Thought for the week

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‘Parsha Shemot’ – Called to be G-d’s vessels

 

Exodus 3:9-10: “Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel has come to Me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. Come now, therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” 

The ‘parsha’ (‘Torah’ portion) this week, ‘Parsha Shemot’ (names), is found in Exodus 1:1 – 6:1 and is the thirteenth weekly ‘Torah’ portion in the annual Jewish cycle of ‘Torah’ reading; the corresponding ‘haftorah’ (reading of the prophets) is found in Isaiah 27:6 - 28:13, 29:22-23

‘Parsha Shemot’ opens by listing the names of the sons of Jacob who came with him to Egypt. Seventy descendants of Jacob came down to Egypt and they “were fruitful and filled the land”.

Joseph and all of his generation had died, and a new Pharaoh arose over Egypt who did not know Joseph. He told his people that the Israelites had become too numerous and more mighty than the Egyptians and required shrewd dealing, lest they multiply and, in a war, join Egypt’s enemies.

So the Egyptians set taskmasters over the Israelites and enslaved and afflicted them with hard labour; however, the more that the Egyptians afflicted the Israelites, the more they multiplied.

Pharaoh summoned two Jewish midwives and commanded them to kill all Jewish new-born males but to let the Jewish daughters live. The midwives, however, feared G-d and defied Pharaoh’s instructions, saving the new-born males. G-d then rewarded the midwives because they feared Him.

The Israelites continued to multiply, and Pharaoh commanded his people telling them to throw every Jewish new-born male into the River, but to let every daughter live.

A Levite couple had a baby boy and the mother hid him for three months. When she could no longer hide him, she made an ark, put the child in it and laid it in the reeds by the river's bank.

As the baby boys’ sister watched, Pharaoh’s daughter came to bathe in the river, saw the ark and sent her handmaid to fetch it. She opened it, saw the crying boy and had compassion on him, recognizing that he was one of the Hebrew children.

His sister asked Pharaoh's daughter whether she should call a nurse from the Hebrew women, and Pharaoh's daughter agreed. The girl called the child's mother, and Pharaoh's daughter hired her to nurse the child for her. 

When the child grew, his mother brought him to Pharaoh's daughter who adopted him as her son, calling him Moses.

When Moses grew up, he went to his brethren and saw their burdens. He saw an Egyptian striking a Hebrew and, seeing that there was no one around, he struck the Egyptian killing him and he hid him in the sand. When he went out the next day, he came upon two Hebrew men fighting; he asked the wrongdoer why he struck his fellow Israelite. The man asked Moses who had made him king, asking him whether he intended to kill him as he did the Egyptian.

Moses, realizing that his deed was known, feared greatly. When Pharaoh heard that Moses had killed an Egyptian, he sought to kill Moses; but Moses fled to the land of Midian, where he sat down by a well.

The daughters of Jethro, the priest of Midian, came to water their father's flock, but shepherds drove them away. Moses helped the daughters to water their flock and they invited Moses to Jethro’s home. Moses married Jethro’s daughter, Zipporah and they had a baby boy whom Moses called Gershom, saying that he had been a stranger (‘ger’) in a strange land.

In the meantime, the plight of the Children of Israel in Egypt worsened. Exodus 2:23-25 tells us: “Now it happened in the process of time that the king of Egypt died. Then the children of Israel groaned because of the bondage, and they cried out; and their cry came up to God because of the bondage. So God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God acknowledged them”. 

When Moses was keeping Jethro’s flock at the mountain of G-d, Mount Horeb, the angel of G-d appeared to him in a flame in the midst of a burning bush; however, the bush was not consumed. G-d called to Moses from the bush and Moses answered: “Hineini” (Here I am). G-d told Moses not to draw near and to take off his shoes, for the place on which he stood was holy ground.

G-d identified Himself and Moses hid his face because he was afraid to look at G-d. 

G-d reported having seen the Israelites’ affliction and having heard their cry. He said that He knew their pain and promised to deliver them from Egypt to Canaan, a land flowing with milk and honey.

G-d then told Moses that He was sending Moses to Pharaoh to bring the Israelites out of Egypt. But Moses answered: “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” G-d told Moses that He would be with him and, after he brought them out of Egypt, he would serve G-d on that mountain.  

Moses then asked G-d whom he should say sent him to the Israelites. G-d replied: “‘EHEYEH ASHER EHEYEH’ (I AM WHO I AM or more accurately, I WILL BE WHO I WILL BE).”; “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, “‘EHEYEH’ (I WILL BE or I AM) has sent me to you.’” (Exodus 3:14).

G-d then gave Moses detailed directions on how to proceed and how the Exodus would come about. G-d told Moses to tell the Israelites that ‘Adonai’, the G-d of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had sent him; and this would be G-d’s Name forever.

G-d directed Moses to tell the elders of Israel that G-d had remembered them and had seen what had been done to them in Egypt. He would bring them out of the affliction of Egypt up to the land of Canaan.

G-d said that they would heed Moses and go with him to tell Pharaoh that G-d had met with them. They would request that Pharaoh allow them to go for three days into the wilderness to sacrifice to G-d. However, G-d knew that Pharaoh would not let them go unless forced by a mighty hand, so He would strike Egypt with wonders, and then Pharaoh would let them go.

G-d would make the Egyptians view the Israelites favorably so that the Israelites would not leave empty handed. Every woman would ask her neighbour for jewels and clothing and the Israelites would strip the Egyptians.

However, Moses said that they would not believe him.

G-d then told Moses to cast his rod on the ground; he did so and it became a serpent and Moses fled from it. G-d then told Moses to take it by the tail; he did so, and it became a rod again.

Then G-d told Moses to put his hand into his bosom; he did, and when he took it out, his hand was covered with leprosy. G-d told him to put his hand back into his bosom; he did, and when he took it out, it had returned to normal.

G-d said that if they would not heed the first sign, then they would believe the second sign; and if they would not believe those two signs, then Moses was to take water from the river and pour it on the land and the water would become blood.

Moses protested that he was not a man of words but was slow of speech. G-d told Moses that he should go and He would teach him what to say. Moses then pleaded with G-d to send someone else; but G-d became angry with Moses and told him that his brother, Aaron, was coming to meet him and he would be Moses’ spokesman.

G-d then told Moses to take his staff with which he would perform the signs.

Moses took his wife and sons and the rod of G-d and returned to Egypt.

G-d told Moses to be sure to perform for Pharaoh all the wonders that G-d had put in his hand, but G-d would harden Pharaoh’s heart and he would not let the people go.

Moses was to tell Pharaoh that Israel was G-d’s firstborn son, and Pharaoh was to let G-d’s son go to serve Him. If he refused, G-d would kill Pharaoh’s firstborn son.

On the way, Moses was nearly killed when they stopped for the night for not circumcising his son. His life was spared only when Zipporah circumcised their son.

G-d appeared to Aaron and sent him to meet Moses who told him all that G-d had said. They then gathered the Israelite elders and Aaron told them what G-d had said. They performed the signs and the people believed.

When they heard that G-d had remembered them and seen their affliction, they bowed their heads and worshipped.

Moses and Aaron came to Pharaoh and told him that G-d said to let His people go so that they might hold a feast to G-d in the wilderness; however Pharaoh refused, asking who G-d was that he should let Israel go. 

Not only did Pharaoh refuse their demand, he increased the labour of his Hebrew slaves, commanding their taskmasters to no longer give the people straw to make brick, as before. He told them to let them go and gather straw for themselves; however, the quantity of the bricks which they made had to be the same as before.

The Israelites cried to Pharaoh asking why he dealt so harshly with them; he answered that they were lazy if they had time to go and sacrifice to G-d. So the officers met Moses and Aaron and accused them of making the Israelites to be abhorrent to Pharaoh, giving the Egyptians a weapon to kill the people.

Moses asked G-d why He had done evil to Israel and why He had sent him. G-d replied that now Moses would see what He would do to Pharaoh; for with a strong hand he would let them go and drive them out of his land.

And thus ends the ‘parsha’.

’Haftorah’ Shemot’, found in Isaiah 27:6 - 28:13, 29:22-23, parallels the week's ‘Torah reading’ on many levels.

One of the parallels is the message of redemption conveyed by Isaiah. This is reminiscent of the message of redemption that G-d spoke to Moses at the burning bush; a message that Moses then communicated to Pharaoh.

The ‘haftorah’ vacillates between Isaiah's prophecies concerning the future redemption, and his admonitions concerning the children of Israel’s drunken and G-dless behaviour. Isaiah starts on a positive note: “In that day…Those who come He shall cause to take root in Jacob; Israel shall blossom and bud, And fill the face of the world with fruit.” 

He mentions G-d’s mercy for His nation and the measure-for-measure punishment He meted out upon the Egyptians who persecuted them.

And regarding the future redemption of the Jewish people, Isaiah says: “And it shall come to pass in that day that the LORD will thresh, from the channel of the River to the Brook of Egypt; and you will be gathered one by one, O you children of Israel. So it shall be in that day: The great trumpet will be blown; they will come, who are about to perish in the land of Assyria, and they who are outcasts in the land of Egypt, and shall worship the LORD in the holy mount at Jerusalem.” 

The prophet then proceeds to berate the drunkenness of the Ten Tribes, warning them of the punishment that awaits them. 

The ‘haftorah’ ends on a positive note: “Therefore thus says the LORD, who redeemed Abraham, concerning the house of Jacob: “Jacob shall not now be ashamed, nor shall his face now grow pale; but when he sees his children, the work of My hands, in his midst, they will hallow My name, and hallow the Holy One of Jacob, and fear the God of Israel.”” 

‘Parsha Shemot’ is a fascinating ‘parsha’ focussing on G-d’s faithfulness and on Moses’ calling.

Let’s first look at G-d’s faithfulness:

We read in Exodus 2:23-24: “Then the children of Israel groaned because of the bondage, and they cried out; and their cry came up to God because of the bondage. So God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.” 

This immediately takes us back to the covenant that G-d made with Abraham and his descendants, the Jewish people (Genesis 12, 15 and 17).

In this covenant, G-d prophesies to Abraham of the enslavement of the Jewish people in Egypt - Genesis 15:13: “Then He said to Abram: “Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years.””  

G-d also prophesies their deliverance with great wealth from Egypt - Genesis 15:14: “and also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward shall they come out with great possessions.”  

And G-d faithfully remembered His covenant, fulfilling His promise to deliver the Israelites from slavery in Egypt to the Promised Land.

Let’s now look at Moses’ calling:

G-d called Moses to be the vessel He wanted to use to free the Israelites from slavery in Egypt.

However, Moses came up with a number of excuses not to enter into his calling. Eventually, he reluctantly entered into his calling and the rest, as they say, is history. Moses became one of the greatest biblical figures in Jewish history and the vessel that G-d would ultimately use to give us the ‘Ten Commandments’, G-d’s blueprint for our lives.

How about you? We have seen G-d’s faithfulness in ‘Parsha Shemot’; are you faithful to G-d’s calling on your life?

We are all called by G-d to be vessels He wants to use to accomplish His purposes on earth.

Have you boldly taken hold of your calling or, like Moses, are you looking for every excuse not to – “I’m so busy at work”; “You don’t know my schedule”; “I would like to, but I can’t put my career on hold”; and on and on it goes.

I now address born again believers in Yeshua – both Jewish and Gentile believers: You are called to a particular work spoken to the church by Yeshua Himself, it’s called the ‘Great Commission’. Through this commission, you are called to take the gospel – the good news of salvation – to the unsaved. Are you fulfilling your calling or do you leave it to others to do? Remember, you might be the only one who is in a position to give the gospel to a family member or friend.

To the Gentile church, my people of the flesh are still in bondage, slaves to sin and held by death. As the Gentile church, you have been called to take the gospel to the Jewish people – Romans 11:11-14: “I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles. Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness! For I speak to you Gentiles; inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, if by any means I may provoke to jealousy those who are my flesh and save some of them.”

You are the vessels that G-d wants to use to bring the good news of salvation to Jewish people, thus leading them from slavery to sin and death to freedom from sin into everlasting life.

And if you don’t know any Jewish people, regularly pray for the salvation of Jewish people.

Getting back to the faithfulness of G-d, allow me to encourage you: G-d is faithful; and just as G-d has never forgotten His covenant with Israel, G-d has not forgotten you. Don’t bemoan difficult times and don’t ever give up, no matter what your circumstances. Moses didn’t walk out with the Israelites overnight; it took a while before Israel’s freedom came about. 

Be patient and trust G-d; He will never leave you nor forsake you.

Finally, I want to address my Jewish brothers and sisters as well as anyone reading this who is not a born again follower of Yeshua:

Will you commit your life to Yeshua, who lovingly and faithfully endured the cross for you and for me, accepting Him as your Messiah, your Saviour? 

Will you accept G-d’s gift of the forgiveness of sin and everlasting life in heaven? All you need to do is confess your sins and repent of them and ask Yeshua to come into your life as your Messiah and Saviour. 

And you can do this by praying the Prayer of Salvation found at the end of this article.

We love you. 

 

Shalom.

 

Scripture of the week: Exodus 3:1-22      

 

SALVATION PRAYER

Thank you Yeshua for Your love for me.

Thank you for giving up Your life on the cross for me and for taking my sins upon Yourself.

I confess that I have sinned.

I repent of my sins and I turn from everything I know to be wrong.

I invite You to come into my life as my Messiah, my Saviour.

By Your grace I will serve You all the remaining years of my life.