B’shalach

B’shalach

After he had let go

Exodus 13:17-17:16
Judges 4:4-5:31 (A); 5:1-31 (S)

“Freedom Faith Tests”


by Mark Huey

Some of the details, about the miraculous deliverance of Ancient Israel from Egyptian servitude, are recorded in this week’s Torah portion, B’shalach. It includes particular attention to the ongoing struggles that the liberated nation will have to endure, as the Lord desired His chosen people to replace the burdens of slavery to other people, with a wholehearted dependence upon Him. However, as recorded in this parashah, what God wanted for Israel regarding its principal mission—to be a light, illuminating the existence and blessings available to all from the One True Creator God to humankind at large (Isaiah 42:6; 49:6)—would not come without considerable reorientation of priorities. After all, the propensity of the carnal nature, primarily focused upon self interests and self-preservation, is now released from the oppression of physical bondage to make choices about not only what to do and think, but also who or what to worship and serve. With the goal of the Holy One to possess a holy nation of priests, which will faithfully follow His ways (Exodus 19:5-6), a testing of faith commences, as perceived freedom unleashes the free will of human beings to make choices.

In our Torah reading, the incredible contrast between faithfully following the presence of God in the pillar of fire and cloud—after a phenomenal deliverance with the inclination to simply survive—actually begins with a mention of Joseph’s deathbed desire (Genesis 50:24-25), to have his remains taken back to Canaan rather than be interred in Egypt. Such was the example established and fostered by Joseph, that for the forty-year sojourn of Ancient Israel in the wilderness, the bones of Joseph were finally laid to rest in the plot of land purchased by Jacob in Shechem, shortly after the Israelites ultimately came into the Promised Land (Joshua 24:32). While much can be said about the faith of Joseph, who was used by God to preserve the nascent nation, the fact that he only had vivid dreams early in his life to primarily draw upon for faith—versus the visible appearance of God’s presence in a pillar of fire and cloud for the liberated Israelites to witness—is a stark reminder that God alone will dispense, to different individuals, a certain measure of faith (Romans 12:3). As B’shalach records,

“Now when Pharaoh had let the people go, God did not lead them by the way of the land of the Philistines, even though it was near; for God said, ‘The people might change their minds when they see war, and return to Egypt.’ Hence God led the people around by the way of the wilderness to the Red Sea; and the sons of Israel went up in martial array from the land of Egypt. Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, for he had made the sons of Israel solemnly swear, saying, ‘God will surely take care of you, and you shall carry my bones from here with you.’ Then they set out from Succoth and camped in Etham on the edge of the wilderness. The LORD was going before them in a pillar of cloud by day to lead them on the way, and in a pillar of fire by night to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. He did not take away the pillar of cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people” (Exodus 13:17-22).

From the onset of our reading, everyone of us should consider the critical admonitions found in the opening statements of the Epistle of James, as the half-brother of the Lord described the unique relationship between joy, trials, wisdom, and faith:

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” (James 1:2-8).

It should be noted that after the initial encampment at Succoth (Exodus 12:7), Moses then followed the cloud and relocated the people to the wilderness at Etham (Exodus 13:20), before being told to reestablish camp at Baal-zephon, where they were hemmed in by the sea. It was here, between Migdol and the sea, that the Lord was going to execute a dramatic judgment on the furious Egyptians—who now were up in arms, in hot pursuit, with horses and chariots bearing down on the relatively defenseless Israelites. With their escape restricted by the seemingly impenetrable sea, the frightened Israelites immediately and perhaps justifiably—because of the dire, life-threatening circumstances—began to complain to Moses. But the Lord had a plan to show His power and majesty, not only to the mortified Israelites, but to all who would eventually learn about His defeat of the mighty Egyptian Pharaoh:

Now the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Tell the sons of Israel to turn back and camp before Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea; you shall camp in front of Baal-zephon, opposite it, by the sea. For Pharaoh will say of the sons of Israel, “They are wandering aimlessly in the land; the wilderness has shut them in.” Thus I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will chase after them; and I will be honored through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD.’ And they did so. When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, Pharaoh and his servants had a change of heart toward the people, and they said, ‘What is this we have done, that we have let Israel go from serving us?’ So he made his chariot ready and took his people with him; and he took six hundred select chariots, and all the other chariots of Egypt with officers over all of them. The LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and he chased after the sons of Israel as the sons of Israel were going out boldly. Then the Egyptians chased after them with all the horses and chariots of Pharaoh, his horsemen and his army, and they overtook them camping by the sea, beside Pi-hahiroth, in front of Baal-zephon. As Pharaoh drew near, the sons of Israel looked, and behold, the Egyptians were marching after them, and they became very frightened; so the sons of Israel cried out to the LORD. Then they said to Moses, ‘Is it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you dealt with us in this way, bringing us out of Egypt? Is this not the word that we spoke to you in Egypt, saying, “Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians”? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.’ But Moses said to the people, ‘Do not fear! Stand by and see the salvation of the LORD which He will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you will never see them again forever. The LORD will fight for you while you keep silent.’ Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Why are you crying out to Me? Tell the sons of Israel to go forward. As for you, lift up your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, and the sons of Israel shall go through the midst of the sea on dry land. As for Me, behold, I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them; and I will be honored through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his horsemen. Then the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD, when I am honored through Pharaoh, through his chariots and his horsemen’” (Exodus 14:1-18).

This incredible miracle of deliverance, ably dramatized with some cinematic license in the 1956 classic film, The Ten Commandments, is now described in gruesome detail. So for those who have perhaps been conditioned by such a portrayal of the events, upon reading the following account, one can only imagine how this might affect the minds and hearts of those who witnessed and participated in the Exodus in person:

“The angel of God, who had been going before the camp of Israel, moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them. So it came between the camp of Egypt and the camp of Israel; and there was the cloud along with the darkness, yet it gave light at night. Thus the one did not come near the other all night. Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the LORD swept the sea back by a strong east wind all night and turned the sea into dry land, so the waters were divided. The sons of Israel went through the midst of the sea on the dry land, and the waters were like a wall to them on their right hand and on their left. Then the Egyptians took up the pursuit, and all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots and his horsemen went in after them into the midst of the sea. At the morning watch, the LORD looked down on the army of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and cloud and brought the army of the Egyptians into confusion. He caused their chariot wheels to swerve, and He made them drive with difficulty; so the Egyptians said, ‘Let us flee from Israel, for the LORD is fighting for them against the Egyptians.’ Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may come back over the Egyptians, over their chariots and their horsemen.’ So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to its normal state at daybreak, while the Egyptians were fleeing right into it; then the LORD overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea. The waters returned and covered the chariots and the horsemen, even Pharaoh’s entire army that had gone into the sea after them; not even one of them remained. But the sons of Israel walked on dry land through the midst of the sea, and the waters were like a wall to them on their right hand and on their left. Thus the LORD saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. When Israel saw the great power which the LORD had used against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD, and they believed in the LORD and in His servant Moses” (Exodus 14:19-31).

One would think that this extraordinary miracle would be received with the awe and fear of the Lord, and a great respect for Moses, as recorded. This resulted in Moses’ effusive song of praise and worship—which gave all glory to the Lord for His actions of salvation—and should be read for not only its wonderful description of the events, but how it will be, in the future, sung by the saints as a reminder of the power and glory of the Majesty on High (Revelation 15:3). So many other encouraging songs are derived from these words, but note that as a result of this disaster for the Egyptian army, the other powers of the region were to be terrified:

“Then Moses and the sons of Israel sang this song to the LORD, and said, ‘I will sing to the LORD, for He is highly exalted; the horse and its rider He has hurled into the sea. The LORD is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise Him; My father’s God, and I will extol Him. The LORD is a warrior; the LORD is His name. Pharaoh’s chariots and his army He has cast into the sea; and the choicest of his officers are drowned in the Red Sea. The deeps cover them; they went down into the depths like a stone. Your right hand, O LORD, is majestic in power, Your right hand, O LORD, shatters the enemy. And in the greatness of Your excellence You overthrow those who rise up against You; You send forth Your burning anger, and it consumes them as chaff. At the blast of Your nostrils the waters were piled up, the flowing waters stood up like a heap; the deeps were congealed in the heart of the sea. The enemy said, “I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil; My desire shall be gratified against them; I will draw out my sword, my hand will destroy them.” You blew with Your wind, the sea covered them; they sank like lead in the mighty waters. Who is like You among the gods, O LORD? Who is like You, majestic in holiness, awesome in praises, working wonders? You stretched out Your right hand, the earth swallowed them. In Your lovingkindness You have led the people whom You have redeemed; in Your strength You have guided them to Your holy habitation. The peoples have heard, they tremble; anguish has gripped the inhabitants of Philistia. Then the chiefs of Edom were dismayed; the leaders of Moab, trembling grips them; all the inhabitants of Canaan have melted away. Terror and dread fall upon them; by the greatness of Your arm they are motionless as stone; until Your people pass over, O LORD, until the people pass over whom You have purchased. You will bring them and plant them in the mountain of Your inheritance, the place, O LORD, which You have made for Your dwelling, the sanctuary, O Lord, which Your hands have established. The LORD shall reign forever and ever.’ For the horses of Pharaoh with his chariots and his horsemen went into the sea, and the LORD brought back the waters of the sea on them, but the sons of Israel walked on dry land through the midst of the sea. Miriam the prophetess, Aaron’s sister, took the timbrel in her hand, and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dancing. Miriam answered them, ‘Sing to the LORD, for He is highly exalted; the horse and his rider He has hurled into the sea’” (Exodus 15:1-21).

Nevertheless, despite the horse and the riders consumed by the waves of the sea, the march toward Canaan continued in the wilderness of Shur, with an immediate need for water for the people and their livestock. This caused a physical crisis that elicited some more grumbling from the Israelites—because the basic need for survival was being tested—and the natural inclination, regardless of the recent events—took precedence in the hearts of the delivered people:

“Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea, and they went out into the wilderness of Shur; and they went three days in the wilderness and found no water. When they came to Marah, they could not drink the waters of Marah, for they were bitter; therefore it was named Marah. So the people grumbled at Moses, saying, ‘What shall we drink?’ Then he cried out to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a tree; and he threw it into the waters, and the waters became sweet. There He made for them a statute and regulation, and there He tested them. And He said, ‘If you will give earnest heed to the voice of the LORD your God, and do what is right in His sight, and give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have put on the Egyptians; for I, the LORD, am your healer.’ Then they came to Elim where there were twelve springs of water and seventy date palms, and they camped there beside the waters” (Exodus 15:22-27).

After the water came forth to alleviate the need for hydrated sustenance, Moses noted the testing, by stating the demand upon the Israelites to heed the voice of the Lord, to do what was right in His sight, give ear to His commandments, and keep His statutes.

Needless to say, with the provision of water at Elim, the congregation of Israel continued to complain, because the memories of Egypt and the relatively available foodstuffs that they were accustomed to, were no longer at hand. Complaints became rampant, but once again the Lord was testing Israel with hunger pains, in order to execute another miracle that came in the form of manna from Heaven and an abundant supply of quail in the evening. But the test was not necessarily consuming the manna and quail, but instead, perhaps, in the confidence that was required to follow the direction of the Lord to gather manna for only six days, taking a Sabbath rest on the seventh day—a pattern that would require belief and adherence to His commands:

“Then they set out from Elim, and all the congregation of the sons of Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after their departure from the land of Egypt. The whole congregation of the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. The sons of Israel said to them, ‘Would that we had died by the LORD’s hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat, when we ate bread to the full; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.’ Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether or not they will walk in My instruction. On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather daily.’ So Moses and Aaron said to all the sons of Israel, ‘At evening you will know that the LORD has brought you out of the land of Egypt; and in the morning you will see the glory of the LORD, for He hears your grumblings against the LORD; and what are we, that you grumble against us?’ Moses said, ‘This will happen when the LORD gives you meat to eat in the evening, and bread to the full in the morning; for the LORD hears your grumblings which you grumble against Him. And what are we? Your grumblings are not against us but against the LORD.’ Then Moses said to Aaron, ‘Say to all the congregation of the sons of Israel, “Come near before the LORD, for He has heard your grumblings.”’ It came about as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the sons of Israel, that they looked toward the wilderness, and behold, the glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud. And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘I have heard the grumblings of the sons of Israel; speak to them, saying, “At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread; and you shall know that I am the LORD your God.”’ So it came about at evening that the quails came up and covered the camp, and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the layer of dew evaporated, behold, on the surface of the wilderness there was a fine flake-like thing, fine as the frost on the ground. When the sons of Israel saw it, they said to one another, ‘What is it?’ For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, ‘It is the bread which the LORD has given you to eat. This is what the LORD has commanded, “Gather of it every man as much as he should eat; you shall take an omer apiece according to the number of persons each of you has in his tent.”’ The sons of Israel did so, and some gathered much and some little. When they measured it with an omer, he who had gathered much had no excess, and he who had gathered little had no lack; every man gathered as much as he should eat. Moses said to them, ‘Let no man leave any of it until morning.’ But they did not listen to Moses, and some left part of it until morning, and it bred worms and became foul; and Moses was angry with them” (Exodus 16:1-20).

Suffice it to say, the Lord heard the grumbling complaints, and made provision. As the people gathered the manna on the appropriate mornings, it is noted that such daily bread was to be eaten each day, or it would become foul and inedible. In a sign that He was personally interested in the minute details of everyone receiving the proper amount—everyone, regardless of the amount they gathered—had just enough to be satisfied. But once again, we see that the main focus was on God’s people having faith to observe His Sabbath, rather than simply receiving provision:

“They gathered it morning by morning, every man as much as he should eat; but when the sun grew hot, it would melt. Now on the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for each one. When all the leaders of the congregation came and told Moses, then he said to them, ‘This is what the LORD meant: Tomorrow is a sabbath observance, a holy sabbath to the LORD. Bake what you will bake and boil what you will boil, and all that is left over put aside to be kept until morning.’ So they put it aside until morning, as Moses had ordered, and it did not become foul nor was there any worm in it” (Exodus 16:21-24).

The pattern, of taking a Sabbath rest, is an integral part of developing faith in the Holy One of Israel, and it was the primary reason that the Almighty used this basic example to compel the Ancient Israelites to trust in Him for His provision. As is noted in the following excerpt, despite some period of adjustment to the way the manna was to be gathered and consumed, it is notable that for the forty-year sojourn, the Lord provided manna to His people. For, perhaps just as Abraham had to be tested centuries earlier when the Lord provided a ram as a substitute for the sacrificial offering of Isaac (Genesis 22:4), the Israelites needed to learn that their God was the Provider in all things, including basic nutrition:

“Moses said, ‘Eat it today, for today is a sabbath to the LORD; today you will not find it in the field. Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day, the sabbath, there will be none.’ It came about on the seventh day that some of the people went out to gather, but they found none. Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘How long do you refuse to keep My commandments and My instructions? See, the LORD has given you the sabbath; therefore He gives you bread for two days on the sixth day. Remain every man in his place; let no man go out of his place on the seventh day.’ So the people rested on the seventh day. The house of Israel named it manna, and it was like coriander seed, white, and its taste was like wafers with honey. Then Moses said, ‘This is what the LORD has commanded, “Let an omerful of it be kept throughout your generations, that they may see the bread that I fed you in the wilderness, when I brought you out of the land of Egypt.”’ Moses said to Aaron, ‘Take a jar and put an omerful of manna in it, and place it before the LORD to be kept throughout your generations.’ As the LORD commanded Moses, so Aaron placed it before the Testimony, to be kept. The sons of Israel ate the manna forty years, until they came to an inhabited land; they ate the manna until they came to the border of the land of Canaan. (Now an omer is a tenth of an ephah.)” (Exodus 16:25-36).

As B’shalach prepares to close, with Israel relocating to the wilderness of Sin and the encampment at Rephidim, the challenge of a lack of water, once again surfaced. Naturally, this generated resentment and quarreling with Moses, because, despite the previous provisions, and the witness of the pillar of fire and cloud, a lack of faith continued. This time, the Lord instructed Moses to strike at the rock at Horeb, which resulted in a gushing forth of water, slaking the parched lips of the Israelites. But once again, the people were found to be establishing a pattern of grumbling, complaining, and even quarrelling to the point of threatening the life of Moses. The lack of faith in the presence and provision of the Holy One, was becoming quite troubling:

“Then all the congregation of the sons of Israel journeyed by stages from the wilderness of Sin, according to the command of the LORD, and camped at Rephidim, and there was no water for the people to drink. Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, ‘Give us water that we may drink.’ And Moses said to them, ‘Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the LORD?’ But the people thirsted there for water; and they grumbled against Moses and said, ‘Why, now, have you brought us up from Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?’ So Moses cried out to the LORD, saying, ‘What shall I do to this people? A little more and they will stone me.’ Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Pass before the people and take with you some of the elders of Israel; and take in your hand your staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink.’ And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel. He named the place Massah and Meribah because of the quarrel of the sons of Israel, and because they tested the LORD, saying, ‘Is the LORD among us, or not?’” (Exodus 17:1-7).

Finally, with the incomprehensible question looming as to whether the Lord was among Israel, He allowed for yet another example of His love for His people as the dreaded Amalekites (1 Samuel 15:2-3) threatened to destroy them militarily. Given the precise instructions on how Moses was to station himself on the top of the hill, with his hands and staff extended to prevail over the warring Amalekites, his personal need to have assistance from Aaron and Hur was noted, as faithful Joshua led the counterattack:

“Then Amalek came and fought against Israel at Rephidim. So Moses said to Joshua, ‘Choose men for us and go out, fight against Amalek. Tomorrow I will station myself on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.’ Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought against Amalek; and Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. So it came about when Moses held his hand up, that Israel prevailed, and when he let his hand down, Amalek prevailed. But Moses’ hands were heavy. Then they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it; and Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side and one on the other. Thus his hands were steady until the sun set. So Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword. Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Write this in a book as a memorial and recite it to Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.’ Moses built an altar and named it The LORD is My Banner; and he said, ‘The LORD has sworn; the LORD will have war against Amalek from generation to generation’” (Exodus 17:8-16).

It is here in these concluding remarks, that a key, identifying title for the Holy One is mentioned. ADONAI nissi reminded not only the Israelites then—but Messiah followers today—that He is indeed a powerful banner of victory over His own people. Furthermore is the reminder that the descendants of Esau, through Amalek’s line (Genesis 36:12), would be perpetually at war with the saints down through the generations, despite the command to eliminate them given in this memorial account.

As our Torah reading closes, there is a stark reminder that the Almighty has and will continue to use tests to challenge the faith and perseverance of those who have ostensibly been freed from the bondage of sin, but may still be struggling with the inclinations of the flesh. May each of us learn from what we have read, and by faith be able to overcome the trials and tests of life, in order to accomplish all of the good works that the Father has foreordained for each and everyone of His chosen children.

Introducing the Biblical Appointments – January 2018 OIM News


Update

January 2018

For a variety of reasons, the joyful anticipation for wonderful things to continue in the coming year is riding high! In fact, one way to view the year 2018, from an ancient perspective, is how the Hebrew word chai or life in gematria adds up to the number 18. And if the number two can represent a double blessing, then 2018 has the potential to be an awesome year for those pursuing the Holy One of Israel. Twenty Chai! Mazel Tov!

Later this year, the worldwide Jewish community and many Believers in Israel’s Messiah all over the world will celebrate and recognize the seventieth anniversary of the reconstitution and independence of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948, which just happens to be the 5th of Iyar in the Hebrew year of 5708. Now this year on April 19, Yom HaAtzmaut (Independence Day) will be in the Hebrew year 5778. In addition, Independence Day immediately follows Yom HaZikaron, Memorial Day in remembrance of Israelis lost to defend their country, commemorated on the 4th of Iyar or April 18th this year.

Biblically speaking, there has always been some special significance to the number seventy or ten times seven. In the Torah, it was the seventy elders who were allowed to approach the Holy One and witness His presence on pavement of sapphire, after the blood anointing of the covenant:

“Then Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins and the other half he poured out against the altar. He took the Scroll of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. Again they said, ‘All that ADONAI has spoken, we will do and obey.’ Then Moses took the blood, sprinkled it on the people, and said, ‘Behold the blood of the covenant, which ADONAI has cut with you, in agreement with all these words.’ Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up. They saw the God of Israel, and under His feet was something like a pavement of sapphire, as clear as the very heavens” (Exodus 24:6-10, TLV).

In addition, seventy elders received the same Spirit given to Moses, in order to minister through prophecy to the people of Israel:

“So Moses went out and told the people ADONAI’s words. He gathered 70 of the elders of the people and had them stand around the Tent. ADONAI descended in the cloud and spoke with him. He took some of the Ruach that was on him and placed it on each of the 70 elders. It so happened that when the Ruach first rested on them, they prophesied—but never again” (Numbers 11:24-25, TLV).

Frequently in Jewish and Rabbinical thought, it is concluded that the number of nations created by the Almighty correspond to the seventy people who migrated with Jacob down to Egypt. The sons of Jacob offered sacrifices atonement by the seventy shekels (Numbers 7):

“Your fathers went down to Egypt with 70 persons, and now ADONAI your God has made you like the stars of the heavens in number” (Deuteronomy 10:22, TLV).

Moving through time, one remembers Jeremiah’s prophecy about the seventy year punishment of the Southern Kingdom, for not observing the Sabbath rest after settling in the Promised Land. But Jeremiah also gives an excellent word that foreshadows the blessings which come with the restoration of Israel to the territory promised to Abraham and his descendants:

“For thus says ADONAI: ‘After 70 years for Babylon are complete, I will visit you, and fulfill My good word toward you—to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans that I have in mind for you,’ declares ADONAI, ‘plans for shalom and not calamity—to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call on Me, and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me, when you will search for Me with all your heart’” (Jeremiah 29:10-13, TLV).

A parallel prophecy is found in Zechariah 1, which further describes the Holy One’s inherent love for Jerusalem and Zion, and that in His time, the restoration of Israel will be completed:

“Then the angel of ADONAI answered and said, ADONAI-Tzva’ot, how long will You withhold compassion on Jerusalem and on the cities of Judah with whom You have been angry for 70 years?’ ADONAI answered the angel who was speaking to me with pleasant, comforting words. Then the angel speaking to me said, ‘Cry out saying, thus says ADONAI-Tzva’ot, ‘I am exceedingly zealous for Jerusalem and for Zion and I am infuriated with the haughty nations. I was a little angry with them, but they furthered their own calamity.’ ‘Therefore,’ thus says ADONAI, ‘I will return to Jerusalem with compassion. My House will be built there,’ declares ADONAI-Tzva’ot ‘and a measuring line will be stretched out over Jerusalem.’ Again cry out, saying, thus says ADONAI-Tzva’ot, ‘My cities will again overflow with prosperity and ADONAI will again comfort Zion and will again choose Jerusalem’” (Zechariah 1:12-17, TLV).

Finally in Apostolic era, the Messiah Yeshua Himself chooses seventy people to go two by two to proclaim the good news. With the warnings about potential challenges, the good report was that as the laborers went forth via the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the power of the gospel of the Kingdom ruled over those who demonically opposed the declarations:

“Now after these things, the Lord assigned seventy others and sent them out by twos before Him into every town and place where He Himself was about to go. And He was telling them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore, beg the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest. Go forth! Look, I am sending you as lambs in the midst of wolves’…Then the seventy returned with joy, saying, ‘Master, even the demons submit to us in Your name!’” (Luke 10:1-3, 17, TLV).

Therefore in this seventieth anniversary year of the rebirth of Israel, it is my prayer that many laborers will be inspired to go forth and faithfully proclaim the good news of eternal life provided by the atoning death of Yeshua. In so doing, as the harvest of souls abounds, may a revival of youth break forth around the world this year of life (chai), as it did fifty years ago following the liberation and recapture of Jerusalem on June 7, 1967 during Six Day War. In so doing, may we all witness the Lord’s power once again, as His love goes forth from Zion to the nations of the world:

ADONAI will extend your mighty rod from Zion: ‘Rule in the midst of your enemies.’ Your people will be a freewill offering in a day of your power. In holy splendors, from dawn’s womb, yours is the dew of your youth” (Psalm 110:2-3, TLV).

We want to especially thank those of you who have faithfully supported our efforts over the years! We continue to need your financial support in order to dedicate the time and energy required to continue in the work that the Lord has assigned us. We particularly need many of you to sign up for a regular monthly contribution via PayPal at www.outreachisrael.net.

Blessings in 2018,

Mark Huey


TOWARD 2020

We are two years away from 2020, and with it the third decade of the Twenty-First Century. I can vividly recall just a mere nine years ago, as 2010 was approaching, how I believed that the second decade of the Twenty-First Century was going to be a substantial period of change and development for our emerging Messianic movement. What issues and topics which had seldom been discussed, were now going to come into the open? What things would take place, which would be positively used by the Lord to help us become a Messianic force for righteousness and good in the Earth?

Have some good things taken place in the 2010s? Absolutely. For myself, I have a more focused life of ministry service than I once did. The ease of technology has enabled me to work at a much faster pace, and reach a diverse number of people with important messages more efficiently. I get to multi-task with multiple computers in my office: one for writing and one for editing audio and video. I have a nice routine throughout the week that gives my life structure, and family and friends whom I love, and who lift me up when I have personal distresses and concerns.

I think for some of us, 2017 has closed with a mixture of feelings. For a number of you 2017 was a very good year. While the American political scene is starkly divided, the president you want is in the White House, the economy is turning around, and certainly the religious freedoms of Believers are in tact. For some of you, 2017 was a year you would like to forget. Traumas and hardships are a part of human life. We learn from them, but we always like to be as far away from them as possible. For me, 2017 was a mixture of good things, not so good things, unexpected things, and even a few surprises.

There were some ministry projects that I set out to complete in 2017, which were completed. The massive volume Salvation on the Line, Volume I was released, covering passages in the Gospels and Acts, addressing the Divinity of Yeshua. Salvation on the Line, Volume II, covering the rest of the Divinity passages in the Apostolic Scriptures, was completed at the end of the year, now in post-production. Originally unforeseen was the release of The New Testament Validates Torah MAXIMUM EDITION, transplanting many things from our Practical Messianic commentary series. Planned, but doubtlessly accelerated, was the release of the Messianic Apologetics app for iPhone and Android.

The biggest thing which was completely unexpected for me, was the crash experienced on messianicapologetics.net at the end of July, and the subsequent upgrade and reconstruction of the Messianic Apologetics website. This involved not only reintegration of critical material, but me making significant efforts of seeing that a number of Bible studies from the 2000s were re-recorded, that most of our articles and FAQ entries now have associated audio podcasts, and that we indeed take advantage of new podcast channels on iTunes and Google Play. As 2017 closed, Messianic Apologetics launched a new podcast routine, which each day touching on a particular theme:

Monday: the Nature of Yeshua
Tuesday: The New Testament Validates Torah MAXIMUM EDITION
Wednesday: video podcast or blog or new FAQ entry
Thursday: Kosher
Friday: Sabbath or Biblical Holidays

2018 does bring with it a number of new writing projects, some of which have been on the table for a while. These include After the Afterlife which will deal with the future resurrection, the reflective commentary Bible Messages for the Practical Messianic, and progress needing to be made on the Messianic Circumcision Helper, among others. Since being given the primary responsibility for Outreach Israel News in 2017, I have been writing articles to later be used in a workbook called The Messianic Walk. Unlike our ministry’s original workbook Hebraic Roots: An Introductory Study, which was mainly produced for small non-Jewish groups investigating the Messianic movement—The Messianic Walk is going to be a direct result of me teaching the New Foundations-New Members class at my local congregation. It will be dealing with the Messianic mission of Jewish outreach, evangelism, Israel solidarity, and the unique dimensions present when Jewish and non-Jewish Believers come together in congregational settings.

Outreach Israel Ministries and Messianic Apologetics have an important job to do in this hour! While we are very economical and do many things ourselves, we still have many legitimate expenses and financial needs. This 2018, we need many of you to step up and to join with us as regular, monthly contributors. Your modest, monthly donation of $50 or $100, is used very wisely and reasonably. It certainly equips us to continue the daily and weekly tasks of providing sound teaching to the people of today’s Messianic community!

J.K. McKee,
editor Messianic Apologetics


Introducing the Biblical Appointments

by J.K. McKee

Why are holidays important?[1] A holiday, as we call it in English, is defined by The American Heritage Dictionary as “A day on which custom or the law dictates a halt to ordinary business to commemorate or celebrate a particular event.” Another definition is very simply, “A holy day,” meaning a day set aside to remember something religious.[2] The holidays that we find in the Holy Scriptures give us a great opportunity as Believers to commemorate Biblical history and the work of our Messiah.

In the opening verses of Leviticus 23, we are told, “The LORD spoke again to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, “the LORD’s appointed times which you shall proclaim as holy convocations—My appointed times are these”’” (vs. 1-2, NASU). The Hebrew word for “appointed time” or “appointed festival” (ATS) is moed, and its plural form is moedim. It has a variety of meanings, including: “appointed time, place, meeting,” and “sacred season,” “set feast,” or “appointed season” (BDB).[3] It is to be a special time between God’s people and Him. The ArtScroll Chumash tells us,

“…Moadim are the days which stand out from the other days of the year. They summon us from our everyday life to halt and to dedicate all our spiritual activities to them….The Moadim interrupt the ordinary activities of our life and give us the spirit, power, and consecration for the future by revivifying those ideals upon which our whole life is based, or they eradicate such evil consequences of past activity as are deadly to body and spirit and thus restore us to lost purity and the hope of blessing.”[4]

It is important that the “Tent of Meeting,” where Moses and Aaron and the elders of Israel met the Lord in the wilderness, is called the ohel moed. It could be understood as the “Tent of Appointment.” Numbers 20:6 says, “Then Moses and Aaron came in from the presence of the assembly to the doorway of the tent of meeting and fell on their faces. Then the glory of the Lord appeared to them.” Using this as a frame of reference, if we truly want the glory of God to appear before us, then the importance of meeting Him when He wants cannot be overstated.

The term for “convocation” (Leviticus 23:1-2), also often used to describe the appointed times, is the Hebrew miqra. It specifically means “convocation, convoking, reading,” in reference to a “religious gathering on Sabbath and certain sacred days” (BDB).[5] It is derived from the verb qara, to “call, cry, utter a loud sound,” “make proclamation,” and “summon” (BDB).[6] The appointed times call us together to rejoice in the Lord, focusing on Him, and make mention to one another of the work that He has done for us.

Many Messianic Believers, especially those who place a high prophetic emphasis on the pattern of the Biblical appointments, define the festivals of the Lord as rehearsals. Certainly, when we celebrate the Biblical holidays we not only remember the historical events in the life of Ancient Israel such as the Passover and Exodus, or the giving of the Ten Commandments, but we also recognize the prophetic fulfillment, both past and future, of Messiah Yeshua in them (Colossians 2:17). We essentially “rehearse” what is to come, in preparation for the Messiah’s return, and we learn important lessons about God’s ongoing plan of salvation history.

Another Hebrew term that is often used in Scripture to describe the Biblical feasts is chag, which AMG defines as “a feast, a festival.”[7] It is derived from the verb chagag, “to hold a feast, a pilgrim feast, to celebrate a holy day…It is usually used in the context of rejoicing and describes festive attitudes and actions, often while on the way to worship or when celebrating a feast.”[8] One of the clear elements of the appointed times is celebration. The moedim are to be times of great rejoicing in the Lord.

The Biblical holidays as outlined in Leviticus 23 may be divided up into three general seasons: Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. Thus, when someone refers to Passover, he or she may not just be referring to Passover, but also the Festival of Unleavened Bread that occurs immediately thereafter. The listing below provides a brief reference of each of the Biblical holidays in Leviticus 23, and various extra-Torah and extra-Biblical celebrations that are beneficial and edifying to the Body of Messiah.

The Sabbath

Shabbat: Shabbat is the first appointed time given, although there are those who do not reckon it among the moedim, instead considering it to be its own unique institution.

Shabbat (or Shabbos in the Ashkenazic pronunciation) is the seventh-day Sabbath. Remembering the Sabbath is considered to be a sign of holiness (Exodus 31:16), where no work is conducted. The institution of the Sabbath is inclusive to all strata of society, including animals (Exodus 20:8-11), and welcomes in strangers and foreigners from outside the community of Israel (Isaiah 56:6-7). Shabbat is regarded as a memorial of both the Creation (Genesis 2:3) as well as the Exodus (Deuteronomy 5:15). Shabbat is a time where there is to be no buying or selling (Nehemiah 13:15), kindling of a fire (Exodus 35:3)—but most especially be a time of delighting in the Lord (Isaiah 58:13-14).

Yeshua the Messiah said that “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27, NRSV), indicating how its rest is open for all people. However, as Lord of the Sabbath (Matthew 12:7-8), rather than Shabbat being legalistically burdensome through undue regulations, Yeshua emphasized that performing acts of goodness were permitted on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:1-5, 9-11; Luke 13:15).

The weekly Sabbath is a holy convocation (Leviticus 23:3), and by Second Temple times was often focused around synagogue worship and study. Shabbat is to be a weekly outward sign that is to distinguish God’s people as they rest from all their work sundown Friday evening to sundown Saturday evening. Messianic congregations usually hold their weekly worship and teaching services on either Friday evening or Saturday morning, often attended with either a fellowship meal (or oneg) and other activities. The Sabbath is often closed with a traditional service known as Havdalah, preparing those who kept it for the next working week. Shabbat will be observed by the entire world in the future Millennium (Isaiah 66:23).

The Spring Holidays

Pesach: Pesach or Passover commemorates God’s deliverance of the Ancient Israelites from slavery and His subsequent judgment on the Egyptians (Leviticus 23:5-8). The prime element of Passover is the lamb (Exodus 12:3, 6-7), and how the blood of the lamb protected the Israelites from the death of the firstborn (Exodus 12:12-13, 29-33). The account of the Passover and Ancient Israel’s deliverance from Egyptian servitude, is a theme which is carried on throughout the Holy Scriptures

Customary observance of the Passover in Jewish tradition extending back to Second Temple times focuses one’s attention on the seder meal, a time of retelling the Passover story in the home, by incorporating the elements of unleavened bread, green herbs, bitter herbs, and charoset. Those involved in the seder will follow an haggadah, a basic order of service, which incorporates four cups of wine. The seder plate will be the centerpiece of the Passover evening, where the different elements of the meal will be represented. Throughout the seder meal, green herbs will be dipped into saltwater, remembering the bitterness of Israel’s slavery, charoset represents the mortar used by the slaves to build for the Egyptians, and unleavened bread reminds one of the hasty departure the Israelites had to make from Egypt.

For Believers in Israel’s Messiah, Yeshua, He is the Passover Lamb who was sacrificed for our sins (1 Corinthians 5:7; John 1:29). Passover and the Exodus story are vital to the understanding of one’s salvation! Yeshua’s sacrifice at Golgotha (Calvary) as our Passover Lamb, delivers us from slavery to sin and into eternal life in Him. Yeshua’s Last Supper held with His Disciples (Matthew 26:17-35; Mark 14:1-31; Luke 22:1-23; John 13:1-20), was actually a Passover seder meal. The plagues issued by the God of Israel upon Egypt, not only serve as clear indicators of the judgments of the One True God over the false gods of Egypt—but also speak to the judgments of the Book of Revelation. The Pharaoh of Egypt, is certainly representative of the future antimessiah/antichrist.

Chag HaMatzah: Chag HaMatzah is the Festival of Unleavened Bread (Leviticus 23:5-6). It occurs for one week following Passover, in remembrance of the Ancient Israelites leaving Egypt and having to eat matzah or unleavened bread, the bread of haste (Exodus 12:39). Items without leavening or yeast are to be eaten during this time. Since matzah is without leaven, for Believers in Yeshua it represents His sinless nature for us and how we must remove the sin from our lives (1 Corinthians 5:8; Galatians 5:9). Since Unleavened Bread occurs in conjunction with Passover, it is often not distinguished as a separate holiday (see Scripture references for Pesach).

Shavuot: Shavuot (or Shavuos in the Ashkenazic pronunciation) or the Feast of Weeks is more commonly called Pentecost, a Greek-derived name meaning “fiftieth” (Grk. pentēkostē). The Feast of Weeks was originally established as an agricultural festival where the first of the wheat harvest would be presented to God as an offering (Leviticus 23:15-21). Shavuot is also the time when it is traditionally believed that the Torah was given to Moses on Mount Sinai. Following the giving of the Torah, the Ancient Israelites worshipped the golden calf and Moses destroyed the two tablets of the Ten Commandments (cf. Exodus 19-33). Shavuot or Pentecost is the traditional time when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Believers at the Upper Room in Jerusalem following Yeshua’s ascension into Heaven (Acts 2:1-4). Messianic people can often associate Shavuot with the formal giving of the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:25-27), concurrent with the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai 1,300 (or 1,500) years earlier.

The Fall Holidays

Yom Teruah: Yom Teruah is the Day of Blowing, as specified in the Torah (Leviticus 23:23-25). It is remembered as Rosh HaShanah or the Civil New Year in Judaism today, although it is hardly remembered as a January 1 new year. Yom Teruah or Rosh HaShanah was established to be a holy convocation celebrated by the blowing of trumpets, and involves special blowings of the shofar or ram’s horn. This convocation is intended to prepare the people for the ten Days of Awe before Yom Kippur, where unresolved conflicts between others in the community are repented of. Rosh HaShanah has special significance to us as Believers in the Messiah as we will be caught up in the air to meet Him at the blast of the trumpet at His Second Coming (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:51-52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).

Yom Kippur: Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 23:26-32). In the past, this was the only time when the high priest was permitted to enter into the Holy of Holies and spread the sacrificial blood upon the Ark of the Covenant (Leviticus 16:2; cf. Hebrews 9:3-5). The releasing of the scapegoat is also featured prominently on Yom Kippur (Leviticus 16:5-9, 10, 21-22). On the Day of Atonement we are commanded to afflict ourselves by fasting (cf. Acts 27:9), and reflect on our sin. Within the Messianic community, while the final atonement for sin has been offered by Yeshua the Messiah, Yom Kippur is still a time of prayer and intercession, resolving corporate conflicts and sins, and entreating for the salvation of the Jewish people and the world. Yom Kippur has special prophetic significance to us who know Yeshua, because it is likely that a future Yom Kippur will be when the Day of the Lord occurs, when His judgment is poured out upon humanity at the Battle of Armageddon.

Sukkot: Sukkot (or Succos in the Ashkenazic pronunciation) is the Feast of Tabernacles, also called the Feast of Booths. The Israelites were to dwell in a temporary house known as a sukkah, or a hut covered by leafy branches for seven days (Leviticus 23:33-44; Numbers 29:12). The Feast of Tabernacles commemorates the Ancient Israelites’ journey in the wilderness and how God wanted earnestly to tabernacle or dwell with them. It involves the waving of branches (Leviticus 23:40), and is to be a family affair (Deuteronomy 16). Many think that the American holiday of Thanksgiving has its roots in the Feast of Tabernacles. Sukkot is also a likely time when Yeshua the Messiah was born (John 1:14), and it will be celebrated by all after His return. Tabernacles will be a critical holiday for all the nations to celebrate during the Millennium (Zechariah 14:1-21).

Shemini Atzeret: Shemini Atzeret (or Shemini Atzeres in the Ashkenazic pronunciation) or the Eighth Day of Assembly is often overlooked as its own separate holiday, coming after the seven days of Sukkot (Leviticus 23:36b-37a). Shemini Atzeret represents the desire of our Heavenly Father to stay with us for one more day, as we reflect back on the tabernacling during Sukkot. It symbolizes how we will live with Him forever in the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:3-4).

Other Holidays In and Out of the Bible

Chanukah: Chanukah (or Channukah, Hanukah, Hanukkah, etc.) or the Feast of Dedication is an eight day holiday commemorating the work of the Maccabees and their defeat over the Syrian Greeks in 165 B.C.E. The Syrian Greeks or Seluecids had conquered the Land of Israel and desecrated the Temple (cf. Daniel 8:21-25), sacrificing a pig and erecting an altar to the god Zeus in it. It was illegal on the threat of death for the Jewish people to circumcise their sons, observe the Sabbath, observe the Torah-prescribed festivals, and eat kosher food. The Syrian Greeks promoted forced assimilation of the Jewish people to Hellenistic paganism. Chanukah celebrates how the Maccabean resistance fought off the Seleucids, restoring Jewish independence, and how the Temple was rededicated (1&2 Maccabees in the Apocrypha). There was only enough consecrated oil to light the candelabra or menorah in the Temple for one day, but instead it lasted for eight days (b.Shabbat 12a in the Talmud). Yeshua the Messiah is witnessed to remember Chanukah, most often appearing in English Bibles as “the Feast of the Dedication” (John 10:22, NASU).

Purim: Purim or the Feast of Lots commemorates the story of Esther, the events of which occur after the Persian Empire conquers the Babylonian Empire, which has a large population of Jews dispersed from the Land of Israel. Purim celebrates the defeat of the evil Haman, who had planned to kill all the Jews, and how God’s sovereignty and protecting hand prevailed through the Jewess Esther, wife of the Persian emperor, and her cousin Mordechai. The name Purim comes from the pur or lot that was to be cast to determine when the mass executions were to take place (Esther 3:13). Frequently in the Jewish community, Purim is a time when a customary retelling of the story of Esther is delivered in dramatic form, a tradition which is carried out to various degrees in the Messianic movement as well.

Tishah b’Av: Tishah b’Av or the Ninth of Av is an extra-Biblical fast day when the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem is remembered. Historically, the Ninth of Av has also been a day when terrible, tragic events have occurred to the Jewish people, such as their eviction from Spain in 1492. It has been a time to remember the past and terrible events like the Crusades or the Holocaust.

Simchat Torah: Simchat Torah (or Simchas Torah) or Joy of the Torah occurs on the same day as Shemini Atzeret. It was added by the Jewish Rabbis to celebrate the ending of the reading of the yearly Torah cycle, and to rejoice in the forthcoming reading of the next Torah cycle.

Modern-Day Israeli Holidays

Yom HaShoah: Yom HaShoah or Holocaust Memorial Day is when the 6 million Jews who died in the Holocaust are formally remembered. It specifically commemorates the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto uprising.

Yom HaZikaron: Yom HaZikaron or Israel’s Remembrance Day commemorates the war heroes of the State of Israel, those who have fought and died for the preservation of the Jewish people and the Jewish state.

Yom HaAtzmaut: Yom HaAtzmaut is Israel Independence Day when the State of Israel was established as an independent country in 1948. The Zionist cause and early pioneers of the State of Israel are remembered, as are those who have fought and died to maintain Israel’s freedom and independence.

Yom Yerushalayim: Yom Yerushalayim or Jerusalem Day commemorates the recapturing of the Old City of Jerusalem in the 1967 Six Day War.


NOTES

[1] This has been adapted from a previous edition, appearing in J.K. McKee, Introduction to Things Messianic (Kissimmee, FL: TNN Press, 2009).

[2] William Morris, ed., The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (New York: American Heritage Publishing, 1969), 628.

[3] Francis Brown, S.R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs, Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1979), 417.

[4] Nosson Scherman, ed., et. al., The ArtScroll Chumash, Stone Edition, 5th ed. (Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, 2000), 682.

[5] BDB, 896.

[6] Ibid., 895.

[7] Warren Baker and Eugene Carpenter, eds., The Complete Word Study Dictionary: Old Testament (Chattanooga: AMG Publishers, 2003), 312.

[8] Ibid., 313.

Bo

Bo

Go

Exodus 10:1-13:16
Jeremiah 46:13-28

“Faithful Physical Actions Depict Spiritual Realities”


by Mark Huey

Our Torah reading for this week, Bo, turns to describing the Lord’s final three judgments upon the Egyptians. We find that there are some foundational spiritual themes for the Ancient Israelites to not only understand, but most importantly, incorporate into their interactions with God, or we might say, their walk of faith. For beyond any doubt, the overall premise communicated in Bo is Israel’s deliverance from physical bondage as slaves in Egypt, which in many regards symbolizes and foreshadows the ultimate deliverance of humanity from Adam’s fallen nature, by true saving belief in the atoning blood of Yeshua the Messiah (Romans 5; 1 Corinthians 15:22, 45). But while considering this critical need in order to inherit eternal life (Galatians 6:20-23), our Torah portion also reveals some additional spiritual realities and principles for living a life by faith (Hebrews 11:6), which as we consider and survey the Torah, and indeed the Bible as a whole, include:

  1. God may, for a season, regard the sincere supplications of those who eventually forsake Him
  2. God gives light and revelation to His chosen people, even in the midst of utter darkness
  3. God honors those who honor Him
  4. Imagined faith without works is worthless
  5. The redemption of the firstborn
  6. The critical need to pass various “signs” to future generations
  7. The reality that deliverance from sin and salvation is provided to all humanity, regardless of family heritage

Of course, it is to be understood that the Lord did choose a specific individual, Abraham (Genesis 18:19), and the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Exodus 19:5-6), to perhaps not only be a “laboratory experiment,” as it were, among the rest of humanity—but most critically, to take knowledge of Himself and the light of salvation, the very essence of what would be revealed to them, to the other nations of the world (Isaiah 42:6; 49:6). This is something which we know today has ultimately culminated via the arrival of Yeshua on the scene of history. So with this goal in mind, Israel must endure, record, and persevere for posterity’s sake (Romans 3:2)—a wide range of both positive and negative interactions with the world system, both physical and spiritual, as it was created. As the final three plagues are cast upon Egypt in this week’s reading, resulting in physical freedom from slavery, Messiah followers should all recognize that even the initial liberation from being born from above (John 3:16), is just a starting point on a lifelong journey. God’s people are to learn more and more about Him, and become closer and closer to Him, as His righteousness becomes a true reality in their lives.

As we turn to our Torah reading, with the plague of locusts falling upon Egypt, one finds that the judgment was so extreme that it literally covered the whole land of Egypt. But curiously, because the Lord is inherently a compassionate and merciful God (Exodus 34:6-7)—when Pharaoh confessed his fault to Moses and Aaron, there was a brief relenting of the judgment, and the locusts were driven into the Red Sea:

“So Moses stretched out his staff over the land of Egypt, and the LORD directed an east wind on the land all that day and all that night; and when it was morning, the east wind brought the locusts. The locusts came up over all the land of Egypt and settled in all the territory of Egypt; they were very numerous. There had never been so many locusts, nor would there be so many again. For they covered the surface of the whole land, so that the land was darkened; and they ate every plant of the land and all the fruit of the trees that the hail had left. Thus nothing green was left on tree or plant of the field through all the land of Egypt. Then Pharaoh hurriedly called for Moses and Aaron, and he said, ‘I have sinned against the LORD your God and against you. Now therefore, please forgive my sin only this once, and make supplication to the LORD your God, that He would only remove this death from me.’ He went out from Pharaoh and made supplication to the LORD. So the LORD shifted the wind to a very strong west wind which took up the locusts and drove them into the Red Sea; not one locust was left in all the territory of Egypt. But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not let the sons of Israel go” (Exodus 10:13-20).

Although the continual hardening of the heart of Pharaoh resulted in the next two judgments, the fact that there was a respite from the locusts, could be reminiscent of a later scene in Scripture. The idol-worshipping people of Nineveh were forewarned by Jonah about their imminent judgment, and because of their appeal to God, the judgment was delayed:

“Then the people of Nineveh believed in God; and they called a fast and put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least of them. When the word reached the king of Nineveh, he arose from his throne, laid aside his robe from him, covered himself with sackcloth and sat on the ashes. He issued a proclamation and it said, ‘In Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let man, beast, herd, or flock taste a thing. Do not let them eat or drink water. But both man and beast must be covered with sackcloth; and let men call on God earnestly that each may turn from his wicked way and from the violence which is in his hands. Who knows, God may turn and relent and withdraw His burning anger so that we will not perish.’ When God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them. And He did not do it (Jonah 3:5-10).

Nineveh’s seemingly universal appeal to God in sackcloth and fasting, forestalled the judgment, albeit for just a period of time until it did finally fall (Nahum 2:6-11). Nevertheless, the principle that the Lord will even listen to the pleas of the ungodly for mercy, reveals His heart toward all of humanity, as it is His stated desire that no one should perish (2 Peter 3:9).

The penultimate judgment issued upon Ancient Egypt, was almost tangible, thick darkness, which undoubtedly brought great fear to the inhabitants of the region. Yet it is noted that even during this terrifying, three-day long judgment, that in the dwellings of the Israelites, there was still some light:

“Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Stretch out your hand toward the sky, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, even a darkness which may be felt.’ So Moses stretched out his hand toward the sky, and there was thick darkness in all the land of Egypt for three days. They did not see one another, nor did anyone rise from his place for three days, but all the sons of Israel had light in their dwellings. Then Pharaoh called to Moses, and said, ‘Go, serve the LORD; only let your flocks and your herds be detained. Even your little ones may go with you.’ But Moses said, ‘You must also let us have sacrifices and burnt offerings, that we may sacrifice them to the LORD our God. Therefore, our livestock too shall go with us; not a hoof shall be left behind, for we shall take some of them to serve the LORD our God. And until we arrive there, we ourselves do not know with what we shall serve the LORD.’ But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he was not willing to let them go. Then Pharaoh said to him, ‘Get away from me! Beware, do not see my face again, for in the day you see my face you shall die!’ Moses said, ‘You are right; I shall never see your face again!’” (Exodus 10:21-29).

The fact that the Israelites were preserved with light, in the midst of the darkness—should serve to establish the spiritual principle that God’s people residing in every wicked and perverted generation since, are to walk as children of the Light, because of the spiritual insight and blessings bestowed upon them. The Apostle Paul stated this responsibility in categorical terms:

“Therefore do not be partakers with them; for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret. But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light” (Ephesians 5:7-13).

When properly understood that in due time, everything will be exposed to the light of the truth, followers of the Messiah should innately have a holy fear of the Almighty, which should result in a sincere desire to walk in a way that is pleasing to Him.

Despite the abhorrence of many of the Egyptians to even share bread with the Israelites—as indicated several centuries earlier during Joseph’s lifetime (Genesis 43:32)—the Lord actually gave them favor in the sight of the Egyptians, even to the point of eventually receiving items of gold and silver upon their departure (Exodus 12:35-36). Here it is noted that even Moses delivering the harsh words of judgment from the Lord was greatly esteemed:

“The LORD gave the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians. Furthermore, the man Moses himself was greatly esteemed in the land of Egypt, both in the sight of Pharaoh’s servants and in the sight of the people. Moses said, ‘Thus says the LORD, “About midnight I am going out into the midst of Egypt, and all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of the Pharaoh who sits on his throne, even to the firstborn of the slave girl who is behind the millstones; all the firstborn of the cattle as well. Moreover, there shall be a great cry in all the land of Egypt, such as there has not been before and such as shall never be again”’” (Exodus 11:3-6).

Another spiritual principle can be discerned here, in how followers of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will often receive favor from the godless people of the world—because despite, perhaps, innate abhorrence with Believers’ solemn faith in God, their behavior before the Holy One and His blessings are evident and often respected. This principle is noted in the Book of Proverbs, and given even more credence in Paul’s letter to the Romans:

“When a man’s ways are pleasing to the LORD, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him” (Proverbs 16:7).

“Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men” (Romans 12:17-18).

The critical need to faithfully follow the instructions of the Lord is addressed, as the requirements for avoiding the death of the firstborn are described. It is critical to note that the Lord had some very specific things that the Ancient Israelites had to complete, in order to receive protection from the angel of death, which was soon to descend upon the environs around Egypt. After following the procedures for inspecting a chosen lamb for the sacrifice, and taking the required days to search for any blemishes—it was imperative that the blood of the lamb be put on the doorposts and lintels of each residence of Israel:

“Now the LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, ‘This month shall be the beginning of months for you; it is to be the first month of the year to you. Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying, “On the tenth of this month they are each one to take a lamb for themselves, according to their fathers’ households, a lamb for each household. Now if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his neighbor nearest to his house are to take one according to the number of persons in them; according to what each man should eat, you are to divide the lamb. Your lamb shall be an unblemished male a year old; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month, then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel is to kill it at twilight. Moreover, they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. They shall eat the flesh that same night, roasted with fire, and they shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Do not eat any of it raw or boiled at all with water, but rather roasted with fire, both its head and its legs along with its entrails. And you shall not leave any of it over until morning, but whatever is left of it until morning, you shall burn with fire. Now you shall eat it in this manner: with your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste—it is the LORD’s Passover”’” (Exodus 12:1-11).

This explicit method, for avoiding the judgment of death, had to be done without reservation. This would illustrate and foreshadow the ultimate requirement: that every human being needs to faithfully receive and apply the blood of the Lamb of God, Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus the Messiah), upon the doorposts and lintels of a believing heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26-27).

The next spiritual principle is the requirement of the Israelites, to understand that the redeeming blood on their houses, was to serve as a sign to them—and to the Ancient Egyptians and the world at large—of the God in whom they were placing their trust. The Lord gave Israel a description of two annual appointed times, Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which were to be permanent observances throughout the generations:

“For I will go through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments—I am the LORD. The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live; and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt. Now this day will be a memorial to you, and you shall celebrate it as a feast to the LORD; throughout your generations you are to celebrate it as a permanent ordinance. Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, but on the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses; for whoever eats anything leavened from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel. On the first day you shall have a holy assembly, and another holy assembly on the seventh day; no work at all shall be done on them, except what must be eaten by every person, that alone may be prepared by you. You shall also observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this very day I brought your hosts out of the land of Egypt; therefore you shall observe this day throughout your generations as a permanent ordinance. In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at evening, you shall eat unleavened bread, until the twenty-first day of the month at evening. Seven days there shall be no leaven found in your houses; for whoever eats what is leavened, that person shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he is an alien or a native of the land. You shall not eat anything leavened; in all your dwellings you shall eat unleavened bread” (Exodus 12:12-20).

A critical role of Israel was to preserve the revelation received, so that future generations would be able to persevere, in order to fulfill God’s mission and purpose:

“And you shall observe this event as an ordinance for you and your children forever. When you enter the land which the LORD will give you, as He has promised, you shall observe this rite. And when your children say to you, ‘What does this rite mean to you?’ you shall say, ‘It is a Passover sacrifice to the Lord who passed over the houses of the sons of Israel in Egypt when He smote the Egyptians, but spared our homes.’ And the people bowed low and worshiped. Then the sons of Israel went and did so; just as the LORD had commanded Moses and Aaron, so they did” (Exodus 12:24-28).

Understanding that the Lord passed over the houses of the Israelites was, and is critical to note, for every generation—therefore memorializing how it is essential for instilling a holy and worshipful attitude toward the Almighty. But as noted, this final horrific judgment to kill the firstborn of the Egyptians, while preserving the Israelites because of their faithful actions, even communicates how favor was continued to be bestowed upon Israel by the grieving Egyptians:

“Now it came about at midnight that the LORD struck all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of cattle. Pharaoh arose in the night, he and all his servants and all the Egyptians, and there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was no home where there was not someone dead. Then he called for Moses and Aaron at night and said, ‘Rise up, get out from among my people, both you and the sons of Israel; and go, worship the LORD, as you have said. Take both your flocks and your herds, as you have said, and go, and bless me also.’ The Egyptians urged the people, to send them out of the land in haste, for they said, ‘We will all be dead.’ So the people took their dough before it was leavened, with their kneading bowls bound up in the clothes on their shoulders. Now the sons of Israel had done according to the word of Moses, for they had requested from the Egyptians articles of silver and articles of gold, and clothing; and the LORD had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have their request. Thus they plundered the Egyptians” (Exodus 12:29-36).

It needs to be recognized how a mixed multitude of people did leave Egypt with the Israelites. Even though Israel proper was the definite recipient of God’s protection and blessing—this is not at all to disregard those from the world at large who are to be substantially impacted with His goodness and grace. As the Israelites and this multitude left Egypt, we are also reminded that God’s promise to release His people from Egyptian servitude had ended, according to His timing and purpose:

“Now the sons of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, aside from children. A mixed multitude also went up with them, along with flocks and herds, a very large number of livestock. They baked the dough which they had brought out of Egypt into cakes of unleavened bread. For it had not become leavened, since they were driven out of Egypt and could not delay, nor had they prepared any provisions for themselves. Now the time that the sons of Israel lived in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years. And at the end of four hundred and thirty years, to the very day, all the hosts of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt. It is a night to be observed for the LORD for having brought them out from the land of Egypt; this night is for the LORD, to be observed by all the sons of Israel throughout their generations” (Exodus 12:37-42).

Our Torah portion comes to a close with a reiteration of many of the principles previously stated. Repetition is a great instructor, and as Bo ends with a reminder about the killing of the firstborn males and beasts of Egypt, also included is a reminder to find means such as phylacteries (or tefillin), to keep the instructions and admonitions of the Lord at the forefront of the mind:

“On this day in the month of Abib, you are about to go forth. It shall be when the LORD brings you to the land of the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Amorite, the Hivite and the Jebusite, which He swore to your fathers to give you, a land flowing with milk and honey, that you shall observe this rite in this month. For seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a feast to the LORD. Unleavened bread shall be eaten throughout the seven days; and nothing leavened shall be seen among you, nor shall any leaven be seen among you in all your borders. You shall tell your son on that day, saying, ‘It is because of what the LORD did for me when I came out of Egypt.’ And it shall serve as a sign to you on your hand, and as a reminder on your forehead, that the law of the LORD may be in your mouth; for with a powerful hand the LORD brought you out of Egypt. Therefore, you shall keep this ordinance at its appointed time from year to year. Now when the LORD brings you to the land of the Canaanite, as He swore to you and to your fathers, and gives it to you, you shall devote to the LORD the first offspring of every womb, and the first offspring of every beast that you own; the males belong to the LORD. But every first offspring of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb, but if you do not redeem it, then you shall break its neck; and every firstborn of man among your sons you shall redeem. And it shall be when your son asks you in time to come, saying, ‘What is this?’ then you shall say to him, ‘With a powerful hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt, from the house of slavery. It came about, when Pharaoh was stubborn about letting us go, that the LORD killed every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man and the firstborn of beast. Therefore, I sacrifice to the LORD the males, the first offspring of every womb, but every firstborn of my sons I redeem.’ So it shall serve as a sign on your hand and as phylacteries on your forehead, for with a powerful hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt” (Exodus 13:4-16).

In closing, this powerful Torah portion has much to be gleaned by those seeking to please the Lord in their personal walks of faith. The spiritual principles implied by these many physical acts are to be understood on so many different levels, so that God’s people can truly fulfill their mission to the world at large.

May the Holy One endow each and every one of us to not only study in order to be approved—but by faith and with a stirred heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:25-27)—work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12), knowing that He loves us and desires that no one should perish!