March 1, 1963 was the day I came screaming into the world. It was the day my life outside of the womb began. Most years I celebrate the day with my family. My coming into the world has influenced their existence you know. My children would not be here without my coming into the world. So, even though I have absolutely no memory of the actual day, we celebrate and remember my coming into the world with games and presents. But there is a more precious day; a day I also have no recollection of because I wasn’t there; a day that influences all of creation. This day I celebrate with my spiritual family every Sunday. We sit at the banquet and remember the lamb that was slain. We sing and laugh and celebrate the day Jesus made our coming to God as children a reality. It is the first day of each week that we set aside to rejoice and remember and praise. And that it is the first day of the week means much more to me than it is the beginning of the week; it is the first of importance; the primary day of the week.
In Exodus 12:1-13 Yahweh tells his people to set aside a day of remembrance for what he is about to accomplish for them. God tells Moses and Aaron to designate the month of their deliverance from Egypt as the first month. Later we are told that this is the month Abib, which will later be known by its Babylonian name of Nisan. This is to designated as the chief or head month. It is more than the sequential first month. It is the primary month. And it is the chief month because it is the month that Yahweh delivered his people from Egyptian bondage; it is the month they ceased to be the nation of slaves and became the congregation of Israel.
On the tenth day of this month, the Israelites are commanded to select a flock animal, an unblemished male animal from among the sheep or the goats. This animal is to be set aside and guarded for four days. On the fourteenth, at sunset, the animal is to be slaughtered. This is the beginning of Passover. Each household is to select one animal unless they are too few in number to eat it. In that case they were to join in with a neighbor to eat the Passover meal. Much later Josephus will write that less than ten was what constituted too few in number. God, however, doesn’t give a specific number. The goal is to eat as much of the lamb as is possible; to leave nothing uneaten. It seems likely that God allowed each household to determine what was needed to eat a lamb; whether they needed to combine households or not. And don’t we have this annoying tendency to fill in the blanks for God? Whatever is not eaten is to be burned. There is to be nothing left over. Maybe Yahweh didn’t want there to be waste. Hmm!
Speaking of reasons behind the observances, the flock animal was to be roasted with fire. God made it very clear that they were not to eat the meat raw or boiled. A couple of sources suggest that some gods demanded the eating of raw meat during ritualistic observances. The reason for unleavened bread in the Passover meal probably illustrated haste. It takes time to allow bread to rise. It is kind of a process. The bitter herbs illustrate the bitterness of slavery that Yahweh is about to deliver them from. They were commanded to eat the meal with the loins girded and sandals on their feet and a staff in their hand as if they might set out on a journey at any given moment. They are also told to eat the meal with trepidation or hurried flight. The first Passover was not to be a relaxed meal eaten at leisure. It was full of anxious expectation. They were about to begin a tremendous and dangerous journey.
Yahweh reminds them that he is about to strike the Egyptians with a deadly and terrifying blow. The firstborn of man and animal will die this very night. All of the Egyptian gods will be judged. No matter how many gods the Egyptians boast of, and they had a plethora of gods, the God of Israel is their judge. He is Yahweh. As part of the observance they are told to put blood on their door posts. Now we are told why. The blood of the slain animal will be a sign for God to pass over their houses and these sacrifices replaced their own firstborn. No blow of destruction will fall upon the Israelites who have the blood covering the doorframe.
Some days are precious. Many years ago the holy lamb of God was sacrificed for you. This lamb was slaughtered so that the blow of destruction would not fall upon us. And on the first day of the week, the chief day of the week, we have an opportunity to sit at the banquet table and celebrate. The journey is not without danger, but it is a journey of freedom and deliverance. Celebrate with exuberance then. Walter