21 Tevet 5783
God Formulates His Pattern for Humanity
Recorded message: https://youtu.be/qSNRBPgUguE
Parashat Shemot begins by listing “ha shemot”, the names of the eleven sons of Israel who went down to Egypt, and their brother Joseph, who was already there. The next part of their journey would transform these brothers from twelves tribes to the nation of Israel. I consider that these stories in Exodus set the pattern for how God would work with His people in relation to all the nations of the world throughout the ages.
Immediately, we read in verse in Shemot 1:7, “and the people of Israel were fruitful and increased abundantly and multiplied and became exceedingly mighty….” Then it continues, “and there arose a King over Egypt who did not know Joseph.” This new Pharaoh was a fanatical nationalist who didn’t want to acknowledge that this foreigner had done anything good for his country. This idea has been repeated throughout our history as a people. We would move to a new country where we were accepted at first; we worked hard, we prospered, and we multiplied. We were given positions of power in government, built a multitude of industries that helped the country to prosper. Suddenly a new leader arose who did not want to know about the good that our people had done in their country, and just like the story of Pharaoh in ancient Egypt, the persecution began. It is happening again in our day.
We continue in verse 10 with Pharaoh stating, “Come, let us deal wisely with them less they multiply and it may come to pass that when there would be any war, they would join our enemies and fight against us …. The taskmasters began to afflict them with their burdens…” Again, how often in the history of my people has this exact scenario happened? Right now, in my own province of Quebec and in Canada. It begins slowly, and at first is not directed solely at Jews but includes other minorities. Laws are being instituted regarding “so-called” Protection of Freedom of Speech, Language Restrictions, Prohibitions of religious articles worn on the job,…all a cover for a darker, deeper agenda. It happened in Europe, the last being Germany, in Russia, in the Middle East, in Spain, and countless other countries.
But what Pharaoh, who considered himself to be a god, didn’t know was that this people, Israel belonged to the true God of the universe and that no one could destroy them, except God Himself. The first mistake Pharaoh made was to order the midwives to the Hebrew women to kill any son (not daughter) that they delivered. We see an important principle here. It is more than simply the fact that the lineage of a people stems from the father, the male, and not the mother but by destroying its men, we destroy the nation. This woke society would do well to understand that.
We read that the midwives to the Hebrew women feared God and refused to follow his orders. There is a lot of discussion among our sages as to whether these midwives were Hebrew or Egyptian. I personally believe that they were not Hebrews. Would Pharaoh entrust Hebrew women to take on such a task to kill their own? God could have chosen these non-Hebrew women to save our people as He has done throughout the ages. He revealed Himself to them, not only to the Hebrews showing us that He is a universal God. These women were chosen, like the Hebrews were chosen for a very specific purpose. Being chosen is not a privilege, it’s a responsibility, it can be fraught with challenges and it takes courage to accept that role.
Because of this first command, Pharaoh would later learn the principle of midah keneged midah, measure for measure when his own first-born son was killed by God’s angel of death. There was however, one chosen Hebrew son who was rescued from death by being placed in a ‘Teva’, an ark like Noah’s Teva…again we see a pattern emerging. What stirred the heart of Pharaoh’s daughter to have such compassion and to save this Hebrew baby boy knowing that her father was killing them all? Or perhaps she didn’t know. Regardless, the better question would be, Who stirred her heart?
This boy Moshe was raised in the court of this Pharaoh, who was an enemy to his people. Moses was just a baby when he was found on the river, but due to the quick thinking of his sister Miriam, his own mother was paid to nurse him until he would be weaned and brought back to the palace. At that time, that could have lasted 5 years. Psychologists say that the first 5-6 years are the most important in the development of a child’s character so Moses would know who his people were. Perhaps that this is why Moses killed the Egyptian who was assaulting one of his own which forced him to flee. It may look like bad ‘luck’ but in truth, we can see God’s hand behind everything that happened even though it’s hard to see that when we are running for our lives. It’s interesting that when Moses tried to intervene between the two Hebrews who were fighting, one said. ‘Who made you a prince and a judge over us?” Little did they know that this statement was prophetic, for one day Moshe would be both.
The next thing we read is about how Moshe met the seven daughters of Reuel, Hacohen Midian, the priest of Midian. The same term “cohen” was used for Potifera, the cohen of Egypt, the father of Joseph’s wife. Religions often take a word in the Scriptures and attribute to it a meaning that becomes static. Today, if we say “cohen” it is automatically assumed to be Jewish but that is not in the Torah.
The scene at the well becomes a familiar pattern. When Abraham sent his servant to find a wife for Isaac, it was at a well that he met her. When Jacob fled for his life, he met his beloved Rachel at the well. Here again Moses meets his future wife at the well before he would be called to the mountain that would change his life forever. Centuries later, Yeshua would meet a Samaritan woman at a well where he told her a parable referring to the Torah as living water. If she were to drink from this, she would never be thirsty again. Our God paints pictures for us to recognize the patterns that He works within. When religions say that God is now doing something “new”, I would definitely question that.
Then the king of Egypt died and his son, with whom Moses grew up during his first 40 years, took power. It was at this time that the Creator turned His eyes toward His people, heard their cries and their groaning and continued to fulfill His promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It is here that Reuel is now called Yitro which is a title referring to being a prince as well as a priest. One might address him as, ‘your excellency’. Here we have a clear picture that this man, although he was a Midianite, knew that there was one God, long before the nation of Israel was formed and he would play an important role in preparing Moses for the second stage of his journey in fulfilling his calling. There is a Chinese saying, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear”. I have certainly found this to be true in my life.
One day while Moses was attending to Yitro’s sheep, he approached Horeb the mountain of God. The name is thought to mean “glowing heat”. It was later referred to as Sinai from the word “seneh” from the thorn bush that burnt as Moses approached out of curiosity. Then for the first time, Moses heard God’s voice calling “Moshe, Moshe” to which he replied “Hineni” which means “Here I am”. I still get chills remembering the first time I responded to God with Hineni, saying it over and over, letting Him know “Here I am, I’m all in.”
Moses was warned not to come any closer and to take off his shoes because the place upon which he was standing was ‘holy’ ground. That means it was chosen by God, separated for Him. Then God introduced Himself to Moses as being the God of his fathers and told him in detail what he was going to. In the same way that God made that place where Moses stood ‘holy’ or set apart for him, He set apart the land to which He would lead the people. This land of milk and honey was to be honored, revered, cared for, and considered “set apart for God”. It’s His and no matter how many people fight over it or declare it to be theirs, it belongs to the Creator and no one can change that, not even the secular Israelis who live there now. It’s HIS!
Not only can we not change to whom the land belongs, we cannot change God’s identity. Moses asked Him…”When I come to the sons of Israel and say the God of your fathers has sent me to you and when they shall ask me, ”what is his name, what shall I say to them?” And God responded to Moses, אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה “ehyeh asher ehyeh”, “I AM THAT I AM” or in its shorter form,” I AM” sent me to you. Wow! How can we possibly understand that? It’s like trying to explain the wonders of mankind to an ant. A name carries the identity and reputation of an individual. אֶהְיֶה – Ehyeh – I AM was a nickname of sorts. When someone asks me a question, like “Are you doing well today?” and I answer, “I am”, does that means I am God? They accused Yeshua of that. By revealing His name, God was conveying to us that He is indescribable. His reputation would, over time, be built because of His actions in order that His people could come to trust that He would always keep His Word.
God continued to tell Moses what to say to the people and what they had to do but Moses answered, “but they will doubt me and they won’t believe me or listen to my voice”. This is when God demonstrated His power, first by turning the rod into a snake and back to a rod again. Then He had Moses place his hand into his bosom and his hand came out snow-white, diseased with tzaarat. He put his hand back it and it was normal again. This sets the stage for another pattern, that shows that this disease is caused by the supernatural; it is a spiritual disease which can stem from not trusting the Creator.
When Moses continued to look for excuses not to accept this role, this time because he couldn’t speak well, the LORD said, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes the dumb, the deaf, the seeing or the blind; is it not I the LORD?” Beware of those leaders who think that they are perfect for the job because they are so great at what they do. It is best to be less self-assured thinking we are incapable of doing something that the LORD has called us to do; otherwise, why would we need God’s help.
God told Moses to go to Pharaoh who represents all the dictators of this world throughout the ages, all who have stood up against Him, while God would be represented by the messengers He had chosen, the Hebrews. Moses was to tell Pharaoh to let his people go. Then God said. “And I know that the King of Egypt will not let you go except by a mighty Hand.” We know how evil the various world’s systems are but this is not new. It has been like this from the beginning; it’s just that those under 75 years of age, haven’t experienced it personally. But let’s not despair as we watch the world settle deeper into chaos but know that God always has a plan for humanity, that He has set apart His remnant. These are the people who are standing up for what is right against all odds, and that we can have hope that no matter what happens to us, He will never leave us nor forsake us.
There is so much more to this portion that it is impossible to cover it all in this short period of time, but the bottom line is that our God is unexplainable, He is ever-present, He is all-knowing and, He is all wise. In the next chapters of Exodus, we will see how He is setting down the pattern for us to be His people forever, to learn how to not doubt Him but to trust Him in all things. We will fail time and time again but He, being the God of Beginning again, waits for our teshuva, for us to turn back to Him, not to religion… to Him. The world’s leaders and people for the most part today are raising their fists against the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It seems that once again, that it will take the mighty Hand of God for the world to finally see the reality of His existence. I can hardly wait.
Recorded Discussion: https://youtu.be/EmfkVzHN6EQ