7 November 2014Exodus 11:10-12:14
“It is the passover of the LORD.” (v. 11)
In this passage, the narrative flow pauses in the lead-up to the escape of God's people. Two themes are interlocked. The Passover meal is a preparation for the coming exodus. However, Exodus sets out the key features carefully because in later generations the Passover was to become an annual remembrance and celebration of God's salvation of the Israelites from their Egyptian bondage. Nothing was of greater importance in clarifying and cementing Israel's identity and faith.
So significant is the ritual that it has reshaped the calendar. The "month" (not named in verse 2, but later called Abib or Nisan) marks the beginning of the Jewish liturgical year. It occurs in March-April. (The Jewish calendar year begins with the month Tishri, in September/October).
The word 'Passover' probably means protection (verse 11). It is likely to be linked to the same word in Isaiah 31:5, where a flock of birds hovering over Jerusalem is a metaphor for God's protective shield over the people. Putting blood from the sacrificed male yearling lamb or kid on doorposts and lintel was a sign of God's protection. It was the first time that God had needed deliberately to protect the Hebrews from the series of plagues - so awful was the death of the first-born deemed to be.
Many layers of meaning were later attached to the various elements in the Passover meal - not leaving any meat for consumption the next day; the unleavened bread and the bitter herbs. In our passage, however, the main theme is 'readiness for a hasty departure'. Everything has to be done as easily and speedily as possible to prepare and eat the meal. The family breaks normal custom by getting ready for a journey before the meal is eaten rather than afterwards! God's salvation is about to dawn! Be prepared!
- In Christian practice, Passover is forever linked with the last supper Jesus ate with his disciples (Mark 14:12-25) and with the centuries-long celebration of the Lord's Supper in the Church. What features of the Lord's Supper mean most to you and which most puzzle you?
- Jesus frequently called on his disciples to be alert and prepared for moments laden with great possibility for unveiling God's presence and God's demands (eg Matthew 25:1-12). How in your personal spiritual life and in your congregation are you best kept 'on your toes'?
- Reflect on the needs of a family grieving the death of a child. How is Christian compassion most sensitively and creatively expressed for them?