Christianity 201

January 21, 2013

To Come or To Go — That is the Question

Today’s piece is from Harlen Wall. When we asked for permission to use this, Harlen also wrote his own introduction:

Who am I? A Jewish Bible Teacher. Inspired by G-d, I composed this message for my weekly newsletter, which is distributed via email to a group of Christians and Jews (comprised of my students and those who attend my weekly Shabbat service along with friends and family).

The reason I put the dash in G-d is out of reverence for His Holy Name. Who am I to think I can comprehend who G-d is –and the “dash” reminds me of His infinite and transcendent Unity (Oneness) that is above space and time.I should NOT be casual when I write the Holy Name of G-d or refer to Him. Jews are taught to have reverence for His Holy Name.

Here is today’s reading:

“Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that I may perform these signs of Mine among them (2) and that you may tell in the hearing of your son, and of your grandson, how I made a mockery of the Egyptians and how I performed My signs among them, that you may know that I am the LORD.” EXODUS 10:1-2

I only wish to make a very simple and concise point in this week’s message. Sometimes, less is really more! Most English Bibles translate the word bo as go as in “go to Pharaoh.” But the Hebrew word is best translated as, and properly rendered “come.” There is a big difference between coming and going, especially in this context. There is a very important lesson in this verse. Hashem (the LORD) is telling Moses to come to Pharaoh because He (G-d) is already there waiting. This idea is dazzling in its simplicity but profound in its depth.

G-d is telling Moses to come. Not only to come to Pharaoh but to come to Him (G-d) since G-d is already there waiting for him. In truth, it won’t be Moses that will confront Pharaoh. It will be the G-d of Israel, the G-d of Heaven and Earth. Moses just has to show up and realize that it’s not about him. It’s not about what he can do or say. He doesn’t even have the natural gift of persuasive speech. In fact, the Torah tells us that Moses is C’vad Peh (heavy of speech). It’s not about Moses in any way. It’s about what the LORD can do and will do in and through Moses.

This is, in many ways, the most difficult lesson for us humans to learn. Many of us invest decades upon decades of our lives in proving to the world that we’re worthy of respect and deserving of recognition. We make every effort to convince others that we’re intelligent, beautiful, “strong,” wise, and powerful. It’s both ironic and sad that we often spend our entire lives seeking honor, only to find out in the end, that’s it’s not even about us. It’s only about what the LORD can do in and through us. It’s not about us. It’s all about Him. This reality can be liberating and troubling at the same time.

The totality and essence of the human experience is “coming to G-d.” He’s always waiting “there” for us, in every situation. G-d is not telling Moses to go to Pharaoh. He is really saying “Come to Me. I’ll be here waiting for you. I’m already there.” He is saying you will not defeat Pharaoh if you “go to him.” You will defeat Pharaoh (despite your many weaknesses and flaws) if you come to me. Moses could not defeat Pharaoh and the Egyptian forces on his own merit or strength. He could only succeed by coming to G-d and allowing Him to fight the battle. A war is never won. It’s merely received.

It’s not just the word bo that is mistranslated. There are many Hebrew words that are mistranslated in Christian/English versions of the Torah. Perhaps the most glaring error is the very name of the LORD that is given to Moses on Mount Sinai. The Hebrew word is “E-hi-yeh,” which is translated in most bibles as “I am that I am.” This is not the meaning of the word and falls short of what the original Hebrew language reveals to us. To render the word as ‘I am That I Am” is to miss the point and the underlying message to Moses, Israel, and ultimately the entire world.

In truth, however, the word is a verb and means “I shall be” as in I shall be there. G-d was revealing His Essence to Moses and at the same time assuring him that he would be there with him when he approached Pharaoh. The name of G-d and his essence is that he will always be there (waiting) even before we get “there” (even when it seems like he’s not there or we can’t see him or feel him). He was also revealing to Moses that He would be with the children of Israel in their exile and all their trials throughout history as well.

We must always remember this lesson that G-d taught Moses. And we must always remember the meaning of His Name. We must know with complete certainty that the LORD is always there waiting for us in every situation. Instead of going to confront our enemies or going to confront or deepest fears or going to defeat HaSatan, we must make the decision to come to G-D instead. The victory is always received when we come to the LORD. And we must joyfully accept that the victory is His. Not ours. It’s not about us. It’s ONLY ABOUT HIM.

But the choice to come or go is ours.

~Harlen Wall

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