B’Shallach (Had Let the People Go) Exodus/Sh’mot 13:17-17:16
I want to begin by thanking those who took the time to send in an answer to my question this week. It is an encouragement to me to receive your thoughts on the topics we study.
Tomorrow night at sundown begins a special holiday called Tub’shevat or a holiday of the trees. In Israel it is a time when trees are planted. I thought it was interesting that trees are being given away here in Pensacola this weekend for Arbor Day but the calendar says Arbor Day is in April. Maybe we are secretly celebrating Tub’shevat.
This week’s Torah reading begins with G-d delivering the Israelites from the grasp of Pharaoh and ends with Israel defeating the Amalekites. In between these two events we read of many miracles done by G-d for the people. He gave them sweet water after they complained to Moshe. G-d also provided them with food in the form of manna. Both of these miracles came after the people had despaired and almost rioted against Moshe. These miracles were also just a short time after G-d performed the miracle of splitting the Reed Sea, allowing the people to walk across on dry land while the pursuing Egyptian army drowned when the water returned to its natural flow. (Exodus 13:10-11)
Maybe some of us have had a similar time in our own life when G-d delivered us from some traumatic time or experience and we praised Him as the people did here with Miriam’s Song of the Sea. (Exodus 15:1-21) However, all too soon we had to face another trial and like the children of Israel we quickly forgot what G-d had done for us and we began worrying, complaining or maybe resorting to anger towards G-d. (Exodus 15:22-24) I think our Torah portion may offer us some helpful insights into why this happens and how we can rise above these tests of our faith.
In our portion we saw how the Israelites crossed over a boundary. They were no longer slaves of Pharaoh. They were now servants of G-d. This change in their position would take time to grow into. This was a new role and they did not yet totally understand what this would mean in their lives. This is true of us also. When we made the decision to follow G-d by accepting Yeshua as our Savior, we were putting our faith and life into G-d’s hands. We crossed over a boundary, no longer slaves to sin but free men to live our life as servants of our Heavenly Father. This decision did not mean all our troubles were behind us. Like Israel we might find it easy to complain and rebel.
To help us in our quest to follow G-d let’s look at a few verses that illustrate the process Israel went through and see if it gives us any answers. Remember, the people left Egypt under the salvation of G-d when He split the sea. In Exodus 17:8-13 we read of their battle when they were attacked by the Amalekites. Moshe told Joshua to choose men to go out and fight the Amalekites. Then Moshe would stand on the hill overlooking the battle with his hands raised. As long as his hands were raised the Israelites prevailed. If he lowered his hands the Amalekites prevailed. Aaron and Hur supported his hands so he could keep them raised in the air.
Here in this battle we see a different scene unfold. The people fought the battle believing that G-d was involved, indicated by Moshe’s raised hands. But they were involved, they were a part of the fight. To what can we attribute this change from a complaining people to men involved in the fight? Please look back to the verse immediately preceding this battle. (Exodus 17:7) This is the verse from which I took my question this week. It reads, “And he called the place Massa and Meriba because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the L-rd saying, “Is the L-rd among us or not.” Here we can feel the doubt in the hearts of the people. Now let’s look at this phrase, among us, in Hebrew. In Hebrew the word is b’kirbenu. It has more than one meaning. It can mean among or it can mean within. Most translations use among as the most likely meaning in this verse. However, let’s look for a moment at the alternative meaning, within us. My thought is that this might come closer to the point Moshe was trying to get across. In Colossians 1:27 in the Messianic scriptures we read, “Messiah in you, the hope of glory.” It seems Shaul was saying, what gives us the strength to overcome is not that G-d is among us but that He resides in us. His Presence in us gives us the power to overcome and win the victory of faith that we desire. He was with the Israelites in our Torah portion as they defeated the Amalekites. He is within us today as we go through our day. There may be times we trip or fall but He is there to pick us up. We go in His strength not our own.
Bless you all this day. Remember Colossians 1:27, “Messiah in us, the hope of glory.”