Some Thoughts on Va’eira

This week’s Parsha, Va’eira, Exodus 6.2-9.35,i continues with Moshe attempting to convince HaShem that he has chosen the wrong guy to be the deliverer. Moshe obviously lost the argument and the back-and-forth dialogue with Pharaoh concerning Bnei Israel ensued. After the signs did not impress Pharaoh, the plagues began; first waters turned to blood for a period of seven days, then the frogs came, getting into every nook and cranny. Next were gnats, followed by flies, then a plague that fell upon the “beast of the field” – horses, donkeys, camels, herds, and flocks. After this came boils and the final plague recorded in this week’s portion, destructive hail accompanied by fire. Though Pharaoh requested relief from the hand of the LORD each time a plague fell upon Egypt, he continued to harden his heart against the request for Bnei Israel to go and worship the God who seemed to be the bane of Pharaoh’s existence and source of his troubles. 

Twice Moshe argued with HaShem and made the interesting claim about himself that he was “of uncircumcised lips” (Ex. 6.12, 30). The translator notes of the NET translation of the Scriptures suggests that Moshe is making “a comparison between his speech and that which Bnei Israel perceived as unacceptable, unprepared, foreign, and of no use to God.”ii In other words, Moshe was attempting to convince HaShem that the wrong guy for the job was chosen. It has also been suggested that just as Moshe’ first attempt at bringing HaShem’s message to Bnei Israel and Pharaoh had been less than favorably received, he may well have had the same concerns as Jeremiah when he complained,

To whom can I speak and warn so they would hear? See, their ears are uncircumcised, unable to hear! The word of ADONAI has become scorn to them. They have no delight in it.

Jeremiah 6:10

So not only did Moshe think that he could not speak, but he may also have thought that neither Bnei Israel or Pharaoh would be able to hear and respond to the word of HaShem.

There may well have been a third issue that concerned Moshe. It may have been that he was not so much concerned about his ability to speak or the ability of others to hear, but rather he doubted his own worthiness to speak on behalf of HaShem. The prophet Isaiah had similar concerns when, after seeing HaShem high and lifted up, he proclaimed that his lips were unclean. 

Oy to me! For I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I am dwelling among a people of unclean lips. For my eyes have seen the King, ADONAI-Tzva’ot!”

Isaiah 6.5

Having to speak for HaShem is surely an awesome responsibility and one that should never be taken lightly. But at the same time, when HaShem calls someone into a specific service, that person must not doubt the calling or the empowerment of the HaShem. Remember HaShem’s response when Moshe complained about his verbal abilities, “Who made man’s mouth? Or who makes a man mute or deaf, seeing or blind? Is it not I, ADONAI?” (Exodus 4.11).

The second parable of Yeshua in Matthew 25 (vs. 14-30) concerns the actions of a certain man who was about to go on an extended journey and turned over his possessions to his servants expecting them to make use of said possessions while he was gone. While I acknowledge that the word talents in this parable is literally an amount of money (quite a bit actually) it could also be understood, considering this week’s portion, to be the talents or abilities invested in a person by HaShem to accomplish his will in our lives. Of the three servants in the parable, the first two used what the master had left with them and increased his holdings. The third was not so fortunate. Instead of using what he was given, the third servant hid the talent—possibly protecting it, more than likely afraid of losing it—and thus did absolutely nothing with it. The master was less than happy and was most severe with his judgment. The next parable, if it is one, (vs 31-46) records the Son of Man judging the actions of those who call themselves his servants. Concerning the ones who apparently did not exercise their abilities in serving HaShem, Yeshua states,

“Then they too will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not care for You?’ Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Amen, I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for Me.’”

Matthew 25.44-45

Not all of us are Moshe standing before Pharaoh, but we all have talents and abilities that HaShem has invested in us to use within our sphere of influence. To hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You were faithful with a little, so I’ll put you in charge of much. Enter into your master’s joy!” (Matthew 25.21), we need to use what we have been given. The potential reward for obedience is not our goal; the goal is hearing that the Master is pleased with our actions and that he desires us to enter into his joy.

In Isaiah 66:5 it is written “Hear the word of ADONAI, you who tremble at His word…” (TLV) and “Hear the word of the LORD, you who are concerned about His word!” (JPS)iii These two different translations demonstrate that it is not only important to respect (fear) the Word of the LORD, but one must also be concerned about being obedient to it. Eventually Moshe not only feared/revered HaShem but was also concerned about the Word, and the people to whom he was sent, and was obedient to the Word. Unfortunately, it appears that Pharaoh never attained such an attitude. Doubts about our abilities to do what HaShem desires for us to do is a common trait among us all, whether we are brand new followers of Yeshua or have walked with him for decades. Consider the conversation between the man with the epileptic son and Yeshua in regard to the healing of his son.

“But if You can do anything, have compassion and help us!” (the father pleaded). “If You can’?” Yeshua said to him. “All things are possible for one who believes!” Immediately the boy’s father cried out, “I believe! Help my unbelief!”

Mark 9:22-24

I am going to step out on a limb here and suggest that it is not necessarily the doubt that troubles HaShem so much as it is allowing those doubts to stop our doing what he has called us to do. The father’s admission to Yeshua that he believed but still had seeds of doubt, was not the issue because instead allowing the doubt to germinate and blossom, he asked Yeshua to assist him in overcoming it. As we go into Shabbat and move into a new week, let’s commit together to trust HaShem, even when things appear to be beyond our abilities, knowing that when he directs us to do something he will enable and empower us to do it – just as he did for Moshe.

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.
ii The NET Bible, Second Edition Notes (NET Notes). Nashville, Thomas Nelson, copyright ©1996, 2019 by Biblical Studies Press, electronic text hypertexted and prepared by OakTree Software, Inc., Version 5.3
iii The Jewish Study Bible 2nd edition. Edited by Adele Berlin and Marc Zvi Brettler. New York, Oxford University Press, 2004 & 2014.

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