EXODUS 13: HOW BIG IS YOUR HAND?
The Lord said to Moses: 2 Consecrate to me all the firstborn; whatever is the first to open the womb among the Israelites, of human beings and animals, is mine. 3 Moses said to the people, “Remember this day on which you came out of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, because the Lord brought you out from there by strength of hand; no leavened bread shall be eaten. 4 Today, in the month of Abib, you are going out. 5 When the Lord brings you into the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, which he swore to your ancestors to give you, a land flowing with milk and honey, you shall keep this observance in this month. 6 Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a festival to the Lord. 7 Unleavened bread shall be eaten for seven days; no leavened bread shall be seen in your possession, and no leaven shall be seen among you in all your territory. 8 You shall tell your child on that day, ‘It is because of what the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt.’ 9 It shall serve for you as a sign on your hand and as a reminder on your forehead, so that the teaching of the Lord may be on your lips; for with a strong hand the Lord brought you out of Egypt. 10 You shall keep this ordinance at its proper time from year to year. (Exodus 13:1-10, IEB)
This is where God is calling Israel to remember that He saved them. “For the Lord brought you out of Egypt with his mighty hand.”
God knows we are forgetful. Graciously He has given us ceremonies to remember Him. Leave it to us to get twisted up about “which” and “how” we celebrate rather than remembering God saved us.
As Christians we remember that Jesus is our Passover Lamb. He re-oriented the Passover meal by breaking bread and saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” (Luke 22:19-20, NRSV)
Exodus 13:11-16 describes how Israel got meat from sacrifices. I wish I had a dime for every time a Christian has said they are so glad we don’t have to do these animal sacrifices because Jesus died on the cross for us. Yes! True. But there are two things under the surface we ignore.
First, most of us in the United States who eat meat, get that meat from a large packing plant. It comes to us in neat little packages but the volume and scale and treatment of animals in mass slaughter is horrific.
Second, sacrifice and occasionally eating meat from those sacrifices was a process no more brutal and ugly than our slaughterhouses today. Yes, good we don’t have to perform sacrifices for atonement of our sins, but we are living a lie to think those sacrifices were gross and our world today is somehow not gross, just because our society has mostly removed ourselves from seeing how meat is grossly slaughtered.
So when you read texts about sacrifices and you get grossed out when you read “break its neck,” you might want to check out how the meat you eat is slaughtered and wonder if the unceremonious way you are eating meat without blessing or sacredly considering the blood that gave it life, that we are taking away a life in order to eat, is not more barbaric than ancient times.
The whole idea--and we can see it if we don’t get tripped up with slaughtering methods--is to remember God saved Israel by striking down the firstborn of Egypt and saving Israel’s firstborn. So when they sacrificed, they were to dedicate firstborn of flock and thereby remember how God saved them.
Wouldn’t it be great if we had a GPS directly from God--a pillar of cloud to direct us by day and a pillar of fire at night?
Exodus 13:20-32 is a fantastic picture of God compassionately leading people who haven’t developed GPS yet. I’m sure they could find their way in the wilderness better than most of us, with clues from the stars and the land--I’m afraid those of us who have “powerful” technologies such as GPS on our phones are prone also, like Israel, to forget God is leading us.
Lord, show us how to faithfully remember both the original Passover, how your mighty hand led Israel out of slavery, and how Jesus has become our Passover. How shall our family and church faithfully commemorate your Passover? Please show us. Prevent us from naive thinking born of the hiddenness of our modern life’s dirty work. Help us to think of the people working and animals used or sacrificed for our particular lifestyle. O Lord, how we could be led by you if we stop relying so much on our sense of “power” coming from our technologies and rely more on you! Amen.
Spend one day without using technologies to help you do basic tasks you used to do without them. Every time you want to use GPS, ask someone for directions, or if you have an urge to get online or pick up your phone, ask God to help you become aware of what you are feeling, what you are seeking out, about any emptiness we often seek to fill with the new technologies we own.
Greg Taylor preaches for The Journey. Greg's wife, Jill, teaches math at Broken Arrow High School and Tulsa Community College. Greg and Jill have three adult children, Ashley, Anna, and Jacob. Greg is the author of many books, including his latest co-authored with Randy Harris, Daring Faith: Meeting Jesus in the Book of John.