We were honored to be invited to a friend’s home for their Seder dinner on the first night of Passover.
It was a meaningful and fascinating experience as we read through the Haggadah (readings that guide the Seder meal by retelling the Exodus narrative) and ate the various foods of the proscribed dishes.
We were grateful for the English translations, although we appreciated hearing the Hebrew that our friends used.
When we read through the section about the slavery of the Israelites in Egypt, a sentence caught my attention in a significant way.
The text reads that it was important for the children of Israel to be freed from bondage by God. If Pharaoh had freed them, they would have been grateful to him, so in a sense, still in a sort of bondage to him.
Since Moses, following God’s instructions, led them out of Egypt and bondage, their gratitude was to God.
In addition, although I don’t remember the Haggadah text saying this, if they had risen in rebellion and freed themselves, it would have been their own doing, not God’s.
As I have pondered on that phrase, there seem to be several applications to our lives today.
One of the ways I have thought about it is in terms of Holy Week, Easter and our salvation.
If we could earn our salvation by doing good works, obeying the Ten Commandments or anything else, then we could pat ourselves on our backs, saying, “Look what I have done.”
But because our salvation is a gift resulting from the death, burial and resurrection of our Savior, it is our responsibility to admit our need for salvation, confess our sin and accept God’s gift. Only then are we freed from the bondage of sin.
Unfortunately, just as some of the children of Israel complained and wanted to return to Egypt, we tend to succumb to temptation and need to ask for forgiveness again and again.
Another application that occurred to me is in handling addictions, whether the addiction is to shopping, eating, gambling or it involves substance abuse.
The bonds of addiction are very strong and, as with the Israelites and Pharaoh, are not going to be loosened on their own or even something that can be done on one’s own.
A number of programs address release from addiction, and most of them incorporate a belief in something outside of oneself, such as AA’s “higher power,” which to me is God.
These programs also emphasize the support of others and the need to continually commit or recommit to walking in that freedom day by day.
The story of God’s chosen people is not an easy one. Even though they were released from slavery in Egypt, their history was and is one of captivity, destruction, persecution and peril.
Our walk with God may also be filled with difficult times of sorrow, illness and distress.
In gratitude to the God who died as our Passover lamb, we can seek to be faithful travelers through the deserts of our lives and be assured of God’s presence with us as we travel.
I had expected to be served lamb as part of that Seder dinner, but learned that the Jews haven’t eaten lamb at Passover since the temple was destroyed and will not do so until the temple is restored.
The Haggadah reading still ends, “Next year in Jerusalem.”
Sara Powell is a former Baptist Center for Ethics board member and former moderator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Georgia. She and her husband, Bill, live in Hartwell, Georgia, and belong to Hartwell First United Methodist Church. Her writings can be found on her website, LiftYourHeart.com.