Begin this (Chinese) New Year with readiness to advance
“The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, “This month (Nisan) is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year…. This is how you are to eat it (the Passover meal): with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the Lord’s Passover….”Exodus 12:1-2,11
This passage is about the observance of the first “Passover” just prior to the Israelites’ exodus out of Egypt. The Lord’s command to His people was to consider this time to be a new beginning, the start of a New Year, and this new beginning was to be characterised by a mentality of leaving the life of bondage behind and journeying with hope and expectation towards the Land that God had promised.
As Jewish traditions developed, there are now four beginnings of the Jewish New Year, of which the first of Nisan (March-April of the Gregorian calendar) is one, although the traditional Jewish new year is in September of our calendar. Nisan is also the first month of Spring in Palestine.
There is a Chinese saying that the planning for a year occurs in Spring. The was a similar point in the Lord’s command here. The Jews were to understand that their redemption from slavery in Egypt was the start of a completely new life as if real life started only after God’s redemptive event. It was the first time they had ever lived. In the Spring of this new year, the direction of their lives was set.
The celebration of the Passover consisted of each family slaughtering a lamb without blemish and eating that lamb and unleavened bread in the prescribed manner: “with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste”, i.e. eat while fully dressed and ready to move forward to leave behind the life of slavery. That bondage was the horrible life to flee from. The cloak tucked into the belt permitted freedom of rapid escape. With sandals worn, with staff in hand, they were able to embark on the exodus at a moment’s notice. They were to head straight towards the freedom and abundance of life in the Promised Land without any hesitation or dilly-dallying. It was such a gracious opportunity from God and such a clear choice to make.
Urgent as it was to leave Egypt, the appropriation of the Passover meal must come first – acknowledging the sacrifice of the lamb without blemish, the foreshadowing of the Saviour Jesus Christ, for the sake of His people’s salvation. It was necessary for them to “eat His flesh” to symbolise their acceptance of His act of grace and their union with Him.
I pray that we would commence this Chinese New Year with the same renewal of commitment to the Lord, the same attitude and hope. Let this year start with a refreshed conviction of the redemptive grace of the Lord in each of our lives. Let us be fully prepared to leave the bondage of sin and the alluring false security of worldly “Egypt”, and single-mindedly head towards the eternal and abundant life in the “Promised Land”. Do not be tempted by worldliness to have second thoughts. Do not dilly-dally, lest the gracious opportunity expires.
Let this be a year of growing faithfulness in discipleship as we head heavenwards.
耶和華在埃及地曉諭摩西、亞倫說：「你們要以本月為正月，為一年之首 ⋯⋯ 你們吃羊羔當腰間束帶，腳上穿鞋，手中拿杖，趕緊地吃；這是耶和華的逾越節。」出埃及記12章1-2,11節這段經文是關於以色列人離開埃及前遵守第一個的「逾越節」。 耶和華對祂子民的命令是要視這一次為一個新的開始，新一年的開始；而這新的開始之特點是要將奴役生活拋在腦後，帶着一份盼望和期待前往神所承諾賜給他們應許之地的心態。隨着猶太傳統的發展，現在猶太新年有四個開始，其中第一個是尼散月（公曆三月至四月），儘管傳統的猶太新年是在我們曆法的九月。尼散月也是巴勒斯坦春天的第一個月。中國人有句俗語「一年之計在於春」，這跟主在這裏的命令有相似點。猶太人要明白，他們從埃及的奴役中被救贖出來是一個全新生活的開始，就好像真正的生活只有在神的救贖事件之後才開始一樣。這是他們生平的第一次。在這新一年的春天，他們的生活方向已被確定。逾越節的慶祝活動，包括每家宰殺一隻沒有殘疾的羊羔，並按照規定的方式吃羊羔和無酵餅；「吃羊羔當腰間束帶，腳上穿鞋，手中拿杖，趕緊地吃」，即是穿好衣服地吃，隨時準備好繼續前進，擺脫奴隸的生活。那束縛就是他們要逃離那可怕的生活。腰間束帶有助於快速地逃脫。腳上穿鞋和手中拿杖讓他們能在接到通知就立刻起行出埃及。他們當毫不猶豫或磨磨蹭蹭，直奔應許之地的自由和豐盛的生活。這是出於神諸般恩待的機會，也是如此清晰的選擇。儘管離開埃及有多緊迫，逾越節晚餐必須作為首要——要去承認無瑕疵羔羊的犧牲，預表着救主耶穌基督為着祂子民的救恩。他們有必要「吃他的肉」，以像徵他們接受祂恩典的行動並與祂聯合。我禱告我們能同樣的更新委身於主、以同樣的態度和盼望來開始這個農曆新年。讓今年對主在我們每個人生命中救贖之恩典以一個更新的信念開始。讓我們作好充分的準備，離開罪惡的捆綁和世俗的「埃及」所帶來虛假的安全感，一心一意奔向「應許之地」那永恆和豐盛的生命。不要被世俗所誘惑而有別的想法。不要磨磨蹭蹭，免得恩典的機會期滿。讓今年成為我們奔向天路，在門徒訓練的忠心上有所增長的一年。