At Jesus’ Table: Tuesday, Bitter Herbs

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to the Israelites, saying: Anyone of you or your descendants who is unclean through touching a corpse, or is away on a journey, shall still keep the passover to the Lord In the second month on the fourteenth day, at twilight, they shall keep it; they shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.Numbers 9:9-11


Generally speaking, plants are bitter for a reason; often the bitterness is supposed to discourage eating the plant, or even warn that it is poisonous. For the most part, we avoid bitterness.

Yet in Numbers 9 the Lord commands those who are not able to participate in Passover as normal, due to travel or uncleanness from touching a dead body, to keep the Passover and eat unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Modern Seders, the meal eaten in observation of the Passover, hold to this tradition by ritually eating a bitter herb, like parsley, often dunked in salt water. The salt water represents the tears of the Israelite slaves, while the bitter taste is a reminder of the bitterness of slavery.

In the Christian tradition we often compare sin to slavery. How appropriate, then, to eat a bitter herb to remind us of our slavery to sin. Bitterness is often a quality to avoid in our food, and even serves as a warning that his food can make you sick or kill you. So should be our view of sin. We ought to see it as bitter, as something to be avoided, as something that brings only death.

Do you see your sin as bitter? Do you have some sins that you tolerate and enjoy in your life? Do you mourn your own sinfulness?

Pray that God will reveal where you are still enslaved by sin. Pray that you will detest your sinfulness. Pray for God’s grace in a bitter world.

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