Parashah Va’Ayra (I appeared) Exodus 6:2 – 9:35

We read on this Shabbat from the Torah about how God begins the wondrous works that eventually gain the freedom of His people from Egyptian bondage. During this parashah we read of the first plagues released upon Egypt, up to the sending of hail. God is showing His power, and not just His power, but His power over the Egyptian gods, even to the point of demonstrating that Pharaoh, a god to the Egyptians, is powerless against the God of the Hebrews.

What I want to talk about is not the miraculous signs and works (don’t forget the staff turning into a snake and Moses’s hand turning leprous, then being healed) but the fact that even though some of these plagues could be explained away, they are still miracles.

Science today thinks that because something can be explained, that makes it more of an event than a miracle. We can explain how the digestive system works in living things. Even a child can pretty much understand you eat it, your stomach takes the good stuff and your blood moves it all over your body, and what you don’t need you get rid of at the other end. The more we learn about the science of digestion, the more intricate and detailed the explanation can become. But that doesn’t change the essence of the whole thing- it’s a miracle! Think about it: you eat something and you get nutrition from it. It saves your life, or, if it’s the wrong thing to eat it can kill you. Eating a lot of chocolate can make a human feel better, but eating a lot of chocolate can kill a dog. Isn’t that wondrous? Isn’t that just, like, so weird? One man’s food is another man’s poison.

The Nile turned to blood. There were frogs, lice, flies and disease all over the land, on both cattle and people. It’s all explainable, right? What if some mold or natural pollution up river (which would be south of Egypt, since the Nile flows the wrong way) caused the water to become reddish? There is a mold here in Florida that is causing the river fish to die because it is literally choking them to death, taking the oxygen from the water. What if this happened then? If the river was not supporting life, wouldn’t the life in the river come out onto the land? There is a fungus killing off frogs all over the world today. It’s called Chytrid, and to date has killed off nearly 1/3 of all frogs in the world. We don’t know what causes it, we can clean a frog infected with it, but then the frog can catch it, again. What if there was a mold in the river that discolored it, then that mold also got on the frogs and started killing them off? Wouldn’t the flies and lice come to lay their eggs in the rotting flesh of the dead frogs? These bugs carry diseases that the cattle would catch, and the Egyptians would also get sick. Lice and flies can cause rashes and without the modern medications the rashes could develop into infected sores.

All of this is science, it is explainable. So does that mean there is no God behind it? Just because I can understand the mechanics of a miracle, does that make it less of a miracle?

Here’s a cute story:

One day a bunch of scientists were talking about how they now understand diseases and how they work, and eventually will be able to cure them all. In fact, they will be able to prevent them, and maybe even genetically destroy them altogether. They even told God He wasn’t needed since we now understand all about how the world and humans work. God said to them, “Can you make a man from a handful of clay?” The scientists talked about it amongst themselves, then said, “Yes, we believe that we can.” God said, “Go ahead- show me.” So the scientists went out into the garden and grabbed a big handful of clay. That’s when God said, “Oh, no! That’s my clay- you have to make your own.”

We are such an egocentric people. We think that mankind is the ultimate life form in the Universe. May I remind us all that God is alive, too, and we aren’t better than Him! We think that because we understand something God has designed we are as wise and capable as God.  Not true. Not even close! The apple wasn’t that powerful.

In your life, do you see the miracles that occur everyday? Do you even look? We need to understand and accept that what God allows us to understand about His ways is for our benefit. It is to remind us of His wonderful love and affection for us. It is also to remind us of who is in charge. I love to watch a thunderstorm (from inside, of course): the strength of the wind and rain, the frightening sound of the thunder, and the awesome power of lightening. It reminds me of God’s ultimate power, strength, and creative abilities. I feel only pity for anyone who no longer can see these wonders for what they are, but only observes them and thinks how the clashing of different fronts causes the water droplets in the air to coalesce and fall. The temperature differences cause the winds to move at accelerated speed, and the free electrons in the atmosphere gather together and are attracted to the positively charged ground, causing the discharge of their combined kinetic energy. I may not be exactly correct in this description of a storm, but it doesn’t sound very exciting, does it? Not too wondrous; not even worth listening to, actually.

Miracles happen every day, all around us. The opening and closing of a flower, a bee flying to and fro, grass growing, even someone dying. Why do we die? If you’re hit by a bus, well, that’s an easy enough explanation. But what about just dying? Alive one minute, then the next minute you “give up the ghost.” If the heart, lungs, blood flow, etc. are all working, why does it just stop? Why did people live hundreds of years at a time when we didn’t even have band aids or Bactine, yet in the modern world, with all our medical knowledge and ability, we can’t get much past our eighties?

If you think about how unbelievably idiotic we are, as a species, it’s a miracle we are still alive, at all! We destroy our environment, we destroy ourselves, we drink the wrong stuff, we smoke the wrong stuff, we eat all the wrong stuff (and too much of it, too.) We even have TV shows that demonstrate just how absolutely self-destructive we are (they call it reality TV, and they are right. That’s what it is!) If anyone ever tells me they doubt the existence of God, I ask them how, given all that we do to ourselves and our world, could we have ever survived this long if there wasn’t a gracious, loving, compassionate and all-powerful God keeping us alive?

Make your day, your week, heck- your whole life- more interesting; enjoy that wonderful, childlike fascination with the world simply by looking for the miracles. Forget the reasons why. Who cares why? Just enjoy what God does for us, everyday. That’s the lesson in Kohelet (Ecclesiastes)- live, eat, and enjoy what God has provided. Just forget about trying to understand or explain it because that’s all just “chasing the wind.”

Here’s the message I have for you from today’s parashah: look for the miracles, appreciate them, and enjoy God.

Nothing like a good thunderstorm to remind us who’s in charge

Living in Florida, where there are more lightning strikes than almost any other state in the country, I am constantly reminded of God’s awesome power. And I love it!

I don’t want to be in the middle of it, oh no! Lightning is not something I want to sample up close, but when the wind blows the trees back and forth, the rain pummels the roof, and the lightning literally turns night into day I am reminded of how powerful and awesome God is. It helps me to reflect on my own powerlessness, my own inability to turn even one hair on my head from brown to white, or to know what will happen even in the next 5 minutes.

In the Manual we read of fire falling from the sky, and (I think) most people see a lightning bolt coming down and frying whatever was the intended target. When King Ahab sent men to bring Elijah to him, and Elijah called for fire from the sky to destroy the men, was that lightning that came down, or a real fireball? I don’t know, but either works.

Later when Elijah was on Mt. Carmel and calling for God’s fire to take the sacrifice he offered, and the fire fell from the sky and took the bull, the wood and even the water, was that a gigantic bolt of lightning? It doesn’t really matter, does it? Lightning, fire, or whatever it was, it was God showing His power and majesty. It also showed that He listens to the prayers of His people.

There isn’t a whole lot to this morning’s drash. I just love the humility I have to feel when I see God at work. Of course, God also shows His power in much more destructive ways, punishments that cause earthquakes and storms of hail that turn to fire on the ground, Tsunami’s and horrible, devastating tornadoes and hurricanes. These are also proof of God’s wondrous power, and (maybe) of His judgement. There is definitely a sense of humility when faced with such awesome destruction.

I just like a good thunderstorm. Some loud thunder, a clap that shakes the house, lightning that blazes across the sky and illuminates the earth, and rain that falls in sheets all around the house.

By the way, I love watching this from under my roof, not from under the open sky. Warm and dry is my preferred state of being during one of these big storms.

That’s what knowing the Lord and being “saved” is like: while the world around us is being pummelled by God’s judgements, we will be warm and dry, safe and sound under His wings. Maybe some of us will be there, right in the middle of the Tribulation, but we will still be safe, protected from the second death by our faithful obedience and trust in the Lord and in Yeshua, His Messiah.

Next time the storm rages all around you, don’t be afraid- what can it do to you? If you know the Lord, you know where you will be when this life ends, and you know that you are secure and safe, for eternity. Let the rain come, let the lightning strike…you are safe and sound, protected under the Kippur (covering) of God.

We all have heard the expression (I think there was an old-time movie by the same name), “God is my co-pilot”; have you ever thought that He should be driving, not you? I prefer this expression (maybe it will go viral?): “God is my umbrella.” He protects me from the fallout of the world, from the rain and the snow, and keeps me dry and safe in the midst of the storm.

If you don’t have God as your umbrella, when are you going to have enough sense to get out of the rain?