We now come to one of the most well-known biblical tales, known even to those who aren’t of the Judeo-Christian faiths: the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, brought about by God working his miracles through Moses and Aaron against the kingdom and gods of Egypt.
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In this parashah, which is quite a long one, we start with the names of those children of Israel who went into Egypt. Joseph has died and over the next couple of hundred years (remember that in Genesis 15:13 God told Abraham his descendants would be in a foreign land for 400 years) the Israelites blossom from a large family into a nation, and the Pharaoh in power did not remember Joseph. All he saw was a mighty nation living in his land and the potential danger to his rule. So, in order to protect his rulership, he enslaved the people and worked them mercilessly. However, even under the harshness of Egyptian slavery, the population grew, so Pharaoh ordered the Israelite midwives to kill all the male children but leave the females alive. The midwives disobeyed, so Pharaoh then ordered his own people to kill any new-born male Israelite children.
During this time, Moses is born and hidden, and after three months the child couldn’t be hidden anymore, so his mother placed him in a waterproof basket and sent him down the Nile (or up the Nile, as the case may be), leaving his future in God’s hands. The daughter of Pharaoh sees the basket and knows the child is an Israelite but raises him as her own son. Miriam, Moses’s older sister, had followed the basket and was wise enough to offer to have one of the Israelite women nurse the baby, which Pharaoh’s daughter agreed to. Once weaned, which was probably at about 4 years of age, Moses was raised in the household of the Pharaoh, but he knew who he was and who his people were.
One day when Moses was a full-grown man, he saw an Egyptian beating an Israelite, and his anger flared up within him. He killed the Egyptian and hid the body, thinking no one would ever know, but the very next day he saw two Israelites fighting and tried to stop them. One of them asked who did Moses think he was judging them, and would he kill one of them as he did the Egyptian?
Realizing that the murder was known, and knowing that sooner or later he would have to be tried and killed for the crime, he fled to Midian.
There he helped the daughters of the Chief, or Priest of Midian when they were accosted at a well, and in return, the chief gave one of his daughters to Moses in marriage. Moses stayed there, as a shepherd, until he was 80 years old, which is when he saw the burning bush.
Of course, we all know the story from here- Moses approaches the bush, God speaks to him and tells him to go to Egypt to free his people. Moses hems and haws until God pretty much says, “Enough!” God sends Aaron to help Moses by acting as his mouthpiece, and when they first approach Pharaoh and ask that he let the people go to worship their God, Pharaoh refuses; as punishment for even asking, he adds to the harshness of their slavery by requiring the same tally of bricks, but doesn’t supply the straw. That meant that the people had to glean straw all night, even though they have worked sunup to sunset.
Moses and Aaron, who were welcomed by the Israelites when they came saying God had sent them to free the people, now are hated and blamed for the additional problems. Moses asks God why he hasn’t done what he said he would do, and free the people, but God says that now Moses will see his wonders at work.
OMG!!! Where do I start? How do I stop?
Let’s do this, first: a point of interest. When we read this, God not only tells Moses he will work wonders but also tells Moses that he will kill the firstborn of the Pharaoh (Exodus 4:23), so Moses knows what the endgame play will be, before the game even starts.
What I want to do today is open a can of worms by discussing the name of God, which we are given, by God, himself, in Exodus 3:14. And I call this a can of worms because of the divisive and eternal argument within the Believing communities as to how to pronounce God’s name, the Tetragrammaton, which is יהוה, the Hebrew letters Y-H-V-H.
In the Torah, God doesn’t answer Moses’ question with the Tetragrammaton but instead says this:
So why, if God’s name is Y-H-V-H, didn’t he tell Moses that was his name?
The answer is what I have been trying to tell people for years, which is the very crux of the problem with the “Holy Namers”: the use of the word “name” in ancient days didn’t just mean what someone was called, but who and what they were.
The Chumash explains it this way (this is from the Soncino 1965 Second Edition, and is not a quote): when Moses asked “מה שמו?” (What name?), it wasn’t an inquiry for knowing what God is called because the people must have already known what God was called. When Moses proclaimed that he was sent by the God of their fathers, it is unthinkable that this would be some unknown God. In those days, “name” meant fame or reputation. And in Exodus 9:16, it is used to indicate that God’s name represents his power.
So, from God’s view, what his name is, as in first or last name, is less important than what his reputation and fame are to those whom he wants to know about him. God is telling Moses, who wants to know what to call him, that what to call him isn’t important. What is important is that he is who he is: this is a statement not of personal identity but of eternal nature and omnipotence.
God wants not just the Israelites, but Pharaoh and the whole world to know that he IS. And you might ask, “‘What is ‘IS“?” It means he is whatever he needs to be, whenever or wherever he needs or wants to be. He is eternal, he is all-powerful, and he is able to do whatever needs to be done.
He is THE God; the only God, the one, true God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Creator, the King, the Father, the Judge, the Executioner, the Savior…you name it, and God IS.
In other words, I am that I am, which is everything to everyone, all the time, forever and ever. Amen!
So, when people argue about how to pronounce the Tetragrammaton and accuse you of praying to Ba’al if you use the word “Lord”, or that you pray to idols when you use the word “God”, you can ignore them. They are too prideful to think they could be wrong and too stubborn to hear the truth. But you never know- you could meet an exception- so I would suggest you test the waters by asking them, “Would you like to know which name God, himself, told us he wants us to know him by?” And if they answer they would, then quote them Exodus 3:14, and hopefully, they will learn something.
The traditional names for God that Jews have used for millennia are God, Lord, Adonai, and HaShem (the Name); these are what we call God and we do not ever try to pronounce the Hebrew word Y-H-V-H simply out of respect for him. Christians do not understand this and misinterpret the use of the term “call on his name” or “the name of the Lord” because they do not know the Torah, so they do not know that God, himself, doesn’t care about the Tetragrammaton. He is more concerned with our knowing who he is than what to call him.
So don’t be like the ignorant who concentrate their time and energy trying to call God by his first name, as it were, because God doesn’t care about that. The Holy Name controversy has done NOTHING to edify or help people come closer to God, but it has been a divisive and hateful point of contention within the body of Believers. It has served no useful purpose with regard to salvation but has been very helpful to the Enemy, in that it divides and separates the people of God.
God tells us what is important to him in the Torah, in Genesis 15:16 where we are told that because Abraham believed him, his faithfulness was credited as righteousness to him. Abraham was faithful and thus righteous, and there is no mention of which name Abraham called God.
We are saved by faith, not by pronunciation, so know who God is, know what God can do, and know what God wants from you: that is all you need to know. That, along with accepting that Yeshua is the Messiah God promised to send and through his sacrifice, our sins can be forgiven. If you know that, you are set.
That’s really all you need to know, but you should continue to study so you and grow in spiritual strength and maturity and can be a good example to the world of God’s peace, the joy you receive through the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit), God’s overwhelming love, and (of course) his salvation through Messiah Yeshua. Also, we can demonstrate God’s power to change us, for the better.
All the self-help books and seminars in the world don’t really change anyone- almost all of them eventually go back to who they were and what they were doing, which is why that drek keeps selling. It’s like fad diets- they work for a while, then people go back to what they were.
But with God, once changed by his spirit, almost everyone stays changed- that is who HE is! He has the power to make effective and lasting change; in fact, he is the only one who can make an eternal change.
He is that he is, and that is how he wants us to know him.
Thank you for being here and please subscribe, share these messages with everyone you know, and I always welcome your comments.
Until next time, L’hitraot and Shabbat Shalom!