In the spring, on the 14th of Nisan, two weeks after the beginning of the spiritual New Year, the meal begins at dusk. Candles lit, table set, the story laid out one more time. We gather friends and family close.
More than likely we’ve spent the week before this day furiously cleaning out cupboards and wiping down shelves in an attempt to keep the command of “removing all the leaven” from our homes. We made the food, some custom and some ceremonial, set the table, made sure all was in order for this most wonderful of the feasts.
The temptation to fall exhausted into our chairs before rushing through the story is real. Believe me, I’ve done it.
Haggadah, the telling, takes focus and intention. We have a command to tell the story to our children and our children’s children. It takes effort.
Our story starts before creation by a faithful God who knew we’d need Him and continues in Egypt many years after Joseph has died. Burdened by the slave master’s demands the Hebrew children toil and labor in despair. Moses and Aaron come to save the day and challenge the authority of Pharaoh through a series of impossible miracles until finally we find the Israelites at the tail end of an ecological apocalypse and the Egyptians hanging by a ragged thread to what remained of their livestock, their health, and for many, the religious traditions they had relied on for generations.
The fearsome Hebrew God wreaked havoc on them and, apparently, He wasn’t quite done.
“Then Moshe called for all the leaders of Isra’el and said, “Select and take lambs for your families, and slaughter the Pesach lamb. 22 Take a bunch of hyssop leaves and dip it in the blood which is in the basin, and smear it on the two sides and top of the door-frame. Then, none of you is to go out the door of his house until morning. 23 For Adonai will pass through to kill the Egyptians; but when he sees the blood on the top and on the two sides, Adonai will pass over the door and will not allow the Slaughterer to enter your houses and kill you. 24 You are to observe this as a law, you and your descendants forever.” Exodus 12:21-24 CJB
While many did obey, there were definitely many who did not for “there was horrendous wailing in Egypt”.
But for all that loss and grief the celebration of Pesach, Passover, is not told for those who did not obey but for those who did. The obedient were delivered from oppression and released into an adventure grander than they could have ever imagined.
The former slaves walked by faith behind a leader they knew marginally and trusted even less, they walked through towering walls of water, under the pillar of fire turning sand to glass beneath it, and rested overshadowed by the cloud that led them continued offering shelter from the sweltering wilderness heat.
Manna from heaven, and water from stones, the shofar of YHVH resounding off the mountain, fire on the peaks, building a place of worship. The luminous glory of God on the face of their leader.
Discipline and delight as they were transformed from a ragtag group of slaves into a people called by His Name.
Passover is the beginning of the story and the only way a story of redemption can start. This is why it must be told. So we do not forget we were once slaves but have been set free for a higher purpose.
We who were once in bondage have been released into destiny. Though the enemy pursues us, still, our God is faithful to keep us. He is the only One who can. Why would we not tell the story?
Yes, we fall and we fail. We resent the change. We remember the comfort of living in chains and our rebellious hearts lead us to disobey the very thing we agreed to just the day before.
Still He is faithful.
Long before we ever experience the joy of the Promised Land we must reconcile with the incomprehensible love of a God who seeks us when we are lost and finds us worth delivering when we would have settled for more slavery.
As the story continues and the night deepens, we breathe deep and settle into the cushions of our chair. The freedom to rest in this moment cascades over us and the cups of sanctification, plagues, redemption, lead us to the natural expression of our faith, praise.
The meal concludes with a song. We praise a God who has delivered us. Our infinite Creator has seen our weakness and has declared us worth saving.
The candles gutter out, the wine glasses smudged and empty, linens and crumbs litter the table. Flushed cheeks, soft eyes, loved ones drawn near, the reality of our deliverance is more real, more tangible, than possibly any other time of the year.
Velvet darkness draws us into rest. We have begun the Feast of Unleavened Bread, looking toward First Fruits and the exhuberant supernatural redeeming life of the Risen Messiah, Yeshua, is woven through it all.