Covenant Loyalty Through Gratitude: Dayenu in the Context of the Everyday

covenant loyaltySo this year we did our first actual Passover Seder, really felt we were supposed to do it, and totally messed it up because generally that’s what happens the first time people do something. When people ask me why I don’t teach the Feasts of the Lord, this would be why – I am not yet experienced enough to have a really good grasp on them yet and I hate teaching things that I don’t understand well enough to teach to a child. I also hate dismissing anything that I have not studied out, as I had been too quick to do in years past.

But last week, even though we kept it weeks ago – something about the dinner just *clicked* in my heart and mind.

For those of you unfamiliar with it or who are fearing rituals and such – know that 98% of the Passover Seder is about gratitude and praise – speaking scripture verses, reciting Psalms, and then there is the Dayenu. 2% involves drinking wine and covering and uncovering unleavened bread (okay, maybe it’s a bit more involved than that, but not much). So what is the Dayenu?

Dayenu kinda means “it would have been enough,” and it is spoken (or sung) over and over and over again – let me give you an example:

If He had brought us out from Egypt,

Ilu hotzianu mimitzrayim,

אִלּוּ הוֹצִיאָנוּ מִמִּצְרָיִם

and had not carried out judgments against them

v’lo asah bahem sh’fatim,

וְלֹא עָשָׂה בָּהֶם שְׁפָטִים

— Dayenu, it would have been enough!

dayeinu! (click here for entire version)

Repeatedly, we speak of one of His mighty works in Egypt and then proclaim, in essence, “Even if that was all He had done, and not gone further, it would have been enough!” There are fifteen stanzas, each building on the fact that the Lord went above and beyond – it is the ultimate prayer of gratitude. But what’s the big deal?

The big deal is that all my life I have been told that “it can never be enough.” There can’t be enough success, enough wealth, enough beauty, enough anything! The American dream says to keep pushing and pressing for more – it wasn’t enough to be able to eat yesterday, and to have enough today and have all your bills paid unless you also have enough for tomorrow as well, and next year, and ten years from now. It isn’t enough to have all you need, you also have to have all you want. It isn’t enough to be alive, and have eternal life to boot, you have to be beautiful and prosperous in worldly ways in this life. And want to talk about success? Success in politics isn’t really success unless you are the President of the United States. Success in ministry isn’t really success unless everyone hears you and is influenced by you, to the exclusion of all other voices. And you need a private jet.

The American Dream is ingratitude. Nothing is ever enough and it will never ever be enough because the American Dream precludes being happy and satisfied with what we have already been given. We wake up every morning thinking, “What have You done for me lately and why don’t I have more than I had yesterday?” But we don’t need more – what we need is to recognize that what we already have, if every basic need is met, is enough.

In a way, Yeshua preached the Dayenu in Matthew 6 – the concept of not worrying about tomorrow, about being satisfied with the fact that today, our needs are met –

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

We are told not to fear for tomorrow because God took care of us yesterday, and that would have been sufficient. And I need to tell you that He preached this to an audience who wasn’t sulking because they don’t have enough money to take the family to the movies and buy soda and popcorn and have to wait for the movie to come out on Redbox instead and play it on their television with their DVD player while eating popcorn made in their microwave, He was speaking this to an audience of Judeans and Galileans in Roman occupied Palestine. Most Jews in the first century were living in abject poverty – the lucky were subsistence farmers and slaves. Almost no one in the Roman Empire owned land and multitudes were just trying to get by day to day. Yeshua wasn’t speaking these words to a bunch of people with internet access, or who could get government assistance when times were hard – He was speaking to people who often had no other hope but God’s daily provision. We can’t even begin to comprehend a basic survival-level lifestyle.

But on Pesach, Passover, they would pour out their thanks to God for delivering them from slavery in Egypt, even though they were now – for all intents and purposes – less than slaves in the Roman Empire (where slaves actually had it pretty good and could become wealthy). On Pesach in modern times, we are denied the worship of the Lord that went on at the Temple, millions of voices united in a day of praise – singing Psalms and proclaiming His works. What’s the solution? Millions of voice all over the planet praying the prayers and singing the songs with one voice, in unity. You see, we don’t have the Temple, but He still deserves all the worship that went on there.

What does Dayenu look like today? What has been my prayer this week? Dayenu is a paradigm shift away from 21st Century Western values – so I pray a very anti-American, and definitely anti-Pentacostal prosperity message prayer because yesterday my needs got met, and that would have been enough, but He is already meeting my needs today as well.

If you had fed my family yesterday, and not given us the means to pay our bills as well, it would have been enough. Dayenu.

If you had given us the means to pay our bills this month, but had not provided the extra to replace the range, it would have been enough. Dayenu.

**

If you had allowed us to adopt one child, and had not allowed us to adopt twins, it would have been enough. Dayenu.

If you had allowed me to be a mother for one day, and had not allowed me to be a mother for 15 years, it would have been enough.  Dayenu.

**

If you had simply allowed us to adopt Andrew, but had not healed him so that he could walk, it would have been enough. Dayenu.

If you had only made it possible for him to walk without leg braces, without allowing him to run as well, it would have been enough. Dayenu.

If you had only made it possible for him to run, but had not given him the healing required to jump and skip, it would have been enough. Dayenu.

**

If you had simply given me salvation, but not a ministry, it would have been enough. Dayenu.

If you had only given me a ministry, without giving me even a small audience, it would have been enough. Dayenu.

**

You get the idea – I take my worries and potential gripes (my ministry isn’t big enough, I don’t have enough stuff, blah, blah, blah) and turn them into reasons for gratitude. In the past, the fact that my son is still disabled was an incredible stress in my life but why? Because the healing miracles we had received WERE NOT ENOUGH. That’s ingratitude – we didn’t even deserve the healing he got and I am whining and nagging for more? The things that God does for us have to be enough – Dayenu. Dayenu to whatever he gives us, each and every moment – it would have been enough if He gave us everything in the past and gave us nothing more for the rest of our lives because HE DOESN’T OWE ME ANYTHING. He keeps His promises made through the Covenant, but it isn’t as though He owes me. No matter how hard I work for Him, I am simply expressing my gratitude for knowing Him in this life and having the eternal life to come. I am not working for eternal rewards, I am working out of gratitude for what He has already given me.

Even if You had just allowed me to know You in this life, but had not changed me, it would have been enough. Dayenu

Even if You had only changed me, but had not allowed me to help others, it would have been enough. Dayenu.

Even if You had allowed me to help others, but I had no place in the world to come, it would have been enough. Dayenu.

**

I can find things to “dayenu” about all day and all night long, and often do. I have enough, and enough would have been enough, but I always have more than enough. The things I don’t have, well – I don’t really need them. I might think I need them, they may make my life more comfortable or pleasant, but I am surviving nicely without them.

The key to Covenant Loyalty is dayenu, an attitude of being satisfied with what needs have been met and in awe of everything that was received on top of that. Adam and Eve fell because what they had was not enough. They heard that something else was available and they wanted it. They didn’t even bother asking for it, they just took it. That kind of thinking is rampant within the Body of Messiah today – ingratitude is a form of covetousness. Ingratitude drove David to seek out the wife of another man. Perhaps we can say the same thing about Alexander the coppersmith, who undermined Paul’s ministry – maybe he wasn’t satisfied with his own level of influence. And need we mention the fall of Solomon, always wanting more when he had absolutely everything?

Everything we have has to be enough, and we need to be truly grateful and delighted with it – or we will never have true Covenant loyalty to our King.

 
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (Mt 6:25–34). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

 

 

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2 Comments


  1. Thank you for this very well spoken reminder! Blessings to you!

    Reply

    1. Glad your comments are getting through now! 🙂 I still feel awful about that.

      Reply

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