3. SHABBAT READINGS & COMMENTARY

Friday, February 10, 2006 | 
B’Shalach (As He let them go): Exodus 13:17 – 17:16; Judges 4:4 – 5:31

Commentary:

In our weekly portion, parasha, we read about the Exodus out of Egypt, from slavery to freedom, from the bondage of sin to salvation.

Recently saved from Egypt and already facing problems, the Israelites had the Reed Sea in front of them and the army of Egypt galloping toward them. Where was God now? That’s how it is with us too, even when experience our own salvation. But our trust should be in Him, who will “not take away the pillar of cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people.” (13:22) Now God’s journey with His people began not only physically, but also spiritually.

God hardened Pharaoh’s heart one last time. Pharaoh called for his army and horses and hunted down the delivered slaves. Full of fear and panic, the people of Israel cry out to God and Moses: “For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.” Thanks to his 40 years of preparation Moses could give that kind of answer full of faith in Him: “Do not fear! Stand by and see the salvation of the LORD which He will accomplish for you today… The LORD will fight for you while you keep silent!” (14:13-14) My counsel to all who are facing those tests of faith, rely on this answer and keep it in your heart.

God led His people – untouched and dry – across the sea, because “the angel of God, who had been going before the camp of Israel moved and went behind them” (14:19), meaning complete protection by the angel of the Lord!

Then the enemy realized: “Let us flee from Israel, for the LORD is fighting for them…” (14:25) This is also my advice to the enemies of Israel: Keep this conclusion of the Egyptians in mind! As the Lord kept His people through the depths of darkness, He will drown His enemies in the depths of the sea. Both will sense His hand -- His people (14:31) and His enemies (14:18).

What a triumphant joy the children of Israel experienced, like in the days of the prophet Deborah, as in our portion of the prophets in Judges. Genuine songs of worship with dances were sung (Chapter 15): “The LORD is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation… This is my God, and I will praise Him…”

“You blew with Your wind, the sea covered them; They sank like lead in the mighty waters. Who is like You among the gods, O LORD?…”

“In Your lovingkindness You have led the people whom You have redeemed; In Your strength You have guided them to Your holy habitation…” (that’s why this Sabbath is also called the Sabbath of the Song, Shabbat-shira)

But only three days later they faced another test of faith: No water! How quickly we forget God’s grace and miracles! It proves that, even as in the days of Jesus, miracles are rarely accompanied by a broken and repentant heart on the part of the receiver! A daily walk with God and a daily renewal of our heart and mind from the “old man” into the “new man” is required.

After the miracle of the bitter water, we read about God’s commandments and statues, although no law was given at the time. It was given later at the Mount Sinai. God, from the beginning, wanted to give His people instruction how to be holy and set apart. Although we don’t obey commandments to gain worthiness or justification, we do them because we were instructed to – with the awareness that we cannot fulfill them and that’s why we depend on His grace and mercy. He chose us, we didn’t choose Him! That should always be clear to us! (John 15:16)

Then the people of Israel experience the miracle of manna, the bread. For 40 years, their daily bread came from heaven every morning. We read in John 6: “Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘HE GAVE THEM BREAD OUT OF HEAVEN TO EAT.’ Jesus then said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world… Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.”

We find also in this passage the principle of Friday as the day of preparation. God supplied two portions of manna so the children of Israel would not violate the Sabbath (also 16:26).

Three verses later we read about another principle: To not speak against spiritual authority because it is against God Himself. Read verse 8. Let it be also a lesson to us how we relate to our pastors! God hears everything.

As in our personal lives, when things become tough like they did for the children of Israel, grumbling and craving for Egypt, the sinful life, is expected. The “sweet taste” of sin is still there. But take counsel by the words of King David, who knew trials and sorrows very well, when he wrote those lines: “I called on the LORD in distress; The LORD answered me and set me in a broad place.” (Psalm 118:5)

- Michael Schneider -

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