Mattot-Mas’ei

Mattot

Tribes

Numbers 30:2[1]-32:42
Jeremiah 1:1-2:3

Mas’ei

Stages

Numbers 33:1-36:13
Jeremiah 2:4-28; 3:4 (A); 2:4-28; 4:1-2 (S)

“Final Instructions”


by Mark Huey
mark@outreachisrael.net

This week’s double selection, Mattot and Mas’ei, concentrates on the final instructions that are given to the Ancient Israelites as they were preparing to enter into the Promised Land. The forty years of wandering in the wilderness were coming to a close. God has some additional commandments that will assist the people as they enter into their inheritance.

As you read these instructions, you will note that they cover a wide variety of topics. They deal with issues concerning oath-taking by daughters and wives,[1] the astounding military victory over the Midianites,[2] the details about the spoils of war and how to divide them,[3] and the request by the Reubenites and Gadites to settle on the east side of the Jordan.[4] We also see a roadmap summary of Israel’s entire journey through the wilderness,[5] and a description of the proposed borders for the land they will receive,[6] including delineation of the tribal leaders[7] and the establishment of cities for the Levites to occupy.[8] Details concerning cities of refuge[9] and how the justice system was to operate are given,[10] as are details on how inheritance for daughters was to be handled.[11] This wide array of material seems to wander all over the board. As you read and meditate upon these final instructions, you might wonder if there is any rhyme or reason for how broad they are. If there is one thing for certain: there are many background studies that can be launched from Mattot-Mas’ei, for better understanding of how these laws were to be followed in an Ancient Near Eastern context.

One hint that there was a sense of urgency, to get these last instructions communicated, comes at the opening of Numbers ch. 31, as the Lord told Moses to prepare the Israelites for the battle against the Midianites:

“Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Take full vengeance for the sons of Israel on the Midianites; afterward you will be gathered to your people’” (Numbers 31:1-2).

If you will recall from last week in Pinchas (Numbers 25:10-30:1[29:40]), Moses had just reiterated the details about the daily offerings and the appointed times (Numbers 28-29), and how important it was for Israel to remember these commemorations in a very specific manner. Just prior to this, Moses had laid his hands upon his successor Joshua, who, with the high priest Eleazer, was preparing to replace the duo of Moses and Aaron (Numbers 27:15-23). Moses knew his days on Earth were winding down. Just after the census was taken to determine who had died in the plague resulting from the idolatry and licentiousness induced by Balaam’s advice to Balak (Numbers 26), Moses knew that the Promised Land would be apportioned out to the Israelites, but he was also mindful that the Levites were not to receive a physical inheritance because they were to be in full time service to minister. Moses was also confronted with the issues about inheritance for these ancient families, particularly those who only had daughters and no sons. In Numbers 27, he relayed God’s thoughts on the rightful means for handling the process of passing property on to the future generations. After he did this, the Lord told Moses that once he saw the Promised Land he would die:

“Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Go up to this mountain of Abarim, and see the land which I have given to the sons of Israel. When you have seen it, you too will be gathered to your people, as Aaron your brother was; for in the wilderness of Zin, during the strife of the congregation, you rebelled against My command to treat Me as holy before their eyes at the water.’ (These are the waters of Meribah of Kadesh in the wilderness of Zin.) Then Moses spoke to the LORD, saying, ‘May the LORD, the God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation, who will go out and come in before them, and who will lead them out and bring them in, so that the congregation of the LORD will not be like sheep which have no shepherd’” (Numbers 27:12-17).

At this point in the narrative, it appears that Moses was finally resigned to his impending death, and like any good shepherd, his concern was for the sheep of his fold. Interestingly, Moses did not suggest Joshua, but instead asked the Holy One to only appoint someone over the people. He was not presumptuous about whom he might have chosen, but instead was still depending on God’s voice to make the selection. In MattotMas’ei we realize that the defeat of the Midianites will trigger his death, and so Moses was rapidly explaining to Joshua and Eleazer some last minute details about how to handle the issues I previously listed.

Moses had to be very pleased with what he was witnessing in his final days of life. Even though his life was a very unique adventure from the bulrushes of the Nile to now overlooking the Jordan, he witnessed an astounding victory over the Midianites that must have been comforting, considering all of the errors that Israel committed along the way. It is recorded for us that after companies and squads were selected for the army from each of the twelve tribes, the cohesiveness of the people of Israel was finally on display:

“Moses spoke to the people, saying, ‘Arm men from among you for the war, that they may go against Midian to execute the LORD’s vengeance on Midian. A thousand from each tribe of all the tribes of Israel you shall send to the war. So there were furnished from the thousands of Israel, a thousand from each tribe, twelve thousand armed for war. Moses sent them, a thousand from each tribe, to the war, and Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest, to the war with them, and the holy vessels and the trumpets for the alarm in his hand” (Numbers 31:3-6).

It appears from the reading that the Israelites were finally “getting their act together.” Not only were they prepared to induce God’s vengeance upon the Midianites for the sin of Baal Peor, but the victory was blessed incredibly by Him, as not a single Israelite died in the ensuing battles:

“Then the officers who were over the thousands of the army, the captains of thousands and the captains of hundreds, approached Moses, and they said to Moses, ‘Your servants have taken a census of men of war who are in our charge, and no man of us is missing’” (Numbers 31:48-49).

Can you imagine how proud Moses must have been when he got this report? Not one of the soldiers sent into battle was missing. This is an incredible testimony to show that when Israel worked together in harmony, victory was achievable. When you read the account of how the Levites performed their functions via the guidance of Phinehas, and that all of the kings, including Baalam, were slain, that all of the cities were captured and burned, all of the booty was taken, and all of the people and livestock were captured (Numbers 31)—you see a vivid picture of absolute victory.

In spite of Moses’ aged condition, Moses still had the faculties to give some final details to the Israelites about how to handle the captured people and the booty. This is particularly poignant, so that the men of Israel did not fall back into temptation over possible sexual favors. Moses also wanted the people to avoid becoming unclean by contacting corpses, garments, and various vessels confiscated in the war:

“Moses and Eleazar the priest and all the leaders of the congregation went out to meet them outside the camp. Moses was angry with the officers of the army, the captains of thousands and the captains of hundreds, who had come from service in the war. And Moses said to them, ‘Have you spared all the women? Behold, these caused the sons of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to trespass against the LORD in the matter of Peor, so the plague was among the congregation of the LORD. Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known man intimately. But all the girls who have not known man intimately, spare for yourselves. And you, camp outside the camp seven days; whoever has killed any person and whoever has touched any slain, purify yourselves, you and your captives, on the third day and on the seventh day. You shall purify for yourselves every garment and every article of leather and all the work of goats’ hair, and all articles of wood’” (Numbers 31:13-20).

At this juncture, we are reminded that Balaam had actually counseled Balak to have the Israelites bring curses upon themselves (Numbers 31:17). While Israel as a nation cannot be cursed by outsiders, it can curse itself by falling into the sin of fornication or being contaminated by the spoils of war. Moses knew his people well, and he also knew the sinful inclinations of the human heart. To the very end of his life, he warned and continually instructed the people of Israel.

As you contemplate this, this is probably the way we should all depart this Earth. For those of you who have children and grandchildren, imagine wanting to continue to give instructions to your beloved all the way to your last breath. For someone like Moses, who had such a huge spiritual responsibility, the urge, to continue correcting and fine-tuning his protégées to the very end, is what one would expect. Now that the victory over the Midianites was complete, echoing in the back of his mind had to be the comment from God about being “gathered to your people” (Numbers 27:13). Over the course of nearly forty years, Moses had witnessed the Exodus generation die off. In these remaining chapters of Numbers, he spoke out instructions that would aid the new generation, which would take inheritance of Canaan.

As you read each of the different vignettes of Mattot-Mas’ei, the final instructions from Moses were earnest attempts to communicate about issues that he knew would be addressed in the years, if not millennia, after his departure. Since Moses had the spiritual authority over such an unruly group of people, and understood the human propensity for individuals to “do their own thing,” he faithfully communicated what God wanted, so order could be present as the Israelites entered into the Promised Land.

How should these instructions from Moses affect us today, as we seek to obey God’s Torah and incorporate its principles into our lives?

We need to recognize that the problems with humanity are not that unique, as they often repeat themselves over the generations in different places and times. What we see today are patterns firmly imbedded in the human psyche. But for Believers in Yeshua today, things should be different. With those of us who have the Holy Spirit to guide us, we should be moving closer to desiring order and direction in our lives. As we grow and mature in faith, we are to become more and more like our Lord and Savior, Yeshua, every day. Today, however, far too many who claim belief in the Messiah have moved not only away from words of Moses’ Teaching, but His own teachings as well!

The question we have to ask ourselves, as we come to the close of Numbers, is whether we will be willing to study and inculcate the Torah’s instruction into our hearts and minds, so that the Ruach HaKodesh can bring them forth in an orderly manner. Are we willing to submit our wills to the will of the Holy Spirit who resides inside of us, and who desperately wants to use us to perform God’s work? Are we willing to pass our knowledge and wisdom onto the succeeding generations? Where will you be in your relationship with God when you are preparing to die? Are you committed to fully serving the Lord?

Consider the words of Paul imprisoned in Rome, as he reflected back on his life, and perhaps thought that he would die soon:

“Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Messiah Yeshua. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Messiah Yeshua. Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you; however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained. Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us” (Philippians 3:12-17).[12]

Paul, just like Moses, had a vision for his life and understood that he was called to the service of the Holy One. Both understood order and the pattern of life that they were called to walk in order to glorify the Almighty. But what about your life? Have you discovered what God has called you to do in today’s emerging Messianic movement?

If you have not discovered what you should be doing, I would recommend that you read and listen again to the final instructions that have come down through the ages, from the many servants of God who have preceded us. Most importantly, look at the ministry example of Messiah Yeshua, and understand that you are being conformed to His likeness. You will be amazed at just how profoundly you are empowered to perform God’s tasks in the Earth when you take His Word seriously!

My friends, these final instructions are important for all of us to consider. In the coming weeks, we will be examining even more final words from Moses as we approach the end of the Torah cycle and read through Deuteronomy. Of course, in Deuteronomy we will witness Moses reiterate many of his earlier teachings—but who among us does not need to continually rehearse the truths of who we are and know who our spiritual forbearers were? We need to understand and emulate their triumphs, and likewise hopefully avoid their mistakes. If we can do these things, we will be able to have victory over the battles that we face through the power of Yeshua!


NOTES

[1] Numbers 30:1-16.

Be sure to consult the previous teaching on this subject, offered in TorahScope, Volume I.

[2] Numbers 31:1-24.

[3] Numbers 31:25-54.

[4] Numbers 32:1-42.

[5] Numbers 33:1-49.

[6] Numbers 34:1-15.

[7] Numbers 34:16-29.

[8] Numbers 35:1-5.

[9] Numbers 35:6-15.

[10] Numbers 35:16-34.

[11] Numbers 36:1-13.

[12] Many scholars are agreed that Paul was released from the imprisonment described here, but that he eventually was arrested again. The Epistle of 2 Timothy may actually be considered Paul’s farewell address.

Pinchas

Pinchas

Phinehas

Numbers 25:10-30:1[29:40]
1 Kings 18:46-19:21

“Wise Choices”


by Mark Huey
mark@outreachisrael.net

This week as we turn to the study of the Torah in Pinchas, we find that the beginning verses are actually an extension of what was mentioned at the end of Balak (Numbers 22:2-25:9) last week. The attempts of Balak to utilize the prophet for hire Balaam to curse the Israelites have failed. Instead of cursing Israel, Balaam actually blessed Israel, much to the displeasure of his benefactor Balak. We do find later on, that although Balaam was never allowed to verbally curse Israel, he did advise Balak about how to make it possible for the Israelites to actually curse themselves:

“Behold, these caused the sons of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam [b’davar Bil’am], to trespass against the LORD in the matter of Peor, so the plague was among the congregation of the LORD” (Numbers 31:16).

Apparently, while Balaam was not permitted to curse the Israelites, he did have the understanding that people can actually curse themselves by their own freewill choices. While still encamped upon the plains of Moab near Abel Shittim, Balaam advised Balak to have the women of Moab and Midian enter into the camp of Israel and sexually entice the men, that they might worship Baal of Peor:

“While Israel remained at Shittim, the people began to play the harlot with the daughters of Moab. For they invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. So Israel joined themselves to Baal of Peor, and the LORD was angry against Israel” (Numbers 25:1-3).

It is difficult to imagine that some of the men behaved in this abominable fashion as they encamped in the presence of God’s Tabernacle, with the pillar of fire at night and the cloud during the day. Considering the impressive and orderly encampment of Israel’s twelve tribes—that Balak and Balaam surveyed from the surrounding mountain tops—makes it even more perplexing. But obviously, being in the shadow of the cloud, illuminated by the pillar of fire, or seeing the orderliness of Israel—did not necessarily deter or cover up what was in the hearts of some men in the camp. We read that some men, despite these tangible realities, chose to enter into promiscuity with the Moabite women and worship Baal. This resulted in fatal consequences (Numbers 25:4-9).

Are there any lessons we can learn from these tragic circumstances? How was it possible for these Israelites to choose sinful actions while in such proximity to the presence of God? How does the power of fleshly inclinations, or biology, overcome the fear of the Lord and the consequences of sin? How can this be applied to men and women who claim to be children of God today?

As I pondered these, and many other questions, my mind seemed to settle on a rather controversial issue that has baffled Protestant theologians since the Reformation. This issue is the concept of “eternal security,” and many of the misconceptions that have been taught by well-meaning teachers of God’s Word.

First, allow me to say that when I was initially saved I was subject to the teaching of a Bible church that was highly influenced by Calvinistic theology. Terms such as election, predestination, and the sovereignty of God were concepts that I heard quite frequently. As far as soteriology or the study of salvation was concerned, I heard lectures and sermons on the great divide between the teachings of John Calvin and Jacob Arminius. Apparently, while their doctrines were agreed on many points, the issue of eternal security was not among them. Without going into any great detail, let me just say that from some of Calvin’s teachings, is derived the modern concept of “once saved, always saved” taught in many churches. On the other hand, one primary distinction, where Arminian theology differs, is the concept that one can lose his or her salvation. Needless to say, I was for years a convinced Calvinist who believed that it was impossible to lose your salvation, if you were truly saved.

I then fell in love and eventually married my wife Margaret, who was raised a Methodist and whose theology was Wesleyan. John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, was an Arminian. During our premarital spiritual and theological discussions, we decided that we would not rehash the debates about our two different viewpoints. Early on, I learned that I would not convince her of Calvinism, as she was not going to convince me of Arminianism. We concluded that it was best to just leave these subjects alone, recognizing that the debate would probably never be settled in our lifetimes.

After we married, our spiritual journey was definitely influenced by our agreement to avoid this debate. We decided not to attend a Bible church or a Methodist church. Instead, the Lord led us on a sojourn with a relatively brief period in the charismatic movement. In 1994 we went on a tour to Israel that led us to attend a Messianic Jewish congregation in Dallas, Texas in just over one year. Since 1995, we have been pursuing a Messianic lifestyle, and along the way, the consistent study of the Torah has definitely fine tuned our understanding of the Holy One and His revealed Word.

In our family’s pursuit of the Lord, He has used the study of the Torah in remarkable ways to deepen our understanding of His Word. In many ways, it has taken us beyond the teachings of Calvin or Wesley, into a fuller understanding of how Yeshua and the Apostles actually lived.[1] Consider this familiar passage from the Gospel of John, which in my pre-Messianic walk would have been used as a “proof text” for the concept of “once saved, always saved”:

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one” (John 10:27-30).

In this description of how Yeshua’s sheep or followers receive eternal life from Him, the reality that they will never perish is stated. His words are that “no one will snatch them out of My hand.” For years, I found great comfort in these statements. In fact, I would often use these verses when getting into discussions with Margaret about the Calvinistic doctrine of eternal security.

However, as I have read and reread our Torah portion this week, and reconsidered some of the previous words from Balak that are linked to the opening verses of Pinchas, another perspective came to light. Let us consider the fact that as Ancient Israel stood on the plains of Moab, the people had the protection of God or His “security.” No doubt, Balaam understood this as he was told the following directly by God:

“God said to Balaam, ‘Do not go with them; you shall not curse the people, for they are blessed’” (Numbers 22:12).

Balaam had to remind Balak that the people of Israel could not be cursed or denounced, because they were blessed by God:

“How shall I curse whom God has not cursed? And how can I denounce whom the LORD has not denounced?” (Numbers 23:8; cf. 23:20).

The Scripture tells us that those whom God has blessed, no one can curse, as God protects His children from the curses of their enemies. If you move ahead to the statements of Yeshua regarding His sheep, what He says could be taken as a reiteration of this: “no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand” (John 10:29). This is a comforting fact to consider, similar to how God will not let anyone curse those who have been blessed, just like He did not let Balaam curse Israel.

However, there is something I want you to consider as you ponder these verses and think about what transpired on the plains of Moab millennia ago. The blessed Israelites were not able to be cursed by the prophet for hire Balaam. Balaam clearly understood that those whom God had blessed cannot be cursed by mortal beings. However, Balaam also knew that every person has the capacity to bring curses upon themselves by making freewill choices. Consequently, Balaam advised Balak to have the young women of Moab enter in the encampment of Israel, in order to entice the men of Israel into sexual sins that would lead to the worship of Baal of Peor.

It is not a matter of someone else cursing the Israelites, but people making volitional choices to follow their fleshly desires into abominable sin, by which the men of Israel cursed themselves. By so doing, the curses of God that are articulated throughout the Torah for sexual immorality and idol worship now come into force. In this specific case, many Israelites died from the plague that ensued. Just how many of these were idol worshippers or sexually promiscuous is not stated, but the consequences were devastating for the whole community. The only way the plague stops is by Phinehas performing his zealous act in front of Moses and all the congregation:

“Then behold, one of the sons of Israel came and brought to his relatives a Midianite woman, in the sight of Moses and in the sight of all the congregation of the sons of Israel, while they were weeping at the doorway of the tent of meeting. When Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he arose from the midst of the congregation and took a spear in his hand, and he went after the man of Israel into the tent and pierced both of them through, the man of Israel and the woman, through the body. So the plague on the sons of Israel was checked. Those who died by the plague were 24,000” (Numbers 25:6-9).

As I contemplated this reality in light of the concept of “eternal security,” I came to the conclusion that our protection from the Lord comes as a result of our fidelity and loyalty to Him. Just because Ancient Israel was a blessed people, did not overcome the possibility that some will willfully choose wickedness and subsequently relinquish the blessings. In this vivid example played out on the plains of Moab, we witness the inability of Balaam to verbally curse Israel. However, in an ironic twist, we witness the men of Israel, by their freewill choices, engage in sexual immorality and idol worship. The consequence of their poor choices is recorded for posterity, so that we will not make their mistakes (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:8).

Considering these passages was very sobering, when I see that even modern-day Believers in the Messiah still have the ability to make freewill choices. God has not made us into robots or automatons, but instead has continued to let each one of us make choices on a multitude of levels. I believe God truly wants to know if we really love Him with all of our hearts, minds, souls, and strength. Do we really appreciate what He has done for us by the sacrifice of His Son Yeshua? Does the fact that we have been brought into His family with commensurate blessings prompt in us a desire to please Him through our obedience?

Of course, for the truly born again Believer, who has the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, submitting to the promptings and leading of the Spirit should not be that difficult. But be reminded that according to the Apostle Paul, even Believers have the ability to quench or grieve the Holy Spirit:

“Do not quench the Spirit…Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (1 Thessalonians 5:19; Ephesians 4:30).

Our human will, even in those filled with the Holy Spirit, can cause us to choose to do bad things rather than good things—incurring negative consequences for what is done. Perhaps you can remember a time when you did not follow the promptings of the Spirit, and instead chose to exert your will. I believe that if we are truly honest with ourselves, we can admit to times when we did things as Believers we should not have done. Consider all the times when you have been attacked by someone for your beliefs or actions resulting from your beliefs. After all, according to Yeshua, there are people who will curse those who are His followers:

“But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:27-28).

When this happened to you, how did you respond? Did you respond in anger, or did you ask God to bless your enemies in your prayers? Were you able to forgive them for their actions? Did you at least leave the people alone for the Lord to deal with?

If you think about it, responding according to the commands of Yeshua requires a volitional choice. We have to relinquish our wills, which have a tendency to strike back and enact a degree of harsh vindication—and instead submit to the will of the Spirit by praying for those who curse us and forgiving them for their actions. Let us never forget that according to Yeshua, forgiveness is one of the highest priorities we have in our roles as His followers. It is absolutely clear from the Lord’s Prayer that one must forgive in order to receive forgiveness:

“For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions” (Matthew 6:14-15).

Yeshua also teaches us that when someone does not forgive another person, that he or she will be tormented. In fact, people who cannot forgive will be turned over to the tormentors:

“And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers [tormentors, KJV] until he should repay all that was owed him. My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart” (Matthew 18:34-35).

I have also come to the conclusion that while no one can remove us from the Father’s hand, by our own volitional choices we can remove ourselves from His blessings. Do these blessings include eternal life in His presence? The author of Hebrews puts it this way, regarding those who choose to sin willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth:

“For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and THE FURY OF A FIRE WHICH WILL CONSUME THE ADVERSARIES [Isaiah 26:11]. Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, ‘VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY.’ And again, ‘THE LORD WILL JUDGE HIS PEOPLE’ [Deuteronomy 32:35, 36]. It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:26-31).

Is it possible that someone can come to the saving knowledge of the sacrificial work of the Messiah, and then set it aside as meaningless and worthless? This is a huge theological debate, on which there will be no consensus opinion until He returns. But we should never be in the position where we ever forget the Lord’s atoning work for us, or His continual work for us in Heaven. If we decide that we want nothing to do with Yeshua (Jesus) and His work, the result is that “it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame” (Hebrews 6:6).

Many of the Ancient Israelites saw the glory of God surround the Tabernacle, and still they sinned. Sometimes God’s awesomeness is not enough when we do not consider the consequences of rejecting Him. I urge each and every one of you to seriously consider the words that Paul writes the Philippians. He instructs them to consider the exalted state of Yeshua, and to work out their salvation with fear and trembling. This is a scene even more awesome and significant than what the Israelites saw in the wilderness:

“For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Yeshua EVERY KNEE WILL BOW [Isaiah 45:23], of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Yeshua the Messiah is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:9-13).

Just like the Ancient Israelites who were blessed on the plains of Moab—who were still given the opportunity to choose—so also are Believers in Yeshua today given a choice. We can choose to follow the Lord, submit our wills to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, or we can choose to do our own will. Whether this results in choosing to follow the temptations of the flesh, idol worship, choosing not to forgive someone, or even choosing to trample on the blood of the Messiah—the fact remains that we are each given choices. What are you going to choose?

We must each follow the advice given to us by the Prophet Micah, as he summarized what our Creator expects from each human being:

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:5-8).

Certainly, we all have choices. I pray that we all choose wisely.


NOTES

[1] For some further thoughts on this issue, consult the FAQ entry on the Messianic Apologetics website “Calvinist-Arminian Controversy.”

Balak

Balak

Destroyer

Numbers 22:2-25:9
Micah 5:6-6:8

“Self-Inflicted Curses”


by Mark Huey
mark@outreachisrael.net

This week’s Torah portion, Balak, chronologically finds the Ancient Israelites further down the trail on their arduous and circuitous march to Canaan, the Promised Land, but without the able counsel of Aaron to co-administer with the aging Moses. Following the death of Aaron (Numbers 20:24-29), the indigenous populations of the desert areas begin an incessant military attack on the migrating Israelites. A brief engagement with the Canaanites is described in Numbers 21, as Israel must turn to the Holy One for guidance and deliverance to secure victory.

Israel’s journeys take a turn to avoid the conflict with the Edomites, who earlier had refused passage through their territory (Numbers 20:18-21). At this point, the complaints of Israel once again centered around their perceived lack of bread and water (Numbers 21:5). To chastise the Israelite grumblers, God sent snakes into the camp with a deadly venomous bite (Numbers 21:6). This judgment created an opportunity for Israel to gaze, by faith, upon the brazen serpent fashioned by Moses in order to receive physical healing (Numbers 21:7-9). The lifting up of the bronze serpent in the wilderness, is intended to parallel the lifting up of Yeshua the Messiah on the cross:

As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life” (John 3:14-15).

Rather than elaborate on the significance of this to our faith, I would like to instead focus on how the Torah goes on to record the continuing sojourn of the Israelite survivors in the wilderness. The journey continues as a series of encampments are detailed from Oboth to Moab to Zared, to beyond the Aram at the border between the Moabites and the Amorites (Numbers 21:10-14). Apparently, more specific details of these different encampments and the conflicts that ensued were contained in another text called “the Book of the Wars of the LORD” (Numbers 21:14), that today is no longer extant.[1] Some additional locations are cited as the sojourn proceeds “from Mattanah to Nahaliel, and from Nahaliel to Bamoth, and from Bamoth to the valley that is in the land of Moab, at the top of Pisgah which overlooks the wasteland” (Numbers 21:19-20).

Many Bible scholars have attempted to trace the exact locations of these wanderings, and Biblical archaeologists are often very interested as to where they might have been located in the Ancient Near East. Time does not permit us the luxury of researching these specific places, but most assuredly, we know that God gave His people more instruction and admonition at each stop.

As the Israelites reached the border with the Amorites, they again, similar to the pleas made with Edom, sent messengers to their king to receive passage through their territory on the “king’s highway” (Numbers 21:22). The belligerent Amorites, fearful of the perceived invasion of their lands, challenged Israel to battle. A war erupted when the Amorites refused passage. Once again, Israel prevailed, and even occupied some of the cities built by the Amorites (Numbers 21:23-31). In a short time, with the favor of the Almighty, Israel began to receive a regional reputation as a powerful army when the Amorites are defeated.

After occupying the Amorite cities and towns, the final encampment finds Israel bivouacked in martial array by tribes on the steppes of Moab, across the Jordan River from Jericho (Numbers 22:1). One can just imagine how awesome a sight this must have been, as the victorious Israelites prepared themselves for the final assault on the stronghold that was protecting the eastern flank of Canaan. It is at this point that Balak, the king of Moab is introduced, and his dread of the Israelites is recorded (Numbers 22:2-4). Fearing a military defeat if his army challenges the Israelites, Balak instead chose another method to thwart their advance into his domain. Rather than engage Israel in battle, Balak decided to call upon the infamous Balaam, a renowned prophet, whom he enticed to come meet him, that he might verbally curse the people of Israel:

“So he sent messengers to Balaam the son of Beor, at Pethor, which is near the River, in the land of the sons of his people, to call him, saying, ‘Behold, a people came out of Egypt; behold, they cover the surface of the land, and they are living opposite me. Now, therefore, please come, curse this people for me since they are too mighty for me; perhaps I may be able to defeat them and drive them out of the land. For I know that he whom you bless is blessed, and he whom you curse is cursed.’ So the elders of Moab and the elders of Midian departed with the fees for divination in their hand; and they came to Balaam and repeated Balak’s words to him” (Numbers 22:5-7).

The diviners in Balak’s court were accustomed to bringing down curses upon anyone whom their master asked them to curse. Probably not unlike Pharaoh’s magicians we see in Exodus, these diviners were associated with the black arts. Some of what they performed may have been nothing more than “parlor tricks,” but there were those few who were demonically empowered and could use the supernatural to please Balak. In the case of Balaam, Balak hired someone who was particularly keen on using the supernatural.

Threatened by the presence of God’s glory emanating from the Tabernacle, with the tribes of Israel positioned in a semblance of military order, King Balak decided that Balaam would curse the Israelites for him. He had heard of Balaam’s fame, and that he might have some kind of influence with Israel’s God. He wanted Israel to be cursed and ineffective, lest they did to him what they had done to some of the other surrounding nations.

Balaam received the messengers sent from Balak, who informed him of the problem that the king wants solved (Numbers 22:8-11). Yet in their interactions, we learn some interesting things. Balaam had supernatural power because of some kind of relationship he had with the Creator God (Numbers 22:13, 18-20). Balaam knew who the God of Israel was. Whether the Lord is only one of many deities that Balaam knew, or was the only one he knew, we cannot be entirely certain. Some would suggest that Balaam may have been a descendent of Abraham, and carried on the traditions of Abraham’s God, having mixed them with other local religions. Others may speculate that Balaam, as the able profiteer, was quite inclusive about what deities he would commune with, as he was ultimately interested with only money. Regardless of which is the case, the God of Israel allowed Balaam to communicate with Him, although Balaam could only speak the things that the Lord allowed him to:

“Balaam replied to the servants of Balak, ‘Though Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not do anything, either small or great, contrary to the command of the LORD my God. Now please, you also stay here tonight, and I will find out what else the LORD will speak to me.’ God came to Balaam at night and said to him, ‘If the men have come to call you, rise up and go with them; but only the word which I speak to you shall you do.’ So Balaam arose in the morning, and saddled his donkey and went with the leaders of Moab” (Numbers 22:18-21).

On the journey to meet with Balak, Balaam had an encounter with the angel of the Lord (Numbers 22:22-35). As he traveled, this angel blocked Balaam and his donkey. Balaam struck his donkey three times, and his donkey actually talked back to him (Numbers 22:28-30). The angel of the Lord asked what Balaam had been doing, as he had failed to realize how the donkey saw the angel and was saving Balaam in the process—as the angel would have surely struck down Balaam (Numbers 22:33). Balaam was told to continue on his way, but that he would only be able to speak what the Lord allowed him to speak (Numbers 22:35). When arriving to see King Balak, Balak inquired as to what has delayed Balaam, and all Balaam could tell him was that he could only speak what God would let him speak:

“When Balak heard that Balaam was coming, he went out to meet him at the city of Moab, which is on the Arnon border, at the extreme end of the border. Then Balak said to Balaam, Did I not urgently send to you to call you? Why did you not come to me? Am I really unable to honor you?’ So Balaam said to Balak, ‘Behold, I have come now to you! Am I able to speak anything at all? The word that God puts in my mouth, that I shall speak’” (Numbers 22:36-38).

Balaam, only being allowed to speak what God allowed him to speak, could not do anything else than bless Israel in the words that he would utter forth. This he did twice (Numbers 23:7-10, 18-24), invoking a stern rebuke from King Balak: “Do not curse them at all nor bless them at all!” (Numbers 23:25). Yet, with the wheels in motion and Balaam commissioned by Balak to speak forth something to the Israelites, all Balaam could respond back with was, “Did I not tell you, ‘Whatever the Lord speaks, that I must do’?” (Numbers 23:26). The third time, situated where he could see the Israelites, undoubtedly included the most significant of the words of blessing that Balaam was compelled to speak forth:

“When Balaam saw that it pleased the LORD to bless Israel, he did not go as at other times to seek omens but he set his face toward the wilderness. And Balaam lifted up his eyes and saw Israel camping tribe by tribe; and the Spirit of God came upon him. He took up his discourse and said, ‘The oracle of Balaam the son of Beor, and the oracle of the man whose eye is opened; the oracle of him who hears the words of God, who sees the vision of the Almighty, falling down, yet having his eyes uncovered, how fair are your tents, O Jacob, Your dwellings, O Israel! Like valleys that stretch out, like gardens beside the river, like aloes planted by the LORD, like cedars beside the waters. Water will flow from his buckets, and his seed will be by many waters, and his king shall be higher than Agag, and his kingdom shall be exalted” (Numbers 24:1-7).

In this scene we find Balaam high up on a hill overlooking the encampment of Israel, noting that they were camped in an orderly way around the Tabernacle. Can you imagine seeing several hundred thousand people arrayed around the Tabernacle from such a vantage point? If you have ever been to Israel today, and have looked at this specific area, you might be able to vaguely picture what Balaam was seeing. But the curious thing is that as Balaam began his utterance, perhaps beginning to curse Israel, all he could say was: “How goodly are your tents, O Jacob, your dwelling places, O Israel” (ATS), Mah-tovu ohalekha Ya’akov mishkenotekha Yisrael.

The Mah Tovu is now an important part of the Shabbat liturgy used in the Jewish Synagogue.[2] I consider it to be quite ironic that something that Israel’s enemy intended for gross evil, has ended up being included in a hymn recited at the beginning of most morning Shabbat services—including many throughout the Messianic movement![3]

In his fourth oracle, Balaam looked prophetically into the future, and described the ultimate end of the nations that will be harassing Israel:

“He took up his discourse and said, ‘The oracle of Balaam the son of Beor, and the oracle of the man whose eye is opened, the oracle of him who hears the words of God, and knows the knowledge of the Most High, who sees the vision of the Almighty, falling down, yet having his eyes uncovered. I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near; a star shall come forth from Jacob, a scepter shall rise from Israel, and shall crush through the forehead of Moab, and tear down all the sons of Sheth. Edom shall be a possession, Seir, its enemies, also will be a possession, while Israel performs valiantly. One from Jacob shall have dominion, and will destroy the remnant from the city.’ And he looked at Amalek and took up his discourse and said, ‘Amalek was the first of the nations, but his end shall be destruction.’ And he looked at the Kenite, and took up his discourse and said, ‘Your dwelling place is enduring, and your nest is set in the cliff. Nevertheless Kain will be consumed; how long will Asshur keep you captive?’ Then he took up his discourse and said, ‘Alas, who can live except God has ordained it? But ships shall come from the coast of Kittim, and they shall afflict Asshur and will afflict Eber; so they also will come to destruction.’ Then Balaam arose and departed and returned to his place, and Balak also went his way” (Numbers 24:15-25).

As you read this prophecy, you will note that Balaam started this oracle with the same recognition that he started his third oracle with when he blessed Israel. But this time, as Balaam got a peek into the future for Israel, he got a vision of a “star” (Heb. kokav) with power coming forth, crushing its enemies. I believe that this is a strong prophetic picture of the Second Coming of Yeshua when He will return to execute judgment upon the nations of the Earth and restore the Kingdom of Israel. It reminds me of the description that the Apostle John gives in the Book of Revelation when He is shown Yeshua in His exalted glory:

“And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, ‘KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS [Deuteronomy 10:17; Daniel 2:47]’” (Revelation 19:11-16).

One actually gets a prophetic glimpse at the future work of Yeshua through the oracles of Balaam, which when we compare to the declarations made by some of the Prophets of the Tanakh, are really no different. This demonstrates that the Lord can communicate His message for humanity through a large number of vessels—even those on the outside trying to harm His people.

Finally, as our Torah portion concludes, we discover that there is one piece of counsel that Balaam did provide Balak that goes beyond his inability to verbally curse Israel. Since Balaam was unable to issue any verbal curses against Israel, he does tell Balak that the men of Israel can be given over to their biological fleshly lusts, and would thus be responsible for cursing themselves by disobeying their God. By enticing the men to take up lascivious relationships with the women of Moab, their actions should bring God’s judgment upon them in just a short matter of time. This is described in the closing verses of Balak, and will continue next week with more details given in Pinchas (Numbers 25:10-30:1[29:40]):

“While Israel remained at Shittim, the people began to play the harlot with the daughters of Moab. For they invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. So Israel joined themselves to Baal of Peor, and the LORD was angry against Israel” (Numbers 25:1-3).

We see that the gross sexual activities that the Israelite males performed with the local prostitutes, ultimately brought the anger of the Lord down upon them. This is because their sexual debauchery would ultimately lead to idolatry and them sacrificing to other gods. We see that the God of Israel is quite serious about disloyalty to Him, and He does not appreciate His chosen people engaging in sin. This is one of the reasons that the curses levied for disobedience, including the vile sins of sexual immorality and worshipping other gods, are repeated continually throughout the Scriptures. Even if some restitution can take place between God and His people, the consequences of such sin often remain.

When we turn to this week’s corresponding Haftarah reading, taken from the Prophet Micah, we are admonished about the human propensity to do things that people hope will appease God for their wicked ways:

“‘My people, remember now what Balak king of Moab counseled and what Balaam son of Beor answered him, and from Shittim to Gilgal, so that you might know the righteous acts of the LORD.’ With what shall I come to the LORD and bow myself before the God on high? Shall I come to Him with burnt offerings, with yearling calves? Does the LORD take delight in thousands of rams, in ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I present my firstborn for my rebellious acts, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:5-8).

As you read the concluding statement, you will note that Micah reminded his ancient audience that the Holy One of Israel is not at all impressed with the burnt offerings of animal sacrifices, or even the presentation of one’s firstborn as something special for Him. Instead, the focus turns to what the Lord is most concerned about for His people, as He desires that they perform justice, love, kindness, and walk humbly before Him. This is what pleases our Heavenly Father. These qualities are a total reflection of who He is—qualities and traits perfectly embodied in the Person of Yeshua the Messiah.

Is there any other who humbled Himself more than Yeshua? Certainly, even though Moses is referred to as the humblest human who ever lived upon the Earth (Numbers 12:3),[4] Moses’ humility, however, is quite insignificant compared to the Son of God who emptied Himself of His exaltedness and power in Heaven—to come down to Earth as a lowly human:

“Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Yeshua the Messiah, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped [exploited, NRSV],[5] but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Yeshua EVERY KNEE WILL BOW [Isaiah 45:23], of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Yeshua the Messiah is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:5-11).

This degree of humility is almost beyond our comprehension. This is the same Yeshua who admonished the Pharisaical leaders of His era, that they had widely forgotten the weightier matters of justice emphasized by the Torah:

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!” (Matthew 23:23-24).

Here, the Messiah rebukes these Pharisees for their obedience to relatively minor aspects of the Torah, but who forget to do the most important things. The problem that Yeshua addresses is that one’s adherence to the minute details of the Torah, although good, will do nothing to negate a neglect for the weightier provisions that deal with justice, mercy, and faithfulness. If all one focuses on is doing outward things, rather than exhibiting what it means to be just, loving, merciful, and compassionate to others, then he or she is desperately missing the point of why one is to obey God. Obeying God includes the mission of demonstrating His goodness to others—so that they may come to know and serve Him as well!

Problems inevitably come when we decide to disobey God, and/or ignore His instructions for us. If we do not obey our Heavenly Father, we will incur consequences for our disobedience to Him. In the case of the Ancient Israelite men who cohabitated with Moabite prostitutes, how many of them had bastard children as a result? Certainly, while these men could be reconciled to God, damage was done and many of them likely had half-Israelite children to deal with. This is not only a sin that remains confined to ancient times—because the sins of adultery and fornication always bring consequences. And this is certainly not the only sin that can create generational problems (but we will leave these discussions for another time).

In Jude’s epistle we see warnings that in his generation, over a millennia after the incident with Balak, some gross sinful activities were occurring among those claiming to follow Yeshua. We should not be surprised when we see similar things today, and instead know that we can turn to the Scriptures to be prepared for the inevitability of God’s judgment:

“Yet in the same way these men, also by dreaming, defile the flesh, and reject authority, and revile angelic majesties. But Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’ But these men revile the things which they do not understand; and the things which they know by instinct, like unreasoning animals, by these things they are destroyed. Woe to them! For they have gone the way of Cain, and for pay they have rushed headlong into the error of Balaam, and perished in the rebellion of Korah. These are the men who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam; wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever. It was also about these men that Enoch…the seventh…from Adam, prophesied, saying, ‘Behold, the Lord came with many thousands of His holy ones, to execute judgment upon all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their ungodly deeds which they have done in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.’ These are grumblers, finding fault, following after their own lusts; they speak arrogantly, flattering people for the sake of gaining an advantage. But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah that they were saying to you, ‘In the last time there will be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts.’ These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit” (Jude 8-19).

What we particularly need to be mindful of in this era of mass communication, is that the same demonic influences that were present among the diviners in Balak’s court, or in the Apostolic era, are still able to influence people today. They are looking for willing vessels, and lamentably they find them far too often in those who are not only open to sin and are in open rebellion against God, but may even be masquerading as men and women of God. Instead of being truly humble men and women of God, who are totally satisfied with the assignments and tasks that He has given them, they exercise their free will and do things motivated at the best by their flesh, and at the worst by Satan himself. The Apostle John warns us about this:

“Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:15-17).

Certainly in our reading this week, we can see that Balak and Balaam were both motivated by the world system that John would later warn his audience about. The questions we should be asking ourselves today when we consider this are innumerable, but a few come to my mind:

  • What am I focusing on throughout the day when I allow my mind to wander?
  • Who am I worshipping?
  • Who am I praising?
  • What does my heart and will want to do with my time?
  • How am I exercising justice?
  • Am I loving in all situations?
  • Do I extend mercy at all times, or just in the case of someone I know?
  • Am I worrying about the minute details of the Torah, or am I focusing on the weightier matters of morality and justice?
  • What could I possibly be doing to bring curses upon myself, and/or damage my relationship with God?

As you can see, the list can go on and on, and will likely be specific for each person who is truly trying to work through the challenges of his or her relationship with the Lord.

Our Heavenly Father wants a relationship with us, and He wants the best for us! He does not want us to be cursed, but instead wants us to be blessed. When we obey Him, it pleases Him—and He has no choice but to shower us with His blessings! But these blessings will be things that can testify of His goodness—they will not be the wanton desires of our fallen flesh. I believe that when we study the Torah we can learn how to serve and obey the Lord more effectively. When we can do this, we can truly fulfill the calling that Israel was intended to have as being a light to the world. People can come to us and see Yeshua the Messiah living through us, and desire to have what we have. Just like Balaam had no choice but to bless Israel, so should any servants of darkness we encounter only be able to speak positive things about us.


NOTES

[1] Editor’s note: The phrase sefer milchamot ADONAI, “the Book of the Wars of HASHEM” (ATS), may be a textual redaction following the principal compilation of the Torah by Moses. If indeed added later, either during the period of United Monarchy, Divided Monarchy, or even the post-exilic period, it refers to a text or series of records that is no longer extant. It is possible that many traditions of this text survive in veiled references through the remainder of the Tanakh (Old Testament), as well as some of the histories as recorded by Philo, Josephus, or other ancient Jewish (and possibly also Christian) commentators.

[2] Cf. Hertz, Authorised Daily Prayer Book, pp 4-5; Harlow, Siddur Sim Shalom, 61.

[3] For some further thoughts, consult the author’s article “God’s ‘Mah Tovu’ Requirements,” appearing in the July 2009 issue of Outreach Israel News.

[4] Editor’s note: Please keep in mind that if Moses were indeed the most humble human being who ever lived on Earth, that he would have never written this about himself. Most conservative commentators are agreed that the statement in Numbers 12:3 was added to the Torah by Joshua, or other scribes, after Moses’ death.

[5] While sometimes rendered as “grasped” (2:6, NASU/NIV), the noun harpagmos best means “someth. to which one can claim or assert title by gripping or grasping, someth. claimed” (BDAG, 133).

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.

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.