Shemot – “Names”

This week our parasha is Shemot meaning “names” and begins the book of Exodus.  Shemot is also the Hebrew name for this book.  It begins with the birth of Moses and takes us through chapter 6:1 where he has his first confrontation with Pharaoh.  In this parasha we will see the great commission the Lord gave to Moses and how we struggle with the same issues Moses had, issues of faith and learning to trust in Adonai.

Exodus begins with a new pharaoh ruling in Egypt, who did not remember to good deeds of Joseph.  This pharaoh was intimidated by how numerous our people had become and killed all the newborn Israeli boys.  But one baby Levite, was hidden by his mother.  When it was no longer possible to hide him, she put him in a basket and sent him down the Nile River.  He was found by one of Pharaoh’s daughters and she named him Moshe meaning, “drawn out of water”.   Growing up in Pharaoh’s palace, Moses had access to the finest education in the known-world.  Egypt at this time was an advanced superpower, known and feared in the ancient world.

However, this chapter in Moses’ life ends abruptly when he kills an Egyptian for beating a Jewish slave.  Moses then had to flee Egypt for his life.  Later he starts a family and shepherds his father-in-law’s flocks for forty years.  These forty years are a major contrast from his life in Egypt.  Moses has suddenly moved from a life of luxury to experiencing one of the hardest and most despised professions to an Egyptian, shepherding.  Forty years of privilege followed by forty years of hardship.  But it was all to prepare Moses for what was to come.

At 80 years old, the third part of Moses’ life begins, which we will be following through the rest of the Torah.  One day while shepherding his father-in-law’s flock, he came to Mount Horeb (Sinai) and saw a burning bush, that was not being destroyed by the fire.  He heard the voice of God calling to him “Moses!  Moses!”  Adonai told Moses that He had heard our cries from bondage and that He was going to free us and bring us back to our Promised Land.

Adonai told Moses to go back to Egypt and demand that Pharaoh let Adonai’s people go.  The Lord told Moses He would be with Him, and when Pharaoh refused He would demonstrate His awesome power to all in Egypt.

Imagine you were in Moses’s shoes, having a literal call from God and the promise that He would be with you.  What would you do?  Moses responded in a way most of us would, He was completely terrified of doing this.  So, Moses came up with a bunch of reasons why He just couldn’t do what God had asked of him.

His first objection was that he needed more knowledge. What was he to tell the Jewish leaders if they asked for Adonai’s name?  The Lord responded by saying, “I AM WHO I AM”, a declaration of His uniqueness and independence beyond every other thing that ever has been or ever will be.  He then declared His name for all generations to be the God of our fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Moses then raised another concern, that he did not have the power to do this task. What if the Jewish leaders do not believe God really sent him?  Adonai gave him three signs by which to prove his legitimacy: turning his staff into a snake, having his hand temporarily become leprous, and turning water from the Nile River to blood on dry ground.

Moses raises a third objection, that he is not charismatic enough, he does not speak well, and this final excuse makes the Lord angry.  The Lord declares it is He who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, and the blind, and that He will teach Moses what to say.  Moses does not believe he can do this, but with God all things are possible.

Finally, Moses has no more excuses and just gets honest, He tells God to send someone else.  But God had prepared for this as well, Aaron just so happened to be looking for Moses and so Adonai sends Aaron with him to confront Pharaoh.

Moses and Aaron returned to Egypt, performed the signs, announced God’s plan to rescue them, and the people bowed and worshiped the Lord.  Pharaoh, on the other hand, was not so agreeable when Moses demanded He let our people go.  After mocking Moses and Aaron, he maliciously increased the labors of our people.  This parasha ends with our people blaming Moses, because instead of deliverance our suffering had increased.  Moses in turns blames God for not delivering His people and causing them more pain, things seem to be going badly like he feared.  We end this parasha on a cliffhanger with the Lord promising that Pharaoh will let our people go after he experiences the power of Adonai.

Parasha Shemot introduces us to Moses, one of the greatest men of God.  But we are introduced to him in a very honest way.  He is not Moses, the Man of God yet. He is just Moses the shepherd, who feels unequipped for the monumental task God has given him.  This is how you know the Bible is real, there is no sugarcoating the reality.

Moses at the burning bush with his excuses, is very real and I think we can all relate to it.  At times we all want something else besides God’s assurance to accomplish His Will.  We might want more knowledge; maybe we feel we cannot share the Good News without extensive and exhaustive training.  We might also feel it is a matter of authority, that we need some powerful confirmation or outward approval from others to confidently do what the Lord has called us to do.  Finally, maybe we share Moses’s lack of confidence in our gifts and just wish we had the talent we see in others like Moses saw in Aaron.

Regardless of the reasons for our reluctance the Lord’s answer to Moses is the same answer He gives us: that He will be with us and will give us everything we need to accomplish His will.  Moses had everything he needed just as soon as the Lord said He would be with him! Throughout His Word the Lord promises to be with His people and Messiah Yeshua also states that He will be with us always.  We need to remember that includes us today as well.

Parasha Shemot and the life of Moses challenge us to take seriously the promises of God.  Do you truly believe that the Lord will make you sufficient for His calling in your life or are you still offering the excuses of Moses?  What is it the Lord is leading you to do that you are avoiding?

May each one of us, regardless of age, experience the sufficiency of God in our lives.  May we all boldly, faithfully, and without excuse discover and follow the Lord’s callings throughout the seasons of our lives.  May each of us, like Moses, be found faithful in everything Adonai has called us to do.