At the burning bush, Yah tells Moses this: “…go to the king of Egypt and say to him, ‘YHWH, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us; and now, please let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to YHWH our God.’” (Exodus 3:18)
And they went to Pharaoh. “Then they said, “The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Please let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness that we may sacrifice to YHWH our God, lest he fall upon us with pestilence or with the sword.”” (Exodus 5:3)
And they went, again: “We must go three days’ journey into the wilderness and sacrifice to YHWH our God as he tells us.” (Exodus 8:27)
So, to me at least, it seems surprising that once that demand finally is granted (through duress-by-plague) this is what the finish-line looks like:
Exodus 15:22-23, “Then Moses made Israel set out from the Red Sea, and they went into the wilderness of Shur. They went three days in the wilderness and found no water. When they came to Marah [bitter] they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter; therefore it was named Marah.”
It’s hard to deny that the vision in the mind of the Israelites was fixed very specifically on a “three day journey into the wilderness”. If Moses had told them about the burning bush, for example, or about hearing directly from Yah, the people would have had lofty expectations. Expectations multiplied further by such a miracle-filled deliverance experience. So then…
Three day journey. Check.
Yep. Here we are…and nothing but bitter water.
I love (because I’ve been there) how what seemed like the finish-line for the Israelites actually turned out the be the starting line. If you want to be cynical and say Yah pulled a bait-and-switch, I advise you instead to embrace this reality of how He works. Don’t ever blame Him for our limited point-of-view. He always gives us practical step-by-step instructions, but He is never in a hurry to show us a picture of the finished product. Our imperfect-by-nature minds complete that vision with our own ideas and expectations. This is exactly the heart-attitude that leads to grumbling, complaining, and bitterness when our imagined version doesn’t match Yah’s perfect version.
It takes conscious choices and practice to imagine yet-to-be fulfilled prophecy as an impressionist painting. From a distance, its beautiful and clear, but if you get too close (sometimes even closer than the artist who actually painted it) it just turns into a bunch of splotches. Our brains fill in the magnified empty spaces with who-knows-what, and the painting the artist intended becomes ruined. Then when things don’t go as we expect, we get jaded, discouraged, and bitter.
Even the “wise-men” in the Gospels missed the birth of Messiah by 18 or more months. If they are our models of wisdom then we need to step back let Yah be Yah.
That’s why the second part of the words to Pharaoh are so important…”and sacrifice to YHWH our God as he tells us.” I’d be thinking bulls, and a very pleasing aroma. Bust out this sacrifice, and get this party started!
But instead they get this instruction:
Exodus 15:26, “If you will diligently listen to the voice of YHWH your God, and do that which is right in his eyes, and give ear to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you that I put on the Egyptians, for I am YHWH, your Healer.”
So, then, the first foundational command—the deepest core part of YHWH’s heart, is exactly this sentiment:
1 Samuel 15:22, “And Samuel said, has YHWH as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of YHWH? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry.”
Yah certainly IS our healer IF we are willing to sacrifice our rebellious hearts and sacrifice our desire to sit in His throne. We also must sacrifice the time and place of our preferred finish-line if Yah actually wants it to be our starting-line. Yah is an “IF / THEN” kind of Elohim. His promises have conditions. That means they contain blessings, but that also must mean that they contain curses, too.
Our redemption was paid for by the Blood of the Lamb. There is nothing we can “do” to earn our own redemption through any number of good works. The Gospel has always been this way. Humans are redeemed by grace through faith, pre and post Calvary. However, once that payment is made we’re not our own anymore. We’ve been invited into a Holy Covenant, and that changes everything.
How could we expect Him to fully heal us, to fulfill His side of the promise, if we don’t do our part as described?
An appropriate image for newborn baby Israel’s expected obedience is expressed is in this popular verse: Deuteronomy 10:16, “Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn.” Most people think this verse is in the New Testament, but like every other principle YHWH introduces in the Torah, the Gospels and Epistles only reinforce it that more strongly. This remains the most subtle but most common example of what YHWH is saying both to us today and our Israelite brethren back then.
As we walk onward and upward to Shavout you’ll see how much He wants us to know Him as He truly is, but He can’t do that until we sacrifice our pre-conditioned expectations.
Bit by bit, we’ll continue through Exodus 24 on the way to Shavuot. We will continue to see Yah building upon these foundational teachings about His nature, as well as what He expects from us.