For the week of January 20, 2007 / 1 Shevat 5767
Torah: Shemot / Exodus 6:2 - 9:35 &
Bemidbar / Numbers 28:9-15
Haftarah: Isaiah 66:1-24
Whatever It Takes
But I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and though I multiply my miraculous signs and wonders in Egypt, he will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and with mighty acts of judgment I will bring out my divisions, my people the Israelites. And the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring the Israelites out of it. (Shemot / Exodus 7:3-5)
The deliverance of Israel from bondage in Egypt is a defining event, not just for the people of Israel, but for all people of all time. For through this great event we see the lengths at which God goes in his desire to free us from oppression. The story of the Bible is one of understanding the basis of the human predicament and how God has determined to resolve it. Our predicament is that mankind is basically broken. We are meant to live lives of an infinitely greater quality than has thus far been experienced. We are broken because of our alienation from our Creator, inherited from our first parents due to their disobedience.
It was God's determination from that very moment to restore the human family to right relationship with him. The history of ancient Israel illustrates the outworking of the restoration, the exodus from Egypt being a foundational part of that illustration.
One of the things we learn from this story is that God does whatever it takes to accomplish his purposes in and through his people. The time had come to deliver Israel from slavery. Pharaoh, king of Egypt, opposed God's plan. Moses was confronting a leader who was so stubborn that he was willing to bring destruction upon his nation and land rather than give in to God. And so God hit the Egyptians with plague after plague until his people were released from Pharaoh's grip.
Perhaps you may wonder if God was so able to rescue Israel from Pharaoh, why was it necessary to strike them in this way. I don't know. But he did. What we need to see is that God fights for his people. He does whatever it takes to ensure our freedom from oppression. Could he have done it any other way? Perhaps. But the main point is that he uses his power to rescue his people. We can take comfort in that.
As we think about this, there are some key principles to be aware of. First, God's timing is not our timing. Israel had suffered under the hand of Pharaoh a long time before God rescued them. I don't know why God doesn't come through for us in a more timely manner. But whatever the reason, he doesn't act according to our timetable. That means we need to learn to be patient as we wait for him to come through for us.
Second, his methods of deliverance are varied and most often unexpected. One of the things we see in the Bible is that while God's character is consistent, he does different things in different ways at different times. It doesn't help us if when we look to God for help in a predicament, we insist he does so in a particular way. As we look to him for help, we should expect the unexpected.
Third, God's deliverance of his people requires cooperation. Next week's portion includes the final plague where each Israelite was required to place the blood of a lamb on their doorway, so that the angel of death would pass over their house. It has become increasingly popular to presume God's favor regardless of how we respond to him. But failure to heed God's directions disqualifies us from receiving the benefit of his purposes in our lives.
Therefore when we are in a difficult situation, we should first ask ourselves the question, "Are we truly cooperating with God?" There may be something that he wants to bring to our attention. He may be trying to correct us or teach us a lesson. As we cooperate with him, knowing that he doesn't work according to our timetable and that he works in unexpected ways, we can rest assured that he will do whatever it takes to see us through.
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