I was reading Psalm 78 the other night, and it stuck out to me as having a lot to say about Passover. I'm not sure is this piece of scripture is ever used in Passover celebrations, but it fits. The point of continuing to celebrate Passover is to remember and to read the stories of God's salvation of his people. God rescued Israel from Egypt on the first Passover, bringing them out of slavery. But God then continued to rescue Israel. God provided for them in the wilderness. He brought them to the promised land. He delivered their enemies into their hands.
And what did the people do? They complained. They moaned. They whined. They rebelled. They turned from God. They built idols.
Psalm 78 is the history of Israel, written as a song to sing to the next generation to remind them of their ancestors' misdeeds, of their turning from God, in the hopes that the children would learn from the mistakes of their parents and live in God's will.
I am Israel. I am a child of God. I have been chosen. God saved me. God gave me good things. God responded when I cried out. But I complain and moan and whine and beg for more and rebel. I turn my back on God, yelling at him, refusing to acknowledge the good he's done in my life, forgetting the gift of salvation and the promise of eternal life with him free from sorrow and fear and pain.
But reading the words of Asaph the other night, God broke me. He reminded me of all that he did for his people out of love, despite their rejection and rebellion. As a Christian, my history is not separated from the history of Israel. The story of salvation, of which I am but a small part, goes back to the curse and the promise in the garden. The history of Israel is my history, and I see myself in it.
This is why Passover is important and why the Christian tradition should honor it. We need to be reminded of God's overall story of salvation that culminated in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I am like Israel. I need to be reminded, at least every year on Passover, of what God has done and what he is continuing to do in my life.
"They willfully put God to the test" (v. 18). I do that.
"They did not believe in God or trust in his deliverance" (v. 22). That's me.
"In spite of all this, they kept on sinning; in spite of all his wonders, they did not believe" (v. 32). Guilty.
"Then they would flatter him with their mouths, lying to him with their tongues; their hearts were not loyal to him, they were not faithful to his covenant" (vv. 36-37). Me.
"Again and again they put God to the test" (v. 41). Me again.
"They angered him with their high places; they aroused his jealousy with their idols" (v. 58). Me.
Despite all of this, "he was merciful; he forgave their iniquities and did not destroy them. Time after time he restrained his anger and did not stir up his full wrath. He remembered that they were but flesh, a passing breeze that does not return" (vv. 38-39). Not only did he not destroy them, he planned for their ultimate salvation, for my salvation. He planned for a day when we would not be broken flesh any longer, when we would not be just a passing breeze. One day we will be forever in his presence, sinless, saved by the grace of a merciful God.
Remembering the story of Israel forces me to think about my own story and the ways that I've tested and turned away from and actively rebelled against God. I feel shame, yes, but I also feel immense hope. For right now, it will be this way. I will vacillate between rebellion and obedience. I will test and thank and forget. But this isn't the end. God didn't leave his people to suffer the bondage of slavery in Egypt. He rescued them. He won't leave me here, a slave to flesh and sin forever. He will rescue me. He has rescued me. The promised land is up ahead. He's leading me by a pillar of cloud by day and fire by night.
Sometimes I just forget to look.
So today, I'm thankful for the reminder that I need God, that he provides, and that I cannot understand the vastness of his goodness for me. I see the glimmer of fire on the horizon, and I am drawn back to him. Although I wander, he is with me.