The Lord remembers His covenant (Parashat Vaere)
In this week’s Torah portion we continue reading in Exodus. It is the famous story of Moses and his brother Aaron who repeatedly kept asking the Pharaoh to let the people go. But the Lord had hardened the heart of the Pharaoh and he refused time after time. And the Lord sent plague after plague. Blood, frogs, gnats, flies, death of life stock, boils, hail are the ones we read about in this portion. The last three plagues are for next week.
This portion is full of horrible events and suffering that befell the Egyptians. However, it starts with the Lord speaking to Moses. Words of encouragement and full of promise.
“I am the Lord, I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as God Almighty but by my name the Lord I did not make myself fully known to them. I also established my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, where they resided as foreigners. Moreover, I have heard the groaning of the Israelites, whom the Egyptians enslaved, and I have remembered my covenant.”
The Lord continues and instructs Moses to say the following to the Israelites;
“I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted arm to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. It will give it to you as a possession. I am the Lord”
The Lord is both a righteous judge and a loving father. He is about to bring plague after plague on Egypt. The Egyptians who had enslaved an entire nation, even murdered the baby boys, taking away any hope or future. That same God who is going to judge the nation of Egypt, remembers His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He heard the groaning of the Israelites. The same God who hardened the Pharaoh’s heart, made Himself known to Moses by His name. A long time may have gone by but the Lord remembers and He will do as He promised.He did so for the Israelites a long time ago, and He will do so for us too.
“Father God, thank you that you are the same throughout time.Thank you that you are faithful to do as You have said. Thank you that you heard the groaning of the Israelites and delivered them from slavery.Thank you for hearing us when we call out to you and sending us Jesus the Messiah who delivered us from being enslaved to sin”
This article originally appeared on CBN Israel, January 2, 2019, and reposted with permission.
Since its establishment in March 2012 CBN Israel has helped thousands of people through its various operations. As the foundation of Project Light Shine, CBN Israel gives help to the community through three avenues; Humanitarian aid, education and economic development. CBN Israel serves with a spirit of humility and love. Their mission is to prepare the Land and the people of Israel for the coming of Messiah Yeshua and the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth. The vision of their work is to see the hungry fed, the needs of the needy met, businesses established and to improve the spiritual, physical and financial situation of the local body.
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Strength and weakness
“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Messiah’s power may rest on me.” – 2 Cor. 12:9
There are times when we stumble badly at temptation and blow it. We get into an angry outburst when we know we should return good for evil and turn the other cheek. And then we feel terrible about ourselves and our weaknesses and, discouraged, say:”Well, there goes our lovely testimony about the Messiah. What’s the use. I give up.”
I remember just such a day in Jerusalem. I had been up early in the morning before going to work, to water the large garden I was caring for in our apartment complex, until some irate neighbors said out their windows, “Why do you water in the morning– we can’t sleep!” So I watered in the evening, and was told by another disgruntled neighbor, “Why do you water in the evening– we can’t sit on the grass!” It had been a long hot summer day and I was tired and I exploded at the neighbor and went home. I told my wife that I had just ruined our testimony of the Messiah, and we should return to where we had come from. But then the Lord whispered to me, “Go and apologize to him.”
That is a very novel approach here in the harshness of the Holy Land, as pretty much any negative occurrence is deemed the other’s fault, without exception. To ask forgiveness is nearly as unheard-of as fish in the Dead Sea. So I pulled myself together and went down the steps from our apartment and knocked on that neighbor’s door. When it opened I just said, “I’m sorry I blew up at you, I was exhausted and…” “No problem,” he said immediately with a very surprised smile, and we became friendly neighbors from that day forth.
The principle is the same whether it is with our wives or children or our brothers in the faith. They may see us blow it, but then let them see us also fix the mess and reconcile. Perhaps if we practiced more of what we preach, we might have more unity, and a more healthy body of believers.
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us” (2 Corinthians 4:7). In other words, this lamp is lit inside a cracked pot- the cracks of our weaknesses often being from where the light of the Lord may come forth to be seen. A ‘perfect’ pot has not a crack, and often can display only its own strength and beauty, and folks often resent ‘perfect’ people, which only challenges their own egos and weaknesses. Better, perhaps, to be a ‘crackpot’, though it may at times be rather humbling.
Elhanan ben-Avraham, born in 1945, is a professional artist, poet, writer and father of two, grandfather of four, living in Israel since 1979. He has served in the IDF, taught the Bible internationally, published two illustrated books of poetry, and painted two large Biblical murals in public buildings in Jerusalem, among many other works. He and his wife live in a quiet village in the Mountains of Judah.
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Give your children happy memories
I was born and grew up far away from my extended family in a time before the internet, so I had little contact with them and no heirlooms except for a handful of sayings. Among them was one my mother had heard from her aunt and which she was fond of repeating, that it is important to “give your children happy memories.”
The Bible has a lot to say about child rearing, including Ephesians 6:4, which says; “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord”
There’s two parts to that command, and the first one is no less important than the second. In fact, the first is a pre-requisite for the second, and therefore giving my children happy memories isn’t just a good idea I heard from my mom, it’s a Biblical command. Failing to do so is to more or less guarantee that they’ll be provoked to anger and contempt towards me and their mother. Under those conditions, when they’re old enough to start making their own decisions, the last thing they’ll do is take us seriously when we attempt to discipline and instruct them about the Lord, or pretty much anything else.
All this was on my mind a lot this last month and a half. My sister-in-law’s children (and their wider circle of friends, most of which came to Israel from the former USSR) already had it pretty good before I entered the scene, as they got tons of presents, special food and fun from celebrating Hanukkah, Western Christmas, New Year’s and Russian Orthodox Christmas around this time of year. Then their aunt married me, an American, and Thanksgiving entered the mix as well. There’s also a couple of birthdays for different family members in December and January so we kind of go from one party to another at this time of year. The rest of the year we make sure to get together at least once or twice a month for group trips to the zoo, or a ballgame, or maybe just to the mall.
In between those big family trips, I make sure to spend at least an hour a day with my sons. My older son likes to play checkers and other board games with me while my younger son just likes it when I sit on the floor next to him while he plays with his little trucks or builds stuff with his wooden blocks or magnet sets. If the weather allows I take them out to the park and we play soccer or pass around the football or whatever. Before they go to sleep, my wife and I take turns reading Bible stories to them.
The result is that these kids get LOTS of happy memories from all these things we do together as a family, and although it costs a fair amount of time and money, all the parents and grandparents agree that it’s not so much an expense as it is an investment in the long-term cohesion of our extended family. Also, these activities provide endless opportunities for teaching these kids lessons about God and the Bible from everyday encounters with ordinary circumstances, people, events and locations (and don’t think that just because we’re in Jerusalem you can’t do the same thing with your children where you live. You can and you MUST!)
I don’t know everything about children but I do know one thing, they need to feel loved and valued and they’ll usually believe anything, and follow the example of anyone, who gives them those things. If they don’t get them from their parents, they’ll reject their parents instruction and example and follow something else. Usually, that something else won’t be good for them.
May God give us all the wisdom, patience and foresight to give our children happy memories, to love them, enrich them, give them our time and attention, so that they will take their instruction from us and follow our example instead of leaving us confused and devastated in our old age, wondering what went wrong.
Aaron is a member of Jerusalem Assembly, House of Redemption.
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New Year encouragement from this Week’s Parasha
Jewish tradition has assigned to each week of the Hebraic year a formal reading of a portion of the Torah (parasha) and other Hebrew Scriptures (haftorah). Evidence exists suggesting this practice could date back to biblical times. The relevance of the parasha to our circumstances each week is often striking.
On January 1, 2019, many will feel opportunity in the air, so to speak, to start fresh with an aspect of their lives. This sense of restart at the Gregorian New Year resonates in a promising way with this week’s parasha, Exodus 1:1-6:1.
In that passage the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob cry out and groan from their slavery in Egypt. God responds by calling Moses to deliver His people to their promised land. The humbled shepherd, however, knows he does not have the ability to perform the task. “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” he asks. (Exodus 3:11)
God does not answer Moses’ question because there can be no suitable reply. Instead He tells him what the man needs to know. The next verse reads, “And God said, “I will be with you.”
Rather than bolster Moses’ self esteem, God shifts the focus off Moses and onto Himself. Israel’s redemption is not going to be about Moses or his abilities. It is going to be about God and His infinite omnipotence.
Reading between the lines, we almost hear Moses reply in verse 13, “And who exactly are you, God?”
The Creator answers, “I am who I am.” The Hebrew literally means, “I will be who I will be.” (verse 14)
In the Bible, a name defines or describes personhood. Therefore, any name other than “I will be who I will be” would limit the One who is limitless. God does not change in the essence of His character. But He is also beyond definition or restriction. In revealing His name to Moses, He is indirectly saying that He will be to Moses and the Israelites (and Pharoah) who He knows they’ll need Him to be. Similarly, He will be to you who He knows you need Him to be. No limits.
As you approach 2019 and its uncertainties, like Moses, you may feel insecure in your own abilities. Perhaps God has called you to a task you suspect—or know—that you yourself cannot achieve. Maybe He is leading you in a direction you’ve not previously gone. Or it could be that circumstances around you are changing fast and hard. (Here in Israel, major government and military shakings seem likely to occur in 2019.) If any such uncertainties apply to you, be encouraged by this week’s parasha.
Whatever God has called you to in 2019, it will not be about your abilities. It will be about His abilities, based on who He is and who He will be — the glorious, loving Creator who defies limitation. He will be who you need Him to be this coming year. And He will be with you.
God desires to glorify His Name through you in 2019. Like Moses, you need only surrender to Him. No limits!
This article originally appeared on Light of Zion, December 29, 2018, and reposted with permission.
Sandra is co-founder and director, along with her husband Kerry, of Light of Zion Ministries. Light of Zion is an Israeli Messianic Jewish, prophetic intercessory prayer ministry in Jerusalem with humanitarian outreach. Sandra is a prayer mobilizer and network leader, international speaker, prophetic liaison, professionally published author, Bible teacher, and retired attorney.
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Captivity and freedom
This morning before awakening I had my hands stretched over my head as I slept. When I awoke and put my arms down I realized that the bracelets on my arms were entangled and I couldn’t separate my arms! So for the next five minutes I tried to set myself free. Upon releasing the bracelets I heard the L-rd say, “People wake up every day in chains, crying out for freedom. These aren’t just people in jail, but prisoners in their hearts and minds. Pray for the captives to be set free.”
Chains can be decorative like my bracelets- שַׁרְשְׁרֹת [sharsherot] – these were beautiful filigree chains used in the Temple. But I believe the chains that the L-rd was referring to were אזקים [azakim] as in Jeremiah 40:1-2. People are bound אסר [asur] in chains. Another word for chains can be נְחֹשֶׁת [nechoshet] – brass, copper, metal or more specifically chains or fetters:
- Lam 3:7 – He has walled me in so that I cannot go out; He has made my chain heavy.
- Judges 16:21 – Then the Philistines seized him and gouged out his eyes; and they brought him down to Gaza and bound him with bronze chains, and he was a grinder in the prison.
- 2 Sam 3:24 – “Your hands were not bound, nor your feet put in fetters; as one falls before the wicked, you have fallen.” And all the people wept again over him.
- Jer 6:28 – All of them are stubbornly rebellious, going about as a talebearer. They are bronze and iron; They, all of them, are corrupt.
The verse that jumped off the page for me was Jeremiah 6:27 “I have made you an assayer and a tester among My people, that you may know and assay their way.”
In this same chapter it’s written in Jeremiah 6:16-17 Thus says the L-rd, “Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, Where the good way is, and walk in it; And you will find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it. And I set watchmen over you, saying, ‘Listen to the sound of the trumpet!’ But they said, ‘We will not listen.’
So I felt the L-rd was calling His watchmen to be assayers and testers among His people.
Now of course the Parashat HaShavuah would be in tune with this word – of course! I just love how the L-rd weaves all things together so beautifully.
Exodus 1:22 Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, saying, “Every son who is born you are to cast into the Nile, and every daughter you are to keep alive.”
Then I heard the L-rd say that the Nile River was the world’s first abortion clinic.
Isaiah 27: 6 In the days to come Jacob will take root, Israel will blossom and sprout, and they will fill the whole world with fruit.
“This is the promise I gave to Israel.”
Isaiah 27:9 Therefore through this Jacob’s iniquity will be forgiven; and this will be the full price of the pardoning of his sin: When he makes all the altar stones like pulverized chalk stones; when Asherim and incense altars will not stand.
And then He said, “And this is how they will reach the breakthrough.”
Carolyn Margolin-Hyde was raised in an Orthodox Jewish synagogue near Chicago. She graduated from University of Illinois and as an RN she practiced nursing for many years. After making Aliyah Carolyn served as worship leader at K’tsir Asher, The Harvest of Asher Congregation, in Akko, and then led worship at Kehilat Poriya, a congregation near Tiberius. She has written and recorded many worship songs in English and Hebrew and her worship CD’s include “Just Like Joseph” and “The Latter Rain”- contemporary worship CDs; “Deep Calls to Deep” – a soaking CD; and “Fine Linen” – worship with a touch of the blues.