Windows on the Word



God’s Voice in the Desert


Hearing God’s Voice in the Desert


This Torah portion is a favorite of mine, maybe because of what F.B. Meyer wrote about God’s appearance to Moses at the burning bush.  F.B. Meyer is one of my favorite authors from days past.  I want to reprint Meyer’s words about Moses’ encounter and may it have the same profound impact upon you as it has had in my life:

“There are days in all lives which come unannounced, unheralded; no angel faces look out of heaven; no angel voices put us on our guard: but as we look back on them in after years, we realize that they were the turning points of existence. Quite ordinary was the morning as it broke.  The sun rose as usual in a dull haze over the expanse of sand, or above the gaunt forms of the mountains, seamed and scarred.  As the young day opened, it began to shine in a cloudless sky, casting long shadows over the plains; and presently, climbing to the zenith, threw a searching, scorching light into every aperture of the landscape beneath.  The sheep browsed as usual on the scant herbage, or lay panting beneath the shadow of a great rock; but there was nothing in their behaviour to excite the thought that God was nigh.  The giant forms of the mountains, the spreading heavens, the awful silence unbroken by song of bird or hum of insect life, the acacia bushes drooping in the shadeless glare – these things were as they had been for forty years, and as they threatened to be, after Moses had sunk into an obscure and forgotten grave.  Then, suddenly, a common bush began to shine with the emblem of Deity; and from its heart of fire the voice of God broke the silence of the ages in words that fell on the shepherd’s ear like a double-knock: “Moses, Moses.”  And from that moment all his life was altered.”

[From Moses by F.B. Meyer, 1984, p. 33: ISBN 0-87508-354-4]

Just reading Meyer’s words creates an awesome scene in my mind!  God’s appearance to Moses in the ‘burning bush’ is a timeless story. I have written Nuggets on this in the past about God’s name that He revealed to Moses on this day, but in this Nugget I am going to focus on where the story occurred.  The geographical aspect. I just finished a class with Dr. Jonathan Lipnick of eTeacher on Bible Geography.  He taught us, “The physical setting of the Bible plays a major role the theology of the Bible.  To understand the God of the Hebrew Bible, you must understand the place where He has that relationship with His people. The Bible would not be the book we know if it were situated anywhere else.”  The geography of the Bible accounts is very important!  Also, I am most blessed and excited to be traveling to the land of Israel in a few weeks!  As I study about the land in preparing to go, I thought I would write some Nuggets dedicated to the famous places in Israel.  

This scene of Moses and the ‘burning bush’ occurred in the desert of Midian according to Exodus 2:15. This is where he had lived as a shepherd for forty years since fleeing Egypt. Even then God was preparing Him for this day as his intimate knolwedge of the land would be extremely important when he led the children of Israel back to this very spot!  The  Hebrew word for ‘desert’ is מִּדְבָּ֖ר (mid-bar). [Note: it is often translated as ‘wilderness’ in the KJV, but keep in mind it is the desert.] Scripture indicates that the midbar/desert is the setting for many of the Bible narratives and often God’s choice place to speak to His servants and to give them a greater vision – either of Himself or of the work He has for them to do.  The desert is in general a still and quiet place.  Many prophets received revelations from God while in the desert.  Moses writings are the foundation of the T’nakh (Old Testament), David’s Psalms are the hymn book and Paul’s writings are integral to the New Testament.

The Hebrew word for ‘speak’ in the present tense is

מְדַבֵּ֛ר (pronounced m’dah-bear) and has the same consonants as the Hebrew word midbar (desert), but the vowel marks are different and hence, it sounds different.  However I think that it is most amazing that the same Hebrew letters are used for two words that at first seem so different – the desert being a place where we normally do not hear people speaking. But from the Bible narratives, it seems that God speaks the MOST in the desert!  It is not that God is more real in the desert than in other places.  God is everywhere present.  It is just that we are so easily distracted from knowing God due to the many distractions of life.  In the desert, we detach from the noisiness of everyday life that demands our attention and can focus on God.  It is then that God can speak to our heart. 

Moses is one of the greatest servants of God. God’s calling to Him was very special. I think it is amazing that God spent 40 years quieting Moses’ heart in the desert before He spoke to Him.  Bruce Feiler in his amazing book and DVD, “Walking the Bible“, speaks of the children of Israel as being for the most part, ‘desert people’. [Note: I highly recommend Feiler’s book and DVD.]  It makes sense that the land of Israel is almost 1/2 a desert area.  Perhaps God has caused the Jewish people to be ‘desert people’ as Feiler states, because they were also the people who heard God’s voice and wrote it down as the T’nakh (Old Testament). 

We have been speaking of literal deserts in the land of Israel, but maybe we today feel like we are in a desert of sorts in the circumstances of our personal life. If we find ourselves in a desert of God’s making, let us not fret, but rather rejoice that God is wanting to speak to us!  Perhaps He has a new path for our life to take.  Our perhaps He wants to confirm our current path.  Regardless, if we maintain a quiet heart like Moses did, I am sure we will hear God’s Word to us. 

Lesson from Three Stones


The first word is the name of this Torah portion – וַיֵּצֵ֥א -vayetze.  The root is (יצא) and means ‘to go out’ or ‘to come out’.  The same root is in the ha-Motzi prayer (המוציא) – the blessing over the bread.  In this prayer, God is He who “takes out bread from the earth”.  

It is very interesting that this Torah portion is bounded by two major events concerning stones and has a third event in the middle – for a total of three events involving stones!  In verse 11, Jacob “took of the stones of that place” where he had stopped for the night.  The Hebrew word for stone is אבן – (eh-ven).  He made pillows of these stones.  In verse 12 he dreamed the famous dream about the ladder extending from earth to heaven with angels going up and down it.  God Himself stood at the top of the ladder and again made a covenant with Jacob concerning the land and Jacob’s offspring.  In Gen. 28:17, we see that Jacob gives this spot two names: the house of God – בֵּ֣ית אֱלֹהִ֔ים – Beit Elohim.  In verse 19, it is shortened to בֵּֽית־אֵ֑ל – Beit El or Bethel. The word El is a shortened form of Elohim.

Jacob also calls the spot, “the gate of heaven” – שַׁ֥עַר הַשָּׁמָֽיִם – Sha-ar HaShamaim.  The phrase means a door, portal or access point between the physical world of the earth and the spiritual realm of God in Heaven.  God stands at the top of the ladder – ie, He is in control of all access between the two worlds!  No one goes from earth to heaven, or from heaven to earth, without His permission!

God goes on to affirm that the earth itself belongs to Him and He gives it to whom He will.  Psalm 24:1 states, “The earth is the LORD’S, and the fulness thereof.”  God re-affirms the covenant concerning the Land of Israel that He originally made with Abram (Gen. 13) and confirmed with Isaac (Gen. 26:24) – and now to Jacob.  Note also that God is ultimately the one taking Jacob out of the land for a time, and God promises to take Jacob back to the land in the future. As often happens, this event foreshadowed what would later happen to the children of Jacob (ie, Israel) and the times God would allow them to be removed from their land.  And yet, He always caused them to return because of this covenant!  Indeed, some scholar’s think that is the meaning in Psalm 121:8, “The LORD shall preserve thy going out [of the land] and thy coming in [returning to the land] from this time forth, and even for evermore.”  In other words, God is in charge of the land of Israel and governs who lives there!  Not the UN or the USA or any other nation, but God Himself.  And God has made it pretty clear in His Word who He has given this land to!  The descendents of Abraham through Isaac and through Jacob – the Jewish people!  What God gives, no one on earth can take away.

At the end of this Torah portion (the end of Gen. 31), we see Jacob again takes a stone (eh-ven) and again sets it up for a pillar.  This time, it is a boundary stone if you will.  A reminder, both to Laban and to Jacob.  Laban is not to cross the boundary to harm Jacob.  And Jacob is never to return to Haran.  The Hebrew word used, מִּצְפָּה֙, Mizpah, literally means a watchtower or a lookout point (according to the Theological Workbook of the OT).   The third time the stone occurs in this Torah portion is in Gen. 29:3 referring to the stone covering the well where Rachel watered her father’s flock.   Large stones were kept over open wells’ to keep the water supply pure.  This kept anything from falling into the well and poisoning the water supply.  The stone ensured the water was pure.  

The stones are very evident in this Torah portion and taken together, they teach a great lesson. The first stone and last mention of a stone, eh-ven, act as bookends to the portion and deal with securing the boundaries of the land.  The first, at Bethel, reminds the reader of the covenant that God is reaffirming with Jacob and his descendents, the Jewish people, concerning the land of Israel.  God has the authority to give the land to the people of Israel.  Then at Mizpah, God guards the border from those who would take it away.  Sandwiched in between is the stone protecting the well of water – a most precious resource in a desert land.  It reminds the reader that God provided the necessary resources for those in the land, and protects those resources.  The lessons of these stones teaches us important lessons about God’s relationship with Israel and the land.   He is in charge and  He gives the land, watches over it and protects its resources for the children of Israel.  I will close with Moses’ words: “A land which the LORD thy God careth for: the eyes of the LORD thy God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year even unto the end of the year. ” – Deut. 11:12 

Windows on the Word

Social Media: