Thursday, January 29, 2015
B'shallach - Sh'mot 13:17-17:16
B'shallach - After he had let go
I will be focusing this week on the third aliyot (they are separate for Ashkenazi and Sephardic this week - I will cover both) of Parasha B'shallach. Basically, Sh'mot 14:15-15:21. At this point, the Israelites have left Egypt and Elohim has led them to travel through the desert in a roundabout way to the Sea of Suf. Elohim had them to avoid the main highway so that the people would not see warfare and become afraid. I suspect that He also had another reason to take them on the slower route, He needed to let the Egyptians catch up. The Israelites have now been pinned against the Sea by Pharaoh's army. While the people have become very fearful and are losing confidence, they are about to witness one of the greatest demonstrations ever of YHVH's power.
Moshe has tried to calm the people by letting them know that YHVH will do battle with Pharaoh on the people's behalf. It doesn't appear that they are interested in listening. When Moshe speaks to YHVH about it, His response is to tell Moshe to stop crying and move forward! He commands Moshe to reach his staff over the sea and part the waters. Despite the Hollywood depictions, this was not an instantaneous event. The water didn't just roll away and let the people run through. Reading on, we see that YHVH sent a strong east wind that blew the waters back all night. During this time of vulnerability, YHVH (appearing as a column of fire and cloud) moved from in front of the people to behind them. We all know that YHVH has been leading the people as a column of cloud by day and fire by night. I find it interesting to note that He seems to be appearing as both when He moved behind the people. It says that there was cloud and darkness on one side (the Egyptians), but light by night on the other (Israelites). How symbolic of the ninth plague and Israel's command to be the light in the darkness. He placed Himself between His people and their enemy. He cut off their sight of their past and their troubles. Is it any different today? If we trust in Him, will He not separate us from our past troubles while leading us in the proper direction? Will He not remove any obstacle that will prevent us from reaching His promise?
Once the ground between the waters was dry, the Israelites began their journey. Many explanations have been put forth to explain this mighty miracle as something natural, or an exaggerated event. None of them can explain how the ground was dry, yet water was walled up on the left and the right of the people. An earthquake causing a tsunami may explain the water pulling back and exposing land. It can even explain the water crashing back over the Egyptians just before dawn. It cannot explain their being a wall of water on the other side of the people. It also can't explain the walls staying there all night long while the people crossed. Three million people do not cross a sea quickly, no matter who is pursuing them. There are some who say the water was only a few inches deep where they crossed. That doesn't fit the description by any stretch of the imagination. It also fails to explain how YHVH could drown all those horses and cavalry in three inches of water. It seems to me, that would also be a miracle!
As the Egyptians pursued the Israelites into the sea, YHVH caused panic among them. He broke the wheels off their chariots to slow them down. He caused so much havoc that it says "The Egyptians said, 'YHVH is fighting for Isra'el against the Egyptians! Let's get away from them!'" Isn't that amazing? The Egyptians wanted to get away from the Egyptians. So who were these Egyptians that fled? Read who YHVH said would be destroyed in the sea, and notice who is not mentioned. The chariots, their riders, and the cavalry were slated for destruction. What about the foot soldiers that would have traveled with them? The attendants and servants that would have kept the army ready to fight the Israelites? Remember that not all Egyptian soldiers joined the army voluntarily. And not all Egyptians were of Egyptian descent. Many had families who had been conquered or came to Egypt to escape famine, like the Israelites. Therefore, Egyptians could escape the fate of the Egyptians. Who do you think spread the stories ahead of the Israelites as they traveled through the desert?
Once the people of Israel had crossed the sea, Moshe reached out his hand again and the waters returned to normal depth. As mentioned above, the chariots and cavalry were all destroyed... "not even one of them was left." The Israelites saw the dead Egyptians washed up on the shore of the sea. Scripture says that seeing this mighty deed made Isra'el fear YHVH and believe in YHVH and in Moshe. After all that they had gone through and seen in Egypt, the people finally believed in YHVH and His mighty power.
The first 21 verses of Sh'mot 15 gives us the pattern for how we should always respond to the awesome works of YHVH. The people sang and danced and gave praise to YHVH. I have to wonder if the people really understood that the song they were singing was telling prophecy. They sang about events in their future as if they were a done deal. Indeed, they were. The important thing to note is that they were praising YHVH and rejoicing in things that had not yet happened. While their faith didn't always stay as strong as it should, at this point it was rock-solid. This is another one of those not-so-subtle lessons in how we should walk out our faith in Him. We should be thanking and praising Him for all the wondrous deeds He has done in our lives. For every victory we have through Him over adversities and attacks of the enemy. But we should also be rejoicing in the belief in what He will do in the future. There are so many prophecies for His people that have not yet been fulfilled. Like our people coming out of the sea, we should be dancing and singing to Him for the fulfillment we know is yet to come.