Lessons from Passover for COVID-19

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I’ve been spending a great deal of time contemplating Passover, not just because of the time of year, but also because of this world-wide health scare we call COVID-19. In 2020, Passover will be celebrated April 8-16th. It is a traditional Jewish holiday dating back to the earliest times of human history (prior to 1400 BCE) and is originally found in the twelfth chapter of Exodus:

While the Israelites were still in the land of Egypt, the Lord gave the following instructions to Moses and Aaron: “From now on, this month will be the first month of the year for you. Announce to the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each family must choose a lamb or a young goat for a sacrifice, one animal for each household. The animal you select must be a one-year-old male, either a sheep or a goat, with no defects.

“Take special care of this chosen animal until the evening of the fourteenth day of this first month. Then the whole assembly of the community of Israel must slaughter their lamb or young goat at twilight. They are to take some of the blood and smear it on the sides and top of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the animal. 

“…These are your instructions for eating this meal: Be fully dressed, wear your sandals, and carry your walking stick in your hand. Eat the meal with urgency, for this is the Lord’s Passover. On that night I will pass through the land of Egypt and strike down every firstborn son and firstborn male animal in the land of Egypt. I will execute judgment against all the gods of Egypt, for I am the Lord! But the blood on your doorposts will serve as a sign, marking the houses where you are staying. When I see the blood, I will pass over you. This plague of death will not touch you when I strike the land of Egypt.

“This is a day to remember. Each year, from generation to generation, you must celebrate it as a special festival to the Lord. This is a law for all time.”

I am particularly struck by verses 7, 12 and 13. They allude to the blood covering of the spotless lamb, as well as the last and most deadly of the plagues God has sent in judgement of those who have held the Israelites in captivity, and the act of God “passing-over,” from which this religious festival gets its name. The blood of the animal that was sacrificed was used to mark each home. This mark was a sign of protection. The meat of the animal was eaten together as a family, shared with neighbors where families were small. This act was a sign of provision for all. Let’s look at those two signs and what they have to teach us…

Protection: There’s been a great deal of talk about PPE (personal protective equipment) while our country’s medical system tries its best to address a crisis for which they were unfortunately unprepared. This protective gear provides a line of defense for our health care workers on the front lines as they care for those who suffer with the COVID-19 virus today. The crafty are sewing facemasks for the sick and companies are re-tooling to ramp up production of the medical-grade masks and equipment that our medical facilities are so desperately in need of. Ultimately our efforts to stay inside, self-quarantine and social distant are efforts to simply buy time for the medical community to build up resources and supplies and create new spaces for those that will be hospitalized and require intensive care and respirators as the virus outbreak peaks in every state across our nation. The directives to STAY INSIDE & SOCIAL DISTANCE are very real and extremely serious ones. Which brings me back to Passover.

The Passover scene from the movie The Ten Commandments is an eerie scene. While Moses and his family eat together, protected in their home with their doorway marked by the blood of the lamb, we hear shouts in the streets—people crying out in fear and grief, as the plague of death kills every first born in the homes without this blood covering. As I watch the news unfold, I am taken back to this scene again and again.

Ultimately, this scene takes me to a scripture from the Prophet Isaiah:

Come, my people, enter your chambers,
    and shut your doors behind you;
hide yourselves for a little while
    until the fury has passed by. Isaiah 26:20, ESV

I know some are frustrated at the “liberties” being denied many of us as “free” citizens. I know others who continue to think it is not that serious. I know there are many people who don’t have the option of staying home even if they wanted. Those on the front lines are saying if they could stay home, they would. But they can’t. Daily they put their own lives in jeopardy so others can live. I also realize that others live paycheck-to-paycheck and staying home leaves a great deal of uncertainty. I also realize that for some children staying at home is dangerous and opens them to more abuse. All of this burdens my heart deeply. And causes me to ask… for the rest of us…

What harm is it for us stay home? To stay inside? To shut the doors behind us until the fury has passed, as Isaiah warns us? What if instead of complaining, we were grateful that we can stay home? That we can work from home? What if we listened to the voice of the ancient prophet and hid, not out of fear, but in order to protect the weak and elderly in our communities? What if we imagined it was 4,000 years ago and God was commanding us to stay inside, instead of government authorities? What if we locked ourselves into our prayer closets and began to intercede for those mentioned in the paragraph above?

Early on I saw the quote, “The weak are worthy of the rest of us rearranging their lives” by KJ Ramsey. I must whole-heartedly agree. And speaking of hearts…

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I’ve seen stories of people hanging hearts in their windows as a sign of love and compassion for all that is going on in our world today. What if those hearts became our sign of protection, for us here in this time in HIStory? Our “blood covering” so to speak as we choose to step into our prayer chambers and intercede for the world at this unprecedented time in history?

How does the blood of Christ serve as a covering for you?
How can you visibly demonstrate that blood covering as encouragement to others?
(Click here for a post with hearts to print out and color)

Provision:  As people are hoarding toilet paper and hand sanitizer, I love that God instructs these ancient people to gather and share resources so as little meat as possible goes to waste. An animal was not killed for each family, but was shared among neighbors and friends. There is much to learn from that act alone. There is a sense of purposeful preparedness. They first selected a lamb or goat without blemish and then cared for and attended the animal until it was to be sacrificed. Plans were made. Neighbors worked together to make sure everyone had enough and yet not too much. Even though the meal itself was to be eaten in haste, the preparations leading up to the meal were thoughtful and coordinated. God makes a thoughtful plan for provision. No one goes without and no one gets to act out of greed and gluttony. This passage has much to teach us amidst the panic and chaos we’ve seen across the country.

As COVID-19 began to spread in the US, we were with our daughter Maddy in Montana. We were in a small ski resort community with one small grocery store. We dropped her off to purchase a few items, and when we picked her up she remarked how difficult it was to see an older couple trying to shop and make adjustments to their shopping list as items they planned to buy were gone. Another older gentleman was struggling to understand why there was no toilet paper. “It was so sad,” she remarked. Seeing these people struggle encouraged her to adjust her own shopping list so that others coming behind her would have enough.

We all have so much to learn in these unprecedented times.
How can we share our resources with others so no one goes without?
How can we pitch in and help those making sure children and families are fed, sheltered and cared for at this time?

Additional thoughts and questions for reflection on Exodus 12:

  1. Verse 1 indicates that the Israelites were far from home and held in captivity in Egypt. Quarantine (whether it is self-imposed or government mandated) might feel like captivity to you. What about it feels like captivity to you? What liberties are taken from you and what things are you still at liberty to engage in? Beyond our current health crisis, what other things might hold you in captivity?
  2. Verse 2 God tells them that from there on out, this will be the beginning of the year for them. Through this designation of time, God is indicating something new. What “new thing” do you believe God is doing in this season for us collectively and individually?
  3. Verses 3-4 give instructions on how the animal to be sacrificed was to be chosen and shared. In what ways can you step into “choosing and sharing” amidst this pandemic?
  4. Verses 5-6 prophetically points to Christ as the spotless lamb. It was spotless, chosen and carefully attended until the time came for its sacrifice. Consider the life of Christ here on earth, especially as it relates to being spotless, chosen and carefully attended. What does the life of Jesus teach us?
  5. Verse 11 gives specific instructions for how they were to eat the meal. In what ways have you learned about provision and preparedness in this season, especially as many are over-buying and hoarding supplies in anxious panic?
  6. Verse 14 speaks of commemoration. How will we (globally, communally, individually) choose to “commemorate” COVID-19 in the future? How will we remember those who suffered and succumbed to this illness, as well as those who have put their lives at risk in order to care for them? How do we want to look back and remember this time?

I recently saw this prophetic dance of intercession and travail in the Worship & Creative Arts Facebook Group I administer. It is a vivid and powerful example of God’s Passover covering in this season.

I’d love to hear from you. Please comment below* your own thoughts as you contemplate and reflect on this powerful passage of scripture and this time in our world history. I bless you with health, healing, compassion, patience and love. (*please note: negative and political comments will be deleted.)

For more Holy Week / Easter reflection you can spend some time reflecting on the last seven statements of Jesus spoken from the cross through the art, poetry and song with the “7” Virtual Art-Walk series:

Blessings of artistry, creativity, worship & BEaUty, Jody
Shine Brightly!

Jody Thomae © 2020 All Rights Reserved

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Book FrontJody Thomae is the author of God’s Creative Gift—Unleashing the Artist in You and The Creator’s Healing Power—Restoring the Broken to Beautifulboth in-depth, interactive devotional books in the Bible Studies to Nurture the Creative Spirit Within series that serve as resources for creative Christians, artists, and lovers of beauty and worship.God's Creative Gift by Jody Thomae Jody has been involved in worship arts ministry since 1997, serving as an arts ministry pastor and worship leader and is a guest lecturer on creativity, embodiment, and spirituality with Healing Care Ministries. Her passion is for the revelation of God to be made more real through the prophetic use of the arts in church and the use of creativity in formational and healing ministry. It is her desire to portray the message of Christ’s desperate and unfailing love for His people to help sustain the hearts of the broken and weary. She is particularly interested in the reclamation of the body in the healing of trauma and works in the area of embodiment with survivors of abuse, addiction, and trauma. Her life verse is Isaiah 50:4.
JodyThomaeCDcoverart_FA_printHer books are available through Amazon. Signed copies are available for purchase through Square where her resources are available most affordably (and in bulk amounts for your creative ministry team or group study). Jody has also recorded a devotional CD, Song of the Beloved, which is available through Square, iTunes, YouTube, Spotify, and other music outlets.

And She Lived Her Life a Desolate Woman

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IMG_1000000083This Old Testament Bible Study is an excerpt from my recent book The Creator’s Healing Power—Restoring the Broken to BeautifulIt is about Tamar, the daughter of King David who was raped by her brother Amnon and then lived the rest of her life “a desolate woman.” The story is quite tragic but it helps us wrestle with some very tough questions. Ultimately we must relinquish control and give God our deepest hurts and pains.
May God heal the deep places within all of us.

And She Lived her Life a Desolate Woman: a Meditation on II Samuel 13

Amnon took hold of Tamar and said to her, “Come, lie with me, my sister.” She answered him, “No, my brother, do not violate me, for such a thing is not done in Israel; do not do this outrageous thing. As for me, where could I carry my shame? And as for you, you would be as one of the outrageous fools in Israel. Now therefore, please speak to the king, for he will not withhold me from you.” But he would not listen to her, and being stronger than she, he violated her and lay with her.
Then Amnon hated her with very great hatred, so that the hatred with which he hated her was greater than the love with which he had loved her. And Amnon said to her, “Get up! Go!” But she said to him, “No, my brother, for this wrong in sending me away is greater than the other that you did to me.” But he would not listen to her. He called the young man who served him and said, “Put this woman out of my presence and bolt the door after her.” Now she was wearing a long robe with sleeves, for thus were the virgin daughters of the king dressed. So his servant put her out and bolted the door after her. And Tamar put ashes on her head and tore the long robe that she wore. And she laid her hand on her head and went away, crying aloud [zaaq – a distress signal or cry for help] as she went.
And her brother Absalom said to her, “Has Amnon your brother been with you? Now hold your peace, my sister. He is your brother; do not take this to heart.” So Tamar lived, a desolate [samem – stunned, denotes something so horrible that it can leave a person speechless] woman, in her brother Absalom’s house. When King David heard of all these things, he was very angry. But he would not punish his son Amnon, because he loved him, since he was his firstborn. But Absalom spoke to Amnon neither good nor bad, for Absalom hated Amnon, because he had violated his sister Tamar. ~ 2 Samuel 13:11-38, ESV

Like a large pill, this passage is hard to swallow. If I’m honest, it tears at my heart. I don’t like it at all. However…  let’s see what God might be teaching us through His Word.

Allow me to set the stage for this terrible tragedy. Amnon and Tamar were half-siblings. Amnon was the firstborn son of King David by his wife Ahinoam. Tamar was also a daughter of King David by his wife Maacah, a princess from the neighboring kingdom Geshur. Therefore, Tamar was not only a princess through her father but also through her mother, who would have been one of the highest ranking woman among David’s wives. Tamar was royal through and through. The Bible also indicates she was both very beautiful and a virgin. As the custom of the day dictated, she was likely promised in marriage to a prince in a neighboring country. As far as women go in that era, she was at the top—the only thing that would have gained her more rank was to be the mother of a son. The future looked bright. Tamar was beautiful, pure and desired, elevated in a society that did not hold many women in very high regard.

And then selfish, evil Amnon destroys her! Filled with lust, he takes what he wants and then literally throws her out of his room with utter disdain! Notice her actions—she rips her clothing and covers herself with ashes—both indications that she is grieving a death. And the hand to her head indicates that she bears an unbearable burden. News of Amnon’s actions and Tamar’s ruin would’ve traveled very quickly through the palace.

And then, not only does Amnon fail her, so does her father David. Amnon should’ve been punished, but his father lets him get away with what is essentially murder in that culture. David also could’ve forced Amnon to marry Tamar, which may have gone against God’s law, but was not out of the question in that culture. By requiring Amnon to marry her, it would’ve secured her place in the king’s harem, even if he never had relations with her again. But David fails to act on her behalf.

Should’ve. Could’ve. Would’ve.

So her brother Absalom tries his best to make things right. In vengeance, he takes the life of Amnon and tries to take over David’s throne. But as I said, he tries. Eventually his “trying” will cost him his life. I am amazed at the dysfunction of King David’s family. David, the man after God’s own heart, how far from God’s heart your family has traveled.

And amidst all the violence, deception, injustice and death is Tamar. Scripture tells us she lived out her life a desolate woman in the house of her brother Absalom. Once elevated to the highest place in society, she has fallen almost as low as possible for a woman in her culture. Only leprosy would’ve made her situation worse.

I’ve often pondered those words
—“a desolate woman”—
wondering
what that meant for her….
…for us.

My heart breaks for her. I long to know what really happened to our beautiful Tamar. I have often looked at the words of her brother Absalom, “Be quiet now, my sister. Don’t take this thing to heart,” and begin to wonder if this speaks to the real cause of her desolation.

Her injustice is never recognized.
Her pain is never given a voice.

No expression: only repression.

Read the passage above again, paying close attention to the words in italics.

Amnon refused to listen to her pleas.
He refused to listen to her!
Her distress signal, her cry for help, went unanswered.
Her burden so heavy, her violation so deep, it left her stunned, without words.

Then, her brother Absalom, who actually cared for her tells her to be quiet. I know he was trying to say the right thing, but it fell so extremely short of what she needed at that moment. In my head, my heart, my soul, I hear all the words Tamar left unspoken:

Be quiet?!?!?!
All that I am and have ever lived for
has been stolen from me!
By my own  brother!
He violated me in the worse possible way!
I will never have a husband who cares for me!
I will never have children to love and be loved by in return!
Don’t take this thing to heart?!?!?!
My heart has been ripped from my very chest
with no one to bind my wounds!
There is no hope for me! Ever!
I was a princess!
Now….
I am
nothing!

While the men around Tamar paid her voice no heed, her words still echo eerily through this passage that is so hard to swallow. When I question why this story is included in our scriptures, I realize it’s because God wants us to hear Tamar’s voice.

We hear you, Tamar! We hear the depth of your pain calling out from the pages of this ancient story, crying out for justice against the violation you have endured. Keep screaming! Keep weeping aloud! We hear your distressed voice crying out for help, for justice, for the wrong to be made right. We know there is no way not to take this to heart—it grows ugly, twisted roots into the very soil of your soul! Even though you are stunned into silence, we hear all the words you cannot say. All the words frozen in your throat, frozen in your heart, frozen in your soul.

I think God not only wants us to hear her voice, but also to learn from Tamar’s voice. In her book Coping with Depression, Myra Chave-Jones describes depression as “frozen rage.” And David Seamunds, author of Healing for Damaged Emotion, agrees: “If you have a consistently serious problem with depression, you have not resolved some area of anger in your life. As surely as the night follows day, depression follows unresolved, repressed, or improperly expressed anger.” In addition to anger, I would also add grief, pain and fear.

When you have no voice, it claws at your God-given need for significance, belonging, and the need to feel both safe and loved. Ultimately only God can fulfill these God-given needs. Yet he has also placed people around us with gifts of compassion, grace, faith and discernment to help us process these deep emotions. This isn’t a journey meant to be traveled alone.

If you suffer from depression, you must be given a voice to express the unresolved or repressed anger frozen in your own heart. The heart cannot let go of what it has not grieved, so you must give yourself permission to grieve. Read the laments found in Psalms 69, 102 and 109. Send up your own distress signal to God, expressing the depths of your anger, grief and pain. If someone you love suffers from depression, don’t quiet them or try to minimize their pain. Help them find their voice. A caring counselor, a peer group, a caregiver trained in formational healing prayer are just a few of the ways to help find a voice for pain, for anger, for the injustice against you or your loved one.

Isaiah 58 says this:

“Shout it aloud, do not hold back. 
Raise your voice like a trumpet… Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
…The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
 and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
 and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.”

As you give your heart voice for your pain, anger, fear and grief, may this blessing fall on you and fill the places in your soul left void and empty. Like a well-watered garden, may the Holy Spirit’s living water fill you and never fail you. Let those around you help you rebuild, repair, raise up and restore all that has been stolen from you. May you find a voice in Him whose voice created the heavens and the earth.

And may your spirit be set free, in Jesus’ name!

Blessings of Healing & Hope, Jody

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(C) 2014 Jody Thomae
Jody Thomae is the author of God’s Creative Gift—Unleashing the Artist in You, a devotional book with Bible studies to nurture the creative spirit within. Her passion is for the revelation of God to be made more real through the prophetic use of the creative arts in church and formational ministry. It is her desire to portray the message of Christ’s desperate and unfailing love for His people to help sustain the hearts of the broken and weary. She is particularly interested in the way in which God uses the arts to bring formational development and healing to His people.

NOTE: This post originally appeared on Defying Shadows (below). However, that site is no longer available, so all of the original post is above.

Defying Shadows

Over the next few Wednesdays we will be sharing some Biblical Posts relating to Mental Health for Wisdom Wednesdays. We will also be having a few Guest posts. To start us off is a post from a lovely woman named Jody.

And She Lived her Life a Desolate Woman: A Meditation on 2 Samuel 13

Amnon took hold of Tamar and said to her, “Come, lie with me, my sister.” She answered him, “No, my brother, do not violate me, for such a thing is not done in Israel; do not do this outrageous thing. As for me, where could I carry my shame? And as for you, you would be as one of the outrageous fools in Israel. Now therefore, please speak to the king, for he will not withhold me from you.” But he would not listen to her, and being stronger than she, he violated her…

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Women of Adventure: a Meditation on Genesis 24

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I generally write for artists and creatives. This devotional, however, is for women. Women of adventure!

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So they called Rebekah and asked her, “Will you go with this man?”
“I will go,” she said.
Then Rebekah and her attendants got ready and mounted the camels and went back with the man. So the servant took Rebekah and left. ~ Genesis 24

Oh Rebekah, Rebekah. I admire your bravery and sense of adventure. A proposal has come through a servant of a man from a distant, foreign land and without hesitation you say, “Yes!” You are a woman of adventure!

Let me give you a little background to the story. Abraham is growing very old and has commissioned his most faithful servant to find his son Isaac a wife from among his own people. This means a trip back to Abraham’s homeland. With his mission bathed in prayer, he leaves with camels, servants, provisions, and many gifts.

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Dancing in the River: a Meditation on Psalm 65

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Oh, visit the earth,
ask her to join the dance!
Deck her out in spring showers,
fill the God-River with living water.
Paint the wheat fields golden.
Creation was made for this!
Drench the plowed fields,
soak the dirt clods
With rainfall as harrow and rake
bring her to blossom and fruit.
Snow-crown the peaks with splendor,
scatter rose petals down your paths,
All through the wild meadows, rose petals.
Set the hills to dancing,
Dress the canyon walls with live sheep,
a drape of flax across the valleys.
Let them shout, and shout, and shout!
Oh, oh, let them sing! (Psalm 65:9-13 MSG)

Jody dance5

Photo by Heidi Weller

Wonderfully Woven: A Meditation on Psalm 139

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You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous — and how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. How precious are your thoughts about me, O God! They are innumerable! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up in the morning, you are still with me! (Psalm 139:13-18)

hand loom weaver

Psalm 139 is one of my favorite passages of scripture. It tells of his protective love and covering over us. It reminds us that no matter where we are in life, no matter how far we’ve gone astray, no matter what problems assail us, he is there, and he knows what we’re going through. In the midst of this, we find these verses that again hearken back to the creation narratives found in the very beginning of our Bible. However, instead of the potter and clay image found in Genesis 2, we find another artistic image, that of a textile weaver. This image is also used in Job 10:8–12 as we see God knitting together skin, flesh, bones, and sinew—God as the Master Weaver.

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The “Nature” of God: A Meditation on Psalm 19 (Excerpt from “God’s Creative Gift”)

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An excerpt from “God’s Creative Gift–Unleashing the Artist in You: Bible Studies to Nurture the Creative Spirit Within.”

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they display knowledge.
There is no speech or language
where their voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world. (Psalm 19:1-4a)

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Photo by Gayle Martin

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