Thursday, May 17, 2012

Escaping the Destroying Angel: The Passover, The Great Supper, and the Word of Wisdom

Although it was a little behind schedule, on monday the Orem 31st ward celebrated Pesach (the Passover) with a seder dinner (Passover dinner) graciously hosted by Daniel Peterson and his wife.  I have attended several seders, including a few dinners with Jews in the Holy Land, but this was the best that I have been privileged to attend thus far.

A key to understanding the Passover is contained in the word "remember".  The Feast of the Passover served to commemorate the Lord's merciful deliverance of the Israelites from the bondage of Pharaoh and the Egyptians, particularly the passing over (פֶּסַח Pesach) of the Israelite homes when God smote the firstborn of the Egyptians.  (Ex. 12:27;13:15)

As part of this act of remembrance, an ordinance of the Mosaic law required all males of the covenant people to appear before the Lord three times each year: during Pesach (the Feast of Unleavened Bread, during Shavuot (the Feast of Weeks), and during Sukkot (the Feast of Tabernacles). (Ex. 23:14–17Deut. 16:16)  Although this ordinance could not be observed frequently during the tumultuous times of the Old Testament, by the era of the New Testament the Jews were gathering more regularly to keep the three feasts and to remember the deliverance of their fathers. (see LDS Bible Dictionary, Feasts)

To escape the final and worst plague of those that the Lord inflicted upon Egypt, the slaying of all first born sons,  a lamb without blemish, with none of its bones broken, was slain by the congregation in the evening, and its blood sprinkled on the lintels and side posts of the doors of Israelite homes.  The first Passover meal consisted of the roasted lamb, unleavened bread, and bitter herbs, symbolic of the haste of departure and the bitterness of the captivity.

Over time the ceremony changed, but the theme of remembrance remained central to the celebration of the Passover. As we gathered together on Monday to celebrate the Passover, we participated in the symbolic meal and traditions, partaking of bitter herbs and other foods.  We sang and glorified God with the Hallel (which is the root of the word, Hallelujah, meaning, Praise Jehovah), we ate the unleavened bread, and drank the juice of the fruit of the vine.

Although the Passover was celebrated and is still celebrated in retrospective remembrance of the Israelites' deliverance from the physical bondage in Egypt, the ceremony foreshadowed Jesus Christ's Last Supper with his disciples and his Atoning Sacrifice.  Jesus instituted the sacrament, and then, as the Lamb without blemish, was slain for the sins of the world, to deliver the penitent from the spiritual bondage of sin.

Since the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, the Jews still celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread, but not the Feast of the Passover, which is to say, they do not offer a sacrificial lamb. In addition to these and other feasts, each Sabbath the Jews still commemorate God's day of rest from creation, as well as the deliverance from Egypt.

Although members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints do not usually celebrate the Passover, it is a feast of remembrance that parallels the sacrament of the Lord's supper in many ways. Partaking of the sacrament, like celebrating the Passover, is a retrospective remembrance of deliverance, but it also foreshadows a future feast, namely, the great marriage supper of the Lamb, when Christ will return again:

 8 And also that a feast of fat things might be prepared for theapoor; yea, a feast of fat things, of wine on the blees well refined, that the earth may know that the mouths of the prophets shall not fail;
 9 Yea, a supper of the house of the Lord, well prepared, unto which all anations shall be invited.
 10 First, the rich and the learned, the wise and the noble;
11 And after that cometh the day of my power; then shall theapoor, the lame, and the blind, and the deaf, come in unto thebmarriage of the Lamb, and partake of the csupper of the Lord, prepared for the great day to come. (D&C 58:8-11)

This passover was an event of retrospective remembrance that increased my appreciation for God's deliverance of the children of Israel from the physical bondage of Egypt, as well as God's deliverance of the penitent from the spiritual bondage of sin. But it also served as a reminder to look forward and to prepare for the feast described in the Lord's parable of the great supper.  

Just as the destroying angel passed over the Israelite houses that had the blood of the lamb sprinkled upon the lintels and the side posts, there is also a present passover promise to those who keep the commandments and observe the Lord's law of health:

  And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the    
commandments, ashall receivebhealth in their navel and marrow to their bones;

 19 And shall afind bwisdom and great ctreasures of dknowledge, even hidden treasures;

 20 And shall arun and not be bweary, and shall walk and not faint.
 21 And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that theadestroying angel shall bpass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them. Amen.