Parsha Thought – Va’era

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How many times have you or someone you know pledged to read your Bible more or pray more if God would help you out in this one instance? If we’re honest with ourselves, we can all think back to a time like that, even if it was early in our childhood. In times of desperation, when we have nothing else to fall back on, why not reach out to God? Were you able to stick with your promise or was it akin to most New Year’s resolutions and quickly forgotten because you weren’t really prepared to follow through? It sounds like we’ve all got a little bit of Pharaoh in us.

Then Pharaoh called Moses and Aaron and said, “Plead with the LORD to take away the frogs from me and from my people, and I will let the people go to sacrifice to the LORD.”

Exodus 8:8 ESV

Pharaoh had seen two wondrous things that should have changed his mind about keeping the Israelites in bondage.
The first involved Aaron’s staff turning into a serpent and swallowing up those of the Egyptian sorcerers. The second affected the entire water supply of Egypt. Many people think that just the Nile River was affected, but the Scriptures say “And there shall be blood in all the land of Mitsrayim, both in wooden and in stone containers.” So there was no clean water to drink, the fish died, and the land began to stink.

But it so happened that a swarm of frogs caused Pharaoh’s determination to waver. What I find interesting is that, like the water being turned to blood, Pharaoh’s sorcerers mimicked the plague adding more frogs to the land. An act of pride for sure, but it resulted in a crack in Pharaoh’s wall. For just a moment he felt overwhelmed and made a hasty promise. The frogs died everywhere but the Nile and were piled up in stinking heaps across Egypt. And yet when he saw the slight relief, he patched the crack that had begun to form and set his heart against Elohim and the Israelites again. 

Two more plagues were brought down on Egypt, this time lice or gnats and flies (or mixed variety of wild animals depending on which translation or Targum you read). With the flies/wild animals Elohim makes a distinction to show that He is the one true God of the Earth.

“But on that day I will set apart the land of Goshen, where my people dwell, so that no swarms of flies shall be there, that you may know that I am the LORD in the midst of the earth.  Thus I will put a division between my people and your people. Tomorrow this sign shall happen.”

Exodus 8:22-23 ESV

Pharaoh was utterly powerless to stop these swarms so he relented once more and said “Go, sacrifice to your God within the land.” Moses knew that they needed to leave the land to offer their sacrifices. A goat or a sheep was considered a deity to the Egyptians and would only incite hatred towards them. So Pharaoh agreed to let them go, they just weren’t allowed to go far. He wanted relief, but on his terms, where he had deceived himself into thinking he was able to control the outcome. It took an outbreak against livestock, boils, and ultimately a destructive hail and fire storm to get Pharaoh’s attention again.

“Then Pharaoh sent and called Moses and Aaron and said to them, “This time I have sinned; the LORD is in the right, and I and my people are in the wrong. Plead with the LORD, for there has been enough of God’s thunder and hail. I will let you go, and you shall stay no longer.” 

Exodus 9:27-28 ESV

Did Pharaoh let them go? If you know the history here, there’s still three more plagues on the way. The strange thing about all of this? Pharaoh was able to control the outcome of these events. It can be easy to cry out for help when we’re powerless to change the circumstances, but it’s can be difficult to acknowledge Him during times of relief. When things are going smoothly for us, we think we’ve got everything under control. Just throw a blanket over that pile of frogs and fire up the wax burners to cover up the stench and we’ll be alright. We put a little more Spackle over the crack. It’s not until the next disaster that hits that we realize that we’re in over our heads.

“Be to me a rock of refuge, to which I may continually come; you have given the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.”

Psalm 71:3 ESV

May He be our rock that we come to continually. Coming not only at the times we’re in need of rescue, but continually to praise, worship and glorify Him. Take a look at the New Year’s resolution that you might have made. How many things have you tossed out because it was difficult? If spending time with Elohim, immersed in His Word and in prayer, was on that list, don’t give up. Don’t wait for the right time to cry out to Him. Remember that He is faithful to His promises. Remember that a rock does not move. When He feels distant it is us that has moved away.

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