Beshalach – “In His Sending”

This week’s Torah portion is titled Beshalach which translates as, “in his sending“. This refers to Pharaoh finally freeing the Jewish people after experiencing the hand of God via ten terrible plagues. Our parasha takes us from Exodus 13:17-17:15. The nation of Israel has now departed after 400 years of slavery in Egypt. The Scriptures start by telling us that God did not lead the newly freed nation by way of the Philistines, due north, this being the most direct route, but God knew the people might change their minds when they see war, and return to Egypt.

During their exodus, Moses took the bones of Joseph because Joseph had made the sons of Israel solemnly swear to take them upon their departure. You see, Joseph knew some 360 years earlier (recorded in Genesis 50) that the nation of Israel would leave Egypt. His prophetic word is reinforced also in Hebrews chapter 11 where it states; “By faith Joseph, when dying, made mention of the Exodus of the sons of Israel, and gave orders concerning his bones.” At the close of chapter 13, we learn that the Lord led the Israeli nation in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Further, the pillar would never depart.

In chapter 14, Adonai instructs Moses to turn and lead the people east. The intent was to give Pharaoh the impression that the nation was wandering aimlessly, lost in unfamiliar territory, and closed in by the desert and the sea. Pharaoh had now woken from his state of shock and disillusion and realized what he had done. He took six hundred select chariots, officers and “ground pounders” and set out after Israel. In verse 8 of this chapter, we learn that the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh. The stage has now been set for the final confrontation and final display of the God of Israel’s divine faithfulness and power for His called out people and His purpose.

The nation was in a pickle with the Red Sea in front of them and seeing the billowing dust in the distance of Pharaoh’s chariots approaching. Their initial reaction was to cry out to the Lord, which they did, but quickly turned on Moses. Does this sound familiar? Moses was unmoved by their panic and lack of faith and said to the people; “Do not fear! Stand by and see the salvation of the Lord which he will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians you see today, you will never see them again forever. Further, the Lord will fight for you while you keep silent.”

Adonai then instructed Moses to lift up his staff and stretch out his hand over the sea and divide it. The Lord sent an east wind that was so powerful it parted the sea in two, giving way to a path down the center, shielded by two enormous walls of water. Here a passage was made from oppression and death to one of rescue, redemption and fellowship with our Creator. The ground was made dry and Israel began safely crossing. During the crossing, the pillar of fire that led the nation by night, now took position behind them, keeping Pharaoh’s army at bay.

That night however, Pharaoh’s army resumed their pursuit and guided their chariots into the passage which was still open. The Lord caused confusion and the chariots became stuck in the now wet and muddy ground. At that moment the Egyptian army knew the God of Israel was fighting for His people. God directed Moses to stretch out his hand once again over the Red Sea and its waters closed, consuming the entire army. The chapter closes with these words: When Israel saw the great power which the Lord had used against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and in His servant Moses.

Chapter 15 starts with Moses and the people singing a joyous song acknowledging Adonai and how He had intervened in a most miraculous way in sparing their lives. In verse 2 they sing, The LORD is my strength and my song, and He has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise Him, my father’s God, and I will exalt Him.”

The song continues, recounting the events and how God proved His faithfulness to His word in a very big way. Even Miriam, the sister of Aaron, took a tambourine in her hand, and with all the women and their tambourines began to dance and sing. Moses instructs Israel to set out from the Red Sea into the wilderness of Shur. Additionally, Moses receives instruction on how to change bitter water into sweet drinking water.

Here also, Adonai once again gives a word of wisdom in that He said: If you will diligently listen to the voice of the LORD your God, and do that which is right in His eyes, and give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you that I put on the Egyptians, for I am the LORD, your healer.” The chapter closes with Israel arriving in Elim where there were twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees. Here they camped by the water for a time.

In chapter 16 we learn about God graciously sending manna, bread from Heaven, at day break, and sending quail at dusk. This supernatural sustenance would be the mainstay until they reached the Land of Promise. Here we also learn about the Sabbath rest.

In chapter 17, the Amalekites attack Israel at Rephidim. Moses tells Joshua to choose his army and go and fight Amalek. Moses went up on a hill and lifted his staff. As long as Moses’ staff remained above his head, Israel prevailed. But when his arms grew weary and came down, Amalek prevailed. Aaron and Hur were by his side and knew just what to do: they sat Moses down and each of them held up one of Moses’ arms until Joshua completely defeated the Amalekites.

We will learn in coming chapters that the Amalekites had attacked from the rear, targeting the weak and elderly and those with very young children. God declares His contempt for Amalek, telling Moses, “Write this as a memorial in a book and recite it in the ears of Joshua that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under Heaven.” Moses then builds an altar and names it ‘Adonai Nissi’ – the Lord is my Banner!

Parasha Beshalach gives us a perfect illustration on how many of us have tasted the goodness, grace, mercy, and wisdom of God, but struggle with how to receive and apply it in our everyday lives. Many of us have our own personal ‘Egypt’s’, for some it’s inherited and for others, perhaps self-induced. Much like the nation of Israel, we have received the adoption, the opportunity to be reconciled and come under the headship of our Savior and Creator. Just as the God of Israel parted the waters to reveal a way to redemption, God has sent His only begotten Son, Yeshua – Jesus, who came as our Way, our Truth and our Life. Israel was led by a pillar of smoke by day and a pillar of fire by night. God assured them the pillar would never depart. Those who have placed their trust and accepted Yeshua as their Lord and Savior have been assured the same when He said: “I will never leave you, nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5).

Just as Israel received manna from Heaven to sustain them to the end of their journey, so through God’s grace we have been provided with all the sustenance of life to bring us safely to this season. But just as yesterday’s manna wouldn’t remain until today, we must take the Bread of Life daily. We need to continually be in the Word.

God used the hardening of Pharaohs’ heart to show us the end result of such a condition. God willing let this never be the case for us. Lord, teach us to have compassion in our hearts for a lost and dying world. Grant truth and courage in our speech, and the Spirit lead authority like Moses, to guide those who are readyto leave their ‘Egypt’s’ behind and walk the narrow path from death to life. We are challenged even more so today, to boldly and congenially declare, as Moses did, with compassion and great authority, the Good News of our Mashiach. Let us all embrace being a separate and distinct people, not carelessly following the pattern of this world. Let us all walk in faith. The nation of Israel was to follow the instruction of Moses by faith. Yeshua told us that if we have faith even the size of a mustard seed we can move mountains and that nothing is impossible.

Yet, there is a warning to all who hear these words. Mathew 7:14 states: For the gate is narrow that leads to life, and there are few that find it. It’s rather sobering when we consider that in the Exodus account, out of all the nation of Israel, only Joshua and Caleb entered the promise land. Let us endeavor to be counted among the faithful few.