Passover Blessings in Yeshua, God’s Perfect Lamb,
Our Awesome God
This year, in thinking about Passover—Pesach, פסח PAY-sahkh in Hebrew—one thought kept captivating my heart and mind: the Awesomeness of our God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The word awesome, nora נורא) no-RAH) in Hebrew, occurs in 38 verses in the NKJV of the Holy Scriptures. Consider some of these verses:
“You shall not be terrified of them; for the LORD your God, the great and awesome God, is among you” (Deut. 7:21).
“For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality nor takes a bribe” (Deut. 10:17).
“He is your praise, and He is your God, who has done for you these great and awesome things which your eyes have seen” (Deut. 10:21).
“If you do not carefully observe all the words of this law that are written in this book, that you may fear this glorious and awesome name, THE LORD YOUR GOD (Adonai Eloheikha, יהוה אלהיך ah-doe-NYE eh-loh-heh-KHA)” (Deut. 28:58).
“…Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, great and awesome, and fight for your brethren, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses” (Neh. 4:14).
“For the Lord Most High is awesome; He is a great King over all the earth” (Ps. 47:2). Ki Adonai Elyon nora Melekh gadol al kal ha’aretz, כייהוה עליון נורא מלך גדול על כל הארץ (KEY ah-doe-NYE el-YOHN no-RAH MEH-lekh gah-DOHL AHL KAL ha-AH-rets). A great verse to learn in Hebrew!
“Say to God, ‘How awesome are Your works! Through the greatness of Your power Your enemies
shall submit themselves to You‘” (Ps. 66:3).
“O God, You are more awesome than Your holy places. The God of Israel is He who gives strength and power to His people. Blessed be God!” (Ps. 68:35). “He has sent redemption to His people; He has commanded His covenant forever: holy and awesome is His name” (Ps. 111:9).
“But the Lord is with me as a mighty, awesome One. Therefore my persecutors will stumble, and
will not prevail. They will be greatly ashamed, for they will not prosper. Their everlasting confusion will
never be forgotten” (Jer. 20:11). “Wondrous works in the land of Ham, awesome things by the Red Sea” (Ps. 106:22).
The word AWESOME is used today to express wonder at an achievement in sports, entertainment, or academics. A famous person, movie, book, or song might be labeled as “awesome.” The word is described in the dictionary as “extremely impressive or daunting; inspiring great admiration, apprehension or fear, breathtaking.” The only One who is truly AWESOME is God, the Creator of mankind, heaven, and earth.
Awesome in Praise
At the first Passover, when the Children of Israel saw that Pharaoh and his horses and chariots had overtaken them as they camped by the sea, fear gripped their hearts. And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace” (Ex. 14:13-14).
The Awesome God who delivered His children from Egyptian bondage was not going to desert them, in spite of their dire circumstances. He showed His miracle-working power by having the Angel of God (who went before the camp of Israel) move to behind them. The same happened with the pillar of cloud (Ex. 14:19). “So it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel. Thus it was a cloud and darkness to the one, and it gave light by night to the other, so that the one did not come near the other all that night” (Ex. 14:20). “Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea into dry land, and the waters were divided” (Ex. 14:21).
The rest of the story is familiar to all of us. The children of Israel crossed over on dry ground, the pursuing Egyptians had their chariot wheels removed by God (Ex. 14:25), and Pharaoh, his horses and entire army drowned in the sea. “Thus Israel saw the great work which the Lord had done in Egypt; so the people feared the Lord, and believed the Lord and His servant Moses” (Ex. 14:31).
On the other side of the Red Sea, Moses and the children of Israel sang a song (lyrics found in
Exodus 15). Part of this “Song of Moses” or “Song of the Sea”—Shirat haYam הים שירת) sheer-AT
ha-YAM)—has become part of the liturgy of the traditional morning Shakharit services and speaks of
the awesomeness of the God of Israel. Many of us know it in Hebrew:
Mi kamokha be’elim Adonai Who is like You, O Lord among the gods?
Mi kamokha nedar bakodesh Who is like You, Lord there is none else.
Nora t’hilot osei feleh You are awesome in praise, doing wonders.
The Necessity of Awe
As I was meditating on Awe as it relates to God, I read an article in our local newspaper, the Sun Sentinel (Sunday, Feb. 5, 2023). The title of the article was “Emotion of Awe Critical to Health, WellBeing.” Dacher Keltner, a psychologist at the U. of California, Berkely, was quoted as saying, “Awe is the feeling of being in the presence of something vast that transcends your understanding of the world.” Experiencing awe challenges us to rethink our previously held ideas. According to Keltner, awe has tremendous health benefits that include calming down our nervous system and triggering the release of oxytocin, the “love” hormone that promotes trust and bonding. I found it interesting that the
author gave as examples of awe-producing experiences seeing the Grand Canyon or witnessing an act of kindness. Keltner also found psychological benefits in experiencing awe. In his words, “Many of us have a critical voice in our heads, telling us we’re not smart, beautiful, or rich enough. Awe seems to quiet this negative self-talk.” Keltner agrees with author Sharon Salzberg who believes that awe is “the absence of self-preoccupation.” She stated, “We are at this critical moment of narcissism and self-shame and criticism and entitlement; awe gets us out of that.”
So…we know the answer: Be in AWE of God! He is Awesome and helps us get our focus off ourselves onto Him. Some secular studies even show that people who are meditating and praying experience more awe.
Awesome Acts in the Passover
I am always in awe at the Lord’s proclamation and promise, spoken to Moses before he and Aaron began their encounters with Pharaoh. “And I have also heard the groaning of the children of Israel whom the Egyptians keep in bondage, and I have remembered My covenant. Therefore say to the children of Israel: ‘I am the Lord; I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, I will rescue you from their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. I will take you as My people, and I will be your God. Then you shall know that I am the Lord your God who brings you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. And I will bring you into the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and I will give it to you as a heritage: I am the Lord’” (Ex. 6:5-8).
We traditionally mention four promises of redemption and relationship—four “I will’s.” I am in awe that there are actually seven mentioned in Exodus 6. God is Lavish with His Goodness and desire to bless—in spite of Exodus 6:9, “So Moses spoke thus to the children of Israel; but they did not heed Moses, because of anguish of spirit and cruel bondage.”
What an Awesome God! He keeps His covenants, longs to do good to His children, and rescues us from all our difficulties, in spite of ourselves. He loves us unconditionally. He is the God who showed the difference between His people and the Egyptians by setting apart the land of Goshen in which the Israelites dwelt. There were no flies there, while Egypt swarmed with flies. Awesome! A similar miracle happened with hail. While the LORD rained hail on the land of Egypt, mingled with fire, there was no hail in Goshen. Even Pharaoh seemed in awe of God after this plague. “And Pharaoh sent and called for Moses and Aaron, and said to them, “I have sinned this time. The Lord is righteous, and my people and I are wicked” (Ex. 9:27). But he still hardened his heart. (People can still harden their hearts, no matter how Awesome the Lord shows Himself to be.)
An Awesome God in People
There are times in life when people act in ways that inspire great awe. I regularly read books of historical fiction, especially about World War II and the Holocaust, and am continually inspired by the courage, selflessness, compassion, sacrifice, and endurance of women—especially in the face of Nazi cruelty and domination. I often think that God must be the One to give them the strength to do such awesome deeds in the face of great danger and life-threatening situations.
Not long ago, I came across a story in The Messianic Outreach by Rabbi Elliot Klayman which I believe to be true, with some embellishments. I had filed the story, neglected to keep the date or issue, and was awed by what Rabbi Klayman related as I read the story after many years. I share it with you now as an example of the Awesomeness of God in one of His faithful followers.
“In a Messianic congregation in Israel years ago, the rabbi ascended to the bema, scanned
the crowd, forced a smile, took a deep breath and told the following story: After the second
night Passover seder in the home of a Messianic family, the father and his son, and son’s
friend decided to take a dip at a favorite place in the Red Sea, not far from where they
lived in Eilat, Israel. A full moon, clouds on the horizon and the gentle sloping surrounding
mountains in the distance, made it a very pleasant scene. The father decided to just lounge
on the water’s edge, while his son and son’s friend took a swim. Both of them were strong
swimmers and they were swimming to an islet about one-half mile away, where, according
to tradition, the Queen of Sheba met King Solomon. The father had the kids in his gaze, and
was relieved to see them alight on the narrow island. About five minutes later he observed
them both enter back into the sea to return to shore. About then the father decided to enter
the Sea himself, and lost track of the precise location of the boys. Suddenly he heard a loud
cry for help. ‘Save us, save us!’ The father in a panic peered outward and saw his son’s
friend upward in the water trying to hold onto his son, who appeared to be in trouble. With
a rush of adrenaline, the father sprang into action, and hurriedly stroked through the water
and arrived on the scene. He saw both his son and his son’s friend desperately clinging
onto each other in a life and death spiral. The father entered the fray, and as both of the
victims went under, he soon assessed that he could only help one of them. He knew that
his son was a believer in Yeshua for sure and had demonstrated that the past ten years of
his life, serving as his assistant in the congregation. He also knew that his son had been
sharing his faith with his friend, and the Passover invitation was at his son’s insistence, in
hopes that his friend would see Messiah in it. In that split second he decided to save his
son’s friend and was successful. His son drowned.
The rabbi scanned the congregation and saw many tears. He then silently stepped down
from the bema. One young boy shouted from the congregation: ‘You know that can’t be
true. Come on, Rabbi,’ he yelled. ‘Tgeedlanu zeh lo amet, eey efshar! (Tell them this is not
true. This is impossible.) No father would do that.’ The leader was silent. Then an older
gentleman rose to his feet and came forward. He politely asked if he could address the
congregation to which the leader assented. He said, ‘I know it to be true because I am the
father who saved my son’s friend. And the one who told you the story is my son’s friend
who I saved that night!’ They embraced as the congregation wept in amazement.”
Awesome. Such a picture of what our Father in heaven did for each one of us by sacrificing His only Son as an atonement for our sin. We were drowning in sin’s depths. God rescued us and gave us purpose in life.
Our Awesome God in 2023
This true story happened in February when my dear friend and Jewish Jewels administrator, Sheryl, accompanied me on a visit to my Mennonite friend Martha. We arrived early for check in at the same hotel that we had stayed in last year. I saw a familiar face behind the desk and asked, “Did I ever give you a message on a seashell?” “Yes! You are the seashell lady. I remember you. Do I have a story to tell you!”(We checked in about forty minutes later after being in TOTAL AWE at the story…)
Betty (not her real name) told me that I had given her a “Jewish shell,” and she had begun to explore her Jewish roots. In the meantime, a man in his 50s or 60s (not sure) came to stay at the hotel for a few days. He was alone, and Betty noticed that he looked sad. Each day, as he passed by the desk, she told him that she was praying for him and added: “Jesus loves you.” He smiled, thanked her, and walked on. Betty found out that Mr. R. was a military veteran and, having experience with veterans, could tell that he was in some kind of pain. When he told her one day that he wanted to extend his stay but his VA check had not arrived, she offered to lend him the money for his room. (Note: Betty is an employee of the hotel but a committed disciple of Yeshua.)
When Betty realized that she hadn’t seen Mr. R. for a day or so, she was concerned that perhaps he had not eaten. On a Saturday night, Betty went to the local Amish restaurant and bought Mr. R. a small chicken pot pie. She brought it to his room and said, “Remember, Jesus loves you.” Betty also told him that if he needed help, there were people he could call. She gave him a local suicide prevention number.
On Monday morning, Betty was shocked when police raced into the hotel, headed for Mr. R.’s room. He had called for help. They found a noose ready to be used. Amazingly, the police were all veterans and treated Mr. R. with special kindness. He was taken to a facility and received help.
Shortly after this, Betty received a call from Mr. R. thanking her for saving his life. He told her that all weekend he had tried to use the rope to hang himself but could not do it because of the chicken pot pie. Every time he looked at the pie, he saw the face (image) of Jesus—and could not take his life. How Awesome is our God! (And His kind, compassionate servant Betty as well.)
Mr. R. continued: “Betty, it was hard for me when you kept telling me that Jesus loves me. You see, I’m Jewish.” Update: Betty and Mr. R. have become friends. He is teaching her Hebrew and all about Jewish holidays. She is sharing her faith with him. Mr. R. said to Betty, “You learn about my religion. I will learn about yours.”
Pray with me: “Dear Awesome God, there is no one like You who performs such wondrous deeds! Please help me to never underestimate Your power, Your love, or Your desire to save lost souls. Increase my faith so that I expect You to move in my life in awesome ways, as I yield to Your Spirit and seek to obey You in all things. Thank You for Your unconditional love, in Yeshua’s Name. Amen.”
Much love in our Awesome God and King,