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Parashat Bamidbar (In the Desert)
Numbers 1:1-4:20

The book of Numbers in Hebrew is called “In the Desert (or Wilderness)” and it describes the time when the Children of Israel wandered in the desert. While this book can be challenging to read and understand, it reveals much about God’s character – His holiness, His honor, and His command for order among other things. It also reveals in more detail His specific plan of taking “a people unto [Himself].” The book opens with instruction from God to take a census:

“Then the LORD spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the tent of meeting, on the first of the second month, in the second year after they had come out of the land of Egypt, saying, “Take a census of all the congregation of the sons of Israel, by their families, by their fathers’ households, according to the number of names, every male, head by head from twenty years old and upward, whoever is able to go out to war in Israel, you and Aaron shall number them by their armies. ” Numbers 1:1-3

It is interesting to note that the census is only for every man from twenty years old… The reason for it is that men were eligible to fight at this age, as it says, “every male that is able to go out to war in Israel…” However, when we reach verse 47, we learn that one of the tribes had a different role:

“ The Levites, however, were not numbered among them by their fathers’ tribe. For the LORD had spoken to Moses, saying, “Only the tribe of Levi you shall not number, nor shall you take their census among the sons of Israel. “But you shall appoint the Levites over the tabernacle of the testimony, and over all its furnishings and over all that belongs to it. They shall carry the tabernacle and all its furnishings, and they shall take care of it; they shall also camp around the tabernacle.” Numbers 1:47-50

God had a different, specific role for the Levites; they were to care for the Tabernacle of the Testimony and everything connected to it. The Levites were to be separated unto God’s service, to fulfill a very specific role, which God predestined for them. In the next verse we find something small yet, very important for us to understand, since it has nothing to do with the role of the Levites:

“So when the tabernacle is to set out, the Levites shall take it down; and when the tabernacle encamps, the Levites shall set it up. But the Stranger who comes near shall be put to death.” Numbers 1:51

The stranger here refers to anyone who is not a Levite, which is basically anyone who is not from the specific group of people whom God has chosen to care for the Tabernacle of the Testimony. The consequence for this “stranger” who puts himself in the role of Levite without being an actual Levite is death – a supernatural death by God Himself. This command is repeated in Numbers 3:10, 38 and 4:15, 19-20.

This may seem harsh from our human perspective, but this reveals something crucial about God’s character. There was only one way to do things and that is God’s way -no short cuts, no self-made choices – only the way He instructed things to be done. Any other way would bring death.

Each of us has a choice; we either do things our way, or accept His way. We either accept the death that He paid for us, follow His calling for us, and live an everlasting life with our Creator, or we choose our own way, which will lead us to an everlasting separation from our Creator.

Which is your choice?

Shabbat Shalom,

Parashat Shemini (Eight)

Parashat Shemini (Eight)

Vayikra (Leviticus) 9:1-11:47

This week’s reading is very interesting and rich; it contains some nuggets of wisdom for those of us who fear the Lord and follow Him. First, let me remind us of one of the things that we learned from last week’s blog, Pesach (Passover) Reflections: our God is the one and only true God; He is the Creator of the world, and everything is for Him and His glory.

Our portion this week opens with God’s specific instructions of how He expected the Children of Israel to offer sacrifices. These instructions are important for many reasons, but mostly because they reveal God’s character, and specifically His holiness and glory:

“And Moses said, “This is the thing which the LORD has commanded you to do, that the glory of the LORD may appear to you.”” Leviticus 9:6

As we learn from Leviticus 9:7-22, Aaron, acting on behalf of the people as Priest, did as the Lord commanded, and the result was an incredible, supernatural revelation of the Lord:

“And Moses and Aaron went into the Tent of Meeting. When they came out and blessed the people, the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people. Then fire came out from before the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the portions of fat on the altar; and when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces.” Leviticus 9:23-24

Can you imagine witnessing this incredible event? Our God’s glory is something magnificent that stretches beyond our imagination. As we can see in the verses above, His fire came down and burned all of the offering which was on the altar (a prophetic picture of what is to come) and the people could not comprehend it and fell on their faces.

Yet, following that amazing event, something tragic occurs and it’s crucial for us to pay attention and understand its implications.

“Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took their respective firepans, and after putting fire in them, placed incense on it and offered strange fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them.” Leviticus 10:1

I have no doubt that Nadav and Avihu heard God’s very specific instructions and witnessed that glorious moment when the heavenly fire consumed the sacrifice. However, they did not have the fear of the Lord in them; they were not wise and, as we can see, they were prideful. They wanted to do what they wanted to do in the way they wanted to do it rather than the way God instructed them to do it. They offered a strange fire before the Lord, which the Lord did not command them to.

Even if I try to look at this from a positive perspective, and give them the benefit of the doubt that they had good, pure motives to offer a sacrifice to the Lord, there is still a problem that they simply did not follow God’s specific instructions. In short, they defied His will. What they lacked was a true fear of the Lord. Since our God is Holy and is not playing games with anyone, the byproduct of their sin was immediate death from God’s holy fire:

“And fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD.” Leviticus 10:2

I think about what lessons this holds for us today, especially since we do not have a sacrificial system. As I wrote, our God is a holy God; He alone has the right to determine that which is holy and that which is not. We also see this in the specific instructions with regard to that which is holy (clean) and that which is unclean. (Leviticus 11)

As we read chapter 11 we learn something very interesting which shows us something very basic which is that when we do something that God tells us not to, we make ourselves unclean:

“Do not render yourselves detestable through any of the swarming things that swarm; and you shall not make yourselves unclean with them so that you become unclean. ‘For I am the LORD your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy; for I am holy. And you shall not make yourselves unclean with any of the swarming things that swarm on the earth.” Leviticus 11:43-44

As a final thought, I want to point out an important principle which is important for us to understand as followers of Messiah Yeshua and the one true God, יהוה (YHVH):

“‘For I am the LORD, who brought you up from the land of Egypt, to be your God; thus you shall be holy for I am holy.’”” Leviticus 11:45

He gave us the tools to be holy, just as He is holy! God delivered Israel from the land of Egypt (slavery) so that they would be a people set apart unto Him, for His glory. And that principle holds true today, both for the Jewish people as well as those who are grafted-in to the commonwealth of Israel (believers in Messiah Yeshua). Through Yeshua, we have been delivered from slavery to sin into His kingdom. We are to be holy and set apart unto Him, for His glory and His namesake!

Where are you today? Is there anything in your life that is keeping you from being holy and set apart to the Lord? Are you offering a “foreign fire” to the Lord that could separate you from Him?

Shabbat Shalom,

April 20, 2017
Pesach (Passover) Reflections

Pesach (Passover) Reflections

This week we are in the midst of celebrating Pesach (Passover), and the weekly reading is a special one for Shabbat, “Chol HaMoed Pesach” from Exodus.

As we are on the theme of Passover, I thought about sharing some thoughts that may be a little different from the main reading. As a child, I always understood Passover to be the amazing story of the redemption of the Children of Israel from slavery. However, the more I studied the text, the more I understood that the main story is not about Israel nor Egypt, but rather about the One and only true God! The Passover story is ultimately about His faithfulness, His might, and absolute control.

Back in the time of the Passover story, Egypt was the mightiest nation on earth, and Pharaoh was much more than just a king – he was considered a god. A key verse to understanding the story is Exodus 5:2, when Pharaoh responded to God’s call to let His people go, “But Pharaoh said, “Who is the LORD that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, and besides, I will not let Israel go.”

Pharaoh did not know the God of Israel; Pharaoh was full of pride and thought that he was in control over everything. Yet, as we know, it was God Himself that displayed His power and might when He redeemed His people for His own glory:

“Then the LORD said to Moses, “Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh; for under compulsion he shall let them go, and under compulsion he shall drive them out of his land.” God spoke further to Moses and said to him, “I am the LORD; and I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name, LORD, I did not make Myself known to them. “And I also established My covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land in which they sojourned. “And furthermore I have heard the groaning of the sons of Israel, because the Egyptians are holding them in bondage; and I have remembered My covenant. “Say, therefore, to the sons of Israel, ‘I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from their bondage. I will also redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. ‘Then I will take you for My people, and I will be your God; and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. ‘And I will bring you to the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and I will give it to you for a inheritance; I am the LORD.” Exodus 6:1-8 (emphasis mine)

In the Scripture above, we see that everything about the Passover event was about God Himself! He did what He did in order to display His awesome power and faithfulness, all for His own glory.

Let us be encouraged that this is the same God that we choose to put our trust in. He is the One that you and I need to keep our eyes on. As I said and wrote many times before, one of the greatest witnesses that we serve the same God is found in the fact that today we see God’s faithfulness and power in the re-gathering of His people back to the Land of Promise, Israel:

“Therefore behold, days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when it will no longer be said, ‘As the LORD lives, who brought up the sons of Israel out of the land of Egypt, ’but, ‘As the LORD lives, who brought up the sons of Israel from the land of the north and from all the countries where He had banished them.’ For I will restore them to their own land which I gave to their fathers.” Jeremiah 16:14-15

Here we see the same principle: it is the same God, and all that He does, He does it for His own glory and namesake. We should be thankful to have the eyes to see that, and to be chosen to partake in His plan for the redemption of this world through His Son, Yeshua the Messiah!

In closing, in the story of Passover, we read, “And the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live; and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.” Exodus 12:13

In the same way that it was for the Children of Israel who had to mark their doorpost with the blood of a lamb in order for God to “pass over” their homes when He judged Egypt, so it is for us today; God requires the Blood of the Lamb (Yeshua our Messiah) so that when the final judgment comes, He will pass over us, who choose to obey His command, sparing our souls eternal death apart from Him.

May you continue to have a blessed and peaceful time of remembering the LORD’s Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread!

Shabbat Shalom,

Parashat Tzav (Command)

Parashat Tzav (Command)

Vayikra (Leviticus) 6:1-8:36

This Shabbat is the Shabbat before Passover. It is called the “Shabbat HaGadol” (Great Sabbath) because while in Egypt, it was on Shabbat that God commanded His people to bring the Passover Lamb into their homes and keep it until the 14th day of Nissan, when they sacrificed it and placed its blood upon their doorposts. No doubt, it is a very special time of reflection and thankfulness for all God has done for us.

In our weekly Scripture portion, we read of the consecration of the Kohanim (Priests) throughout Leviticus, chapter 8. As I was reading the chapter again and again, reflecting upon it, and talking to some good friends about it, I saw some very interesting things that I’d like to share, as I feel it will bring us a deeper appreciation of God’s character.

First, it’s important we understand that the priests were ordinary people, just like you and me; they did not have any special supernatural talents or qualities. It was God Himself who chose them, and He equipped them with all they needed to fulfill their tasks. The Priests were not exempt from following God’s commands; on the contrary, they had a bigger responsibility than everyone else, as they were role models for the people!

I found the order of events that precede the actual consecration to be very significant. The first thing that Moses did was to wash them with water: “Then Moses had Aaron and his sons come near, and washed them with water.” Leviticus 8:6. This act of “washing with water” is what I believe we call “immersion” or “baptism”. It was done as an act of purification as well as a ceremonial preparation for a task. The second act of preparation was to put on the special priestly garments with their specific elements (verses 7-9). This was followed by anointing with oil; first, of the sanctuary and then the anointing of the priest himself (verses 10-12). It was only then, after all these preparatory acts were completed, that the actual sacrifice was offered to the Lord on their behalf.

When reflecting on all this, I couldn’t help thinking about Yeshua our Messiah, and how this connects to Him. If we look at key events that took place in His life, we can see He was indeed being prepared to fulfill His role as High Priest in the heavenly tabernacle! He was immersed, not for purification since He was without sin, but in preparation for His priestly role. At Gat Shemanim (Garden of Gethsemane), which literally means “Garden of the Olive Oil Press”, He chose to crush His will in submission to the Father. He then offered Himself as the perfect sacrifice, and clothed Himself in His new role as the Anointed One.

However, unlike the Priests in the past, we need to first and foremost accept His sacrifice, then be immersed in water and put on the “garments” as a new creation in Messiah, while receiving the anointing of the Lord to fulfill His call for us on this earth.

I love the order of God’s Kingdom! It always amazes me how everything eventually points to Him, and gives us something to look forward to in eternity.

Shabbat Shalom,

Parashat Vayikra (And He Called)

Parashat Vayikra (And He Called)

Vayikra (Leviticus) 1:1-5:26

One of the many reasons that I love God’s Word is that the more one reads it, the more one understands the depth and richness of the LORD and His plan.

In this week’s Scripture reading, we find a very interesting verse:

“‘Every grain offering of yours, you shall salt with salt, you shall not omit salt of the covenant of your God from been placed above your grain offering; on all your offerings you shall offer salt.”

Leviticus 2:13

When reading this verse, we see the importance of salt in the offering, and therefore, the necessary question is, “Why is salt so important?” The answer, as it turns out, has to do with the many incredible properties of salt!

God instructed the children of Israel not to eat the blood of an animal: “ For as for the life of all flesh, its blood is identified with its life. Therefore I said to the sons of Israel, ‘You are not to eat the blood of any flesh, for the life of all flesh is its blood; whoever eats it shall be cut off.” Leviticus 17:14

In the process of making meat kosher, the meat is covered with salt, which draws all the blood out of the meat (the “life” of the flesh) as well as killing all the germs within the meat. Not only that, but salt also can be used to preserve the meat, which is an amazing picture of preserving the everlasting covenant that God speaks of in Leviticus 2:13!

We know that salt can also bring healing and cleansing. In 2 Kings 2:21, Elisha throws salt in the water, purifying and healing it so that it would no longer cause death. Even today, people with various skin diseases come from all over the world to the Dead Sea, which has a very high salt and mineral content, to heal their ailments.

I am reminded by our Messiah’s words to us, His disciples, when He said: “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how will it be made salty again? It is good for nothing anymore, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.” Matt 5:13

Our job is to be salt on this earth, so that His healing will come to this world. The only way that will happen is if His blood, which was shed for us, replaces the “bad” blood of our sin.

We live in a broken and sick world that is in much need of healing. Are our lives full of the saltiness of the Lord so that we can bring His healing to those around us? Yes, initially the cleansing of the salt burns, but after comes healing, which brings life.

If you are a new creation in Yeshua, you have been cleansed and healed! This does not mean you are perfect and will not struggle with sin. However, it does mean that you have His Spirit within you to bring His healing to others. Let us stop being stuck in our past, and instead walk forward in the healing that He has provided for us.

Shabbat shalom,

Parashat Ki Tisa (When You Lift Up)
harehemot (Exodus) 30:11-34:35

In our Scripture portion this week, we can see that whatever God asks or requires of us, He will also give us the tools through which to do it. When we read the amazing description of what God required of Moses and the Children of Israel in the construction of His sanctuary in which He would dwell, it’s easy to think that meeting all of the requirements would be impossible! But that is not how God works…He always provides a way:

“ Now the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “See, I have called by name Bezalel, the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. “And I have filled him with the Spirit of God in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all kinds of craftsmanship, to make artistic designs for work in gold, in silver, and in bronze, and in the cutting of stones for settings, and in the carving of wood, that he may work in all kinds of craftsmanship. “And behold, I Myself have appointed with him Oholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan; and in the hearts of all who are skillful I have put skill, that they may make all that I have commanded you: the tent of meeting, and the ark of testimony, and the mercy seat upon it, and all the furniture of the tent, the table also and its utensils, and the pure gold lampstand with all its utensils, and the altar of incense, the altar of burnt offering also with all its utensils, and the laver and its stand, the woven garments as well, and the holy garments for Aaron the priest, and the garments of his sons, with which to carry on their priesthood; the anointing oil also, and the fragrant incense for the holy place, they are to make them according to all that I have commanded you.” Exodus 31:1-11

From the verses above we can see that God chose a man named Bezalel to accomplish the task, and that God Himself equipped Bezalel with all that he needed. He filled him with His Spirit, which brought wisdom, insight, knowledge, and the talent needed to fulfill all that God required. Not only that, but God also provided helpers for Bezalel, Oholiab and other skilled workers, so that he would not “burn out” from the responsibility.

When I reflect upon the great call that God had for Moses and the Children of Israel, I can’t help but think about the great call that God has given us, His followers, in building His Kingdom. It is no doubt a call which is greater than us; however, we can be encouraged that in the same way God provided His Spirit of wisdom, insight, knowledge, and talent in the past, He also provides for us today.

But we also need one another to fulfill the call! Bezalel could not accomplish the task on his own, but needed the help and support of others. We are foolish to think we can accomplish what God asks of us by ourselves, in our own strength. This is what it means to operate as a body! We each have gifts and talents that the Lord has bestowed on us, with which we use to encourage and edify one another, for the building of His Kingdom.

With what talent did God bless you? Are you using it for the glory of His Kingdom?

Shabbat Shalom,

Parashat Terumah (Offering)

Parashat Terumah (Offering)

Shemot (Exodus) 25:1-27:19

What are you holding onto in this world that is more important than God? Genesis 1:1 opens with the words, “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth.” God is the Creator of this world, and everything in it belongs to Him.

In this week’s Scripture portion, the concept of tithe is introduced when God instructs Moses to tell the children of Israel to take up an offering for Him, which He calls, “My donation (offering).”

“Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Tell the sons of Israel to take a donation (offering) for Me; from every person whose heart moves him you shall take My donation.”

Exodus 25:1-2

In other words, God was telling the Children of Israel to give Him a portion of what was already His from the beginning of time!

But there is an important spiritual principle established in this verse. From this scripture, one ought to understand that everything within this world is from God and for God. Oftentimes, we treat that which we have as ours; however, we need to remember that whatever we have has been entrusted to us for a very specific purpose: to glorify Him!

In addition to this, we can also understand something about God’s concern for the condition of our hearts. As His children, we have the honor to know Him, love Him, honor Him, and partake in His plan. This should bring us great joy! When the Lord said that each person should give as “his heart moves him,” He was acknowledging that each of us can choose how to bless Him! There is no “set limit” for how much we give back to Him. We are not doing God any favors! Instead, we give back to Him a small portion of what He has given us from a joyful, grateful heart.

Let us search our hearts for what motivates us in our walk with the Lord. Are we motivated by fear? By an expectation to receive back from Him? By love and gratitude?

He deserves our best heart’s attitude!

Shabbat Shalom,

Parashat Yitro (Jethro)

Parashat Yitro (Jethro)

Shemot (Exodus) 18:1-20:23

Do you know that your testimony of what God has done in your life can change others’ lives? In this week’s Scripture portion, we see a very interesting occurrence:

“Now Jethro, the priest of Midian, Moses’ father-in-law, heard of all that God had done for Moses and for Israel His people, how the LORD had brought Israel out of Egypt.”

Exodus 18:1

The word was out, so to speak! News of the many signs and wonders that God did for the people of Israel was traveling! Jethro heard about it, which indicates that people were speaking about it, and he brought Zippora (Moses’ wife) and their two sons to Moses to hear his account first-hand. I wonder if Jethro wanted to confirm with Moses that the rumors of all of the great things that God did were true? Was it possible that they were so incredible, almost too incredible to be true?

“And Moses told his father-in-law all that the LORD had done to Pharaoh and to the Egyptians on behalf of Israel, all the hardship that had befallen them on the way, and how the LORD had saved (Delivered) them. ” Exodus 18:8

What we have here is Moses sharing his testimony with his father in law; he confirmed that everything Jethro heard was true, and possibly even filled in details that were missing from the rumors! Jethro’s response is very significant in that it shows how powerful the telling of one’s testimony (God’s story) can be in changing someone’s life:

“And Jethro rejoiced over all the goodness which the LORD had done to Israel, in delivering them from the hand of the Egyptians. So Jethro said, “Blessed be the LORD who delivered you from the hand of the Egyptians and from the hand of Pharaoh, and who delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians. “Now I know that the LORD is greater than all the gods; indeed, it was proven when they dealt proudly against the people.” Exodus 18:9-11

As Jethro heard Moses’ personal testimony, it was no longer that he just heard about God’s mighty power, but he now knew that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of Israel and of his son in law, Moses, was (and is) indeed the Almighty, the ruler of the Universe, and that He indeed is greater that any other!

A few years ago, as I entered a restaurant, I saw a group from Australia sitting at a nearby table. A few of them stopped me and told me that they knew me from somewhere, but I did not really pay much attention, thinking they were joking. Then one man said to me, “I’m sure I know you. Where do I know you from? “ I responded that he probably saw me share God’s story of my life (my testimony) somewhere. His response to me was, “Yes, I saw your testimony, but I didn’t think you were real.” As strange as it sounds, that man had to personally meet me in order to know that I was real.

But isn’t that how we are with God? For many years, I heard about God, but it was only when I said to God, “I want to know you, not just about you”, that I encountered the Living God through Messiah Yeshua. I experienced a personal deliverance knowing the same God who delivered my people from Egypt thousands of years before, had also done the same for me.

We’ve all heard about Him…but do you know Him?

Shabbat Shalom,

Parashat Ve’eira (And I Appeared)

Parashat Ve’eira (And I Appeared)

Shemot (Exodus) 6:2-9:35

In my most recent blog entry, I wrote that our faithful God heard the cry of the Children of Israel, and He remembered His covenant that He made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He saw their terrible situation, and in His perfect time, He began the process of redeeming His people and delivering them from slavery.

Our weekly portion this week starts with a wonderful reminder of what was written above: “God spoke further to Moses and said to him, “I am the LORD; and I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name, LORD, I did not make Myself known to them. “And I also established My covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land in which they sojourned. “And furthermore I have heard the groaning of the sons of Israel, because the Egyptians are holding them in bondage; and I have remembered My covenant. “Say, therefore, to the sons of Israel, ‘I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from their bondage. I will also redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. ‘Then I will take you for My people, and I will be your God; and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. ‘And I will bring you to the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and I will give it to you for a possession; I am the LORD.’”” Exodus 6:2-8

In this Scripture portion, God speaks to Moses. The first thing He tells him is, “I am the Lord”, which is a reminder that He indeed is the One and Only Almighty God, the One who was, who is, and who is to come. It is also very significant that He reveals to Moses His sacred name, יהוה (Yod Hai Vav Hai), which He did not reveal when He appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Why did God only now decide to introduce Himself by this sacred name?

This marks a shift in the way God deals with the Children of Israel; by revealing to Moses His name, then reminding Moses of the covenant He made with Abraham, Isaac, & Jacob, and then repeating all that HE would do (“I will bring you”, “I will deliver you”, “I will also redeem you”, “I will take you”, “I will be your God”), He brings Israel into a deeper understanding of Him as their Lord. He makes sure that they understand that He will do so in love and also for His own namesake.

The second important point that we can see is that God intended to glorify His name not only among the Hebrew slaves, but also among the Egyptians. Pharaoh, the people of Egypt, and all the people throughout the world would know that יהוה is the one true living God!

In last week’s parasha, Pharaoh makes a very revealing and tragic statement, “But Pharaoh said, “Who is the LORD that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, and besides, I will not let Israel go.” Exodus 5: 2

Historically, it is known that Pharaoh considered himself god; the Egyptian people worshiped him as such, and considered him highest above all beings on earth. What Pharaoh said in Exodus 5 shows this to be true, while also revealing a prideful, stubborn heart.

Elohim, the creator of the world, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is the one an only true God; He will not share His glory with anyone! He is greater than anyone or anything and is more powerful than any earthly power or ruler. In Exodus 7:4-5 He says,

“When Pharaoh will not listen to you, then I will lay My hand on Egypt, and bring out My hosts, My people the sons of Israel, from the land of Egypt by great judgments. “And the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I stretch out My hand on Egypt and bring out the sons of Israel from their midst.”

And then in 8:22-23 (8:18-19 in the Hebrew Bible) He says, “ ‘But on that day I will set apart the land of Goshen, where My people are living, so that no swarms of insects will be there, in order that you may know that I, the LORD, am in the midst of the land. ” And I will put a division between My people and your people. Tomorrow this sign shall occur.’”

Again, in both examples above, God makes it clear that He does what He does in order that everyone would know that He is God Almighty. He also says that He will put a “division” or “redemption” [which is a more accurate translation of the Hebrew word used here (פדות -pedut)], in order to show the difference between the Children of Israel (God’s people) and the people of Egypt (Pharaoh’s people).

What can you and I take from this? First, we can be sure that God is the protector of His people. What a great hope and assurance we can have today knowing that we believe in the same God who performed such wonderful, mighty miracles for the Children of Israel! Second, we can rest in His wonderful redemption for all eternity!

But each person must choose for him/herself…to which group do you want to belong: God’s or the world’s?

Shabbat Shalom,

Parashat Shemot (Names)

Parashat Shemot (Names)

Shemot (Exodus) 1:1-6:1

This week, we begin studying a new book in the weekly parasha called Shemot (Exodus). The literal translation of the Hebrew is “Names”, which comes from Exodus 1:1: “These are the names of the sons of Israel who came to Egypt with Jacob, each with his household…” There are many various pearls of wisdom in this week’s portion, which are relevant to our lives today.

Chapter 2:23-25 describes the harsh, difficult reality of the Children of Israel during those times (this is my translation from the Hebrew text):

“ During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the sons (children) of Israel groaned because of their work (labor) and cried out (wailed). Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the children of Israel—and God knew.” Exodus 2:23-25

We have all been in tough, perhaps even desperate, situations. Like the Children of Israel, perhaps you cried out to God, hoping that He would change the situation, only to find that it got worse. Or perhaps you thought, “If only things were different…” Have you ever lost your hope? Have you ever taken your eyes off God?

When the king of Egypt died, perhaps the Children of Israel (who had been enslaved) hoped that their situation would improve or change. However, as the scripture indicates, nothing changed, and the children of Israel cried out for help, desperate to change their situation.

Our faithful God heard their cry, and He remembered His covenant that He made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He saw their terrible situation, and in His perfect time, He began the process of redeeming His people and delivering them from slavery.

The first point I would like to make is that, regardless of the circumstances you are facing, God is with you. He is faithful, He sees everything, He knows everything, and you can find great comfort in this truth. In His time, He will deliver you from the situation, and during the challenge you face, He will give you the strength to stand firm.

The fact that God remembered His covenant is proof of His faithfulness! Regardless of where we are, whether or not we deserve it, our God is a trustworthy God and we can find great assurance in this truth! We can see this demonstrated in Exodus 3:6-10 when He calls Moses to deliver His people from Egypt:

“And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. Then the LORD said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.””

This brings me to my second point: God called Moses to do something great, even though it was terrifying to Moses. In essence, God gave Moses the amazing honor to partake in His miraculous plan of redemption! There was no way that Moses could foresee just how miraculous it would be…he had to follow the Lord regardless of not being able to see the end result.

But we can understand Moses’ fear! He was, after all, a human just like you and me. How many times have we become paralyzed by fear because we focused on the huge mountain before us rather than on the One who can move the mountain?

“But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?””

My brothers and sisters, just like Moses, we have been called to something that is much bigger and greater than us. We are called to confront the “Pharaohs” of this world…we are called to partake in God’s miraculous plan of redemption, not only for Israel, but also to the entire world. But we can do nothing in our own strength. The giants are too big for us to conquer alone. We must look to Him and rely on His ability to move the mountain!

Are you looking to God, trusting Him to give you all that you need to fulfill the task He has given you? Or are you like Moses when God first called him, giving God all the reasons why you aren’t able to answer His call?

Just remember that you can indeed do all things through Him who gives you strength (Phil. 4:13)!

Shabbat Shalom,

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