LESSONS FROM PASSOVER FOR COVID-19
By Jody Thomae, April 2020
I’ve been spending a great deal of time contemplating Passover, not just because of the time of year, but also because of this world-wide health scare we call COVID-19. In 2020, Passover will be celebrated April 8-16th. It is a traditional Jewish holiday dating back to the earliest times of human history (prior to 1400 BCE) and is originally found in the twelfth chapter of Exodus:
While the Israelites were still in the land of Egypt, the Lord gave the following instructions to Moses and Aaron: “From now on, this month will be the first month of the year for you. Announce to the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each family must choose a lamb or a young goat for a sacrifice, one animal for each household. …The animal you select must be a one-year-old male, either a sheep or a goat, with no defects.
“Take special care of this chosen animal until the evening of the fourteenth day of this first month. Then the whole assembly of the community of Israel must slaughter their lamb or young goat at twilight. They are to take some of the blood and smear it on the sides and top of the door frames of the houses where they eat the animal.
“…These are your instructions for eating this meal: Be fully dressed, wear your sandals, and carry your walking stick in your hand. Eat the meal with urgency, for this is the Lord’s Passover. On that night I will pass through the land of Egypt and strike down every firstborn son and firstborn male animal in the land of Egypt. I will execute judgment against all the gods of Egypt, for I am the Lord! But the blood on your doorposts will serve as a sign, marking the houses where you are staying. When I see the blood, I will pass over you. This plague of death will not touch you when I strike the land of Egypt.
“This is a day to remember. Each year, from generation to generation, you must celebrate it as a special festival to the Lord. This is a law for all time.”
I am particularly struck by verses 7, 12 and 13. They allude to the blood covering of the spotless lamb, as well as the last and most deadly of the plagues God has sent in judgement of those who have held the Israelites in captivity, and the act of God “passing-over,” from which this religious festival gets its name. The blood of the animal that was sacrificed was used to mark each home. This mark was a sign of protection. The meat of the animal was eaten together as a family, shared with neighbors where families were small. This act was a sign of provision for all. Let’s look at those two signs and what they have to teach us…
Protection: There’s been a great deal of talk about PPE (personal protective equipment) while our country’s medical system tries its best to address a crisis for which they were unfortunately unprepared. This protective gear provides a line of defense for our health care workers on the front lines as they care for those who suffer with the COVID-19 virus today. The crafty are sewing face masks for the sick and companies are re-tooling to ramp up production of the medical-grade masks and equipment that our medical facilities are so desperately in need of. Ultimately our efforts to stay inside, self-quarantine and social distant are efforts to simply buy time for the medical community to build up resources and supplies and create new spaces for those that will be hospitalized and require intensive care and respirators as the virus outbreak peaks in every state across our nation. The directives to STAY INSIDE & SOCIAL DISTANCE are very real and extremely serious ones. Which brings me back to Passover.
The Passover scene from the movie The Ten Commandments is an eerie scene. While Moses and his family eat together, protected in their home with their doorway marked by the blood of the lamb, we hear shouts in the streets—people crying out in fear and grief, as the plague of death kills every first born in the homes without this blood covering. As I watch the news unfold, I am taken back to this scene again and again.
I’ve seen stories of people hanging hearts in their windows as a sign of love and compassion for all that is going on in our world today. What if those hearts became our sign of protection, for us here in this time in HIStory? Our “blood covering” so to speak as we choose to step into our prayer chambers and intercede for the world at this unprecedented time in history?
How does the blood of Christ serve as a covering for you?
How can you visibly demonstrate that blood covering as encouragement to others?
(Click here for a post with hearts to print out and color)
Provision: As people are hoarding toilet paper and hand sanitizer, I love that God instructs these ancient people to gather and share resources so as little meat as possible goes to waste. An animal was not killed for each family, but was shared among neighbors and friends. There is much to learn from that act alone. There is a sense of purposeful preparedness. They first selected a lamb or goat without blemish and then cared for and attended the animal until it was to be sacrificed. Plans were made. Neighbors worked together to make sure everyone had enough and yet not too much. Even though the meal itself was to be eaten in haste, the preparations leading up to the meal were thoughtful and coordinated. God makes a thoughtful plan for provision. No one goes without and no one gets to act out of greed and gluttony. This passage has much to teach us amidst the panic and chaos we’ve seen across the country.
As COVID-19 began to spread in the US, we were with our daughter Maddy in Montana. We were in a small ski resort community with one small grocery store. We dropped her off to purchase a few items, and when we picked her up she remarked how difficult it was to see an older couple trying to shop and make adjustments to their shopping list as items they planned to buy were gone. Another older gentleman was struggling to understand why there was no toilet paper. “It was so sad,” she remarked. Seeing these people struggle encouraged her to adjust her own shopping list so that others coming behind her would have enough.
We all have so much to learn in these unprecedented times.
How can we share our resources with others so no one goes without?
How can we pitch in and help those making sure children and families are fed, sheltered and cared for at this time?
Additional thoughts and questions for reflection on Exodus 12:
- Verse 1 indicates that the Israelites were far from home and held in captivity in Egypt. Quarantine (whether it is self-imposed or government mandated) might feel like captivity to you. What about it feels like captivity to you? What liberties are taken from you and what things are you still at liberty to engage in? Beyond our current health crisis, what other things might hold you in captivity?
- Verse 2 God tells them that from there on out, this will be the beginning of the year for them. Through this designation of time, God is indicating something new. What “new thing” do you believe God is doing in this season for us collectively and individually?
- Verses 3-4 give instructions on how the animal to be sacrificed was to be chosen and shared. In what ways can you step into “choosing and sharing” amidst this pandemic?
- Verses 5-6 prophetically points to Christ as the spotless lamb. It was spotless, chosen and carefully attended until the time came for its sacrifice. Consider the life of Christ here on earth, especially as it relates to being spotless, chosen and carefully attended. What does the life of Jesus teach us?
- Verse 11 gives specific instructions for how they were to eat the meal. In what ways have you learned about provision and preparedness in this season, especially as many are over-buying and hoarding supplies in anxious panic?
- Verse 14 speaks of commemoration. How will we (globally, communally, individually) choose to “commemorate” COVID-19 in the future? How will we remember those who suffered and succumbed to this illness, as well as those who have put their lives at risk in order to care for them? How do we want to look back and remember this time?
I’d love to hear from you. Please comment below* your own thoughts as you contemplate and reflect on this powerful passage of scripture and this time in our world history. I bless you with health, healing, compassion, patience and love. (*please note: negative and political comments will be deleted.)
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