This Shabbat we start the reading from Exodus. The first Torah portion from the book of Exodus in Hebrew it is called Shemot. Shemot in Hebrew means “the names”. This name is based on the first words of the book of Exodus.
We must know that the Hebrew Bible didn’t have names that are based on the topics that the book contains. This is why the Greek and Latin Bibles had names like “Exodus”, because the main topic of the book deals with the Exodus of the children of Israel out of Egyptian slavery. The book of Leviticus in the Hebrew Bible is called “Vayikra”, meaning “and He called”… This actually is an indication of the antiquity of these documents.
The reading from Exodus this Shabbat is from the book of Exodus 1:1-6:1. Five full chapters will be read in every synagogue around the world. This is the very reason why the apostles and the elders and the evangelists of the Church gathered together in Jerusalem to discuss what to do with the growing number of non-Jews that have abandoned their idols and attached themselves to the Jewish Church (the only Church that existed well until the end of the 2nd Century CE).
This is what the apostles in Jerusalem decided to strongly recommend for the non-Jewish members of the community:
“Known to God from eternity are all His works. Therefore I judge that we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God, but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood. For Moses has had throughout many generations those who preach him in every city, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath.” — Acts 15:18-21 [NKJV]
Notice verse 21. The basis of the apostolic instructions for the gentile disciples of Yeshua starts with the premise that “Moses has had throughout many generations those who preach him in every city.”
This first statement of the James, the brother of Yeshua, as the leader of the Jerusalem Church is the basic premise that says to all that the law of Moses is available in every city. Therefore, our demand and recommendation is within reach and available everywhere.
This last requirement is for the gentile disciples to go on the Sabbath day to the synagogues to hear the Word of God. This outcome from the first apostolic conference in Jerusalem in the first half of the First Century of our Common Era is monumental, but it is totally ignored by 99% of the Christian churches. Including the abstaining of meat that was not slaughtered in a Kosher way, and eating blood, and shedding blood, i.e. killing.
Netivyah and the Ro’eh Israel congregation in Jerusalem were the first to acquire a kosher Torah scroll. We started to read from it every Shabbat, according to the tradition. To follow the Torah portions and the reading from the prophets, and we added the reading from the New Testament to match the other readings and connect with the content of the Torah, the prophets, and the New Testament.
It is wonderful now that many of the Messianic congregations in Israel, and many in the diaspora, are doing the same thing. Reading from the Torah and the prophets according to the traditional Jewish Orthodox order. And, as mentioned, we added readings from the New Testament.
This Shabbat we will be reading from Exodus chapter 1:1-6:1, and from the prophets we will be reading from Isaiah 27:6-28:13, 29:22-23. From the New Testament we will read from Acts 7:17-36.
Exodus chapters 1-6 contain in them the seed of everything that is connected with the Exodus from Egypt and the giving of the Torah in Mount Sinai, and also with the very seeds of the pattern of salvation and redemption for all mankind. Please let me outline this very important pattern.
Maybe I should say this in 21st century language. The first 6 chapters of the book of Exodus contain the matrix for God’s salvation of His children, the homo sapiens. The name “homo sapiens” means the “wise humans”, the humans who think and imagine and invent and have a family that is functioning as a unit, with some order of functionality.
Here is the pattern of salvation that the book of Exodus provides for us and for history:
- What starts as a blessing will soon turn into a problem. The problem happens when the blessed people that have a good life grow and become too visible and too proud and too prosperous in a setting of others who have not been included in prosperity, or feel threatened by the growing prosperous and pampered minority.
- Objections to the privileged minority bring persecution based on fear, and the feeling of unfairness.
- The persecution of those who invoke the feeling of superiority and an attitude of being untouchables and chosen by God becomes accepted and justifiable, and it is even legalized by the authorities. The next step is for it to become an obligation to persecute and reject and enslave the privileged minority.
- The minority seeks solution to their suffering, and release from the persecution and enslavement. They cry to their God and suffer the abuse and unfairness and discrimination, and continue to seek a way to be released and delivered from the discrimination and persecution.
- Usually someone who has a sensitivity for those who suffer the persecution wakes up and realizes that what is happening in his country or community is not right and not fair, and in the long run will endanger his own people and family. From a prolonged observation of the injustice and unfairness that is exercised against the now-suffering privileged minority, this unknown, Robin-Hood type hero, in this case an Egyptian prince, receives a wake-up call from God and is commissioned against his own will and his lack of self-confidence to go back to the place that he ran away from and challenge the authorities in God’s name, and with God’s help.
- God uses this individual to bring salvation and deliverance and a mutation of suffering and slavery into salvation and deliverance.
This pattern starts in this Torah reading on this Shabbat. The reading this Shabbat is a source of hope and courage and faith and unity and the ability of the individual to face the impossible and the unthinkable and see victory and deliverance of the oppressed, and the suffering of abuse and discrimination turned into God’s grace and glory, leading to the fulfillment of the promise to return to the Promised Land.
If you read the Torah portion and the portion of the prophets listed above, and the text form the New Testament, and meditate on them, you will see that you can also become a tool and an instrument in God’s hand to bring great changes and improvements and deliverance of the suffering and poor of the land into God’s blessings and everlasting salvation.
At the end of the pain and suffering and persecution and rejection, your own perseverance and willingness to become a tool in the hands of the Almighty God of Israel will have you used at least as the donkey that brought Yeshua to Jerusalem. You, like me, and like Paul and Peter and Jacob (James), are all commissioned by God to be willing to be the donkey on whose back the Messiah will return to Jerusalem as King and Master of all, to rule with grace in the eternal city of Jerusalem, together with the saints forever!
Every moment of salvation in the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, has the same pattern. And always the redemption and salvation come with a price. But in the end the price is always high, but worth the expense.
The story of Moses and his shepherd staff that turned into a snake (a crocodile) in Exodus 4 is one of my favorite in the whole Torah of Moses. It has given me so much confidence and so much courage to be able to face attempted murder, persecution of my family, damage to property, beatings, and rejection.
A wooden shepherd’s staff can turn into a snake or a crocodile by the power of God, and a prisoner in Egypt can in such a short time deliver the Hebrew slaves from Egyptian slavery, and lead them in the wilderness for 40 years, and feed them manna from Heaven and quail meat every day for dinner. I don’t have a shepherd’s staff, and I imagine that you also don’t have a shepherd’s staff, but no matter what we have in our hand, if we are willing to, in obedience to God’s command, use that which we hold in our hand, we might become tools of obedience in God’s hand.
God bless you all and equip you and guide you to use whatever you have in your hand as a tool for your deliverance and the deliverance of what inhibits you, and the fears that stop you from becoming a tool of salvation for many. Release what you have in your hand, no matter how small or how insignificant or seemingly unimportant. If you release it, like Moses released his shepherd’s staff, God can make it a power-tool that empowers you and your life as a tool of deliverance and salvation to release the captives and those enslaved in the things that enslave God’s children even to this day!
Please read the Torah portion and the portion of the prophets from Isaiah 27, and the text from Acts 27, and meditate on what connects these three readings together, and the meaning of becoming a tool of salvation in God’s own hands!
This article originally appeared on Netivyah and is reposted with permission.