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“Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Pick out and take lambs for yourselves according to your families, and kill the Passover lamb. And you shall take a bunch of hyssop, dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and strike the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood that is in the basin. And none of you shall go out of the door of his house until morning. For the Lord will pass through to strike the Egyptians; and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the Lord will pass over the door and not allow the destroyer to come into your houses to strike you” (Exodus 12:21-23).
Twelve or thirteen years ago, when I was homeschooling my youngest and had joined a co-op in a neighboring town, I found myself surrounded by moms who were part of a local commune called the Love Israel Family. I don’t know how many people were living there at the time, but at the height of the commune, they had around 400 people.
I learned a lot about the commune’s lifestyle during my time at the co-op. I got to know one mom in particular, and from her I learned that when someone joined the “family” and moved out to the ranch, they forsook their previous name (which was not spoken again) and chose a biblical character trait for their first name, followed by the surname everyone shared — Israel. I also learned that they didn’t name their babies until at least three different people had confirmed it in the conversation, which explains why this mom wasn’t able to name her baby “Pure” for almost four months.
Just before this mom gave birth, she told me that the father was now living with her friend in the cabin (or was it a tent?) and trying to decide which woman he wanted to be with. I’ll be honest, my first thought was, “Well, there’s sin in the camp.” I guess that’s because I was always hearing from this woman and her friends that they were trying to set up a kind of utopian lifestyle. This woman once told me, “We who were the first generation are further from it than our children. They are living much closer to the ideal.” At that very moment, I looked over to the corner where our children were playing and watched as her daughter smacked mine. I guess they’re not as close to the ideal as she thought.
My heart went out to them because I thought how easy it is to be deceived, simply because someone with charisma comes along at a time when you’re hurting and vulnerable and persuades you into following. But it was one conversation that saddened me the most, and which I thought of when I read today’s passage in Exodus.
I was speaking with a girl of about eleven or twelve one afternoon in one of the classrooms, and she began telling me about “the hard lesson” the family had learned that week. She said that every year at Easter, the family would gather in a giant circle in a field, and they would sacrifice a lamb. A real lamb.
“But this year,” she said, “we had some new families join us, and they weren’t comfortable with the thought of really killing a lamb. So we gathered in our circle and we just pretended to kill the lamb.”
I sat there trying to picture the scene, and trying to predict what the “hard lesson” might have been.
“And then a few nights later, one of the babies in the family died,” she said. “God was punishing us for not killing the lamb.”
My head spun. There was so much I wanted to say to this child, but how do you counter years and years of indoctrination? All I had time to say was, “Honey, God isn’t like that.”
The Lamb has already been slain, and God’s wrath against sin has been emptied. The blood of Jesus dripped from His head and hands and feet and side, and covered the lintel and doorposts for us. And we who accept that sacrifice are covered too.
It is finished.
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29)