Yesterday afternoon, I met with some friends to read and discuss the story of the Passover. In this story, God commanded Moses to tell Pharaoh to let his people go. The Israelites were enslaved in Egypt and Pharaoh had hardened his heart against God and against Moses, despite the fact that God had brought several plagues upon Egypt due to Pharaoh’s disobedience. Now, God would deliver the final blow of justice against Pharaoh’s disobedience, showing Pharaoh once and for all that he is the all-powerful God whose commands would not be denied.
As I thinking about the story, I decided for myself that there are two significant components to this section of the story.
The first is the most obvious part. God was about to hand out the judgment to the Egyptians. They would not have the blood of the lamb on their doorways, so the Destroyer would enter and kill the first-borns in each of the Egyptian households. It is a terrible and powerful justice that was about to take place.
But the second part is actually the part that makes this section of the scripture more challenging to read. This section of the story of Moses is set within the Israelite camp, just before the night of the Passover is about to happen. God is giving instructions to Moses and Aaron about what they should do and is, in this very moment, creating a festival that is meant to be used to remember this night for thousands and thousands of years, for many generations to come.
Maybe I’m the only one, but doesn’t it seem strange to command the creation of a festival in the time with many people are about to be killed?
But yet, this is exactly what God does. He is about to display his power in a very public way and he wants this story to be told and remembered for generation after generation so that the people will remember that their God is both powerful, but also willing and able to save them.
This morning, I read again in the book of Joshua how Joshua commanded the Israelites to take one stone for each tribe from the middle of the Jordan river to commemorate what God has done. In this case, following the Exodus, the Israelites have been circling in the desert for 40 years and will now, finally, go into the Promised Land by crossing the Jordan river. God dries up the river so that they can cross and he wants them to understand and remember that it is by God’s power that they are crossing. God himself is the one who has not only saved them, but is also now marching them forward into the place that he wants them to go.
So why all of this remembering? Why does God put such a priority on his people remembering who he is and what he has done?
I don’t know the answer with certainty, but my best guess is that, through remembering, we can both maintain and increase our faith. The scriptures say that it was Noah’s faith that saved him. It was Abraham’s faith that allowed him to believe God’s promise and receive the inheritance that God would give him. And many others…Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, and more!
So it is also faith that saves us. Our faith is in the sacrifice of Jesus, that it will save each of us, and so it is important to remember what God has done.
Each year, we celebrate holidays like Christmas and Easter. Those are celebrations that are intended to help us remember very significant events. The birth of Jesus and the death and resurrection of Jesus are crucial to our faith.
God also does many things in our individual lives as well. God didn’t just work centuries ago; he is also working now. God is working in powerful ways even now as we pray and he acts in our lives. These are the things that I also want to remember. I want to recall the things that God does directly in my life and put memorials in my life that will allow me to remember what God has done. In this way, my faith can, and will, increase. I can see God at work, and even in my most difficult periods of life, I can have faith that God is working, even when I cannot immediately see him.