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Excerpt From "From Plagues To Miracles"

The Transformational Journey of Exodus, from the Slavery of Ego to the Promised Land of Spirit

by Robert Rosenthal, M.D

The following excerpt is taken from the book From Plagues to Miracles: The Transformational Journey of Exodus, from the Slavery of Ego to the Promised Land of Spirit by Robert Rosenthal, M.D. It is published by Hay House (Available Apr. 1, 2012) and available at all bookstores or online at: www.hayhouse.com.

Chapter 12: The Wilderness

Having successfully crossed the Red Sea, the Hebrews are understandably jubilant. They celebrate the triumph of their God over the Egyptians by singing the Song of the Sea. In most tales, this would be the end of the story. The Hebrews have, after all, achieved their goal of freedom. So what remains for them to accomplish? But according to Exodus, a great deal remains. The spiritual journey is not yet finished.

Crossing the Red Sea—as important of a step as it is—does not bring the Hebrews to the Promised Land. Instead, they enter a dry, lifeless wilderness where, unbeknownst to them, they will wander for the next 40 years. If we hope to grasp the challenges of the different stages of the spiritual journey, it’s paramount that we come to terms with the wilderness and why it proves so daunting.

Up to this point, the central conflict in Exodus has been between Moses and Pharaoh. Moses’s drive to free his people collides with Pharaoh’s stubborn resistance. On the opposite bank of the Red Sea, however, all this changes. Pharaoh is gone, drowned in the waters that stood aside to let the Hebrews pass into a new life. What then prevents them from proceeding directly to the Promised Land? With Pharaoh dead, who or what becomes their new adversary? In the parable of Exodus, once the controlling ego is vanquished, who or what stands in the way of the spiritual journey? What must we still learn before we can achieve an abiding connection with Spirit?

With Pharaoh dead, only three characters remain in Exodus: God, Moses, and the Hebrews. God is obviously not the adversary, and neither is Moses. He continues to serve as leader to his people. All that’s left is the Hebrews. If we look closely at their words and their behavior, we’ll see that they have indeed become their own worst enemy.

On the opposite bank of the Red Sea, the only thing capable of stopping our progress is our own mind. Only we can stand in the way of our transformation. The loss of the Pharaoh-like ego exposes a primitive, childlike sense of apprehension. How will we survive? This is the very fear that drove us into the arms of ego in the first place. For the Hebrews, it proves stronger than God’s miracles. It overwhelms all that God has done for them, and it is given full expression by what I call the voice of the Hebrews.

The Voice of the Hebrews

The voice of the Hebrews makes its first appearance when Moses confronts Pharaoh for the first time. Recall how the foremen castigate him: “May the Lord look upon you and judge you, for you have made us odious in Pharaoh’s sight and in the sight of his servants, to put a sword in their hand to kill us” (Exod. 5:21). They are afraid that Moses’s request for freedom will backfire and the Egyptians will kill them instead. At this point in the story, however, the Hebrews are still slaves. They haven’t experienced God’s miracles. The plagues, the Passover, and the Red Sea crossing are all still to come.

We next encounter the voice of the Hebrews when they’re pinned against the banks of the Red Sea by Pharaoh’s armies, the night before the waters part. Again, the voice takes Moses to task.

Is it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you dealt with us in this way, bringing us out of Egypt? Is this not the word that we spoke to you in Egypt, saying, ‘Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness (Exod. 14:11–12).

The outcome that the foremen feared and gave voice to in Exodus 5 now seems to have come to pass. The Egyptian army will soon sweep down on them, swords in hand, and slaughter them all. But the Hebrews have already witnessed the ten plagues that devastated Egypt yet miraculously left them untouched. They’ve survived the tenth plague, participated in the Passover rituals, and escaped Egypt. Yet still they do not trust Moses and, by implication, God. Better to serve the Egyptians as slaves than die like this in the wilderness. Like frightened children, they cower at the prospect of danger. They don’t understand how completely their circumstances have changed. And indeed, the next morning God comes through and parts the sea for them.

The voice of the Hebrews makes another appearance when Moses leads the people away from the Red Sea into the heart of the lifeless wilderness. They travel for three days without finding any water. They come upon the waters of Marah, but they’re bitter. “So the people grumbled at Moses, saying, ‘What shall we drink?’” (Exod. 15:24). Soon after, they gripe to him about their hunger.

“Would that we had died by the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat, when we ate bread to the full; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger” (Exod. 16:3).

And not long after, they again complain about lack of water.

Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water that we may drink.” And . . . they grumbled against Moses and said, “Why, now, have you brought us up from Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?” (Exod. 17:2–3).

The Hebrews continue to distrust Moses and God, despite the amazing miracles they’ve been given. Such miracles should have proven conclusively that God is with them and so they have nothing to fear. Yet each time their survival appears threatened, they denounce Moses and regret having ever left Egypt. They would rather remain slaves than face the prospect of death from hunger or thirst. Pharaoh may be gone, but his shadow still lingers in the mind-set of the Hebrews. And as long as it does, as long as they retain the mind-set of slavery, they’re not ready for the Promised Land. Their fear blocks the way.

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