Live and Learn

“Every firstborn son in Egypt will die, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, to the firstborn son of the female slave, who is at her hand mill, and all the firstborn of the cattle as well.”—Exodus 11:5

The Torah portion for this week is Bo, which means “come,” from Exodus 10:1–13:16, and the Haftorah is from Jeremiah 46:13–28.

The last of the ten plagues occurs in this week’s portion. The final and most devastating plague is the death of every firstborn – from Pharaoh’s son to the slave’s son to the firstborn of every animal.

However, there is a glaring question that we need to address. In ancient times, the Pharaoh was always a firstborn. Indeed, the Sages confirm that the Pharaoh in the Exodus story was a firstborn. The question is — why didn’t he die in the plague?

The truth is, even if Pharaoh hadn’t been a firstborn, we could ask this same question. Hadn’t Pharaoh sinned enough to deserve death? Later on, we read that Pharaoh and his army followed the Israelites into the sea and then the sea came crashing down on them, killing everyone – except for one person. Pharaoh was left standing. Alone, he took in the massive destruction that he had brought upon his land. Why was he allowed to live?

Pharaoh’s story didn’t end at the sea. According to Jewish tradition, this Pharaoh later became king of Nineveh. Remember Nineveh? That’s the city of wicked people that the prophet Jonah was commanded to warn of imminent destruction. When Jonah came to Nineveh and warned the city that if they didn’t repent, they would be destroyed, the king immediately commanded everyone in the city to fast and repent. The Sages credit this quick and full response to the fact that this king had already witnessed the hand of God’s destruction because this king was either Pharaoh or his direct descendant. He had learned his lesson the hard way, and he was not about to make the same mistake.

This extra information about Pharaoh explains to us why God kept him alive. Ultimately, God does not desire death or suffering. As Scripture says: “For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!” (Ezekiel 18:32). God wants us to live and learn. For Pharaoh, that was best accomplished by keeping him alive so that he could appreciate his mistakes. Eventually, he repented and brought about the repentance of the entire city of Nineveh.

When we are going through challenges and trials in life, it is so important to realize that God takes no pleasure in our suffering. The point of everything we experience – the good, the bad, the painful, and the pleasurable – is so we will learn and change for the better.

Look for God’s lessons in everything that you experience. The faster we learn, the quicker the lesson, and the better off we will be at the conclusion of the session.

Don’t Be Like Jonah! by Patricia Day

Early in the day, I can be heard asking God to reveal His will for me.  Many times, I am quickly aware of a direction I should take.  Sometimes, though I am not so sure.

At times, such as these, I continue on with my day by being productive and only doing those things that I feel God would be pleased with.  I prefer to please God, not annoy Him.

Not so, Jonah.  He was given a clear directive from God. He was to travel to Nineveh and confront the people living there, of their wickedness.  They were guilty of pride, greed, brutality and adultery.  God was not pleased with them.

Jonah, did not agree with God’s calling for him. He wanted “out”.  Instead, of fulfilling God’s Will, he chose, instead, to attempt to hide.  He wanted to get as far away from God as he could.  No way, did he want to confront the inhabitants of Nineveh.  So he stole away on a ship to Tarshish; thinking it would solve his predicament.  Instead, it only made things worse.  The ship succumbed to a mighty storm at sea and Jonah found himself, not only overboard, but swallowed alive by a leviathon of the ocean.

Read Jonah 1 – 4

We might say, he went from the frying pan, into the fire!  Realizing what he had done, he beseeched God to forgive him.

Jonah’s story contains a strong warning to all godly people.  We can easily miss the blessing of God’s grace, when extended beyond our comfort zone.  In our human-ness, we only have enough vision to see our circumstances where we are at.  God, on the other hand, sees the whole picture.  He has planned our lives, and He will fulfill all His plans if we trust Him.

Jeremiah 29:10-13  “For I know the plans I have for you”, declares the Lord.  “They are plans to give you hope and a future.  When you call upon Me, and pray to Me with all your heart, I will be found by you and I will bring you to a place, that I kept exclusively for you”.

I’m not sure I am getting to the point – – but, what I am trying to say is, I would prefer to do God’s bidding, rather than go against His leading for me.  So, each day I pray that I will hear His directive and I will not just agree, I will obey.

Abba:  We are such wimps, at times.  Thinking more about our own condition rather than trusting You to lead us.  Help us to, not only hear your voice, but give us the strength to obey Your calling for our lives.  Amen

Jonah The Narrow-minded Patriot

This message from Jehovah came to Jonah, the son of Amittai: “Arise, go to that great city, Nineveh, and preach against it; for their wickedness is known to me.” But Jonah started to flee to Tarshish from the presence of Jehovah. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went aboard to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of Jehovah.

But Jehovah made a furious wind blow over the sea, and there was such a great storm that the ship was in danger of breaking to pieces. Then the sailors were afraid and each cried for help to his own god. They threw into the sea the things that were in the ship, in order to make it lighter. But Jonah had gone down into the bottom of the ship and lay fast asleep. Then the captain of the ship went and said to him, “How is it that you are asleep? Call on your god; perhaps that god will think of us, so that we may not be lost.”

And they said to one another, “Come, let us cast lots, that we may know on whose account this evil has come upon us.” So they cast lots, and the lot fell upon Jonah. Then they said to him, “Tell us, what is your business, and where do you come from? What is your country and to what race do you belong?” He said to them, “I am a Hebrew, and a worshipper of Jehovah, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” Then the men were greatly frightened and said to him, “What is this you have done?” For they knew that he was fleeing from the presence of Jehovah, because he had told them.

Then they said to him, “What shall we do to you, that the sea may be calm for us?” for the sea grew more and more stormy. He said to them, “Take me up and throw me into the sea, and the sea will be calm for you, for I know that on account of me this great storm has overtaken you.” But the men rowed hard to get back to the land; they could not, however, for the sea grew more and more stormy ahead.

Therefore they cried to Jehovah and said, “We pray thee, O Jehovah, we pray thee, let us not die for this man’s life, nor let us be guilty of shedding innocent blood, for thou art Jehovah; thou hast done as it pleases thee.” So they took up Jonah, and threw him into the sea; and the sea became calm. Then the men greatly feared Jehovah, and they offered a sacrifice and made promises to him.

But Jehovah prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights. There Jonah prayed to Jehovah his God; and Jehovah spoke to the fish, and it threw Jonah out upon the dry land.

This message from Jehovah came to Jonah the second time, “Arise, go to that great city, Nineveh, and give to it the message that I tell you.” So Jonah started for Nineveh, as Jehovah commanded. Now Nineveh was so large a city, that it took three days’ journey to cross it. And Jonah began by going through the city a day’s journey, and he said, “Forty days more and Nineveh shall be overthrown.”

And the people of Nineveh believed God; and they ordered a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them. And when word came to the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his robe, dressed in sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he gave this order: “By the order of the king and his nobles: Man, beast, herd, and flock shall not taste anything; let them not eat nor drink water. Let both man and beast put on sackcloth and let them cry earnestly to God; let them turn each from his evil way and from the deeds of violence which they are doing. Who knows but God may be sorry for us and turn away his fierce anger, that we may not die.”

When God saw that they turned from their evil way, he was sorry for the evil which he said he would do to them, and did not do it.

But this displeased Jonah very much and he was angry. And he prayed to Jehovah and said, “Ah, Jehovah, was not this what I said when I was still in my own country? That was why I fled at once to Tarshish; for I knew that thou art a God, gracious and merciful, patient, and loving and ready to forgive. Therefore, O Jehovah, take now, I beg of thee, my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live!” But Jehovah said, “Are you doing right in being angry?”

Then Jonah went out of the city and sat down on the east side, and there made a hut for himself and sat under it, until he might see what would become of the city. And Jehovah prepared a gourd and made it grow up over Jonah as a shade for his head. So the gourd gave Jonah great pleasure; but at dawn the next day God prepared a worm which injured the gourd, so that it wilted. And when the sun rose, God prepared a hot east wind. And the sun beat upon Jonah’s head, so that he was faint and begged that he might die, saying, “It is better for me to die than to live.” But God said to Jonah, “Are you doing right in being angry about the gourd?” He replied, “It is well for one to be angry, even to death!” Jehovah said, “You care for a gourd which has cost you no trouble and which you have not made grow, which came up in a night and wilted in a night. Should I not care for the great city Nineveh, in which there are one hundred and twenty thousand people who do not know their right hand from their left; besides much cattle?”