UNITY, DIVERSITY, ORDER
Mighty God, I thank You that You are in control of all things, including my life. Help me to trust in Your loving care and gracious will no matter what life brings.
Read EXODUS 12:37–51
37 The Israelites journeyed from Rameses to Sukkoth. There were about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children. 38 Many other people went up with them, and also large droves of livestock, both flocks and herds. 39 With the dough the Israelites had brought from Egypt, they baked loaves of unleavened bread. The dough was without yeast because they had been driven out of Egypt and did not have time to prepare food for themselves.
40 Now the length of time the Israelite people lived in Egypt[a] was 430 years. 41 At the end of the 430 years, to the very day, all the Lord’s divisions left Egypt. 42 Because the Lord kept vigil that night to bring them out of Egypt, on this night all the Israelites are to keep vigil to honor the Lord for the generations to come.
43 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “These are the regulations for the Passover meal:
“No foreigner may eat it. 44 Any slave you have bought may eat it after you have circumcised him, 45 but a temporary resident or a hired worker may not eat it.
46 “It must be eaten inside the house; take none of the meat outside the house. Do not break any of the bones. 47 The whole community of Israel must celebrate it.
48 “A foreigner residing among you who wants to celebrate the Lord’s Passover must have all the males in his household circumcised; then he may take part like one born in the land. No uncircumcised male may eat it. 49 The same law applies both to the native-born and to the foreigner residing among you.”
50 All the Israelites did just what the Lord had commanded Moses and Aaron. 51 And on that very day the Lord brought the Israelites out of Egypt by their divisions.
- Exodus 12:40 Masoretic Text; Samaritan Pentateuch and Septuagint Egypt and Canaan
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
‘Drop Thy still dews of quietness, / till all our strivings cease; / take from our souls the strain and stress, / and let our ordered lives confess / the beauty of Thy peace.’1
Starting with the pronouncement of the fourth plague, right up to the slaying of the firstborn, God makes a ‘distinction’ between the Egyptians and the Israelites.2 Nevertheless, God’s choice of this one nation is so that ‘all peoples on earth will be blessed’.3 When the Israelites left Egypt, ‘Many other people went up with them’ (v 38). We are not told who these people were but, clearly, there is diversity.
‘… about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children’ (v 37) is a massive movement of people! Yet, amid the confusion that undoubtedly reigns in Egypt (v 30), the Israelites are brought out ‘by their divisions’ (v 51) . In his instructions about corporate worship, Paul insists that ‘everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way’4 – the Passover regulations (vs 43–49) help to order community worship.
Underscoring the importance of unity, the Passover meal was to be eaten inside the house (the ESV reads, ‘one house’), the lamb consumed whole (v 46) and the feast celebrated by the ‘whole community’ (v 47). This brand of unity does not, however, insist on uniformity but embraces diversity. At first glance, it may appear that the ‘foreigner,’ ‘temporary resident’, and ‘hired worker’ are debarred (vs 43,45); but in fact, no one who ‘wants’ to be part of this community is excluded. ‘Foreigners’ seeking membership weren’t simply tolerated but accepted on the same terms as ‘one born in the land’; just as for the native-born, circumcision served as the outward sign of belonging within this covenant community (vs 48,49). A vibrant faith-community must strive for unity woven out of diversity and seek to imitate their God, who is ‘not a God of disorder but of peace’.5
How strong or frail is the unity of your local church? How rich is its diversity? Does order prevail over confusion?
Thank You Lord that You fulfilled the requirements of the Law and died in my place so that I might live. I am forever grateful to You.
1 John G Whittier, 1872, ‘Dear Lord and Father of Mankind’ 2 Exod 8:23; 11:7 3 Gen 12:3 4 1 Cor 14:40 5 1 Cor 14:33
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