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
In this week’s parashah G-d declares His Name very clearly. He explains to Moshe and us that he manifests himself in different roles, although He is Echad (a complex unity). This expands the concept of one person: many roles. G-d makes it clear to Moshe that He appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as El Shaddai (Nurturer, the breasted One) stating unequivocally “I did not make myself known to them by my name, Yud-Heh-Vav-Heh.” Note that he does not say “Yahweh.” There is no “W” in Hebrew. One more point about The Name (HaShem). It is important to realize that the modern tradition followed by rabbinical Jews is in direct conflict with G-d’s Torah. (Ex. 9:16). This passage makes it clear that G-d’s Name is to be declared throughout the earth and there is no prohibition against speaking the Name.
YHVH goes on to tell Moshe He is about to manifest 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 explore further in a few moments. This part of the sentence set 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 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.” Look up this verse in the Hebrew Bible. The word Ha’ish means fire. By the way, this verse also supports the fact that Yahshua executes judgement 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 allow 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. The borders are quite different than today’s Israel that is about the size of Rhode Island! There must always be an interaction between two of anything for a relationship to exist. So it is between G-d and Pharaoh; blessings and curses related to our willingness to lovingly keep G-d’s commands or reject them. 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 a reasonable service and an ongoing system of checks and balances designed for our spiritual growth (Rom. 12:1-2). Don’t be fooled into thinking that artificial manipulation of our bodies makes us a living sacrifice (set apart) for G-d with which He will be pleased. Being set apart for G-d as one of His people means coming to Him as we are on the outside with a changed heart; one that wants to serve only Him. Being set apart for YHVH/Yahshua includes everything we think, say, and do (Deut. 6:4). 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. 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 closer we get to G-d in our spiritual growth. 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 she enjoyed as a totally autonomous individual. Likewise, the closer she gets to the groom, the closer he gets to assuming the responsibility for her 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 may observe in our own society now, and in the future as even when people are burned by intense heat when the fourth bowl is poured described in the Book of Revelation, they will yet curse G-d! (Rev. 16:9). We must read our parashah carefully. Pharaoh chose his destiny. 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 freewill choices (Jer. 18:8, 10) and condemns those who ascribe this to fate by stating that we have no free will (Jer. 18:12); a point also reflected in 2 Tim 2:20-21. In another context, we must remember to exercise a little patience when people visit the synagogue or ask us questions about our faith in other venues. Using the parashah as an example once again, a giant, great plague would not have convinced the Egyptians as thoroughly of G-ds existence as several smaller ones. 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, yet! J We must give them time to learn the basics and internalize them before becoming more admonishing and otherwise drawing the line of tolerance.
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. Very often people will remain resolute in their choice to follow G-d only if their prayers have a perceived favourable 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 swell on their land that I gave to My servant, to Jacob. And they shall dwell upon it securely.”
Ezekiel proceeds to convey 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 with 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. Keep in mind that Israel, the one who will become Yahshua’s bride, is a repentant people who follow G-d’s commands out of love for Him.
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