Chukat

Chukat

Regulation

Numbers 19:1-22:1
Judges 11:1-33

“On the Face Again”


by Mark Huey
mark@outreachisrael.net

The past three Torah portions (Beha’alot’kha; Shelakh-Lekha; Korach)[1] have dealt with the challenges that Moses encountered to his leadership, during Ancient Israel’s desert sojourn. This week in Chukat, the leap from the ordinances given by God, to approximately thirty-eight years of sojourning in the wilderness, is quite a contrast to contemplate. From red heifer sacrifices,[2] to the chronic problem of water shortages,[3] Moses striking rather than speaking to the rock,[4] and the challenge of hostile nations[5]—the narrative of Chukat covers a wide series of circumstances. Searching for a thread or a single theme, which holds everything together, has been a challenge for me, but it something that can be best achieved while in the prostrated position. There is no doubt that the quintessential example of leadership displayed by Moses is repeated one more time for our edification, that we might adequately consider where we stand before our Creator.

Before we analyze the balance of our Torah reading for this week, I would be remiss to not consider the perplexing exercise established decades earlier when the priests of Israel were given instruction about how to purify the sporadically unclean. Since twice in the opening chapter, we see that aspects of this procedure are to be a “perpetual statute” for the people of Israel and sojourners in the community, it is perhaps something that should be considered spiritually illuminating:

“The one who gathers the ashes of the heifer shall wash his clothes and be unclean until evening; and it shall be a perpetual statute to the sons of Israel and to the alien who sojourns among them…So it shall be a perpetual statute for them. And he who sprinkles the water for impurity shall wash his clothes, and he who touches the water for impurity shall be unclean until evening. Furthermore, anything that the unclean person touches shall be unclean; and the person who touches it shall be unclean until evening” (Numbers 19:10, 21-22).

“Perpetual statute” or “eternal decree” (ATS) reads as chuqat olam in Hebrew. What we see detailed in Numbers 19 concerning the ashes of the red heifer are not the only Torah statutes that are to be done in perpetuity. But unlike remembering the appointed times on some level,[6] which the Jewish Synagogue has done without an operating Temple or priesthood for two millennia, how are things like the instruction of the red heifer to be honored?

The Hebrew chuqah or “ordinance” is derived from the root verb chaqaq, generally meaning “cut in, inscribe, decree” (BDB).[7] The first time this term is used appears in Genesis 49:10, in the prophecy regarding the coming of the Messiah to rule with a ruler’s staff or scepter:

“The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff [chaqaq] from between his feet, until Shiloh comes, and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples” (Genesis 49:10).

The term chaqaq describes authority with the power to make edicts. A related noun, choq, means “something prescribed, a statute or due” (BDB).[8] It is used to describe Pharaoh’s allotment of land for the priests of Egypt as directed by Joseph, when he was the viceroy of Egypt:

“Only the land of the priests he did not buy, for the priests had an allotment [choq] from Pharaoh, and they lived off the allotment [choq] which Pharaoh gave them. Therefore, they did not sell their land” (Genesis 47:22).

Considering these related terms, we can begin to understand that these statutes not only have a considerable amount of authority attached to them, but that those who follow them also receive or inherit the blessings of the Almighty as they are obeyed. Of course, many of today’s Messianic Believers ask which of the Torah’s instructions we should observe—or even can observe—in modern times. We do not live in the same circumstances, either economic or technological, that many of the Torah’s commandments were originally directed for. We obviously do not live in the Ancient Near East. However, as Messianics regularly study Moses’ Teaching on a consistent basis, we do certainly consider what they mean—and so to an extent we can “remember” them.

It is my conviction that we must all strive to adhere to the Torah commandments that Yeshua the Messiah and the Apostles followed. This obviously begins with demonstrating a love for God and neighbor,[9] and being steadfastly concerned with treating our fellow human beings with care and respect. Beyond this, today’s Messianic Believers are often widely agreed that matters like keeping the Sabbath, the annual feasts, the dietary laws, and related observances, need to be observed. The Jewish theological and spiritual tradition can certainly be consulted in these areas, as we keep these practices in community, although not to the negation of the New Covenant realities to be experienced in Yeshua by His sacrifice for sinful humanity. As we strive to be obedient to God’s Torah as the Messiah and the Apostles were, we do so with various limitations present within our Twenty-First Century world, and sometimes we are forced to speculate on what the Lord would do were He living in our time. Beseeching the Lord and being sensitive to His Spirit are absolutely required for a Messianic Believer’s Torah observance.[10]

As I examine different passages in the Torah where the Law of God is elaborated upon, I often realize that in many cases you can easily discern their symbolism. Using physical and tangible implements, or conducting certain activities, are to point one to God’s holiness and majesty. Things like the pure oil for the menorah, the purification of hands and feet before entering the Tent of Meeting, various peace offerings, the waving of the barley sheaf, the Passover lamb, the proclamation made at Shavuot, the Yom Kippur service, the celebration of Sukkot, and the blowing of the trumpets—reveal greater and deeper elements of our Biblical faith.

A great difficulty, however, arises if one is trying to understand all of these symbols without the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit sent to instruct, teach, and guide us into all truth. If you get hung up on all of these ordinances and the impression that without doing them all to the letter of the Law—or at least to some of the strictest of methods prescribed by modern-day Orthodox Judaism—you are in trouble, you likely need to check yourself to see where you are in your relationship with God. Is your relationship with the Torah, or is it with the Giver of the Torah?

Within Chuqat, after Numbers ch. 19, Torah readers move a giant leap forward, approximately thirty-eight years to the time just before the Ancient Israelites were getting ready to enter into the Promised Land. Moses was almost 120 years old, and his sister Miriam died and was buried (Numbers 20:1). But with the previous generation largely now having died off, its children and grandchildren were about to fall into their predecessors’ same pattern of complaining and murmuring, with the water having dried up (Numbers 20:2). They were at the throats of Moses and Aaron, quarreling about the lack of water, and complaining about the lack of various fruit bearing trees (Numbers 20:3-5).

Interestingly, Moses and Aaron, now in their “senior season,” responded in the best manner that they have mastered over the years. They got down on their faces once again and implored the Lord to intercede. They received the answer to their question as how to proceed, and the instructions given by God were very direct:

“Then Moses and Aaron came in from the presence of the assembly to the doorway of the tent of meeting and fell on their faces. Then the glory of the LORD appeared to them; and the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Take the rod; and you and your brother Aaron assemble the congregation and speak to the rock before their eyes, that it may yield its water. You shall thus bring forth water for them out of the rock and let the congregation and their beasts drink.’ So Moses took the rod from before the LORD, just as He had commanded him.”

Instead of following the Lord’s instruction as He laid forth, Moses, at this somewhat late stage in his life, made a tragic mistake. Rather than speaking to the rock as directed, he chastised the rebels and he struck the rock twice, in order to bring forth water. This resulted in God disallowing Moses and Aaron their personal entrance into the Promised Land:

“[A]nd Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly before the rock. And he said to them, ‘Listen now, you rebels; shall we bring forth water for you out of this rock?’ Then Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came forth abundantly, and the congregation and their beasts drank. But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, ‘Because you have not believed Me, to treat Me as holy in the sight of the sons of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.’ Those were the waters of Meribah, because the sons of Israel contended with the LORD, and He proved Himself holy among them” (Numbers 20:10-13).

This is a great lesson for all of us to learn. Moses was a man chosen to actually talk with God “face to face” (cf. Exodus 33:11), but at this late stage in his life he acted rashly—and it cost him dearly. Moses was denied the opportunity to enter into the Promised Land with the people of Israel. Shortly after this, Aaron died (Numbers 20:24-29). The rest of Chukat deals with the battles that erupted with the peoples who wanted to harass Israel and keep them from achieving their destiny (Numbers 21:1-22:1).

What can we learn from this text—that takes us on a wild journey from discussing the red heifer, to burying Aaron, and ends up on the precipice of Ancient Israel entering the Promised Land on the plains of Moab? Are we going to be like Moses and Aaron, and/or their generation who perished in the wilderness or are we on the road to entering into the fullness of rest provided in the Messiah?

There are regulations encountered in the Torah which cannot be observed in the Twenty-First Century, some of which are described in Chukat. Not infrequently, people within today’s Messianic community feel guilty that they cannot keep them, perhaps thinking that our God in Heaven has a ledger sheet by which He judges people. Many people, not so unconsciously, think that the Lord could literally strike them down at any moment if they are not focused on the minutiae of His instructions.

Those who have experienced the salvation of Yeshua, while surely needing to fear the Lord, should not have their spirituality dominated by a phobia of approaching Him. Hebrews 4:16 communicates how we are to “draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

If any of you do not adequately understand the significance or meaning of various instructions witnessed in the Torah, then just as the leaders of Ancient Israel fell on their faces before God—might you need to do the same? Do you have a heart and mind that are oriented toward His Word and toward obedience? If you do, then falling on your face before the Lord, and communing with the Heavenly Father, should be a worthwhile exercise. For, our Sovereign God knows our individual human circumstances and limitations—and He is most merciful! He knows if we are truly seeking obedience and compliance with His Word, or if we are trying to deliberately find ways around it. Are we trying to appreciate the significance of the things seen in Chukat, informing us as to His character—or think that it has no place in the Bible studies of modern Believers?

As we each do this, will we have a witness in faith in the atoning blood of the Messiah? Will we have a witness that the Holy Spirit indwells us, and that we are trying to submit our will to His will? Let us each strive toward maturity in the Lord…even if it causes us to fall on our face frequently!


NOTES

[1] Numbers 8:1-12:16; 13:1-15:41; 16:1-18:32.

[2] Numbers 19:1-22.

[3] Numbers 20:1-7.

[4] Numbers 20:8-23.

[5] Numbers 21:21-22:1.

[6] Exodus 12:14, 17; Leviticus 16:31; 23:14, 21, 31, 41.

[7] BDB, 349.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Deuteronomy 6:5; Leviticus 19:18; cf. Matthew 19:19; 22:39; Mark 12:31; Luke 10:27; Romans 13:9; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8.

[10] For some useful thoughts, consult the article “The Significance of the Messiah Event” by Margaret McKee Huey and J.K. McKee, appearing in the Messianic Torah Helper by Messianic Apologetics.

Korach

Korach

Korah

Numbers 16:1-18:32
1 Samuel 11:14-12:22

“Budding Leadership Patterns”


by Mark Huey
mark@outreachisrael.net

One of the most dependable features of our Creator is that He is a God of order and consistency, who can be relied upon to perform His Word without fail. Lamentably, most of fallen humanity disregards this fact. But even more tragic is the sad testimony that many who claim a relationship with Him are not always aware of His immutable nature. Thankfully, the Almighty is cognizant that humans have a fallen nature and various limitations. He has made provisions within His sovereign rule, to guarantee that His Word is performed:

“For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust. As for man, his days are like grass; as a flower of the field, so he flourishes. When the wind has passed over it, it is no more, and its place acknowledges it no longer. But the lovingkindness of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, and His righteousness to children’s children, to those who keep His covenant and remember His precepts to do them. The LORD has established His throne in the heavens, and His sovereignty rules over all. Bless the LORD, you His angels, mighty in strength, who perform His word, obeying the voice of His word! Bless the LORD, all you His hosts, you who serve Him, doing His will. Bless the LORD, all you works of His, in all places of His dominion; bless the LORD, O my soul!” (Psalm 103:14-22).

Did you notice how the Psalmist reminds us that the key, to receiving God’s blessings and lovingkindness, is having a healthy fear of Him? A good part of such fear is trembling at the Word of the Lord, and understanding that once God has declared something, He is obligated to follow through because of His righteousness to complete it. Once a person is able to incorporate this reality into his or her heart, and respond in obedience to His will, the perplexities of life should hopefully become more manageable. By submitting and surrendering to what He has lovingly revealed in the Holy Scriptures, faithful Believers have the privilege of exercising their trust in the Lord, by taking action and completing the good works that they were created to perform. The Apostle Paul summarizes it very nicely:

“For we are His workmanship, created in Messiah Yeshua for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).

This week’s Torah portion, Korach, details the tragic consequences of a group of Ancient Israelites who did not take the decree of the Lord seriously. The infamous Korah is the instigator of a rebellion against the chosen leadership of the fledgling nation of Israel, as the people painstakingly make their way from the bondage of Egypt to a Promised Land flowing with milk and honey. By the time of this incident, many other examples of disobedience have already occurred. The cry for lack of meat is dealt with by God sending an abundance of quail, only to be accompanied by a severe plague which takes the lives of many doubters (Numbers 12:31-35). The incredible challenge of Miriam and Aaron, to Moses’ leadership, is shown to be a visible reminder that even the closest relatives should not question the anointing of God’s chosen (Numbers 12). Next, the ten unbelieving spies inject their doubting poison into the camp (Numbers 13). The attempt to return to the favor of the Lord is unsuccessful, as He uses the Amalekites and Canaanites to execute His judgment on the remorseful doubters (Numbers 14:41-45). Finally, the vivid example of one individual gathering wood on the Sabbath is handled in a dramatic fashion, as the congregation of Israel is required to stone him in order to learn the lessons of defiant disobedience (Numbers 15:29-36).

These recorded events establish a backdrop for the ultimate challenge to Moses’ anointed leadership by Korah and his associates, distant cousins of Levi and Reuben. Korah was not satisfied with the Divine privilege he had received to minister before God in the Tabernacle (Numbers 16:8-10), and perhaps Dathan and Abiram were wondering why they too had not received recognition for being the descendants of the firstborn son of Jacob. Whatever their motivations were, the consequences of their actions against God’s chosen are a reminder to us today that these fleshly-inspired, or perhaps even demonic rebellions, are not only going to happen—but should be expected and anticipated by those who have been called into leadership positions in the Body of Messiah.

Whether it is the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, or the pride of life (1 John 2:16) motivating rebellion, the fact remains from Biblical and historical accounts, that rebellion is present in the hearts of people. Having the knowledge of good and evil embedded in hearts of stone, the natural inclination is often to become a god unto oneself. In so doing, men and women will find themselves susceptible to the wiles of the Devil, and as the Prophet Samuel stated several centuries later to King Saul, the insidious poison of divination germinates seeds of rebellion in the human heart:

“Samuel said, ‘Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He has also rejected you from being king” (1 Samuel 15:22-23).

Korah and his ilk were no different than the many more, who down through the ages have taken the Word of the Lord lightly—or worse—viewed it with disdain and total rejection. Consider the character analysis that is portrayed in this week’s reading. Is it the character of Korah that is revealing—or the reaction of Moses to the challenge to his role—which inspires you? Consider the fact that we are given a great example of how leaders should react when various Korahs, Miriams, or even unruly mobs attack one’s God-ordained position and responsibility:

“When Moses heard this, he fell on his face” (Numbers 16:4).

Where else can a man or woman of God find solace and direction from an omnipotent Creator, who allows insurrections to occur? For those who can identify with Moses, on whatever level, his example should be taken to serious heart. Crying out to our Maker for His solution to the problems of life is our only choice when we are put in dire straights! When we do this, then in His mercy God should give us the guidance we need to handle whatever the challenge might be.

The solution for Korah’s rebellion was a graphic one. The Lord miraculously swallowed up Korah’s family into Sheol (Numbers 16:30-34), and fire burned the other dissatisfied rebels (Numbers 16:35). Additionally, a plague is sent into the camp, killing many other Israelites, who might have identified with the inclinations of the insurgents (Numbers 16:41-50). Ultimately, the Lord decided to show the sign of the budding rod to the people who had rebelled, or at least questioned, the leadership of Moses and Aaron (Numbers 17:1-13). This budding rod, a tangible reminder of His authority being placed upon these specific Levites, not only convinced the doubting masses, but eventually received the honor of being placed next to the Ark of the Covenant:

“Behind the second veil there was a tabernacle which is called the Holy of Holies, having a golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden jar holding the manna, and Aaron’s rod which budded, and the tables of the covenant; and above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat; but of these things we cannot now speak in detail” (Hebrews 9:3-5).

This placement of the rod signified not only the special leadership role of Aaron and his Levitical descendants, but also their proximity and closeness to the tangible relics of God’s interaction with Israel as the chosen nation to be a light to the world (Isaiah 42:6; 49:6). As Believers in Messiah Yeshua, we have each been anointed by God and have been given a great calling to share Him with all we encounter. We not only have a great responsibility to learn His Word, but let the Word have its way in our lives.

A great example of someone who understood the call of serving God is the Prophet Samuel, the last judge of Ancient Israel. He was chosen to anoint the first king of Israel, in spite of his disappointment about the people rejecting the Lord as their Sovereign King:

“But you have today rejected your God, who delivers you from all your calamities and your distresses; yet you have said, ‘No, but set a king over us!’ Now therefore, present yourselves before the LORD by your tribes and by your clans” (1 Samuel 10:19).

When it came time to submit to the permitted will of the people as directed by God, Samuel returned to the pattern that had been first established by Joshua when the twelve tribes first came into the Promised Land:

“Then Samuel said to the people, ‘Come and let us go to Gilgal and renew the kingdom there.’ So all the people went to Gilgal, and there they made Saul king before the LORD in Gilgal. There they also offered sacrifices of peace offerings before the LORD; and there Saul and all the men of Israel rejoiced greatly” (1 Samuel 11:14-15).

You should remember that it was at Gilgal that Joshua and the twelve tribes made a significant covenant with the Lord, as they faithfully circumcised the men of Israel, despite the immediate danger of enemy attack from the existing nations occupying the land of Canaan:

“Now the people came up from the Jordan on the tenth of the first month and camped at Gilgal on the eastern edge of Jericho. Those twelve stones which they had taken from the Jordan, Joshua set up at Gilgal. He said to the sons of Israel, ‘When your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, “What are these stones?” then you shall inform your children, saying, “Israel crossed this Jordan on dry ground.” For the LORD your God dried up the waters of the Jordan before you until you had crossed, just as the LORD your God had done to the Red Sea, which He dried up before us until we had crossed; that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the LORD is mighty, so that you may fear the Lord your God forever.”’ Now it came about when all the kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan to the west, and all the kings of the Canaanites who were by the sea, heard how the LORD had dried up the waters of the Jordan before the sons of Israel until they had crossed, that their hearts melted, and there was no spirit in them any longer because of the sons of Israel. At that time the LORD said to Joshua, ‘Make for yourself flint knives and circumcise again the sons of Israel the second time.’ So Joshua made himself flint knives and circumcised the sons of Israel at Gibeath-haaraloth. This is the reason why Joshua circumcised them: all the people who came out of Egypt who were males, all the men of war, died in the wilderness along the way after they came out of Egypt. For all the people who came out were circumcised, but all the people who were born in the wilderness along the way as they came out of Egypt had not been circumcised. For the sons of Israel walked forty years in the wilderness, until all the nation, that is, the men of war who came out of Egypt, perished because they did not listen to the voice of the LORD, to whom the LORD had sworn that He would not let them see the land which the LORD had sworn to their fathers to give us, a land flowing with milk and honey” (Joshua 4:9-5:6).

The Lord allowed the Israelites to enter into a faithful covenant as they painfully circumcised themselves upon entering the Promised Land. Samuel knew the significance of what occurred at Gilgal, and that through the other reported signs, which included the crossing of the Red Sea and the Jordan River on dry land, that the nations at large would take notice. By returning to Gilgal to anoint and install King Saul, another significant sign was being made to not only the Ancient Israelites, but to all in the vicinity who rejected the Sovereign Creator God. By making the connection, Samuel exercised great wisdom as he knew that the patterns of the Lord were consistent and true:

“Then Samuel said to the people, ‘Come and let us go to Gilgal and renew the kingdom there.’ So all the people went to Gilgal, and there they made Saul king before the LORD in Gilgal. There they also offered sacrifices of peace offerings before the LORD; and there Saul and all the men of Israel rejoiced greatly” (1 Samuel 11:14-15).

Samuel exercised extremely good leadership as he was led to return to the patterns of his predecessors Joshua and Moses. Samuel was old and gray (1 Samuel 12:2), knowing that his days were numbered, and he like Moses was not a man who was beholden to any other except God. In his final recorded soliloquy, Samuel exhorted the people to return once again to the Instruction of God, as he knew that only in obedience to God would they find the joy and peace that they desired. It was not in an Earthly king that mimicked the ways of the other nations that the Israelites would find peace and security. Because Samuel was charged with executing the will of the Lord, he relented and shared these profound words of encouragement:

“Then Samuel said to the people, ‘It is the LORD who appointed Moses and Aaron and who brought your fathers up from the land of Egypt. So now, take your stand, that I may plead with you before the LORD concerning all the righteous acts of the LORD which He did for you and your fathers. When Jacob went into Egypt and your fathers cried out to the LORD, then the LORD sent Moses and Aaron who brought your fathers out of Egypt and settled them in this place. But they forgot the LORD their God, so He sold them into the hand of Sisera, captain of the army of Hazor, and into the hand of the Philistines and into the hand of the king of Moab, and they fought against them. They cried out to the LORD and said, “We have sinned because we have forsaken the LORD and have served the Baals and the Ashtaroth; but now deliver us from the hands of our enemies, and we will serve You.” Then the LORD sent Jerubbaal and Bedan and Jephthah and Samuel, and delivered you from the hands of your enemies all around, so that you lived in security. When you saw that Nahash the king of the sons of Ammon came against you, you said to me, “No, but a king shall reign over us,” although the LORD your God was your king. Now therefore, here is the king whom you have chosen, whom you have asked for, and behold, the LORD has set a king over you. If you will fear the LORD and serve Him, and listen to His voice and not rebel against the command of the LORD, then both you and also the king who reigns over you will follow the LORD your God. If you will not listen to the voice of the LORD, but rebel against the command of the LORD, then the hand of the LORD will be against you, as it was against your fathers. Even now, take your stand and see this great thing which the LORD will do before your eyes. Is it not the wheat harvest today? I will call to the LORD, that He may send thunder and rain. Then you will know and see that your wickedness is great which you have done in the sight of the LORD by asking for yourselves a king.’ So Samuel called to the LORD, and the LORD sent thunder and rain that day; and all the people greatly feared the LORD and Samuel. Then all the people said to Samuel, ‘Pray for your servants to the LORD your God, so that we may not die, for we have added to all our sins this evil by asking for ourselves a king.’ Samuel said to the people, ‘Do not fear. You have committed all this evil, yet do not turn aside from following the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart. You must not turn aside, for then you would go after futile things which can not profit or deliver, because they are futile. For the LORD will not abandon His people on account of His great name, because the LORD has been pleased to make you a people for Himself. Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you; but I will instruct you in the good and right way. Only fear the LORD and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you. But if you still do wickedly, both you and your king will be swept away” (1 Samuel 12:6-25).

Can you sense the passion in Samuel’s pleas? As he recalled the relatively brief history of Israel and noted the continuing pattern of disobedience, he reminded the people of the requirement to fear the Lord. It is only through a reverent fear of God and His Word that any of us have an inkling of a chance of survival, in any generation from Adam to the present. Of course, the Holy One has always shown signs to not only His people, but to the whole world, so that all will know that He is sovereign. Whether it is drying up seas or rivers, or sending rain at the appropriate times, He is in the habit of confirming with visible signs that are evident, and endorsing His chosen leaders with readily identifiable markers.

But brothers and sisters be warned! The enemy of our souls is also in the business of mimicking various signs and wonders, as an attempt to thwart the Divine will of God. We are warned incessantly about the false signs and wonders that have come, are coming, and will come in the Last Days to test not only Believers, but lead many astray into judgment. Even Yeshua Himself warns us of those coming, who are going to lead many into apostasy and despair:

“For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and produce great signs and omens, to lead astray, if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24:24, NRSV).

The Apostle Paul further elaborates on this in his communication with the Believers at Thessalonica:

“Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness” (2 Thessalonians 2:8-12).

Here is an amplification that should surely generate the fear of the Lord in anyone who truly believes that He says what He means. Notice that the reason why people are deceived, is because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. This is critical because without the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit operating through a circumcised heart of flesh, those who have simply decided to lead a moral life are not able to discern the difference between a true sign from God and a deceiving sign from the Devil. The key is to be born from above, so that a healthy fear of the Lord is what motivates a person to seek Him with all of the heart, mind, soul and strength.

Perhaps the most sobering thing we see here is that the “strong delusion” (KJV/RSV) or “powerful delusion” (NIV) comes from God Himself. He will be the One who sends it upon the whole world. It will be the ultimate test as to whether someone truly believes upon the Lord Yeshua the Messiah, or not.

If you have a propensity to operate in the spirit of Korah, Miriam, the ten spies, or if you simply want to gather some sticks, or just generally do your own thing—are you in a rather uncertain place in your walk with God? For a season, you might get away with disobedience and obstinance, because our Heavenly Father is longsuffering and full of a compassion that no human has the capacity to demonstrate. But eventually, because His Word requires it, He is going to have to execute some form of judgment, or at least penalties. When this happens, where will you stand? I would note for you that you need not wait for the final judgment of humanity to wait for your personal judgment.

I pray this week that you will be seeking God with all of your heart, falling on your face when desperate circumstances arise, and crying out to Him for understanding. I hope that you will learn to embrace the fear of the Lord with every ounce of your being.

Our Heavenly Father is raising up Messianic leaders who have some important work to do in the days ahead. Will they follow the examples found in the Torah, and indeed all of Scripture? Will we have men and women who truly follow God and serve the community of faith? Will we have those who show mercy like the benevolent Creator we serve? Truly, my friends, we have much to consider from this week’s Torah portion.

Shelakh-Lekha

Shelakh-Lekha

Send on your behalf

Numbers 13:1-15:41
Joshua 2:1-24

“Nevertheless”


by Mark Huey
mark@outreachisrael.net

This week, the Torah continues to discuss some of the challenges that Ancient Israel had with various leadership issues, as the journey from Egypt to the Promised Land proceeded. Having just witnessed a threat to his leadership from his sister Miriam and his brother Aaron,[1] Moses is now placed in a position to continue encouraging the Israelites to move forward on the journey, toward the ultimate goal of securing the land promised to them. This humble servant of the Most High had just survived accusations from his sister that resulted in her temporary bout with leprosy (Numbers 12:10). She was healed after her seven-day quarantine, and then the sojourn continued (Numbers 12:15-16). However, the memory of the challenge to his leadership was fresh on his mind, as Moses and the people stood at the threshold of entering into the Land.

It is at this point that Shelakh-Lekha begins with the infamous incidents concerning the adventures of the twelve spies,[2] who were chosen to scout out the Land of Canaan, and return with a report about the prospects for invasion:[3]

“Send out for yourself men so that they may spy out the land of Canaan, which I am going to give to the sons of Israel; you shall send a man from each of their fathers’ tribes, every one a leader among them” (Numbers 13:2).

Moses, as the reluctant leader, realized that he was dealing with a recalcitrant group of people, who were not exactly content with their current status of wandering through the wilderness. Complaints and murmuring were commonplace. In spite of the miraculous interventions resolving their food issues, the Israelites constantly find reasons to not be satisfied with their conditions. Base human nature continued to drive the great majority of the people, as the instincts of survival and selfishness prevailed.

Moses, who in his desire to fulfill the unwanted call upon his life to lead Israel, simply wanted to obey the Lord and guide the people to Canaan. So, with the Land on the (near?) horizon, God instructed Moses to choose one leader from among each of the twelve tribes, who would go into the Land and come back with a report to (presumably?) endorse the incursion. Little did Moses know that the resulting report of the spies would not be what he expected. Instead, as we read in our Torah portion, we find that the opposite result from what was anticipated, occurred, as only two of the twelve leaders actually returned with a good report. The other ten got hung up on the often-used word that is heard frequently by leaders when they are attempting to impose their will upon the teeming masses. That word is “but,” or as the New American Standard renders it, “nevertheless”:

“Thus they told him, and said, ‘We went in to the land where you sent us; and it certainly does flow with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. Nevertheless [Yet, RSV/NRSV; But, NIV/ATS; However, NJPS/ESV][4] the people who live in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large; and moreover, we saw the descendants of Anak there. Amalek is living in the land of the Negev and the Hittites and the Jebusites and the Amorites are living in the hill country, and the Canaanites are living by the sea and by the side of the Jordan” (Numbers 13:27-29).

In spite of all the positive aspects of the Promised Land that were seen during the forty-day excursion from north to south and east to west, the ultimate report of the ten spies focused on negative things rather than the many positive attributes of the territory. Human fear of others, and doubt about the promises of the Holy One to accomplish His word, prevailed. The ubiquitous insertion of the reservations, about the leadership decision to enter the Land, is best characterized by the conjunction “but.”

As human beings we each have varying roles as leaders and followers of families, groups, congregations, or even greater responsibilities in business or our communities. Have you ever considered how often you hear the word “but” come forth from your own heart, or listen to others respond with that same retort? If you are a parent, you can certainly relate to children using “but” as an excuse, especially if you are attempting to impose your will upon them. On the other hand, if you are in a position where you are a subordinate of someone else, you might hear yourself utilize this term when being asked to do something that was not on your personal agenda, or when you feel it is necessary to offer an alternative point of view. The challenge for each of us, regardless of what position we may find ourselves, is how we should deal with the innate human tendency to want to “do our own thing”—when we have a Creator who has clearly spelled out how we are supposed to conduct our lives in His Word. Are there principles we can learn from the leadership style of Moses, which can be applied to our daily walk with the Messiah?

Surely the examples that we have been given of how Moses dealt with his detractors are for our instruction and edification! When considering the role that Moses had as the one chosen to deliver the Israelites from Egyptian bondage, the contrast that he was first a follower of God allowed him to execute his responsibilities secondly as a leader. Moses had been chosen from birth to be the one selected for the position he reluctantly received. For the first forty years of his life he was trained in the halls of Pharaoh’s courts with great responsibility, and the incumbent authority to make things happen. Then in an impetuous moment of the flesh, he committed murder, however justified, and had to flee into the wilderness for his own survival (Exodus 2:11-15).

For the next forty years, Moses learned the skill of being a shepherd tending to the flocks of his father-in-law, Jethro of Midian. During these long years in the desert, he had a great deal of time to dwell on who he was, but most importantly who the God of the Hebrews was. According to the author of Hebrews, Moses knew that he was a Hebrew, and that he had a destiny upon his life:

“By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful child; and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, considering the reproach of Messiah greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen. By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of the blood, so that he who destroyed the firstborn would not touch them” (Hebrews 11:23-28).

Imagine going from the pinnacle of power in Egypt, being a member of the royal family, to Sinai and shepherding someone else’s herds. This does not seem like a very exciting promotion, and yet through it all, the Lord molded Moses into an able leader, who would be called into an incredible relationship with Him as he guided Ancient Israel. It was during the years of self-reflection in Midian when Moses truly learned how to commune with his Creator, how to hear His voice, and how to follow His will. After all, what got Moses out into the wilderness, and into the role of a shepherd, occurred because he had let his anger overtake his reason, causing him to murder another human being. Certainly, this memory was a vivid reminder of his failings, no matter how often he justified his actions. When the Torah instruction was issued on how to punish a murderer (Leviticus 24:17), what did Moses think?

From the point of him leaving Midian, returning to Egypt, and then leading the Israelites to Mount Sinai—Moses was the primary witness to the finger of God actually inscribing “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13). It is difficult to fathom how Moses must have felt, as he recognized that his impetuous action to murder an Egyptian must have influenced his entire life. Surely as a result, Moses fully understood the mercy and compassion of the Most High, who did not execute the prescribed judgment. Could these circumstances have determined permanent character changes? Is there no wonder why in the previous Torah reading, B’ha’alotkha (Numbers 8:1-12:16), the description that best exemplifies Moses is his humility?

“Now the man Moses was very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth” (Numbers 12:3).[5]

With this humility came great strength. Moses learned through the lessons of his life that he was chosen to be an instrument for the work of the Most High. In order to let this happen, he had to learn the fine art of denying his own inclinations. When he felt the tendency to say “but” when given various instructions from the Lord, he chose instead to simply repeat what he was told, even when he was probably perplexed about the various things that he was told to communicate to the Israelites.

Is this not also a characteristic of Yeshua the Messiah—sometimes regarded as a kind of Second Moses—who spoke only what the Father told Him to speak?

“For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak. I know that His commandment is eternal life; therefore the things I speak, I speak just as the Father has told Me” (John 12:49-50).

Of course, we know that when Moses did exercise his own will, as witnessed when he willfully struck the rock without following the clear instructions to speak to the rock, the consequences were devastating. Moses was ultimately a fallible human being like the rest of the population of Israel (Numbers 20:8-11). Yeshua the Messiah, in stark contrast, was Divine.

Within our Torah portion of Shelakh-Lekha, we see Moses steadily leading the Ancient Israelites, in the wake of the Miriam debacle, and on the precipice of the people entering into the Promised Land. God had already told him to send ahead the twelve spies for a scouting report, knowing full well in His omniscience that the report would be distorted by them, because they lacked the faith to believe and trust in Him. The servant-leader Moses follows His instructions and the results are recorded (Numbers 13).

The ten come back with a bad report, and immediately the infection of doubt and disbelief permeated the camp. Insurrection was on the rise, as the people murmured, complained, and asked for another leader to take them back to Egypt (Numbers 14:1-10). Moses and his brother Aaron fell on their faces before God, in prayer and supplication. There is no other place to turn but to the mercy of the Almighty, if Israel was to be spared from potential disaster:

“Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces in the presence of all the assembly of the congregation of the sons of Israel. Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, of those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes” (Numbers 14:5-6).

The two faithful spies, Joshua and Caleb, knew what to do when confronted with the doubts and complaining of their countrymen. They tore their clothes in a physical act of displaying great sorrow for the report of their fellow spies.

It is here, prostrated on the ground before the presence of the Almighty, that men and women of God can truly cry out to Him for His protection, wisdom, grace, mercy, and compassion for not only themselves—but for others who are walking into the jaws of judgment. There is no better place to be when one is confronted with questions about what to do in certain circumstances, than on your face imploring our Heavenly Father for answers. Only God has the answers to life’s problems and challenges, and it is through a humbled heart that He will reveal how each of us should proceed in the circumstances of life.

The example of Moses, Aaron, Joshua, and Caleb imploring God on their knees, must be taken seriously by anyone who has been given leadership responsibilities in the Body of Messiah. Prostrate yourself before the Holy One, and wait upon Him for the directions on what to do next! The Almighty appreciates this level of trust and dependence on Him. As you do this, you will discover that you begin to emulate the examples of many faithful people who preceded you in generations past.

Over time as you submit yourself to God, the Holy Spirit will reveal to you that leadership is all about serving, and that the Biblical model for leadership is all about humbling yourself, as the world rests squarely upon the shoulders of the Messiah Yeshua (Isaiah 9:6). Yeshua and He alone is holding up the rest of humanity by the word of His power (Hebrews 1:3). Yeshua is at the bottom of it all, yet because of His extreme service He is also at the very top. Via experience you will discover that in order to be called into a position of leadership like Moses, you need to learn to put yourself last and to think and pray for others ahead of yourself. You learn about the need to serve others, and the more you serve the closer you come to the ultimate position occupied by the Messiah Himself:

“It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:26-28).

The Apostles knew what service was all about, and it meant losing their lives in order to gain His life.[6] The Apostles learned that becoming servants required one to minister to the needs of the assembly with whatever was necessary. In almost all cases, it required them eventually giving up their physical lives, in order to pass on the blessings associated with pointing people to the Messiah of Israel.

Moses had a great advantage over many others in communicating with the Lord, because the Lord spoke to him face to face (Exodus 33:11). The exchanges between the Most High and Moses, as recorded in the Torah, are a unique description of a person who has been called out by Him for a huge assignment.

Today, as the Lord is molding Messianic Believers as Torah obedient followers of the Messiah Yeshua, He is surely challenging each and every one of us to exemplify the same faith and willingness to submit our wills to His will. God is training us to execute our fleshly ways, in order for the guiding power of His Holy Spirit to operate effectively through each and everyone of us. As the Apostle Paul so eloquently said,

“I have been crucified with Messiah; and it is no longer I who live, but Messiah lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Galatians 2:20).

As we learn to be led by the Spirit and to walk by the Spirit, we should find that the “buts” we express toward God become fewer and fewer. This is not to say that we understand all that our Heavenly Father requires of us as we walk out our various tasks and assignments. We do know, though, that He has a desire to use each one of us in the unique circumstances where we are placed. His basic principles do not change. Yeshua taught that if we are faithful in the little things like learning to serve others, or in Moses’ case, learning to serve sheep and then the nation of Israel—the Father is faithful to give us even greater things to serve:

“He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much. Therefore if you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous wealth, who will entrust the true riches to you? And if you have not been faithful in the use of that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own?” (Luke 16:10-12).

As we each consider this week’s Torah portion, perhaps you can think about how often you are prompted to use the word “but” when called upon to serve the Lord. Leaders in the Body of the Messiah need to be ardent followers of God, and learn to listen to His voice for instructions on how to deal with the issues of life. If the ten spies understood this principle, then perhaps Ancient Israel could have avoided a great deal of heartache during their trek to the Promised Land.

How about us today? Are we following the model of Moses, Joshua, and Caleb—all testimonies of people who learned the way to humbly serve as leaders during their generations? Are we going to be people who fall on their faces, or people who follow after the dictates of their own self-centered hearts? The answers to these questions are personal to one and all. Everyone of us has the chance to make the right choice. Nevertheless, will we?


NOTES

[1] Numbers 12:1-16.

[2] Numbers 13:1-24.

[3] Numbers 13:25-33.

[4] Heb. ki.

For a further evaluation of this term, and its wide array of usages, consult Bill T. Arnold and John H. Choi, A Guide to Biblical Hebrew Syntax (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003), pp 149-155.

[5] Conservative Bible scholars are widely agreed that given the content, this is a remark made by a post-Mosaic editor of the Pentateuch, and not by Moses himself—as the most humble man could never make such a claim.

Consult R.K. Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1969), pp 614-634; and the entry for the Book of Numbers in A Survey of the Tanach for the Practical Messianic by J.K. McKee.

[6] Matthew 10:39; 16:25; Mark 8:35; Luke 9:24; 17:33; John 12:25.

B’ha’alotkha

B’ha’alotkha

When you set up

Numbers 8:1-12:16
Zechariah 2:14-4:7

“Prophets All”


by Mark Huey
mark@outreachisrael.net

As we look at this week’s Torah portion, B’ha’alotkha or “When you set up,” we are directed to the continuing saga of Ancient Israel, and some of the trials and tribulations of its sojourn through the wilderness wanderings. Among the things we encounter, Moses is given the design for the menorah or lampstand that is to be placed in the Tent of Meeting.[1] This seven-branched candelabrum is to illuminate the Holy of Holies where the Ark of the Covenant is located. Specific instructions are given for the Levites, who are dedicated to serve the Almighty.[2] It is also noted that the requirements for sojourners who have joined themselves to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, are identical to those as the native born.[3]

In one of the unique passages of the Torah, Numbers 10:35-36 are actually separated out by two inverted Hebrew letter nuns.[4] These are editorial markers that have been placed in the text by copyists, to denote that this is something which needs to be paid attention to:

V’yehi binso’a ha’aron v’yomer Moshe, “Qumah ADONAI v’yafutzu o’vekha v’yanusu mesanekha mipanekha, u’venuchoh yomar shuvah ADONAI riv’vot alfei Yisrael

Numbers 10:35-36 are certainly important verses in the Torah, communicating how Ancient Israel would move in the desert, and they implore God to protect Israel from its enemies:

“Thus they set out from the mount of the LORD three days’ journey, with the ark of the covenant of the LORD journeying in front of them for the three days, to seek out a resting place for them. The cloud of the LORD was over them by day when they set out from the camp. Then it came about when the ark set out that Moses said, ‘Rise up, O LORD! And let Your enemies be scattered, and let those who hate You flee before You.’ When it came to rest, he said, ‘Return, O LORD, to the myriad thousands of Israel’” (Numbers 10:33-36).

A theological explanation, for the two inverted nuns, is obviously so that Torah readers can pay attention to the significance of these verses.[5] Textual explanations also exist, in that there is some doubt as to whether or not Numbers 10:35-36 are actually in their correct place within the Hebrew text, possibly being dislocated,[6] as the Greek Septuagint testifies to a slightly different arrangement for Numbers 10:33-36. This is not at all something, though, that communicates any difference of content:

[33] And they departed from the mount of the Lord a three days’ journey; and the ark of the covenant of the Lord went before them a three days’ journey to provide rest for them. [35] And it came to pass when the ark set forward, that Moses said, Arise, O Lord, and let thine enemies be scattered: let all that hate thee flee. [36] And in the resting he said, Turn again, O Lord, the thousands and tens of thousands in Israel. [34] And the cloud overshadowed them by day, when they departed from the camp.[7]

From Numbers 10:35-36, we see a significant declaration issued by Moses, indicating how critical it would be for the Israelites to appeal to the Lord and His power prior to moving the Ark of the Covenant. These verses undoubtedly communicate a sincere reverence for the Word of God, and its Divine inspiration. By remembering that God has the power to scatter the enemies of His people, each of us today must entreat the Holy One to protect us and preserve us—as opposed to us relying on our own human strength. It should not be surprising for us to know that Numbers 10:35-36 is recited, along with Micah 4:1-3 and Isaiah 2:2-4, every Shabbat in the traditional liturgy of the Jewish Synagogue before the Torah scroll is removed for reading.[8]

Following this important word, B’ha’alotkha now turns to the incessant complaints of the Israelites, and how the Lord dealt with their insurrection and demands for food and the culinary comforts of Egypt.[9] The introduction of the quail for food, and the response of Moses to the judgment that is meted out upon these recalcitrant people, gives us a real sense of Moses’ heart and love for them. Moses has a real willingness to step out for the Israelites, in spite of their negative and thankless attitudes:

“So Moses said to the LORD, ‘Why have You been so hard on Your servant? And why have I not found favor in Your sight, that You have laid the burden of all this people on me? Was it I who conceived all this people? Was it I who brought them forth, that You should say to me, “Carry them in your bosom as a nurse carries a nursing infant, to the land which You swore to their fathers”? Where am I to get meat to give to all this people? For they weep before me, saying, “Give us meat that we may eat!” I alone am not able to carry all this people, because it is too burdensome for me. So if You are going to deal thus with me, please kill me at once, if I have found favor in Your sight, and do not let me see my wretchedness’” (Numbers 11:11-15).

At this point in Israel’s experiences, we see that Moses is ready to offer himself for the needs of his people. The solution to the frustration that Moses felt, even though he surely served Israel without reservation, was that Moses’ leadership responsibilities would be divided among seventy elders. Moses would not have to lead Ancient Israel, presumably mostly by himself:

“The LORD therefore said to Moses, ‘Gather for Me seventy men from the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and their officers and bring them to the tent of meeting, and let them take their stand there with you. Then I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take of the Spirit who is upon you, and will put Him upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, so that you will not bear it all alone’” (Numbers 11:16-17).

As you consider the requirements for leadership in the camp of Ancient Israel, you can read that Moses simply knew who those were, intended to be chosen to “have experience as elders and officers of the people” (NJPS). Moses chose individuals of the highest caliber. The instructions witnessed in the Torah, for the leaders of Ancient Israel, affected later generations of Israelites as the Promised Land was settled, as well as informed the leadership structures of the Jewish Synagogue during the time of Yeshua and the emerging Messianic movement of the First Century.

After Moses chose the seventy elders who would assist with the administration of the Ancient Israelites, the Holy One then was able to pour out His Spirit upon them. As a result of this occurring, we see that various individuals in the camp of Israel began to prophesy:

“So Moses went out and told the people the words of the LORD. Also, he gathered seventy men of the elders of the people, and stationed them around the tent. Then the LORD came down in the cloud and spoke to him; and He took of the Spirit who was upon him and placed Him upon the seventy elders. And when the Spirit rested upon them, they prophesied. But they did not do it again. But two men had remained in the camp; the name of one was Eldad and the name of the other Medad. And the Spirit rested upon them (now they were among those who had been registered, but had not gone out to the tent), and they prophesied in the camp. So a young man ran and told Moses and said, ‘Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.’ Then Joshua the son of Nun, the attendant of Moses from his youth, said, ‘Moses, my lord, restrain them.’ But Moses said to him, ‘Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the LORD’s people were prophets, that the LORD would put His Spirit upon them!’ Then Moses returned to the camp, both he and the elders of Israel” (Numbers 11:24-30).

In an incredible display of God’s grace toward His people, He placed His Spirit upon the seventy elders who had been selected for leadership. Apparently, there were two who were chosen to lead, but who did not attend the initial outpouring of the Spirit upon the other sixty-eight. All of a sudden within the camp, Eldad and Medad were found prophesying in the camp, and Joshua came and reported this activity to Moses, having thought that perhaps they were out of order.

The response of Moses is quite interesting, as he admonished Joshua for his concern. Moses already knew that God wanted the seventy to help lead Israel. Moses’ response, “I wish that all the LORD’s people were prophets and that the LORD would put his Spirit on them!” (Numbers 11:29, NIV), indicates that he was desiring all of Israel to be in a position to prophesy or speak forth God’s truth with clarity.

Being able to speak forth important admonitions, from the Lord, is something that our Heavenly Father surely desires for all of His children. In the Apostle Paul’s description of various ministry functions within the Body of Messiah—whether one is an apostle, a prophet, an evangelist, or a pastor or a teacher—all are to be guided by the Holy Spirit and speak forth the Lord’s message with clarity and maturity:

“And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Messiah; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Messiah. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Messiah” (Ephesians 4:11-15).

The goal of these, and various other jobs to be performed within the Body of Messiah, is so that all Believers may attain unity within the faith, and be mature. All of the Believers, properly functioning together, are to necessarily point to the Head or the Source of all: Yeshua the Messiah (Jesus Christ).

One of the critical aspects required for any leadership position, within the Body of Messiah, is the ability to speak forth God’s truth in love. The only way to do this is by allowing the agapē love of the Holy Spirit to speak through us. This requires a person not only to be born again, but also to be committed to a life of holiness and steady growth in the Lord. Just like Moses desired that all of Israel would prophesy, so too are gifts of prophecy and many others, to be present among the community of Messiah followers today.

The other Apostles also give us fair warning about the need to be able to discern what are truly genuine words originating from the Spirit of God, and what are not. The Apostle Peter warns about the need to discern between a true prophetic utterance and what is not, emphasizing how he was present at the Mount of Transfiguration when he saw Yeshua the Messiah in all of His exalted glory:

“For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, such an utterance as this was made to Him by the Majestic Glory, ‘This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased’—and we ourselves heard this utterance made from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain. So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God” (2 Peter 1:16-21).

In this day and age, when we have been warned incessantly throughout the Scriptures that many false teachers and false prophets will arise to deceive people, we need to be mindful of the imperative to check everything we hear through the grid of the Bible. This is why it is so critical that we establish a working knowledge of Scripture, beginning with the laws of the Torah, and consistent with the actual Prophets and Apostles of God themselves. Here is an extremely worthwhile example to consider, because it is very clear that God Himself is going to send false signs and wonders to test His people, and determine if they are following Him or some other spirit:

“If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods (whom you have not known) and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the LORD your God is testing you to find out if you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall follow the LORD your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him” (Deuteronomy 13:1-4).

Imagine a statute of “the Virgin Mary” crying with actual tears coming from the stone or marble. To many in the world, this sounds like a tremendous sign or miracle that one might even witness with his or her very own eyes. What is one to do, especially when the people who are showing you this sign are trying to impress you?

First of all, given the fact that there have been many “manufactured miracles” witnessed in the course of Roman Catholic history, it is appropriate that a critical person question whether something supernatural has really transpired. There are many perceived supernatural or spiritual occurrences, which are actually man-made.

Secondly, just because something “supernatural” occurs, does not automatically mean that it originates from God. Those who know the Torah, or Law of God, should be instinctly aware of the Second Commandment, and its prohibition of making statutes or carved images to be used in worship:

“You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth” (Exodus 20:4; cf. Deuteronomy 5:8-9).

When you know that God does not permit graven images to be used for, or in, worship, a statue of the Virgin Mary apparently crying can be immediately disregarded as originating from Him. This is something that would violate the Second Commandment.

Can you think of any other examples of so-called “signs” or “miracles” that might occur today, but clearly do not align with the character of the Holy Scriptures, or the testimonies that it gives us of the kinds of signs we should legitimately expect to see? There are probably many supernatural occurrences you have either seen or witnessed, which are “supernatural” only in the sense that human beings are not responsible for them—and they actually come from the forces of darkness. It is a sobering and scary thought, but we each need to realize that demonic signs will actually become more treacherous, slippery, and commonplace the sooner we get to the return of Yeshua. The need to know what the Scriptures say about these things is absolutely critical, for discerning what is from the Lord, and also what is from the Adversary. Yeshua Himself warned His Disciples that false signs will be prevalent in the Last Days:

“For false messiahs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect. Behold, I have told you beforehand. If therefore they say to you, ‘Behold, He is in the wilderness,’ do not go forth, or, ‘Behold, He is in the inner chambers,’ do not believe it” (Matthew 24:24-26).

This is a stern warning that false messiahs and false prophets “will appear and produce great signs and omens” (NRSV) that will challenge the elect of God to discern from where these manifestations emanate. I would urge you to be warned of many false signs and wonders that do not line up with instruction of God in the Torah, or any part of the Bible for that matter. For those of us who are trying to reestablish a firm foundation for our faith, we should exhibit some skepticism when we hear about many of the “miracles” present throughout Pentecostal and charismatic Christianity today. Are they genuine, or are they deception?

We need to all know the Word of God and inculcate it into our hearts and minds every day! Certainly, Moses desired that all would prophesy. But, he also wanted all to be filled with God’s Holy Spirit, as the Spirit through His people would do the prophesying. This is available today as we submit our wills to His will. As we seek to be led by the Spirit and walk by the Spirit, we can let all of the Lord’s words come forth from our innermost being. May this be the testimony for one and all!


NOTES

[1] Numbers 8:1-4.

[2] Numbers 8:5-26.

[3] Cf. Numbers 9:14.

[4] See Karl Elliger and Wilhelm Rudolph, et. al., eds., Biblica Hebraica Stuttgartensia (Stuttgart: Deutche Bibelgesellschaft, 1977), 231; and Aron Dotan, ed., Biblia Hebraica Leningradensia (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2001), 213.

[5] Cf. Hertz, Pentateuch & Haftorahs, 613.

[6] Cf. Kelley, Mynatt, and Crawford, pp 34-35.

[7] Sir Lancelot C. L. Brenton, ed & trans., The Septuagint With Apocrypha (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1999), 188.

[8] Hertz, The Authorised Daily Prayer Book, pp 473-475; Scherman and Zlotowitz, Complete ArtScroll Siddur, pp 471-473; Harlow, Siddur Sim Shalom, 139.

[9] Numbers 11:1-35.

May 2017 Outreach Israel News


OIM Update

May 2017

This month, as the Omer Count heads towards Shavuot at the end of the month, the State of Israel will be celebrating its Memorial Day (Yom HaZikuran on May 1st), Independence Day (Yom HaMatza’ut on May 2nd), and Jerusalem Day (Yom Yerushalayim on May 24th). These are special occasions when Israelis commemorate the 69th anniversary of the reconstitution of the State of Israel in 1948, and the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Jerusalem from the Jordanians during the Six Day War of 1967. As followers of Yeshua the Messiah, who consider circumstances that affect Israel and the city of Jerusalem to be of profound prophetic importance, I want to encourage everyone to pray for the peace of Jerusalem during this season of significant stirring among the peoples of the Earth:

“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: ‘May they prosper who love you. May peace be within your walls, and prosperity within your palaces.’ For the sake of my brothers and my friends, I will now say, ‘May peace be within you.’ For the sake of the house of the LORD our God, I will seek your good” (Psalm 122:6-9).

In addition to these Israeli commemorations, Donald Trump, the newest President of the United States, will be embarking on his first international excursion to visit the Middle East and Europe. Providentially, his first stop will be in Saudi Arabia, followed by a day-and-a-half in Israel, including Jerusalem, to meet with Israel’s prime minister and president, as well as the leader of the Palestinian Authority. As it just so happens, these encounters will occur a day before the 50th anniversary of Jerusalem Day. The Holy One of Israel is not a God of coincidence, but instead, uniquely residing in the Heavenly realm, allows events to transpire on Earth that can and should be a “sign” to those viewing things through spiritual eyes. Hence, despite the anticipated discomfort that will be expressed by those opposed to the Almighty One, perhaps we all need to be reminded of what the Psalmist says about the other nations of the world:

“Why are the nations in an uproar and the peoples devising a vain thing? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers take counsel together against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying, ‘Let us tear their fetters apart and cast away their cords from us!’ He who sits in the heavens laughs, the Lord scoffs at them. Then He will speak to them in His anger and terrify them in His fury, saying, ‘But as for Me, I have installed My King upon Zion, My holy mountain.’ ‘I will surely tell of the decree of the LORD: He said to Me, “You are My Son, today I have begotten You. Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, and the very ends of the earth as Your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron, you shall shatter them like earthenware.”’ Now therefore, O kings, show discernment; take warning, O judges of the earth. Worship the Lord with reverence and rejoice with trembling. Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way, for His wrath may soon be kindled. How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!” (Psalm 2:1-12).

I am not one to speculate on “jubilee” years (fiftieth years: Leviticus 25:10), because quite frankly, it is difficult to know God’s timing on any number of things. But it is a historical fact that in December 1917, General Allenby entered into the city of Jerusalem, as the besieged Turks of the Ottoman Empire were retreating toward the end of World War I. Fifty years later in 1967, the Jordanians were defeated by the Israeli Defense Forces and retreated back to Jordan, east of the Jordan River. Needless to say, I believe the Lord wants His people to be aware of what is physically and spiritually taking place, and to pray for the peace of Jerusalem and for safety for those traveling to Israel. In addition, the American President needs incredible wisdom from above regarding his “campaign promise” to relocate the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Please pray that godly counsel will be forthcoming, and that it will line up with God’s perfect will for Israel and Jerusalem at this point in time!

This month’s lead article is entitled, “God’s Just Restitution,” and deals with the Holy One restoring the wealth of the nations to the Land of Promise. In addition, we want to encourage everyone to download the new Messianic Apologetics app for their iPhone or Android. It is available for free in both the iTunes store and on Google Play! Due to our growing associations with Messianic Jewish Believers and leaders over the past few years, we will be focusing more efforts on how we can make a substantial contribution to Jewish outreach and evangelism, particularly in as it involves the nature of Yeshua, His Messiahship, and Bible difficulties. This is very exciting!

Please continue to support our efforts with your financial contributions! Without your offerings and gifts, it would be difficult to dedicate the time and energy to produce our many educational resources. Thank you in advance for your partnership with our ministry endeavors!

“The LORD bless you, and keep you; the LORD make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up His countenance on you, and give you peace” (Numbers 6:24-26).

Shalom and blessings,

Mark Huey


God’s Just Restitution

by Mark Huey

In recent weeks—initially prompted by the term “restitution” in a casual conversation about returning the wealth of the nations to the people and Land of Israel—the concept of God’s absolutely “just restitution” began to reverberate in my mind. After all, there have been a few verses found in the Book of Acts which have been a significant part of motivating many of my ministerial efforts over the past twenty years. Here, in the Apostle Peter’s post-resurrection declaration to those gathered at Solomon’s portico near the Temple Mount, after a man lame from birth is healed, Peter made the following statements, as they appear in the New American Standard Bible:

“But the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Messiah would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; and that He may send Yeshua, the Messiah appointed for you, whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time” (Acts 3:18-21).

The Greek term apokatastasis, rendered as “restoration” in the NASU, appears as “restitution” in the old King James Version:

“Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began” (Acts 3:21 KJV).

While this difference of translation might not seem especially noteworthy to most casual observers of the Holy Writ, it made a huge difference in my thinking. For years, when I considered the “restoration” of all things, I primarily thought about “restoration” in terms of making things right according to God’s original plan for the created order. Grand actions like returning the Earth to its Garden of Eden state, or more simply restoring an antique or refurbishing an old home or structure, or remaking things right according to the Creator’s design—permeated my thoughts. However, this rather limited understanding never once conceptualized the inevitability or possibility of God’s fiscal “restitution” of all things to God’s chosen people. But now in the context of discussing what has transpired in the State of Israel since its reconstitution in 1948, and the ongoing renaissance of the land, economy, and people, I started to consider the pecuniary meaning of the Scripture. In other words, when I saw apokatastasis translated as restitution instead of restoration, my mind quickly flashed on scriptures about the “wealth” of the sinner, and the “wealth” of the nations, unlike never before:

“And the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous” (Proverbs 13:22).

“Foreigners will build up your walls, and their kings will minister to you; for in My wrath I struck you, and in My favor I have had compassion on you. Your gates will be open continually; they will not be closed day or night, so that men may bring to you the wealth of the nations, with their kings led in procession. For the nation and the kingdom which will not serve you will perish, and the nations will be utterly ruined” (Isaiah 60:10-12).

“Then they will rebuild the ancient ruins, they will raise up the former devastations; and they will repair the ruined cities, the desolations of many generations. Strangers will stand and pasture your flocks, and foreigners will be your farmers and your vinedressers. But you will be called the priests of the LORD; You will be spoken of as ministers of our God. You will eat the wealth of nations, and in their riches you will boast” (Isaiah 61:4-6).

“‘As for the promise which I made you when you came out of Egypt, My Spirit is abiding in your midst; do not fear!’ For thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘Once more in a little while, I am going to shake the heavens and the earth, the sea also and the dry land. I will shake all the nations; and they will come with the wealth of all nations, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the LORD of hosts” (Haggai 2:5-7).

In addition, one comment in the conversation referenced above about the pattern of “restitution” found in the Apostolic Scriptures, created another stir in my thoughts. This was a reminder about how the Apostle Paul brought back alms and gifts from the nations to the poor in Jerusalem:

“Now, brethren, we wish to make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the assemblies of Macedonia, that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality. For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability, they gave of their own accord, begging us with much urging for the favor of participation in the support of the saints, and this, not as we had expected, but they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God” (2 Corinthians 8:1-5).

“Now after several years I [Paul] came to bring alms to my nation and to present offerings” (Acts 24:17).

All of a sudden, I was reflecting upon some recent studies and teachings about how the Jews had plundered the Persians found in the Book of Esther, or how the Israelites had plundered the Egyptians before departing in Exodus:

“In them the king granted the Jews who were in each and every city the right to assemble and to defend their lives, to destroy, to kill and to annihilate the entire army of any people or province which might attack them, including children and women, and to plunder their spoil, on one day in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month (that is, the month Adar)” (Esther 8:11-12).

“I will grant this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians; and it shall be that when you go, you will not go empty-handed. But every woman shall ask of her neighbor and the woman who lives in her house, articles of silver and articles of gold, and clothing; and you will put them on your sons and daughters. Thus you will plunder the Egyptians” (Exodus 3:21-22).

I began to wonder if there were some kind of pattern emerging. I thought about the Babylonian captivity and how after the prophesied seventy year banishment, King Cyrus actually financed the return of the Jews to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple:

“Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he sent a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and also put it in writing, saying: ‘Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, “The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and He has appointed me to build Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever there is among you of all His people, may his God be with him! Let him go up to Jerusalem which is in Judah and rebuild the house of the LORD, the God of Israel; He is the God who is in Jerusalem. Every survivor, at whatever place he may live, let the men of that place support him with silver and gold, with goods and cattle, together with a freewill offering for the house of God which is in Jerusalem.”’ Then the heads of fathers’ households of Judah and Benjamin and the priests and the Levites arose, even everyone whose spirit God had stirred to go up and rebuild the house of the LORD which is in Jerusalem. All those about them encouraged them with articles of silver, with gold, with goods, with cattle and with valuables, aside from all that was given as a freewill offering. Also King Cyrus brought out the articles of the house of the LORD, which Nebuchadnezzar had carried away from Jerusalem and put in the house of his gods; and Cyrus, king of Persia, had them brought out by the hand of Mithredath the treasurer, and he counted them out to Sheshbazzar, the prince of Judah. Now this was their number: 30 gold dishes, 1,000 silver dishes, 29 duplicates; 30 gold bowls, 410 silver bowls of a second kind and 1,000 other articles.  All the articles of gold and silver numbered 5,400. Sheshbazzar brought them all up with the exiles who went up from Babylon to Jerusalem” (Ezra 1:1-11).

This new and expanded perspective—which included both physical restoration and wealth restitution—opened up an entirely different layer of thinking about what has been happening in the past few centuries, as the specific prophecies about giving the Land of Promise to the descendants of Abraham are taking place right before our eyes:

“And He said to him, ‘I am the LORD who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess it’” (Genesis 15:7).

But in addition to God’s absolute promises to Abraham about the ultimate destiny of the land he was given, there are additional promises found in these profound verses when Abram is called out of the relative comfort of Ur of the Chaldeans.

“Now the LORD said to Abram, ‘Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you; and I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing; and I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed” (Genesis 12:1-3).

Here, in promises spoken to Abram which are quoted often when seeking support of all types from the nations of the world, the nation birthed out of Abram’s loins is logically considered to be Israel. In particular, the concept of God blessing those who bless Abram and his offspring (nation), and/or on the other hand, curse those who curse Israel, has been clearly evident down through the millennia. The Holy Scriptures and world history are replete with vivid examples of peoples or societies being blessed for helping Israel or the Jewish people, or cursed for cursing the descendents of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

However, the very simplistic axiom used to generate support for Israel does not always take into account other Scriptures, that refer to God using others to reprimand or punish His people when they are disobedient to His Word:

“So all these curses shall come on you and pursue you and overtake you until you are destroyed, because you would not obey the LORD your God by keeping His commandments and His statutes which He commanded you. They shall become a sign and a wonder on you and your descendants forever. Because you did not serve the LORD your God with joy and a glad heart, for the abundance of all things; therefore you shall serve your enemies whom the LORD will send against you, in hunger, in thirst, in nakedness, and in the lack of all things; and He will put an iron yoke on your neck until He has destroyed you. The LORD will bring a nation against you from afar, from the end of the earth, as the eagle swoops down, a nation whose language you shall not understand, a nation of fierce countenance who will have no respect for the old, nor show favor to the young” (Deuteronomy 28:45-50).

In these revealing statements made by Moses toward the end of the forty year desert sojourn, the Israelites are warned that disobedience to the Holy One would have its consequences. As ancient history has shown, God has used groups like the Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Greeks, and Romans, to chastise Israel. Hence, an omniscient, Creator God is not constrained by one simple statement, found in Genesis 12:3, but is infinitely more complex as He deals with human interactions down through the ages.

Consequently, I was humbly led to consider how God’s “just restitution” works in light of my finite understanding of His magnificent ways! After all, the Ancient of Days is actually keeping an account of all that occurs in the Creation. Nothing happens without it being recorded in the annals of God’s memory. Therefore, since He is the only just and righteous Judge who sits on the Throne, the children of God are forever grateful that mercy, grace, and lovingkindness are additional godly attributes which lead to salvation through belief in the atonement provided by Yeshua’s sacrifice.

When one considers the great themes of the Holy Scriptures, many ardent students of the Word concede that love or lovingkindness is by far the most prominent message God communicates to humanity in His Word. After all, if you read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, Scripture in many regards is a lengthy love letter from Creation to the Eternal State. However, among the other subjects, which usher forth from the various authors chosen to reveal the heart of the Almighty One, are the often-coupled attributes of justice and righteousness. In fact, when one does a word search for justice and righteousness, one discovers that nearly one hundred times in the Hebrew text God links these two characteristics of a “just” and “righteous” Creator God. Note that father Abraham was actually chosen to be the precursor of the chosen nation, because of his willingness to command and teach his household this critical way of the Lord:

“For I have chosen him, so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring upon Abraham what He has spoken about him” (Genesis 18:19).

This responsibility of Abraham, resulting in the earlier words spoken to him referencing blessings or curses that had been spoken about him in Genesis 12:2-3, is found in this passage after God has altered his name from a father of nation, to a multitude of nations:

“Now when Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, ‘I am God Almighty; walk before Me, and be blameless. I will establish My covenant between Me and you, and I will multiply you exceedingly.’ Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him, saying, ‘As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you will be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I will make you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make nations of you, and kings will come forth from you. I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you. I will give to you and to your descendants after you, the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.’ God said further to Abraham, ‘Now as for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations’” (Genesis 17:1-9).

In this passage, God reaffirms His promises of all the land of Canaan to Abraham’s descendants, which eventually form the nation of Israel. Thus, the compliance with justice and righteousness become a pillar of the nation called out to be a light unto all the other nations. Just note the coupling of justice and righteousness references found in the Proverbs and Psalms, which are some of the foundational building blocks used to teach the children of Israel the ways of the Lord, and describe the reward for being just and righteous:

“My son, if you will receive my words and treasure my commandments within you, make your ear attentive to wisdom, incline your heart to understanding; for if you cry for discernment, lift your voice for understanding; if you seek her as silver and search for her as for hidden treasures; then you will discern the fear of the LORD and discover the knowledge of God. For the LORD gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding. He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice, and He preserves the way of His godly ones. Then you will discern righteousness and justice and equity and every good course. For wisdom will enter your heart and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul; discretion will guard you, understanding will watch over you” (Proverbs 2:1-11).

“To do righteousness and justice is desired by the LORD more than sacrifice” (Proverbs 21:3).

“Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; lovingkindness and truth go before You” (Psalm 89:14).

“How blessed are those who keep justice, who practice righteousness at all times!” (Psalm 106:3).

“For the LORD loves justice and does not forsake His godly ones; they are preserved forever, but the descendants of the wicked will be cut off. The righteous will inherit the land and dwell in it forever” (Psalm 37:28-29).

Justice and righteousness are godly attributes which define what the Prophet Isaiah references throughout his declarations. Here are a few Scriptures which reflect the ultimate restoration of all things, including the arrival of the Messiah, as a child and a Servant:

“Therefore the Lord GOD of hosts, the Mighty One of Israel, declares, ‘Ah, I will be relieved of My adversaries and avenge Myself on My foes. I will also turn My hand against you, and will smelt away your dross as with lye and will remove all your alloy. Then I will restore your judges as at the first, and your counselors as at the beginning; after that you will be called the city of righteousness, a faithful city.’ Zion will be redeemed with justice and her repentant ones with righteousness” (Isaiah 1:24-27).

“For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this” (Isaiah 9:6-7).

“Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold; My chosen one in whom My soul delights. I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry out or raise His voice, nor make His voice heard in the street. A bruised reed He will not break and a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish; He will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not be disheartened or crushed until He has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands will wait expectantly for His law.’ Thus says God the LORD, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and its offspring, who gives breath to the people on it and spirit to those who walk in it, ‘I am the LORD, I have called you in righteousness, I will also hold you by the hand and watch over you, and I will appoint you as a covenant to the people, as a light to the nations, to open blind eyes, to bring out prisoners from the dungeon and those who dwell in darkness from the prison. ‘I am the LORD, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another, nor My praise to graven images’” (Isaiah 42:1-8).

Nevertheless, with justice and righteousness as fundamental aspects of the chosen people, one must remember that God alone is the ultimate righteous judge and arbiter of humanity, as referenced in these Scriptures from multiple sources:

“For He pays a man according to his work, and makes him find it according to his way” (Job 34:10-11).

“And lovingkindness is Yours, O Lord, for You recompense a man according to his work” (Psalm 62:12).

“Ah Lord GOD! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for You, who shows lovingkindness to thousands, but repays the iniquity of fathers into the bosom of their children after them, O great and mighty God. The LORD of hosts is His name; great in counsel and mighty in deed, whose eyes are open to all the ways of the sons of men, giving to everyone according to his ways and according to the fruit of his deeds” (Jeremiah 32:17-19).

“Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not right.’ O house of Israel, I will judge each of you according to his ways” (Ezekiel 33:20).

“For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and WILL THEN REPAY EVERY MAN ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS [Psalm 28:4; 62:12; Proverbs 24:12] (Matthew 16:27).

“who WILL RENDER TO EACH PERSON ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS [Psalm 62:12; Proverbs 24:12]” (Romans 2:6).

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Messiah, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10).

“Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done” (Revelation 22:12).

The Holy One of Israel is keeping an account of not only everything that occurs in the Creation, but also everything that a person does. This allows Him and Him alone to be the righteous Judge of humanity.

So with God’s justice and righteousness being recognized with His ultimate restitution of all things factored into the equation, my reasoned conclusion was that God was in the process of returning the wealth of the nations to the Land of Promise. In a very unique sort of way, God was following the pattern found in the Holy Scriptures to use those who believed in Him, to be somewhat like agents of the restitution process. In examples from the history of Israel, God would choose certain Israelites or Jews to be the bearer of valuable objects (gold, silver, precious stones, etc.) to return those resources to the Promised Land. Prior to the coming of Yeshua, God first restored the Jews back to the Land of Israel. But because they were unable to adhere to God’s commandments, they were eventually scattered to the nations, before returning, just as foretold in the Torah by Moses:

“So it shall be when all of these things have come upon you, the blessing and the curse which I have set before you, and you call them to mind in all nations where the LORD your God has banished you, and you return to the LORD your God and obey Him with all your heart and soul according to all that I command you today, you and your sons, then the LORD your God will restore you from captivity, and have compassion on you, and will gather you again from all the peoples where the LORD your God has scattered you. If your outcasts are at the ends of the earth, from there the LORD your God will gather you, and from there He will bring you back. The LORD your God will bring you into the land which your fathers possessed, and you shall possess it; and He will prosper you and multiply you more than your fathers. Moreover the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, so that you may live. The LORD your God will inflict all these curses on your enemies and on those who hate you, who persecuted you. And you shall again obey the LORD, and observe all His commandments which I command you today. Then the LORD your God will prosper you abundantly in all the work of your hand, in the offspring of your body and in the offspring of your cattle and in the produce of your ground, for the LORD will again rejoice over you for good, just as He rejoiced over your fathers” (Deuteronomy 30:1-9).

After Yeshua’s resurrection, God began to use followers of the Messiah like the Apostle Paul, to begin to bring the wealth of the nations back, as evidenced by some of the offerings which were taken to help the poor in Jerusalem. However, this pattern had a rather lengthy hiatus for nearly nineteen hundred years until the late 1800s when God began moving on Zionistic Jews, encouraged by non-Jewish Believers in the Messiah, to begin returning to the Holy Land. In 1947, the gruesome world affairs of the Twentieth Century fostered an atmosphere for the world to narrowly agree that the Jewish people deserved some land in what had become known as Palestine. But make no mistake about it: the preservation of the Holy Scriptures and the increasing effectiveness of the gospel to the nations at large, allowed the Holy Spirit to convince people in positions of political influence to protect the nascent State of Israel after it was finally birthed in 1948.

Today, approaching the seventieth year since the reconstitution of Israel, the increase in wealth is palpable. From all corners of the globe, believing individuals—and even many countries themselves—are sending financial support to help those with physical needs, who are being gathered back to the Promised Land. The prophecies found throughout the Holy Scriptures are being fulfilled right before the knowing eyes of those sensitive to the teaching and revelation of the Holy Spirit. Of course, the ultimate restoration of all things will not occur until the return of the Messiah after the horrific events revealed in the Book of Revelation. But for those who believe that Jacob’s distress (Jeremiah 30:7) is synonymous to the time of Great Tribulation (Revelation 7:14) found at the End of the Age, there is every sound reason to prepare to endure. Personally, I believe that there has emerged a group of saints who are forerunners of the end-time Believers who will have a testimony of Yeshua and obey His commandments (Revelation 12:17; 14:12). The relatively young Messianic Jewish community of faith has the hallmarks of this prophesied group of followers of the Messiah.

To conclude, one must always admit that we see through a glass darkly or a mirror dimly (1 Corinthians 13:12) depending on the translation referenced, when trying to understand what we think we are seeing or perceiving. Hence, when a simple word like apokatastasis translated differently sparks thoughts unexplored, you wonder if you are simply heading down a rabbit trail or whether there is some truth to where you have traveled. In this case, the study of God’s “just restitution” has been a tremendous reminder that the Holy One of Israel ultimately executes perfect justice coupled with absolute righteousness. I am thankful for the prompting to reflect on the Word of God, and pray that in so doing, I will be more conformed to the image of Yeshua. I hope that I might better reflect these words from Jeremiah, and become a delight to the Holy One of Israel:

“Thus says the LORD, ‘Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,’ declares the LORD” (Jeremiah 9:23-24).

Naso

Naso

Take

Numbers 4:21-7:89
Judges 13:2-25

“A Prayer of Peace”


by Mark Huey
mark@outreachisrael.net

This week’s Torah portion, Naso or “Take,” has a diverse variety of subjects to contemplate. It begins by completing the instructions about the Levites that concluded Bamidbar (Numbers 1:1-4:20).[1] This census has been conducted to number the three Levite clans that were responsible for the Tabernacle and its transportation. The Gershonites, the Merarites, and the Kohathites have each been given specific duties and tasks.[2] Interestingly, unlike some of the other Israelites who were qualified for military service and numbered from twenty years and older, the Levites were numbered from the age of thirty to the age of fifty (Numbers 4:3). Apparently, the rigorous tasks of handling the Tabernacle required considerable strength, which is something that can be realized when one sees how the term rendered as “service,” tzavah, can also mean “army service” (CHALOT).[3] This does not necessarily mean that the Levitical priests would fight in battle, but the degree of dedication and rigor was certainly no different than being a soldier. Jacob Milgrom observes how Levites who were older than fifty did not necessarily “retire,” but instead acted as mentors, while handling some of the liturgical responsibilities of canting and reciting various psalms:

“A Levite male, in the prime of his life, during the years from 30 to 50, would be given responsibility for the arduous tasks of maintaining the tabernacle (and later the Temple). After age 50, his new tasks would require more wisdom and less physical strength: singing the Psalms, opening and closing the gates, and acting as mentor to younger Levites.”[4]

As each of us advances in age, in our service to the Lord, what new opportunities might He open up for us?

Numbers ch. 5 continues our parashah and explains in detail what is commonly referred to as the “law of jealousy.” Here, specific instructions deal with a ritual that is performed in the event a husband is suspicious of his wife’s fidelity. Numbers ch. 6 describes Nazirite vows, with the specific requirements laid forth that are to be performed by the men and women who seek to dedicate themselves to the Lord in this special ritual. At the end of this chapter, what is commonly known as the “Aaronic Benediction” is recorded (Numbers 6:22-27). Finally, Numbers ch. 7 describes what is dedicated to the Lord by each of the different tribes as the Tabernacle is finished and consecrated. A tremendous statement by Moses that indicates how intimately the Lord communicated with him, concludes this parashah:

“Now when Moses went into the tent of meeting to speak with Him, he heard the voice speaking to him from above the mercy seat that was on the ark of the testimony, from between the two cherubim, so He spoke to him” (Numbers 7:89).

The Power of the Aaronic Benediction

I could spend a great deal of time contemplating the nuances of the Levitical census, the particulars of the “law of jealousy,” a deeper meaning of the Nazirite vow, or even different aspects of the offerings made by the twelve tribes as the Tabernacle is set apart. However, as it so happens, in the past few days a very special event has occurred with my daughter Maggie, which allows me to instead focus on the blessing that Aaron was originally commanded to speak over the people of Ancient Israel.

This past week (2006), in conjunction with our local commemoration of the Feast of Weeks or Shavuot, my fourteen year-old daughter Maggie participated in her bat mitzvah here in Orlando. As a part of her ceremony, she not only delivered a short teaching on the Torah portion, Naso, after reading the first few verses in Hebrew, but she also canted the Aaronic benediction in Hebrew. As you can imagine, this was a very special time for our family.

This event, in many ways, marks a milestone for our family. Maggie will be the first child in her generation to have gone through the formality of becoming a “daughter of the commandments.” For nearly eleven years (since 1995), our family has been faithfully involved in the Messianic movement, as we have grown in our understanding of how the Father truly wants us to conduct our lives. While we have each had baptisms, dedications, and various religious confirmations over the years (which are somewhat close to the tradition of bar/bat mitzvah), this is the first time that someone in our family will have come full circle in our return to the ways of Yeshua and His Jewish Disciples.

Maggie was just three years old when we first began attending a Messianic Jewish congregation. Her testimony, which was a part of her dedication, included her impressions about the very first time she heard a Messianic Jewish rabbi utter the Aaronic blessing over our family in the assembly when she was not even four years old. Over the years, Maggie has become thoroughly “Messianic,” as she now excels in Davidic dance.

Until I read Maggie’s testimony, I never fully realized how she was impacted as a small child by the Aaronic Benediction that was proclaimed over us weekly in our early days in the Messianic community. To me, I am extremely blessed to now know that she was sincerely moved by these proclamations. For her to have this particular Torah portion as her bat mitzvah reading is very special to our family.

In the midst of describing the census of the Levites, the law of jealousy, the Nazirite vows, and the Tabernacle dedication materials offered by the various tribes—there is a pause in the narrative of Naso that inserts this special prayer that was to be uttered by the high priest over Israel. Here is the instruction:

Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to Aaron and to his sons, saying, ‘Thus you shall bless the sons of Israel. You shall say to them: The Lord bless you, and keep you; the Lord make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance on you, and give you peace.’ So they shall invoke My name on the sons of Israel, and I then will bless them” (Numbers 6:22-27).

Y’varekh’kha ADONAI v’yishmerekha.

Ya’er ADONAI panav eleikha vichunekha.

Yissa ADONAI panav eleikha v’yasem l’kha shalom.

In this prayer to be declared over the Israelites, the priest is directed to bless his listeners with specific words. He is to invoke the blessings of the Lord, by asking the Lord to bless the people and to reveal Himself to them by His peace. No other blessing can be greater, than the one of being blessed by the Heavenly Father. Human beings cannot seek a superior blessing from anything created by our Creator, although they can surely invoke the Creator’s favor upon others.

The Lord bless you, and keep you”

In the opening verse of the Aaronic Benediction, the priest issues the word, “The LORD bless you and protect you!” (Numbers 6:24, NJPS). What does it fully mean for God to “keep” His people? The Hebrew verb commonly translated “keep” is shamar, which in the Qal stem (simple action, active voice) means “to keep, watch over,” “to take care of, preserve, protect,” and “to keep > to watch, observe” (HALOT).[5] It appears some 479 times in the Tanakh.[6] In many regards, the Aaronic Benediction asks the Holy One of Israel to vigilantly keep His watch over His people. Psalm 121 comes to mind as we recognize that our Heavenly Father never slumbers or sleeps. In this psalm, the Lord is actually identified as our keeper:

“A Song of Ascents. I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; from where shall my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to slip; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel [shomeir Yisrael] will neither slumber or sleep. The LORD is your keeper [ADONAI shom’rekha]; the LORD is your shade on your right hand. The sun will not smite you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will protect you from all evil; He will keep your soul. The LORD will guard your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forever” (Psalm 121:1-8).

When you think about it, who else would you rather have as your keeper? Our Heavenly Father is an omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent God who is constantly aware of everything that is happening throughout His universe. To have Him keep His watch over our every thought and deed is a remarkable reality! Asking Him to be vigilant in this regard is specifically designed to bring about His protection at all times.

“The Lord make His face shine on you,
and be gracious to you”

The Aaronic Benediction continues, stating, “The LORD deal kindly and graciously with you!” (Numbers 6:25, NJPS). Much more literally, Ya’er ADONAI panav eleikha, is translated with “The LORD make His face shine on you” (NASU). The Hebrew word panim, “face,” is used to direct hearers to note the Lord turning Himself, His attention, and His majesty toward His people.

The Holy One is to turn Himself and His attention toward His people, and in so doing, His favor or grace will be evident to those who He looks upon. Nothing can quite compare to the favor of God! In Numbers 6:25, we see the verb chanan used, related to the noun chen or “favor.” These are actually important root words for a variety of common male and female English names found today, such as John, Johanna, Hanna, Ann, Jane, or Nancy—all of which imply “God is gracious.”[7] It should be obvious that seeking the favor of God is a request that is a vital part of Aaronic Benediction.

“The Lord lift up His countenance on you”

While it might be difficult to detect in some English translations of Numbers 6:26, a version like the NIV is actually more true to the source text in rendering the Hebrew panim a second time as “face”: “the LORD turn his face toward you.” Other versions render panim as “countenance” (RSV, NASU, NRSV, ESV), with the NJPS having “favor.” Does this really matter? Is this not just a stylistic issue?

Looking through my English NASU, I found that the first time that panim was rendered as “countenance” came early in the Book of Genesis, where the text described the differences between Abel and Cain. In this passage, you can detect that panim means much more than just a face:

“Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and for his offering; but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance [panim] fell. Then the LORD said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? And why has your countenance [panim] fallen? If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it’” (Genesis 4:4-7).

Here, we detect that one’s countenance is more like his or her essential being. Obviously, Cain’s innate personhood was being challenged by God. And so, when the Aaronic Benediction is declared and the Lord’s countenance is to be lifted upon His people, this may be interpreted to mean that His essential character be made manifest. Can you imagine what a blessing it is when people not only have the Father’s attentive looks, but most importantly, allow His countenance to then be reflected in their actions? I cannot perceive of a greater blessing than when the Aaronic Benediction actually results in people exhibiting the very character of the Most High!

And give you peace”

Finally, as a result of these awesome blessings, the Aaronic Benediction concludes with the word: “and give you peace” (Numbers 6:26). The peace of God, of course, is a complete understanding that He is in control of what is transpiring at all times. Shalom is intended to be a sense of total harmony and calmness, in spite of dire circumstances. It is a condition that is impossible to understand apart from the inspiration of trust in Him. Shalom is intended to not just be an absence of war or conflict among people, but a condition of complete balance and tranquility between God, man, and nature.

In his letter to the Philippians, the Apostle Paul was at a loss for words on how to describe the peace of God:

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Messiah Yeshua” (Philippians 4:4-7).

This peace of God is exactly what the Aaronic Benediction declares upon Ancient Israel in our Torah portion. This is a knowing that God is in charge, despite our human inabilities to understand what He is necessarily doing in the circumstances of life. Paul reminded his Philippian friends of how Messiah followers are to be anxious for nothing, but rather plead with the Lord through their prayers and supplication.

Acquiring the Peace of the Lord

For those of you who are in need of a good model for prayer, perhaps memorizing the Aaronic Benediction for times of need might be a good beginning. Don’t leave the Aaronic Benediction to the close of your Shabbat service on Saturday morning! Claim what the Aaronic Benediction of Numbers 6:22-27 declares forth for yourself. Take great comfort and encouragement from realizing how the Holy Spirit is to fill us up and empower us, interceding for us before the Throne of God:

“In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:26-27).

This week, as we consider the Aaronic Benediction, we can first be thankful that we have this wonderful prayer to contemplate and recite—as we cry out to the Lord for His blessings. Additionally, as Believers in the redeeming work of the Messiah Yeshua, we should be able to invoke this meaningful prayer for ourselves, as well as others, as we serve the Lord. Above all, we should always remember that more is to come as we await the return of the Messiah to Planet Earth, and the eventual establishment of His reign of total peace and shalom. What kind of service of worship must we offer to Him in the meantime (cf. Romans 12:1), to hasten the Lord’s coming?

NOTES

[1] Numbers 4:1-3, 34-49.

[2] Numbers 4:1-49; Kohathites: 4:2-20; Gershonites: 4:21-28; Merarites: 4:29-33.

[3] CHALOT, 302.

[4] Jacob Milgrom, “Numbers,” in Etz Hayim, 783.

[5] HALOT, 2:1582-1583.

[6] This figure was determined using a root search of the Hebrew Tanakh (WTT) in BibleWorks 7.0.

[7] Cf. Edwin Yamauchi, “chanan,” in TWOT, 1:302-303.

Bamidbar

Bamidbar

In the wilderness

Numbers 1:1-4:20
Hosea 2:1-22

“The God of Order and Authority”


by Mark Huey
mark@outreachisrael.net

As we turn to the Book of Numbers in our weekly readings, a noticeable shift is seen. The Torah focuses less on giving us commandments about the holiness of God, and we instead pick up the narrative of events witnessed in the second year of Ancient Israel’s wilderness sojourn. After receiving specific instructions from God about how the people are to conduct themselves, the practical application of implementing these commandments in the community is described. Bamidbar opens with the statements,

“Then the LORD spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the tent of meeting, on the first of the second month, in the second year after they had come out of the land of Egypt, saying, ‘Take a census of all the congregation of the sons of Israel, by their families, by their fathers’ households, according to the number of names, every male, head by head from twenty years old and upward, whoever is able to go out to war in Israel, you and Aaron shall number them by their armies’” (Numbers 1:1-3).

This opening parashah of Numbers describes how the God of Israel is concerned about the proper order and conduct of His chosen people. We are given the description of the leadership of the twelve tribes of Israel,[1] a census of some of the men,[2] how the camp of Israel is arranged,[3] and the specific duties and responsibilities of the tribe of Levi as it is divided according to various family groups.[4]

As the Holy One coordinated the intended march to the Promised Land, He focused on the necessity for the people to become organized for the commencing sojourn. We see that the God of Creation, who placed the cosmos in perfect order, is a God of order and not the author of confusion. When Paul writes to the Corinthians, is he perhaps reflecting on some of the organization that we see in Numbers?

“[F]or God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the [assemblies] of the saints” (1 Corinthians 14:33).

The Lord is a Sovereign who operates on principles and practices which are reflected in the remotest parts of the vast universe, down to the sub-atomic structure of matter. Within these two extremes, influenced by the precision of time, the Creation, its creatures, and all of its associated components must operate. Since God chose one man, Abraham, and his descendants, to bring the knowledge of who He is to the rest of the world—it is imperative that His people function in a manner which embodies His attributes and perfect character.

The principle of order has been on my heart and mind for the past few weeks leading up to Bamidbar, coupled with some daily devotional readings of other Scripture passages. As I have been contemplating a wide variety of thoughts from God’s Word, what I have discovered is that when you discipline and order your time, devoting a portion of it to Him, the reception of His blessings are overwhelming. All of a sudden, you become synchronized with the Creation and your cup overflows with His favor (cf. Psalm 23:5)!

Experiencing God’s presence through the confirming unction of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) is beyond description. Amazingly at times, you sense the Lord giving you profound understanding about the minutest detail of common daily occurrences. His presence in your walk is so profound, as He illuminates your limited mind about how He sees the world, that demonstrating a great fear or awe for Him is the obvious by-product. When you perceive that everything you see or hear has His sovereign hand upon it in some way, you are compelled to simply pause and give Him all the glory, praise, and honor for choosing you as a vessel for His usage. When God starts orchestrating events and conversations that require your participation, you are required to turn to Him for His wisdom and guidance on how to react or respond. Without much hesitation, you start applying the principle of loving your neighbor as yourself,[5] by placing another’s needs ahead of yours.[6] You slow down enough in your thought processes to tap into His wisdom, as conversations may elicit responses of Divine counsel, knowledge, and understanding. The joy and satisfaction you experience, because you have been used by Him, is indeed inexpressible!

In your heart, mind, soul, and spirit—when you are directed by the Lord in all of your activities—you should be constantly affirming that there is a God who is intimately concerned about your life. It is quite humbling to know that God is concerned with you, because human beings tend to have a self-centered nature that is often at odds with His will for us. And yet, as you bring forth heartfelt confessions of your limitations, and through repentance change your ways—the attainable, but sometimes elusive, sanctification process becomes real. As you turn yourself over to the Lord, the Holy Spirit transforms your attitudes and actions to be oriented toward Him and His service.

God’s order for His Creation is extremely foundational for our lives, even for the unredeemed to recognize. After all, does not the sun rise and fall, every morning and evening? Is Planet Earth not placed the correct distance close to and away from the Sun? Is not the Moon in the correct orbit around the Earth? Are we not placed on the proper axis so that the tectonic plates shift in the proper way, so that we do not have massive earthquakes or violent volcanic eruptions every day?

To a degree, even those who do not acknowledge the Creator God of Israel have to agree that finely-tuned laws of physics and cosmology control Planet Earth and the Solar System. But for those of us who submit to God’s Instruction, and recognize Him as our Savior and Redeemer, the understanding of His intelligent design is much more profound.

Consider the basic principle of reaping what one sows.[7] This need not be deep theology, because the essence of cause and effect is realized by the scientific community—even though for the most part, they tend to focus on physical manifestations and not spiritual ones. For us as God’s people, though, who have been called to be a light to the world, the understanding is far more substantial. We can read Scripture and see that obedience to God results in blessing, while disobedience generates curses (or at least penalties)—meaning that sin has consequences. If you read Deuteronomy ch. 28, you will find an extensive list that is provided as a springboard for the related blessings and curses seen throughout the balance of the Holy Scriptures.

Without getting into the minutiae of the order that God directs Moses to articulate to the Levites, and then to the people of Israel this week, I was drawn to consider the profundity of the orderliness of God and how He desperately wants to shower the faithful with His blessings. Pondering this reality, I remembered a sermon illustration that I heard preached to me back in 1987. Since we had an unusual week of rain this week in sunny Florida (2005), the reminder of rainfall was a constant image crossing my mind. Then, in a conversation with a pastor friend, the words of Jonah 2:8 came into focus:

“Those who regard vain idols forsake their faithfulness” (Jonah 2:8).

I recollected an analogy that was used in this short sermon years ago that illustrates what the Prophet Jonah communicated. Jonah was chosen for a specific assignment to proclaim repentance to the citizens of Nineveh. Yet by the time he recollected these thoughts, he had spent three days in the belly of a large sea monster, having had an experience that none of us can even imagine! In Jonah’s moments of distress, he cried out to the only One he knew could save him: the Lord:

“Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the stomach of the fish, and he said, ‘I called out of my distress to the LORD, and He answered me. I cried for help from the depth of Sheol; You heard my voice. For You had cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the current engulfed me. All Your breakers and billows passed over me. So I said, “I have been expelled from Your sight. Nevertheless I will look again toward Your holy temple.” Water encompassed me to the point of death. The great deep engulfed me, weeds were wrapped around my head. I descended to the roots of the mountains. The earth with its bars was around me forever, but You have brought up my life from the pit, O LORD my God. While I was fainting away, I remembered the LORD, and my prayer came to You, into Your holy temple. Those who regard vain idols forsake their faithfulness, but I will sacrifice to You with the voice of thanksgiving. That which I have vowed I will pay. Salvation is from the LORD.’ Then the LORD commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah up onto the dry land” (Jonah 2:1-10).

What Jonah communicates is that those who regard or embrace “vain idols,” hav’lei-shav literally being “lying vanities” (YLT), forsakes the faithfulness that they should demonstrate toward God. Our required fidelity to the Lord can be interrupted when we put something ahead of Him. One’s personal idols can include just about anything that is placed before our reliance upon the God of Creation. If someone relies upon his or her intelligence, good looks, personality, resources, talents, or natural abilities—rather than relies upon the Almighty—then is such a person somehow forsaking God?

As the illustration I heard in 1987 goes, imagine the blessings and lovingkindness that the Lord is showering down upon His Creation, like raindrops falling from the sky. Now picture someone taking an umbrella, and then opening it up over his head. While God’s blessings are falling all around, the person who trusts in a vain idol has chosen to let whatever that idol might be, prevent His blessings from falling down upon him. The challenge for any person is to cast away whatever created elements we may trust in other than God—and instead raise our hands and receive whatever blessing He is trying to bestow upon us!

This is all related to God’s perfect order, because we can see it appear in our own personal lives, in our marriages and family, in our neighborhoods, cities, state and national governments, our businesses, and just about every aspect of our lives. God is a God of order, and He has providentially let these various institutions materialize to provide for civil well being, but they are all ultimately subject to His Divine providence, whether they choose to acknowledge it or not. When these institutions are out of order, then they block God’s ability to guide the affairs of humanity.

For the most part, since fallen humanity is generally ignorant, or widely blinded about how all of this works from an eternal perspective, the failure to consider God’s place in running things can result in confusion at best, and chaos at worst. But for those of us who are His children, the call to live in alignment with His Word so that we might accomplish His mission is imperative. Our general problem is that we often resort to falling back upon our mortal abilities or inabilities, and grab various umbrellas for different occasions. We limit God’s ability to bless us.

But another aspect of tapping into the order of God can be realized when we understand that His authority goes hand in hand with respecting and honoring His proper order for the Creation. In the Gospels, we find a great example of a God-fearing Roman centurion who somehow understood the principle of order, and the complimentary principle of authority. The centurion somehow comprehended that Yeshua was walking in such an orderly fashion that He had authority to heal the sick, by simply speaking a word:

“When Yeshua came down from the mountain, large crowds followed Him. And a leper came to Him and bowed down before Him, and said, ‘Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.’ Yeshua stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, ‘I am willing; be cleansed.’ And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. And Yeshua said to him, ‘See that you tell no one; but go, show yourself to the priest and present the offering that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.’ And when Yeshua entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, imploring Him, and saying, ‘Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, fearfully tormented.’ Yeshua said to him, ‘I will come and heal him.’ But the centurion said, ‘Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me[8]; and I say to this one, “Go!” and he goes, and to another, “Come!” and he comes, and to my slave, “Do this!” and he does it.’ Now when Yeshua heard this, He marveled and said to those who were following, ‘Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel. I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ And Yeshua said to the centurion, ‘Go; it shall be done for you as you have believed.’ And the servant was healed that very moment” (Matthew 8:1-13).

We have a significant instance where someone outside the First Century Jewish community actually benefited from his observation that Yeshua walked in an orderly manner. He recognized by Yeshua’s proper conduct that He had the authority to make things right and heal people of deadly diseases. The centurion might have thought that it would be inappropriate for a teacher of Israel’s Law, and a healer, to come into his house because he was a Roman. But that did not deter him from beseeching the Lord to heal his servant. Yeshua was very impressed with the faith of the centurion, and made some rather laudatory remarks, by contrasting the centurion’s faith in Himself with the lack of faith among His own Jewish brethren. In this case, the pleadings of the centurion were answered, and his slave was healed.

How much more should we today, who have the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, be able to walk in the order of God and receive His authority to have dominion and power over the decaying world we occupy? Will our Heavenly Father raise us up as a people, who by faith will be able to execute the spiritual authority that has always been there, but has not necessarily been used? I hope that many of us will be empowered by the Lord to do so some mighty deeds in the days ahead. By obeying Him, will we receive not only His blessings, but also the ability to witness miracles?

My friends, I ask you to cast aside any idolatrous umbrellas you may have, and cling to the Rock. Allow our Heavenly Father to bless you from on high. He is the Rock of our Salvation, and in Him are the perfect peace, order, and the authority that go along with it. May we be those who understand this and apply it to every aspect of our lives!


NOTES

[1] Numbers 1:4-16.

[2] Numbers 1:17-46.

[3] Numbers 2:1-34.

[4] Numbers 3:1-39; 4:1-20.

[5] Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 19:19; 22:39; Mark 12:31; Luke 10:27; Romans 13:9; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8.

[6] Philippians 2:3-4.

[7] 2 Corinthians 9:6; Galatians 6:7-8.

[8] Grk. egō anthrōpos eimi hupo exousian, echōn hup’ emauton stratiōtas.

For a useful discussion on how the preposition hupo is used in the Apostolic Scriptures, consult the article “What Does ‘Under the Law’ Really Mean?—A Further Study” in The New Testament Validates Torah by J.K. McKee.

B’har-B’chuqotai

B’har-B’chuqotai

On the mount

Leviticus 25:1-26:2
Jeremiah 32:6-27

By My Regulations

Leviticus 26:3-27:34
Jeremiah 16:19-17:24

“Double-Edged Sevens”


by Mark Huey
mark@outreachisrael.net

This week’s Torah study combines the last two portions of Leviticus, B’har (Leviticus 25:1-26:2) and B’chuqotai (Leviticus 26:3-27:34). Leviticus 26:18 summarizes the basic principle of retribution, or reaping what one sows, which the Lord is often attempting to communicate to each man and woman—especially those committed to faithfully following Him:

“If also after these things you do not obey Me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins.”

The simple if/then proposition that we see, is something that must be readily grasped by each of us, without necessarily having to understand all of the profound mysteries of God’s universe. If you obey God’s instructions, then you will be blessed—but if you disobey, then you will be cursed (or, at least penalized to some degree). One does not need a great amount of formal training in the Scriptures to comprehend the basic formula of choosing life over death, or pleasantness over adversity!

In reading through our dual Torah portion, I believe that a slightly deeper level of understanding is introduced and amplified for students, when a pattern of sevens is repeated several times in the text. Such a “seven pattern” can be applied in a series of curses upon those who disobey Him:

  • “If also after these things you do not obey Me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins” (Leviticus 26:18).
  • “If then, you act with hostility against Me and are unwilling to obey Me, I will increase the plague on you seven times according to your sins” (Leviticus 26:21).
  • “Then I will act with hostility against you; and I, even I, will strike you seven times for your sins” (Leviticus 26:24).
  • “Then I will act with wrathful hostility against you, and I, even I, will punish you seven times for your sins” (Leviticus 26:28).

The fourfold repetition of the statement “seven times for your sins,” as the penalties for disobedience intensify, has profound significance for those of us who eagerly want to obey the Lord and be recipients of His blessings. If you have been paying careful attention to the Torah portions from Genesis to here in Leviticus, the call upon God’s people is to be a holy nation and kingdom of priests, who have been commissioned to bring His light to the world. In Leviticus ch. 26 we discover that the pattern of seven is like a sword with a double-edge, seeking to pierce the heart in order to separate the holy from the profane, or the clean from the unclean. As Hebrews 4:12 tells us,

“For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

If you take a look at the wider context of what the author of Hebrews writes, you find that he is describing the profound privilege that children of God have to enter into His rest. Interestingly, it is from Psalm 95 that he largely draws his inspiration from, to exhort his audience to obey the Lord and not give up on Messiah Yeshua:

“Therefore, let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it. For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard. For we who have believed enter that rest, just as He has said, ‘AS I SWORE IN MY WRATH, THEY SHALL NOT ENTER MY REST’ [Psalm 95:11], although His works were finished from the foundation of the world. For He has said somewhere concerning the seventh day: ‘AND GOD RESTED ON THE SEVENTH DAY FROM ALL HIS WORKS’ [Genesis 2:2]; and again in this passage, ‘THEY SHALL NOT ENTER MY REST [Psalm 95:11]. Therefore, since it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly had good news preached to them failed to enter because of disobedience, He again fixes a certain day, ‘Today,’ saying through David after so long a time just as has been said before, ‘TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE, DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS’ [Psalm 95:7-8]. For if Joshua had given them rest, He would not have spoken of another day after that. So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His. Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do. Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Yeshua the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:1-16).

The righteousness of God requires Him to follow His own Instruction for the created order with fidelity. Unfortunately, we find that many of the warnings issued by Moses, to Ancient Israel in Leviticus 26, were administered down through the ages. Within the Tanakh, we see many scenes of how Ancient Israel rebelled against the Lord, committed idolatry, aligned themselves with foreign nations opposed to Him, suffered military defeats, and even experienced exile to strange lands.

Even though the Father patiently loves each and every one of His people, showering them with His lovingkindness and mercy, He is often compelled to execute His judgment in order to drive us back into His loving arms. He intensifies the punishment phases in an attempt to turn His people back to Him. As you read the accelerating chastisements seen in this Torah portion, you will see that once the disobedient Israelites are scattered to the nations, that the Holy Land will finally enjoy its Sabbath rest:

“You, however, I will scatter among the nations and will draw out a sword after you, as your land becomes desolate and your cities become waste. Then the land will enjoy its sabbaths all the days of the desolation, while you are in your enemies’ land; then the land will rest and enjoy its sabbaths. All the days of its desolation it will observe the rest which it did not observe on your sabbaths, while you were living on it” (Leviticus 26:33-35).

As you can read, God is very concerned about the Promised Land. Because He created Planet Earth, He knows that the very elements He designed require a level of rest in order to function efficiently. Here, we see how the Creator must fulfill His promises, but also His intimate concern for the Land promised to the Patriarchs. Now if you can imagine how much the Holy One cherishes His commitment to that “dirt” located in the Middle East, can you fathom how much He loves us, who are formed from “dirt” (cf. Genesis 2:7)? The challenge individuals face, is that unlike dirt which forms dry land, when God took those same elements and fashioned human beings, He made them in His image and likeness:

“Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:26-27).

Ironically, this is where the problem emanates, because human beings have been given a free will to choose what they want to do. Unlike the dust of the ground—or even the animals at large—we have been endowed with a mind, emotions, and reasoning abilities. We do not just act “on instinct.” The Creator has gifted men and women with the capacity to do and accomplish much. Just consider the mandate that came forth as the Lord uttered His first command to Adam:

“God blessed them; and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’ Then God said, ‘Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food’; and it was so” (Genesis 1:28-30).

From the very beginning of Creation, humanity was given the command to bear seed through reproduction, in order to fill the Earth and take dominion over it. Rule was given to the human race over all the other creatures. Humanity’s challenge was dealing with these awesome responsibilities first in the Garden of Eden, but then through the sin of Adam, outside of such a paradise in a rather hostile and unprotected environment. As a result of disobedience to later instructions, the presence of obstacles outside the Garden now were able to enact various afflictions upon the man and woman, and their offspring, turning people back toward Him:

“Then to Adam He said, ‘Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, “You shall not eat from it”; cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; and you will eat the plants of the field; by the sweat of your face you will eat bread, till you return to the ground, because from it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return’” (Genesis 3:17-19).

We all know the story too well, and can attest to the introduction of challenges and problems that ensue from the various “thorns and thistles” of life. However, the principles are absolute. By the time Moses receives further instructions, the Holy One attempts to give His people an advantage over those who are simply trying to understand the Creation and their relationship to it through empirical observation.

As witnessed in Holy Scripture, God’s people have a great advantage, but it comes with an equally great responsibility—because once you read and comprehend what is being stated—you then become accountable to God’s Word. Whether it was Moses declaring it in the desert, or Jeremiah reiterating it many generations later regarding the seventy years of exile that would allow the Land to have its rest (Jeremiah 25:11-12; 29:10; cf. 2 Chronicles 36:21), or even Yeshua amplifying these principles in His teachings—the fact of the matter is that the pattern of sevens, quite often, can either be a blessing or a curse.

Consider, for example, the simple teaching that Yeshua gave to His Disciples regarding the spiritual warfare that has enveloped the fallen world:

“Now when the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came’; and when it comes, it finds it unoccupied, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and takes along with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. That is the way it will also be with this evil generation’” (Matthew 12:43-45).

When you read the wider context of where these statements are made, you will discover that Yeshua is explaining the finer points regarding the Sabbath to some of His critics (Matthew 12:1-13). In fact, Yeshua makes the provoking statement that He is the Lord of the Sabbath (Matthew 12:8), while describing why it is permissible to do good on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:12). In Matthew 12, Yeshua makes some poignant quotations from the Prophet Isaiah (Matthew 12:17-21), which point to His redemptive work:

“‘Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold; My chosen one in whom My soul delights. I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry out or raise His voice, nor make His voice heard in the street. A bruised reed He will not break and a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish; He will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not be disheartened or crushed until He has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands will wait expectantly for His law.’ Thus says God the LORD, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and its offspring, who gives breath to the people on it and spirit to those who walk in it, ‘I am the LORD, I have called you in righteousness, I will also hold you by the hand and watch over you, and I will appoint you as a covenant to the people, as a light to the nations, to open blind eyes, to bring out prisoners from the dungeon and those who dwell in darkness from the prison. I am the Lord, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another, nor My praise to graven images. Behold, the former things have come to pass, now I declare new things; before they spring forth I proclaim them to you’” (Isaiah 42:1-9).

As you can read, Israel has been chosen to be a light to the nations (Heb. l’or goyim). All of those who compose the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16) have the responsibility of pointing people to the One True God, by demonstrating an earnest obedience to Him and thus being blessed by Him. But this can only happen by us being one with Him who is the epitome of Israel—the Messiah Yeshua—the quintessential Israelite.

In Matthew 12, a demon-possessed man confronts Yeshua, and some condemning Pharisees (possibly of the stricter School of Shammai) say that He is operating via the power of Beelzebul or Satan (Matthew 12:22-37). After Yeshua explains the difference between casting out demons by Beelzebul versus the Spirit of the God, He then explains what is often referred to as the unpardonable sin. This is when a person denies or blasphemes the Ruach HaKodesh or Holy Spirit, which must be indwelling His followers if they are to truly have salvation. Those who claimed that the Messiah operated via the power of Satan were blaspheming the work of God, and so Yeshua makes a profound statement about our accountability for the very words we utter:

“But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:36-37).

It is not just a matter of doing something against the Torah that will merit condemnation; Yeshua the Messiah raises the threshold for disobedience. One will be held accountable for making careless statements without understanding the foolishness of speaking from fleshly inclinations. This is why James, the half-brother of Yeshua, admonishes us to listen before we speak:

This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:19-21).

More important for us to not overlook from the scene of Matthew ch. 12, though, is how Yeshua directs us to how those delivered from demons—can have seven more demons come back—if sinful behavior is not rectified and corrected:

“Now when the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came’; and when it comes, it finds it unoccupied, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and takes along with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. That is the way it will also be with this evil generation’” (Matthew 12:43-45).

What is it that the Lord is specifically trying to say to us? If we are set free from a demonic influence or stronghold, we must ask our Heavenly Father to fill up the void left empty with His presence! Our nature in Adam is fallen, and as humans our propensity is to think and speak things that will probably judge us. Perhaps if we decrease, He might increase. Yeshua the Messiah is looking to spend eternity with us, and He wants us to receive all of the rewards that we can in His Kingdom! Notice how in Matthew ch. 12 He is asked about His mother and brothers, and He says that those who obey His Father may be considered part of His family:

“Someone said to Him, ‘Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside seeking to speak to You. But Yeshua answered the one who was telling Him and said, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers? And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, ‘Behold My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother”’” (Matthew 12:47-50).

Do you want to spend eternity with Yeshua? Perform and accomplish the will of our Father in Heaven. Follow the instruction manual He has given us. Do the best that you can do, to follow the directions that He has given us in order to receive His blessings. Pray for the Lord to send you His Holy Spirit, and be empowered to accomplish good works. Make sure that you are born again!

We are each created in the image and likeness of God. Think about how you are as a parent and how you interact with your children. Have you ever asked a son to do the weekly task of taking out the garbage, or a daughter to empty out the dishwasher for her mother? Can you relate to the joy you receive when your son or daughter has actually performed these tasks on their own initiative? Our Heavenly Father is the same way. When He looks down from Heaven and sees us obeying Him, He smiles down upon us and is able to bless us.

I believe that as we search the Scriptures and understand more about His Word, we will find that everything we know for a joyful and fulfilled life is embodied in it. We should be renewed every day to do the good works that He requires of us, which in turn will testify of who He is to the sinful world in which we live. If we do not obey the Lord, then the double-edged sword of His Word will have its way—whether we like it or not!

Emor

Emor

Speak

“Hear, Obey, Walk”

Leviticus 21:1-24:23
Ezekiel 44:15-31


by Mark Huey
mark@outreachisrael.net

Emor or “Speak” continues the Book of Leviticus, and directs and enlightens us a great deal about the responsibility Messiah followers have to serve as priests in the world today. From the beginning chapters of Leviticus, the Torah’s code of behavior is intended to specifically set Ancient Israel apart from the other peoples around it in the Ancient Near East, and then the succeeding generations who would turn to Moses’ Teaching for guidance and direction. The previous Torah portion was appropriately named Kedoshim or “Holy Ones” (Leviticus 19:1-20:27), because the requirements for Israel to be a holy nation are laid forth. In Emor, God instructs Moses to deliver further instructions to the priests and the sons of Aaron,[1] the issue of flawless animals to be used in sacrifice is addressed,[2] the appointed times or Biblical holidays are listed,[3] instruction about the lamp burning in the sanctuary and its oil is detailed,[4] and finally the well known axiom of “an eye for an eye” in view of an incident of blasphemy is described.[5]

Since Ancient Israel was originally called to be a Kingdom of priests (Exodus 19:6; Deuteronomy 17:18), it is important for us—by extension as Believers in Messiah Yeshua—to understand the responsibility that such a priestly calling carries. We are God’s representatives on Earth, and we must reflect who He is to others. A great duty rests upon us, because we know who He is, to communicate the good news of Yeshua’s salvation effectively. Consequently, it is not only incumbent upon us to “talk the talk,” but most importantly “walk the walk.” These expressions are useful because in this day and age, as lines of demarcation between the children of God and the followers of the enemy are being drawn, it is imperative that we stand up for what we know is right as embodied in the Holy Scriptures.

One of the most obvious ways we can see this accomplished is first by hearing God’s Word, and then by obeying it. This week one of the most visible ways, that Messianic Believers can tangibly do this, is to follow the prescriptions given to us in Leviticus 23. Here, we are introduced to the moedim or appointed times of the Lord. Many other times throughout the Torah, these same observances are mentioned in order to confirm that the Lord is very serious about His people following these commands. Leviticus 23 is not the only place in the Torah where instructions regarding the appointed times are listed. And, while many people associate the appointed times as just being various annual holidays, the first appointed time that God instructs His people to observe is actually the weekly Sabbath (cf. Exodus 31:13-17).

Once we can realize that the Sabbath rest is one of the primary signs we can demonstrate via our obedience to God, it should not be surprising at all to see it listed as the first appointed time in the list given in Leviticus 23:

“The LORD spoke again to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, “The LORD’s appointed times which you shall proclaim as holy convocations—My appointed times are these: For six days work may be done, but on the seventh day there is a sabbath of complete rest, a holy convocation. You shall not do any work; it is a sabbath to the LORD in all your dwellings. These are the appointed times of the LORD, holy convocations which you shall proclaim at the times appointed for them”’” (Leviticus 23:1-4).

As you continue reading Leviticus 23, other appointed times such as Passover and Unleavened Bread,[6] the Feast of Weeks,[7] the Feast of Trumpets,[8] the Day of Atonement,[9] and Feast of Tabernacles are listed.[10] In this time of significant growth and expansion for the Messianic movement, Jewish Believers who have recognized their Messiah are experiencing the appointed times in a way in which they were never able to when they had grown up, seeing Yeshua in the feasts. And for evangelical Christian Believers seeing the importance of their Hebraic and Jewish Roots, seeing the Messianic significance of the appointed times and how they portray the message of salvation, is most enriching and encouraging to them.

In this season of restoration, many are turning to the appointed times as they are wanting to know how Yeshua the Messiah actually lived while on Earth, and what some of the holidays were that He celebrated. Many are beginning to recognize the deep symbolism contained in each of the appointed times, and as a result the Messianic movement gets a little bigger each year, especially right after Passover. We have the responsibility as able Believers in Yeshua to demonstrate how wonderful it is to truly obey the Lord and be blessed by Him, because we celebrate the moedim. The action of observing the appointed times will often speak much louder than words.

This can be a challenge for some in the Messianic community, however, because many are spiritually immature and they often use the Biblical holidays as a time to demonstrate their “spiritual superiority” to their Christian brothers and sisters who do not keep them. The problem is that in spite of some of the arrogance of various Messianics, God still uses the Christian Church and there would be no Messianic movement if there were no institutional Church. People still get saved today on Sunday morning in the name of Jesus! Over time, I believe that many of our Christian brothers and sisters will recognize that there is a better way, and turn to remembering the Lord’s appointed times—but much of that is contingent upon us as Messianics and what we do, demonstrating the value of the appointed times properly to them. I think the most important thing to remember is the admonition that Yeshua had for His Disciples when they saw someone who was casting out demons, without being a part of their inner circle:

“John said to Him, ‘Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name, and we tried to prevent him because he was not following us.’ But Yeshua said, ‘Do not hinder him, for there is no one who will perform a miracle in My name, and be able soon afterward to speak evil of Me. For he who is not against us is for us’” (Mark 9:38-40).

Yeshua was gently instructing His Disciples about how to deal with those who were doing various things in His name, and yet they were not doing things exactly like them. Yeshua told His Disciples, “Do not stop him” (NIV). In other words, He said to leave such people alone because God is the only One who can be the ultimate judge of anyone. Certainly, if God is the only One who can judge sinners, He is likewise the only One who can judge the heart intent of Christians who do things in ignorance without knowing any better. And which is worse, the sin of ignorance—not having enough information—or the sin of arrogance? Think about all of the Christians living in the third world who face death every day for believing in Jesus, and how some Messianics act as though Yeshua did not die for these people because they may not “keep Sabbath.” If you are a non-Jewish Believer in the Messianic community, consider your own position as one who was likely in the Church at one point in time, and did exactly the same things as some of those who are judged mercilessly. I remember hearing a popular voice one time, who said that he believed that Christians worship the sun god on Sunday morning, yet when he was in church he did not. How unfair a scale is this?

My friends, we must grow up and be more mature about just where we are in this hour. How much spiritual maturation must we go through, in addition to all of the theological and intellectual maturation that we have not even dealt with? Consider where you may have been half a dozen years ago. Many of you did not even know what the word Torah meant in Hebrew, or what the word Shabbat was.

I urge you to pray every day that the Lord transforms your heart and your mind to do good works, and demonstrate the great supernatural change He has enacted within you. Pray that you can experience all of who He is because of your obedience to Him, and that it shines brilliantly in the sinful world in which we live. Pray that He can use you as a means of grace to others, and you can demonstrate the true substance of the appointed times—Messiah Yeshua—to those who need to experience His salvation.

Let the appointed times of the Lord help set you apart, so that you can truly be a part of the kingdom of priests and holy nation that Israel is supposed to be. Recognize that we are all works in progress, and that each of us has a long way to go. Allow the Word of God to speak to you, so that you may truly reflect His love and mercy to others. Then and only then will we become the set-apart people who can properly minister to Him and to others in all of its fullness!


NOTES

[1] Leviticus 23:1-22:16.

[2] Leviticus 22:17-33.

[3] Leviticus 23:1-44.

[4] Leviticus 24:1-9.

[5] Leviticus 24:10-23.

[6] Leviticus 23:5-14.

[7] Leviticus 23:15-22.

[8] Leviticus 23:23-25.

[9] Leviticus 23:26-32.

[10] Leviticus 23:33-44.

Acharei Mot-Kedoshim

Acharei Mot-Kedoshim

After the death
Holy Ones

“Holiness and the Golden Rule”

Leviticus 16:1-18:30
Ezekiel 22:1-19 (A); 22:1-16 (S)

Leviticus 19:1-20:27
Amos 9:7-15 (A); Ezekiel 20:2-20 (S)


by Mark Huey
mark@outreachisrael.net

This week we get to examine a dual Torah portion with Acharei Mot and Kedoshim. After the death of Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, the text details the requirements for the Day of Atonement that are performed annually by the high priest of Israel.[1] Reflecting on this instruction some five to six months before—or after—its yearly remembrance, should readily remind each of us of the atonement and permanent forgiveness we need for our sins of commission or omission. This is something that ultimately can only be found in the Messiah Yeshua! But rather than go into an exhaustive study on this topic, I would instead like us to focus upon the holiness that God’s people are to evidence in their lives.

The overriding premise of our text selection has to be the admonition to be holy:

“Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to all the congregation of the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy’…‘Thus you are to be holy to Me, for I the LORD am holy; and I have set you apart from the peoples to be Mine’” (Leviticus 19:1-2; 20:26).

Our reading does include a list of various do’s and don’t’s, which are intended to promote this requirement for God’s people. From simple ways on how to handle the harvest,[2] properly manage labor,[3] restrictions issued about the occult[4] and deviant sexual activity,[5] the wide variety of instructions are all designed to sanctify a people for the Lord and His purposes in the Earth.

As we consider the great value and strength of these instructions, as they are to guide God’s people—a sense of protection from the wickedness of the world should hopefully prevail within us. Even though the thought of participating in many of these activities is often never considered by us, the sad reality is that these depraved activities have occurred in many civilizations from the Biblical period to the present. Lamentably, even in the Judeo-Christian culture of the West, the laxity of moral codes and basic human ethics is fostering a proliferation of many of these formerly illegal actions. One could readily conclude from observing the society that surrounds us, that we are seeing some of the same things that Paul warned Timothy about:

“But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God; holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; and avoid such men as these” (2 Timothy 3:1-5).

When you take a look at this list of how humans will behave in the Last Days, you can see some parallels between these gross sins and the instructions Moses gave in Acharei Mot-Kedoshim. But rather than focus on all of the negative aspects of this, I would like to focus instead upon the positive commandments about how we should treat our neighbors. This is something that every Messiah follower, who has been born again from above, needs to absolutely grasp a hold of in his or her heart and mind. The uniqueness of our walk with Yeshua the Messiah, and the salvation we possess in Him, should testify that we are indeed living out the just requirements of the Torah:

“You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor nor defer to the great, but you are to judge your neighbor fairly. You shall not go about as a slanderer among your people, and you are not to act against the life of your neighbor; I am the LORD. You shall not hate your fellow countryman in your heart; you may surely reprove your neighbor, but shall not incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD” (Leviticus 19:15-18).

Leviticus 19:18, the command to love one’s neighbor, is repeated numerous times throughout the Apostolic Scriptures (Mark 12:32; Matthew 19:19; Luke 10:27; Romans 13:9; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8). Even with the debate present in much of today’s broad Messianic movement over how much or how little Jewish and non-Jewish Believers are to keep of the Torah, no one on any side of the discussion disputes that this commandment is to be steadfastly followed by all.

The concept of how we should properly treat our neighbors, especially our fellow brothers and sisters in the faith, is something that is sorely needed in the emerging Messianic movement. Regrettably, it has been my experience that many who profess to be pursuing a “Torah observant” lifestyle, do not adhere to the basic ethical commandments of how we relate to our neighbors. This is very troubling, because unlike some of the more obscure commandments buried in the Torah, with little or no reference in the Apostolic Scriptures, the instruction for God’s people to treat others fairly and with love, is something that should really be second nature to us. Is not the Holy Spirit resident in our hearts to produce a love for others, especially when they wrong us? How often do we not allow God to handle those who have offended us or made us angry, taking matters into our own hands?

When Yeshua was asked what the greatest commandment of the Torah was, He responded by quoting Deuteronomy 6:4-5 and Leviticus 19:18. Perhaps you need to review some of the key passages witnessed in the Synoptic Gospels?

“And one of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, ‘What commandment is the foremost of all?’ Yeshua answered, ‘The foremost is, “HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD; AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH” [Deuteronomy 6:4-5]. The second is this, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF” [Leviticus 19:18]. There is no other commandment greater than these.’ And the scribe said to Him, ‘Right, Teacher, You have truly stated that HE IS ONE, AND THERE IS NO ONE ELSE BESIDES HIM; AND TO LOVE HIM WITH ALL THE HEART AND WITH ALL THE UNDERSTANDING AND WITH ALL THE STRENGTH, AND TO LOVE ONE’S NEIGHBOR AS HIMSELF [Deuteronomy 6:4; 4:35; Isaiah 45:21; Deuteronomy 6:5; Joshua 22:5; Leviticus 19:18], is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.’ And when Yeshua saw that he had answered intelligently, He said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’ And after that, no one would venture to ask Him any more questions” (Mark 12:29-34).

“‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ And He said to him, “‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND’ [Deuteronomy 6:5]. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF’ [Leviticus 19:18]. On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:36-40).

“And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and put Him to the test, saying, ‘Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’ And He said to him, ‘What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?’ And he answered and said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND; AND YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF’ [Deuteronomy 6:5; Leviticus 19:18]. And He said to him, ‘You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live’” (Luke 10:25-27).

The greatest commandments of the Torah are considered to be one’s love for God, followed by one’s love for his or her neighbors. It is commonly observed that if you love a God who cannot be seen, then you should certainly love your neighbors who can be seen. We have the opportunity every day, to visibly display love for our neighbors or brethren, by the actions we demonstrate toward them. Whether these actions are positive or negative is entirely up to us. Will we lend a helping hand when needed, or will we treat others with discord and disgust?

Loving Our Neighbors

As you dig deeper into Acharei Mot-Kedoshim, you should detect how Leviticus 19:15-18 explicitly tells us how to love our neighbors. We are commanded to judge fairly. “You shall not render an unjust judgment” (Leviticus 19:15a, NRSV) or “You shall not render an unfair decision” (NJPS). We should not fall into the trap of thinking that our neighbors are totally beyond judgment, because life being what it is, there will inevitably be times when we are called to judge circumstances, make decisions, and render some kind of evaluation about another person’s character. Of course, when we find ourselves in such predicaments, the admonition is very clear to judge fairly and equitably:

“You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor nor defer to the great, but you are to judge your neighbor fairly” (Leviticus 19:15).

The Prophet Zechariah reemphasizes this premise, telling us that impartiality is critical for implementing proper justice:

“‘These are the things which you should do: speak the truth to one another; judge with truth and judgment for peace in your gates. Also let none of you devise evil in your heart against another, and do not love perjury; for all these are what I hate,’ declares the LORD” (Zechariah 8:16-17).

It is certain that if you judge with evil in your heart, that you will be in opposition to the Holy One of Israel. You will have exposed yourself as one who does not love the Lord, or love his neighbor as himself.

The second principle that Acharei Mot-Kedoshim declares to us relates to the chronic problem of the evil tongue. In Leviticus 19:16, the offender is referred to as a “slanderer” or “gossipmonger” (ATS):

“You shall not go about as a slanderer among your people, and you are not to act against the life of your neighbor; I am the LORD” (Leviticus 19:16).

There is nothing more damaging to a person, short of physical harm, than the wickedness of defaming someone by speaking falsehoods. Sadly, this is one of the most prevalent sins among God’s people today. Within the siddur or prayer book, the Jewish Sages have included a traditional, daily prayer that people might be guarded against evil speech, and other similar acts:

“May it be Your will, HASHEM, my God, and the God of my forefathers, that You rescue me today and every day from brazen men and from brazenness, from an evil man, an evil inclination, or evil companion, an evil neighbor, and evil mishap, an evil eye, evil speech, informers, false witnesses, the hatred of others, libel, unnatural death, harmful illnesses, unfavorable occurrences, the destructive spiritual impediment, a harsh trial and a harsh opponent—whether he is a member of the covenant or whether he is not a member of the covenant—and from the judgment of Gehinnom.”[6]

The Talmud makes some very poignant remarks about the effect of the tongue on the community of Israel:

It has been taught on Tannaite authority: Said R. Eleazar b. Parta, ‘Come and see how great is the power of slander [evil speech]. From whence do we learn that lesson? From the case of the spies. Now if such [was the penalty exacted from] one who slandered wood and stone [that is, the spies spoke poorly of the Land of Israel], how much the more will be [the penalty] for one who slanders his fellow.’ [Compare T. Ar. 2:11, as follows: R. Eleazar b. Parta says, ‘Lo, it says, And the men who brought forth an evil report about the Land died (Num. 14:37). Now about what did they bring forth an evil report? Concerning wood and stones. And does not this yield an argument a fortiori: Now if they who brought forth an evil report only about wood and stones were punished, and not by a trifling punishment but by a most severe punishment, and not by a transient punishment but by one which lasts for generations, he who brings forth an evil report concerning his fellow man, in like manner how much the more so will he be punished!’]” (b.Arachin 15a).[7]

Among some Rabbis, the admonitions about avoiding slander are coupled with the command to “not stand aside while your fellow’s blood is shed” (Leviticus 19:16, ATS). With this being the case, how should we react when we hear our neighbor’s name or character being slandered—meaning murdered? Should we not stand up and prevent character assassination? Sadly, I have found via life experience that various people within the Body of the Messiah largely do not know how to properly do this. We would all benefit greatly if we simply came to our brother’s or sister’s defense, when we know that they are being unjustly spoken against.

Next, we are commanded not to hate our neighbors in our hearts:

“You shall not hate your fellow countryman in your heart; you may surely reprove your neighbor, but shall not incur sin because of him” (Leviticus 19:17).

Many Believers talk a great deal about the “intentions of the heart.” Here in the Torah, the Lord makes sure that the issue(s) about what is present in one’s heart is amplified. We are not to hate our fellow countryman. Some may assume that this pertains only to acts of hatred, but by telling us “Do not hate your brother in your heart” (NIV), any confusion is immediately stopped. The teachings of the Apostles mention the sin of one’s heart many, many times. In fact, John equates it to a battle of light and darkness in the human soul:

“The one who says he is in the light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now. The one who loves his brother abides in the light and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes” (1 John 2:9-11).

If a person has any hatred for a brother or sister, he or she needs to check if any darkness is present in the heart. We should not have any malice toward someone, but the reality is that disagreements do occur in human relations. The Torah gives us a very solemn warning about reproving our neighbors without incurring sin. The Apostle Paul further amplifies our understanding of how to lovingly rebuke those in the faith:

“Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses. Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest also may be fearful of sinning. I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Messiah Yeshua and of His chosen angels, to maintain these principles without bias, doing nothing in a spirit of partiality. Do not lay hands upon anyone too hastily and thus share responsibility for the sins of others; keep yourself free from sin” (1 Timothy 5:19-22).

Here, Paul gives Timothy instruction about how to properly handle a problem with an elder in the assembly. The key is to do so soberly and without falling into sin. Too often, people level charges against other people for the slightest provocation. In this account, as should be practiced with others, the necessity for multiple witnesses to a charge should be obtained. The sin of a spirit of partiality is sternly warned against. Obviously, if you harbor hatred in your heart, then you will not be able to be impartial.

Finally, Leviticus 19:18 tells us that we are to “love your neighbor as yourself.” It is very important that the concept of loving is coupled with the prohibition against taking vengeance. The Apostle Paul reiterates this, instructing the Romans to let God discipline those who do them wrong:

“Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY’ [Leviticus 19:18], says the Lord. ‘BUT IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM, AND IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK; FOR IN SO DOING YOU WILL HEAP BURNING COALS ON HIS HEAD’ [Proverbs 25:21-22]. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:17-21).

Paul links verses seen in Acharei Mot-Kedoshim, with teachings that Yeshua Himself made, as well as a well-known proverb:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR [Leviticus 19:18] and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:43-44).

“If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the LORD will reward you” (Proverbs 25:21-22).

The Final Measure

When we consider the referenced verses in this week’s Torah selection, we lay the foundation for one of the most important commandments in the Bible. Many refer to this as the Golden Rule, derived from Yeshua’s statement, “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you” (Matthew 7:12, NRSV). Remember that after loving our Heavenly Father, we are supposed to love our neighbors. As you meditate upon this word, you might ask yourself just how well you are presently loving your neighbor.

If you are married, you might start by considering your spouse as your closest neighbor. Are you looking out for his or her needs? Are you putting his or her needs ahead of yours (cf. Philippians 2:3-4)? Are you seeking ways to serve him or her? Are you coming to the defense of him or her when your spouse is being wronged? This list could go on and on. But, when considering this most crucial of human relationships, you must exercise love by putting your husband or wife’s needs ahead of your own.

After going through this exercise, you might want to consider contemplating how you love your other neighbors. This can range from those in your fellowship or those in your neighborhood that you interact with on a daily basis.

Finally, allow me to give you an important thought to meditate upon. Imagine that the Golden Rule is a measuring rod which determines your degree of holiness. If you are honest with yourself, hopefully you will conclude you are probably lacking some holiness. After all, when analyzing our human interactions with other “neighbors,” just about all of us can recall times when we were partial in judgment. What about times when we said something that could be considered slanderous? What about the times when we hated someone in our hearts because of something done to us? Is it possible we said or did something to take vengeance? Is it possible that we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves?

I hope that you see the picture. If you take the time to perform some personal introspection you might conclude that this is a very convicting exercise. Obedience to the second greatest commandment may be more theory than it is reality in your life. But this is why the faithful Torah student can be blessed. Every year we have the opportunity to let the Spirit of God instruct us about loving our neighbor!


NOTES

[1] Leviticus 16:1-34.

[2] Leviticus 19:9-10.

[3] Leviticus 19:13.

[4] Leviticus 19:31; 20:6.

[5] Leviticus ch. 18.

[6] Scherman and Zlotowitz, Complete ArtScroll Siddur, 23.

[7] The Babylonian Talmud: A Translation and Commentary.