Beshalach – “When He Let Go”

This week our parasha is Beshalach which means “When He let go”. Besalach covers Exodus 13:17-17:16 and picks up where Bo left off.  In this parasha we see our people testing the Lord and every time He demonstrates He is a perfect and holy God.  In our testing of the Lord we expose our sinful imperfection before a holy and blameless God.

We pick up in Exodus 13 where the Lord leads our people to the Red Sea.  The parasha describes the presence of the Lord as a cloud of smoke by day and a pillar of fire by night always leading our people.  When we reach the Red Sea the army of Egypt is fast approaching.  Our people grumble to Moses and complain they should have never left Egypt because they were about to die!  In response to the Egyptian army the Lord commands Moses to part the Red Sea.  In a dramatic display of Adonai’s power the Red Sea parts and our people are able to cross onto dry ground.  When the armies of Egypt attempt to follow they are swallowed by the sea returning to its natural state.  The Torah records that our people saw the bodies of the army washed ashore and in response believed in the Lord and His servant Moses.

This Parasha then contains one of the most famous songs in all of God’s Word, the song of Moses.  With a joyful heart Moses and the people sing of the greatness of the Lord:

Mi chamocha, ba’elim, Adonai?

Mi kamocha, nedar bakodesh, nora tehilot, osei feleh?

“Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods?

Who is like you, majestic in holiness,

awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?”

We move from this joyful song to another testing of the Lord.  Our people were thirsty in the wilderness with only bitter water to drink.  They once again complained to Moses who prayed to the Lord, who turned the bitter water into clean fresh water for our people.  The Lord also gave us a test in that place. He told our people that if we diligently followed His commandments that we would never experience the plagues and diseases He stuck the land of Egypt with.  Our people would dramatically fail this test over and over again in our history.  It is for this reason we read in Deuteronomy 28 the harsh prophecy that our people would indeed experience these horrible plagues.

Since the wilderness was not a hospitable place to live our people needed food for the journey.   The Lord told Moses He was going to test our people.  Our people grumbled against Moses and stated that they would have been better off in Egypt.  In response to our grumbling Adonai sent Manna, a sweet substance from heaven to satisfy our hunger.  We were instructed to only harvest Manna for 6 days and to rest on the Sabbath from our labors. We were only able to gather enough to satisfy our hunger, none of it could be hoarded for the next day.  We always had exactly as much Manna as we needed, no more, no less.  The Lord also said the Manna we gathered before the Sabbath would be sufficient for both days, all we had to do was trust in the Lord to provide and there would be no difficulties.

But even though we had enough food to satisfy our hunger on the Sabbath some of our people went out to harvest more violating the command of Adonai.

Exodus continues with our people’s rebellion at Massah.  In that place our people were ready to stone Moses for lack of water.  Our people tested the Lord in that place asking if He was really the Lord.  Even though we sinfully rebelled, the Lord still mercifully provided water from a rock for our people.

We can see in these events that a major theme of this parasha is the idea of testing.  We test something to judge quality, reliability, and worth.   Our people in the wilderness constantly tested the Lord.  Even though they had seen Adonai strike the land of Egypt with His wonders they faltered at the Red Sea.  Even after crossing the Red Sea we acted as if the Lord would let us die of thirst.  We attempted to test the Lord through sinful disobedience and in doing so exposed our sin in the light of God’s overwhelming goodness.

It is easy to look at a parasha like this and come away with a sense of superiority or shock.  We should not delude ourselves into thinking we would have acted differently if we had been there.  But the truth is we are as susceptible to doubt and sin as that generation. We may wear different clothes and live in a different place but when you strip humanity to its core we are dark, sinful and wrathful creatures.

Proverbs 17:3 states this simple truth: “The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the Lord tests hearts.”  The Lord tested our people repeatedly in this parasha and we failed every time.  We did not trust in the Lord to keep His word or to provide for our basic needs.  How often in our own lives today do we do the same thing? It is easy to understand the Goodness of the Lord, it is much harder to walk by faith and trust in Him.

In our works we completely failed to live up the standard and covenant we made with the Lord.  But in this parasha we see the grace of the Lord at work.  It was not because of merit that we were chosen to be the Lord’s people but because of His mercy.  Our failure shows how desperately we need the Lord to work in our lives and to transform us.  Our wilderness experience should have softened our hearts but instead we allowed our hearts to harden.  Soon we will see that this generation will not be allowed to enter the Promised Land of rest because of disobedience and hardness of heart.

The wilderness in Exodus 17 is called the wilderness of sin, because it was a place of sin for our people, but the wilderness of sin is not outside of Egypt but our entire fallen world.  Just like those who made the Exodus from Egypt we live our lives moving through a wilderness of sin that easily entangles us.  All human beings cannot stand the test of the Lord and we fall deathly short of the infinite holiness of our Creator.  We need the Lord’s grace and mercy in our lives as well, we need a Way to Him, a Truth that withstands testing, and a Light in a world covered in deep darkness.  It is only through Messiah Yeshua, the one greater than Moses, that we can overcome the forces of Satan, Sin, and Death.

So we need to test ourselves and see if we are right with our Creator.  Have you put your trust in the Lord through the Messiah?  Are you walking in the ways of the Lord or are you walking according to what you think is best?  Is your heart hardened or softened towards the Lord?

Psalm 95:8 shouts to us, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness.”  The Lord declared that generation would not enter His rest because they did not know His ways. They heard but they did not listen and they saw but they did not understand and they died in the wilderness.  Every one of us has a choice to make, to rebel against God and have our way or to seek and follow His way. The writer of the letter to the Messianic Jews builds on Psalm 95 to make this point, “For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened.” (Hebrews 4:2)

If you have not decided to place your trust in the Lord then make it this day because there might not be a tomorrow!  If you have placed your trust in the Lord then this parasha is another reminder of how easily sin can entangle us. I am grateful every day for the Lord’s forgiveness when I fail to meet His righteous standard. May the Lord continue to conform us to His standard and let us strive to enter into the eternal rest of God, holding fast to our faith in Messiah Yeshia.