We Matter to God!

One of the most critical questions in life is this: Do I matter?  Does anyone care about me?

If you can answer yes to the question—if you know that you matter to someone—there is joy.  Victor Hugo recognized, “The supreme happiness in life is the conviction that we are loved.”    

What happens, though, in the human soul that lacks the conviction of being loved?

In his novel, Chasing Fireflies, Charles Martin tells the story of an abandoned young boy searching for his mother and searching for a sense of his own identity and worth.  After a visit from a woman who was looking for her missing son, the abandoned boy, Sketch, writes a question in a notebook to his temporary guardian, ‘Unc’:

“Sketch shuffled out of the house wearing his Spidey pajamas.  He sat down next to me, his notebook on his lap.  He scribbled quickly and held it up for me.

“WHO WAS THAT LADY TODAY? [He wrote in his notebook.]

“‘She’s a momma…looking for her son.’

“DID SHE THINK I WAS HIM?

“‘Yes.’

“He wrote without looking at the page.  AM I?

“His question pressed me against the railing.  Men spend their lives asking Who am I when the real question is Whose am I?  I don’t think you can answer the first until you’ve settled the second.  First horse, then cart.  Identity does not grow out of action until it has taken root in belonging.” (p. 233)

After living for numerous generations in Egypt as slaves, it would have been easy for the Hebrews to wonder whether they, as a people, mattered, whether anyone cared about them.  We know that God sent a variety of plagues on Egypt to get the people out of slavery, yet the question lingers: Did God do all of this simply to strike a blow against the arrogance of Egypt and the evil of slavery?  Or does God care about the people of Israel?

In Exodus 12, God instructs the Israelites to make bread without leaven because they will not have time to wait around for leaven to rise.  They are instructed to eat the Passover meal with their cloak tucked into their belt and with sandals on their feet and with their walking staff in their hand.  They are told to eat the meal “hurriedly.”  Everything is presented is a rushed manner so that the Israelites can get away from Egypt as quickly as possible!

Then we come to chapter 13, and in the first 16 verses of chapter 13 everything seems to slow down.  God takes time to talk to describe a custom he will implement for them when they arrive in the land of Canaan: “When the Lord has brought you into the land of the Canaanites, as he swore to you and your ancestors, and has given it to you, you shall set apart to the Lord all that first opens the womb…but every firstborn of my sons I redeem.” 

Rather than hurrying the Israelites out of Egypt, God stops to tell the people that he will claim for himself the life of the firstborn son in each family.  By doing so, God will be establishing his ownership over the whole of each family.  In doing so, God will be declaring, “Yes!  You matter immensely to me.  That is why I claim you for my own!”

As this custom is practiced today in Jewish families, thirty one days after the birth of the first baby boy in a family, the father brings his son to the Kohen (the rabbi), in the presence of a minyan (at least 10 Jewish men).  The father will respond to ritual questions indicating that this is a Jewish mother’s firstborn son and that the father has come to redeem the son as commanded in the Torah.  The Kohen asks the father which he would rather have, the child or five silver shekels which are to be paid for his redemption.  The father states that he would rather have the child than the money, then he recites a blessing over the child and gives the five silver shekels to the Kohen.  The Kohen holds the coins over the child and announces that the redemption price has been paid in full and has been accepted in place of the child.  The Kohen then blesses the child and returns the baby to the custody of his family.  Following the ceremony, a festive meal is shared, with cloves of garlic and cubes of sugar given to the guests to take home with them to be added to dishes that can be shared with others so that the blessedness of the birth of this child extends to others. 

God wants us to know how deeply we matter to him!

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