Shemot – “Names”

This week’s Parasha is titled “Shemot” which means “Names” and covers Exodus 1:1-6:1. Last week we covered the death of Joseph and how his brothers and father had relocated to Egypt where they had all gathered due to the famine.

In this week’s Parasha, the Three-In-One God blesses the Israelis and they multiply greatly. A new king comes to power over Egypt who does not know Joseph. This new king is concerned that the Jewish nation is becoming stronger than the Egyptians, so he enslaves the Israelis and forces them to build cities of mortar and brick. We should remember that earlier God told Abraham that his people would suffer slavery for 400 years, so this is a fulfillment of prophecy.

The Egyptian king continues to grow wary of the Israelis and wants the Hebrew midwives to murder all the Israeli boys, but spare the Israeli girls. These two midwives fear God more than Pharaoh and do not obey him. Then Pharaoh decrees that all the Jewish boys are to be thrown into the Nile to keep the Israelis from multiplying.

In Chapter 2, a Levite woman bears a son who will be called Moses. Moses has an older brother Aaron (seven years) and older sister Miriam (three years). Moses’ mother fears for her son and hides him for three months. When she can no longer protect him, she places him in a wicker basket, covers it over with tar and pitch so that it would float, and places Moses in the River Nile. Her daughter Miriam follows the basket down the river where Pharaoh’s daughter sees the basket and retrieves it. She realizes that the child is one of the Israeli baby boys. Miriam sees Pharaoh’s daughter take the boy and approaches her to ask if she would like a Hebrew woman to nurse the baby boy. When the boy is weaned he is returned to Pharaoh’s daughter and becomes her son. She names him Moses because she drew him out of the water. Moses’ name means “to draw out” and he does, with God’s help, draw out and deliver the Jewish people from Egypt.

Moses grows up and is around 40 years old. One day he sees an Egyptian beating one of his Israeli brothers, so he strikes and kills the Egyptian and buries him in the sand. The next day he sees two Israeli men fighting and breaks up the fight. One of the Israeli men says, “who made you a prince or a judge over us? Are you going to kill us like you did the Egyptian?” When Moses kills the Egyptian, he is identifying himself as a Hebrew. Moses’ murder of the Egyptian is not just an act of justice, but his identification as a Hebrew is, in effect, an act of rebellion and Moses now fears for his life.

When Pharaoh hears of this, he attempts to kill Moses. We often think of Moses as the Prince of Egypt who was the favorite son of Pharaoh. I doubt very much that if the true Prince of Egypt killed an Egyptian man, Pharaoh would want him killed. We must remember that while Moses was raised up in the palace, he would still be a Jewish boy. He may have had some special privileges due to his mother, but this Pharaoh was not going to make him king.

Now, Moses flees through the wilderness to the land of Midian and rests by a well. Jethro the priest has seven daughters and they come to the well to water their father’s flock. While they are doing this, other shepherds come and push them away.

Moses hears the squabble and drives these shepherds away and helps water Jethro’s flock. Moses meets Jethro and Jethro gives his daughter Zipporah to him.

Moses settles in their land and raises a family. Back in Egypt, Pharaoh has died. El Gibor, the Mighty God, hears the Israelis groaning and He remembers His covenant, His promise that He made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  God wants to free His people and bring them to their own land.

While taking care of Jethro’s flock, Moses sees something burning on Mount Horeb, which is also called Mount Sinai. Moses climbs the mountain to see this fire, and when he arrives he finds a burning bush that is not consumed by the fire. Elohim, the God of Israel, speaks to him. The word Elohim is the plural of El and is the first name for God given in the Tanakh. He says, “Moses, Moses” and Moses responds “here I am”. The Three-In-One God tells Moses to take off his sandals, for he is standing on holy ground. He also tells him that He is the God of his fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. Moses hides his face because he is afraid to look at the presence of the holy and almighty God.

I always find it amusing when someone tells me that when they see God they are going to give Him a piece of their mind. That is pretty bold talk from people who know nothing of our God. I am confident that when we meet God, we will be on our knees and in awe of who He is.

Adonai tells Moses that He has seen the affliction of His people and that He intends to send Moses to be His mouthpiece and free his Jewish brothers and sisters. Moses begins to kvetch that this job is too much for him. He asks, “Who shall I say sent me?” and Elohim tells him to say, “I AM who I AM. So tell them I AM sent me.” He is the self-existent God and answers to no one. He always was, always is, and always will be. There is no other God but Him.

1500 years later, Yeshua claimed the same thing.  He said, “before Abraham was, I AM.” He also made some other great “I AM statements about Himself: “I AM the living bread”, “I AM the light of the world”, “I AM the good shepherd”, and “I AM the Son of God”. These are some of the “I AM” statements that Yeshua proclaims about Himself, indicating that He is God, so we should never be confused as to the Deity of the Messiah.

The Mighty God instructs Moses to go to Egypt and tell Pharaoh to let His people go on a three-day journey to make sacrifices to God. God tells Moses that He will perform many miracles and that Pharaoh will release the Israelis and they may take whatever plunder they desire from Egypt when they leave. Adonai allows Moses limited powers to demonstrate to the Israelis that he is being sent by God, but Moses’ kvetching continues. “Surely there is someone better than me to do this”.
How often do we say this when the Lord asks us to do something for Him? How often do we make excuses for why it must be someone else instead of us?

But, God uses imperfect people, to do His will. And, that’s good news because all of us have flaws – but God can still greatly use us!

God had already sent Aaron to meet Moses and would allow Aaron to be Moses’ spokesman. Even so, note in the Parashas to come, Moses will do much of his own talking. When Moses and Aaron meet with the elders of Israel, they perform the signs that God instructed them to do and the Israelis believe. When Moses and Aaron meet with Pharaoh and demand Pharaoh to let the Israelis go, Pharaoh says no and instructs the Jewish people to make bricks without being supplied the straw, meaning they will have to acquire the supplies on their own and still maintain the quota. The Israelis who are ready to believe and follow Moses are turning on him at the first sign of trouble. How often do we do this when something doesn’t go the way we want and we begin to doubt God? How foolish we are – the only unworthy one is us.

God gives Moses the affirmation that he needs and tells him that he will deliver his people out of Egypt. If we trust in the Lord, he will bring us out of our Egypt. The question is, brothers and sisters, do we really put our faith and trust in Him, not just when things are going well, but when things are hard?

Yeshua is the prophet greater than Moses. Will you follow Yeshua only when your life seems to be getting better, or will you also follow Him through hardship and opposition? Brothers and sisters, choose wisely.  Adonai is our deliverer. Our salvation is in his hands and what he has a hold of, no one can take it away.