Exodus 13:7-9: And it shall be, when the LORD brings you into the land of the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Amorites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, which He swore to your fathers to give you, a land flowing with milk and honey, that you shall keep this service in this month. Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a feast to the LORD.
All through Exodus, Yahweh reminds Israel of the promise He initially made to Abram, the promise to give His people the land of the Canaanites. At the burning bush, Yahweh tells Moses that He is going to bring Israel from Egypt to a land flowing with milk and honey. He promises to send His angel before Israel, and then promises to go before Israel Himself.
Four times in Exodus, Yahweh says that the land is a land flowing with milk and honey. To the four points of the compass, it is a land of rich abundance, a land of fattening foods. Yahweh sets the table of Canaan before His people and invites them to taste and see that Yahweh is good.
Every time Yahweh mentions the milk and honey, He also reminds Israel that the land is already inhabited, and that Israel is going to have to drive out the nations of Canaan before they can enjoy the bounty of the land. Israel will eat honey only from the corpse of the lion of Canaan. Out of the eater will come something to eat; out of the strong will come something sweet.
Israel won’t be able to conquer Canaan on her own, but Yahweh Himself promises to fight for Israel and to drive out the Canaanites. Israel will be able to enjoy the good of the land, will be able to drive out the Canaanites and Hittites and Amorites and Hivites and Jebusites only if they remember what Yahweh did in Egypt and trust Yahweh to do it all again in Canaan.
That’s what makes the signs and memorials of Israel’s worship so crucial for her mission. The Feast of Unleavened Bread and the dedication of the firstborn are signs on Israel’s hands, the hands that will grasp swords to fight Canaanites. They are memorials between their eyes, the eyes that will spy out the land for enemy activity, the eyes that will look down in triumph on her foes. These signs are given so that Yahweh’s torah will be in our mouth, Israel true food and only word.
Our feast is also a sign, a sign of all of Yahweh’s past victories, and a sign of His incarnate victory in Jesus’ death and resurrection. The Lord has promised us the world as our inheritance, but we will receive that inheritance only by trusting the Lord’s promise, by keeping these signs on our hands, between our eyes, that His law might be in our mouth.
posted by Peter J. Leithart on Sunday, November 14, 2010 at 7:49 am
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