Torah Portion Va’era (And I appeared) Sh’mot (Exodus) 6-9
Haftorah Reading Ezekiel 28:25-29:21
This week our portion begins with G-d appearing to Moshe and telling him that He had appeared to the Patriarchs as G-d Almighty, El Shaddai but not as G-d Almighty, or the infallible name of G-d. However, we read in previous scriptures that Abraham used this same name when addressing G-d (Genesis 15:2). So how are we to understand these verses? One way might be to look at this verse in light of the promises of G-d. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had known the promises of G-d, of bringing them into the Land and making them a great people. However, they had never seen this promise fulfilled in their life times. They held on to the promise, in faith, knowing that El Shaddai was trustworthy and would, at some time in the future, bring it to pass.
However, here Moshe was about to see and experience the fulfillment of that promise and this all-encompassing Name of G-d was a name that Moshe would use to relate to Him. This was a G-d who could be trusted to do what He said. I think we can all relate to this in our own lives. Before we came to faith and maybe even after, we knew of G-d and His word but after we had our personal encounter with Him it changed how we knew Him. Then we, from our own experience, knew Him in the deepest way. So it was with Moshe and Aaron.
Now I would like to talk a bit about the Exodus from Egypt. This week we read of the beginning of that process. Moshe and Aaron went to Pharaoh and demanded that he let the people go. Pharaoh refused and continued to refuse even in the face of ever-increasing pressure. The question is why? Why refuse even though you see your country being destroyed around you? What held him back?
Let’s break this down to our level and see if we struggle against the same issue that Pharaoh seemed unable to resolve. Maybe you can think of some area of your life that does not line up with what G-d’s best is for you. It could be an issue with anger, pride, stubbornness, lack of submission to G-d, etc. It could be anything in your life that you are holding on to even though you know it is destructive to you. Are there things that you hold on to, like Pharaoh, even as your life suffers because you choose to not let go? As we read this story of the Exodus I think it would help us to look at the people involved and see if we can find similarities between them and our own personal lives.
For example, last week we read where the Israelites, in slavery in Egypt, became upset over having to gather their own straw. They didn’t seem to consider that they were slaves! Their main concern was they now had more work to do. They had become accustomed to slavery. Are there things we have become accustom to that are slowly destroying us? Our G-d, as His new name implies, is able to help us rise above anything that needs to be dealt with in our lives. Through Him we can overcome. The part we sometimes miss is that we have become use to what ever this thing is in our lives. We realize it is there but we had rather stay with what is familiar than actively submit to G-d’s pruning and move on to a deeper spiritual walk. We may say to ourselves we will deal with it later. Or maybe the holy spirit is telling you to submit to G-d and move on in your walk with Him but your hardened heart tells you no. This was Pharaoh’s problem. I believe that Pharaoh knew what he should do but his hardness of heart would not allow him to submit. As G-d’s people, our spirit knows what is right. It shows us what we should do. Change is a spiritual issue and must be dealt with spiritually. We must come to the place of rationalizing no longer and step beyond that to subjugate our physical to the spiritual. To pray and begin to see the choice to change as an exercise of the relationship we have with G-d, to see the change as part of the reason for our very existence. We must see our change as moving forward and becoming the person G-d has always wanted us to be.
Pharaoh was stuck. He hardened his heart until it finally destroyed him and his country, even when his own people told him this was truly G-d. We, as the people of G-d, can change. Do not harden your heart. Do not make excuses such as, “Well that’s just who I am.” G-d has more for us.
Going back to the name of G-d that we talked about in the beginning, the forefathers knew the promises of G-d but here we see the promises being fulfilled. We must know G-d. That comes through the process of living and experiencing His faithfulness. That is how we get out of our own personal Egypt. That is how we are truly free. That is how we proclaim G-d’s Name. Here in our portion G-d told Pharaoh that He was striking Egypt, “To show you My power and in order to proclaim My Name through all the earth.” Exodus 9:16
Later in John 17:4-6 we see Yeshua saying much the same as He celebrated the Passover. “I have glorified you on the earth. I have manifested Your Name.” That is what we should all be about. By the way we live G-d’s Name is proclaimed to the whole earth.