Passover 5783 “By this you will know that I am the LORD.”

The story of Israel’s exit from Egypt is much like a pregnant woman approaching her “due” date for giving birth. The Hebrew slaves must have felt the same excitement, wonder and fear – for this was nothing less than the birth of a nation.

Moses was sent with a message to the powerful ruler of Egypt, and the words have become world-famous as the theme of Passover: “The LORD, the GOD of the Hebrews, sent me to you, saying, ‘Let My people go, that they may serve Me.’” (Exod. 7:16)

And because the words are so familiar, we can miss the bold challenge in this simple message: “Admit that these are not your people; they belong to Me. And their purpose in life is to serve Me, not you.”

Pharoah’s response is equally famous: “Who is the LORD that I should obey His voice to let Israel go?” (Exod. 5:2) He was foolhardy to refuse the Creator of Heaven and earth, but we must admit that he was supported by “the facts on the ground” for generations. If this GOD was real, why didn’t He claim His people during 400 years of Hebrew slavery?

We aren’t told why, but we are told that He knew the end from the beginning. The Creator shared His Passover plan with His friend Abram, at the Covenant Between the Parts, long before His “people” existed:

“Then GOD said to Abram, ‘Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed for four hundred years. But I will also judge the nation whom they will serve, and afterward they will come out with many possessions.’” (Gen. 15:13-14)

They would “come out” under the leadership of a man who wasn’t a charismatic leader, and who didn’t see himself as a leader at all (Exod. 3:11). GOD’s choice repeatedly tried to refuse the assignment (Exod. 4:10-13). And early in the confrontation with Pharoah, Moses already felt like a failure: “LORD, why have You brought harm to this people? Why did You ever send me? Ever since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has done harm to this people, and You have not rescued Your people at all.” (Exod. 5:22-23)

But here again, the Torah testifies that the LORD knew from the beginning that this would happen. What’s more, He had shared His planned response with Moses at the Burning Bush: “But I know that the king of Egypt will not permit you to go, except under compulsion. So I will reach out with My hand and strike Egypt with all My miracles which I shall do in the midst of it; and after that he will let you go.” (Exod. 3:19)

Before Moses met with Pharoah, GOD had already spoken of the tenth plague: “When you go back to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders which I have put in your power; but I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go. Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘This is what the LORD says: “Israel is My son, My firstborn. So I said to you, ‘Let My son go so that he may serve Me’; but you have refused to let him go. Behold, I am going to kill your son, your firstborn.”’” (Exod. 4:21-23)

Yet when Moses seemingly forgot the plan, the Creator didn’t rebuke him. He patiently repeated it: “Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh; for under compulsion he will let them go, and under compulsion he will drive them out of his land.” (Exod. 6:1) Moses’s protest against the idea of going back to Pharoah (v. 12) didn’t receive a rebuke either. Instead, the Torah takes an odd detour, reciting some lineage that finally ends with Moses (v. 14-26). What is its purpose? To show that Moses was right – he was not qualified for leadership – not by earthly standards. His tribe was not the firstborn of Israel, his clan was not the firstborn in the tribe of Levi, nor was Moses (or Aaron) the firstborn in their family. Yet three times (v. 26-27) we are told that the LORD deliberately chose Moses. 

How could a man of such humble origins dare to make demands of an Egyptian king, who was also revered as a deity? Because “I am the LORD.” (v. 29)

Once more, the Creator announced not only His knowledge of the future, but His control over it: “But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, so that I may multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt. When Pharaoh does not listen to you, I will lay My hand on Egypt and bring out My armies, My people the sons of Israel, from the land of Egypt by great judgments.” (Exod. 7:3-4)

The end goal? “Then the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD.” (v. 5) This is repeated many times in the Passover story (Exod. 6:7, 7:17, 14:4, 14:8).

The Maker of Heaven and earth was sending a message to all future generations of mankind, and especially to the people of Israel. It was – and always will be – the LORD alone who delivers His people, by whomever He chooses, following a plan that He has made from the beginning. Every attempt to resist Him is foreknown and will only further His own plans.

When a situation looks hopeless, the Creator has merely set the stage to do what makes Him famous… CREATE!

Even when the people of Israel are reduced to a heap of “dry bones,” they will spiritually come alive, physically return to their own land… and everyone will know that there’s only One who could be responsible:

“Son of man, these bones are the entire house of Israel; behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope has perished. We are completely cut off.’ Therefore prophesy and say to them, ‘This is what the LORD GOD says:
“Behold, I am going to open your graves and cause you to come up out of your graves, My people; and I will bring you into the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves and caused you to come up out of your graves, My people. And I will put My Spirit within you and you will come to life, and I will place you on your own land. Then you will know that I, the LORD, have spoken and done it.”’” (Ezek. 37:11-14)

On Passover Eve, the Jewish people recline at the Seder meal to repeat the details of the supernatural display of our GOD’s power in Egypt nearly 4000 years ago. On that night, we recognize our kinship as one people across the world and across the centuries. We acknowledge, with our cups of wine raised high, that “in every generation” we, the Family of Israel, have seen a replay of this deliverance.

The LORD doesn’t always reveal His plan in advance, or perform obvious miracles that suspend the laws of nature. He sometimes delays His confrontation with those who “rise up to annihilate” His people. But He always shows up before our enemies can succeed, and “He rescues us from their hand.”

Our enemies always follow Pharoah’s line of thinking: “I do not know the LORD, and I also will not let Israel go.” (Exod. 5:2) Some deny the existence of the LORD, while others (like Replacement Theology teachers) deny the legitimacy of Israel; but all are essentially denying the reality that the nation of Israel belongs to the LORD for as long as night follows day (Jer. 33:23-26).

There are other, more subtle attempts to erase the Jewish people by attacking their distinct identity. Israel cannot ever be just another nation: “The LORD your GOD has chosen you to be a people for His personal possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.” (Deut. 7:6, 14:2) Anyone who urges the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to ignore the commands the LORD gave Israel “for all generations,” or who claims that He changed His mind and abolished them, is refusing to “let Israel go that they may serve Me.” They have joined Pharoah in asking, “Who is the LORD that I should obey His voice” concerning Israel?

When the LORD makes Himself known to the nations, He tends to do it through His people Israel. “Then the nations will know that I am the LORD, when I show Myself holy among you in their sight.” (Ezek. 36:23) “And the nations will know that I am the LORD who sanctifies Israel, when My sanctuary is in their midst forever.” (Ezek. 37:28)

He also makes Himself known to the world by restoring the people of Israel to their land: “When the LORD brought back the captives of Zion, we were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter and our tongue with joyful shouting; then they said among the nations, ‘The LORD has done great things for them.’” (Ps. 126:1-2)

Israel’s enemies will know it too… but they will respond differently: “It will be to Me a name of joy, praise, and glory before all the nations of the earth, which will hear of all the good that I do for them [Israel and Judah], and they will be frightened and tremble because of all the good and all the peace that I make for it [Jerusalem].” (Jer. 33:7-9)

Conversely, when the LORD wants to reveal Himself to wayward Israel, He intends to do it through the Gentiles who help Him in that restoration:

“Behold, I will lift up My hand to the nations and set up My flag to the peoples. And they will bring your sons in their arms, and your daughters will be carried on their shoulders. Kings will be your guardians, and their princesses your nurses…. And you [Zion] will know that I am the LORD.” (Isa. 49:22-23)

“You will also suck the milk of nations, and suck the breast of kings. Then you will know that I, the LORD, am your Savior and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.” (Isa. 60:6)

He can even use a Gentile leader who doesn’t know Him, and through him cause the whole world to acknowledge both GOD and His people:

“For the sake of Jacob My servant, and Israel My chosen one, I have also called you [Cyrus] by your name; I have given you a title of honor though you have not known Me…. I will arm you, though you have not known Me, so that people may know, from the rising to the setting of the sun, that there is no one besides Me. I am the LORD, and there is no one else.” (Isa. 45:4-6)

This shows us that although the Creator chose the people of Israel (because of His promises to their forefathers), He desires a relationship with every individual and nation on the earth. When the Messiah rules from Jerusalem, all the nations will freely stream to “the mountain of the LORD” (Isa. 2:2) and share in Israel’s blessings. He will still be called “the GOD of Jacob” (v. 3), but His House will be open for all peoples (Isa. 56:7).

During the Passover Seder, we sing or recite special Psalms called the Hallel (Praise) songs. When the Temple was standing in Jerusalem, worshippers arriving for the Regelim (the pilgrim feasts of Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot) would climb the steps to GOD’s House as they sang Psalms 113-118 together.

The collection is like a story. Psalm 113 sets the tone with the boast: “Who is like the LORD our GOD?” (Ps. 113:5) – echoing the Song of the Sea after the final victory over Egypt (Exod. 15:11). Psalm 114 recounts the Exodus experience itself, Psalm 115 scoffs at useless idols and calls on Israel to trust in the LORD, Psalm 116 describes the joy of individual deliverance, and Psalm 117 calls on the nations to join us in our praise. Psalm 118, the “Hosanna Psalm,” gets its name from verse 25: “Please, O LORD, do save us!” (Hebrew: “Ana Hashem – Hoshiya Na!”). It’s brimming with references to GOD’s Salvation, beginning and ending with the call: “Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; for His mercy is everlasting.” (v. 1, 29)

This Passover, may all the believers around the world, who know the LORD our GOD, join with us in proclaiming His greatness:

Praise the LORD, all nations!
Sing His praises, all peoples!
For His mercy toward us is great,
And the truth of the LORD is everlasting.
Praise the LORD! (Ps. 117)

Be blessed by the Most High from Zion and Jerusalem, Mordechai ben Yakov


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