Torah Portion: Vaera – Exodus 6:2-9:35




And I Appeared – Exodus 6:2-9:35

Exodus 6:2-30

Israel’s elders have rejected Moses. Pharaoh doesn’t listen to him. In His confusion and rejection, Moses complains to Yahweh. And, Yahweh responds. He affirms His promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and then once again declares He will redeem Israel from Egypt. However, this time He does so with a four-fold promise:

  • I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.
  • I will deliver you from slavery.
  • I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment.
  • I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God.

Yahweh’s word of promise ends with reiteration He will bring them into the Promised Land, directly connecting Israel’s deliverance to the patriarchal promise.

Once again, God instructs Moses to stand before Pharaoh to intercede for Israel. Moses is still reluctant. God admonishes him to obey. Then, the genealogy from Jacob’s sons to Aaron and Moses is listed. The text emphasizes the point that those who appeared before Pharaoh were direct descendants of Jacob’s family, anointed representatives of God’s promise.


Exodus 7:1-13

Moses goes before Pharaoh again and asks for Israel’s freedom. Pharaoh asks for a sign. Moses’ staff turns into a serpent. Egypt’s magicians perform the same feat. But, Moses’ serpent swallows up all the other serpents. Pharaoh is not impressed and doesn’t change his mind. So, the plagues begin.

Exodus 7:14-9:35

First, the Nile River turns into blood. Everything in it dies and there’s a water shortage. The magicians repeat this miracle. Next, God multiplies frogs all over Egypt. And, once again, the magicians do the same. Third, Moses strikes the dust of the ground and it becomes lice on humans and animals. The magicians can’t replicate the miracle and attribute it to God. Fourth, God sends flies all over Egypt. However this plague only affects the Egyptians. Israel is protected from it and from all the plagues following. Fifth, a pestilence overwhelms all the domesticated animals of the Egyptians but it doesn’t affect Israel’s animals. Sixth, the Egyptians and their animals are plagued with boils. Seventh, hail and fire rain from heaven and strike the land. But, before this plague, God warns Pharaoh. He says He could destroy all Egypt but He stayed His hand. His purpose? So Pharaoh would know God sovereignly gave him his position and power. Pharaoh does not let Israel go.


This devotional is not a comprehensive discussion of the Torah portion. Its purpose is to identify themes that point to and reveal Jesus the Messiah.

Here, Moses enters human history. He is THE prophet in Israel, the lawgiver, and deliverer. In his life and ministry, we see the Messiah in a variety of ways.

In this portion, Pharaoh is introduced to Yahweh in the plague phenomena. Initially, he’s unaffected, even hardened to God and His power. Egypt’s magicians turned water to blood, just like Moses. They conjured frogs from the Nile, just like Moses. Yet, the wonder of the plagues grew. Lice rose from the dirt. Egypt’s magicians attributed them to God’s power and showed signs of fear. Then flies, pestilence, boils, hail, and fiery rain arrived. Moses’ stature grew in everyone’s eyes. He spoke sovereign words of rebuke, correction, and judgment against the most powerful ruler on earth. Pharaoh did not relent.

Before God’s might shattered Egypt’s pride, the deliverer arrived. He carried God’s wonders and revealed the Messiah. As Yahweh poured out His divine judgment on Egypt, the narrative paused to give us Moses’ family history. It seems strange, at first glance. Yet, it’s through this we see God’s Messiah.

Moses’ family history comes in the usual form of a genealogy. This one, though, has some distinctive marks. It started with Jacob’s sons: Reuben, then Simeon, and then Levi. No more of Jacob’s sons were listed. It stopped with the third. Why? From there, we read of Reuben’s sons, then his line stops. Then, we see Simeon’s sons and his line stops. Last, we see Levi’s sons, then multiple generations until it stops at Moses.

Think about the context. Israel didn’t believe Moses. Neither did Pharaoh. Moses got discouraged and didn’t want to continue. Then, the four-fold promise came (Exodus 6:6,7) and God renewed His promise to give Israel Canaan (Exodus 6:8). Here’s the point. The promises God made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob pass to their descendants, Israel. The genealogy was then given to show that Moses is, in fact, the carrier of God’s promises. He fulfilled the very promises God gave to Abraham (Genesis 15). Not only do God’s promises to Abraham flow through Israel, they found their fulfillment in Moses, Israel’s deliverer.

Who, ultimately and eternally, carries God’s promises (Acts 13:30-39)? Though whom has God’s Kingdom found its redemptive expression (Matthew 11:12)? Who is the appointed, anointed representative of Abraham’s promises (Galatians 3:16)? Jesus.

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Torah Portion: Shemot – Exodus 1:1-6:1




Names – Exodus 1:1-6:1

Exodus 1:1-22

After Joseph’s generation passes, Israel remains in Egypt, multiplies greatly, and grows to great strength. A new Pharaoh rises to power that does not remember or regard Joseph. He grows fearful of Israel. To contain the potential threat they represent, he enslaves them and makes them build the stores cities of Pithom and Raamses. Dissatisfied with the impact of slavery, he commands Shifrah and Puah, two Hebrew midwives, to murder every male child at birth.

They refuse to do so. When he confronts them, they argue that the Hebrew women are stronger and give birth faster than the Egyptian women. Angered, he orders his own servants to throw every male baby into the Nile River.

Exodus 2:1-10

In the midst of this persecution, Moses is born to Amram and Jochebed. They hide him for three months. Unable to continue hiding their child, they make a basket, place it in the Nile River, and hope their child will escape. Miriam, Moses’ older sister, watches and follows. The basket miraculously arrives in the bathing spot of Pharaoh’s daughter. She takes him as her own, names him Moses, and brings him into the royal family.

Exodus 2:11-25

Moses grows under the tutelage of Egyptian education and royal life. He is drawn to visit his people, the Israelites. He sees their burdens. While there, he intervenes when an Egyptian taskmaster beats a Hebrew slave. He kills the Egyptian and buries him in the sand. Drawn once again, he visits his people the next day. This time, two Israelites fight and he intervenes. They repel his intervention, exposing his murder from the previous day. In response to the killing, Pharaoh seeks Moses’ life. Moses runs away to Midian.

In Midian, Moses encounters some female shepherdesses mistreated while attempting to water their flocks. Moses intervenes, protects them, and then helps water their flocks. The shepherdesses turn out to be Jethro’s daughters, the priest of Midian. Moses is invited to stay with Jethro’s family. He marries Zipporah (Jethro’s daughter), becomes a shepherd, and begins having children.

Exodus 3:1-4:17

After many years as a shepherd, Moses encounters Yahweh. From afar, he sees a bush on fire but its not burned up. He approaches to see the strange phenomena. Yahweh speaks to him and reveals His memorial name: I am that I am. Moses is commissioned to return to Egypt and confront Pharaoh with Yahweh’s words: “Let my people go.” Reluctant, Moses makes multiple excuses. Yahweh concedes and sends Aaron, Moses’ older brother, to act as the prophetic mouthpiece.

Exodus 4:18-5:22

Upon return to Egypt, Moses appears to the elders of Israel and does miracles to prove he’s sent by Yahweh to be their deliverer. Initially, they believe him. Moses then appears before Pharaoh. He does not respond favorably to Moses’ request but increases Israel’s labor. Israel’s elders turn on Moses after the labor increase and accuse him. Moses complains to God. In this moment of desperation, God renews His promise to free Israel.


This devotional is not a comprehensive discussion of the Torah portion. Its purpose is to identify themes that point to and reveal Jesus the Messiah.

In this section, the Messiah explodes from the pages of the text into human history. We see the Messiah in the person and ministry of Moses and God’s first direct, deliberate revelation of His personal name. In the revelation of His name is the Messiah.

Israel’s place of protection under Joseph passed. Still they were fruitful. The promise to Abraham was channeled through them. A new Pharaoh, with no regard for Joseph or Israel, systematically enslaved and persecuted them. Could Yahweh’s promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob be fulfilled? Was God powerful enough to redeem his people from the world’s most powerful nation?

Moses was taken into the royal family of Egypt in direct response to the crisis. To fulfill His eternal purposes and promises, God sent His redeemer. Moses’ life was preserved. His calling was revealed. His ministry as Israel’s deliverer unfolded. In Moses, we see our Messiah. Like Moses, Jesus was born in the midst of a persecuted generation and His life was miraculously preserved. Like Moses, Jesus’ life and ministry confronted both the heavenly and earthly powers that enslaved humanity.

We also see the Messiah in the revelation of God’s name at the burning bush. God commissioned Moses to lead Israel out of bondage. Moses asked for God’s name. In the revelation of a god’s name is its authority and power. God responds with a phrase that could be translated I am that I am or I will be what I will be or I am He who shall be. The sense is this: Yahweh is eternal. He has been and always will be and He will do everything necessary to keep His covenants and promises to Israel.

Fifteen centuries later, Jesus debated with Jewish leadership. They refused to believe He was the fulfillment of Abraham’s vision and the revelation of God’s salvation. He claimed Abraham rejoiced to see His day. His listeners were appalled. He could not have appeared to Abraham since he was not yet fifty years old. Jesus said, “Before Abraham was, I am.” His words were identical to the word Yahweh spoke to Moses at the burning bush. Intentionally, Jesus aligned His life and ministry with the original revelation of God’s name and nature. Moses experienced the manifestation of Yahweh and Jesus was the manifestation of Yahweh. In Him, we experience God’s fullness and redemption (Hebrews 1:1-3).

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Passover: Freedom in the Messiah


The Biblical Jewish Festival of Passover commemorates the Israelites’ liberation from the land of Egypt. Today, Passover is celebrated with a dinner accompanied by liturgy (holy readings), and symbolic elements reminding us of the Passover. Today, as believers in Christ, we know Jesus as the Passover lamb. He was the slain lamb sacrificed for our sins. The symbolic elements of Passover are represented so we can Embrace the Festivals Holistically. To understand Jesus’ story of redemption, we must understand the individual freedom in the components through Passover.


In Passover, we experience the spiritual blessing of being adopted sons and daughters in Christ’s death. Ephesians 1:3-6 describes this adoption as sons and daughters. In 1 Peter 2:9,10, we see that we have been chosen by God, grafted into the family of God. We are adopted for the express purpose of proclaiming God’s greatest to the rest of the world. Just as the Israelites were freed from slavery (Exodus 4:23), so we are freed through Jesus’ compassionate death (Galatians 4:5,6). We are brought out of our slavery, sanctified for the presence of God.


To “rescue” someone is an indication they can do nothing to influence their own redemption. Try as we might, we are not capable of rescuing ourselves. We can’t save ourselves, no matter how strong, capable, smart or perfect we may try to be. The Israelites were delivered from their “bondage” or “service” of the Egyptians and their gods in the Passover story (Numbers 33:4). This redemption is a great act of God’s power and sacrifice to free us. Today we know that Jesus’ redemption is a free gift. Matthew 26:26-29 tells us Christ was the price given that we might be redeemed. We could never earn the grace of Christ. Rather, we are redeemed by a loving God, without any merit of our own (Colossians 1:13,14).


Because we are redeemed, we have the future hope of the time when we will see Jesus (Romans 8:23-25). We are granted eternal life through his death. The sacrifice of the Passover lamb gave the Israelites an opportunity to step toward the Promised Land of Israel. Today, we can experience the Promised Land and the Kingdom of God in our own lives. His Kingdom is already here, and when we give our hearts to Jesus, we become a part of that Kingdom.


On the evening we celebrate Passover, there is a time for everyone to share how Jesus has brought freedom into their lives over the past year. We all share what freedom we expect to experience in the coming year. As you prepare for Passover, consider journaling about the following questions in preparation for Passover.

  1. How has Jesus’ death given me freedom to experience deeper intimacy with Him?
  2. How has Jesus’ death changed my experiences in worship?
  3. Based on Jesus death, what have I discovered about repentance over the last year?
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Sabbath and the Gospel


Sabbath is a time of rest as we remember that our Creator called us to rest in his goodness and grace. But how does Sabbath interact with the bigger picture of the gospel? Sabbath began at the creation of the world. God declared his power and authority over time and space by resting from the work that he had done. Adam and Eve followed this same pattern of rest in the Garden of Eden. There was wholeness in Sabbath rest because it created a set-apart time. This set apart time was declaring that man is given freedom from work through God’s rest. God created this sacred space and sacred time set apart from all the rest of time in order to bring wholeness to his creation.

God next gave the people of Israel the mandate to follow Sabbath as a gift and a provision for their tangible and spiritual needs. He gave them twice as much manna in the wilderness of Sinai so they could rest on Sabbath. This was not given to the people out of a religious “saved by works” mandate, but rather meant to declare His imminence and give the people of Israel the conviction that they were set apart as a nation for something more. They were to declare the goodness of the Living God Yahweh to the rest of the nations. They were to reflect this in their daily practices and new hearts in Yahweh.

Jesus in the Sabbath

When God became flesh and dwelt among us in the form of Jesus, He kept Sabbath. In addition to keeping the Sabbath, he performed miracles on the Sabbath, and taught and preached and cast out demons on Saturday. He was designating his power over Sabbath and his authority over time, just as he had when he created the world. He was showing us what life in the age to come would look like. Today, as followers of Jesus, keeping Sabbath is a practical expression of following God’s mandate of rest as well as living as Jesus lived.

Sabbath invites us to see gospel restoration. This leads to us adjusting our schedules so that we can be restored, and then extend that life to other people so that they can be restored. We are given the hope that someday we will rest in eternity with Jesus and be forever with him. Sabbath strengthens the hope that we will be resurrected and that His promise will be true.

Sabbath in History

Jesus’ disciples, His apostles, the early church and believers for centuries have all received the gift of stepping into this seventh day sanctuary. Today, we do the same. We do not celebrate Sabbath as some religious attempt to find God through it, but rather to see His lovingkindness in it. Sabbath is a moment in time when we cease from work and rest. We lay down the cares of this world, rejoice in the beauty of sharing life with others, and consider God’s goodness in our lives. All of this is a part of the bigger gospel story that God has been telling since the beginning of time: we were created to worship Him and enjoy Him forever. Sabbath is the loving provision God gave to us to see His goodness and kindness.

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Five Ways to Celebrate Sabbath in Today’s World

Sabbath, or Shabbat is the Jewish holiday observed every week from sunset on Friday evening to sunset on Saturday evening. Sabbath is a time of rest as we remember that our Creator called us to rest in his goodness and grace. But how is this lived out in the life of a believer today?

Sabbath calls us to practical rest and worship. We do not celebrate it today as some kind of religious attempt to find God through it, but rather to see his lovingkindness in it. Sabbath is a moment in time when we cease from work. So here are five practical ways to live out Sabbath in today’s world:


It reminds us that we are no longer slaves to work. Just like the Israelites who were redeemed from Egypt celebrated Sabbath in the wilderness, so can we. We are reminded of the provision of the Lord and we are invited to trust him to provide for us, even when we don’t work. You can choose to intentionally take time away from your busy life and rest. When we stop working, mowing our lawns, and buying clothes, we get an opportunity to step away from life, we spend time in the presence of God and in the presence of those we love. When we physically rest we are blessed. We may ask, “how do we step away from work when my boss needs me, or my children’s soccer game is on Saturday afternoon?” It is a matter of choice. We can actively make the decision to choose to rest and we can step into trusting God to provide us with what we need. We trust Him enough to leave our provision in His capable hands.


Sabbath gives us an opportunity to engage in church and community. Sabbath in the Bible was always a communal experience, whether it was the Jews gathering in the temple in David’s day, or believers who met in the synagogue during the time of the early church in Acts. Sabbath is meant to be shared. The communal experience of unity with other believers allows us to intercede for miracles to be performed on Sabbath like when Jesus was on earth. What does this practically look like? This means we attend church and spend time in community on Saturday. We may ask the question, “What if I cannot find a Sabbath-keeping church?” The emphasis of community can be celebrated in good formative God-fearing communities on Sunday as well, but this does not mean we forget Saturday as the day of rest ordained by God.


Sabbath is meant to be a time of delighting and rejoicing in the Lord and the good things he has done for us. Taking time to delight in the Sabbath rest is about the fragrance of Heaven working in our lives so we can enjoy him. Practically this can mean many things: spend time with your family, enjoy time in nature, reading a book or take a nap. The physical act of resting our bodies and souls brings refreshment and wholeness to our very minds and bodies. We receive the fullness of joy when we receive the rest the Sabbath offers.


Through Jesus we are able to engage in the practical application of Sabbath so we can receive grace to be restored. We can then extend that grace to others on this day. The gospel story is bigger than all of us, and we become a part of this story when we celebrate the tradition and rhythm that has been a part of our world since it began. Celebrating Sabbath as a tradition just like millions of others through thousands of years of history, shares the gospel with those who need Jesus. When we live our lives in a way that reflects the gospel story people desire to celebrate with us, especially in our Sabbath celebrations. The gospel story is told through the tradition and rhythm of Sabbath.


Sabbath is not just a marker in history of creation and the Exodus from Egypt. It is not just a time of peace and a reminder of God’s command to rest. It also points to the future of being in eternity with Jesus. Sabbath in the present strengthens the hope and the promise that we will be resurrected and in Jesus presence forever. When we celebrate Sabbath over dinner with family and friends, consecrating the time and creating an atmosphere of worship, we step into that future life now. We get a little taste of our eternal life with Jesus. When we create that atmosphere during the Sabbath dinner, we increase our hope for eternity and get to experience the wholeness of Jesus in our lives in a very real and tangible way.

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