The Miracles of Passover
At Passover we Jews sing a special song called Dayenu!” That’s Hebrew for “It is sufficient,” or “It is enough for us!” This joyous song recounts the miracles God performed on our behalf as he redeemed us with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm—as he brought us out of Egypt, through the wilderness and into the Promised Land. For all those miracles of providence, provision and protection, we cry out, “Dayenu! It is, indeed, sufficient!”
That first Passover and the account of the Exodus from Egypt are episodes of our history and heritage that are clearly punctuated with the mighty acts of God. As we sing, we recall the ten plagues, the parting of the Red Sea, the destruction of the pursuers, the manna and quail in the wilderness, and the giving of the Law by the very touch of God on Mt. Sinai. Yet other miracles occurred during this period—miracles which were equally profound, but which are unintentionally overlooked or eclipsed.
The first of these miracles has to do with the tenth plague that God visited upon the land of Egypt, the slaying of the firstborn. To be spared the ravages of that plague, we Israelites were required to slay a spotless lamb and apply its blood to the doorposts of our homes. That was our part. And God’s part? “…the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt” (Exodus 12:13).
What a miracle that was! Not only did God perform a supernatural act of judgment, but he worked in our hearts so that we believed his warning and obeyed! In Exodus 12:28 we read, “The children of Israel…did as the LORD had commanded.…” Sad to say, it would have been easy enough for us not to believe the Lord’s voice. Think of the reasons that could have kept us from obeying. Think of the reasons that keep us—all of us—from trusting and obeying him today.
In the first place, trusting God and obeying his voice sounds incredible; which is to say, it sounds “non” credible; which is to say, it sounds as though it lacks credibility or plausibility. In other words, it just doesn’t sound like the natural, logical thing to do. By nature, all of us are predisposed to rely upon our own labors and merit rather than upon God’s love and mercy. To think that God would take an active hand in our circumstances sounds incredible. Then when we are reminded that he will take a hand, and when we are given his instructions by his Word, how often do we still disbelieve and disobey—only to our detriment?
Not only does trusting and believing God sound incredible, it seems ridiculous—not only to us, but to those by whom we want to be held in high regard. Can you imagine how ridiculous, how ludicrous, it might have seemed to a sympathetic Egyptian as he passed his Hebrew friend who was preparing to put the lamb’s blood on his door? What if the Egyptian had asked, “What are you doing?”
Would the Israelite have replied with God’s message of redeeming life? Let’s hope so, for God’s provision certainly could have covered any household that chose to believe and obey. But had such a scene occurred, it is possible that the Israelite slave might have kept silent, for fear that his explanation might have seemed ridiculous. He himself then would have seemed ridiculous in the eyes of his Egyptian friend for believing such a tale. Or so the Israelite might have thought. How easily the pride of life and the desire for high regard in the eyes of our contemporaries keep us from trusting and obeying the One whose eyes are even upon the sparrow!
A final reason that could have kept the Israelites from obeying God’s instructions was the fact that obedience to God separates. It makes the one who obeys different. That is part of being sanctified, for in one sense being sanctified involves separation unto God. The call to be a distinct people, to follow God, means that we must be separated from the ways of the world which are displeasing to him. This, in turn, results in a separation at times from those who, because of our commitment to God, choose not to associate with us any more. Rejection always hurts, but it happens. It is a spiritual fact of life.
Notice that God made the Israelites unwelcome aliens in the sight of the Egyptians. “And (Pharaoh) called for Moses and Aaron by night, and said, Rise up, and get you forth from among my people, both ye and the children of Israel; and go…” (Exodus 12:31). Even if the Israelites had wanted to stay at that point, they would not have found themselves very welcome. God had burned our bridges behind us, so to speak. There was nowhere else to go but out.
And so God worked in our hearts, and we believed. We trusted and obeyed, and God redeemed us. What a miracle. Dayenu!
But there is another miracle interwoven with the Exodus that is relegated to obscurity, neglected or even entirely overlooked. It occurred when the Israelites stood on the bank of the Red Sea with the Egyptian army in hot pursuit. Moses declared, “Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD.” Then he stretched out his rod, the waters parted, and we crossed the sea on dry ground. And when Pharaoh’s chariots entered the river bed, Moses stretched out his rod once more, and the waters closed in upon the pursuers. Those two events are, in and of themselves, noteworthy miracles. But another, less noticed miracle took place between the parting and the closing of the sea. It took a miracle of faith to propel the Israelites into the river bed. It took a miracle of faith to believe that the two huge walls of water on either side, supernaturally separated and sustained in defiance of natural law, would not close in and drown us before we reached safety on the opposite shore. Surely it took a miraculous act of trust and faith to walk into the pathway cleared by the parted waters. Scripture even intimates that the Israelites took those steps with some trepidation—that they required a little prodding in the process, for we read that God declared to Moses, “Wherefore criest thou unto me? Speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward” (Exodus 14:15). God moved on our hearts, motivated us forward, and maneuvered us safely to the other side. What a miracle. Dayenu, indeed!
There is yet one other miracle related to this period of Jewish history that is too easily overlooked in light of the more “spectacular” events. In Exodus 19:5-8 we read, “Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people; for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation.…And all the people answered together, and said, All that the LORD hath spoken we will do.” The miracle is not found in the fact that we fulfilled our pledge to God, for we did not. The miracle is found in that whereas all of us are all too often unfaithful to God, he is nonetheless ever faithful to us, “for his mercy endureth forever” (Psalm 136).
Not only has God faithfully preserved his ancient chosen people, he has fulfilled just as faithfully his promise of salvation to all people through the Messiah Yeshua, the seed by whom, according to God’s promise to Abraham, all the families of the world will be blessed (Genesis 12:3). And for God’s salvation through Messiah Yeshua, we can all cry, “Dayenu! It is sufficient, indeed!”
Now with all this talk about what was and is sufficient, it doesn’t hurt to end with a quick look at what is not sufficient. What if the Israelites had not believed God’s instructions about applying the lamb’s blood to their doorposts? Would God have allowed the Angel of Death to smite the firstborn of our homes if we had failed to apply the blood? What if the firstborn of a particular home were a wonderful person? A gentle person? A brilliant person? A loving person? What if he were an old man who sincerely loved God, but just found all this business about putting lamb’s blood on his door a bit overdramatic or implausible? Would the Angel of Death have struck him down? Yes. Salvation was not determined on the basis of innocence, ignorance or past merit. Rather salvation was determined on the basis of belief and obedience. Had we relied upon innocence, had we pleaded ignorance, had we trusted in past performance, we would not have found any of those recourses sufficient; we would not have been able to cry out, “Dayenu!”
And what of the moment when we stood at the shore of the Red Sea? What if we had done nothing other than “stand still and see the salvation of God?” What if we had failed to “go forward” as God commanded? Surely we would have perished. How many today go through life merely seeing, merely beholding the salvation of God? It is no coincidence that the Messiah’s name in Hebrew is Yeshua, which means “God’s salvation.”
At this season of redemption we would do well to reflect on God’s salvation—from Israel’s slavery in Egypt, and from all humanity’s slavery to sin and death. It is one thing merely to behold Yeshua. Believing in Yeshua and taking hold of him, however, that’s something else. But once we are motivated to believe, to trust in the application and efficacy of the blood of the Lamb, once we are motivated to go forward and pass over from death on one side to life on the distant shore, then we can truly cry, “Dayenu; it is sufficient indeed!”
Avi Snyder is a veteran missionary and director of the European work of Jews for Jesus. He pioneered Jews for Jesus’ ministry in the former Soviet Union, before launching works in both Germany and Hungary. He will share with you what is happening in Jewish evangelism in Russia and Eastern Europe. Avi received his theological training at Fuller Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Ruth, have three grown children, Leah, Joel and Liz.