As today is the first day of Passover, let's address the blog to this Biblical holy day.
Passover marks the exodus of the Biblical Hebrews from the ancient land of Egypt, in essence – from slavery to freedom.
God in the Bible (Exodus 12) said that they are commanded to tell the story year after year as a memorial, and so, as the Bible says, generation after generation have learned of God's miraculous power of deliverance.
The period before Passover is marked by a lot of preparations. Perhaps the most known is the burning of the leven – that is what Chuck Freeby and I spoke on yesterday on the Harvest Show.
In the absence of leaven, Jews eat specially prepared unleavened bread, or matzah, on Passover.
Matzah dates back to the Exodus itself. The Hebrews, not having had time to wait for dough to rise before leaving Egypt, journeyed into the desert with unleavened bread.
The other main identifier is the Seder Meal held last night. Following some festive prayers, families will eat a special ceremonial meal, which commemorates the Exodus from Egypt.
The guide for this meal is detailed in a book known as the Haggadah, which literally means “narration,” and relates to the story of the Exodus from Egypt.
There is a plate placed on the table containing several special foods. Their representation goes beyond the period of the Exodus but nonetheless have strong ties to the core of Jewish life in the time of the Bible.
These foods are: a roasted egg, symbolizing the special sacrifices which were brought in the Temple; a roasted shank bone, recalling the special Passover lamb offered and eaten in Temple times; a mixture of chopped apples, nuts, wine and cinnamon, symbolizing the mortar that was used to make bricks; sprigs of parsley and lettuce, symbolizing spring; a bitter herb symbolizing the bitterness of slavery; and salt water, recalling the tears shed by the Hebrew slaves in Egypt.
Additionally, there are three sheets of matzah – marking the division of the Jewish people into priests, Levites and the general population – are also placed on the table.
During the course of the meal the Ten Plagues that were set upon Egypt are recalled.
When each of the Plagues is mentioned, each participant dips a finger into his/her cup of wine and removes a drop; even though the Hebrews were oppressed in Egypt, the Jewish people are reminded that they must not rejoice over the Egyptians' suffering – thus the cups of wine cannot thus be full.
But the overwhelming theme of the Biblical observance that can be seen so readily is that of deliverance.
And through our Faith in Christ, and what He has done for us through His Death as our Sacrifice, we understand that God's Angle of Death will pass over us.
We too, will be freed from slavery – slavery to sin and death. We will enter as free people into the promised land of Heaven.
How good God is in His faithfulness to the generations – and to leave us the Bible to guide us there – where a banqueting table has been set!
Middle East Correspondent