Updated: Apr 7, 2020
Torah’s book, Shemot, or known in English by its translators as the Exodus, is rich with accounts dramatic and tender of God’s mercies and deliverance to the people of Israel, and as you follow a Passover seder, you could talk about many details that show Redemption’s Story. In this entry though, I’ll just focus on a simple thought laid out for us within the first seven verses.
The book opens giving us the names or Shemot of the children of Israel and Joseph’s place in Egypt. It reports as Joseph and that generation died, something awesome was happening for Abraham’s seed, and six verbs describe it. “But the children of Israel were fruitful and increased abundantly, multiplied and grew exceedingly mighty; and the land was filled with them.” (Ex.1:7)
In Hebrew these beautiful verbs in one verse are (by root) Parah, Sharatz, Rabah, Maod Maod, Atsem, Mala… all in the seventh verse! Parah (to bear, or bear fruit, fruitful, bearing children) Sharatz (multiple; teeming-crawling with abundance in births and fruitfulness) Rabah (multiply, increasing, being numerous and great) Maod Maod (the double adds emphasis; literally, ‘muchness’ to the highest degree), Atsam (mighty, a powerful force) and Mala (overflow, to fill; the land was filled with them...the Latin is ‘plere’). Things had been going pretty well!
During the next six verses, something else entirely is happening, and the fourteenth verse gives us the opposite in six very different words…Marar (made bitter) Ba’Avodah (service stated as made too much, as we might say, ‘ad nauseam’) Qashah B’chomer and B’Levenah (in brick and mortar, with weight, and a hot job) B’Perek (ruled over with rigor) -- So what was originally useful, fruitful, abundantly blessed was multiplied into work, work and more work (to the point of rigor, exhaustion, in control and manipulation that harmed). This was slavery, and we know the account worsens into infanticide and terrible things that sadly repeated themselves in history.
The enemy took God’s design and warped it, took people out of their gifts and relegated them to harsh fields of service, and what started as a sacred service degenerated into hard labor. What once was parah, fruitful, became nothing better than pitiful – and literally, full of the pits! When that happens, “Ain’t No Sunshine,” in the words of Bill Withers, and the situation needs a Redeemer.
If we are familiar with Exodus, we know the Lord raised up Moses as a deliverer to lead God’s people out, but they all had to buckle up for quite a ride, enduring the hard-hearted Pharoah’s decisions and delays, watching the horrific plagues happen to others (I mean seriously, frogs in the beds and ovens, lice, locusts, boils, say yuck nine times!) -- walking around with light when others were saturated in darkness, to the deaths of the first borns. Yet with obedience to the instructions, they gathered in families, applied the blood of a sacrificed lamb to their doorposts, and God passed over – as if to say He came and brooded over them so no death touched their first borns as death passed over the nation. Their journey through the sea, chased by an enemy, with a total test of faith as the ancients say Judah and Benjamin (the leaders of the families of) raced into the sea to show God would part it – adventures like none you and I have ever had! And all is still celebrated to date. What redemption did was bring them out of the severity of bondage into a place of rest, of freedom of worship, of so much more… redeeming them to a place of restoration, restoring them to that Maod Maod, where their blessings could show all the neighboring nations the goodness of God.
God’s people have always been separated from something and for something, divinely distinguished as a distinction in the earth… to Let Him BE Him for all to see. So in the Passover, or Pesach (to pass over, spare) meal, in between the cups that reflected the story and its meaning, four questions were put in the service to keep the lessons alive in the kids, and among the questions is Why is this night not like any other? Sages said these four questions showed four sons:
The Chacham, the wise son who wants to know and understand all the instructions...The Rasha, the rebellious son who asks a lot of questions, but for different reasons than the wise son, who doesn’t want to exert himself or suffer in order to attain anything, including a deeper relationship with the Lord. Then there is the Tam – the simple son, who only asks when he sees a clear change in the ordinary…like those who to see great miracles and changes before they involve themselves with Heaven. They still let others do the work. The last son doesn’t even know how to ask, so this son must see the continual dipping of the bitter herbs and eating of vegetables in order to remember the unusual nature of this night.
Simply concluded, there is a son with Torah but no deeds… one with deeds but no Torah… one with no deeds and no Torah… and one with both Torah and deeds, where his faith and his works impact a community.
For Christians familiar with the parables of Jesus, that should sound familiar, as He also described four soils as the variance of four hearts either producing or not producing something for the Kingdom of Heaven. He spoke of two sons, one who said “I’ll do it,” and didn’t, and one who said, “I won’t do it,” and went and did. It’s always been about the heart....which is why a total "house search" is performed, a thorough housecleaning, to remove leaven and be clean and ready to celebrate the fullness of Passover, Unleavened Bread, and First Fruits. You are a house too. Our hearts will always need a housecleaning.
For anyone celebrating the amazing remembrance of this great redemption in the Passover (and as the Apostle Paul wrote, “all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink, and they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them…” – I Corinthians 10:1-4) let’s consider what we’ve been taken out of, where we’ve been brought, and believe for the same kind of Divine Restoration, returning us to better than original condition, returning us to a worthy distinction, as much as He delivers us from bondage and rigor under the anxieties we suffer. It's still all about the heart.
Like these generations we can become the wise son by 4 simple requests in prayer that are even given in Ezra-Nehemiah during a feast and a time of national restoration... may it be the cry of our hearts, not only to be restored and redeemed, but to do something great with God in that place:
Strengthen our hearts to hear… Strengthen our minds to know… Strengthen our hands to do… and strengthen our feet to go!