In this week’s parasha, Beshalach, Exodus 13.17 – 17.16,i the children of Israel and a mixed multitude of peoples, were sent out of Egypt. As they went out, HaShem led them night and day, in the path they should travel, eventually leading them to Sea of Reeds in preparation for once more seeing the mighty hand of the LORD. Behind them Pharaoh and his armies, having realized that they were losing a major source of cheap labor, were swiftly approaching and in front of them was a waterway that blocked 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 pattern of complaining to Moses 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, “Have no fear! Stand by and witness the deliverance which the LORD will work for you today; for the Egyptians whom you see today you will never see again. The LORD will battle for you; you hold your peace!”Exodus 14.13-14
Notice in the beginning of Beshalach, Hashem did not lead the people out by the easy way, by the Mediterranean Sea where the Philistines lived, but by a longer route through the desert. His route choice was not because He wanted to toughen them up, but so they would not have to face yet another enemy and become discouraged. He guided them with a pillar of cloud by day and of fire at night; this way they always saw his presence with them. But to them it seemed as if he had led them to an impassable obstruction—the Sea of Reeds before them and the enemy behind them.
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) ii. How many times have we heard that HaShem will not lead us into situations filled with trouble, pain or distress? The experience of the children of Israel would seem to disprove that idea. With nowhere to go and the enemy fast approaching, they seemed to have no good options. In the natural, it seemed HaShem had led them to a place of no return. There may have been times when it seems He has led you and me to a similar place. What to do, what to do? Moses boldly told the children of Israel, “The LORD will battle for you; you hold your peace!”
The narrative did have a happy ending, at least for some. The children of Israel were delivered, and the multitude never saw the Egyptians again. This should be an encouragement for us. Rav Shaul wrote to the believers in Corinth, “He (HaShem) 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 a way of escape for the children of Israel and the multitude with them at the shoreline, so He will provide for each of us, no matter where or what our “shoreline” might be. Why, because He has affirmed it,
For I the LORD am your God, who grasped your right hand, who say to you: have no fear; I will be your help.Isaiah 41.13
I feel the need to add one more example of being stuck in a bad situation that appears to have no way of escape. The Book of Daniel relates the narrative of the three young men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, who refused to bow down to Nebuchadnezzar’s god. This act enraged the Babylonian king causing him to punish the three by tossing them into a fiery furnace. Like the children of Israel before the Sea of Reeds, in the natural they had no way out. However, unlike the children of Israel, these three men did not complain against their lot, instead they boldly proclaimed to King Nebuchadnezzar,
“Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter, for if so, it must be, our God whom we serve is able to save us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will save us from your power. But even if He does not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your god or worship the statue of gold that you have set up.”Daniel 3.16-18
The three young men had faith in HaShem that he was able to deliver them, possibly because their faith was bolstered by the stories of HaShem’s deliverances in the past. Then comes the “however,” “But even if He does not … we will not serve your god or worship the statue of gold that you have set up.” Their faith and trust in HaShem was NOT dependent upon his actions on their behalf but upon their covenantal relationship with him. He was their God and sovereign regardless of how he answered their prayers, and they trusted in the fact that he would always take care of them. In chapter eleven of the Letter to the Hebrews is a list of the faithful in the Tanakh. It is most noteworthy to realize that not all of those listed were delivered or healed from their situations – but they all stayed firm in their faith in the One who called them.
Therefore the take away for each of us is this; first, we are in relationship with a God who is able to deliver us from any seashore, fiery furnace, or other obstacle that may come across our path. Yes, this includes COVID, economic distress, and even civil disorder. However, that deliverance may not always be in the manner that we desire. So, like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, we can say to the obstacle “even if He does not deliver us …” we will continue to trust in HaShem, knowing that whether we understand it or not, “all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8.28).
i Unless otherwise noted, all readings from the Tanakh are from The Jewish Study Bible 2nd edition. Edited by Adele Berlin and Marc Zvi Brettler. New York, Oxford University Press, 2004 & 2014.
ii Unless otherwise noted, all readings from the Brit Chadashah are from the Tree of Life (TLV) Translation of the Bible. Copyright © 2015 by The Messianic Jewish Family Bible Society.