Torah Portion: Sh’mot(Names)Exodus/Sh’mot 1:1-6:1

Haftorah Reading: Jeremiah 1:1-2:3

Today I want to start our time together by addressing a topic around which there is still controversy. This week I read an article by a prominent Messianic Jewish leader in Israel. In his article he addressed the subject of what was required by the early congregational leaders in Israel on how to best deal with the non-Jews who were coming to faith in the Messiah. When they came to faith in the Messiah what would be required of them since they were not Jewish. This meeting was held in Jerusalem, which was also the place of the only congregation in the land until the last part of the second century of the common era.

We can see this meeting described in Acts 15:18-21. In these verses we read of the decided upon requirements that would help with the issue of how to bring both Jews and non-Jews together for fellowship.   Verse 21 points out that up until this time the only place where non-Jews could hear the word of G-d was in the synagogue.  So the question was, how could these two groups, Jews and non-Jews come together?

We can see in these verses several requirements were set out that the non-Jews were to follow. They were to abstain from food offered to idols, from things strangled, from sexual immorality, and from blood.

As time passed we know that non-Jews became the vast majority of believers and those requirements, especially about what should be eaten, faded away. These requirements are rarely ever mentioned in today’s world except in Israel. Why do you think this has happened?

Now on to our Torah portion for this week. Sh’mot is the first portion of the second book of Torah. This portion bears the same name as the book in which it is found. At the beginning we read the names of the people who came down to Egypt with Jacob. These few grew into a great and mighty people. I want us to think in more detail about some of these people.

At this time in history a person’s name was very important. Names were chosen with the purpose of telling something about the person that carried that name. We have already seen this in the names of the children born to Joseph, Menashe meaning forget and Ephraim meaning fruitful.

Let’s look at Exodus 3:11 at a question Moshe asked. G-d called him to return to Egypt and lead the people out of slavery and back to the promised land. When G-d called Moshe what was his response? “Who am I?” Moshe’s question was not about his name but about who he really was in his heart. “Am I worthy of such a thing?” I don’t even have a Hebrew name, why would Pharaoh pay any attention to me?

G-d answered Moshe in Exodus 3:14 by sharing His holy name, promising Moshe He would be with him.  When we come to faith I’m sure some of us have had similar questions. We see in Isaiah 6:5 Isaiah doubted as well. Jeremiah 1:6 also said, “I am a child.” Doubts we all have but we should be able to draw strength from these verses. If G-d has called us He will be with us and give us the tools we need to accomplish what he has called us to do.

My point is, G-d is able to provide if He calls you. Don’t miss such an opportunity. We all have a purpose in our life. Draw strength from these examples.  When He calls we answer. We may be frightened or feel unprepared but never lose sight of whom we serve and who we are in Him.

One problem that may arise in each of our lives is the society in which we all live. What is the purpose of life for most people?  I believe the world has bought into the idea that we are here to get all we can and hold on to it because that is where our security and happiness lies.

Think of the people of Israel when they went down to Egypt. I’m sure in the beginning, it was just a place to escape hunger and the famine sweeping the world at that time. I’m sure they felt like strangers at first and would from time to time, think about when they could return home, back to Israel. 

However, as time went on what happened? I think the people got comfortable. They settled down and life improved. They became mighty in number scripture says. Life in Egypt was easy. When the famine was over they could have returned more easily. However as time went on, children grew up, parents died and suddenly no one was living that came on that original journey to Egypt. They continued to prosper and grow in numbers. 

With the passage of time things changed. They became slaves and then they could not leave. Do you think they ever asked themselves, “How did we get here, how did we allow ourselves to become slaves?” Their attraction to the easy life slowly became their trap.

There is a verse in Matthew 6:24 that speaks to this problem. “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve G-d and wealth.”

It is easy to lose sight of the eternal importance of who do we serve. In our world “things” are what many people spend their lives chasing. Our goal is to stay focused on G-d and not the traps of this world. Bless each of you with spiritual wisdom to search out who you are and for what were you created.