Change and transformation
Torah Portion: B’Shallach (After He Had Let Go) Sh’mot/Exodus 13:17-17:16
Haftorah Reading: Judges 4:4-5:31
Today we read of the people of Israel being freed from Egypt and slavery after living four hundred years as slaves to Pharaoh. If I had to put a title to this section it might be, “Change and Transformation.” I want us, as we study today, to look at our own life in light of what we talk about.
In our opening verse Exodus 13:17 we read, “And it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that G-d led them not through the way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for G-d said, ‘Lest perhaps the people repent when they see war and they return to Egypt.”
First, to give you an idea geographically about this verse, let’s look at the way of the Philistines. This was one of the ways leading from Egypt north to the Land of Canaan. Today there is still a road leading from Egypt north to Israel and eventually on to Turkey and Europe. It would have taken about 11-14 days to walk this way before arriving in Israel. In history, this road was named the Via Maris or Way of the Sea. So in two weeks the people could have walked along this route and arrived in Israel. All this begs the question of why go a way that took forty years rather than two weeks.
I believe there is deep lesson for us all here. Quicker is not always better. Our faith builds over time. There are things we must unlearn when we come to faith. Some things happen quickly, others take time and discipline. In our world there are few things that change overnight. In nature trees take years to mature, day fades into night.
Slavery is an example of this process. In Exodus 21 G-d laid out the guidelines for having slaves. Why not just abolish it immediately? Slavery was practiced in every country. However, G-d opposed slavery. G-d put limits and restriction on slavery in Exodus, eventually allowing Israel to come to the decision on their own to abolish this horrible institution. For one person to own another is an offense against human dignity. So why did G-d not just abolish it? I believe G-d wanted Israel to mature and come to that decision on their own. He wanted them to make that choice on what they learned from the Father over time. G-d wants and desires His people to learn His nature and conform their lives to it. Think of it, worship would not be worship if it was demanded. We worship the L-rd because we have experienced His goodness, mercy and love. G-d’s desire is for us to grow as we experience more of Him each day.
Therefore in our opening verses we see G-d lead the people by the long way for the purpose of giving them time to learn, to mature. He is the L-rd Who brought us out of sin, Who gave us a new life, however, we do have a part to play. The Father expects that we will put forth the effort to study, to pray, to learn His ways. So, He takes us to school, the school of life. He expects us to change from our old ways to His ways. Each of us is blessed with knowing Him through the Messiah and conforming our life to His. It won’t happen overnight. Some things will change instantly when we come to faith in Yeshua. However, other things old ingrained habits or desires, will take effort and discipline. So we must all put in the time to seek Him.
Slavery is an example of slow change. Here in our country slavery was entrenched in our society. It took a civil war to change. Yet even then, African Americans were still looked upon as somehow second place citizens. Sadly churches and denominations did not lead the battle in confronting this dark time in our history. Churches split over this issue. For most of us ideas such as this are the hardest battles to overcome. G-d has given us the spiritual tools to rise above those things that are not of Him but continue to be so much a part of our life. Don’t give up the struggle to put away those unholy things. Israel spent 40 years in the desert to rid themselves of Egypt. May G-d Almighty show each of us those areas in our lives that are not the redeemed traits of the people of G-d.