For the week of January 15, 2005 / 5 Shevat 5765
Torah: Shemot / Exodus 10:1 - 13:16
Haftarah: Jeremiah 46:13-28

What Will it Take?

Moses and Aaron performed all these wonders before Pharaoh, but the LORD hardened Pharaoh's heart, and he would not let the Israelites go out of his country. (Shemot / Exodus 11:10)

The depth of Pharaoh’s unwillingness to comply with the will of God is astounding. You may think that it took ten plagues to twist his arm (or heart), to make him willing to let the people go. But it didn't. After they left, he and his army pursued them in order to bring them back (this part of the story is found in next week's reading).

What it actually took to free the people was God's decisive act of placing a body of water between Israel and the Egyptians and drowning the Egyptian army. Pharaoh never really complied with God's demand at all. For Israel to be set free, God had to do it himself.

While I have been writing this we are currently in the aftermath of one of the worst natural disasters of all time. I hesitate to comment on the tsunami that hit Asia recently. The great loss of so many people and a devastation that will be felt by the whole world for many years to come deserves careful reflection and understanding. From where I sit I don't feel adequate to address this.

Yet this will not stop others saying and writing all sorts of things. Maybe some of their comments will be helpful. My guess is that most will not be.

Since I have been writing TorahBytes over the last seven years, the world has experienced many disasters. I don't know if there have been more these past seven years than before, or if I am more aware of what's going on in the world. People, like myself, who are concerned for the moral and spiritual state of the world have tended to refer to disasters as wake up calls – warnings of the coming judgement of God. We have urged people to pay attention and make life adjustments before it's too late.

But now thinking about Pharaoh, I realize that we don't change that easy. How many of us after experiencing warning signs in our lives, resolve to change our lifestyle, but never do so, or if we do, revert to our old habits after a short while. I know there are exceptions, but it is pretty clear that making significant changes do not happen very often.

As we read the story of Pharaoh and the Israelites, we see that neither really had a desire for change. At one level the Israelites didn't really want to leave Egypt. The dramatic circumstances that resulted in their departure were as much for them as it was for the Egyptians. And even if they did want to leave, they couldn't. It took God's doing.

Therefore whatever message we want to derive out of the difficulties of life we need to realize that in order for us to come into the kind of freedom we need, we too. need God's intervention. Whatever is oppressing us – internal or external forces, only God can set us free.

If you have experienced this freedom, if you are someone who can relate to the Israelites finding themselves on the other side of the sea, have you ever given thought as to how you got to where you are? Do you realize that you have been set free – not by anything you yourself have done – but by the power of God? Are you aware that not only has salvation been made available to you by Yeshua's offering of himself and his defeat over death, but the actual faith that is now in your heart is a gift from God to you (see the New Covenant book of Ephesians 2:1-10)?

Since God is the one who has freed you, then you are truly free. God has struck down every oppressive force in your life. Everything that kept you from being what God intended has been defeated. You have been cut off from your oppression. This is not to say that life automatically becomes easy. We may look at why we struggle with the things we do in the weeks ahead.

On the other hand perhaps you have never experienced the freedom the Scriptures speak of. Thankfully you can. You can because God wants to free you. He has provided everything you will ever need to live life as you were meant to. There is no reason for you to stay in the oppressive state you are in. If you turn to God in the name of Yeshua the Messiah, he will set you free.

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