This week’s parsha comes from Exodus 6:2-9:35. It is always amazing to me in reading and rereading the exodus account how quickly everything happens. Last week Moses was born and this week we get through almost all of the plagues. But I am sure that nothing about the actual events felt fast. The children of Israel had been in slavery in Egypt for 400 years and though God had promised that they would not remain there as slaves beyond that point, I think that many of them had grown so generationally tired of waiting that they cried out to the Lord not expecting an answer.
I was reminded this week of the words of King David in Psalm 27:13-14 because it sounds like the total opposite of the mindset of the children of Israel in slavery. We’ll circle back to this idea at the end, but for now read these words:
I remain confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the LORD
in the land of the living.
Wait for the LORD;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the LORD.
Vaera means “I appeared” and it comes from God saying to Moses that he had appeared to the patriarchs in the past and established his covenant with them in the past. God’s relationship with the children of Israel has serious history and he has not forgotten them. He recounts to Moses that he has given them the land of Canaan to possess (and they will possess it) and that he has heard their cries for help and that he will free them. He promises that he will take them as his own people and that he will be their God.
Exodus 6:9 says, “Moses reported this to the Israelites, but they did not listen to him because of their discouragement and cruel bondage.”
Can you believe that? God makes unbelievable promises to the children of Israel and their experience is so overwhelmed by their slavery and their generations of waiting for freedom that they can’t even hear the good news. Their discouragement doesn’t just stay with them–it infects Moses and discourages him in his next steps to obey God and tell Pharaoh to let the Israelites go. Moses is distracted with his own insufficiency and is unable to stand confidently knowing that if God is asking him to do something that God will go with him. This distraction/preoccupation repeats. Moses keeps repeating that he has “faltering lips” and the repetition continues as he and Aaron approach Pharaoh. Each visit with Pharaoh in this parsha concludes with “yet Pharaoh’s heart was hard and he would not listen to them, just as the Lord had said.”
The Israelites see only their present situation. Even once they are out of slavery they can’t seem to let go of their position as slaves. Moses sees only his disability, even after God has called him for an amazing task and made him able. Pharaoh can’t let go of his right to deny the petition on behalf of the Israelites, even when keeping them seems to be against his best interest.
And so we come back to the title of this week’s Parsha–“I appeared.” To free the Israelites from bondage and to reveal himself to them God provides signs and wonders in the form of the plagues. Some of them the Israelites experience directly and some of them they view the effects of from afar, but God intervenes tangibly in their circumstances. They are not freed from slavery because the gate was loose and their slave drivers weren’t paying attention. They are freed from slavery because God time and time again (ten times in all) shows his power and his supremacy over Pharaoh and the things that Pharaoh holds as powerful, the things that Pharaoh puts his trust in. The waiting was worth it, God delivers on his promises to stand by the children of Israel and to lead them from slavery to freedom and to lead them into a land of their own and to make them his own people.
Part of why I really enjoy looking at the parsha each week is the regular reminder that God keeps his promises and that he is trustworthy. I really love the verses in Psalm 27 because they remind me of all that God has already done and all of the ways that he has already kept his word. King David isn’t confident in God because it sounds like a good idea or because it is easy. King David is able to stand confidently in who God is and what he has said, and even to wait on him because God has already demonstrated his character in history. The children of Israel in slavery in Egypt were struggling because they’d lost hope. But God appears in the midst of their groaning, provides a deliverer, exercises miracles, and promises to deliver them with his mighty hand and his outstretched arm.
I want to encourage you to read the parsha this week/weekend. There is a refrain I remember from the Passover seder growing up: then we were slaves, now we are free. This is true of physical slavery in Egypt but this is also true of our spiritual relationship with sin. In response to our groaning and after generations of waiting for God to provide salvation and redemption from spiritual bondage, Yeshua came and made his dwelling among us. I pray that this week we would all be able to stand more confidently in the Lord and that we would be able to stand firm and wait on him because he is faithful and he is true to his word.
Shabbat Shalom Camp Gilgal,