Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Parasha #16 B’shallach (After he had let go) Sh’mot (Exodus 13:17-17:16)
Haftarah: Shof’tim (Judges) 4:4-5:31
B’rit Chadashah: Revelation 15:1-4
This week’s parashah begins with G-d leading the Israelites out into the desert, by the column of cloud by day and the column of fire by night. That is, G-d and Yahshua who are each represented by the fire(law/justice) and cloud(grace) respectively. One would think the Israelites would have felt safe and secure since G-d promised He would lead them to the Land, good and spacious, flowing with milk and honey as He told Moshe in Ex. 3:8. Furthermore, they witnessed His power in accomplishing things on their behalf that could not have been humanly possible. Yet, within three days, the people forgot the power of G-d they witnessed as a nation and the kindnesses of others. Although they followed Moshe’s direction in setting up camp as G-d commanded (Ex. 14:4), as soon as they saw Pharaoh and his army approaching, all the trust and faith in Moshe’s direction and G-d vanished. How often do we exhibit the same kind of faithless behavior when things do not happen according to our plans?
The Israelites began complaining by telling Moshe they had asked to remain in Egypt as slaves, rather than “take a chance” on G-d’s plan for them to escape. What happened to trust? What a short memory they seem to have had. Let’s refresh it by looking back to Ex. 2:23: “ Sometime during those many years the king of Egypt dies, but the people of Israel still groaned under the yoke of slavery, and they cried out, and their cry for rescue from slavery came up to G-d.” How quickly did they forget their cries to G-d just as many of G-d’s people do today!
Moshe’s response reflected his faith in G-d as he tried to console the people and calm them down instead of joining the complaining multitude. When Moshe entreated G-d, the response was as if G-d expected Moshe to know that all he had to do was lift the staff and spread his arms out over the waters to part them. Just maybe G-d felt that Moshe didn’t have as much faith as He expected of Moshe at that time. The next statement of interest is found in verse 19-20 of Chapter 14; “Next the angel of G-d, who was going ahead of the camp of Israel, moved away and went behind them; and the column of cloud moved away from in front of them and stood behind them. It stationed itself between the camp of Egypt and the camp of Israel- there was cloud and darkness here, but light by night there; so that the one did not come near the other all night long.” Note that the angel of G-d went and the column of cloud stood. The column of cloud placed itself between Egypt (everything that represents sin) and Israel (G-d’s Chosen People). Perhaps we can equate this to Yahshua placing Himself on the execution stake to separate us from Egypt in the context of imputed sin. The dark and light did not come near each other all night long. When Yahshua hung on the stake, He was separated from G-d for a time and “the skies became dark from noon until three o’clock in the afternoon, all the Land was covered with darkness. At about three Yahshua uttered a loud cry, ‘Eli! Eli! L’mah sh’vaktani? (My G-d! My G-d! Why have you deserted me?” Just as light and darkness were separated in our parashah, G-d (the Light) could not look upon the One who had taken on the darkness of sin. Also, of interest is that crossing the sea seems to have occurred during the wee hours of the morning before dawn. Verse 14:24 tells us “Just before dawn, Adonai looked out on the Egyptian army through the column of fire and cloud and threw them into a panic.” Then in verse 27 “Moshe reached his hand out over the sea, and by dawn the sea had returned to its former depth.” By examining these verses, we can see that G-d provided a light in the darkness, just as He provided the Light (Yahshua) to teach a lost world how to be reconciled to G-d and follow the Light.
The people crossed the sea by the Light; YHVH/Yahshua! Recall the verse in Psalms 119:105 “Your word is a lamp for my foot and light on my path.” Unfortunately, many documentaries on the crossing of the Sea of Reeds explains this phenomenon scientifically, leaving no room for Divine intervention. This would be humorous if it were not so sad that the authors of these documentaries fail to acknowledge the One who is in created and is in charge of the universe and His ability to use and manipulate any and all natural or unnatural phenomenon (See Psalm 148:1-6).
The Israelites were following the “Kings highway” of sorts; the waters of chaos on either side, Egypt in all of its sin behind them, and a clean slate ahead. They were to move forward as it is written in Proverbs 4:25, “let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze on what lies in front of you. Level the path before your feet, let all your ways be properly prepared; then deviate neither right nor left; and keep your foot far from evil.” G-d prevented the Israelites from looking back by making it dark behind them and lighting the way ahead. The short route, a direct path by caravan along the Mediterranean coast to Gaza takes only 11 days. But the “short” way would have been a sure route to their destruction because they were not well-grounded enough at this time in their trust and faith in G-d. They were all too ready to turn and run back to their captivity. So, G-d in His wisdom and love for His people, took them the long way home. Only after this most recent miracle did the people fear Adonai, believe in Him and in Moshe. But this fear and belief would be short lived. For now, Moshe and the people rejoiced with the song that is contained in Chapter 15. Miryam the prophet, sister of Aharon, joined in with her tambourines and all the women danced.
After only three days in the desert, the people started complaining about the water. Adonai provided for them, and at the same time made the laws and rules for life for them “and he tested them” (Ex. 15:25). It is the next verse where we first see the conditions of salvation through the description of the diseases of Egypt; “ If you will listen intently to the voice of Adonai your G-d, do what He considers right, pay attention to his commands and observe his laws, I will not afflict you with any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians; because I am Adonai your healer.” Our lives would be so much clearer if we listened and followed only G-d’s instructions instead of thinking friends, family, self-help physicians, or the Internet in general has better answers to our questions. We need to learn what G-d’s Word has to say and trust that His Word and His ways are true and reliable (Rev. 15:3). Because as a world we are not listening to G-d or following His instructions, we are beginning to suffer the consequences. Just as the cliché “freedom is not free” is used to bring the importance of defending homeland and all that is dear to us to the fore, there is no more significant application that that of G-d’s requirement for human obedience out of love for His Torah/instructions in order to Win the prize of eternity with YHVH/Yahshua. The Bible is replete with examples and descriptions of the inextricable relationship between G-d’s grace and justice(law) and how these apply to the necessity for reconciliation to G-d through Yahshua, AND obedience out of love to G-d’s laws, not man’s laws.
Chapters 16 and 17 are filled with the peoples’ grumblings and quarreling about food and water. (16:2; 17:2). G-d provided heavenly man (manna) to meet the needs of each person and quail for meat, teaching them through the manner in which He provides that we are not to go out and gather food (or anything else) on Shabbat. He also tried to teach people that He will always provide for their and our needs. This is another example of G-d’s loving kindness toward a weak-faithed people at best. If G-d brought them through the Sea of Reeds, could they not assume He would feed and water them too? Moshe told each family to gather just enough man for the family and not to hoard it. However, some of the people hoarded the leftovers anyway. G-d intervened and worms bred in it and it rotted. The lesson is that we are not to take more than we can use of anything. Man has yet to learn this lesson. Hoarding is so common that there is a special reality show dedicated to the lives of hoarders and how their families try to get them to simply let go of the excess and clean up their homes. Unfortunately, some of the hoarders refuse to change or return to old habits once the cameras are taken away. Greed and instant gratification are the order of the day, just as it is described in our parashah. The exception for storing manna is in preparation for Shabbat. For G-d even took a break on Shabbat and did not send manna that day. He rested as He commands us to rest on Shabbat. Humans physically and mentally “crash” when they don’t rest at least one day of the week. We also lean that a simple diet will sustain the human body just fine. America as a country is as obsessed with food as other things such as money and possessions. When we train our bodies to enjoy simple foods, they seem to taste so much better; we actually enjoy the experience of eating as G-d intended. Furthermore, the body knows exactly what to do with pure foods and our entire system benefits.
Haftarah: Shof’tim (Judges 4:4-5:31)
The events described in this Haftarah are similar to those in the parashah. In both cases, Israel was suffering under an oppressive ruler who was becoming increasingly cruel. In the first case, G-d sent Moshe to lead them out under the guidance of YHVH/Yahshua described as fire and cloud. The other similarity between our parashah and this haftarah is the description of G-d’s use of women, even as leaders, much to the chagrin of Christianity and those with oversized egos. In Egypt, Jochebed and Miriam were instrumental in saving Moshe out of the water, as was pharaoh’s daughter through her compassion. After the splitting of the Sea, Miriam led the people in a song of praise. In the Haftarah, it is Deborah who was the prime mover in both battle and song of praise. It was Deborah who G-d called to the task of dealing with King Jabin of Canaan and his general Sisera. Deborah described the miracles that destroyed the enemy. She mentioned the contributions of the Jewish tribes, praising those who heroically came to join the battle. She also castigated those who demonstrated profound cowardice and a lack of concern and turned the glaring light of truth on those who lack the morality of G-d’s Torah. She ended her song with “So may all Your enemies be destroyed, HaShem. And let those who love Him be like the powerfully rising sun.” “The land was quiet for 40 years.”
B’rit Chadashah: Revelation 15:1-4
These verses speak of the conclusion of G-d’s fury, those who defeated the beast, its image, and the number of its name standing by the sea of glass with harps given them by G-d himself. This event can be compared to our parashah where the Israelites stood at the Sea of Reeds and rejoiced after the destruction of the Egyptian army. Verse 3-4 reads “They were singing the song of Moshe, the servant of G-d and the song of the Lamb: Great and wonderful are the things you have done, Adonai, G-d of heaven’s armies! Just and true are your ways, king of the nations! 4 Adonai, who will not fear and glorify your name? Because you alone are holy, all nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous deeds have been revealed.”
The Song of Moshe reveals the might and justice of G-d, while the Song of the Lamb speaks of the testimony of Yahshua and exalts the justice of G-d. But unlike the Song of Moshe, it also brings out that in the final judgment G-d is revealed as King of the nations, King of the whole world, as prophesied in Zechariah 14:9, so that the nations will come to worship before Him. The Song of Moshe and the Song of the Lamb exemplify and support the co-existence of grace and law, and the theme of the seven-fold-witness in Revelation that defines a true believer according to Yahshua himself. Indeed, He will have the last word on this subject when we stand before Him. May we be found to have been good and faithful servants and win the prize of eternal life with our Savior, Redeemer, L-rd, and G-d; YHVH/Yahshua.
Rabbi Tamah Davis-Hart