The lockdown in Goshen was hard. After more than 400 years, what began as a journey for survival from the effects of famine in the land of promise for 70 descendants of Abraham had turned into year upon year of suffering and oppression at the hands of the ruthless and heartless Pharaoh in Egypt. Surely God would do something to free His people, right?
From Bounty to Bondage
Life in Egypt began in luxury for the children of Israel. While Joseph lived, there was no want, and for many years it was sweet as the Israelites settled down under the protection and provision of the Egyptians. Fish, cucumbers, melons, leeks, garlic, and onions were all part of the local cuisine, but the times changed. As the number of Israelites grew, so did the fears of the Egyptians and the insecurities of the Pharaoh who imposed discriminating and harsh conditions on them.
It is difficult for us to imagine the plight of the Israelites in Egypt. This past year as we have been living in a COVID world and struggling with lockdown restrictions, our inconveniences pale in comparison to a multi-generational era of slavery. We desperately want the normality we have long known, a return to a world where our civil liberties are unimpeded and our freedoms allow us once again to traverse the world at will. And we want that freedom because it is within the human fabric to live without the burden of barriers and shackles. Such was the desire for the children of Israel whose cries eventually reached their champion of freedom in the God of their fathers and the man named Moses He chose to mediate His plan.
It is freedom that allows us to breathe.
It was a modern Moses, the famous eye-patched, Israeli military commander and politician Moshe Dayan, who once said “freedom is the oxygen of the soul.” Put another way, it is freedom that allows us to breathe. Israel was a people suffocating under the oppression of slavery and desperately seeking the liberties of their forebears.
Passover reminds us that it was God who breathed new life into His people as He rescued them out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. In the Passover we see God giving the oxygen of freedom to the promises He made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to make their offspring a vast and innumerable people and eventually a nation through which all the nations of the earth would be blessed.
On the actual night of Passover, having given Israel clear instructions, God struck the households throughout Egypt with the plague of death. Israel responded obediently and to the letter of God’s Word, and God delivered them to freedom.
Symbols From the Seder
As Jewish families around the world gather around the Passover Seder table in 2021, they will remember the fact that God delivered them from the land of Egypt. They will partake of two items from the Seder plate that speak to both the bitterness of bondage and the luxury of liberty.
Firstly, they will eat the maror (bitter herbs), usually horseradish. The bitterness to the tastebuds speaks to the bitterness of the slavery endured under the Egyptians. It would speak to the scriptural account of how the children of Israel were afflicted with hard labor to such an extent they groaned (in pain), they sighed (with mourning), and they cried (wailed in desperation) out to God under the weight of constant oppression until God heard them and acted on their behalf.
A second item on the Seder plate is a contrasting reminder that God not only delivered Israel from the bitterness of slavery, but He also delivered them to the luxury of freedom. Karpas (green, leafy vegetables such as celery or parsley) is dipped in salt water, symbolically representing tears of suffering. It also harks back to the earliest memories of life in Egypt when they existed in the land still enjoying the benefits afforded by their ancestor Joseph. Karpas is also a symbol of spring for the Jewish people today and a symbol of new life and hope in the freedoms they now enjoy.
Freedom in Christ
Israel’s deliverance from bondage in Egypt reminds Christians of our own deliverance from the bondage of sin and death. God heard the desperate cry of the human heart, and He provided the perfect solution in His own Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
God heard the desperate cry of the human heart, and He provided the perfect solution in His own Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
We read in Paul’s letter to the church at Colossae words that speak to this incredible act of mercy and grace: “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13–14, ESV).
Israel was delivered from the bondage of Egypt and received newfound freedom under the direction of God making Passover a time of rejoicing, a celebration, a true feast of freedom.
Jesus has delivered believers from the place of power and authority of evil (described as darkness) and transferred us to a new spiritual reality (the Kingdom of His beloved Son). The words of Jesus are truly liberating: “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36, ESV).
The lyrics Chris Tomlin added to the old hymn “Amazing Grace” surely strike a chord.
My chains are gone,
I’ve been set free.
My God, my Savior has ransomed me.
And like a flood, His mercy rains,
Unending love, Amazing grace.