As this month begins and some question even the validity of organized celebrations or observances of things like Black History Month; I felt it fitting to examine the activity of remembering history. As is my custom, I sought the word of God (I’m a Christian I can’t help myself). In my study I sought to examine a particular celebration I knew was mandated for the Hebrew people in Torah (the Old Testament). In fact the ordinance is not merely in Torah but Pentateuch (the first 5 books). It is in Pentateuch that we are given a great deal of the history of the Hebrew people as well as the law; in Exodus and detailed in Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy (the second law). The mandate is that of Passover. In close study I found, as you will, that there is much said to include the event that gives causation to the Passover Festival. Exodus 11 details the final plague issued upon Egypt when the children of Israel are about to be delivered out of the bondage of slavery. I encourage you to read each reference. The first-born males of the Egyptians, their children and livestock, will be slain by the “Angel of Death” during the Hebrew nation’s final night in bondage. The Hebrews were instructed by God to make visible markings and to prepare a particular feast, among other details, in order for the “plague” to not be visited upon their homes. The importance of obedience contained here is for another blog altogether. Needless to say the instructions must be followed precisely. In Exodus 12 we see immediately upon the detail of the process of the “Plague of the First Born Male” God gives instructions for marking history beginning with:
And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt saying, This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you. Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house: And if the household be too little for the lamb, let him and his neighbour next unto his house take it according to the number of the souls; every man according to his eating shall make your count for the lamb. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats: And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening. And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses, wherein they shall eat it. And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs they shall eat it. Eat not of it raw, nor sodden at all with water, but roast with fire; his head with his legs, and with the purtenance thereof. And ye shall let nothing of it remain until the morning; and that which remaineth of it until the morning ye shall burn with fire. And thus shall ye eat it; with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and ye shall eat it in haste: it is the LORD’s passover. For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the LORD. And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt. And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the LORD throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever.(KJV Exodus 12:1-14)
I love how God is specific with details, there are no grey areas. I particularly enjoy the invocation and charge given in verse 14 as it is the pretext of my dissertation. If we read further and go to the book of Leviticus we find in the 23rd chapter a series of instructions concerning the various feast and festivals of the Hebrew people. Verse 5 gives an ordinance concerning the Feast of Passover which is to be celebrated in the first month of the year on the fourteenth day and details how to properly celebrate. There is no lack in abundance of scriptural references that I could provide to show the details concerning the Passover.
What I find here, is that God himself implemented festivals of memorial or celebrations of remembrance. Why, Exodus 13:3, 9&10: ” And Moses said unto the people, Remember this day, in which ye came out from Egypt, out of the house of bondage; for by strength of hand the LORD brought you out from this place: there shall no leavened bread be eaten……9And it shall be for a sign unto thee upon thine hand, and for a memorial between thine eyes, that the LORD’s law may be in thy mouth: for with a strong hand hath the LORD brought thee out of Egypt. 10Thou shalt therefore keep this ordinance in his season from year to year.”
To some it may seem irrelevant but I’m going somewhere I’m just asking you to follow. The validity of Black History Month among others has been challenged by way of “war cry” in our “post-racial” society (of course current events decry this notion). The remembrance of history is vital because it sets in context the scope and scheme for who and what we are now and what we can or will become. You see God specifically ordained the observance and remembrance of history so that future generations would know from whence they come and how they were afforded the conditions into which they were privileged, good or bad. If we examine extensively we see that these ordinances contained conditions of covenant that talked about not only remembering what happened but why it had been done, who performed the work (God) and how it is because of this that we worship God.
Within the Old Testament we see time and again the establishing or reestablishing of God’s covenant with people. In those covenants we see the responsibility of remembrance placed upon the “elders.” I cannot read a passage that details the retailing and committment of covenant without seeing the words memorial and remembrance. I also cannot read the passage without seeing the phrase and you shall tell it unto your children.
I said all this to say: It is the responsibility of the individual to ensure that if he is Christian, he ensure that the scope of the celebration is set in the proper context which is the grace and hand of Almighty God. So during Black History month, Women’s History Month and the multitude of other months set aside for cultural heritage and history celebrations, remember the reason that strives have been made is due to the Providence of the only true and living God and remember from whence you’ve come helps to give clear foresight for where you are going.