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Rumination #16: Why did HaShem reveal the Sabbath before the Sinai revelation?

The common complaint against the Torah, by otherwise well-meaning evangelicals, is that believers are no longer "under the Sinai covenant" which of course raises many questions for the ardent student of the Word.

What do they mean by the word "under"? Are we "under" any instructions from G-d, and if so, which ones? Or course when someone brings up the "which ones" argument, you should immediately know the outcome of the conversation. To such a person, the problem is not the G-d-given revelation of right and wrong (i.e., the commandments), their problem is what they perceive as the "Jewish" ones. Hint: there is no such thing as "Jewish commandments," and anyone claiming such is directly (and possibly intentionally) contradicting numerous passages in Scripture.

What is meant by "Sinai Covenant"? Is this to be differentiated from the covenant that follows the Sin of the Golden Calf? Or the covenant made on the plains of Moab (from which we get the name "Deuteronomy" [second law])? Clearly, this kind of theology may be deeply invested, but it is not well-thought out. It is no small matter to convince such folks that defining the "Sinai Covenant" as the "Old Covenant" is simply a theological machination.

But a bigger problem for the whole argument about being "under the Sinai covenant" is this: what about the Sabbath? The Sabbath is only reiterated in the Ten Words uttered at Sinai; but that is not where it is first found. It is of course found first in Genesis 2:2. As all Sabbath-keepers know, the Sabbath first relates to HaShem's work of creation. But the first commandments associated with Sabbath-keeping are given in Exodus 16, where the Sabbath is connected to the daily provision of manna.

So they gathered it [manna] every morning, every man according to his need. And when the sun became hot, it melted. And so it was, on the sixth day, that they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for each one. And all the rulers of the congregation came and told Moses. Then he said to them, "This is what HaShem has said: 'Tomorrow is a Sabbath rest, a holy Sabbath to HaShem. Bake what you will bake today, and boil what you will boil; and lay up for yourselves all that remains, to be kept until morning.'"
Exodus 16:21-23

It seems pretty simple. It is a sad thing that this lesson is lost on so many who claim to know Messiah. Incidentally, this passage shows clearly that merely "having services on Saturday" is not "keeping the Sabbath." Weeks before the revelation at Sinai, HaShem gave us a very simple commandment. But we failed and continue to fail to listen.

Now it happened that some of the people went out on the seventh day to gather, but they found none. And HaShem said to Moses, "How long do you refuse to keep My commandments and My laws? See! For HaShem has given you the Sabbath; therefore He gives you on the sixth day bread for two days. Let every man remain in his place; let no man go out of his place on the seventh day."
Exodus 16:27-29

Today, we are no better. It seems only the most observant think twice about this clear teaching. Thankfully, there are a few who simply obey every word the HaShem speaks.

So the people rested on the seventh day.
Exodus 16:30

Why did He reveal the Sabbath before His commandments? Beloved, He tells us that is connected to His daily provision, and it is connected to all of the rest of His commandments.

Then HaShem said to Moses, "Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you. And the people shall go out and gather a certain quota every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in My law or not."
Exodus 16:4

No, the Sabbath was not given at Sinai. The Sabbath was given distinctly before the Sinai revelation, thus silencing the antinomian critic of the Torah. But the real "test" of the Sabbath is this: trusting and obeying Him day by day. It is thus no wonder that for those that turned away from the commandments of HaShem, the first to be jettisoned was... the Sabbath. They failed the test.

Let us be diligent in truly keeping the Sabbath.

Parashat Beshalach 'When He Sent' (Exodus 13:17-17:16)

Although all Scripture is valuable, this portion is special to me personally, because this is my bar mitzvah portion. This is the portion from the week of my birth.

This portion has some pretty spectacular events and passages in it.

We have seen that the events of the Exodus are to be seen on several levels. First, they are an historical account of G-d's covenant faithfulness to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Next, they are prophetic accounts of what will happen again in a Greater Exodus as G-d tells us in Deuteronomy 30. Lastly, we know that the events of Exodus are thematic events of redemption. They are patterns.

Many would see the crossing of the Reed Sea on dry land as a pattern of immersion. This is a worthy consideration. With that should come the understanding of the chronology of this immersion, this mikveh, and it is this - it follows redemption. Although Israel's immersion in the crossing of the Reed Sea physically removed them from the land of bondage - they were already free at that point. They had been freed days before by the mighty Arm of G-d in the Sign/Plague of the First Born commemorated at Passover. Likewise, those who regard immersion or baptism as some salvific act would do well to remember that immersion does not make one free - it is simply a declaration that someone who has previously been a slave to sin is now a servant to the King of the Universe.

Considering the order of events, it is important to reflect upon something that is coming up soon in the trek into the Wilderness - and its relationship to something that happened in last week's Parasha; namely the Passover redemption and how it preceded Mount Sinai. Here is the order of events and their redemptive pattern:

If anyone gets these stages out of order, the redemptive work of G-d is clouded and even obscured. When Passover comes first, we have a focus upon the single atoning work of Messiah Yeshua, our Passover Lamb.

This is why it is so important to understand an important fact from last week's Parasha Bo: the first command given to leadership of the Redeemed Community is to establish and maintain G-d's calendar. Notice, this is not the calendar commissioned by Constantine, or refined by Pope Gregory XIII. It is not a calendar that at its core was designed to obscure Passover in favor of the pagan Easter. It is not a calendar that follows the solar cycle, but the biblical lunar cycle.

Now HaShem spoke to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, "This month [literally, renewed (moon)] shall be your beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you. Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying: 'On the tenth of this month every man shall take for himself a lamb, according to the house of his father, a lamb for a household.
Exodus 10:1-3

By commanding this first, G-d established a cycle of redemption that all Israel would collectively focus upon. Everyone is supposed to be on the "same page" - the same calendar. The Sign/Plague of the First Born demanded it. To have that plague pass-over required it. They had to know what night to paint the doorposts of their homes with the lamb's blood. The first command G-d gave to His people collectively follows that command to the leadership (Moses and Aaron). It is the command to prepare the Passover lamb.

If G-d had intended people to understand that freedom and salvation comes through efforts of obedience and good works, then the commands of Sinai would have come first. Instead, the first command is to place one's self under the mantle of the blood. Torah will follow - first, we need to be set free from the law of sin and death.

Losing sight of G-d's redemptive plan in the following of a list of "dos and don'ts" is a recipe for disaster as we see in Yeshua's rebuke of some Pharisees in Matthew 23.

Keep the order right, beloved.

Haftarat Beshalach  - 'When He Sent' (Judges 4:4-5:31)

This week's reading from the Prophets connections to the Torah portion is on many levels. The haftarah is a long passage from Judges 4 through chapter 5. It is the account of the defeat of the Canaanite army of Jabin through Deborah and Barak. Here are some of the connections to the Torah portion for this week:

  1. Defeat of the enemy of Israel: (Egypt and Amalak, Canaan)
  2. Miraculous destruction of the chariots of the enemy
  3. The Song of Moses and the Song of Deborah

These similarities are not accidental. Just as we recount our past redemption from Egypt as our declaration of faith in the One Who will redeem us in the Ultimate Redemption; so too, we see a pattern being set and repeated. The pattern of freedom from slavery in Egypt is mirrored in our freedom from King Jabin of Canaan in the days of Deborah. Just like our freedom from the harassment of the Canaanites in the valley of Jezreel, so too our future freedom from harassment from the nations who come up against us in the time preceding the Messianic Age. These redemptive patterns are set and established by our G-d. He rules over all and sets the boundaries and limits of man. Our history and our future, are "His Story." He will redeem us.

The "Song of Deborah" is really the "Song of Deborah and Barak." It begins this way:

Then Deborah and Barak the son of Abinoam sang on that day, saying: "When leaders lead in Israel, when the people willingly offer themselves, Bless HaShem! "Hear, O kings! Give ear, O princes! I, even I, will sing to HaShem; I will sing praise to HaShem G-d of Israel. "HaShem, when You went out from Seir, when You marched from the field of Edom, the earth trembled and the heavens poured, the clouds also poured water; the mountains gushed before HaShem, this Sinai, before HaShem G-d of Israel.
Judges 5:1-5

This "Song" is a song of praise of G-d for the defeat of Jabin and his general Sisera. It is also a song of prophecy. The pattern is set. There will be a battle on the plains of Jezreel, near Har Megiddo ["Armageddon" as it is transliterated into the Greek]. It will be played out in association with the defeat of Edom, or Seir in some way.

Who is this who comes from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah, this One who is glorious in His apparel, traveling in the greatness of His strength? "I who speak in righteousness, mighty to save." Why is Your apparel red, and Your garments like one who treads in the winepress? "I have trodden the winepress alone, and from the peoples no one was with Me. For I have trodden them in My anger, and trampled them in My fury; their blood is sprinkled upon My garments, and I have stained all My robes. For the day of vengeance is in My heart, and the year of My redeemed has come.
Isaiah 63:1-4

It is this image of a Warrior coming from His victory over Edom [Seir] that reminds us of this passage in Revelation:

Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of G-d. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty G-d. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND L-RD OF L-RDS.
Revelation 19:11-16

You know Who this One is. He is Messiah. He is coming to bring the Final Redemption of His people. It is in some way associated with the battle that must take place at the site of the defeat of Jabin and Sisera near Har Megiddo.

These patterns teach us important things. These patterns grab our attention and demand that we consider that G-d is making His plan of Redemption part of the public record. All history resounds with this truth: G-d keeps His covenant promises.

He will redeem Israel just as He has in the past. Live the yearly cycle. Watch the patterns. Prepare for His return. Are you a Deborah, Barak, or Jael?

Prayer Focus for Beshalach  -  'Ge'ulah' [Redemption]

Part of the Shemoneh Esrei (also known as the Amidah), which is prayed three times each day, is Ge'ulah [Redemption]. We know that without Messiah, our Kinsman Redeemer, we have no hope.

Behold our affliction, take up our grievance,
and redeem us speedily for Your Name's sake,
for You are a powerful Redeemer.
Blessed are You, HaShem, Redeemer of Israel.
-- ArtScroll translation

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Rick Spurlock
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