Developing the Theme of Family through the Torah Portions. Number Sixteen.

Dr Clifford Denton.

Beshalach: Exodus 13:17-17:16.

27th January 2024/Sh’vat 17.

So the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea on the dry ground, and the waters were a wall to them on their right hand and on their left. (Exodus 14:22)

Picture by Helen McNeill

I will sing to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously sang both Moses and the children of Israel (Exodus 15:1). There is one song that surpasses this song, but we will come to that.

When God does great deeds a song of praise rises in our inner being. If we had been there, we like all Israel would have welled up with wonder at what God had done. We would have recently witnessed the humbling of Pharaoh and all Egypt through the ten plagues. These were plagues which grew in intensity but from which Israel was spared. God had heard His people when they cried out for Him to overcome their enemies and cruel taskmasters at a time when they could not help themselves. Now they witnessed the waters of the Red Sea parting and then closing in as a final stroke of victory on their enemies. What a privilege, what a victory, what rejoicing!

But only three days later – just three days – complaining swept through the community of the children of Israel because there was no clean water to drink. Again, God sent help, making bitter water sweet. How easy it had been to praise God when they escaped from difficulty. How quickly the people complained when things became difficult again.

This was a major teaching opportunity for God. He tested them at Marah, and they did not do well. He made it known that there were conditions on His help, which is a lesson for all time – God’s people must diligently heed His voice and do what He requires (Exodus 15:26) on the journey of faith.

They were soon complaining again when there was lack of food, so God sent manna – for the next forty years!

Next there was a lesson of faith when there was a visible sign of how the Lord would bring victories against the enemies of His people. It was a hard lesson for Moses when he understood that when he raised his rod high there was victory over the Amalekites but, when his arms dropped, the tide of victory turned against his people. Moses with his rod held high is a visible representation of faith and intercessory prayer. Such is the life of God’s people in a world that is against us.

Pictures of Yeshua are found in this episode in Israel’s history. After His baptism He was hungry but gave absolutely no ground to satan when He was tested over 40 days and nights (Luke 4). His personal victory over satan preceded His victory for all who would follow Him in faith. He declared Himself to be the Bread of life. He is the one to whom the manna in the wilderness pointed (John 6:32-35). He is also the one to whom water from the rock pointed (John 4:14). Yeshua became the object and realisation of our faith. Just as Moses raised His hands to God, so Yeshua’s hands were lifted up on the cross as He defeated the power of satan for all who will believe.

As we walk, as it were, with Moses through the wilderness years we will constantly find parallels to our walk of faith in Yeshua. Moses took the children of Israel to the promised land. Yeshua leads us to eternal life with Him.

What a wonderful truth – let us raise our voices and sing of this great salvation! What great song will you sing?

Yet, let us also look at the reality of our own lives of faith that are constantly tested. Do we ever, to our shame, grumble? Our faith will be tested and many times we will have doubts and fears. Let’s be honest.

Where did the grumbling begin in the wilderness when there seemed to be no water or no food? It always begins with individuals, who moan to their family and to their neighbour and then the grumbling spreads more widely. This is where our own family comes in for consideration. The family is the place of greatest intimacy and greatest sharing. We all have a personal journey of faith but we also journey, according to God’s order, in families and family-based communities. The family, therefore, is the primary place where faith can grow, where we overcome the times of testing together. This is the reason for marriage vows, which are easy to make on that great day of celebration when husband and wife take their first steps together. But what about when difficulties arise, shortage of money, sickness, a rash moment when tensions rise? This is the reason that our marriage vows are made, not just for the easy times, but also the more testing times. It is also the reason why we must teach our children to walk with us and with God, according to the biblical pattern of life, staying strong and growing in faith together.

When days of difficulty increase on this earth, it is within our families that either faith or grumbling will grow. Let us be among those who strengthen our families and trust in our victorious Saviour for the entire journey of faith that begins on our first confession of Him, matures through the valleys and hills of life, and is brought to consummation when our Lord returns to take us fully into His eternal Kingdom.

So when will that greater song be sung, the song greater than the song of Moses? There are many good songs of worship and praise that we sing in our homes and in our congregations, but surely the song we wait to sing with all our heart, greater than when the Red Sea was crossed, is the Song of Moses and the Lamb (Revelation 15:1-3). Let us hold this ever before us and journey onwards with fully maturing faith, as we go through and leave the world’s sorrows behind, entering fully into the eternal Kingdom, we and all our family, with God’s help.

Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvellous: seven angels having the seven last plagues, for in them the wrath of God is complete.

And I saw something like a sea of glass mingled with fire, and those who have the victory over the beast, over his image and over his mark and over the number of his name, standing on the sea of glass, having harps of God. They sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying:

“Great and marvellous are Your works,
Lord God Almighty!
Just and true are Your ways,
O King of the saints!
Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name?
For You alone are holy.
For all nations shall come and worship before You,
For Your judgments have been manifested.”