Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Parashah B’shallach (After he had let go) : Sh’mot (Exodus) 13:17-17:27
Haftarah: Shof’tim (Judges) 4:4-5:31 (A) 5:1-31 (S)
Ketuvim Nitzavim: Lk. 2:22-24; Yochanan (Jn.) 6:15-17, 22-40; 19:31-37; 1Cor. 10:1-13; 2Cor. 8:1-15; Rev. 15:1-4
Torah: Sh’mot (Ex.) 13:17-17:27
The rabbis teach that Israel entered into the covenant with G-d by three rites; Circumcision, Immersion, and Sacrifice. In this week’s Parashah we are going to explore Israel’s Mikveh (immersion/baptism). With the incident of the final plague and all the events of Passover, Israel had now experienced redemption; they had left Egypt. As they approached the Reed Sea, G-d was about to take them through the symbolic event that would demonstrate that reality.
In I Cor. 10 Rav Sha’ul (Paul) discusses this mikveh. He said that “Our forefathers were all under the cloud and they all passed through the sea. They were all immersed into Moshe in the cloud and in the sea”. The mikveh in the Torah always symbolizes a change in status. When a leper was cleansed, he was Mikveh’d. An unclean individual immersed himself as part of the cleansing process. Israel had undergone the greatest change of status there is; they had changed from being a powerless group of slaves to the holy, unique people of Almighty G-d. Under the renewed covenant, the mikveh has much the same meaning, it symbolizes our change in status from sinful, unredeemed individuals to co-heirs with the Messiah, part of the holy nation and the royal priesthood ( 1 Peter 2:9), and included among the righteous remnant of Israel. So how do the mikveh, Torah, the Messiah and our redemption fit together?
The Messiah’s mikveh was to fulfill all righteousness. What does this mean? Righteousness is ‘doing what is right’, and in our context, doing what is right in the eyes of G-d. Torah was given to show us what G-d thinks is right, so part of the reason Yahshua was Mikveh’d was in obedience to G-d’s commands, fulfilling His duty under Torah. Even more is that the mikveh symbolizes the covenant of Torah.
Now back to Rav Sha’ul’s exposition. He says that they were immersed into Moshe. Moshe, in the writings of the Talmidim and in the words of Yahshua Himself is often used to symbolize Torah (i.e. Moshe and the prophets). Therefore, part of what Sha’ul is saying is that Israel was Mikveh’d as a symbol of their taking on the ‘yoke of the mitzvot’, now that they had taken on the ‘Yoke of Heaven’ through their experience of redemption. Because they are ’our forefathers’ (for Jew and Gentile alike in the renewed covenant) these things happened to provide us an example. Our mikveh experience includes this as well. It is symbolic of our entrance into the redeemed community of G-d (Israel) with all the privileges (salvation, covenant blessings, etc.) and responsibilities (mitzvot). Rav Sha’ul’s Midrash not only provides us an example but also a warning. The mikveh is symbolic of a redemption experience and entrance into the redeemed community and is to be taken very seriously. Sha’ul warns us not to be like some of them (the Israelites who came out of Egypt) who grumbled and rebelled and experienced G-d’s judgement. They may have come through the Reed Sea but they had not experienced circumcision of the heart. For them, mikveh was just getting wet. We need to constantly be on our guard to make sure our mikveh experience is not just a dunk in a river
but a truly life changing experience, an experience of death and life. The mikveh is symbolic of our entrance into G-d’s unique covenant community. If we do not uphold our end of that covenant, we can expect to be judged and judged severely. We do not want G-d’s Name to be blasphemed before the world on account of us; He does not look on the smearing of His Name very kindly. But Rav Sha’ul ends with a promise. It may be difficult to live as the redeemed people of G-d and adhere to the covenant. But G-d is faithful and does not command or allow things that are impossible for us and will always provide us the way and the strength to stand for Truth and righteousness and thus make Abba proud.
Haftarah: Shof’tim (Judges) 5:1-31
The events described in this scripture are very similar to those in our Parashah. In both narratives, the Israelites were suffering under an oppressive ruler whose reign was becoming increasingly crueler. I would like you to keep in mind this lesson’s applicability for the very near future as our country is pushed into a socialistic paradigm in preparation for the Antimessiah. In our parashah and haftarah, G-d sent a savior; the oppressors were humbled and destroyed by unmistakable miracles. The nation Israel was uplifted and elevated to a new plane of recognition of G-d and devotion to serving Him. D’vorah, a woman and judge of Israel by the way provides an excellent example the faith and holiness of women who follow G-d’s commands out of love. There is nothing in scripture to support the Christian teaching and position that women are to remain “silent” in the “Church” and not qualified to take leadership roles. Other examples include Jochebed and Miriam who were instrumental in saving Moshe as an infant, Miriam who led a song with tambourines in a song of praise when G-d parted the waters of the Reed Sea because there was no doubt in their minds that G-d had and would perform miracles for His people. In our Haftarah, it is D’vorah who was the “prime mover in the battle and in the song” Chumash, 1998, p.1152.
B’rit Chadasha: 2 Cor. 8: 1-15
8 1 Now, brothers, we must tell you about the grace G-d has given the congregations in Macedonia. 2 Despite severe trials, and even though they are desperately poor, their joy has overflowed in a wealth of generosity. 3 I tell you they have not merely given according to their means, but of their own free will they have given beyond their means. 4 They begged and pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service for G-d’s people. 5 Also, they didn’t do this in the way we had expected, but first they gave themselves to the Lord, which means, by G-d’s will, to us.
6 All this has led us to urge Titus to bring this same gracious gift to completion among you, since he has already made a beginning of it. 7 Just as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in diligence of every kind, and in your love for us—see that you excel in this gift too. 8 I am not issuing an order; rather, I am testing the genuineness of your love against the diligence of others. 9 For you know how generous our Lord Yahshua the Messiah was—for your sakes he impoverished himself, even though he was rich, so that he might make you rich by means of his poverty. 10 As I say, in regard to this matter I am only giving an opinion. A year ago you were not only the first to take action but the first to want to do so. Now it would be to your advantage 11 to finish what you started, so that your eagerness in wanting to commence the project may be matched by your eagerness to complete it, as you contribute from what you have. 12 For if the eagerness to give is there, the acceptability of the gift will be measured by what you have, not by what you don’t have. 13 It is not that relief for others should cause trouble for you, but that there should be a kind of reciprocity: 14 at present your abundance can help those in need; so that when you are in need, their abundance can help you—thus there is reciprocity. 15 It is as the Tanakh says,
“He who gathered much had nothing extra,
and he who gathered little had nothing lacking.”
This is a look at Sha’ul (Paul) as a practical man. It shows many aspects of his personality, aspirations, and psychology. This should inform us in evaluating him and his writings. In my opinion Paul was not devoid of pride and manipulation to seek his ends. I say this not to degrade his contribution to the Scriptures and his mission of G-d but to illustrate that he was also susceptible to human foibles
Before proceeding we need to understand the background of these two chapters 8:1–10:1a appealing to the Corinthians to give generously to the brothers in Judea is 1C 16:1–4&NN. In addition, this section is connected with two themes enunciated elsewhere in this letter—the importance of the Corinthians’ not receiving the grace of G-d in vain (6:1b–2&N), and Sha’ul’s defense of his own ministry (10:1&N). The occasion for moving into the subject is Macedonia (v. 1), which he began discussing at 7:5.
Take special notice of Sha’ul’s fundraising methods which have much in common with those of today. But notice that although he has plenty of practical advice about practical matters, he brings everything—the gift itself, the motivations for giving, the remarks about the “fundraising committee,” the allusions to the reactions of the recipients, even the “Jewish mother guilt trips” which he lays on the Corinthians—into the service of glorifying G-d.
1–5 He stirs up the Corinthians’ envy of virtue by presenting the congregations in nearby but competitive Macedonia (v. 1) as a standard of comparison (v. 8). Despite trials and poverty they have been generous beyond their means without being nagged (vv. 2–3). They even pleaded for the privilege of giving (v. 4); further, their giving was not casual but an act of devotion to the L-rd (v. 5).
6–8 Sha’ul’s follow-up of his earlier nudging (1C 16:1–4) is to be carried out by an experienced man in the field, Titus (v. 6). Sha’ul again compliments the good qualities of the potential givers (v. 7) but says, in effect, “Put your money where your mouth is” (v. 8).
9 Here is a motivation for giving unique to believers in the L-rd Yahshua the Messiah. He was rich, in that he had divine “glory … before the world existed” (Yn 17:5) and was “in the form of G-d,” so that “equality with G-d” was available to him (Pp 2:6), yet for your sakes he impoverished himself (Pp 2:5–11), so that he might make you rich with the righteousness of G-d imputed to you. You should imitate his generosity in this more mundane way.
10–15 It is tempting to see Sha’ul as a Jewish mother, “only giving an opinion” as he urges mature expression of initial zeal as being to your advantage (vv. 10–11a). You should not be dissuaded by poverty or by fear that your gift will be inadequate (vv. 11b–12). And relief for others should not cause trouble for you; rather, there should be reciprocity (vv. 13–14), as when the Israelites were in the desert and each gathered just as much manna as he needed (v. 15).
The advance we have on that today is that if you give $10.00 you’ll receive $100.00 in return. This appeal to the modern giver who has been raised in a society of materialism is as much a technique of Paul as the aforementioned scripture. Was Paul a prosperity preacher? I submit he was but the promised reward was far and above any monetary return.