The Arm of God

It is Holy Week. Last night, we led our students in a Seder, the Passover meal which Jesus was observing with His disciples the night He was betrayed.

“But you aren’t Jewish.”

You are right, dear reader. However, as Christians, their history is ours. They lived in the roots of this Gospel. We live in its branches. There is beauty in remembering the early signs of the One who would save. All of scripture points to Jesus. He is first mentioned as the savior in Genesis 3. We see Him as Abraham obediently moves to sacrifice his own promised child. And we see Him again and again through the story of the Israelites. Perhaps the clearest evidence of Christ in the Old Testament is the beginning of Passover in Exodus 12.

Passover celebrates the past and looks to the future. We’ve addressed this remembering once before.

In a Seder, a child is to ask four questions that are given a broad answer which then unfolds with detail as the meal progresses. Here are the questions:

  • “Why do we eat unleavened bread, matzah, tonight instead of regular bread?”
  • “Why are we eating bitter herbs?”
  • “Why tonight do we dip our herbs twice?”
  • “Why do we recline while we eat this meal?”

And the short answer, on this side of the Resurrection, is, “Because, the Israelites, the children of God, were slaves in Egypt and all of us were enslaved to sin. God, by His great mercy and mighty hand, redeemed us, saved us from sin just as He saved the Israelites from Egypt.”

The meal is full of reminders of how this rescue played out. If blogs were books and I were a scholar, I would walk you though the entire meal. However, because I am no expert, I will share only what I have learned about the Passover lamb.

At the Passover table, there is a platter displaying all the elements of the meal. One of these elements is the shank bone of a lamb. It is called the Zero’a. The odd thing about this name is that it doesn’t mean bone or lamb. It means “arm”. It signifies the mighty arm of God. It is a phrase used throughout the Psalms as the writers celebrate the outstretched, the saving, the powerful arm of God. The Israelites recognized that the lamb was the arm of God rescuing them, pulling them out of bondage, sparing them the death of rebellion. They can claim it and we can claim it, “We were slaves but we were saved by the blood of the lamb.” The old never gives way to the new without judgement. So, the lamb who died took the judgement from the Israelites, and Jesus, the Lamb of God, took the judgment from us. In Isaiah 53, Jesus is the powerful arm of God, reaching out to save.

The Israelites had to completely identify themselves with the lamb. They had to be in the lamb (in a house marked by the blood of the lamb), and the lamb had to be in them. They were instructed to eat the lamb. It is this complete identification that allows them to walk in freedom. Be under the blood, and let the lamb be in your blood. Be covered by the blood of Christ, and Christ will live in you. This is our Passover instruction.

One other thing I want to highlight. The Passover Seder includes a song called Diaynu. It is a declaration that God is more than good because of what He has done for us. Parts of this song proclaim, “If He had judged Egypt but not their gods, it would have been enough. If He had split the sea for us but not allowed us to see the other side, it would have been enough. If He had given us the Torah and not taken us to a new land, it would have been enough.” The theme, for them and for us, is this, “We deserve nothing. Just a glance from Him is grace but He poured out abundant grace…He sent a Redeemer!”

And so, we part today with the closing prayer of Passover.

We are bound to thank, praise, laud, glorify, extol, honor, bless, exalt, and reverence Him, who performed for our fathers and for all of us these miracles. He brought us out of slavery into freedom. He brought us out of sorrow into joy. He brought us from mourning to celebrating, and from darkness into great light. He brought us from bondage to redemption. Therefore, let us sing a new song in His presence. Hallelujah!

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