Friday, April 4, 2014

Passover and Nationhood

Over a decade ago I wrote the letter below. When I re-read it just now, I asked myself if in the course of the years that had passed, we, individually and corporately, have moved in any way further into our Heavenly calling to be the one Nation Israel upon this earth.

It was over 3,800 years ago when the Elohim of Jacob sent His family down to Egypt to make them into a nation.  Speaking to His servant Jacob, He said: “I am YHVH, the Elohim of your father; do not fear to go down to Egypt, for I will make of you a great nation there” (Genesis 46:3). One of the Hebrew words for “nation” is “goy”.  It is first used in the Tanach in the Covenant that YHVH made with our forefather Abraham, “I will make you a great nation; I will bless you, and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing” (Genesis 12:2).   One man, one Elohim, one Covenant, one national identity; this was at the heart of YHVH’s plan for the redemption of the creation.  The Elohim of Abraham set apart a man, and swore by His own name that his seed/sperm would become a great and holy (set-apart) nation.

When Jacob and his band of seventy souls arrived in Egypt, he found another family member already down there - Joseph.  As we can see from the story recorded in Genesis, Joseph and his progeny had lost their identity and connection with their family of origin, and thus in a sense were a prophetic type of the second family, Ephraimites, or the so called Gentiles of the house of Jacob.  Perhaps this is why Jacob had to adopt Joseph’s sons (ref. Gen 48:5), even though they were of the same bloodline. The adoption was significant for the restoration of the governmental order and unity of the clan. If they were to become a nation, they had to be set apart from the other nations by having their own (temporary) territory in Egypt. And so since Joseph was in a position to carry this out, he gave them the land of Goshen where they multiplied profusely. The Creator blessed them with fruitfulness, as they dwelt in one of the most fertile areas of the land of Ham. 

However, eventually Jacob’s family became slaves to their Egyptian overlords. And while in that state, they lost their vision of being a nation, a family and a people with a purpose and a Divine call.  This is portrayed quite vividly in the scene of the two Hebrew slaves who (much like today’s ‘two houses’) were fighting one another much to their own demise. The seed of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob was now characterized by individualism.  This was only natural, since they were living under extreme conditions, and self-preservation became their means of survival (while in the eyes of the Egyptians they had become a faceless mass, according to the wording in the Hebrew of Exodus chapter 1).  So where was this great nation that was promised to Abraham?  His seed, now turned slaves, were cursing the day they were born on.  They had become nothing more than dead dry bones in the desert sands of Egypt. So helpless were they that, they could not even respond to Moses when he came to them preaching the good news of their deliverance (ref. Exodus 6:9)!

The Passover story is replete with pestilence, famine and one disaster following another.  But when gross darkness covered the land, there was still light in the tents of the Hebrews (ref. Ex.10:23), as the anointing of YHVH’s covenant word (which “is a light”, ref. Ps. 119:105) was still upon them to become a great nation. How was this going to be made possible?  It certainly was not going to happen by the nation’s own strength. This was going to take a miracle, a Divine intervention. YHVH, therefore, dispatched a man with a message:  “Let My people go”.  Moses was faithful to bring that word to the ruler of the slaves, but YHVH hardened the heart of Pharaoh, just to make sure that His people would know that their deliverance was not going to come by the way or authority of man. Had Pharaoh given his permission, these Hebrews would have been forever indebted to their slave owner. They would never be free to take up (in the future) their divinely ordained position as the head of all the nations, and would still be legally bound to Egypt.

YHVH had another plan to restore these slaves to freedom, and to their national identity.  He told His servant Moses to have each family take a lamb: "Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying: `On the tenth day of this month every man shall take for himself a lamb, according to the house of his father, a lamb for a household.  And if the household is too small for the lamb, let him and his neighbor next to his house take it according to the number of the persons; according to each man's need you shall make your count for the lamb. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats…. Pick out and take lambs for yourselves according to your families, and kill the Passover lamb….then you shall take a bunch of hyssop, dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and strike the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood that is in the basin. And none of you shall go out of the door of his house until morning…. Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt” (Exodus 12:3-5; 21-22; 13). 

The moment the elders applied the blood and struck the lintels and the doorposts of the Hebrews’ homes with it, the latter were all sealed into their deliverance, freedom and destiny. But even beyond that - their self-centered ‘survivalism’ had given way to being united behind the one sacrifice, being totally dependent upon the powerful right arm of the Almighty to protect them and deliver them to freedom. “Let My people go!” YHVH had already announced to all the rulers of Egypt to whom these people belonged. These was a people that did not belong to itself, the Hebrews were and still are today My people, [“ami” -singular] says YHVH”.  But now, through the blood of the lamb they were set apart to enter into the next phase of His plan.  “And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel" (Exodus 19:6 emphasis added).     

As we, Ephraim and Judah, YHVH’s two families, the two nations, gather together to honor Him during this year’s Passover and Feast of Matzot, let us let go of individualism and lift up the cup of our national unity. Remember that we were all once slaves to sin and death and bound to the principalities and powers of this world’s (kosmos) dominion. It behooves us to “…purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Messiah, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened of sincerity and truth” (1 Cor. 5:7-8).  May we walk together through the Door that is splattered with the blood of the Lamb, out of the houses of our bondage and into the liberty of the new corporate life, and become that Royal Priesthood and Holy Nation Israel! 

May you all be blessed during this Pesach and Feast of Matzot (unleavened bread) with a sense of national unity!  May the eyes of our hearts be opened anew to the fact that we are “My people Israel” in this generation.

Shabbat Shalom,

 “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!

 It is like the precious oil upon the head, running down on the beard, the beard of Aaron, running down on the edge of his garments. It is like the dew of Hermon, descending upon the mountains of Zion; for there YHVH commanded the blessing--Life forevermore” (Ps. 133).  

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