In last week’s Torah study, Shemot, the Israelites bowed and worshiped God when Moses and Aaron told them that God had seen their oppression and remembered His covenant (brit) with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Pharaoh, however, did not happily receive the news that God had remembered His people, and he commanded that they gather their own supplies to make bricks, while demanding that they be just as productive as they had been before.
The Jewish foremen were now incensed against Moses and blamed him for Pharaoh’s punishing regime.
This week, God tells Moses that after He is finished dealing with Pharaoh, Pharaoh will force the Israelites to leave Egypt.
But when Moses tells the people that God is about to redeem them with “an outstretched arm and great judgments,” they are so discouraged by the increase in forced labor that they do not listen to him.
“They wouldn’t listen to him, because they were so discouraged, and their slavery was cruel.” (Exodus 6:9)
Although God has heard the groaning of the children of Israel and is in the process of taking action to deliver them, the Israelites have difficulty receiving the message, even though they had initially received it with joy.
Like the children of Israel, some of us may be in desperate situations. We may have initially received the promise that nothing is impossible with God with hope and confidence that He will move on our behalf to deliver us from hard circumstances.
But when we continue to experience those circumstances after receiving the promise, and even find our situation actually worsening, we might feel abandoned as we call to God day and night for relief.
We might become so discouraged that we no longer want to hear of God’s deliverance.
At times like these, we should remember that although God sent Moses to deliver the Israelites, they did not see the results immediately. It took time.
Our perception of time is often at odds with God’s eternal perspective: “A thousand years in Thy sight are but as yesterday.” (Psalm 90:4)
We often want to see immediate results, and are impatient when God employs a process.
God created circumstances that brought about a deliverance so great that no one could deny His “outstretched arm and great judgments” were responsible for the changes in the Israelites’ status.
In this Parasha, the Egyptians witness God moving on behalf of the Israelites with the first seven of 10 plagues, all of which are also judgments against their gods:
1. Dam (דָם / blood), judgment against Hapi, the god of the Nile (Exodus 7:14–24)
2. Tzefardea (צְּפַרְדֵּעַ / frogs), judgment against Heket, the goddess of fertility (Exodus 7:25–8:15)
3. Kinim (כִּנִּים / lice), judgment against Ged, the god of the Earth (Exodus 8:16–19)
4. Arov (עָרוֹב / flies or wild animals), judgment against Khepri, god of creation/ lord of the flies (Exodus 8:20–32)
5. Dever (דֶּבֶר / pestilence), judgment against Apis, god of animals (Exodus 9:1–7)
6. Sh’chin (שְׁחִין / boils), judgment against Isis, the goddess of healing, nature, and peace (Exodus 9:8–12)
7. Barad (בָּרָד / hail), judgment against Nut, goddess of the sky (Exodus 9:13–35)
All We Like Sheep
God is a merciful and compassionate Father; He sees our suffering and hears us cry out because of our afflictions. He also responds appropriately.
“For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; nor has He hidden His face from Him; But when He cried to Him, He heard.” (Psalm 22:24)
Likewise, Yeshua, who perfectly reflects the character of our Heavenly Father, is also filled with compassion for hurting people. When He looked on the children of Israel, He saw them as sheep without a shepherd. He did not despise them for this; He was touched deeply by their distress and moved to compassion.
“Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36)
Sheep are timid creatures with little means of self-defense. They are so easily panicked that if one sheep is startled by a mouse and begins to flee, the others join in the rush to escape danger.
Yeshua saw this helplessness in the Jewish People and sent out His disciples to be the laborers that bring the sheep back to the fold.