In this week’s parasha, Beshalach, Exodus 13.17 – 17.16,[i] Israel and a mixed multitude of peoples were sent out of Egypt. As they went out, the LORD led them night and day, in the path they should travel, eventually leading them to a waterway in preparation for once more seeing the mighty hand of the LORD. Behind them, was Pharaoh and his armies swiftly approaching, after realizing that they were losing a major source of cheap labor. In front of them a waterway that prohibited their advancement and escape. Unfortunately, the fleeing multitude did not initially see the situation through eyes of faith empowered by recent events. Instead they began, or maybe continued, their well-honed patterned of complaining to Moshe about their perceived lot and how much better things were before he arrived on the scene with his promises of deliverance.
But Moses said to the people, “Don’t be afraid! Stand still, and see the salvation of Adonai, which He will perform for you today. You have seen the Egyptians today, but you will never see them again, ever! Adonai will fight for you, while you hold your peace.” (Exodus 14.13-14)
Notice, in the beginning of Beshalach, Hashem led the people out not by the easy way, by the sea where the Philistines were but by a longer route through the desert. Not because He wanted to toughen them up but so they would not be discouraged by having to face yet another enemy. He guided them, with a pillar of cloud by day and of fire at night – so they would always see His presence with them. Then finally, it seems that He led them to an impassable obstruction, with an enemy on their tails. Rav Shaul wrote to the believers in Rome, “For whatever was written before was written for our instruction, so that through patience and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15.4). How many times have we heard, “The LORD will not lead us into situations fraught with trouble, filled with pain or distress.” But that is exactly what happened here. Nowhere to go, the enemy fast approaching, and what seems like no good options. The LORD had led Israel to a place of no return. There may be times when He leads you and I to a similar place. What to do, what to do? Moshe told Israel that, “Adonai will fight for you, while you hold your peace.” Rav Shual told us this was recorded so we would have hope when we reach our own “waterway.”
The narrative had a happy ending – for some. Israel was delivered and the multitude never saw the Egyptians again. That too, should be an encouragement for us. Rav Shaul writes to the believers in Corinth, “He will not allow you to be tempted/tested beyond what you can handle. But with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape, so you will be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10.13). Just as He provided for Israel at the shoreline, so He will provide for each of us, no matter where our “shoreline” might be. Why, because He has affirmed it,
For I am Adonai your God who upholds your right hand, who says to you, “Fear not, I will help you.” (Isaiah 41.13)
The Haftarah is found in Judges 4.4 – 5.31, and recounts the season that Deborah served as a judge in Israel and under her tenure, “Then the land had peace for 40 years” (Judges 5.31). As with most of the judges, Deborah was raised up to deal with an enemy who troubled Israel because Israel “did what was evil in Adonai’s eyes” (Judges 4.1) and was reaping the results. In Deuteronomy this warning is recorded,
“But if you will not listen to the voice of Adonai your God, to take care to do all His mitzvot and statutes that I am commanding you today, all these curses will come on you and overtake you:” (Deuteronomy 28.15).
Israel had been given a choice, “I call the heavens and the earth to witness about you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Therefore, choose life so that you and your descendants may live,” (Deuteronomy 30.19). Israel voluntarily agreed to keep the commandments of Adonai, “All that Adonai has spoken, we will do and obey” (Exodus 24.7). When they choose to disobey the words of the covenant, they determined the consequences – discipline from the ADONAI. This too, is one of those areas that we should learn from as well. As followers of the Messiah, we know what we should do and what we should not do – it’s written on our hearts and energized by the Ruach Hakodesh. Just as Israel opened themselves up for the discipline of the Almighty due to their wrong choices, we do the same as well. However, “…we have an advocate with the Father, Yeshua the Messiah,” (1 John 2.1) who is waiting for us to turn to Him for assistance, for forgiveness, and for help in our time of need. Just like Israel, we need to choose life and live.
[i] Unless otherwise noted, all Scriptures are from the Tree of Life (TLV) Translation of the Bible. Copyright © 2015 by The Messianic Jewish Family Bible Society.