Va’era (And I Appeared)

Torah: Exodus 6:2 – 9:35 Haftarah: Isaiah 66:1-24 Brit Chadasha: Colossians 1:9-22

Hard as a Rock

When I read the Scriptures that refer to the Pharaoh during the time of Moshe, I often think to myself how hardheaded and stiff necked can someone be?  I think many times I often forget that there have been and possibly still are areas of my life where I am hardheaded and stiff necked.  So next time we start pointing the finger at Pharaoh or judging him because of his stubbornness or ignorance towards YHVH; we might ought to take a few steps back and examine our lives to make sure we are not doing the same thing Pharaoh did which in a simple nutshell was not obeying YHVH and snubbing his nose at the God of Avraham, Yitzhak, and Yaakov.

This portion is a familiar one that most of us probably learned while going to Sunday school.  We see the beginning of the ten plagues being released by Yah but for now I would like to turn your attention to something that was pointed out to me by my good friend, Brad Scott.  There are many people out there who love to try and find contradictions in the Scriptures in order to make them invalid or prove them to be wrong.  One good example is the text of Exodus six verse three.  The following verse is quoted from the King James Version of the Bible and reads,And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, but by my name JEHOVAH was I not known to them.”  This verse seems as though it is hinting at Yah never revealing His name to the Patriarchs, right?  Well, I would like to submit something to you.  I will now quote the same verse from The Scriptures Bible of the Institute of Scripture Research: “And I appeared to Aḇraham, to Yitsḥaq, and to Yaaqoḇ, as Ěl Shaddai. And by My Name, יהוה, was I not known to them?  Did you see the difference in how those two verses read?  Which version is correct?  I know people who base others salvation on whether or not they read from the King James Version so which is it?  In my opinion that is being too absolute and not our job to say who is in and who isn’t.

I submit that I believe the later verse gives more validity to what was really being said.  Why?  Well clearly we find Abraham calling upon the name of Yah earlier.

And from there he moved to the mountain east of Bĕyth Ěl, and he pitched his tent, with Bĕyth Ěl on the west and Ai on the east. And he built there an altar to יהוה, and called on the Name of יהוה. Genesis 12:8

If we interpret the verse literally the way the King James says then it means that Yah did not reveal His name to them but clearly Yah did reveal His name to them.  It is very important that we read the Scriptures very slowly while paying attention to every word that is on the page thus believing what we read and NOT reading what we believe.

A Broken Spirit

This portion also begins by Yah jogging the memory of Moshe by telling him of the covenant and what He is getting ready to do with the children of Yisrael.

“And I also established My covenant with them, to give them the land of Kenaʽan, the land of their sojournings, in which they have sojourned. “And I have also heard the groaning of the children of Yisra’ĕl whom the Mitsrites are enslaving, and I have remembered My covenant. “Say, therefore, to the children of Yisra’ĕl, ‘I am יהוה, and I shall bring you out from under the burdens of the Mitsrites, and shall deliver you from their enslaving, and shall redeem you with an outstretched arm, and with great judgments, and shall take you as My people, and I shall be your Elohim. And you shall know that I am יהוה your Elohim who is bringing you out from under the burdens of the Mitsrites. ‘And I shall bring you into the land which I swore to give to Aḇraham, to Yitsḥaq, and to Yaʽaqoḇ, to give it to you as an inheritance. I am יהוה.’ ” Exodus 6:4-8

One would think that the children of Yisrael would have accepted this information hook, line and sinker because of the bondage they were under, right?  We see something totally different though.  In verse nine of Exodus six it states,And Moshe spoke thus to the children of Yisra’ĕl, but they did not listen to Moshe, because of shortness of spirit, and from hard slavery.”  This passage struck me as interesting when I read over it.  I decided to go do a little investigation on some of the words here in this passage and found some interesting information as to what the Hebrew is really showing us here.  In verse five the Scriptures mentioned that the children of Yisrael were groaning as in calling out for help.  That word groaning there is somewhat of an abstract word.  It’s one of those words that could mean one thing to one person and something totally different to another but for now let’s return to the text in verse nine.  I wanted to mention the groaning situation to solidify the point I will eventually make.

Moshe comes to bring a message of hope to the children of Yisrael and what is the outcome?  You would think that they would be jumping up and down with joy that finally someone is going to come and get us out of this situation we have been under.

That did not happen in this situation.

And Mosheh spoke thus to the children of Yisra’ĕl, but they did not listen to Mosheh, because of shortness of spirit, and from hard slavery. Exodus 6:9

The picture from the Hebrew that we are given here is the children of Yisrael could not perceive or discern what Moshe was trying to tell them.  The King James Version says they could not hear for anguish of spirit.  Jeff Benner in his mechanical translation of Exodus (Jeff Benner, A Mechanical Translation of the Book of Exodus (College Station, TX: Publishing, Inc., 2009) 47) says that the phrase “shortness of wind,” being paralleled with “hard service,” means “shortness of breath.”

This reminds me of my days of old when I played football.  I can relate to the children of Yisrael here.  We had a coach who would physically push us to the limit by making us do sprints and other exercises until we literally almost collapsed.  What was interesting about this was he never tried to teach us anything while we were under this regimen of physical activities.  Not one time can I recall him giving us a great teaching moment during this type of training!  He usually just laughed and kept blowing the whistle watching us suffer and quite enjoying it I might add.  Why?  I think the picture is clear here.  He knew that because of the physical and emotional distress that our bodies and minds were under that we would not hear or “listen” to what he would tell us or better said we wouldn’t fully retain what was said because our minds and bodies were being totally consumed by the rigorous stress we were under.  He always waited until we had refreshed or rested in order to begin to teach us something.

I believe that this is exactly what was going on with Moshe.  He went to the children of Yisrael at a time when their ‘spirits’ had been broken by the bondage or servitude they were under mainly because of the strenuous activity they were under they could not hear or ‘listen’ to Moshe when he brought the message to them.  I also submit to you that I have heard several stories coming from people in the States that seem to have their spirit broken also.  What I mean is you hear things like I have worked all of my life and I am too old to try and start over.  It seems as if there is an attitude of well we just need to roll over and just die.  The hope of ‘change’ has come and gone or at least it was not the ‘change’ that folks were duped into thinking.  I see more and more folks with a doom and gloom outlook on what is ahead.  I think we can see as to why with the previous portion on into this portion as well.  The children of Yisrael had gotten comfortable with the status quo.  They enjoyed being able to run down to the Wal-Mart and get whatever they wanted.  They enjoyed being able to pamper themselves with nice restaurants, shopping malls, blackberry’s, iPhones, and so forth and so on.  I know there were none of these things in Egypt but the principle is still there.  They had gotten used to having all the distractions around them that they had forgotten about the things of Yah.  They had lost their discernment and they had become dull of hearing.

Where did their attitude come from though?  Well I think it is safe to say that many times when everything is rocking and rolling along without any problems and then we are faced with back to back one on top of the other adversities; it is a challenge and is not appeasing to our flesh and we begin to get an attitude and if we do not take the proper steps in correcting that attitude it gets worse and we get in a rut where we could care less about whatever happens and we get a woe is me type attitude and do not really want to hear the counsel of someone else and much less that of Yah because many times we want to blame Him for the predicaments we find ourselves in.

Separation from our Stuff

I believe we miss out on the big picture of what Yah is allowing to take place and why.  It is hard many times to hear when we are surrounded with all of our ‘stuff’ so what the Father does is He begins to remove our stuff from us in order to remove the distractions from us so that we may clearly hear Him and be focused on Him.  The problem is we like our stuff and do not like it when our flesh is being pressed and squeezed.

I see this process not only in this week’s portion but also in the events that are currently taking place around us.  I submit to you that the Yisraelites were placed under heavy ‘tax masters’ if you will in the beginning and it just got worse from that point forward until it seems to me the text hints at their spirits were broken or at least at the point of being broken.  Why do I say that?  Well when help was around the corner they could not even see it or discern it because they were only focused on the uncomfortable things going on to their flesh.  I know that all of us are feeling the crunch from the ongoing economic collapse but we cannot afford to allow our spirits to be broken by the system.  We have to remember that there is a greater purpose in all of this and that Yah is trying to separate us from our stuff so that He will be able to speak to us.  The Hebrew word for desert is midbawr which could mean a literal place but it also can mean speech.  Now what in the world would a desert have to do with speech?  Remember Hebrew is functional so Yah has to remove all of our ‘stuff’ from us and we normally refer to that uneasy process as the desert experience.  Isn’t it interesting that when we are finally separated from our stuff and really don’t have the distractions anymore that it then becomes the place where Yah can speak to us and that we can finally hear Him.  There is a purpose and a reason as to why current events are taking place and have been taking place over the past several years.  We just have to be a people who discern the times and go with the Creator wherever he is leading.