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.

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!

Shemot

Shemot

Names

Exodus 1:1-6:1
Isaiah 27:6-28:13; 29:22-23 (A);
Jeremiah 1:2-3 (S)

“God’s Promises Require Faithful Deliverers”


by Mark Huey

We begin our Torah reading this week, by turning to the second book of the Pentateuch. The English title Exodus is derived from the Septuagint label of Exodos, which thematically communicates the overall message of Ancient Israel’s deliverance from, and transference out of, Egypt. The traditional Hebrew title, taken from Exodus 1:1, is Shemot, as this text begins with a listing of the Twelve Tribes of Israel that constituted the fledgling nation. However, beyond simply naming the descendant tribes of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—the theme of the entire Book of Exodus is a sure record of how God fulfilled His promise to Abram to deliver his progeny from a foreign land by judging the oppressive nation of Egypt, after a long period of exile from the Promised Land:

“Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, terror and great darkness fell upon him. God said to Abram, ‘Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years. But I will also judge the nation whom they will serve, and afterward they will come out with many possessions. As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you will be buried at a good old age. Then in the fourth generation they will return here, for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete’” (Genesis 15:12-16).

Abraham’s God was bound by His promises to restore His people to the territory He promised them. But, as is generally the case in His intervention in the affairs of humanity, He typically uses chosen individuals to accomplish His will. In our Torah reading for Shemot, the life of Moses and his initial interactions with the Almighty are described, as he was uniquely chosen to be the Lord’s instrument for leading Ancient Israel from the clutches of slavery to the Egyptian Pharaoh. Despite the magnitude of Moses’ unique accomplishments, on the Lord’s behalf, in His ongoing plan of salvation history—something that is seemingly beyond duplication—the Torah student should always recognize that God is constantly, throughout history, surveying humanity for those people who can be used for His Divine purposes. As the Psalmist informs us,

Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people whom He has chosen for His own inheritance. The LORD looks from heaven; He sees all the sons of men; from His dwelling place He looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth, He who fashions the hearts of them all, He who understands all their works. The king is not saved by a mighty army; a warrior is not delivered by great strength. A horse is a false hope for victory; nor does it deliver anyone by its great strength. Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear Him, on those who hope for His lovingkindness, to deliver their soul from death and to keep them alive in famine. Our soul waits for the LORD; He is our help and our shield. For our heart rejoices in Him, because we trust in His holy name. Let Your lovingkindness, O LORD, be upon us, according as we have hoped in You” (Psalm 33:12-22).

With this in mind, God’s pattern of choosing faithful men and women, to fulfill His promises, should inspire each of us as His children to faithfully and fearfully seek Him—knowing that in whatever capacity, large or small, He who fashions the heart has prepared good works (Ephesians 2:10) for each of us, which can serve as integral aspects of His plan for the ages. How humbling is it to know that the Creator God can use anyone He chooses? As recorded this week in Shemot, the testimony of Moses reveals a mere man who recognized that it was not him (Numbers 12:3), but rather the Holy One through him, achieving a great deliverance for His people.

As the parashah opens, naming the twelve tribal leaders, some significant time has passed since the death of Joseph—and because his influential works had been forgotten, coupled with the emergence of a blessed and fruitful Israel—the new Egyptian regime felt threatened by some of their own subjects. This led the reigning Pharaoh to impose harsher labor requirements on the Israelites, in order to keep them at bay, completing many of his construction projects:

Now these are the names of the sons of Israel who came to Egypt with Jacob; they came each one with his household: Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah; Issachar, Zebulun and Benjamin; Dan and Naphtali, Gad and Asher. All the persons who came from the loins of Jacob were seventy in number, but Joseph was already in Egypt. Joseph died, and all his brothers and all that generation. But the sons of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly, and multiplied, and became exceedingly mighty, so that the land was filled with them. Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. He said to his people, ‘Behold, the people of the sons of Israel are more and mightier than we. Come, let us deal wisely with them, or else they will multiply and in the event of war, they will also join themselves to those who hate us, and fight against us and depart from the land.’ So they appointed taskmasters over them to afflict them with hard labor. And they built for Pharaoh storage cities, Pithom and Raamses. But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and the more they spread out, so that they were in dread of the sons of Israel. The Egyptians compelled the sons of Israel to labor rigorously; and they made their lives bitter with hard labor in mortar and bricks and at all kinds of labor in the field, all their labors which they rigorously imposed on them” (Exodus 1:1-14).

Since the elders of Israel knew of the promises made by the Lord to Abraham regarding the period of oppression, which would come to a timely conclusion—rumors about the birth of a “deliverer” must have surfaced, to compel Pharaoh to put to death all of the newborn male children:

“Then the king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other was named Puah; and he said, ‘When you are helping the Hebrew women to give birth and see them upon the birthstool, if it is a son, then you shall put him to death; but if it is a daughter, then she shall live.’ But the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt had commanded them, but let the boys live. So the king of Egypt called for the midwives and said to them, ‘Why have you done this thing, and let the boys live?’ The midwives said to Pharaoh, ‘Because the Hebrew women are not as the Egyptian women; for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife can get to them.’ So God was good to the midwives, and the people multiplied, and became very mighty. Because the midwives feared God, He established households for them. Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, saying, ‘Every son who is born you are to cast into the Nile, and every daughter you are to keep alive’” (Exodus 1:15-22).

This wicked decree by the king of Egypt obviously foreshadowed what would occur centuries later, when Herod the Great ordered a similar execution of infant males prior to the birth of Yeshua the Messiah (Matthew 2:16).

Here in Shemot, it is noted that the Hebrew midwives feared God, and hence by faith, disobeyed the edict and saved the lives of many children, including a son of Levi in Moses. Significant details about the birth, rescue, adoption, naming, and eventual altercation that led to Moses’ escape to avoid death, are recorded as our Torah portion continues:

Now a man from the house of Levi went and married a daughter of Levi. The woman conceived and bore a son; and when she saw that he was beautiful, she hid him for three months. But when she could hide him no longer, she got him a wicker basket and covered it over with tar and pitch. Then she put the child into it and set it among the reeds by the bank of the Nile. His sister stood at a distance to find out what would happen to him. The daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the Nile, with her maidens walking alongside the Nile; and she saw the basket among the reeds and sent her maid, and she brought it to her. When she opened it, she saw the child, and behold, the boy was crying. And she had pity on him and said, ‘This is one of the Hebrews’ children.’ Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, ‘Shall I go and call a nurse for you from the Hebrew women that she may nurse the child for you?’ Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, ‘Go ahead.’ So the girl went and called the child’s mother. Then Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, ‘Take this child away and nurse him for me and I will give you your wages.’ So the woman took the child and nursed him. The child grew, and she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son. And she named him Moses, and said, ‘Because I drew him out of the water.’ Now it came about in those days, when Moses had grown up, that he went out to his brethren and looked on their hard labors; and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his brethren. So he looked this way and that, and when he saw there was no one around, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. He went out the next day, and behold, two Hebrews were fighting with each other; and he said to the offender, ‘Why are you striking your companion?’ But he said, ‘Who made you a prince or a judge over us? Are you intending to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?’ Then Moses was afraid and said, ‘Surely the matter has become known.’ When Pharaoh heard of this matter, he tried to kill Moses. But Moses fled from the presence of Pharaoh and settled in the land of Midian, and he sat down by a well” (Exodus 2:1-15).

This unusual upbringing for Moses, likely created some conflicts in his heart, regardless of how much or how little Moses realized that he was a Hebrew, up until he slew the Egyptian. According to the author of Hebrews, by faith in the Holy One of Israel, it was in Moses’ heart to choose ill-treatment with the people of God, rather than partake in the passing pleasures of sin, as he reached a point where he refused to continue to be recognized as an Egyptian:

By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, considering the reproach of Messiah greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen” (Hebrews 11:24-27).

With this amplification of what was transpiring in the heart of Moses, one discovers the choice that every child of God must contend with on a moment-by-moment basis. By his example of faith in the Almighty—above the physical influences of riches, power, fame, and all of the attendant devices that vie for carnal consumption—God found a heart which was focused on Him, rather than personal gratification, when the time was right for His plan to take shape. When Moses left Egypt, he was drawn into a rather nomadic and isolated lifestyle, which lasted for some forty years in the Midian region, where he married a wife, had children, and became a shepherd:

“Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters; and they came to draw water and filled the troughs to water their father’s flock. Then the shepherds came and drove them away, but Moses stood up and helped them and watered their flock. When they came to Reuel their father, he said, ‘Why have you come back so soon today?’ So they said, ‘An Egyptian delivered us from the hand of the shepherds, and what is more, he even drew the water for us and watered the flock.’ He said to his daughters, ‘Where is he then? Why is it that you have left the man behind? Invite him to have something to eat.’ Moses was willing to dwell with the man, and he gave his daughter Zipporah to Moses. Then she gave birth to a son, and he named him Gershom, for he said, ‘I have been a sojourner in a foreign land.’ Now it came about in the course of those many days that the king of Egypt died. And the sons of Israel sighed because of the bondage, and they cried out; and their cry for help because of their bondage rose up to God. So God heard their groaning; and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God saw the sons of Israel, and God took notice of them (Exodus 2:16-25).

As noted in due time, the cries of the Ancient Israelites for deliverance were finally heard. Because God remembered His promises and covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Moses’ previous forty years growing up in Egypt, and even murdering an Egyptian, coupled with forty years shepherding flocks—would now all be used to commission him for the deliverance task at hand. We might be reminded of how, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans (8:28).

At God’s appointed time, He revealed Himself to Moses in a very dramatic way. The experience of the burning bush, Moses standing on holy ground, and the amount of direct communication the Lord had with Moses—must have been quite incredible to consider. As is seen, Moses never considered himself a useful tool for the Lord’s work, and hence what is witnessed is a back and forth discussion, that Moses was totally incapable of doing anything in his own strength apart from God’s leading:

“Now Moses was pasturing the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian; and he led the flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. The angel of the LORD appeared to him in a blazing fire from the midst of a bush; and he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, yet the bush was not consumed. So Moses said, ‘I must turn aside now and see this marvelous sight, why the bush is not burned up.’ When the LORD saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, ‘Moses, Moses!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ Then He said, ‘Do not come near here; remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.’ He said also, ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ Then Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. The LORD said, ‘I have surely seen the affliction of My people who are in Egypt, and have given heed to their cry because of their taskmasters, for I am aware of their sufferings. So I have come down to deliver them from the power of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and spacious land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanite and the Hittite and the Amorite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite. Now, behold, the cry of the sons of Israel has come to Me; furthermore, I have seen the oppression with which the Egyptians are oppressing them. 1Therefore, come now, and I will send you to Pharaoh, so that you may bring My people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt.’ But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?’ And He said, ‘Certainly I will be with you, and this shall be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God at this mountain’” (Exodus 3:1-12).

Just the magnitude of the task described, was overwhelming to Moses, as he proceeded to question God. So, God took some time to fill in some of the details. God affirmed that He was ehyeh asher ehyeh, “I AM WHO I AM,” as He had every means to accomplish His will for the Israelites. The Lord then gave Moses some specifics about how the deliverance of His people was going to take place:

“Then Moses said to God, ‘Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel, and I will say to them, “The God of your fathers has sent me to you.” Now they may say to me, “What is His name?” What shall I say to them?’ God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM’; and He said, ‘Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, “I AM has sent me to you.”’ God, furthermore, said to Moses, ‘Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, “The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.” This is My name forever, and this is My memorial-name to all generations. Go and gather the elders of Israel together and say to them, “The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, has appeared to me, saying, ‘I am indeed concerned about you and what has been done to you in Egypt. So I said, I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanite and the Hittite and the Amorite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite, to a land flowing with milk and honey.’” They will pay heed to what you say; and you with the elders of Israel will come to the king of Egypt and you will say to him, “The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us. So now, please, let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God.” But I know that the king of Egypt will not permit you to go, except under compulsion. So I will stretch out My hand and strike Egypt with all My miracles which I shall do in the midst of it; and after that he will let you go. I will grant this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians; and it shall be that when you go, you will not go empty-handed. But every woman shall ask of her neighbor and the woman who lives in her house, articles of silver and articles of gold, and clothing; and you will put them on your sons and daughters. Thus you will plunder the Egyptians’” (Exodus 3:13-22).

Needless to say, after hearing some of the things that were to occur, Moses continued to doubt that he could possibly convince the Israelites that he had been chosen to be their human leader, and deliver them from their bondage in Egypt. So once again, the Lord mercifully filled in some of the gaps, by giving him three signs which would persuade the people that Moses had indeed been, not only in the presence of the Holy One, but chosen for this special assignment:

“Then Moses said, ‘What if they will not believe me or listen to what I say? For they may say, “The LORD has not appeared to you.”’ The LORD said to him, ‘What is that in your hand?’ And he said, ‘A staff.’ Then He said, ‘Throw it on the ground.’ So he threw it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from it. But the LORD said to Moses, ‘Stretch out your hand and grasp it by its tail’—so he stretched out his hand and caught it, and it became a staff in his hand—‘that they may believe that the LORD, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.’ The LORD furthermore said to him, ‘Now put your hand into your bosom.’ So he put his hand into his bosom, and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous like snow. Then He said, ‘Put your hand into your bosom again.’ So he put his hand into his bosom again, and when he took it out of his bosom, behold, it was restored like the rest of his flesh. If they will not believe you or heed the witness of the first sign, they may believe the witness of the last sign. But if they will not believe even these two signs or heed what you say, then you shall take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground; and the water which you take from the Nile will become blood on the dry ground.’ Then Moses said to the LORD, ‘Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since You have spoken to Your servant; for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.’ The LORD said to him, ‘Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now then go, and I, even I, will be with your mouth, and teach you what you are to say.’ But he said, ‘Please, Lord, now send the message by whomever You will.’ Then the anger of the LORD burned against Moses, and He said, ‘Is there not your brother Aaron the Levite? I know that he speaks fluently. And moreover, behold, he is coming out to meet you; when he sees you, he will be glad in his heart. You are to speak to him and put the words in his mouth; and I, even I, will be with your mouth and his mouth, and I will teach you what you are to do. Moreover, he shall speak for you to the people; and he will be as a mouth for you and you will be as God to him. You shall take in your hand this staff, with which you shall perform the signs.’ Then Moses departed and returned to Jethro his father-in-law and said to him, ‘Please, let me go, that I may return to my brethren who are in Egypt, and see if they are still alive.’ And Jethro said to Moses, ‘Go in peace.’ Now the LORD said to Moses in Midian, ‘Go back to Egypt, for all the men who were seeking your life are dead’” (Exodus 4:1-19).

However, despite watching the staff turn back and forth from being a serpent, to his hand turning white with leprosy—the inarticulate Moses was still concerned about how he was even going to communicate what he had seen and heard to the Israelites. The Lord resolved this apprehension with the mention that Moses’ older brother Aaron would be commissioned to work with him, as his speaker. At this point, the objections are overcome, and Moses went to his father-in-law Jethro, receiving his blessing, and then obeyed the command of the Lord to go back to Egypt.

On the way to Egypt with his wife Zipporah and two sons, Moses received an appropriate rebuke from his wife, because he had not followed the basic instruction from God to circumcise his two sons. In this revealing aside, the wisdom of a wife is highlighted, because Zipporah was most concerned about her two sons not having the sign of the covenant made with Abraham. In a dramatic fashion, she actually circumcised her sons while on the trip to Egypt, and cast the foreskins at the feet of Moses with the railing declaration that Moses was a “bridegroom of blood to me,” because the rite had not been performed. Husbands need to be very thankful for the wives they have been given by God, perhaps knowing that they can have significant limitations, and that their wives are leaders of the family along with them:

“So Moses took his wife and his sons and mounted them on a donkey, and returned to the land of Egypt. Moses also took the staff of God in his hand. The LORD said to Moses, ‘When you go back to Egypt see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders which I have put in your power; but I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go. Then you shall say to Pharaoh, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Israel is My son, My firstborn. So I said to you, “Let My son go that he may serve Me”; but you have refused to let him go. Behold, I will kill your son, your firstborn.’”’ Now it came about at the lodging place on the way that the LORD met him and sought to put him to death. Then Zipporah took a flint and cut off her son’s foreskin and threw it at Moses’ feet, and she said, ‘You are indeed a bridegroom of blood to me.’ So He let him alone. At that time she said, ‘You are a bridegroom of blood’—because of the circumcision. Now the LORD said to Aaron, ‘Go to meet Moses in the wilderness.’ So he went and met him at the mountain of God and kissed him. Moses told Aaron all the words of the LORD with which He had sent him, and all the signs that He had commanded him to do. Then Moses and Aaron went and assembled all the elders of the sons of Israel; and Aaron spoke all the words which the LORD had spoken to Moses. He then performed the signs in the sight of the people. So the people believed; and when they heard that the LORD was concerned about the sons of Israel and that He had seen their affliction, then they bowed low and worshiped” (Exodus 4:20-31).

While Moses and Zipporah were having their revealing encounter, the Lord spoke to Aaron, telling him to go into the wilderness to greet his brother. After Moses described to Aaron what he had been called to do by the Lord, the two of them assemble the elders of Israel, with Aaron now as his designated speaker. When the elders heard the words and saw the signs Moses performed, they believed that perhaps the Lord has heard their cries, and that the time of their deliverance was soon at hand. The choice of someone who had been away for forty years after growing up in Pharaoh’s palaces, and fleeing after murdering an Egyptian, is overcome—as they all worshipped the Lord, believing that this was His will for the deliverance of Israel.

The difficult part began as Moses and Aaron approached the Egyptian Pharaoh, with the demand of the Lord God they represent, to let His people go into the wilderness to celebrate a feast to Him. But a quick release was not granted. Instead, the request to a Pharaoh who believed he was a god, and who did not know or acknowledge the God of the Hebrews, was to send the Israelites back to their hard labor. In fact, because Pharaoh believed that the Israelites might have started to stir up a revolution of sorts, he made their daily work even tougher, by not supplying straw for their quota of bricks to be produced. Consequently, the troubles for Moses and Aaron, now burdened with the Israelites starting to complain about this great plan of deliverance going awry, were just commencing:

“And afterward Moses and Aaron came and said to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, “Let My people go that they may celebrate a feast to Me in the wilderness.”’ But Pharaoh said, ‘Who is the LORD that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, and besides, I will not let Israel go.’ Then they said, ‘The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Please, let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God, otherwise He will fall upon us with pestilence or with the sword.’ But the king of Egypt said to them, ‘Moses and Aaron, why do you draw the people away from their work? Get back to your labors!’ Again Pharaoh said, ‘Look, the people of the land are now many, and you would have them cease from their labors!’ So the same day Pharaoh commanded the taskmasters over the people and their foremen, saying, You are no longer to give the people straw to make brick as previously; let them go and gather straw for themselves. But the quota of bricks which they were making previously, you shall impose on them; you are not to reduce any of it. Because they are lazy, therefore they cry out, “Let us go and sacrifice to our God.” Let the labor be heavier on the men, and let them work at it so that they will pay no attention to false words.’ So the taskmasters of the people and their foremen went out and spoke to the people, saying, ‘Thus says Pharaoh, “I am not going to give you any straw. You go and get straw for yourselves wherever you can find it, but none of your labor will be reduced.”’ So the people scattered through all the land of Egypt to gather stubble for straw. The taskmasters pressed them, saying, ‘Complete your work quota, your daily amount, just as when you had straw.’ Moreover, the foremen of the sons of Israel, whom Pharaoh’s taskmasters had set over them, were beaten and were asked, ‘Why have you not completed your required amount either yesterday or today in making brick as previously?’ Then the foremen of the sons of Israel came and cried out to Pharaoh, saying, ‘Why do you deal this way with your servants? There is no straw given to your servants, yet they keep saying to us, “Make bricks!” And behold, your servants are being beaten; but it is the fault of your own people.’ But he said, ‘You are lazy, very lazy; therefore you say, “Let us go and sacrifice to the LORD.” So go now and work; for you will be given no straw, yet you must deliver the quota of bricks.’ The foremen of the sons of Israel saw that they were in trouble because they were told, ‘You must not reduce your daily amount of bricks.’ When they left Pharaoh’s presence, they met Moses and Aaron as they were waiting for them. They said to them, ‘May the LORD look upon you and judge you, for you have made us odious in Pharaoh’s sight and in the sight of his servants, to put a sword in their hand to kill us.’ Then Moses returned to the LORD and said, ‘O Lord, why have You brought harm to this people? Why did You ever send me? Ever since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has done harm to this people, and You have not delivered Your people at all’” (Exodus 5:1-23).

The great lesson which is going to be taught in the coming weeks as the Book of Exodus continues, is that freedom from the bondage of slavery—and/or by extension being freed or delivered from the bondage of sin—never comes without a struggle. Whether on a physical plane or a spiritual plane, the Lord will use the challenges, trials, tests, discouragements, and triumphs of life to mold people for His specific use and tasks in the world. In the coming weeks this will become more and more evident, and for the purposes of God today, hopefully used in the lives of contemporary Messianic Believers to persevere through all of the challenges of life.

Finally, our Torah reading concludes with a promise from the Lord to Moses, that the Pharaoh will eventually let His people go:

Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh; for under compulsion he will let them go, and under compulsion he will drive them out of his land’” (Exodus 6:1).

It is not going to be a pleasant exercise for Pharaoh and the Egyptians, as the ten plagues or judgments upon them are going to decimate and humiliate this great, Ancient Near Eastern power. But is this not what was promised centuries earlier to Abram by the Lord? Hopefully, by reading and meditating upon this week’s Torah portion, there will be some spiritual benefits to those today, who are turning to the Torah to learn about their spiritual inheritance. These are instructions written for the admonitions of Messiah followers, as they learn to handle the circumstances of human life:

Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall. No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:11-13).

The Torah has been recorded and preserved by His grace, in order that those reading it today—who are closer to the culmination of the ages—will decisively grow in their walks with Yeshua the Messiah. After all, “God is faithful” to fulfill His promises to His people. The question is whether each of us will have the faith required to walk into His promises, and their resultant blessings. May we each take our personal responsibility to be faithful servants to heart, and by His grace continue to advance His Kingdom!