Pesach Miracles: A Purpose beyond Belief

They believed in God and his servant Moses. Is it enough to believe in God?


PassoverMar 28, 2018

PassoverMar 28, 2018


    Circle of Juan de la Corte - The Israelites crossing the Red Sea - Google Art Project (Image: Fundación Banco Santander [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

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As Pesach approaches, we again prepare to celebrate zman cheruteinu, (“the time of our redemption”).

Our seders are full of family and friends, joyful singing, delicious food, and most importantly, a sacred recollection of the miracles God performed for our ancestors as he delivered them from bondage into freedom. God, ever faithful to his covenant, heard the groaning of his people and performed wonders on their behalf. The display of his power came to a climax at the Sea of Reeds, as the waters parted and Israel passed through on dry land.

Why? There were plagues, a pillar of cloud and fire, and walls of water. Why all the effort? Couldn’t God have just rescued Israel and moved them out with a little less fanfare? Why the drama? The Torah gives us the answer:

The Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I stretch out My hand on Egypt and bring out the sons of Israel from their midst. (Exodus 7:5)

That you (Israel) may tell in the hearing of your son, and of your grandson, how I made a mockery of the Egyptians and how I performed My signs among them, that you may know that I am the LORD. (Exodus 10:2)

And again as God was preparing to drown Pharoah and his armies in the sea:

Then the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD, when I am honored through Pharaoh, through his chariots and his horsemen. (Exodus 14:18)

The message is obvious. The purpose was that Israel and Egypt would know that “I am the LORD.” Here’s the question: Did they? The Torah certainly gives us reason to believe that Israel got the message loud and clear. As the end seemed inevitable, with Egypt closing in behind and the sea barring any way forward, God demonstrates his faithfulness as the sea parts:

Thus the LORD saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. When Israel saw the great power which the LORD had used against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD, and they believed in the LORD and in His servant Moses.(Exodus 14:30-31 emphasis added)

They got the message. However, the translation of the word vaya’aminu( וַיַּֽאֲמִינוּ ) as “they believed,” raises another interesting question. Is it enough to “believe in” the LORD or is something much more significant happening for Israel in verse 31? Hebrew scholar Dr. Richard Freidman points out regarding this word vaya’aminu:

The notion of belief in does not occur in Biblical Hebrew. In pagan religion, the gods, being observable forces in nature (e.g., the sun, the sky, the storm wind) are not a matter of belief but of knowledge. So in the conception of God in Exodus, God becomes known; God’s existence and power are a matter of knowledge, not belief. When one has seen ten plagues and a sea split and a has a column of cloud and fire visible at all times, one does not ask, “Do you believe in God?” As the term is used in the Hebrew Bible, it means not belief in but belief that; that is, it means if God says He will do something one can trust that He will do it. [1]

This would explain why a more common translation in Jewish sources reads, “they trusted in God,” or “they had faith in God.” For Israel, the signs and wonders were for the distinct purpose of moving them from knowledge of to faith in. To “know” God for Israel was a matter of the heart more than the mind. But what about Egypt? All Egypt did come to “know” God in a sense, i.e., knowledge of his reality. But only a few—the mixed multitude who came out of Egypt with Israel—moved from believing in God to believing that God. They came to realize that God is indeed to be feared and trusted to accomplish what he has promised.

Great. What does all that have to do with our seders? During Pesach, we celebrate our past redemption—the deliverance from Egypt that God accomplished through his servant Moses. As Messianic believers, we also look forward to the future when God has promised the final redemption through his ultimate servant, our Messiah Yeshua. When He returns, the entire world will know it:

Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. (Matthew 24:29-30 ESV emphasis added)

In other words, belief in Him, i.e., to know of his existence, will be unquestionable. But as we’ve seen, Egypt also knew. It did not save them.

As we celebrate the past and future redemption during the Passover season, we have moved beyond knowledge into faith; beyond belief in God to belief that God. We can wholeheartedly trust in God and his servant Yeshua to accomplish ALL that he has promised. Our hope is more than a set of beliefs. Our seder is more than an exercise of the mind. Rather, it is a declaration of the heart. We base our confidence on God’s unshakeable promises, his demonstrated faithfulness, and his guarantee of redemption for all who trust in the one who is coming. As the Master said, "Don't let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me” (John 14:1).

May our Passover tables be a source of many coming to know and trust in God and his servant Yeshua. Chag Pesach Sameach!

Footnotes:
  1. Richard Elliot Friedman, Commentary on the Torah (New York, NY: HarperOne, 2001), 218.
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About the Author: Damian Eisner heads up Community Care for Torah Club at First Fruits of Zion. In addition to his work with FFOZ, Damian serves as the Messianic rabbi at Nachamu Ami Messianic Synagogue in Macon, Georgia.