Updated: Nov 2
As I think about annual festivities, some of the first things that come to mind are birthdays, Christmas, Thanksgiving here in the United States, Easter, and other annual holidays that grant us some time off work. But in this episode, we are delving into Numbers chapter 9, where the Lord instructs us to celebrate a past trip, a concept that may not be as common in our modern celebrations.
The Call to Remember: God's Instruction
If I asked you to celebrate a past trip, you might envision retelling stories, sharing pictures and memories from that journey, reuniting with the people who were part of that adventure, or even revisiting the destination to reminisce about the good times and create new memories. However, the way the Lord instructs these individuals to remember their past trips is a bit different than how we might do so today.
Let's take a look at Numbers 9:1-14.
The First Passover: A Brief Recap
Just to recap, in the previous episode, we discussed the significance of the Passover. We talked about how Moses led the people out of Egypt. But before Pharaoh finally allowed the Israelites to leave Egypt, God sent ten plagues, effectively discrediting at least ten of the Egyptian idol gods. God's actions reached an extreme, with the death of the firstborn sons in Egypt. To spare the believers among the Israelites, those who painted the blood of a lamb on their doorframes were passed over. This marked the beginning of the feast where they celebrated by eating unleavened bread in preparation for their swift departure.
In the middle of the night, while the people of Egypt slept, the Lord "passed over" the houses that had the lamb's blood on their door frames. The firstborn sons in those houses were spared. However, in the houses without this marking, there was mourning and tears as the firstborn sons died. This event led to Pharaoh's change of heart, from "Okay, go away! I don't want anything to do with you!" to "I'm really mad at you because you killed my firstborn son." He chased after the Israelites with his armies. The Israelites, under the divine guidance of a pillar of cloud or smoke, crossed the Red Sea on dry land. The waters then crashed down on the Egyptian armies, securing the Israelites' freedom. They set off for the promised land, filled with excitement and joy after 430 years of captivity.
A Celebration Repeated: A New Legacy
Yet, as we continue their journey, we see that fear of the giants in the Promised Land leads to doubt in God's power. This doubt eventually results in the Israelites wandering in the desert for 40 years. At this point, they have only been free for one year. The Lord asks them to remember the Passover, to celebrate the fact that they left Egypt for this new adventure.
If you're wondering what this celebration was meant to look like, it was to be observed at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month of the year. Though the number of months in our calendar has evolved over the centuries, let's imagine this as January 14 in the new year, during twilight. During this celebration, they were instructed to eat the lamb with bitter herbs and unleavened bread. Notably, they were not to break a bone in the lamb's body.
Despite our modern perspective, where carving a turkey on Thanksgiving often results in broken bones, this wasn't as challenging for the Israelites. They were likely more familiar with the anatomy of the animals they consumed. This tradition included offerings and celebrations, along with retelling the story of their escape from Egypt.
However, there were those who approached and said, "We are considered unclean in the eyes of the Lord. We have touched a dead body recently, so we can't be around others and therefore cannot celebrate the Passover." In response, the Lord graciously offered a second opportunity to celebrate it a month later.
Travelers embarking on long journeys were another group that faced the challenge of participating in the Passover. If you've ever traveled during the holiday season, over Easter or Christmas, you can likely relate. The Lord made it clear that they were not exempt from celebrating the Passover and also allowed them to celebrate it a month later upon their return.
Furthermore, the Lord extended an invitation to sojourners, foreigners, and slaves to join in the celebration, but they had to follow the same customs as the Israelites. They were to practice the Passover in the same way.
Continuing the Legacy: In the Time of Jesus
This tradition continued for generations and became an integral part of Jewish culture. Even during Jesus' time, it was celebrated, as evidenced by the Last Supper. They were commemorating the Passover, underscoring the enduring significance of this ancient tradition. Today, some Christian circles still practice the Passover, usually as a symbolic meal with discussions about the significance of each food element. However, many have replaced it with Easter, as the Passover was a representation of what was yet to come. For instance, they were eating the lamb as a representation of the sacrifice that allowed their firstborn sons to live. Now, we know that Jesus is the Lamb, the ultimate sacrifice for our sins.
The Power of Remembrance
Easter, like the Passover, has become an annual tradition that commemorates Jesus' death and resurrection, even though these events took place over 2000 years ago. We observe it as a family, passing down the tradition from generation to generation, much like the Israelites did with the Passover.
Though generations later, when Jesus' friends walked the earth, they may never have experienced slavery in Egypt or known the hardships of wandering in the wilderness. Their connection to these stories was through the narratives that had been passed down.
It is crucial to God that these celebrations are remembered. He doesn't want us to forget where we came from and who He is, the one who cared for them in Egypt, guided them in the wilderness, and led them to the promised land.
The same can be said of Easter and Christmas.
I know some of us are so tempted to be Easter and Christmas Christians, who only go to church twice a year because those are the traditions where we remember significant days of the Lord. But the Lord created worship for us every single week to weekly celebrate who He is.
Jesus went to church it was so important. And if Jesus set the precedence for us, then being in God's house is not just for those 2 big holidays.
As a Christian traveler, I am calling you to remember some other things too. Obviously, remember Easter and Christmas. remember to attend church and to worship while traveling, but I want you to also remember your past trips. And not just that they were these really cool destinations with fun photos - but let's remember what God did on that trip.
If I remember my trip to Europe, my solo trip, one of the first things I remember is how I got there without international cell service and how God caught me safely to my Airbnb. God got me to more than one place with one percent left of my cell phone battery, uncertain as to what lay ahead, but He got me there.
Travel is an act of trust, it is truly uncomfortable. It's putting ourselves out there in a way that can be daunting. And if we annually stop to remember how God shows up, what those stories were, and we retell them - we tell them to future generations. Will they necessarily be talking about these stories 2000 years from now? No. But what they will remember is that God spoke through your life that you set a precedence for them - that your relationship with God is something that they can seek after too. That they can also be see Him in their adventures and their journeys. And that is what God has put on my heart - what travel in our world is...
Finding Joy in Small Victories: Celebrating God's Presence
Technology has made travel seem so simple, so modern, that we are tempted to forget who's truly in charge. We forget to worship and praise Him. We forget that travel is something that we should annually remember because in Philippians 4:8 it says, "finally brothers and sisters whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable. If anything is excellent or praiseworthy think about such things."
Our world and Satan love to think about the negative things, but God wants us to celebrate the good. Honestly, it might feel like you're just blowing things out of proportion when you get so excited that you got a front row parking spot at the grocery store. It might seem crazy to celebrate that you made it somewhere with a one percent left of your battery. It might seem crazy to celebrate that you got that last spot on the airplane. It might seem crazy to just be exuberantly joyful and praising and remembering those little things in life... but the Lord says that what our minds are meant to focus on.
So I encourage you to follow in those footsteps and annually remember your adventures. Just like the Israelites did when they reflected on the Passover.
Dear Lord, thank you for these Christian travelers. Thank you for your mission that you've called us to travel differently. To travel in a way that exults you and that remembers year after year after year. That recalls how you show up time and time again. Because when our mind is focused on you instead of everything that we think is going wrong in this world. We have a hope. We have a joy. We have something greater to live for. And please help us as we recall these things, to tell others, to give them joy and hope and excitement as well! And for them to think of travel in a new and exciting way. I guess Lord, it's not really new because You've been in travel forever and for always - but to them it might just be a new perspective. It might just be a new perspective that they really need. All this we ask in your precious name, Amen.
So my final thought in question is this: Our world has modernized some of the big biblical holidays: Christmas & Easter. They've turned them into sales-driven events. But as a Christian, you know that those things have a deeper meaning and purpose. The way that you celebrate these holidays informs other people so much about who Christ is. So, is there an opportunity as we approach this Christmas season, or later on if you listen to this podcast for Easter. Is there a way that you can celebrate these holidays like the Israelites did for the Passover? In a way that recalls the story God's blessings and promises being fulfilled? Is there a way you can do that with your other travel adventures too? I encourage you to ponder this question, think it over. And then go ahead and share it with a friend! In fact, invite them to whatever celebration you're going to have, and I would love to hear about it too!
Until next time safe travels and God bless!