, they do not feel any sense of entitlement or believe they possess any "rights" to "fair" treatment. It's also good to remember that when God does something or allows something that brings about pain or loss, it is always in service to something far more wonderful that could not have been brought about otherwise. (See Romans 8:28)
Regarding the reason for God striking the animals and the reference to judgments on the gods of Egypt, the two questions share virtually the same answer. In ancient Egypt, the various pagan gods were associated with and represented by different animals. By targeting so specifically the firstborn among all the animals, Yahweh was making it clear that the gods they represented had no power or authority compared to him.
The word used for "sign" here communicates the idea of a specifically miraculous sign or proof. It would demonstrate to the Israelites, and all of Egypt, that God truly cared for and protected his chosen people.
I take from these verses that God is not aloof. He does not want our experience of him to be detached and purely intellectual. He gives us experiences, either one-time or repeated symbolic activities, that are meant to imprint some truth on our minds and impact our hearts. Eating bitter food or killing animals and painting with their blood are intense, sensory experiences. The kind that make a lasting impression.
Some of us geeks (myself included) can find it easy to have a faith that is simply about "exploring ideas". We like to examine ideas, dissecting them for study on the table in front of us. But we keep our thick rubber gloves on throughout the procedure, and the objects of our examination never really touch us. They're just ideas that make us feel smart and wise as we think and talk about them.
But the truths of who God is and how he interfaces with us are more than interesting ideas. They are meant to have an impact on the way we feel during the day and how we choose to prioritize our lives. So the challenge I lay down for myself, hoping that you'll join me, is to choose to feel and experience what God reveals through intellectual process, allowing it to have a moving, comforting or even discomforting effect on my day, imprinting on my mind, my heart and my day-to-day grind what God wants to bring about in my life.