In this week’s Torah lesson found in Exodus 13:17-17:16, we find Moses and the Israelites have been “sent away” or been set free from their bondage in order to purge from them the ways of Egypt while learning the ways of God.
Upon the Egyptians being swallowed up by the crashing waves of the Red Sea after the Israelites crossed over, Scripture reveals the LORD wanted the remaining Egyptians to know Who is the One True Living God (Exodus 14:18) while those who already know of Him, being the Israelites, would know to fear Him, to obey Him (Exodus 14:31). There is a difference in knowing who is LORD and personally knowing Him. There is a difference in believing IN God and believing Him. How is belief demonstrated? The Book of James, chapter 2, verses 19-20 tell us even the demons believe in God or know Who He is, but demons refuse to obey Him (James 2:19-20). Likewise, the Apostle James writes, full of the Spirit of Holiness, “faith without works is dead”, which is the same as saying a body without spirit or breath in it is dead (James 2:26). Many are “believers”, but few are “disciples”.
One’s trust in Messiah or God is demonstrated by obedience. In other words, authentic faith always produces good works, fruit. Jesus, or Yeshua, in His original Hebrew name, said, “You will know them (who are His disciples verses who are false disciples/prophets) by their fruit.” (Matthew 7:20). He goes on to say, many will acknowledge or believe He is Lord, but what truly reveals if their hearts are circumcised is if they do the will of His Father (Matthew 7:21). Jesus clarifies just two verses later, those who believe, but disobey His Father’s law, which is His Voice, are disregarded (Matthew 7:23). This also aligns with what the Apostle Paul teaches regarding the Father’s will is found in His law (Romans 2:18; 12:2).
Upon releasing the Israelites from their captivity or bondage to the Egyptians, or put another way, their bondage to sin, God gives them His Holy Spirit to guide them through the wilderness (Exodus 14:19-20; Isaiah 63:11-14). Consequently, upon believing in God and following His Spirit, the Israelites cannot help but to worship as we see demonstrated by Moses and Miriam rejoicing in song and praise. But the LORD reveals to them, He is not simply interested in hearing their songs or seeing them dance before Him, He is interested in hearts full of a daily lifestyle of worship so He continues to lead them and teach them His Heart, His ways.
In Exodus 15, starting in verse 22, after coming across bitter or sickly waters, the people complain or lift up their voices to Moses, a savior-like person representing God, who in turn mediates to God looking for guidance on how to meet the people’s need. The LORD instructs Moses on what to do and the waters are healed. God explains in Exodus 15:26, if His people diligently (not just on occasion when it is convenient for them) listen and obey His Voice by obeying His commandments and keeping them, He will heal them. God just demonstrated He not only can save them, He not only can pour out His mercy and grace by delivering them, as well as provide them His Spirit to guide them, but He can heal them as well; however, they need to trust and obey Him in order to reap such blessings.
Today, we see God still has not changed (Numbers 23:19; Isaiah 55:11; Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8; James 1:17). He first reveals to us Who He Is, the One True Living God, then delivers us from the captivity or bondage of our sin using His Son, Jesus/Yeshua, provides to us His Spirit to guide us, and then gives us His law, His commandments in order to benefit us and fulfill His will in us.
As we continue to read the Torah portion in Exodus 16, we see the people now are complaining of hunger. So once again, they cry out to their savior, Moses, and Moses mediates unto the LORD God. God in turn provides specific instructions to gather the food He provides in the amount they need for just that day, but on the sixth day to gather double the amount of what they need, because on the seventh day it is His Sabbath rest and there will be no provision that day (Exodus 16:22-30). Essentially, God is demonstrating to them they need to rest that day because He rests that day, which corresponds with exactly what God did upon creating the world (Genesis 2:2-3). This incident in the wilderness of God providing for their needs is both instructing and demonstrating Himself the significant commandment of keeping Sabbath, which later is recorded in the Top 10 (Exodus 20:8-11). The people keep the Sabbath and do their “grocery shopping” of collecting manna the day before on the 6th day, or put in modern terms, on Friday so they can rest on Shabbat, Sabbath, Saturday.
Exodus 16 is really the first full-teaching of entering God’s Sabbath rest. Interestingly enough, right after this critical truth is revealed to His people, they once again thirst and complain. Consequently, the place where their flesh manifests is called “Massah”, which means “testing”, an “Meribah”, which means “quarreling”. Essentially, the people’s flesh are testing God by quarreling with Him. The Apostle Paul explains our flesh rejects the ways of God, the law of God (Romans 8:7-10). How do you respond to God’s Spirit telling you to obey God’s law? For in how we react to His Voice or His commands reveals the condition of our hearts – is your heart quarrelsome and diseased? Do you want to be healed?
The author of Hebrews 3:7-4:13 both explains and quotes Psalm 95:8-11 describing this incident in Massah and Meribah where the people’s flesh tested and quarreled with God’s law prevented them from entering His rest. You see we may believe in God and even personally experience His grace, His provision, etc, but if we refuse to obey Him, it reveals our lack of trust. As the Apostle James explained, to believe is to obey.
Speaking is not believing and seeing is not believing, but rather surrendered obedience is believing.
In my own faith journey, I can relate to all these stages of development. First I was introduced to Him, then baptized as a young girl I crossed over, set free from my sin, eventually I received His Holy Spirit, and was re-baptized as an adult because even though I could remember the moment I believed in Him, I could not remember being baptized (only via pictures). Just prior to being baptized in His Spirit and water, He delivered me from my sin and consequent captivity or consequences of my sin when He literally saved me from my very own Pharoah, as I found myself in a toxic and dangerously lethal marriage. Afterwards, I was like Moses and Miriam, prophetic worship leaders, utterly grateful for delivering me from Egypt! Later in 2016, He invited me to let it all go and follow Him through a type of wilderness. While sojourning from place to place, from Pennsylvania to South Carolina to now Texas, He revealed to me the healing beauty and wonder of His written Voice, His law, His Sabbath and other critical truths, which I now cheerfully and willingly obey – not in order to be saved, but BECAUSE He saved me, I want to trust and obey. Consequently, I have grown in my intimacy with Him, love God more than ever, and want to serve Him, to worship Him by being set-apart as His Spirit of Holiness leads.
Where are you at in this “horribly-amazing-purification-process”? As you ponder your relationship with God, are you simply a “believer” or are you a cheerful “disciple” willing to follow Him wherever He leads and by doing whatever He said to do? As you examine your heart and just how circumcised it is this day, I invite you to read Isaiah 8:16.
Carrie R Turner, February 7, 2020