This week’s parsha Beshalach (he let go) picks up the story of the Israelites flight from Egypt right after they have left the land of slavery. You can read the whole story in Exodus 13:17-17:16. There are a lot of things that happen in this parsha, so you’ll want to read it (or even just a part of it) for yourself to get more of the exciting action. The children of Israel have come out of Egypt after Pharaoh has finally relented and let them go. Now that they are physically out of slavery, they must learn to depend on God in a new way in freedom. God doesn’t lead them through nearby Philistine territory (think Goliath), because it would be too easy for the Israelites to become afraid and turn back and willingly go back into slavery in Egypt. Instead, God takes them in a direction that will make it next to impossible for them to return to their lives as Pharaoh’s slaves. Here, God divides the Red Sea before the children of Israel and causes them to walk through on dry ground. Though they are followed by Pharaoh’s armies and his chariots, Pharaoh’s forces do not reach the Israelites because God closes the depths of the sea over them and they drown. (Exodus 13:17-14:31)
Seeing this remarkable deliverance, Moses and all the people rejoice before the Lord in song and then Miriam leads all of the women in a song of praise as well. This attitude of Thanksgiving does not last long. Three days later they complain against Moses because they are thirsty. God provides water for the people. It is not long after this that the people begin to complain that they have no meat and no food in general and that life was better for them in Egypt.Egypt, where they were slaves. Egypt, where they were forced to make bricks without straw. Suddenly the Israelites remember a rosy picture of the land of their bondage. They accuse Moses and God of bringing them into the wilderness to die. God appears in the pillar of cloud and tells them that he will feed them with meat at night and with bread in the morning and that they will know that he is their God. It happens as God says. They have quail meat to eat and then a substance they end up calling manna (literally what is it?) in the morning. The manna comes every day and it is exactly the amount that each person needs. God tells the people not to gather more than they need and not to try and save it for the next day or it will spoil and become infested with worms. The only day that they are allowed to gather more is on the day before the sabbath they are to gather a double portion for there will be no manna to collect on the sabbath. Each day brought a new reminder that God would provide. Each shabbat brought an opportunity to learn to trust that the manna would come again tomorrow. (Exodus 15:1-16:36)
I really like this parsha and the tangible ways that God is at work in the midst of his people, teaching them to look to him and depend on him. We need to be taught that same lesson. I am grateful that my daily meals aren’t identical mixtures of quail and manna and I am grateful that I don’t live in the wilderness constantly on the move. But, I need reminders of this kind of daily goodness of God. It is so easy for me to forget that though my food gets delivered courtesy of Fresh Direct, it is God who provides for my physical needs. It is so easy for me to forget that even when I make dinner (or order in) it is God who feeds me. And we don’t have God in our midst in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, but as followers of Y’shua we do have the Holy Spirit who lives in us and is with us always. God provided a way out of slavery for his children in Egypt and he provided countless opportunities in freedom for them and for us to learn to follow, trust, and love him. How can we better cultivate gratitude in ourselves this year for the things that God has done, God is doing, and God will continue to do?
Shabbat Shalom Camp Gilgal,