This week’s Torah portion covers what is, considered by most, the single most significant event in the Old Testament: The Exodus from Egypt. It is here where the plagues and wonders of God climax with Pharaoh sending the Hebrews out of Egypt and the people of Israel beginning their long journey as a new nation of their own. This event sets the stage for the rest of Israel’s history as a people, their covenant relationship with God, and ultimately it paints a picture of the great future redemptive work of the promised Messiah.
The Torah specifically describes the promised Redeemer as the “Prophet like Moses.” (Deut. 18) So, it is quite fitting that there is an exhaustive selection of books, DVD’s, articles, and teachings on the parallels between Moses and Yeshua, between the Exodus and Salvation, and between the Israelites’ journey and the lives and journeys of believers in the Messiah. I believe we see one of these parallels contained within the first couple sentences of the portion.
In Exodus 13:17-18 we read, “When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near. For God said, ‘Lest the people change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt.’ But God led the people around by the way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea. And the people of Israel went up out of the land of Egypt equipped for battle.”
What I see in this verse is a beautiful, profound truth. One which, I believe, we shouldn’t skim quickly over in our reading of the text. As a new nation, Israel was going to soon be facing some challenges which they had never faced before. The text seems to say here, that God knew Israel would not last as a nation should they be afforded an easy escape route; a familiar and tempting “Plan B” sitting in the back of their minds. Human nature repeatedly shows us that we love what is comfortable, familiar, and “safe.” We shy away from new challenges, new revelations, new opportunities from growth even if it comes at the expense of our quality of life, be it in this world or the world to come. God sees this flaw in His people and realizes that, given the chance, Israel would quickly resort to running back into the bondage and idolatry they had in the land of Egypt for the sake of comfortability and familiarity.
Sadly, I believe the reality is that we do the same thing in our relationship with God. Many of us joyfully embrace the salvation we have in Messiah and the freedom from sin that He bought for us with His precious blood. We sing, we praise, we boast, and we celebrate this gracious, loving gift of liberty from God. But what next!? Do we take the ‘way of the Philistines?’ This is definitely the quicker, easier route to go. Also, it doesn’t really require much sacrifice or testing. It’s a relatively small journey that may take us a week or so before we get there. The danger is, the ease of the journey is equal to the ease of return. The minute persecution, fear, or insecurity arises, we have the ability to jump right back into our lives of self service. Sin is only a few days journey away. Paul addresses those who seek to keep their life of sin as a nice backup plan, only a few days journey behind them--those of us who, although embracing this life in Messiah, aren’t quite willing to go through the sea, through the trying wilderness, leaving every small bit of our old life and ways at the bottom of the Sea.
In Romans 6:1-11 he says, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
You see, if we want to be a new creation in Messiah, the first creation must first pass away and die. So too, God took the Israelites through the sea, a route which left for no return. He then lovingly groomed them in the wilderness with the giving of His beautiful Word and by a series of tests and trials designed to shake them from their past lives as slaves and mold them into their new identity as children of the Most High God. He desires the same for us. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”
Baptism (Mikvah) is not just a dip into the water. It isn’t just a nice ritual that serves as a public profession of faith. It is a decision to leave your old life back in ‘Egypt,’ to die to your previous way of thinking and living, and to be born a new creation. It’s the only way to truly leave your bondage behind and to grow and prosper in your new identity as one of His children. The Master Himself teaches of the great cost that comes with following Him as a disciple.
We read in Matthew 16:24-27 “Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.’”
I encourage you today to examine your own personal Exodus. Have you allowed Him to cut every tie to the old you? Have you allowed Him to break every chain of bondage to the life of sin you once lived? Have you truly crossed your “Red Sea” by dying to yourself and living life anew? If not, it’s not too late. Remember, He will make a way for your salvation even against all odds, parting any sea necessary. All you must do is be willing, available, and teachable. He’ll teach you the rest!