Thought for the week

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‘Parsha Beshalach’ – “Adonai Nissi”, The L-rd our banner

Exodus 14:10-14: “And when Pharaoh drew near, the children of Israel lifted their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians marched after them. So they were very afraid, and the children of Israel cried out to the LORD. Then they said to Moses, “Because there were no graves in Egypt, have you taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you so dealt with us, to bring us up out of Egypt? Is this not the word that we told you in Egypt, saying, ‘Let us alone that we may serve the Egyptians?’ For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than that we should die in the wilderness.” And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.”” 

 

The ‘parsha’ (‘Torah’ portion) this week, ‘Parsha Beshalach’ (When He Let Go), is found in Exodus 13:17 – 17:16 and is the sixteenth weekly ‘Torah’ portion in the annual Jewish cycle of ‘Torah’ reading; the corresponding ‘haftorah’ (reading of the prophets) is found in Judges 4:4 - 5:31

 

The Jews were out of Egypt, but their redemption was not yet complete as Pharaoh and his armies still posed a tangible threat to their freedom. More subtle was the slave mentality that still gnawed at their souls. 

In ‘Parsha Beshalach’, the process of their liberation from Egypt continues as the children of Israel battle external and internal threats to their freedom and advance toward the reason of the Exodus - to receive the ‘Torah’ at Mount Sinai and be sealed by G-d as a nation.

 

After Pharaoh had let the Israelites go, G-d did not lead them through the land of the Philistines which was nearer, for G-d said that if the people were threatened by a war, they might have returned to Egypt.

Instead, G-d led them along a more roundabout route which took them through the desert by the Sea of Reeds (Red Sea).

Moses took Joseph’s bones for burial in the Holy Land in fulfillment of the oath made by the Children of Israel at the beginning of their Egyptian exile.

The ‘Torah’ tells us that G-d led them in a pillar of a cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night, to give them light.

 

Soon, however, their newly-gained freedom was under attack.

When Pharaoh learned that the people had fled, he had a change of heart and he chased after the Israelites with chariots, catching up with them by the sea. Greatly frightened, the Israelites cried out to G-d and complained to Moses. G-d told Moses to lift up his rod, hold out his arm, and divide the sea. Moses did so, and G-d drove back the sea with a strong east wind, and the Israelites marched through on dry ground, the waters forming walls on their right and left. The Egyptians pursued, but G-d slowed them by locking their chariot wheels. 

On G-d’s instruction, Moses again held out his arm, and the waters covered the chariots, the horsemen, and all the Egyptians, drowning them. 

 

On seeing this great miracle, the people feared G-d and believed in Him and in Moses.

Moses and the Israelites sang a song to G-d, celebrating how He had overcome Pharaoh and his army.

Then Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, together with all the women played timbrels, danced and also sang a song to G-d: “for He has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider has He thrown into the sea.”

 

The Israelites travelled for three days into the wilderness and found no water. When they came to Marah, they found water but could not drink the water as it was bitter and the people grumbled against Moses. G-d showed Moses a tree and told him to throw it into the water; when he threw the tree into the water, it became sweet.

In Marah, the Children of Israel were given statutes and laws; they also received the divine promise: “If you diligently heed the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am the LORD who heals you.” (Exodus 15:25-27

Then they came to Elim and they camped there by the waters. 

 

The Israelites came to the ‘Wilderness of Sin’ and they again grumbled against Moses and Aaron because there was no food. G-d heard their grumbling, and in the evening, quails covered the camp, and in the morning fine flaky manna covered the ground like frost.

When the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, “man hu?” (what is it?); for they did not know what it was (and this is where the name ‘manna’ comes from). Moses replied that this was the bread which G-d had given them to eat.

 

The Israelites gathered as much of it as they required; those who gathered much had no excess, and those who gathered little had no lack. Moses instructed them not to leave any of it over until morning; however, some did and it became infested with maggots and stank.

On the sixth day they were to gather double the amount of food. Moses instructed them to put aside the excess until morning; and it did not turn foul the next day – which was the Sabbath.

Moses told them that on the Sabbath, they would not find any manna on the plain; but some went out to gather and found nothing.

The ‘Torah’ tells us that the Israelites ate manna for forty years.

 

The Israelites travelled to Rephidim and encamped there. There was no water, and again the people quarreled with Moses, asking why Moses brought them there just to die of thirst.

Exasperated, Moses cried out to G-d: “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” G-d told Moses to strike the rock at Horeb to produce water; Moses did as G-d had commanded and water came out of the rock and the people drank.

They named the place ‘Massah’ U’Merivah’ (Test and Strife) because of the strife of the children of Israel and because they tested G-d, saying: “Is God among us or not?”

 

Amalek attacked Israel at Rephidim and Joshua went out to fight against them.

Moses ascended a hill and stationed himself on the top of the hill with the rod of G-d in his hand. Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed; but whenever he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed. When Moses grew weary, he sat on a stone while Aaron and Hur supported his hands; and Joshua overwhelmed Amalek in battle.

 

Our ‘parsha’ ends in Exodus 17:14-16 with G-d instructing Moses to inscribe a document as a reminder that G-d would utterly blot out the memory of Amalek. Moses then built an altar and called its name: “ADONAI NISSI” (The L-rd Is our Banner); and Moses said: “Because the LORD has sworn: the LORD will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.” 

 

This week's haftorah, ’Haftorah Beshalach’, found in Judges 4:4 - 5:31, describes the fall of the Canaanite general, Sisera, and his armies who were swept away by the Kishon River, and Deborah's ensuing song of thanks. This parallels this week's Torah portion which discusses the drowning of the Egyptian forces in the Red Sea and the subsequent songs by Moses and Miriam.

 

Deborah the Prophetess was the leader and judge of the Israelites at a difficult time. 

The Israelites were being persecuted by King Jabin of Canaan and his general, Sisera. Deborah summoned her general, Barak, and explained to him G-d’s instruction to take ten thousand men of the children of Naphtali and Zebulun to fight against Sisera and that G-d promised to give Sisera into his hand.

At Barak's request, Deborah accompanied him, and together they led the offensive.

 

Sisera was informed of the Israelites' mobilization and he gathered his forces and proceeded towards the Kishon River. The ‘Tenach’ tells us that “Barak's army below and the heavens above” waged battle against the Canaanites and utterly destroyed them. The river washed them all away; not one of the enemy survived.

The defeated general fled on foot and arrived at the tent of Jael, the Kenite. She invited him in and offered to hide him. When he fell asleep, Jael took a tent-peg and drove it through Sisera's temple.

 

The next chapter of the ‘haftorah’ is the Song of Deborah, which describes the miraculous victory and thanks Almighty G-d for His assistance.

 

Perhaps one of the most powerful miracles of the bible is found in ‘Parsha Beshalach’ – The dividing of the Red Sea.

Most people, whether they are Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist or an atheist knows the story of the dividing of the Red Sea; the great miracle in which G-d divided the sea so that the Children of Israel and the multitude could walk through the sea to the other side on dry ground, thus escaping from the pursuing Egyptian army.

Once safely across, the Egyptian army pursued them, but the L-rd closed the sea on Pharaoh and his army totally annihilating them according to His promise: Exodus 14:13-14: “And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.”” 

 

What is the lesson we learn from this great miracle? Almighty G-d went before the children of Israel and He was also their rear-guard.

G-d fought Israel’s battle and He totally destroyed the pursuing Egyptian army. And to this day, G-d fights Israel’s battles; if He didn’t, modern day Israel would not exist. G-d still goes before the children of Israel and He is still their rear-guard.

 

However G-d wanted the people’s trust. When they began to cry and panic, Moses told the people not to be afraid, but to stand still, trust G-d and see His salvation as He fought on their behalf.

G-d then told Moses and the people to take action: Exodus 14:15-16: “And the LORD said to Moses, “Why do you cry to Me? Tell the children of Israel to go forward. But lift up your rod, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it. And the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea.””

The children of Israel and the multitude had to go forward and Moses had to lift up his rod before G-d would act and perform the great miracle of dividing the sea. 

 

One may ask “why did Moses have to lift up his rod?” I believe that neither Moses nor his rod was an effective instrument in a work which could be accomplished only by the omnipotence of G-d. However, it was necessary for him to do this so that he would have credit in the sight of the Israelites, and that they would see that G-d had chosen him to be the instrument of their deliverance.

Also by lifting up his rod, Moses showed obedience to G-d’s word: “but lift up your rod, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it”, as well as showing an absolute trust in G-d to perform a miracle.

 

How about you? Are you facing a ‘Red Sea’? Are you facing battles that look impossible? Allow G-d to fight your battles for you; trust Him to gain you the victory; and allow Him to do it His way.

You see, G-d says throughout the Old Testament “I will fight the battle for you”. He never says ‘you must fight your own battle’ or even ‘I will fight the battle with you’, He always says “I will fight the battle FOR you”. You see, Almighty G-d goes before you and He is your rear-guard. However, you still have to ‘stretch forth your rod’ of obedience, faith and trust in Him.

 

Have you seen your prayers answered and, perhaps experienced miracles; yet, like the people wandering in the desert, have you forgotten the time (or times) that G-d has answered your prayers. Perhaps you are facing new trials and, instead of trusting G-d, you grumble and complain, blaming G-d for your situation instead of trusting Him and believing in His ability to fight your battles for you.

I want to encourage you: Don’t cry to the L-rd. Go forward, lift up your rod of faith, stretch out your hand to the L-rd and see how He will fight your battle for you – no matter what your situation or how difficult it may seem.

G-d is truly “ADONAI NISSI” – the L-rd, our Banner; He fights for you and all you need do is stretch forth your rod of obedience, faith and trust.

 

However, ‘Adonai Nissi’ means so much more than this. ‘Nissi’ comes from the Hebrew word ‘nes’, which means miracle, and the true meaning of ‘Adonai Nissi’ is: ‘Adonai is Miraculous’.

‘Nisssi’ also means banner, excellent, outstanding and a standard. 

‘Banner’ means: Guideline, measure, ideal, model, pattern, excellence, and a banner embodies the ideals and aspirations of whoever carries it. So when Moses lifted his rod, he was actually holding the Almighty’s banner which enabled G-d’s miraculous power to work through Moses’ rod every time it was lifted up.

So the true meaning of ‘ADONAI NISSI’ is: “The L-rd who is the guideline and measure of His ideal model and pattern showing His excellence through His miraculous power”. And every time we lift up the name of Yeshua, we are allowing Him to guide us in His ideal model and pattern for our lives allowing His miraculous banner over us to bring us victory from oppression.

 

One of the banners that the L-rd wants to put on you is His banner of salvation. 

 

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

Hashem is extending an invitation to you to put His banner of salvation on you. Without salvation, you do not have an eternal future in heaven; in fact your eternal future is bleak.

Will you accept Hashem’s banner of salvation? Will you commit your life to Yeshua, who lovingly and faithfully endured the cross for you and for me, accepting Him as your L-rd and Saviour. This is the only way to salvation, as only through Yeshua can one’s sins be forgiven and one’s soul be atoned for – or saved.

 

Then, as you accept Yeshua as your L-rd and saviour, “stand still, and see the salvation of the L-rd, which He will accomplish for you today. For the L-rd will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.” 

 

To accept Hashem’s gift of the forgiveness of sin, salvation and everlasting life in heaven, all you need to do is confess your sins, repent of them and ask Yeshua to come into your life as your Messiah (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 15    

 

 

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.