|The Season of our Freedom: Passover 2012|
by Howard Silverman, UMJC President
One of names that describes Passover in the Hagaddah is z’man cheruteinu, the “season of our freedom.” We gather around the Seder table remembering how God brought our ancestors out of Egyptian slavery to freedom in the wilderness. This miraculous event became the definition of the relationship between God and the Jewish people. He is our deliverer. He is our redeemer. Throughout the Tanach, God is identified as one who rescues or “saves” people from calamity.
By the time we come to the New Covenant, the hope is that the Messiah will be the one to bring deliverance from our enemies. This is clear from the praise of Zechariah that we read about in the Gospel of Luke. In his praise for the coming of the Messiah, Zechariah quotes a passage from Psalm 106, which describes how God rescued our people out of Egypt: As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from of old—Salvation FROM OUR ENEMIES, And FROM THE HAND OF ALL WHO HATE US (Luke 1:70-71). Zechariah relates words about the Exodus to the work of the Messiah. How are we to understand these words? Israel is still threatened by enemies. We as individuals still face all kinds of tzuris in life. What does it mean that Israel has been delivered? What does it mean that we have been rescued from bondage? What does it mean to be free? Israel still has bitter enemies and none of us lives a carefree life that is free from trouble.
The answer can be found in the deliverance of our people from Egypt. After they were freed from Egyptian slavery, they faced many challenges in the wilderness. Some of the problems were a result of unbelief and some things were a test from God. The generation of those who left Egypt were judged and died in the wilderness because of unbelief! It is clear that “deliverance” never meant freedom from all trouble. Even when we read of many situations in which God rescued people from enemies, we see that it was never for the sole purpose of giving us the “good life” to enjoy. Deliverance or freedom has always been for the purpose of choosing to serve God and therefore of testifying to the nations of his goodness and protection and power.
When Yeshua came, he did indeed provide the final redemption from our enemies as Zechariah proclaims. However, we have yet to appropriate this redemption on a national or universal level. It is because of Yeshua that our people have been sustained through great difficulty over the years. It is because of Yeshua that there is a restored nation of Israel. We still await the day when this final redemption will be complete. There is a day coming that our people will truly experience deliverance. There will be a day when we will say as a people that it is truly the season of our freedom as a people. But it is clear from the New Covenant that we as individuals can experience this “season of freedom” today. There are many passages that teach us that we have been freed from the bondage of sin; that we have been delivered from the wrath of God. We have been delivered to freedom. We, like our ancestors are saved for the purpose of serving God.
Serving God means living a blameless and holy life. Doing so leads to a life of fullness of joy and satisfaction. Freedom means embracing one’s true identity and purpose. It does not mean being exempt from problems or even the chastening hand of God. In Messiah we have the opportunity to embrace our true identity as a Messianic Jewish community and our calling to live exemplary lives. To be free is to know that God will never leave us or forsake us. To be free means to have the opportunity to choose life and live it. To be free means to embrace whatever comes our way in life and work through it and not be sucked into the quicksand of self-pity, desperation and depression. To be free means to have the opportunity to break the chains of destructive habits. Freedom means knowing that there is a destination and that the journey may require sacrifice and challenge, but God will bring us there as we follow his way and path.
We have this freedom because Yeshua is the Passover lamb. He is the Lamb of God who came to take away the sin of the world. In Messiah we are free from both the penalty and the power of sin in our lives. This means that in Yeshua we have been freed from the alienating effects of sin – free of a way of life that builds hostility between people; a way of life that brings personal and societal destruction. We are free to make wise choices; to make a positive difference in our own lives and the lives of others and the world. This comes as we follow the Lord and are filled with the Ruach HaKodesh.
As we celebrate Passover, may we rejoice in the faithfulness of God toward our people in sending Yeshua the Messiah, through whom we enter the season of our freedom.