Shemot — “Names”

Portion for the week leading up to January 21, 2017

Be Patient

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Moses' experience with the burning bush and his mission to go down to Egypt to free the people of Israel is one often told and remembered. Everyone involved was expecting the deliverance to happen right away, but God had a different plan. This situation is not too different from our own present condition.

God chose Moses to lead the people of Israel out of their harsh slavery in Egypt. Appearing to him in the midst of a burning bush, God tells Moses what he will do: "Therefore, come now, and I will send you to Pharaoh, so that you may bring My people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt," (Exodus 1:10). God did not specify a timeline of the events that were to occur, nor did He explain that Pharoah would only let the people go after a devastating series of plagues. Foreshadowed in His words are a glimpse of what was to come, however: "But I know that the king of Egypt will not permit you to go, except under compulsion," (verse 19). Moses obviously did not understand the full implications of this phrase, and he assumed his job was going to be to go down to Egypt, say what needed to be said, and God would move miraculously to bring the people out of slavery right away. Even with this comparitively small goal in his mind, he was extremely anxious.

Moses' anxiety about speaking to the people would be greatly increased when it turned out that God had not acted in the timeframe Moses thought would work best. After appearing before Pharoah and doing everything God had told him to do, things only got worse for the children of Israel. They were expected to do the same amount of work, but were compelled to find their own raw materials. Moses' words to the people of Israel had given them hope, only for those dreams to come crashing down, dragging them further into despair than they had been before this would-be redeemer had arrived. They reject Moses and chide him for coming at all, and Moses feels the weight of what he has done: "Then Moses returned to the Lord and said, 'O Lord, why have You brought harm to this people? Why did You ever send me? Ever since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has done harm to this people, and You have not delivered Your people at all,'" (Exodus 5:22-23). Responding to his plea, God reiterates what He had said before: "Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh; for under compulsion he will let them go, and under compulsion he will drive them out of his land," (Exodus 6:1).

Throughout Scripture, we are encouraged to wait upon the Lord (Psalm 27:14, Micah 7:7, Romans 8:25). Whether we are waiting for a prayer to be answered or are relying on God to move in a specific area of our life, it is only through patient endurance that we will see the final result. Perhaps we have been like Moses and the Israelites, expecting God to move right away, becoming discouraged and disillusioned when what we had planned doesn't come to fruition. In times like this, we ought to let go of our preconceptions and trust God to do what He wills. Everything He does is for the praise of His glory, not for the satisfaction of our every desire.

One thing we are all called to wait for is the return of our Messiah Yeshua. "Be dressed in readiness, and keep your lamps lit. Be like men who are waiting for their master when he returns from the wedding feast, so that they may immediately open the door to him when he comes and knocks," (Luke 12:35-36). Two thousand years later, we are still waiting for the coming of our Lord: "But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance," (2 Peter 3:8-9).

Perhaps we have lost sight of what we are waiting for, or maybe we are growing tired of waiting for something we believe won't happen in our lifetime. If this is the case, it is essential that we remember our place. Our job is not to worry about how God will move or when it will happen, but to be prepared every moment of every day, drawing ever closer to Him and preparing the way for His Kingdom: "For the vision is yet for the appointed time; it hastens toward the goal and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it; for it will certainly come, it will not delay," (Habakkuk 2:3).

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