Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Parashah # 14: Va’era (I appeared) Sh’mot (Exodus) 6:2-9:35
Haftarah: Yechezk’el (Ezekiel) 28:25-29:21
B’rit Chadashah: Romans 9:14-17
At the beginning of this parashah, G-d clearly declares His Name. He explains to Moshe and us that he manifests himself in different roles, although He is Echad (a complex unity). G-d also makes it clear to Moshe that he appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as El Shaddai (the Nurturer, the breasted One) stating unequivocally “I did not make myself known to them by my name, Yud-Heh-Vav-Heh.” Exodus 9:16 makes it clear that G-d’s Name is to be declared throughout the earth. We learn that G-d manifests himself through use of different names and allegorically in different forms. In review, just a few of these manifestations include G-d as fire, representing law or judgment; a cloud representing grace, Yahshua as a cloud, an angel, and a human form as G-d incarnate to teach man the spirit of G-d’s Torah.
YHVH goes on to tell Moshe He is about to exhibit another of his roles; this time as Adonai executing judgments on Pharaoh and all he represents; mercy and guidance to the Israelites He is about to take as His own (Ex. 6:7). Why does He do this? In verse 6:7 we learn of our first and foremost purpose for living and for being chosen as are all true believers described by Yahshua in the book of Revelation; I will take you as my people, and I will be your G-d. Then you will know that I am Adonai…” Before we complete the sentence, let us look at it in two pieces. The first section speaks of G-d in the role of the ultimate Creator who chooses the Israelites as His people regardless of their so-called righteousness. He has the right to choose whomever he will for whatever reason He will as we shall further explore in a few moments. This part of the sentence sets the stage, so to speak for the future of Israel and all true believers (Ex. 12:49). The second part states “… who freed you from the forced labor of the Egyptians.” With our previous knowledge that Egypt in the Bible represents the epitome of a sinful lifestyle, G-d is prophetically speaking of His future manifestation as both G-d and Yahshua with the purpose of freeing or delivering the people from sin. A proof text is found in Ex: 13:21; “Adonai went ahead of them in a column of cloud during the daytime to lead them on their way, and at night in a column of fire to give them light…22 Neither the column of cloud by day nor the column of fire by night went away from in front of the people.” The word Ha’ish means fire. By the way, this verse also supports the fact that Yahshua executes judgment and is not all love!
Exodus 6:8 continues the history and future of true believers (Israel); “I will bring you into the land which I swore to give to Avraham, Yitz’chak and Ya’akov- I will give it to you as an inheritance. I am Adonai.” What an awesome, humbling, and beautiful promise! Deductive reasoning and hermeneutics allows us to apply the events described by G-d in our parashah to the continued “race to win the prize” described by Paul (Acts 17:11, Phil. 3:14, 1 Cor. 9:24), the end times described in Matthew 24, and the wedding of Israel to Yahshua in Revelation. The Land will be Israel, the borders of which have never been occupied by the Israelites in total as defined in Num. 34:1-13. This area is quite different than today’s Israel that is about the size of Rhode Island.
BUT… IF…. There must always be an interchange, an interaction between two of anything for a relationship to exist. There is a stark difference between “talking: and “communicating.” Communication requires a sender and a receiver. Talking simply requires a sender. So it was with G-d and Pharaoh. G-d as Adonai tells Pharaoh through Moshe to let the Israelites go and worship him (G-d) or else… G-d tells those who would be considered true believers the same thing (Ex. 15:25-6). For every action there is an opposite and equal reaction in the natural universe. However, in the spiritual realm we know or should know by now that YHVH/Yahshua has done and does more for us than we can ever do for Him; he needs nothing from us. What we do for Him is our reasonable service and an ongoing system of checks and balances designed for our spiritual growth (Rom. 12:1-2). Presenting our bodies , better translated as ourselves, a living sacrifice, set apart for YHVH/Yahshua includes everything we think, say, and do. Compare this to Deut. 6:4-11.If we strive to incorporate, internalize, act upon the Words of G-d’s Torah, we will continue to ascend toward G-d as we descend in our love of self; totally contrary to the Hellenistic paradigm of our society. Again, the reciprocity of energy expenditure is manifest in this concept. Interestingly, it is a relationship of inverse ratios. The more we nullify self, the more we grow spiritually and advance our relationship with G-d. Another way to look at this in a physical sense is to imagine a bride walking down the aisle toward her groom. The closer she gets to him (the spiritual leader of the home), the closer she gets to relinquishing certain freedoms and customs “cloths” she enjoyed in her previous culture. Recall that when a foreign woman was taken in battle, she had her head shaved, her nails trimmed, and the Israelite captor had to refrain from having sex with her for 30 days as she mourned the loss of her mother and father (Deut. 21:12). The woman had to give up everything familiar to her in a pagan culture while in a strange environment with a strange man who followed a different “god.” Likewise, as the groom takes the bride, he willingly accepts responsibility for his bride’s protection and well-being; relinquishing his freedom to move from one relationship to another without commitment. G-d, seeing the people He is about to separate unto Himself, begins the process of removing all threats from her by way of dealing with Pharaoh (Egypt). Yet, the process still provides an opportunity for the aggressor to repent before experiencing each consequence metered out for each act of rebellion willingly chosen by Pharaoh. Pharaoh’s responses by the way foretell the stubbornness we observe in our own society today, and will see in the future if we are sealed to serve during the Tribulation. Even when people are being burned by intense heat when the fourth bowl is poured, they will yet curse G-d! (Rev. 16:9). We must read our parashah carefully. Pharaoh chose his destiny using his free-will. The statement that “YHVH hardened the heart of Pharaoh is a Hebrew idiom in which an action verb is used to express not the doing of something, but permission to do it. G-d allowed Pharaoh to choose his destiny. G-d responds to our free-will choices (Jer. 18:8, 10) and condemns those who ascribe their fate stating that we have no free will (Jer. 18:12); a point also described in 2 Tim 2:20-21. Using the parashah as an example once again, a giant, great plague would not have convinced the Egyptians as thoroughly of G-d’s existence as several smaller testings and judgments. If Egypt had been wiped out at the first moment of refusal, they never would have been afforded the opportunity of teshuvah, repentance. After each plague, Pharaoh and the Egyptians had an interval in which they had time to think about their errors and repent. Similarly, if a visitor tells us they are going out to a Pork Lovers of America Pig Roast, we should not condemn them but allow the Ruach time to work on their hearts and minds. G-d will judge them at the right time; His time.
This sequence of repeated “times out” had another effect, this time on Moshe and Aharon. At first, Moses’ mission seemed to be successful. He had feared that the people would not believe in him, but G-d had given him signs to perform, and his brother Aaron to speak on his behalf. Moses:
“performed the signs before the people, and they believed. And when they heard that the LORD was concerned about them and had seen their misery, they bowed down and worshiped.” (Ex. 4:30-31)
But then things start to go wrong, and continue in that direction. Moses’ first appearance before Pharaoh is disastrous. Pharaoh refuses to recognize G-d. He rejects Moses’ request to let the people travel into the wilderness. He makes life worse for the Israelites. They must still make the same quota of bricks, but now they must also gather their own straw. The people turn against Moses and Aaron:
“May the L-rd look on you and judge you! You have made us obnoxious to Pharaoh and his officials and have put a sword in their hand to kill us” (Ex. 5:21).
Moses and Aaron return to Pharaoh to renew their request. They perform a sign – they turn a staff into a snake – but Pharaoh is unimpressed. His own magicians can do likewise. Next they bring the first of the plagues, but again Pharaoh is unmoved. He will not let the Israelites go. And so it goes, nine times. Moses does everything in his power and finds that nothing makes a difference. The Israelites are still slaves. We sense the pressure Moses is under. After his first setback, at the end of last week’s parashah, he turns to G-d and bitterly complains:
“Why, Lord, why have you brought trouble on this people? Is this why you sent me? Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought trouble on this people, and you have not rescued your people at all” (Ex. 5:22-23).
Even though God has reassured him that he will eventually succeed, he replies: “If the Israelites will not listen to me, why would Pharaoh listen to me, since I speak with faltering lips?” (Ex. 6:12).
There is an enduring message here. Ultimate success requires overcoming obstacles and failures. When all is said and done, we will be judged not by our failures, but how we responded to them. In every field, high, low, sacred or secular, people are tested not by their successes but by their failures. It can sometimes be easy to succeed. The conditions may be favorable. The economic, political or personal climate is good. When there is an economic boom, most businesses flourish. In the first year, most marriages are happy. It takes no special skill to succeed in good times.
But when the climate changes, many businesses, politicians, and marriages fail. When G-d starts the refining process, many who are like seeds who have fallen to the ground but develop roots on rocks simply fall away. Others who develop no roots simply blow away with the first test. This is described in the parable of the sower (Matthew 13:1-23). There are times when even the greatest people stumble. At such moments, character is tested. Responding to the call of G-d guarantees you a refining trip of a lifetime. We will fail from time-to-time as we go through G-d’s training camp on this earth. But G-d will give us similar opportunities to refine the character flaw that caused us to fail the first time. Our challenge is to survive failure, to keep on going, to refuse to be defeated, never give up or give in. We must persevere, continuing to run the race to win the prize (Phil 3:14; 1 Cor. 9:23-25). More importantly, we must learn from our mistakes. Our failures should be accepted as learning experiences and not as clubs to beat ourselves over the head. With every experience we overcome, we become stronger in and for G-d. That is the story of Moses’ life in last weeks and this week’s parashot.
Calvin Coolidge once said “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.” I would only add, “And seyata diShmaya, the help of Heaven.” God never loses faith in us even if we sometimes lose faith in ourselves.
Defeats, delays and disappointments hurt. Sometimes we are discouraged when we ask questions of one in whom we have respect and are rejected or turned away, or ignored. How do we react? Do we choose to never as the question again to someone else and continue in our ignorance, or do we ask the question of another person in the same capacity? Think of the number of times we read about Moshe and Aharon falling on their faces before the L-rd in anguish and frustration. Perseverance is the key to ultimate success in any endeavor. Even more important is to align our will with G-d’s. If we are out of sync with His will which is the ultimate plan for our success, He may still allow us success in the short term, but ultimate destruction and failure when all is said and done.
There is another application from which we may learn from the parashah. Just as with Pharaoh and the Egyptians (and everyone else), proper repentance must be completely unconditional. The penitent must acknowledge the wrong that he or she has done and resolve to improve, regardless of any external factors. Particularly, one’s repentance and subsequent Torah observance should not depend on the “success” of one’s prayer- that is if one’s prayers are answered. We must acknowledge as humans we are located on the forest floor; we cannot see above the canopy as does G-d. People will often remain resolute in their choice to follow G-d only if their prayers have a perceived favorable outcome; otherwise forget it! Even if one’s situation perceivably deteriorates, we must remain steadfast and not deviate from our new level of commitment. If we falter this easily, we can be sure, we are as the fig tree spoken of in Matt. 13:21. If however, we remain on the King’s highway no matter how much traffic there is all around us, we can be certain that G-d will execute His perfect will for our best (Rom. 8:28-38).
Haftarah: Yechezk’el (Ezekiel) 28:25-29:21
This week’s haftarah starts with the ingathering of the exiles, reflecting back on G-d’s promise in our parashah “I will take you out of the suffering of Egypt.” Ezekiel discusses the decimation of Pharaoh and Egypt, also reflecting the devastation wrought upon Egypt described in the parashah.
Ezekiel tells us what will occur during the ingathering of the exiles. “When I gather in the house of Israel from the peoples among whom they have been scattered, and I have been sanctified through them in the eyes of the nations, then they shall dwell on their land that I gave to My servant, to Jacob. And they shall dwell upon it securely…”
Ezekiel conveys a prophecy regarding Pharaoh and Egypt, foretelling the fall of the Egyptian empire. Egypt was punished for two reasons. First, they reneged on their promise to assist Israel against the attacking Babylonians. Second, they had incredible arrogance, considering themselves totally self-reliant on the bounty of the Nile instead of G-d. The Nile was their G-d. It is interesting that G-d turned the waters of Egyptian god (the Nile) to blood and killed the life within it. That is a teaching in itself! This description fits America perfectly. Therefore, Ezekiel warns them: “And the land of Egypt shall be desolate and in ruins, and they shall know that I am the L-rd!” Because he [pharaoh] said, ‘The river is mine, and I have made it.” G-d warns that the land of Egypt will be empty and desolate for forty years, after which G-d will return the people to the land to reinhabit it, but it will no longer be an important nation to be reckoned with. Could this statement foretell the future of the United States? Only time will tell.
The haftarah ends with another prophecy where G-d tells Ezekiel that Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, will be the one to conquer Egypt and take its riches. This was a reward given him by G-d because he was accomplishing G-d’s purpose by defeating the nation of Tyre.
B’rit Chadashah: Romans 9:14-17
Now let’s look at the relationship between Ex. 9:16 to Rom. 9:17. In this passage (Rom 8:26-9:29), Paul compares G-d’s promise to believers to his promise to Israel. We know that Israel as the bride of Yahshua is in fact defined as true believers. Therefore this relationship should come as no surprise. Romans 8:29-30 literally translates from the Aramaic: “And from beforehand he knew them and marked them with the likeness of the image of his Son that he might be the firstborn of many brothers. And those which beforehand he marked, he called and those whom he called he justified and those whom he justified he glorified.”
The Aramaic does not address predestination, but foreknowledge. The text compares G-d’s promise to believers with his promise to Israel (believers=Israel) in Rom. 9:1-4). Paul tells us that G-d selected/elected/chose Israel (Rom. 9:11). He quotes passages from the Tanakh to support his statement (Rom. 9:12= Gen. 25:23); Rom 9:13=Mal.1:2-3). Take note that G-d hated Esau for giving up his inheritance of his own free will (Gen. 25:24-34).
Paul then quotes the Torah: “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. (Ex. 33:19=Rom 9:15). This highlights G-d’s sovereign right to choose Israel.
Paul refers to our parashah (Rom. 9:17= Ex. 9:16), then presents the parable of the potter and the clay (Rom. 9:19-21). A parable common in Jewish literature (Isaiah 29:16; 45:9; Jer. 18:1-10). In this parable the potter is G-d and man is the clay. The point is that G-d is sovereign over man, just as the potter is over the clay. Paul uses this illustration to justify G-d choosing Israel as his elect while “hating” Esau and allowing Pharaoh to continue in his rebellion toward G-d. Paul’s point in Rom. 9 is not to promote the Greek philosophy of fatalism, or to indicate that men have no free will. Rather, his point is to defend G-d’s sovereign right to choose Israel. Furthermore, we can see in this week’s parashah that Pharaoh is not stripped of his free will, but it does express G-d’s sovereign right to create Pharaoh for His purpose. May we submit to G-d’s just and merciful hands as the clay allows the potter to form a perfect vessel.
Rabbi Tamah Davis-Hart