This week’s Torah potion is entitled B’shalach, which means “When He Sent.” It covers Exodus 13:17-17:17. It describes Israel’s continuing journey as God led them by a pillar of cloud by day and fire by night.
Chapter 13 records a miraculous event. The Israelis left Egypt like a mighty army, with Moses carrying the bones of Joseph as promised. However, instead of traveling the quickest route, Adonai led them away from Philistine territory, through the wilderness, to the Red Sea. (God doesn’t always reveal His reasons for the direction He takes us). Crossing that territory would have resulted in a war they were unprepared to fight.
In Chapter 14, Israel obeyed God’s command to set up camp beside Pi-ha-hiroth, between Migdol and the Red Sea. This gave Pharoah the impression that the Israelis were disoriented and defenseless. However, this was Adonai’s plan to display His glory, using Pharoah and his army, so that Egypt would know that He is Lord of all. When Pharoah and his officials realized their entire slave labor force was gone, Adonai hardened his heart and he pursued them with a mighty army of horses, troops, and six hundred of his best chariots, using all of Egypt’s elite forces to capture Israel.
When they saw Pharoah’s army approaching, they felt trapped, and fearful, and again complained against Moses’ leadership. Still, Adonai used Moses to deliver them from their enemies. They were instructed to move forward, and Adonai supernaturally divided the Red Sea, allowing them to walk through on dry ground.
The angel of the Lord and the pillar of cloud moved behind Israel’s camp. During the night the cloud turned to fire, creating light for Israel, while keeping the Egyptians at bay. When the pillar of fire moved off, the Egyptian army pursued the Israelis into the midst of the sea. God threw them into confusion, and their chariots got stuck.
As soon as the Israelis were safely on the other side, God brought the waters back together, destroying the entire Egyptian army in the Red Sea, as Israel watched in amazement. They saw, they feared, and they believed.
Chapter 15 describes a beautiful picture of God’s people worshipping, and praising Him for His marvelous acts of deliverance. Adonai had drowned the Egyptian army, and freed the Israelis. Who is like the Lord? His right-hand triumphs over His enemies, and sets His people free. And yet, just three days into the wilderness, they forgot God’s great power, and began to complain against Moses, because the water discovered at Marah was bitter. Moses prayed and God performed another miracle, making the water good for drinking. It was at Marah that Adonai tested their faith and directed them to obey His commands. If they’d obey, they wouldn’t suffer the diseases He inflicted on the Egyptians.
In chapter 16, one month after leaving Egypt, the Israelis traveled into the wilderness of Sin. They again complained against Moses and Aaron because there was no food. Consequently, Adonai provided food from heaven (manna), with explicit instructions. Early each morning they were to gather just enough manna to supply the need for that day. On the sixth day they were told to gather double the amount, because on the Sabbath they must not work. The Sabbath was a day to rest, a day set apart as holy to Adonai, a special time to meet Him.
Adonai gave Israel manna to prove that He was more than able to meet their needs. Following His commands was a test of faith in His providence. Israel had to learn to trust God to supply every need. They ate manna from heaven 40 years, until they got to the border of Canaan.
In chapter 17 Israel finally settled in Rephidim, but there was no water. Again, the people complained against Moses’ leadership, and doubted God’s providence in their lives. Moses appealed to Adonai, who commanded him to stand in front of the community of Israel, with some of the elders, and hit the rock with the staff he used in Egypt. He obeyed and water surged from the rock. He named that place Massah (test) and Meribah (quarreling) because Israel quarreled with Adonai and tested Him.
Our parasha ends with the Amalekite army attacking Israel at Rephidim. Moses commanded Joshua to choose men to fight against the Amalekites. This battle was fought on two levels, Moses, Aaron, and Hur were on the mountain, while Joshua and his army fought on the ground. As long as Moses kept his staff lifted up, Israel prevailed. But when he grew tired and lowered his arms, the Amalekites prevailed. So, Aaron and Hur got a large stone for Moses to sit on, and they held his arms up until sunset. Israel prevailed over the Amalekites because Moses, Joshua, and Israel were vitally connected. Moses’ hands were raised in faith, trusting Adonai for the victory!
As a memorial Adonai told Moses to write these words and read them aloud to Joshua: “I will erase the memory of Amalek from under the heavens.” Moses built an altar and called it Adonai-Nissi (“the Lord is my banner”).
A few closing thoughts: We can learn important spiritual truths through Israel’s struggles and victories, and it will help us in our walk of faith. First, we need to trust God, not only for provision, but also direction. Second, after victories, expect that there will be trials and tests, which is what the Israelis learned after crossing the Red Sea. Third, life is a journey with many challenges and new experiences; one great victory isn’t the end. Expect new battles, but also new victories to help us mature. The truth is, we’re more like the Israelis than we care to admit. We quickly forget Adonai’s providence in our lives, and that His Spirit and eternal life have been given to each believer in Yeshua. When we encounter seasons of challenge, don’t let fear take control. “Shalom comes from submission to God, doing life His way.” We should always glorify Adonai for His wonderful gift of salvation through His Son Yeshua. Are you ready to be tested?