Devotion in war time – 26 October 2023

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“They shall eat the flesh that same night, roasted with fire, and they shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs” (Exod 12:8). Passover is, among other things, a yearly celebration of God’s triumph over any and every obstacle that stands in the way of the fulfillment his promises. But let us not be fooled: In the story of Israel’s exodus, God’s battle was on two fronts. God not only fought to overcome the hardened heart of Pharaoh, but also the disbelieving heart of the people of Israel (see Exod 6:9). And like it or not, a key ingredient of the victory feast is bitter herbs. Oddly, the inclusion of bitter herbs in the Passover meal is never explicitly explained in the text. But given the extensive use of Hebrew word plays in Exodus (and in the Hebrew Bible for that matter), the bitter herbs in Exodus 12:8 are quite likely a reminder of the bitter sufferings inflicted by Pharaoh upon the Jewish people at the beginning of the story (Exod 1:13-14). Life had become extremely bitter in Egypt to remind us that man shall not live on fish, cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic alone (see Num 11:5). It was this bitterness that caused us to cry out to God, and to sigh and groan over the bitterness of a life lived apart from the fulfillment of God’s promises (Exod 2:23). So every year, Israel eats these bitter herbs as a reminder of the pain God uses in our lives to make us stop seeking for a life without him, and to start hungering for the sweetness of his glory in the Promised Land. “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom 8:18).

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