Thursday, January 26, 2017

Grokking GOD | Parashat Va'era | By His EVERY Word

Parashat Va’era
פרשת וארא
“And I appeared”
“And God spoke to Moses...” Exodus 6:2

Torah Portion: Exodus 6:2-9:35

Haftarah: Ezekiel 28:25-29:21
B’rit Chadash/New Covenant: Romans 9:14-33

Shabbat | 28 January 2017  |  1 Sh'vat 5777

Grokking GOD

Most of us seem to have an innate sense 
that there is more to the world
 than meets the eye
—that there is a spiritual realm—
unseen, but very real.
We are inexplicably drawn to it;
its power and mystery
captivates and fascinates.  

Some seek to harness this occult power; 
some have
—seemingly for a season—
only to end in ruin.

Societies often embrace occultism 
preceding their downfall. 

Before the collapse, 
unthinkable and inhuman atrocities 
often take place against the most vulnerable
 (most often the Jews), 
as society morally degenerates 
unto its undoing. 

This familiar pattern can be traced throughout history
 from Egypt 
to Hitler’s Germany.

Adonai, the Master Architect, extends His Hand to His beloved creation. But we prefer gods crafted in our own image. We like systems—religions, that fulfill our need to belong. 

And we are still easily beguiled by the serpent,
 “Did God really say?” 
“You will be just like God!” Genesis 3 
True sons of Adam, we so readily resist 
our Divine Benefactor.

Egypt represents pride, sensuality, greed, sorcery, and idolatry (devotion to anyone or anything that draws our heart into unfaithfulness to Adonai). 

The colossal contest between Pharaoh and Moses can be viewed as a metaphor, a parable. No one exists in a vacuum. Newton’s Third Law of Physics states: “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” God created the physical world with these properties which testify to spiritual truths as well

Like Pharaoh, our lives affect many others. If we succumb to the lure of Egypt, we harden our hearts to God, and reap the bitter fruits of our choices—and pass those consequences on to others: children, spouses, friends, employees, ad nauseam.  

Amazingly, Pharaoh came to the knowledge that YHVH is the righteous one, that he had sinned against the LORD, and the people of Egypt were wicked. He realized that YHVH alone had power over the natural forces and the plagues—and the gods of Egypt did not, but he still hardened his heart, even when finally and fully enlightened to this “knowledge.” Exodus 9:14-35 

Pharaoh didn’t “grok” God, 
and all Egypt suffered grievously 
because of it. 

Many “know of” and “about” the God of the Bible
 and Yeshua (Jesus) the Messiah, 
but NOT in the true, Hebraic (biblical) sense of KNOWING Him, 
(the way He desires to be known).

The only English word that expresses it rightly
 is not English at all, but MARTIAN. 
From Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land, the word “grok” is similarly expressed by the Hebrew words “biyn,” “da’at,” and “yada,” which express the concept of deep understanding in which the revelation of something becomes internalized—a part of you.
In the Divine sense, 
one can but only spontaneously respond, 
“Thou art God!” 
and be forever transformed
delivered from the burden of Egypt
and numbered among the redeemed. 

Grok on!
Join us now at the Father’s table as we keep the rhythm of Israel for more than two millennia, anticipating fresh manna from our God and King. As followers of Messiah we have added a corresponding New Covenant portion reflecting the fulfillment and crown of the Torah.

Exodus 6  Grokking GOD
vv. 2-3 “And God spoke to Moses and said to him: ‘I am the LORD. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name LORD I was not known to them.’” 

When I was in my teens (a hundred years ago), I read Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein. Beyond the title, which I found very meaningful throughout my life, meeting its Divine elucidation in Hebrews 11:13-16, was the concept of “grokking.” 

In English, we do not have one word that expresses this concept. To grok is to so thoroughly understand that it becomes part of our being. It means to “know” so thoroughly that it is not merely a linear fact, but understood multi-dimensionally. “Revelation” is birthed within us.

Hebrew contains the word biyn בין which primarily means understanding as used in Proverbs 3:5: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”

The Hebrew word da’at דעת adds wisdom, perception, discernment and knowledge to understanding, as in Psalm 119:66: “Teach me good discernment and knowledge, for I believe in Your commandments.”

Then there is yada ידע, the deeper concept to know, perceive and see and discern, know by experience, discriminate and distinguish, to recognize, acknowledge and confess, be acquainted with, be made known, be revealed, instructed, have knowledge and be wise, to know a person in the carnal sense, such as in Genesis 4:1: “Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived...”  

That is an intimate and deep “knowing!” Have you ever heard the expression, "I knew that I knew that I knew..."? That is Yada.

v. 3 “ My name LORD I was not known to them.”

Why would Adonai say that He was not known to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob by His Name, YHVH יהוה? We know He did reveal Himself from Genesis 12 on as both El Shaddai and I AMYHVH יהוה.

There is obviously something else being communicated here.
What we have already learned from the Hebrew Scriptures is that a name is not merely a label. In Hebrew, a name reveals the nature and often the purpose, prophetic call, and attributes of the bearer.
Adonai had revealed Himself to the Patriarchs as the One True God, El Shaddai, the Mighty All Sufficient God, God of Faithfulness, God of Promise, God of the Covenant, and God of their Fathers.
But He is far more. He is going to be greatly magnified in the understanding of the sons of Israel—and in the sight of all Egypt as well! They are going to more fully apprehend His sovereignty as He demonstrates that His authority and dominion are above all the natural forces of the world, and His might above all earthly kingdoms and their gods. He will do this through spectacular signs and wonders. Thus He will make Himself known on behalf of His Covenant People, demonstrating His faithfulness to Israel in the sight of her enemies.
As Rabbi Hertz puts it: “God was now to make the full signification of the Name known to the children of Israel by redeeming them from slavery. Thus would He manifest Himself to the children in a manner that He had not done to the Fathers. ‘I was not recognized by them in my full attribute of Faithfulness, which is the essential part of the Name, signifying One who is faithful to give reality of His word...’”
 From The Pentateuch and Haftorahs, Chief Rabbi Dr. J.H. Hertz, 1938


vv. 6-8 “...I am the LORD, and I WILL bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I WILL deliver you from their bondage. I WILL also redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. Then I WILL take you for My people, and I WILL be your God; and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. I WILL bring you to the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and I WILL give it to you for a possession; I am the LORD.’”
From these verses is derived the Passover tradition in which four cups of wine are presented at specific times during the traditional meal accompanied with blessings and the recitation of Exodus 6:6-7. 
The first cup, is known as Sanctification. 
The second cup, the Cup of Judgment, is not partaken of, but rather the plagues of Egypt are recited as a drop of wine is removed from the goblet with each plague, reducing the volume. The liturgy explains that a full cup symbolizes fullness of joy, therefore, the cup is reduced as the participants’ joy is reduced as the memory of the terrific suffering Pharaoh brought upon the Egyptians. Judaism teaches that it is wrong to forget the suffering of Egyptians. “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, And do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles...” (Proverbs 24:17) In some traditions, a blessing is then offered for the deliverance from bondage as slaves to the Egyptians also in the text of v. 6. 
The third cup, taken after the meal, is the Cup of Redemption. This was the cup Yeshua lifted at his Passover with the disciples and declared: “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.” Luke 22:20 
The fourth cup is the Cup of Hope or Restoration, springing from the magnificent, prophetic promise YHVH made to this tiny nation, enslaved and without hope! 
There is a further promise of great import as well: a reiteration of the covenant of the Land of Israel promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Israel (Jacob). This is also celebrated at the close of the Passover dinner (seder) with the traditional declaration: “LaShanah Haba'ah B'Yerushalayim! Next year in Jerusalem!”
Egypt was a land of great wonders ... grand structures built by slaves rising out of the arid desert ... fertile valleys hugging the great Nile river ... sorcerers adept at the black arts. But their gods were the things of the earth—beetles, reptiles, cattle, kings.

Adonai was about to make a spectacle of the impotence of their deities.

v. 9 Moses was eighty years old when he delivered Adonai’s magnificent message to the sons of Israel.  
The people, however, were so crushed in spirit, and anguished by the cruelty and hard labor, that they didn’t have the power to hear (shä·mah' שָׁמַע) what Moses said.

v. 11 Still, the LORD sent Moses to Pharaoh again. “Go, tell Pharaoh king of Egypt to let the sons of Israel go out of his land.” 

v. 12  But Moses believes it is his poor speaking ability that has caused his failure with his own people, therefore, why would Pharaoh listen to him? “But Moses spoke before the LORD, saying, "Behold, the sons of Israel have not listened to me; how then will Pharaoh listen to me, for I am unskilled in speech?” 

v. 13  Apparently the LORD was not the least bit concerned that Moses believed he wasn’t up to the task. Rather than relenting, He now charges Moses and Aaron with the noble and magnificent task of emancipating the sons of Israel! “Then the LORD spoke to Moses and to Aaron, and gave them a charge to the sons of Israel and to Pharaoh king of Egypt, to bring the sons of Israel out of the land of Egypt.” 

Exodus 7  Signs and Wonders in the Land of Signs and Wonders
vv. 1-6 “Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘See, I make you as God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet. You shall speak all that I command you, and your brother Aaron shall speak to Pharaoh that he let the sons of Israel go out of his land. But I will harden Pharaoh's heart that I may multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt. When Pharaoh does not listen to you, then I will lay My hand on Egypt and bring out My hosts, My people the sons of Israel, from the land of Egypt by great judgments. The Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I stretch out My hand on Egypt and bring out the sons of Israel from their midst.’”

Prophets and Miracle Workers  People run to and fro after purported prophets and miracles, but miracles and prophecies rarely change people’s hearts. There may be a great rush of fervor or emotion, but it can only be sustained by more of the same. When the spectacle is over, people move on, looking for the next thrill to feed their selfish desires. 

When the Divine manifests His presence, it is to imprint His His holiness on creation, calling all into conformity to His express will for the perfecting of His great redemption. 
This and this alone is what truly changes hearts. It is self sustaining in and of itself.
In the prophet Jeremiah’s day, people were soothed, encouraged, and led astray by false prophets. Adonai would not have His people deceived by those who speak eloquently and compellingly. He gives clarity for recognizing the true from the false. 

“I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran. I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied. But if they had stood in My counsel, And had caused My people to hear My words, Then they would have turned them from their evil way And from the evil of their doings. Jeremiah 23:21-22

The Word of the LORD leads to righteousness, holiness, and repentance, and will never violate Scripture. It is Adonai that is exalted, not the men. That’s why Moses was perfect for the job of deliverer—he did not want the elevated position to which Adonai had called him! Numbers 12:3 says of Moses that he was more humble than any other man on the earth. He was humble before God and man, therefore he realized the promise: “...he crowns the humble with salvation” (Psalm 149:4).  As prophet, Aaron will tell Pharaoh to let the sons of Israel go—this is God’s word, God’s will, God’s redemption.

Of the false prophets, the LORD is clear:‘Is not My word like a fire?’ says the LORD, ‘And like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces? Behold, I am against those who prophesy false dreams,’ says the LORD, ‘and tell them, and cause My people to err by their lies and by their recklessness.’” Jeremiah 23:29,32

We are extremely tolerant of men who claim to speak for God, but speak falsely. We count on the grace of God to cover their error. 

Yet, it’s entirely possible that from Heaven’s perspective, such recklessness in His Holy Name is not viewed as casually, as it leads others to suffer.

v. 6 “So Moses and Aaron did it; as the LORD commanded them, thus they did.”

v. 13 The tragic picture begins to unfold as the contest with Pharaoh commences. Pharaoh challenges Moses to “work a miracle,” just as Adonai said he would. Aaron throws down his staff, as Adonai had commanded, and it becomes a serpent. Then Pharaoh’s sorcerers each produce serpents from their staffs as well. But Aaron’s serpent swallowed up all of the others, proving superiority.  “Yet Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he did not listen to them, as the LORD had said.” 
Our text says the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I stretch out My hand on Egypt and bring out the sons of Israel from their midst,” (v. 5) but Pharaoh’s heart will not yield, therefore all Egypt will have to suffer for his rebellion to Adonai.
The First of the Ten PlaguesWater Turned to Blood
vv. 14-18 “Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Pharaoh's heart is stubborn; he refuses to let the people go. Go to Pharaoh in the morning as he is going out to the water, and station yourself to meet him on the bank of the Nile; and you shall take in your hand the staff that was turned into a serpent. You shall say to him, ‘The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, sent me to you, saying, ‘Let My people go, that they may serve Me in the wilderness. But behold, you have not listened until now. Thus says the LORD, ‘By this you shall know that I am the LORD: behold, I will strike the water that is in the Nile with the staff that is in my hand, and it will be turned to blood. The fish that are in the Nile will die, and the Nile will become foul, and the Egyptians will find difficulty in drinking water from the Nile.’” 

The Nile was Egypt’s pride and the source of all life to Egypt and its fertility.
Hapi was the ancient Egyptian god of the Nile. He was believed to be one of the greatest Egyptian gods. Songs, hymns, and symbols were conceived to venerate this “lord of water, fishes, birds, and marshes.”
Hapi, the god of the Nile
Adonai struck the heart of Egypt’s "great god" and caused its blood to run throughout the landin the sight of Pharaoh and his servants. 

For seven days there was no fresh water. The source of life—from the Nile to every stream, pool, and reservoir was filled with the evidence of death. All the fish—an important staple of life as well, died off throughout Egypt as the waters turned foul.

v. 23 “Then Pharaoh turned and went into his house with no concern even for this.”

v. 24 Pharaoh couldn't care less as his people clawed in the dirt with their hands hoping to find a tiny source of fresh water. 

Exodus 8  Of Lice and Men

The Second Plague: Frogs, Frogs, Frogs!

v. 1 
Once again, Adonai instructs Moses to entreat Pharaoh to “Let my people go, that they may serve me.” 

v. 2 And once again, he is warned of what is to come if he refuses: “‘...behold, I will smite your whole territory with frogs.’”

vv. 3-4 “The Nile will swarm with frogs, which will come up and go into your house and into your bedroom and on your bed, and into the houses of your servants and on your people, and into your ovens and into your kneading bowls. So the frogs will come up on you and your people and all your servants.’” 

v. 6 
Pharaoh was not moved, so Adonai instructed Moses to have Aaron stretch out his rod over the waters of Egypt, and “frogs came up and covered the land of Egypt.”

The frog was worshiped as the manifestation of the goddess Heqt, the wife of the god Khnum, believed to be the creator of the world. She was portrayed with the head of a frog. Egyptian women wore amulets to protect them during childbirth bearing her image as she was believed to assist them in birth. A symbol of blessing, fertility, and resurrection, to kill a frog was punishable by death.

Now every inch of their land, their homes, even their bread bowls, were defiled with these slimy tiny gods, exacting misery and judgment without respite.

Pharaoh’s magicians also performed magic and produced frogs, but apparently the great inundation of frogs brought forth by the LORD overwhelmed Pharaoh. He finally said he would let the sons of Israel go, just get rid of the frogs!
vv. 8-15 “Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron and said, ‘Entreat the LORD that He remove the frogs from me and from my people; and I will let the people go, that they may sacrifice to the LORD.’” 
In saying this, Pharaoh also acknowledged the miraculous nature of the plague, and that the God of Israel alone could deliver Egypt. His gods were powerless! 

So they struck a deal. The frogs would die off from everywhere save the Nile, and Pharaoh would allow the sons of Israel to depart the following day.

The LORD honored the agreement of men and dead frogs piled up throughout the land. But when Pharaoh saw there was relief, he hardened his heart again and went back on his word
The Third Plague: Lice!
v. 17 So, without warning, the LORD instructed Moses to tell Aaron to stretch out his staff, and “Aaron stretched out his hand with his rod and struck the dust of the earth, and it became lice on man and beast. All the dust of the land became lice throughout all the land of Egypt.” 

Instead of bringing forth cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic, the soil seemed to turn into tiny biting insects that covered man and beast! 

The Hebrew word, kinnim כָּנַן can refer to lice, gnats, fleas, or sand flies.

The Magicians Grok God

v. 19 Pharaoh’s magicians tried to replicate the miracle (like they needed more gnats?) but were unable to. So they were convinced of Israel’s God: “Then the magicians said to Pharaoh, ‘This is the finger of God.’” 

They get it. They have discerned the Hand of the Almighty!
The power of Egypt’s magicians was boasted of throughout the ancient world. It was a sign of the might of Egypt’s gods. 
Adonai is stripping Pharaoh of every source of pride and security, unmasking his powerless gods and revealing the vulnerable soft underbelly of Egypt, considered the jewel of the ancient world. 

But Pharaoh's heart was hardened—he did not listen to them, just as the LORD had predicted.
The Fourth Plague: Swarms!

vv. 20-21 “Now the LORD said to Moses, ‘Rise early in the morning and present yourself before Pharaoh, as he comes out to the water, and say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD, ‘Let My people go, that they may serve Me. For if you do not let My people go, behold, I will send swarms of flies on you and on your servants and on your people and into your houses; and the houses of the Egyptians will be full of swarms of flies, and also the ground on which they dwell.’”

Yet again, the LORD gives Pharaoh another opportunity to let His people go, but Pharaoh would not. So while they were still in the midst of the horror of the gnats, swarms were unleashed on the poor people of Egypt.
There is a discrepancy on the exact creature or creatures unleashed in this plague. The word fliesis not found in the original text. The Hebrew word, ä·rōve' עָרֹב may mean: mixture of divers sorts of insects, flies, or beetles

Hebrew commentaries note that it would likely refer to the scarab beetle, which was sacred in Egypt, regarded as the emblem of the sun god, and found on tombs, sculptures, amulets, paintings, gems, and a multitude of images. It would be a fitting mockery of yet another of Egypt’s deities.
The scarab was actually a dung beetle—an insect that feeds on the dung in the fields with mandibles powerful enough to saw through wood. A swarm of this beetle would be unimaginably grievous to endure. No wonder Adonai spared the sons of Israel from it.

v. 22 A unique facet to this plague was seen in the LORD stopping the plague at the borders of Israel’s neighborhoods: 
“I will set apart the land of Goshen, where My people are living, so that no swarms of flies will be there, in order that you may know that I, the LORD, am in the midst of the land. 

This powerful miracle accomplishes three things: 

1. It demonstrated to all God’s Hand and favor upon Israel
2. It separated (thus “sanctified”) Israel from Egypt

3. It further reveals the tremendous power over nature that Adonai wields.
v. 24 So great swarms were unleashed in the house of Pharaoh, and the houses of his servants, and the land of Egypt was laid waste. 

v. 25 And Pharaoh once again called for Moses and Aaron. He said, “Go, sacrifice to your God within the land.” 

vv. 26-32 But Moses said they cannot sacrifice unto God in Egypt—the Egyptians worship the animals to be sacrificed. They will be stoned. Also, they must do as God commanded, that is a three days’ journey into the wilderness to meet with Him. 

So Pharaoh AGAIN agreed, “I will let you go, that you may sacrifice to the LORD your God in the wilderness...”  And then he asked them to make sacrifice for him, too!

So Moses asked the LORD to remove the pestilence and the LORD removed all: “not one remained.” 

And Pharaoh again hardened his heart and did not let the people go! 

Exodus 9  Sacred Cows Fall, Ashes of Oppression, and Terror from the Heavens

The Fifth Plague: Cattle Disease!

Have you ever heard it said that the God of the Old Testament was the God of Judgment and the God of the New Testament is the God of grace? (I have, countless times...) 

By now, Adonai has extended Himself abundantly, warning Pharaoh repeatedly of the terrible consequences that all Egypt will suffer due to his stubbornness... 

And not only has Pharaoh continued to harden his heart against the LORD, and been uncaring to the suffering of his own people,  twice he has agreed to allow the sons of Israel to go, and then hardened his heart and gone back on his word! 

Why doesn’t Adonai just wipe Pharaoh out? 

vv. 1-6 “Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Go to Pharaoh and speak to him, ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, ‘Let My people go, that they may serve Me. For if you refuse to let them go and continue to hold them, behold, the hand of the LORD will come with a very severe pestilence on your livestock which are in the field, on the horses, on the donkeys, on the camels, on the herds, and on the flocks.’” 
Once again, the LORD is going to protect the sons of Israel from suffering this plague: 
But the LORD will make a distinction between the livestock of Israel and the livestock of Egypt, so that nothing will die of all that belongs to the sons of Israel. 
“So the LORD did this thing on the next day, and all the livestock of Egypt died; but of the livestock of the sons of Israel, not one died. 
The word pestilence, in Hebrew is deber דבר. It is also translated as cattle disease. It was possibly anthrax.

An Apis Bull Receiving Homage
Sacred Cows Fall
Egyptians worshiped goats, horses, and bulls as sacred beings. Many of their deities were depicted with heads of animals and were pictured as gods in their mythological paintings and inscriptions.

Bulls were associated with the Pharaohs from the earliest records in Egypt. Believed to impart power and virility, a sacred bull, once it was confirmed as an incarnation of a god, would be honored and pampered in luxurious surroundings, and then mummified and buried as royalty. Unlike other animal icons or amulets, the god Ptah was believed to actually inhabit the Apis bull.

ALL the livestock of Egypt died, but NONE of the livestock of the sons of Israel were lost. 

Once again, a "powerful god" of Egypt is struck down.

And, once again, a distinction is made as YHVH protects Israel from the judgment that befalls Egypt. 

v. 7 Pharaoh searched throughout the land and found all Egypt’s livestock had died, while Israel’s remained alive. Yet, “the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he did not let the people go.” 

The Sixth Plague: Boils!

vv. 8-12 Like the third plague, the sixth comes sudden and unannounced. Adonai instructs Moses and Aaron to take handfuls of ashes from a kiln and toss it to the sky in Pharaoh’s sight.
The Ashes of Oppression Bring Judgment to Egypt. The kilns were the very places the Hebrew slaves were forced to make bricks under cruelty and oppression.   
Now the ashes of oppression were borne aloft and carried dreadful disease—painful boils that erupted into blisters—to all the inhabitants of Egypt, man and beast alike. Excluding the sons of Israel!
What of their god, Shu? 
Shu was the God of the air, wind and atmosphere? 
Why couldn’t he stop this terrible plague from  spreading? He was believed to be the son of the creator god, who protected the great Ra on his journey through the underworld.
Yet it was the wind, the air, the elements of this god that carried this very disease throughout Egypt!

The lion-headed goddess, Sekhmet, was believed to have power over epidemics. Amulets with her image were worn and used by Egyptians to ward off evil. 

Serapis was known as the Egyptian god of healing, and Imhotep, as the god of medicine and healing arts.  

Despite the vast storehouse of amulets and sacred objects of dedication to these gods, they were silent and powerless in face of the great suffering that spread throughout Egypt.

The magicians, too, were rendered helpless as they, “...could not stand before Moses because of the boils, for the boils were on the magicians as well as on all the Egyptians.” 

Now our text tells us the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, as he did not listen to them... 
It’s a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God! (Hebrews 10:31) How many opportunities has Pharaoh had? Numerous! But he has exalted himself in full knowledge against the Lord Most High. Now he will reap the bitter harvest of his making.
vv. 13-16 “Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Rise up early in the morning and stand before Pharaoh and say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, ‘Let My people go, that they may serve Me. For this time I will send all My plagues on you and your servants and your people, so that you may know that there is no one like Me in all the earth. For if by now I had put forth My hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, you would then have been cut off from the earth. But, indeed, for this reason I have allowed you to remain, in order to show you My power and in order to proclaim My name through all the earth.’” 
So here is our answerwhy Adonai didn’t just wipe Pharaoh out—He “allowed you to remain, in order to show you My power and in order to proclaim My name through all the earth.”

And indeed He has! Who hasn’t heard of this magnificent story?
Who is unaware of the God of the Hebrews and how He redeemed the sons of Israel from their cruel bondage in Egypt by His compassion and the judgment executed on Pharaoh through the Ten Plagues?!
Adonai repeats what He spoke in the beginning: all will know not just His Name (YHVH יְהֹוָה) but the attributes of His Name ...  HE WAS, HE IS, AND HE EVER WILL BE THE MIGHTY ONE OF ISRAEL!

The Seventh Plague: Hail!

v. 17 “Still you exalt yourself against My people by not letting them go.”
Adonai sounds almost incredulous at Pharaoh’s audacity. Understandably so!

Terror from the Heavens
vv. 18-26 “‘Behold, about this time tomorrow, I will send a very heavy hail, such as has not been seen in Egypt from the day it was founded until now. Now therefore send, bring your livestock and whatever you have in the field to safety. Every man and beast that is found in the field and is not brought home, when the hail comes down on them, will die.’ The one among the servants of Pharaoh who feared the word of the LORD made his servants and his livestock flee into the houses; but he who paid no regard to the word of the LORD left his servants and his livestock in the field.” 

The LORD told Moses to stretch his hand toward the sky and as he raised his staff, the LORD sent hail and “fire flashing continually in the midst of the hail, very severe, such as had not been in all the land of Egypt since it became a nation.”

The hail pummeled the land of Egypt, breaking every tree of the field and destroying all the crops. All who were found unsheltered of man or beast were killed by the violent storm of relentless hail and lightening.
Nut, the goddess of the sky
All that is, except for those in the land of Goshen. The sons of Israel were again spared this terrifying plague! 

Pharaoh and all of Egypt would have looked to Nut, the goddess of the sky for protection. She is portrayed as a woman, arching over the land, resting on her hands and feet, her body forming a protective shield. Where was she during this deluge of destruction?

It was apparent that the only God was the God of Israel—who protected the sons of Israel in Goshen—Who caused the natural forces to turn against Egypt and Who called them to a halt.

vv. 27-30 Pharaoh once again calls for Moses and Aaron, this time confessing, I have sinned this time. The LORD is righteous, and my people and I are wicked. 

After going back on his word twice before, Pharaoh plays the sincere penitent to appeal to Moses and Aaron to intercede with their God to end the hailstorm. “Entreat the LORD, that there may be no more mighty thundering and hail, for it is enough. I will let you go, and you shall stay no longer.” 
Moses agrees to see to the end of the devastation, but lets Pharaoh know that no one is fooled. “But as for you and your servants, I know that you will not yet fear the LORD God.” 
Before the hailstorm ceases, “the flax and the barley were struck” (v. 31). This gives us a sense of the season. It is late January or early February. Egypt was the leading linen market of the ancient world, so devastating the flax crop was a terrific blow to every strata of society—from harvesters to weavers to merchants.

Moses went out of the city and spread his hands to the LORD and the hailstorm ceased.

And Pharaoh revealed the utter depravity of his heart. “And when Pharaoh saw that the rain, the hail, and the thunder had ceased, he sinned yet more; and he hardened his heart, he and his servants. So the heart of Pharaoh was hard; neither would he let the children of Israel go, as the LORD had spoken by Moses.” vv. 34-35

To be continued...

Haftarah Va'era
Ezekiel 28:25-29:21

Our Torah portion above has taken us through seven of the ten plagues God brought down on Egypt. As we will see next week Adonai will eventually break the back of Pharaoh politically—in the loss of a million-plus slave laborers, financially—in the total devastation of the production capacity of the nation and the loss of personal wealth as Israelites strip their Egyptian neighbors, and emotionally—as the first born child of every Egyptian is slain. What a price to pay for worshiping false gods. (Remember what any of these gods represented?)

Egypt has often figured prominently in the life of Israel. Genesis 12:10 tells us how the fertile lands of Egyptian soil watered by the Nile drew Abraham to escape famine in the future Promised Land. Joseph then entered the Egyptian picture about 200 years later as he was sold into slavery there. His family, led by his father Jacob, and 70 others subsequently joined him to escape yet another famine. Much later, after the exodus, and the establishment of the nation Israel, Solomon married one of Pharaoh’s daughters—a unique time of good relations between the two countries. 

In 926 B.C. in the fifth year of Rehoboam’s reign the Temple in Jerusalem was sacked by the Egyptian Pharaoh, Shishak. (I Kings 14:25-26) When Babylon later became a threat, Judah, the Southern kingdom, several times sought Egypt’s help in political alliance, but to no good end. (Isaiah 36:6) In 609, King Josiah died at the hand of Pharaoh Neco II as they fought at Megiddo. (II Kings 23:29-30) And on and on this periodic encountering would play out. 

In our recent history now we saw Egypt taking a role of antagonist to the nation of Israel. After the overthrow of its president the  then newly-empowered Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt stated its intent to cancel the nation’s peace treaty with Israel and prepare for war. Now that they have been removed from power Egypt has taken a more moderate stance toward Israel. Let’s see how long this lasts.

In our Haftarah portion for this week we first see Adonai’s promise of a future for His Israel. Read Ezekiel 28:25-26. There God speaks of His future regathering of Israel to the Land. If you read last week’s Haftarah this is where the fourth view, my choice, fits in. There will be two regatherings to the land, the first in unbelief and the second in belief. (If you want to review what that fourth possibility was all about just scroll down here to last week's Haftarah. Believe it or not, it all fits.

The remainder of this week's Haftarah addresses Egypt (Ezekiel 29). It makes for good insight on how God deals with other nations as He uses them to affect the life of the nation of Israel. 

Have you noticed from Genesis 1:1 through the seventh plague we looked at above how God’s word narrows more and more right in on His people, the Jews? It just keeps going that way right on through the last book of the Old Testament. With so much more going on the world over, so much more that could have been recorded, why do you suppose God kept this narrow focus in the Bible on Abraham’s people right on through the book of Malachi?

The answer is that the whole of the Old Testament points to Yeshua (Jesus), and reveals His majestic plan of redemption. The thrust of these thirty-nine books is to point to the coming of the Messiah. It tells us how He is to come, what He will do in the future, and how man—God’s creation—figures into it all.

Amazing how the one and only God of the universe has chosen to use insignificant, undeserving, and totally depraved man to accomplish His purposes.
“Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, OR WHO BECAME HIS COUNSELOR? Or WHO HAS FIRST GIVEN TO HIM THAT IT MIGHT BE PAID BACK TO HIM AGAIN? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.” Romans 11:33-36

B'rit Chadashah Va'era
Romans 9:14-33

Grasping the Sovereignty of God

Romans 9:14-33 is one of the toughest portions of Scripture I have ever had to deal with in my personal life. That difficulty came not in that it was to complicated to understand. (On the contrary it is very straight forward.) It was rather in dealing with that which was said. 

I was first introduced to the sovereignty of God about three years after I had come to faith. I was by then a very active witness for Messiah—speaking to just about everybody I could about their need to accept Him as their Lord and Savior. Oh, I believed  that God could do anything He wanted, that His plans would not be hindered in any way by the devil or man. But I also believed that God would not force His will on a man, that there was this thing called “free will” and that while God would “move” in a man’s heart, that individual ultimately had to choose—accept or reject God for himself. And then in my Junior year of Bible College I took an English Bible course ... in Romans.

I loved that course all the way up to Romans 9:11, and then I sat shocked as my instructor began to teach on the sovereignty of God as it related to the will of man. I’ll confess to you that this was a doctrine that I struggled with for some time. That’s a long story. Not enough space for me or patience on your part to get into it now.
I believe I finally began to grasp this truth however, when I realized that the purpose of God was supreme, that it was never to be secondary to anything else. The heavens, the earth, the angelic realm, and yes, even man, were all created for God’s good pleasure. God did not create mankind so that He might beg them to come to Him. Mankind was created so that some might become His vessels of grace.
And so I had presented to me, and gradually came to take comfort in the absolute sovereignty of God. That God could choose to “love” one person and “hate” another. That there was “no injustice with God” in doing this. That God will have mercy (not giving what is deserved) on whom He chooses, and that, totally apart from the will of man (Romans 9:13-16). That this is illustrated in the story of Pharaoh who God raised up so as to demonstrate His power in Him by hardening Pharaoh's heart, (cf. Exodus 6:21) totally apart from any choice of Pharaoh’s (9:17-18). That all men are but clay in the hands of God who like the potter will make some this way and some that, “one vessel for honorable use and another for common use.” (9:19-21) That—and this is a really hard one—God has both “vessels of wrath prepared for destruction.” (9:22) and “vessels  of mercy which He prepared beforehand for glory.” Romans 9:23
Surely, there is much more to be said about this subject. But perhaps for now we can just come away from this passage with a sense of awe in who God is, the power He has, and that His will in the affairs of man will always come to pass.
As we close this off lets not forget the passage we ended our Haftarah with, Romans 11:33-36. For us as mortals, His judgements are unsearchable, and His ways unfathomable. And yet, we may still want to speak out and address God with what seems to us an injustice. Sometimes we just can’t help ourselves

We would do well to consider Job who felt great injustices had been done to him. Consider all he had lost and all he had suffered as clay in the hands of the Almighty, the Potter at work in the affairs of His creation. But what did the Lord God say to Job in the end? “Then the Lord said to Job,‘Will the faultfinder contend with the Almighty? Let him who reproves God answer it.’” Job 40:1-2

And what was Job’s response to God? “Then Job answered the Lord and said, ‘Behold I am insignificant; What can I reply to Thee? I lay my hand on my mouth.’” Job 40:3-4

Perhaps in light of His sovereignty we too should just lay our hand upon our mouth and admit we too are but insignificant lumps of clay in the Potter’s hands.

In Messiah's Love,
His EVERY Word Ministries