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Shemot/Exodus 13:17 And it was when Pharaoh sent out the people
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The word is composed of , a preposition most often translated 'in', and the Pi'el infinitive construct of the verb root , which in its Qal stem means 'to send'. Here the Pi'el stem has the meaning "to send out, send away", while the combination of the preposition with the infinitive form is considered to be a temporal reference, hence "when ... sent out". This is the opening verse of the portion B'Shallakh, normally read 12 or so weeks ago, this year in January on the Gregorian calendar.
InPesikta de Rab Kahana, the rabbis connect this to the verse "When a man's ways please the L-rd, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him" (Proverbs 16:7). They considered "a man" to be Israel, referred to in the verse "every man of Israel" (1 Samuel 17:24) and "his enemy" to be Pharaoh, as the verse "The enemy said, 'I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil'" (Shemot 15:9). They point out that although when Moshe first came to Pharaoh to say: "Thus says Adonai: Let My people go, then they may serve Me" (Shemot 8:16), Pharaoh - the wicked one - replied, "Who is Adonai, that I should hearken unto His voice? I know not Adonai, and moreover I will not let Israel go" (Shemot 5:2), but later exclaimed in repentance, "Adonai is righteous, and I and my people are wicked" (Shemot 9:27) and eventually sent Israel away, "Go in peace, go in peace!"
In reporting G-d's concern about the unjust behaviour of Israel, Micah sounds an alarming note: "Recently My people have arisen as an enemy" (Micah 2:8, NASB) because of the way they were treating strangers and widows. Even Israel, G-d's chosen people can become G-d's enemies by disobeying Him; how much more those who do not know G-d. James goes as far as saying that, "whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of G-d" (James 4:4, NASB). Given the way the Scriptures speak of G-d's attitude to His enemies - "Let G-d arise, let His enemies be scattered; and let those who hate Him flee before Him. As smoke is driven away, to drive them away; as wax melts before the fire, so let the wicked perish before G-d" (Psalm 68:1-2, NASB) - this is a place that no-one wants to be, but how do we avoid being G-d's enemies? And once there, how can we get out of it again?
At this time of Pesach, we rehearse the lessons in the Seder and remember how G-d Himself rescued our people from Egypt. We see how Pesach is a vivid portrayal of the way that G-d would again intervene in human affairs to rescue us from a far worse situation that physical slavery in Egypt, spiritual bondage to sin, by sending Messiah Yeshua to be our Pesach, our Passover Lamb. "For while we were still helpless, at the right time, the Messiah died on behalf of ungodly people" (Romans 5:6, CJB). G-d knew exactly where we were and what we were capable of, so Rav Sha'ul continues, "we were reconciled with G-d through His Son's death when we were enemies" (v. 10, CJB). G-d wanted - still wants - to be reconciled with us, His enemies, so He broke through the barrier that we could not, in order to achieve reconciliation. "For it pleased G-d to have His full being live in His Son and through His Son to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace through Him, through having His Son shed His blood by being executed on a stake" (Colossians 1:19-20, CJB).
Just as the message of the Haggadah is "Come and eat; let all who are hungry come and eat" - drawing on Isaiah 55 - so G-d's message is for all people, "because we are convinced that one man died on behalf of all mankind" (2 Corinthians 5:14, CJB) and has commissioned us to share that message with others. "And it is all from G-d, who through the Messiah has reconciled us to Himself and has given us the work of that reconciliation" (v. 18 CJB). We have this charge on our lives, to spread the word of reconciliation to all people and to be reconciled with each other. Remember the words of Yeshua: "If you are offering your gift at the Temple altar and you remember there that your brother has something against you, leave your gift where it is by the altar, and go, make peace with your brother. Then come back and offer your gift" (Matthew 5:23-24, CJB). Our reconciliation with G-d is incomplete unless we have reconciled with our brother and settled whatever they have against us.
Further Study: Isaiah 53:4-6; 1 John 2:15-17
Application: Are you at peace with your neighbour, reconciled to your brother whether your physical or spiritual family? This Passover season, take the time to fully experience G-d's reconciliation by making sure that you have extended it to others.
© Jonathan Allen, 2008
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