Pesach and Mixed Metaphors

A huge challenge to seeing the consistent storyline from Genesis to Revelation is the Bible’s use of metaphor.  These themes are not always obvious, and often require a larger context not present in a verse, or even a chapter or book. On top of that, various metaphors are mixed, and change from one narrative to another.  This strategy isn’t meant to confuse, instead He uses these themes to cast a wider net to reach an audience across all cultures and circumstances.  These themes are universal, and can touch the heart of every human in every era.   By clearly seeing various metanarratives, it’s easier to see ourselves as part of the larger story, not as bystanders, and once we identify with God’s people, the results can be very transformative.  Just as some song lyrics are only attractive only to certain people, the music and the rhythm of scripture, to the careful listener, remains consistent.  Pesach establishes the tone for several different metaphors all at the same time.

For instance, you could look at the scriptural narrative in purely legal terms.  Since the story of redemption is told through a series of covenants, those with an eye for these sorts of contractual details see this theme clearly.  The contract with Noah promises future humanity that the world won’t again be destroyed by a flood, but also makes it clear that YHWH is sovereign over every aspect of life and death.  Building upon that contract, YHWH invites individuals through Abraham to join him in a mission of faith.  If they commit to this contract (the agreement to be ever faithful to YHWH) there are promised blessings and rewards, as well as curses for being faithless or for actively working against YHWH.  With Moses, YHWH offers an amendment with far more detailed terms.  Like any amendment, it only is offered to those who first agreed to the contract first offered to Abraham.  If you haven’t yet agreed to the good faith of the first agreement, the terms of the amendment can be confusing and even misleading (the blessings are only promised to those who are faithful, not simply by robotic obedience to a contract).  The Mosaic contract details what faith looks like, offers specific blessings for obedience, as well as specific curses for disobedience.  Messiah Yeshua came to train and encourage us to be diligent to keep the terms of all of these agreements and reinforced the eternal rewards of sticking to the terms.  He chastised those who changed the terms without consent, as well as those who were picking and choosing which sections and subsections to honor.  Pesach represents our desire to enter into sign on the dotted line, as well as our commitment to move forward towards a higher contractual commitment.

You could also see the biblical narrative as laying out the story and founding documents of a new nation.  A temporarily absent King is ruling from afar.  First, he shows his military might with Noah. The bow in the sky refers to the weapon of war, and the raindrops are His arrows. He eventually sets that bow down in the sky to show that His intent is not utter destruction, but complete peace through strength.  With Abraham, God begins to build his new army of citizens.  The sign of circumcision, a bloody and permanent mark in the most sensitive of areas, shows our commitment to this band of brothers.  We live our lives knowing that we are allies with the same King who has the power to destroy all life but promises to spare ours.  Abraham represents our  “declaration of independence”, from the nations where we were once citizens.  With Moses we see YHWH organizing His nation, and His army of citizens being trained and disciplined.  We are not permitted to live lawlessly, so the constitution of His kingdom is spelled out in great detail.  There are dire punishments for ANYONE who adds or subtracts from these terms.  The ten commandments are like the U.S. Bill of Rights—not the end of the constitution, just the crucial beginning. Messiah Yeshua is the son of our absent King, who came not just to recruit, but to remind those who are already YHWH’s subjects to remain good and lawful citizens.  Someday the King Himself will return, set up His son officially on His throne, who will then rule and reign with a rod of iron for 1,000 years. The annual Pesach meal is our pledge of allegiance to both King and Kingdom. It is the July 4th of the Nation of Israel.

There’s also a narrative of social justice woven through these same stories. Powerful forces represented first by a serpent, then by the “Nephilim” (giants), Nimrod, the King of Sodom, and ultimately Pharaoh, spread a system of evil, oppression, and injustice upon the people of the world.  Pharaoh in particular forces the innocent to work hard with no wages, using violence and death as punishment.  Pesach stands as the night when justice is perfectly served upon societies who are built upon similar injustice. That night in Egypt the Israelites plundered the Egyptians and were finally paid in full.  On Pesach in Messiah’s day, he too seemed like a victim of institutional injustice, having been beaten and killed by a conspiracy of religious and secular government.  But, by rising from the grave, he encourages those of us still surrounded by this unjust system.  He reminds us each Pesach that perfect justice will always be served by YHWH, so live our lives in that spirit of victory–without losing empathy for those who a currently suffering.       

For family-oriented readers, the various lineages and expectations of a parent-child relationship are what they see from cover to cover.  In the story of Noah, we see a small family being saved from destruction.  Through one of those rescued sons, Abram is born. Abram agrees to be the father of a brand new family, the largest family that will ever live. In the same way that an adopted child takes a new name, YHWH gives one of His “H”s to Abram, and makes him AbraHam (and does the same thing with his other H, to Sari, making her SaraH.)  Abraham’s family grows exponentially, but needs a mission statement to keep their identity intact.  Moses is selected to be a surrogate father of sorts, a model of our Heavenly Father, to create a culture that is eternally consistent with YHWH’s values.  Mercy, kindness, justice, love, sacrifice, humility, proper worship, and victory are taught by Moses, and like any good parent, both rewards and punishments are used as tools for the children’s training.  Messiah Yeshua, YHWH’s perfect son, came to live a life that flawlessly exhibited all of those traits, and asks the rest of his adopted brothers and sisters to do the same. Pesach is like an adoption ceremony, an annual reminder of who our Father is, and an encouragement to be faithful children, as well as loving brothers and sisters. 

For farmers, there are a couple of agricultural narratives which intertwine.  In the beginning there is a perfect garden. Humanity was placed there to both tend the plants and manage the animals. We have a natural tendency to let the weeds grow, and to abuse His animals, but the Creator promises to restore this perfection someday, and to gather fresh seeds to replant His garden once and for all.  Abraham, a good shepherd with a growing flock, is also chosen as the first of these seeds.  His attributes make his seed very much worth saving for this future planting project.  Moses, also a good shepherd, provides a clearer picture for the Holy seed packets, describing the ideal conditions for growth—watering schedule, soil nutrition, and expected yield. Messiah Yeshua describes himself both as the ultimate Good Shepherd as well as a tender of a vineyard.  He reminds us that there are wolves amongst us disguised as sheep, as well as weeds disguised as wheat. He tells us that we’ll know these imposters by their fruits.  He reminds us that Moses still provides us with valid care and feeding instructions, for both sheep and plants.  We are called to lead lives that will make us seed worth saving. Yeshua demonstrates that for seeds to take root, first they have to “die”, in the sense that we can’t allow our GMO sin to influence the perfection of the creator’s flawless design.  Only through dying does a seed fulfil it’s purpose.  The last chapter of our Bible shows us the perfect garden is finally planted, restored, and perfectly tended.  Pesach reminds us that we are not wild animals or weeds. We are both YHWH’s sheep and the seed of Abraham.  We are destined to flourish once re-planted in the promised land.      

All throughout the New Testament, followers of Messiah refer to themselves as bondservants—in some translations the word used is more blunt. We who are redeemed are referred to as slaves to Messiah.  The story of the bible teaches us that there is no such thing as a free person.  As Bob Dylan said you “Gotta Serve Somebody.”  Scripture gives example after example of those who serve the world (while being deceived into believing they are free).  Israel has been purchased (redeemed or ransomed) out of that system, and into a competing system.  Innocent blood, first using lambs as a “type”, and then demonstrated more fully with Messiah Yeshua Himself, is the price paid for that redemption. Pesach is the annual reminder of whose slaves we are, the cost of our ransom, and the just and perfect ways of our new master.

For those architecturally inclined, there is also a building and blueprint metaphor.  In the story of the tower of Babel (which means ‘confusion’) we see mankind building without referring to code. The accusation is that the builder has chosen to reject stones and instead is building using bricks of his own design (for simplicity, uniformity, and speed).  The code inspector arrives before the building is complete and promptly tears the building down. Abraham is chosen as the beginning of a new and holy structure.  Moses later arrives to provide a very detailed building code, as well as several warnings about the danger of buildings built to our own specifications.  Messiah Yeshua declares that he is the cornerstone (which lawless builders reject) and if we would simply follow the authorized blueprint laid out by Moses, we would pass inspection.  By using his life as our model  (because Yeshua always follows code) our buildings won’t be washed away when tested by winds and waves.  Paul refers to us as living stones, unhewn by human hands, being built into a perfect Temple for YHWH’s to dwell within.  At the end of Revelation, we see a perfect city, called The New Jerusalem, and its dimensions are holy in every respect. Collectively we are that perfect city, which will be the center of the new creation.  By highlighting the doorway on Pesach, we are sanctifying our homes, pledging to be faithful to our master designer and the architect of our lives.

The most common story is connected to romance.  In Genesis we are introduced to the idea that “it is not good for man to be alone”, and we see YHWH create a perfect mate for Adam.  This is the template fulfilled by the rest of the narrative, as it is eventually implied that Israel is in fact being prepared as a bride for YHWH’s own son, Yeshua. The story of Moses shows the Father impressing His son’s potential bride with signs and wonders in Egypt, and then providing for her every need in the wilderness.  YHWH then reads the wedding vows, and even provides a written version for the bride’s review as well as for the court records. To His delight, the bride-to-be says yes!  Sadly, in her impatience for the bridegroom to arrive, she breaks her vow and even commits adultery!  When the bridegroom finally comes in the flesh, they don’t recognize him, in fact they had even forgotten that they had been proposed to in the first place!  Nevertheless, the bridegroom is ever faithful, and goes to extraordinary measures to prove his love, and to encourage his fiancé to return to the terms of the original vows.  At the end of the Bible, we see the bride-to-be being prepared for the actual wedding and the final celebration of the Wedding Supper of the Lamb (with virgin Israel as the bride, and the nations being mere attendees).  The annual Pesach meal serves as a reminder of the undying love of both our bridegroom and His Father.  We recommitment ourselves as the bride-to-be, repenting of adulterous thoughts and behaviors inconsistent with true love.

For the purposes of time and space, I won’t dive deep into the analogies of childlessness ending in childbirth, homelessness resulting in mansions, poverty turning into riches, and sickness becoming perfect healing.  Regardless of our worldview or the current struggle in our lives, Pesach is the gateway to the solution. It’s the required step one. Pesach itself does not define the solution, nor provide precise steps to victory. Instead it’s our declaration of faith to the only one who has the power to rescue us, ransom us, and redeem us.  Whether you see God as your Father, your King, your Creator, or your Master, he set Pesach apart as an annual reminder of who He is for us.  If you feel powerless, hopeless, or trapped, I urge you to allow Pesach to be a turning point of the story of your life.  That’s exactly what its for.

Amen

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