Thursday, January 04, 2007

Old Acquaintance Be Forgot

Imagine a new year’s celebration like this—

At midnight, there are no champagne corks popping, no noisemakers buzzing, no streamers or confetti flying. The neon orange ball does not descend in New York, no games are played, no half empty dishes of nuts or Chex-mix litter the tables. By and by, voices are heard all around. But instead of cat-calls and cheers, loud wailing clutches the air (Ex. 12:30).

The first Jewish new year was something like this. Exodus 12 begins with God telling Moses, “This month shall be for you the beginning of months” (Ex. 12:2). Following this, the Lord describes Passover: “Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month they shall take every man a lamb according to their father’s houses, a lamb for a household” (Ex. 12:3). The lamb, of course, was to be sacrificed, it’s blood put on the doorframe of each house, so that God would pass over the house and spare those inside (Ex. 12:6, 7, 12, 13).

The beginning of the Hebrew year, then, was not determined by cycles of the sun or moon, by sowing and reaping, or by any other thing in nature. It began with the lamb who was slain (Rev. 5:6). At the stroke of midnight, the old had gone, the new had come (Ex. 12:29).

And yet the lamb was much more than the beginning of the year. Through the death of the lamb, God brought a new nation into existence, a people called to be His unique possession out of all peoples (Ex. 19:5, 6). Their history no longer belonged to or began with Egypt where they were slaves. Their beginning was the death of the lamb, by which they were brought out from among the Egyptians who said, “We are all dead men” (Ex. 12:33).

But the nation birthed through the Passover was not comprised of only Hebrews. Scripture describes it as “a mixed multitude” of Hebrews and non-Hebrews (Ex. 12:38). They were not a people because of common ethnicity but because they had believed God’s word and sought refuge in the blood of the lamb (Rev. 7:9, 10).

The Hebrew word for “beginning” is more literally rendered “head.” It can refer to a person’s physical head or to the ruler of a group. Exodus 12:2 could read, “This month shall be for you the head….” The people whom God passed over had a new ruler. They no longer suffered under the tyranny and oppression of Egypt’s Pharaoh. They were now under the headship of God and of the lamb, whose death purchased their freedom (Rev. 5:9).

We too have a Lamb according to our Father’s house—Jesus Christ (John 1:29). Paul says, “He is the beginning, the First-born from the dead, that in everything he might be pre-eminent” (Col. 1:18). When Christ was raised from the dead, we were all raised with Him and became “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). We no longer find our history or beginning in this world. The Lamb of God has given us a new beginning in Him.

What was brought forth through the cross, what we now are, is of God (1 John 4:4). We are neither Jew nor Greek, nor are we defined by any other worldly designation. We are one New Man in Christ, sons of God because we have believed the truth, the gospel of our salvation (Gal. 3:28; Eph. 1:13, 2:14, 15).

Ephesians tells us that “the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its savior” (Eph. 5:23). Our Head nourishes and cherishes us as His wife—bone of His bone and flesh of His flesh (Eph. 5:29; Gen. 2:23). He does not lord over us to our hurt, or demand more and more of us like Pharaoh and his slave drivers (Eccl. 8:9; Ex. 5:9). For “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish” (Eph. 5:25-27).

As this new year begins, I pray the Lord will deepen our experience of His Son. Newness of life is not only for those recently saved. We are to continually know Christ in the power of His resurrection, in His suffering, and in His death (Php. 3:10). Christ, our Passover lamb has been sacrificed and says to His beloved people, “I am making everything new!” (1 Cor. 5:7; Rev. 21:5).

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”
(2 Cor. 5:17).