What does it mean to believe? (Exodus 4:27-31)

Open Exodus 4:27-31.

Did you notice this key moment in the exodus narrative?

Exodus 4:31 (my translation)
The people believed when they heard YHWH’s response to Israel’s descendants, seeing their oppression. They knelt and honoured him.

Jacob’s descendants could not be free from their slavery to Pharaoh until they begin to trust God to be their new sovereign. To believe the promise God gave to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob — the promise that they would be his nation — they give their allegiance to YHWH instead of Pharaoh.

That’s why they knelt before YHWH and honoured him. That’s a declaration of their new loyalty, their change of allegiance.

Faith is much more than mental assent to a creedal statement. It is recognizing God for who he is: the rightful authority over humanity. Faith is fealty — allegiance to our sovereign, our Lord.

Exodus 4 expressed the connection between hearing, believing and speaking.

Moses heard YHWH speaking to him, but struggled to give fealty to YHWH (to become his servant). Moses’ distrust is revealed in what he says:

Exodus 4:1 (ESV)
Moses answered, “But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you.’”

So Moses is given signs — evidence that he speaks with YHWH’s authority:

Exodus 4:8-9 (ESV)
“If they will not believe you,” God said, “or listen to the first sign, they may believe the latter sign. If they will not believe even these two signs or listen to your voice, you shall take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground, and the water that you shall take from the Nile will become blood on the dry ground.”

That’s why verse 31 is such as triumph. The people could not be freed until they heard and trusted YHWH to emancipate them.

It’s still like that:

Romans 10:14 (NRSV)
How are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him?

Truth is, even today people struggle to believe that the world can be set right through Messiah Jesus. The world still seems to be enslaved to evil, and many struggle to believe the message that a man who was crucified can release us from the grip of evil.

But we believe that God raised him from the dead, giving him all authority in heaven and on earth. His kingship will be established. The King of Kings will vanquish every evil, emancipating the whole earth from enslavement to corruption. Every knee will bow, and every tongue will acknowledge his kingship.

The rescue of humanity back into God’s sovereign rule (the kingdom of God) takes place as people submit themselves to the one whom God has appointed as our ruler. Jesus was shown to be God’s anointed by being raised from the dead when earth’s rulers killed him.

We believe that Jesus is our Lord, the one appointed by heaven to rule the earth. We give him our allegiance by naming him as our Lord, the one who will set all things right.

All of this — hearing of Jesus as earth’s liberator, trusting our lives into his kingly reign so our hope rests in him, and speaking out that allegiance — is encapsulated in this verse:

Romans 10:9 (NIV)
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved

Giving allegiance to our resurrected king is what it means to believe the good news.

Author: Allen Browne

Seeking to understand Jesus in the terms he chose to describe himself: son of man (his identity), and kingdom of God (his mission). Riverview Church, Perth, Western Australia

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