Shemot · Tekoa Manning · Torah Portion

Shemot Part II, The Burning Bush

Moses picks up his staff and continues moving his father-in-law’s sheep along the rugged terrain. He has been doing this for 40 years, and it has been therapeutic and back-breaking. The heat of the noon-day sun beams down upon him as he ponders being a shepherd for so long. His occupation has undoubtedly given him much time to think and converse with the God of his fathers, but Moses wonders if he missed his calling. He longs for more.

His mother, Jochebed, told Moses that he had an assignment to free his people from their burdens, but Moses knows that can never be. Not after his past.  He’s made too many mistakes. Moses can still hear the voice of his fellow Hebrew. He had tried to bring correction years ago, but was met with the retort of “Who made you, Moses, to be a ruler and judge over us? Are you planning to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?”
Moses had been so grieved over his people’s high taxing, heavy labor, and their bondage, but he was not mature enough then to deal with his emotions. Moses was still enraged over the stories his parents and siblings had told him of how all the male babies had drowned in the Nile and were eaten by crocodiles. How the innocent blood of these newborn sons filled the water, and a stench rose through the air. Beautiful life snuffed out and by who? His own adopted grandfather. He heard stories of how his people wept and wept until they had no tears left. Moses understood grief.

On the backside of the desert, alone, Moses has come to know the Holy One’s Voice. He has had much time to meditate on the lessons he’s learned as a shepherd and all the ways he has gained understanding from his sorrow.

Moses has had many hours to replay the events of Egypt and his family he left there, but what has haunted him from his past the most was the man’s life he had taken. His hands had shed blood and he had buried him in the sand. If Moses tries hard enough, he can still see the young man he killed and feel the sand in his hands packing and covering the Egyptians body. Now aged and worn from the many miles of travel–his skin bronzed from the sun’s heat, yes, now as his hair has turned white with age, he knows he had acted foolishly and out of anger. Oh, how he longed to go back in time and change the circumstances, but this too was impossible. It had taken years for Moses to get over his past. Moses recalls the day he raised his hands toward heaven and said, God of my fathers, if You have forgiven me, I now forgive myself! Suddenly the sky had lit up, and a light rain began to wash his tears and moisten his face. He had laughed so hard, and Moses had felt so free afterward that he fell to the ground and prostrated himself–laughing and crying in release as the rain fell softly over him.

Moses has gained keen eyesight for spotting wolves and predators that attack sheep, and he has learned their demeanor—sneaking around salivating, watching from hidden places, and waiting to pounce on one of the younger, weaker lambs. Once when he was bringing the sheep to the river to drink, a little lamb lingered back and would not drink. Moses picked up the lamb and carried it. He took rocks and made a still area, so the water was not rushing swiftly, and he coaxed the lamb to drink. While caring for the little ewe, he noticed a rustling in the trees and saw a wolf ready to pounce on one of the smaller sheep. Moses drew his sling and nailed the wolf sending it yelping away.

 

Moses knows that his sheep know his voice. When the other shepherds bring their sheep to the river to drink, Moses calls, and his sheep, and only his sheep, follow him. He laughs at a memory of Zipporah calling from the sheep gate and trying to get them to follow her. They would not. His wife had been a great blessing during the birthing season. His sons and wife, one year, delivered almost 300 lambs with the help of Jethro and the servants. Zipporah is strongly built and tougher than many a man, but Moses sees her softer side, and when she is transparent, she is lovely to behold–an excellent mother.

Today Moses feels exhausted, and he is concerned about his future and his parents and siblings in Egypt. Besides a few secretive meetings, he has not seen his family much in 40 years. Moses realizes time has run swiftly like a gazelle past him and his reflection in the river keeps getting older and what has he done with his days under the sun? His mother and father spared his life, but for what? To tend sheep. Moses flashes back to when he was a young man. While visiting the Pharaoh with his mother, he had placed the Pharaoh’s crown on his head. Soon whispers began to spread that Moses would one day usurp the kingdom. But instead, he had fled and was a wanted man. His time in Egypt seemed like another lifetime when he was another person.

Moses continues pondering the many things that are troubling him. He wonders what it is about Mount Horeb that draws him to it. Will he die here on this mountain? The sun is starting to lower on the horizon, and Moses realizes he needs to get the sheep back home to safety. Predators are prevalent at night.

Suddenly as he turns to leave, he sees a bush, and it is lit with flames as if on fire. Moses stops. He feels a wind stirring in his spirit that he has never felt. “What is this sight? I must go over and see this marvelous vision. Why is the bush not burning up? Moses takes steps and stands in front of the spectacle in awe. Suddenly a Voice speaks, and it resonates with his insides. It is the loudest voice Moses had ever heard, and yet it is a whisper—it fills him with both wonder and fear.

“Moses, Moses!”

“Here I am.”

“Do not come any closer to the bush. Remove your sandals for this place where you stand is Holy ground. For I am the God of your fathers. I am the God of Abraham and Isaac, and Jacob.”

“I have indeed seen the affliction of My people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their oppressors, and I am aware of their sufferings. I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. And now the cry of the Israelites has reached Me, and I have seen how severely the Egyptians are oppressing them. Therefore, go! I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring My people the Israelites out of Egypt.” (Exodus 3:7-10, ESV).

Moses is trying to wrap his brain around what he is hearing. His mind is filled with concern and worry, and why the God of His fathers would send him?

“Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”

Moses ponders his identity and a lifetime of mistakes. What power or authority could he possibly have? He had to flee for his life after he murdered the Egyptian. Someone may still be seeking my life, he thought.

“Moses, I am Your God, and I will surely be with you, and this will be the sign to you that I have sent you to free your people. When you have brought the people out of Egypt all of you will worship me on this holy mountain for the great deliverance you will see with your own eyes!

“Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is His name?’ What should I tell them?”

 

Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you. ‘The God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’ This is My name forever, and this is how I am to be remembered in every generation.

“Go, assemble the elders of Israel and say to them, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—has appeared to me and said: I have surely attended to you and have seen what has been done to you in Egypt. And I have promised to bring you up out of your affliction in Egypt, into the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites—a land flowing with milk and honey.’

The elders of Israel will listen to what you say, and you must go with them to the king of Egypt and tell him, ‘The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us. Now please let us take a three-day journey into the wilderness, so that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God.’ But I know that the king of Egypt will not allow you to go unless a mighty hand compels him. So, I will stretch out My hand and strike the Egyptians with all the wonders I will perform among them. And after that, he will release you.

And I will grant this people such favor in the sight of the Egyptians that when you leave, you will not go away empty-handed. Every woman shall ask her neighbor and any woman staying in her house for silver and gold jewelry and clothing, and you will put them on your sons and daughters. So you will plunder the Egyptians.” (Exodus 3:16-22, ESV)

Moses stands and weighs the weight of what he is hearing. It is heavy to contemplate.  He is fearful, and Moses realizes that when he had the fire in his soul and the Chutzpah to take on Pharoah, the strength of a young man, the mind of a young man, the fearlessness of man and the boldness to correct his brethren, he blew it. He doesn’t have the ability to lead people now. Back then, perhaps. Now? No way. No how!

Oh, mighty Elohim, behold, the people will not believe me. Why would they listen to my voice? They won’t believe me. They will say, “The Holy One did not appear to you!”

“What is that in your hand, Moses?”

“A staff.”

“Throw it on the ground, Moses.”

Moses threw it on the ground, and his staff became a serpent.

Moses jumped and then ran from the serpent.

“Put out your hand and catch it by the tail”

Moses obeyed in wonder and caught the serpent, and the serpent became a staff.

Moses these signs will follow you that they may believe that the LORD, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.”

“Again, the LORD said to him, “Put your hand inside your cloak.” And he put his hand inside his cloak, and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous like snow. Then God said, “Put your hand back inside your cloak.” So he put his hand back inside his cloak, and when he took it out, behold, it was restored like the rest of his flesh. “If they will not believe you,” God said, “or listen to the first sign, they may believe the latter sign. If they will not believe even these two signs or listen to your voice, you shall take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground, and the water that you shall take from the Nile will become blood on the dry ground” (Exodus 4:6-9, ESV).

Moses meditates on the blood of all the male babies born during his day that filled the Nile and now, the Holy One is telling him that if the people do not believe him, he will be able to turn water into blood? Oh, the burden of what Moses is hearing is too much for him to bare or comprehend . And, all his weaknesses and mistakes and inability to lead a people are crashing into him. THUNDERING!

“Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.” Then the LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.” But he said, “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.” (Exodus 4:10-13, ESV).

Suddenly, the bush glowed with such heat, Moses could feel the anger of the Mighty One, and he regretted his weaknesses and lack of seeing his identity.

****

Jill Hammer 27 Tevet, The Snake and the Branch:

Moses expresses doubts about this mission. The Holy One gives Moses a sign, turning Moses’ staff into a snake and then back into a staff. This staff is a symbol of “gevurah,” strength. It is at the same time part of a tree, a symbol of the Tree of Life; and as a snake, which is able to put its tail in its mouth, it is the circle of life.

Moses has been a staff: He has supported his wife and father-in-law and nurtured his flock. Now he is to become a snake and bite at the heel of Pharoah. The Divine asks Moses to respect and nourish the circle of life. Moses must be willing to turn back into a staff, back into a nourisher and sustainer, when that is needed. According to Pirkei de-Rabbi Eliiezer, the staff of Moses has been a gift to humanity since Creation. It teaches us to be gentle as well as fierce.”

The Jewish Book of Days, pg. 153, Jill Hammer.

Part I click HERE

Torah Portion · Vayeshev

Vayeshev, Here I Am, Send Me

 

 

Parsha Vayeshev (“And he dwelt”)

(Genesis 37:1 – 40:23)

This Torah portion is one of my favorites.

 “People who carry torches make easy targets”—Ron Warren.

 

I wanted to look at one splice of this Torah portion, one section that seemed to pop out at me. It is the word Hineni:

And Yisra’ĕl (Israel) said to Yosĕph (Joseph), “Are not your brothers feeding the flock in Sheḵem? Come, I send you to them.” So he said to him, “Here I am.”  (Genesis 27:11-13, ISR).

Here I am. Send Me! Hineni is a total readiness to give of oneself. Joseph is ready to go to his brothers even though they are jealous of his torch. Joseph’s father said, “get prepared because I am sending you to your brothers who hate you and are envious”. Joseph’s response is, “Here I am, I am ready. Send me!”

There are many occurrences of hineni in the Bible. Isaiah is brave to utter these words in Isaiah 6. Have you ever said, “Here I am Father, send me?” I have. It was at a very young age—I was so young indeed that I had no knowledge that the man who said this died by being sawn in half. No one rescued him from this horrific death. He suffered like every other prophet, apostle, disciple, and servant. And who does the Father send Isaiah to? His brothers in the field, and what is the message to them?

And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.” And he said, “Go, and say to this people: “‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’ Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.” (Isaiah 6:8-10).

It is not the adversary who blinds eyes, but the Holy One and the healing His people needed was not physical but a spiritual heart condition.

In Genesis 22:1, God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.”

After Abraham is obedient to take his only son, Isaac, as an offering, the angel of the Lord cries out to stop him from bringing the knife down, and Abraham answers “Here I am.” Genesis 22:10-11.

In Genesis 31:11, An Angel of the Holy One spoke to Jacob in a dream, saying, ‘Jacob.’ And Jacob said, ‘Here I am.’

In Exodus 3:4, An Angel of the Lord appeared to (Moses) in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. When Moses turned aside to study the bush, Adonai called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, Here I am.”

But let’s get back to Joseph and this strange journey to find his brothers. Why is Joseph’s father sending him in his colorful robe to check on his brothers who despise him? Remember, Joseph brought the “evil report” and confided in his father that his brother Reuben was sleeping with Bilhah. The text says: “While Israel lived in that land, Reuben went and lay with Bilhah, his father’s concubine; and Israel heard of it. Yes, there are multiple reasons Joseph’s brothers hate him. He is their father’s favorite. A son of Rachel (Ewe lamb). His father has made him a special coat that represents his anointing/ mantle. He has been given dreams that reveal his brothers will bow down to him in submission. Could it be that his father Israel knew it was dangerous for Joseph and sent him anyway? Just as the Holy One sent Isaiah? John the immerser? Stephen? And what is this strange language of “checking on them?” Who is the odd man who appears? Let’s relook at this closer:

“And when Joseph arrived in Shechem, a man found him wandering in the field and asked, “What are you looking for?”

“I am looking for my brothers,” Joseph replied. “Can you please tell me where they are pasturing their flocks?” “They have moved on from here,” the man answered. “I heard them say, ‘Let us go to Dothan.’

Joseph finds his brothers grazing the flocks near Dothan – on the plain between the hills of Samaria and the Mount Carmel. Elijah called fire down on Mt. Carmel.  Joseph has traveled much on foot at this point. Some say it was a 3 or 4-day journey. Dothan, meaning “two wells,” or “double feast.” Passover and unleavened bread are a type of double feasts. They represent a lamb, a bloody coat, sinless bread, and a cross. Joseph is thrown into an empty well. As a porotype of Yeshua, we see The Living water filling the dry empty well. Yeshua is living water.  Yeshua met the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well in Shechem.

Dothan is the hometown of Elisha, the prophet. It is where the king of Aram sent his army to capture Elisha. Elisha’s servant sees the city surrounded by Arameans and becomes terrified. Elisha said, “don’t be afraid there is more with us than them.” The Father opened his servants’ eyes to horses and chariots of fire around the mountain. There is more with Joseph too and he will be pulled out of the pit.

Joseph’s brothers have traveled from Shechem to Dothan. Jacob settled in Shechem when he returned to Canaan. Jacob bought the land from Hamor the Hivite, the father of a man named Shechem. Shechem took a liking to Jacob’s only daughter Dinah and took her virginity by force but offered to make things right. Then Dinah’s brothers Simeon and Levi destroyed and looted the city using violence/ murder. Later the city of Shechem will be assigned to the Levites as a city of refuge. Ironically, the very tribe who acted out in violence due to their sister Dinah will be in charge of a place of refuge. Shechem was, of course, the place where the blessings and curses were uttered from Mount Gerizim (Blessings) and Mount Ebal (Curses). And later, Joseph will be buried in Shechem.

(Joshua 24:32) “And the bones of Joseph, which the Israelites had brought up out of Egypt, were buried at Shechem in the plot of land that Jacob had purchased from the sons of Hamor, Shechem’s father, for a hundred pieces of silver.”

Who is the man Joseph meets while wandering? It reminds me of Jacob, who wrestled with a man all night and received a new name. The man asked Joseph, “What are you looking for?” Can you hear the same token in the story of the angel who addressed Hagar? Now the angel of the LORD found Hagar by a spring. . .  “Hagar, servant of Sarai,” he said, “where have you come from, and where are you going?”

Can you hear a similar token offered to Elijah? Elijah wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”  An angle appeared to Abraham, Jacob, Moses, and on it goes. I believe this man is the same type of messenger speaking to Joseph as he wanders about.

“I am looking for my brothers,” Joseph replied. “Can you please tell me where they are pasturing their flocks?”

Joseph, a prototype of Messiah, is looking for his brothers, even though he knows they despise him. Yeshua goes to his brothers, but His own received Him not. They mocked Yeshua. They accused him of casting out demons by Beelzebub. They pick up stones to stone him. They attempt to push him off a cliff like the goat during Yom Kippur. The Holy One knows that Joseph’s brothers will discuss taking his life and that one day, Yeshua’s brothers will discuss taking his life. He knows that Joseph will end up in Egypt and that he will be tried in the prison in shackles until Joseph is mature enough to handle his gift and to feed such a people during a famine.

There was another man who took a journey to Shechem, the greatest man to ever walk this earth. It happened right after a prophetic word was spoken.

But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. So from that day on they made plans to put him to death. Yeshua therefore no longer walked openly among the Jews, but went from there to the region near the wilderness, to a town called Ephraim, and there he stayed with the disciples. (John 11:49-54). 

Yeshua took a journey to Shechem–a city in the hill country of Ephraim, the place allotted to Joseph’s son, Ephraim. Later, Yeshua will take a journey up a hill and give his life. He will proclaim to His Father, Hineni, here AM I, SEND ME. I will drink this cup, Father.

Do you have the courage to utter these words, “Here I am, Send me.”