In the Jewish calendar, today is a special Shabbat.
It is the first Saturday of the new year of the Jewish Calendar.
It is the Sabbath that commemorates the children of Israel being instructed to get ready for the exodus out of Egypt, led by Moses. They were slaves in Egypt, and Moses had already delivered nine of the plagues according to the Lord’s command. The story is in Exodus 12:1-20, and we know it as the preparation for Passover (which is on April 7th this year).
It’s a big deal because when the Jews were commanded to begin their calendar on this day, it was a new beginning for them – literally. Telling the people to prepare for their exodus, to leave Egypt, and telling them that it is such an important day as to begin a new year, were both commands that began to set the people apart.
All things are both spiritual and physical. The temporal (physical) work of actually preparing to leave began with food preparation and packing and gathering of flocks. The spiritual work began by acknowledging that they, as a people, were no longer commanded by Egyptian slave masters; their time, their Order, would now be commanded by the Lord – starting today, with a brand new calendar.
But just healing, miraculous as it was to the people as they were delivered from bondage, is not enough.
The Lord is also a God who restores, which is greater than just healing.
So now only would their time be ordered by God instead of Pharaoh from now on, but this means that the people will, indeed, have a future. He will keep His promises.
This is a huge promise to them, a specific comfort, especially as the tenth plague that would soon follow would be the plague of death, with all firstborn dying around them – but the children of Israel surviving.
There will be a future.
There will be a future, and it starts now.
That’s what the Lord is telling His people.
That’s how the Lord comforts His people in their darkest hour of bondage, when they are faced with the daunting task of confronting their enemy and breaking free.
It is a new beginning, and it is a new beginning with promise.
It feels to me like a new year.
It was this time last year that began the year of grief, the year of alone-ness, the hardest year of my adult life. There was the loss of friends, and whacky ovaries, and the hard work of moving my mom, and my father’s battle with cancer, and my mother’s back surgery the week my father died, and the months of learning to be an aunt.
It was a powerful year that was good and right and as it should be, but the lessons – by necessity – came in the darkness of the valley.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil: for thou art with me… (Psalm 23:4).
Then I went to Israel, and it was like I came up for air.
It rained and rained and rained, every day in Israel, until my pink raincoat was worn out and torn and soaked.
It rained until all my tears – tears of exhaustion and grief and fear and repentance and failings and strivings and gratitude-ness and quickenings and finishing-the-race-ness – it rained until all my tears were washed away.
I flew home, refreshed, renewed, and began my life again.
Then the rains came once more, drowning me like a mikveh, bringing me up clean and watered and renewing that right Spirit within me.
This week my work was my best.
This week the missionaries helped me with my trees and my garden.
This week the outside of my house was restored from the death that came from the burning hot sun and drought last summer while I was zombie-fied in hospitals with my parents.
Life came back to the outside of my house. Spring, even.
Tonight, when I came home from work, I scrubbed everything. I worked out the deep clean of my soul, scrubbing base boards and the bird cage (every single bit of it, not just changing papers in the bottom of the cage), ceiling fans, and walls. I scoured bathrooms and mirrors and tubs and toilets. I dusted and vacuumed and mopped. I cleaned carpets with my hands and with my feets. I worked until every toxin of the last year was pushed out of my body, until every muscle ached, until my house was shiny clean again.
Life came back to the inside of my house. Spring cleaning, they say.
But I know there is more to it.
It’s a new year, a whole new year.
It’s a fresh start.
It’s a new beginning, a beginning with a promise.