13 April 2012

Exodus 13:1-2, 11-16

"Consecrate to me all the firstborn; whatever is the first to open the womb among the Israelites, of human beings and animals, is mine." (v. 2)


The firstborn of the Israelite children - often believed to be the best at this time - belonged to the Lord because they had been spared by God. The Israelite Firstborn were not touched by death on the night of the Passover but spared through God's compassion.

My Jewish friend tells a story of how this was symbolised 30 days after the birth of her firstborn son. Three silver coins were paid to an uncle - a hereditary, but not active, priest called a Cohen - because, as she understood it, her son belonged to the temple where all firstborn Israelites were meant to work for God. The silver coins bought his freedom from this role. The Jewish mother is called to assume no 'right' to the child until this rite has been performed.

The Passover is therefore remembered at the first birth in all Jewish families, and after this there is a day of fasting for all adult firstborns each year. This helps the whole community to remember God's love and mercy to their ancient forebears, and consequently to themselves also.

Any mother (and perhaps father?) will know that the miracle of new birth, particularly the first time round, can point you to God. I still remember my sincerity and the gratitude in my own heart the first time I brought my then baby daughter up for a blessing as I went to Holy Communion.

All children belong to God and are constant reminders to us of God's love and grace. The connection between parent and child -and the potential for spiritual growth in the unfolding relationship is one we all know well (as a child, if not as a parent as well).

And God, knowing this too, turns it all on its head and gives us God's only son. It is through the son that the father and earthly children may be united in unending love and mutual understanding.

To Ponder

How have your experiences as a parent or a child helped you to grow spiritually?

Do you believe that God develops through God's own relationship with us? Why?

Bible notes author

The Revd Sue Male

"I am a Methodist minister in Harrow and Hillingdon Circuit, married to Phil with two children - Charis, 17, and Michael, 14. "My passions in ministry are the Bible, inter faith relations and the promotion of equality and diversity in our churches.