“Sanctified to Serve the Lord”
Numbers are important in the Scripture. Just like every word has meaning, so too does every number. In this week’s Torah portion (Exodus 1:1-6:1) one reads,
“And it came about that every soul that comes from the loins of Jacob seventy souls and Joseph was in Egypt.” Exodus 1:5
The basic message of this verse is that seventy people were born to Jacob. Seventy is an important number. The number seven relates to “holiness” and “sanctification”, while the number ten manifests the idea of “completion” or “entirety”. Hence, the descendants of Jacob had been sanctified with a holy purpose, i.e. there was a call on the people of Israel. This had been made clear throughout the book of Genesis and now, despite the fact that Joseph was in Egypt and his family had come down to dwell there, the purpose of the calling had not been set aside. Even after Joseph and all his brothers had died off, the generation who followed were fruitful, very strong, and numerous. In other words, things were going very good for them in Egypt.
We have all heard the saying, “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it”. This appeared to be the philosophy that fruitful, mighty and abundant Hebrews were living by, and therefore they gave no thought to leaving the “good life” in Egypt. The term “Hebrews” is derived from a word which means “those from the other side”. This was the designation that the people were known by in Egypt (See Exodus 1:15, 19). Even though their place was not in Egypt, they were seemingly content to remain there, as many generations had passed.
It is important to learn a simple principle: material blessings do not necessarily mean that you are where the Lord wants you to be or doing the things He wants you to be doing. The persecution that the Hebrews suffered at the hands of the Egyptians had a purpose behind it: to drive them out of Egypt and to the purposes of G-d which could only be fulfilled in the Land of Israel. Does this mean that the Egyptians were actually behaving according to G-d’s will? Absolutely not!
The Hebrews had the opportunity to depart from Egypt for a couple of centuries, but utilized their free will to remain in Egypt rather than responding to the call upon them. The Egyptians should not be viewed as obedient vessels of G-d. Rather, it was the Lord Who utilized their sin to accomplish His purpose. Does this mean that G-d’s will is furthered by sin? Absolutely not! G-d’s will is furthered by obedience; but realize this: man’s sin is not going to thwart the L-rd’s ultimate plan and He is free to turn sin into something that works for good (See Romans 8:28). Even when Pharaoh and the Egyptians knew that G-d wanted His people to depart from Egypt, the fact that they did not agree shows the rebelliousness of their hearts.
The L-rd’s plan would have been better served by Joseph not being sold into slavery and everyone obeying Him, but when that does not occur, it is not a threat to the Sovereignty of G-d. The Lord is able to overcome our disobedience and accomplish His purposes with a later generation. The point is this: the good that is contained in the will of G-d will be realized by His people. What is to be determined is whether you and I are going to be recipients of this good. Here again, the answer to this question is not a surprise to Him, for there was never a time that G-d did not know who would be in His Kingdom and who would not. This fact does not mean, however, that the L-rd forces some decision upon an individual. The fact that G-d knows something will take place in the year 2022 and He knew this in eternity past, does not mean that He must cause this thing to happen. The perfect knowledge of G-d of all things does not mandate Him to be the cause of all things.
Here is an example of this on a much inferior level. Because I know my wife well, I can anticipate what she will like and select a gift that will bring joy to her. The better I know her, the more likely I can select something that she will like. The L-rd has PERFECT KNOWLEDGE OF ALL THINGS. He always had perfect knowledge of each human, meaning that John Doe did not have to be born before G-d knew him perfectly. The fact that the L-rd knows John perfectly means that in every circumstance in which John Doe finds himself, G-d knows exactly what John will do. The L-rd does not have to cause John or force him to do something for G-d to be absolutely correct in knowing what John will do.
If the L-rd wants to utilize John Doe’s sin to bring about something good, this does not mean G-d wanted John to sin nor did He cause him (G-d forbid) to sin. It would have been more expedient and better for John to obey. But here again, man’s sinful actions will not ultimately cause the will of G-d to fail, but a man’s sin can cause this same man to miss out on being part of G-d’s will.
I hope that this short article will give you much to think about on this Shabbat.