Re’eih

Re’eih

See

Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17
Isaiah 54:11-55:5

“Tests from Within and Without”


by Mark Huey
mark@outreachisrael.net

This week, Re’eih continues Moses’ admonitions to the people of Israel by listing a number of commandments that when obeyed will result in God’s blessings, but when disobeyed will result in God’s curses. The opening verses spell out the dire warnings and establish this theme for the balance of our Torah portion:

“See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you listen to the commandments of the LORD your God, which I am commanding you today; and the curse, if you do not listen to the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn aside from the way which I am commanding you today, by following other gods which you have not known” (Deuteronomy 11:26-28).

Moses continually reemphasizes the necessity to obey the commandments, statutes, and ordinances of the Lord. Without a doubt, Moses was most concerned about the propensity for the Ancient Israelites to follow after strange gods. In the months just prior to when these words were issued, Moses witnessed how readily the men of Israel succumbed to the temptations of the Midianite and Moabite women, as they had enticed them into the sexual sins of Baal-Peor. The judgment of God on those who succumbed to these vile enticements was devastating. Between execution by sword of the flagrant violators and the plague that erupted, many Israelites died and were buried on the plains of Moab (Numbers ch. 25).

In contrast, Moses was also able to witness a miraculous victory over the Midianites, when the people obeyed God and slaughtered their enemies without losing a single combatant (Numbers 31:48-49).

This vivid contrast, of the curses of disobedience and the blessings of obedience, was undoubtedly fresh in the mind of Moses as he continued to plead with the people. But now that the time had arrived for Israel to cross over the Jordan River and into the Promised Land, Moses expanded upon the types of temptations that will meet the Israelites upon their entry into their inheritance. While the influence of idol worshipping nations and their obvious debauchery is readily apparent, it is in this section of the Torah that Moses introduced Israel to even more insidious temptations that will be used by God to test them. Moses specifically warned about the eventuality of various individuals arising in their midst, who will be either adding to or taking away from his teachings:

“Whatever I command you, you shall be careful to do; you shall not add to nor take away from it” (Deuteronomy 12:32).

Moses stated in absolute terms that the commands he had relayed to Israel come from the Lord (cf. Exodus 33:11; Numbers 12:8). Moses foresaw the inevitability of different people radically altering the meaning of his words—especially those which were imperative for the Israelites to avoid idolatry and sexual immorality—and this was most troubling to him. He followed this warning with a list of some of the different types of people who will be sent to test the hearts of Israel, describing how they will alter God’s commands:

“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. But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has counseled rebellion against the LORD your God who brought you from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery, to seduce you from the way in which the LORD your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from among you. If your brother, your mother’s son, or your son or daughter, or the wife you cherish, or your friend who is as your own soul, entice you secretly, saying, ‘Let us go and serve other gods’ (whom neither you nor your fathers have known, of the gods of the peoples who are around you, near you or far from you, from one end of the earth to the other end), you shall not yield to him or listen to him; and your eye shall not pity him, nor shall you spare or conceal him. But you shall surely kill him; your hand shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people. So you shall stone him to death because he has sought to seduce you from the LORD your God who brought you out from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. Then all Israel will hear and be afraid, and will never again do such a wicked thing among you” (Deuteronomy 13:1-11).

The first group of people, that Moses warned about, are false prophets and dreamers who will arise. Apparently, God is going to send these individuals into the midst of His people, throughout the ages, in order to test their hearts. What each of us needs to be conscious of is the fact that these deceived individuals will largely come from within the ranks of the faithful. There will be some commonality between the deceivers and those who will be deceived, making the deceivers various individuals who at times one might least expect to be agents of evil.

This is a very difficult subject for anyone to consider. Have you ever encountered people who sincerely think that they are speaking for God—but are in actuality quite deceived? Many, at times, may not even know that they have been deceived, but truly believe that they speak for God. They might have “heard a voice” or “had a vision” or “received a call,” which they will swear is definitely from the Most High. Such self-deceived prophets can be some of the most difficult to encounter, because they speak their words with great personal conviction and authority. If you have ever been exposed to people like this, you can probably understand how convincing they are to the naïve and spiritually immature. But this does not excuse any of us from blindly following words, which may take us away from the Instruction of God—and most especially the salvation of Messiah Yeshua.

To make things even more difficult, some of the false prophets and dreamers will actually be known for various “signs and wonders,” that accompany their messages. Once someone has personally witnessed a so-called sign or wonder, the perceived credibility of the prophet or dreamer is elevated in the eyes of the witness. People then naturally have a tendency to let their spiritual and mental defenses down, and they begin to believe the words of the false prophet. Critical thinking skills and healthy skepticism then get jettisoned.

Once a degree of credibility for a false prophet or dreamer is attained, insidious teaching is introduced. This can be very confusing to many (supposed) Believers, because visible signs and wonders are difficult to refute. But the evidence that God is moving, should not be in signs and wonders. The evidence is found in whether or not people are being drawn to God—or to a human being. Is this not what Yeshua Himself warned His Disciples about?

“For false messiahs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24:24).

False signs and wonders are just a part of God’s testing program for the saints. But did you notice that Yeshua said that even His chosen ones can be susceptible to false signs and wonders? This is a dire warning to any of us who are truly seeking God, as we all must constantly be on guard and alert. Interestingly, as a way to combat these temptations, Moses repeats aspects of an admonition that we saw in Ekev last week:

“You shall fear the LORD your God; you shall serve Him and cling to Him, and you shall swear by His name” (Deuteronomy 10:20).

Moses repeats elements of this command once again, when challenged by the words of false prophets, who will knowingly or unknowingly direct people away from the true worship and service of the Holy One:

“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 13:4).

It appears that by following the Lord, fearing Him, keeping His commandments, listening to His voice, serving Him, and clinging to Him—that one should be able to avoid most of the pitfalls of the deception that will inevitably come to every generation of those who follow Him. While the Torah says that false prophets and dreamers will be dealt with by just retribution, there is another group of tempters who will come, and hit much closer to home. These are one’s immediate relatives, who are once again sent to test our allegiance to God:

“If your brother, your mother’s son, or your son or daughter, or the wife you cherish, or your friend who is as your own soul, entice you secretly, saying, ‘Let us go and serve other gods’ (whom neither you nor your fathers have known, of the gods of the peoples who are around you, near you or far from you, from one end of the earth to the other end), you shall not yield to him or listen to him; and your eye shall not pity him, nor shall you spare or conceal him. But you shall surely kill him; your hand shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people” (Deuteronomy 13:8-11).

These admonitions are very severe. Moses describes that the temptations to deviate from God’s Instruction may come from people like your blood brother, your natural son, your natural daughter, your cherished wife, or your best friend. They might not exhibit the same dedication that you have to the Lord, and may therefore tempt you to follow after other gods or objects for your spiritual affection. The requirement to deal with such temptation is unbelievably personal in nature. Not only are you not to yield to the temptations issued or listen to them, but you are also not to spare or conceal the attempts of the tempter to steer you toward idols. The original instruction in the Torah is that those deceived were to be the ones who first put the tempters to death. This exemplifies, at least, how serious deception can be.

God is absolutely concerned about the subtle ability of loved ones to turn people away from loving Him. Remember that He is a jealous God (Exodus 20:5; 34:14; Deuteronomy 4:24; 5:9; 6:15). God expects us to love Him more than we do our own family members.

For many, this admonition is difficult to swallow. After all, our parents, spouses, children, and siblings are the closest tangible living beings who warrant much of our attention and love. The concept of actually initiating punishment upon them, if and when they take us away from the wholesale love of the Creator, does not make logical sense. In fact, in the balance of the Scriptures, we do not have one recorded event where capital punishment is executed upon a loved one, because their influence enticed someone away from the worship of God. Is killing one’s son or best friend what Moses is actually saying—or is he using this as an hyperbole, to make a point that absolute love and commitment toward God is what is required? Even the idea of entering into a form of self-imposed exile or banishment away from one’s loved ones, who are deceivers, is tough to think about.

If we examine our own hearts honestly enough, we may also see that we tend to personally choose to love ourselves more than we love God. Do we ever punish ourselves for not loving God as much as we should?

How should we understand some of the difficult words that we see in our Torah portion? As I thought about these words, I could not imagine that our Heavenly Father truly wants us to put to death, those in our immediate family who have somehow been used to (temporarily) draw us away from Him. Certainly as Believers in Yeshua, who have been redeemed from our sins and recognize that He has absorbed the required capital penalty upon Himself in our stead (cf. Colossians 2:14), there has to be an important lesson that we can learn here.

Since my initial salvation experience in 1978, I have been investing a great deal of time in prayer for those in my family who do not know the Lord. In my commitment to Yeshua, I have hoped and prayed that my testimony of change would encourage my loved ones to consider who He is. Somehow I think, these instructions of Moses must be understood in the light of what the Messiah clarifies in His ministry and sacrifice for fallen humanity. Certainly since stoning my loved ones is not an option, perhaps Yeshua’s words can bring clarity to what Moses instructed Ancient Israel.

Consider Yeshua’s statements about His mother and brothers, while ministering to those in desperate need of deliverance from evil spirits:

“While He was still speaking to the crowds, behold, His mother and brothers were standing outside, seeking to speak to Him. Someone said to Him, ‘Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside seeking to speak to You.’ But Yeshua answered the one who was telling Him and said, ‘Who is My mother and who are My brothers?’ And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, ‘Behold My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother’” (Matthew 12:46-50).

Yeshua knew that Mary and His half-brothers were trying to speak with Him. And yet, here He stated that the true “mother and brothers” are those who do the will of His Heavenly Father. Those who do the will of the Heavenly Father will actually be more closely “related,” as it were, to the Messiah than blood relatives. Yeshua expanded the breadth of God’s family to those who seek to perform His will.

Perhaps you can understand this principle when you consider some of the relationships you have with others who you are spiritually connected with. Lamentably, I can think of many Believers whom I feel closer to in the Messiah, than some of my own blood relatives. This does not give us an excuse for “stoning” our relatives with our words of unfair condemnation or rebuke, but instead should be a greater incentive for us to pray and intercede for their salvation. We need to remember that our patient God of love desires that no one should perish, but rather come to the knowledge of the truth through repentance:

“The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

As I ponder these words, I am personally convicted that my time in prayer for my loved ones has waned in recent years. Perhaps by looking at these passages from the Torah, the Holy One is prompting me to increase with fervency my petitions for their repentance?

Most of us can identify with the challenges of praying for loved ones, especially if the fruit of our prayers is lacking. Let me encourage you to spend some more time in prayer for their redemption. Furthermore, consider what it truly takes for you to be considered Yeshua’s disciple:

“But He said to him, ‘A man was giving a big dinner, and he invited many; and at the dinner hour he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, “Come; for everything is ready now.” But they all alike began to make excuses. The first one said to him, “I have bought a piece of land and I need to go out and look at it; please consider me excused.” Another one said, “I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please consider me excused.” Another one said, “I have married a wife, and for that reason I cannot come.” And the slave came back and reported this to his master. Then the head of the household became angry and said to his slave, “Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the city and bring in here the poor and crippled and blind and lame.” And the slave said, “Master, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.” And the master said to the slave, “Go out into the highways and along the hedges, and compel them to come in, so that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste of my dinner.” Now large crowds were going along with Him; and He turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, “This man began to build and was not able to finish.” Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and consider whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions. Therefore, salt is good; but if even salt has become tasteless, with what will it be seasoned? It is useless either for the soil or for the manure pile; it is thrown out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear’” (Luke 14:16-35).

Yeshua used a parable to describe the complete surrender that is required by the faithful, to become a disciple of His and enter into His Kingdom. There are some important parallels between this and what we see in this week’s Torah portion.

In this parable, the master who prepares a large banquet is like our Heavenly Father, who is calling all who will listen, to come and partake. In many respects, this is an invitation for all who would hear, to become a part of His Kingdom. Note that this host sends out his servants to invite all who would hear, that they are to attend the meal. This could be compared to the Lord using various servants like Moses, and also the Prophets, to make declarations about what is required to maintain a proper relationship with the Creator God. Or to personalize this parable and make it applicable to our own walks of faith, this can mean that each one of us is called out to invite others into God’s Kingdom. Are we not all called to be witnesses of the hope that is within us (cf. 1 Peter 3:15)?

In this parable, the results of inviting different people to the banquet are explained. As is noted, many have excuses for not attending. Some are caught up in the business affairs of the world. Others have recently married, and are more concerned about their honeymoon and relationship building with their new spouse. If you have ever shared the good news of the Messiah, you know many of the excuses that people use to avoid what is required to come to a true salvation experience.

The host tells his servants to take the invitation to the people on the highways and byways of the world. We see from this how if those who are near and dear to you do not respond to the invitation, then the Heavenly Father will extend His invitation to those who are lame, blind, and crippled. The less fortunate ones, those who are down and out—who know that they are in desperate need—are those who will definitely respond to the invitation. Generally speaking, this has been the history of the gospel as it has been proclaimed since the time of the Apostles.

Then Yeshua brings another difficult word to His listeners, which in some respects is reminiscent of what Moses speaks about in this week’s parashah, about how to deal with close family members. However, Yeshua’s words are not only about the temptations that come from loved ones who might turn you away from the Father, but even your own personal proclivity to wander away from placing Him first in your life. It is in the context of inviting people into the banquet, or by extension into the Kingdom of God, that Yeshua makes it perfectly clear what is required to become His disciple. It is on this point that too many people balk:

“If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:26-27).

But what is this just supposed to mean? Just like Moses says that family members or close friends who take us away from God were to be stoned—could Yeshua likewise be using shock language? He probably is, as “hatred” for people is not a personality trait of the Holy One. Yet, the truth of the matter is that the presence of any human being in our lives—a spouse, a child, a sibling, or a parent—can impede our relationship with the Lord. What Yeshua says is that a person must place his or her love and allegiance to Him as Messiah, above his or her love for one’s family members—or even one’s very own life.

Of course, this does not occur until you realize that before a holy and righteous God, you are totally bankrupt in your trespasses and sins. Remember that there is no one who is righteous:

“What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; as it is written, ‘There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one’” (Romans 3:9-12; cf. Psalm 14, 53).

We do not have the human ability to perfectly follow the commandments of God—and this is why we all need a Savior. Paul did not mince words when he included “both Jews and Greeks” as those who were “under sin.”

Being honest with yourself is critical no matter what your heritage is. For those who think that they might be righteous of themselves, because they “follow the commandments,” the clarifying words of Yeshua to the people gathered around the adulterous woman need to be recalled: “He who is without sin cast the first stone” (John 8:7). Obviously, if you realize your sinful nature, you will not even consider picking up a stone to unwarrantedly condemn another.

Thankfully, our example for living is found in Yeshua the Messiah. He endured the same human difficulties that we all face, but was able to overcome them because He lacked the fallen nature that we have inherited in fallen Adam:

“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Yeshua the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:14-16).

When we consider what Yeshua had to go through for us, enduring great trial, we likewise need to be reminded about the need to count the cost of discipleship:

“Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and consider whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions. Therefore, salt is good; but if even salt has become tasteless, with what will it be seasoned? It is useless either for the soil or for the manure pile; it is thrown out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Luke 14:27-35).

Here, Yeshua essentially says that it may cost you all that you have in order to follow Him. It will certainly cost you your entire life, your various habits, your creature comforts, and how you relate to others—if you are going to be a true disciple of the Messiah of Israel. Understanding what Moses has to say this week in Re’eih, and what Yeshua declared to His listeners, can be summarized by the Messiah’s last statement: “Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand!” (NLT). Thankfully, as Believers filled with the Holy Spirit who is to be instructing us, while challenging us, following the Lord should not be as difficult as we think.

The Apostle Paul makes it abundantly clear that when we come to the end of ourselves and take on the life of the Messiah, that we have, in essence, exchanged our life for His:

“For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God. 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 2:19-20).

Notice that it is through the knowledge of the Torah that one is to die to the Law. It is not God’s Instruction that becomes nullified in the life of a person, but it is violation of the Torah that affects one’s spiritual death. Paul clarifies this reality, stating:

“I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died; and this commandment, which was to result in life, proved to result in death for me…Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Messiah Yeshua” (Romans 7:9-10; 8:1).

Thankfully, each one of us has been released from the condemnation of the Torah through the atoning work of Yeshua. On its own, all the Torah can do is show us how sinful we are before God, and condemn us. When we die to the Law, we do not die to its standard of holiness and proper conduct, but to its penalties pronounced against us as unrepentant sinners. This comes through the regenerative work of Yeshua, which reconciles us to the Father, and now enables us to obey the Lord through the power of the Holy Spirit.

We must identify with the sacrifice of the Messiah, and trust in His work to cover our sins. By faith in the blood atonement provided by the Son of God, each one of us can become a servant of the Most High, and allow the Holy Spirit to walk out Yeshua’s life through us. This is a great mystery, of course, but it is clearly what the whole counsel of God’s Word communicates.

To connect this with what I opened up with from Deuteronomy, we must recognize that the Apostles were fully aware that lawlessness was at work in their generation. They constantly battled with false teachers and false prophets, who deceived the early Messianic Believers. Paul specifically warned the Thessalonicans about the ultimate man of lawlessness, the antimessiah/antichrist, and the strong delusion that God Himself would send to see if His people would at all be loyal to Him:

“For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way. 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. But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth” (2 Thessalonians 2:7-13).

We are once again reminded that at some future point in time, a man of lawlessness will be empowered by Satan himself to deceive the world. But note that people will not necessarily be deceived by his signs, exclusively. These people will be deceived because they did not wish to believe in the truth of salvation. The salvation experience that requires one to be fully humbled before a holy and righteous God, never took place in the lives of these people.

This is a frightening prospect, because there are many professing Believers today who claim to be followers of Yeshua the Messiah (Jesus Christ), but who may not have the fruit of God’s Holy Spirit present in their lives to actually substantiate it. (Thankfully, it is not our job to determine their salvation—but only God’s.) Those who are led astray in the final days, however, are actually going to be sent a “strong delusion” (2 Thessalonians 2:11, KJV) by God Himself. We need to be brought to our knees to pray for anyone who might be led astray by this—or any deception. Even if the antimessiah/antichrist does not arrive on the scene for quite some time, there is undoubtedly a deception opposed to the Messiah Yeshua—growing in today’s world—which will eventually culminate in the arrival of the beast system. For as the Apostle John reminds us, “many antimessiahs have appeared” (1 John 2:18).

Let me conclude with this admonition as you ponder these words: Check to see that you are in the faith! Remember how the Apostle Paul steadily reminded his fellow followers of the Messiah with these words:

“Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Messiah Yeshua is in you—unless indeed you fail the test? But I trust that you will realize that we ourselves do not fail the test” (2 Corinthians 13:5-6).

For all of our lives, we are each going to be tested from within and without. My prayer is that no one who reads or hears these words will fail the test!

Ekev

Ekev

Because

Deuteronomy 7:12-11:25
Isaiah 49:14-51:3

“What God Ultimately Requires: Faith”


by Mark Huey
mark@outreachisrael.net

Ekev falls on the heels of the last exhortation seen in last week’s Torah portion, V’et’chanan (Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11), where Moses commands the people of Israel to faithfully observe the instructions, statutes, and judgments that he has delivered to them from God (Deuteronomy 6:25-7:11). Deuteronomy 7:12 begins with the statement, “Then it shall come about…,” ekev tishme’un, employing the word ekev, which is a conjunction meaning “to the end,” or “result, reward” (CHALOT).[1] Sometimes it can be rendered as “if” (NJPS) or “because” (ESV). Its usage indicates the results of obedience to the list of instructions given.

The opening verses of our parashah this week describe many of the blessings that are to come from listening to and performing the commandments of God:

“Then it shall come about, because you listen to these judgments and keep and do them, that the LORD your God will keep with you His covenant and His lovingkindness which He swore to your forefathers. He will love you and bless you and multiply you; He will also bless the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground, your grain and your new wine and your oil, the increase of your herd and the young of your flock, in the land which He swore to your forefathers to give you. You shall be blessed above all peoples; there will be no male or female barren among you or among your cattle. The LORD will remove from you all sickness; and He will not put on you any of the harmful diseases of Egypt which you have known, but He will lay them on all who hate you. You shall consume all the peoples whom the LORD your God will deliver to you; your eye shall not pity them, nor shall you serve their gods, for that would be a snare to you. If you should say in your heart, ‘These nations are greater than I; how can I dispossess them?’ you shall not be afraid of them; you shall well remember what the LORD your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt: the great trials which your eyes saw and the signs and the wonders and the mighty hand and the outstretched arm by which the LORD your God brought you out. So shall the LORD your God do to all the peoples of whom you are afraid. Moreover, the LORD your God will send the hornet against them, until those who are left and hide themselves from you perish. You shall not dread them, for the LORD your God is in your midst, a great and awesome God. The LORD your God will clear away these nations before you little by little; you will not be able to put an end to them quickly, for the wild beasts would grow too numerous for you. But the LORD your God will deliver them before you, and will throw them into great confusion until they are destroyed. He will deliver their kings into your hand so that you will make their name perish from under heaven; no man will be able to stand before you until you have destroyed them” (Deuteronomy 7:12-24).

As you read this opening section from Ekev, you should marvel about what a great and awesome God Ancient Israel truly had, as its Provider, Protector, and Champion against all other gods and principalities. But while rejoicing in all of the wonderful things that the Holy One promises to do for His people, there is one nagging caveat or requirement that should really gain the attention of someone who has read these words. It appears from a straightforward reading of these verses that the God of Israel requires His people to keep His commandments in order for His blessings to be manifested toward them. Does this require obedience to the Torah, so that God’s people might receive His blessings? Let us read it again to see if this is what it says, and consider the implications for our lives today:

If you pay attention to these laws and are careful to follow them, then the LORD your God will keep his covenant of love with you, as he swore to your forefathers” (Deuteronomy 7:12, NIV).

God told Israel that if the people adhered to His Law then He would remember them. He specifically said that He “will keep with you the covenant and the steadfast love which he swore to your fathers to keep” (RSV). Can you detect the conditional nature of these blessings, based on Israel’s obedience to His commandments? Is the God of love requiring obedience for Him to pour out His blessings? Or, is He telling Israel what the formula is for avoiding the penalties and curses of disobedience?

If you are a parent, then you should understand that our loving Father is absolutely concerned about the welfare of His children, just as you would be toward your own children. Just as you would institute rules for the well being and care of your family, so has the Lord likewise instituted rules for the well being of His people. God’s admonitions are designed to emphasize the importance of obedience to His Instruction. Moses served as God’s mouthpiece, as he was used to affirm how He gave Ancient Israel the Law, because He wants the very best for His chosen. In a way, just as older children in the family sometimes have to institute a parent’s rules, so does Moses institute the rules for his fellow Israelites.

After forty years of intimacy with the Creator, Moses surely knew the Lord and His ways. But he also knew the nature of the Israelites, as he had guided them through the wilderness sojourn. Moses had seen an entire generation perish in the desert because of rebellion and unbelief, in spite of the visible presence of the Most High in their midst. Even with the daily provision of manna for bread, quail for meat, water from various rocks, protection and victory over enemies, and a myriad of other miracles during the desert journey—Moses had witnessed the unbelief and the consequences of disobedience. Moses grieved over the fact that he would not be able to make the crossing of the Jordan into the Promised Land.

Moses’ concern for Israel’s obedience is heightened by his knowing about a future scattering of Israel due to future disobedience. Just a few chapters earlier in Deuteronomy, we can read a statement that describes what Moses has already perceived:

“The LORD will scatter you among the peoples, and you will be left few in number among the nations where the LORD drives you” (Deuteronomy 4:27).

When you combine this realization with the fact that Moses also knew that his days were coming to an end, the urgency of his appeal is better understood. With some of his last activities on Earth, he continued to exhort Israel to obey God’s commandments in order to receive His blessings. The heart of a shepherd over his flock is evident. Almost to his last breath, Moses continued to repeat the words of instruction that lead to the promises of blessing and happiness.[2]

As the narrative continues, Moses recalled the horrific incident of the worship of the golden calf.[3] This tragic event resulted in Moses breaking the tablets that contained the Ten Commandments. One can only imagine how terrible this display of disobedience was indelibly etched in Moses’ mind. But without breaking stride, Moses went to describe how a loving God, by His own finger, etched the Ten Commandments on two new tablets.[4] By recalling this seminal event in the early history of the wilderness journey, Moses was appealing to the Israelites to take note of God’s forgiving love for His people.

It is at this point that Moses issued a rhetorical question to the people, and then answered it. This is a question which has been probing my spirit throughout the week:

And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God demand of you? Only this: to revere the LORD your God, to walk only in His paths, to love Him, and to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and soul, keeping the LORD’s commandments and laws, which I enjoin upon you today, for your good” (Deuteronomy 10:12-13, NJPS).

The Hebrew verb sha’al, appearing the Qal stem (simple action, active voice), can notably mean “to make a request for something specific, to claim, demand” and “to beg for, demand, wish” (HALOT).[5] It is these admonitions that summarize not only what God requires of His people, but also how they can do certain things to fulfill these requirements. If we consider the wider scope of what God asks of us, it is actually not that difficult—especially if we are Believers empowered by the Holy Spirit:

“Now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require from you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the LORD’s commandments and His statutes which I am commanding you today for your good? Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the highest heavens, the earth and all that is in it. Yet on your fathers did the LORD set His affection to love them, and He chose their descendants after them, even you above all peoples, as it is this day. So circumcise your heart, and stiffen your neck no longer. For the LORD your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God who does not show partiality nor take a bribe. He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing. So show your love for the alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt. You shall fear the LORD your God; you shall serve Him and cling to Him, and you shall swear by His name. He is your praise and He is your God, who has done these great and awesome things for you which your eyes have seen. Your fathers went down to Egypt seventy persons in all, and now the LORD your God has made you as numerous as the stars of heaven” (Deuteronomy 10:12-22).

One of the encouraging things about reading and studying the Bible is when God’s Word takes you to your knees. When you identify with Ancient Israel in this historical setting on the plains of Moab, statements like these, when taken to heart and meditated upon, can have a profound impact on your walk with the Messiah Yeshua. Questions like these might erupt in your heart, spirit, soul, and mind:

  • Do I fear the Lord?
  • Do I walk in His ways?
  • Do I love the Lord?
  • Do I serve the Lord with all my heart and soul?
  • Do I keep the Lord’s commandments and statutes?

Are these requirements applicable to you today? If they are, what are you to do?

If you are totally honest with yourself, you probably realize that you fall short of these things—in some capacity—on a regular basis. Certainly, there are times when you might be able to say “Yes and Amen” to these expectations, but can you honestly say you achieve each one of these things consistently?

What happens when your fear of God is minimized? What happens when you do not necessarily walk in His ways, but instead decide to do your own thing? What happens when you place your own selfish interests ahead of His, indicating that you love yourself more than you love God? Do you serve God out of guilt or condemnation, or because your heart and soul are tuned exclusively into serving Him? What happens when you deliberately disobey some of God’s commandments and statutes?

No one, no matter how hard he or she tries, is humanly able to keep all these things. And yet, these requirements are necessary if we are to receive the blessings of God. Some wonder if God is trying to play some kind of trick, or worse, think that He has singled out Israel as the one group of people which is destined to fail according to these requirements.

When you analyze what God asks us to do, you have to come to the logical conclusion that you are either humanly incapable, or in some cases, not fully willing, to comply with the Lord’s demands. Once you realize that His requirements are beyond your ability to achieve, you can either turn to Him for answers and ask for mercy and His Divine empowerment, or disregard God and live in a life of obstinance and rebellion against Him.

I urge every one of you to turn to the Lord! You can turn to Him in prayer, and through the confession of your sins, admit that you fail in complying with His Instruction. I believe that our Heavenly Father delights when we are honest with ourselves. With a broken spirit and a broken and contrite heart, we can turn to His Word, and discover that this is just what the Lord is looking for in His people. King David, a man after God’s own heart, stated it quite eloquently in Psalm 51—after he had been confronted with his own sins of adultery and murder:

“For the choir director. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba. Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; according to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against You, You only, I have sinned and done what is evil in Your sight, so that You are justified when You speak and blameless when You judge. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me. Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, and in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom. Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me to hear joy and gladness, let the bones which You have broken rejoice. Hide Your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation And sustain me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners will be converted to You. Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, the God of my salvation; then my tongue will joyfully sing of Your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, that my mouth may declare Your praise. For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise. By Your favor do good to Zion; build the walls of Jerusalem. Then You will delight in righteous sacrifices, in burnt offering and whole burnt offering; then young bulls will be offered on Your altar” (Psalm 51:1-19).

While our sins may not be on the level of adultery and murder, the fact still remains that when we are honest with ourselves, we are people who largely do not comply with the simple things that God asks us to do. Sometimes, we may think we are right with God because we are obeying Him in part, and that this constitutes us having a holy and righteous heart. This is especially true today in a Messianic community that largely emphasizes outward observances, but may be lacking in emphasizing ethics and heart attitude. Perhaps some more thoughts from the heart of God, as given by the Prophet Jeremiah, will give us a fuller picture:

“The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it? I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give to each man according to his ways, according to the results of his deeds” (Jeremiah 17:9-10).

If the heart is so deceitful, what is one to do? I believe that Moses gives us a part of the answer in his narration by indicating a number of key things that Israel should have been doing as they recognized the hardness of their hearts. Moses knew that the Ancient Israelites were going to fail the test, and would eventually be scattered to the nations—but hope is not lost. In Deuteronomy 10:12-22, Moses gave some important advice to the people, in spite of the fact that they will be punished.

First, Moses told the people of Israel to circumcise their hearts (Deuteronomy 10:16). God is aware of the hardness of people’s hearts and that they must be circumcised—or torn in two—to have a heart of flesh that can serve Him. This is a difficult command to visualize because it is more than just tearing an outer garment as a sign of grief. What it requires is an honest personal assessment of just how hard one’s heart is toward God and others. By tearing away the calloused places of the hardened heart, we become more sensitive to the ways of our Creator.

If we do this, then we can do the second thing that Moses commanded, which indicates that a heart is being softened (Deuteronomy 10:20). We can begin to loosen our necks to the ways of the Lord. A hardened heart is one that is full of pride, and a stiff neck is one that will not bow to the will of God. This is a despicable combination, but sadly one that has prevailed throughout the centuries among many who have claimed to serve the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

The third thing that Moses declared, that the people of Israel should have been doing, was to show love for the alien who resides in the Promised Land, because they had once been aliens themselves in Egypt (Deuteronomy 10:19). God knew that Israel should be able to identify with an alien people who lived among them. By loving and empathizing with these people, it would have a softening effect on those uncircumcised hearts. How do any of us identify with the strangers in our communities today, i.e., the downtrodden, the oppressed, and those in despair? Do we show any level of concern for their circumstances?

While these first three remedies might be accomplished to some visible degree, as softened hearts and pliable necks seek to love and welcome the sojourner within the community, Moses went back and restated, in so many words, some of the original expectations as more requirements are issued (Deuteronomy 10:20-21). Once again, Moses told the people of Israel that they are to fear the Lord. This requirement never goes away. Almost like a broken record, the refrain to fear God is incessantly declared for all to hear. Israel is to revere God and recognize His sustaining power and awesome display of love that continues down through the ages. This is why Proverbs tells us,

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Proverbs 9:10).

Clearly from this statement, we can conclude that fearing the Lord and recognizing His existence is the beginning of wisdom. Without our reverence and appreciation for Him as the Supreme Being, and for all that He has done and that He is doing, our knowledge is minimal. Certainly, without fearing the Holy One, our ability to understand Him and His ways is greatly impaired.

Moses also reminds us today about the requirement of service to God (Deuteronomy 11:1). By serving God you display a willingness to let Him use you in the circumstances of life in which you find yourself. Through your service to the Lord, in whatever capacity, you put His interests ahead of your own, and you learn to be sensitive to what His wishes are for your usefulness in the work of the Kingdom. Additionally, you are to cling to Him for all that you are worth. In reality, you do not have anywhere else to turn but to Him for all things in life. By clinging to Him for your life, health, provision, and daily bread—you learn to be solely dependent upon Him for all that life requires. The Psalmist gives us a brief explanation of some of the benefits of clinging to the testimonies of the Lord:

“I have chosen the faithful way; I have placed Your ordinances before me. I cling to Your testimonies; O LORD, do not put me to shame! I shall run the way of Your commandments, for You will enlarge my heart” (Psalm 119:30-32).

When you read these words and the statement that God will enlarge one’s heart—as we cling to His testimonies and follow the way of His commandments—the benefits of obeying Him become apparent.

If these actions appear similar to the other requirements listed earlier, you are hearing correctly. For the most part they are the commands to fear God, serve God, cling to God, and swear by Him. There is no doubt that one can never get away from the commandments that God has issued to His children.

Thankfully, Moses’ exhortation is only part of the answer. If absolute obedience is required for communion with God, then no person can ever commune with Him since no one has ever been humanly able to obey perfectly. The Apostle Paul candidly tells us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). We all fall short of compliance to God’s commandments in some regard, no matter how many sacrifices we make. In reality, we will never be able to remember all of our transgressions and iniquities that separate us from a holy and righteous God.

What are we to do? This is an age-old dilemma that followers of the God of Israel have struggled with since the days the Torah was formally given via Moses. How are we going to honestly comply with its direction, recognizing that there are times when we have disobeyed them?

Thankfully, the Lord knew what He was doing when He directed Moses to deliver His Instruction to Israel. God knew that not one human being, stained by Adam’s transgression, would be able to totally satisfy His requirements.

Why did God do this? Is it because He knew that a part of his plan was to bring forth the Messiah, who in time would be able to perfectly fulfill His requirements? Keep in mind that Adam and Eve were promised a Redeemer who would crush the head of the serpent (Genesis 3:15), the first reference to the Messiah in the Bible. Even prior to the time of Moses, faithful followers of God were anticipating a Redeemer to come. Our Heavenly Father, in His mercy to humanity, has consistently been speaking to various people so that they might know that an Anointed One was going to arrive and defeat the works of Satan. Consider that Moses tells us in Ekev that what proceeds forth from God’s mouth is what we need for life:

“All the commandments that I am commanding you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land which the LORD swore to give to your forefathers. You shall remember all the way which the LORD your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD” (Deuteronomy 8:1-3).

Yeshua Himself quoted these verses in His refutation of Satan in the wilderness (Matthew 4:4; Luke 4:4). Yeshua did this because He knew and was able to perform His Father’s will. He was humble and able to be completely obedient to Him, in spite of His extreme hunger. He did not command stones to become bread, but submitted to His Father.

Do you understand that God is constantly in the process of humbling and testing His children, in order to determine what is in their hearts? In this simple illustration, Moses reminded the people of Israel that God was intentionally letting them go hungry so that He could demonstrate His provision through the miracle of the manna in the wilderness. But then, He dropped the ultimate in brain twisters. God told Israel the spiritual fact that people are not to live by bread alone, but more importantly, by everything that proceeds from His mouth. We know from the Messiah’s own words that what ushers forth from the mouth is indicative of what is in the heart:

“The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart” (Luke 6:45).

Certainly down through the ages, a loving God has brought forth words which exemplify His loving concern for His own. And yet, in so many words, God’s mouthpiece Moses declares words that to the natural mind do not often add up. First, God requires impossible obedience. Secondly, God requires additional impossible obedience to overcome the disobedience. All along the way, Moses joins his statements with declarations that Israel will not be able to comply with these words, and will be scattered to the nations. Just what is God trying to do? Is He trying to confuse His people?

I do not believe that God is trying to confuse His people, but that He repeats His intentions over and over again because too many are hard of hearing. He is trying over and over again to demonstrate, from the Instruction delivered by Moses to the admonitions of the Prophets, that the only way to fully commune with Him will be through a Redeemer sent by Him. Something else has to be factored in if we are to properly obey Him and receive His blessings, because we are humanly incapable of obeying Him perfectly.

This is a difficult word for fallen humanity to stomach, let alone believe. After all, it takes a great deal of faith to believe that someone else can pay the debt for all of the sins you have committed. And yet, this is the very pattern that was established by faithful ones down through the ages. Remember that it was by faith that Abraham was considered righteous:

“Then he believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:6).

This is the same thing that the Prophet Habakkuk states:

“Behold, as for the proud one, his soul is not right within him; but the righteous will live by his faith” (Habakkuk 2:4).

The pattern for becoming righteous by our faith has been established and confirmed by the Prophets. In the Epistle to the Hebrews, we see that faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen:

“And what is faith? Faith gives substance to our hopes, and makes us certain of realities that we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1, NEB).

Faith is something that has nothing necessarily tangible to hold on to, in order to activate it. It is a belief in something that is hoped for, such as the Promised Redeemer. It is a conviction in something that cannot be seen or touched. There is probably no adequate way to describe faith, unless you have faith in something larger than yourself. When it comes to communion—and ultimate reunion with the Creator in eternity—you must have confidence that you have faith in the right thing. Certainly, if you are honest with yourself, you do not want to have faith solely in the human works you have done to seemingly gain approval with God.

One of the most important examples of faith comes from the Patriarch Abraham, when he willingly offered up his son Isaac as a sacrifice, at the simple request of God. Abraham had so much faith in God, believing that God could raise people from the dead, that he was willing to offer up his promised child as a sacrifice. The author of Hebrews attests to the great degree of faith that Abraham had:

“By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son; it was he to whom it was said, ‘IN ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS SHALL BE CALLED’ [Genesis 21:12]. He considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead, from which he also received him back as a type” (Hebrews 11:17-19).

As you can see, this week’s Torah reading has taken me through a diverse range of Scriptures, as I have dealt with the teaching of Moses and the requirements that he declared to Ancient Israel at this point in the Book of Deuteronomy. I believe this has been a good exercise in returning to the basics of faith that we have received, not only in the Torah and the Prophets, but also in the Apostolic Writings. In these texts we see Torah obedient followers of Yeshua the Messiah, who were filled with the Ruach HaKodesh or Holy Spirit, and were empowered to not only obey God more fully—but also expand His Kingdom through the spread of the good news.

Through the atoning sacrifice of Yeshua at Golgotha (Calvary), the Apostles were able to see that their faith in Yeshua’s work is what made them finally acceptable before a holy and righteous God. This did not, however, keep any of them from stopping the Torah obedient life in which they had been reared prior to His arrival. In a like manner, as many of us in the Twenty-First Century return to our Hebraic Roots, it is critical for us to understand that we likewise need to be following the Torah with all of our hearts, minds, souls, and strength. This is not to be an obedience that precedes faith in God—but comes as a result of us believing in God and being empowered by His Spirit, accomplishing the good works He desires of us (cf. Ephesians 2:8-10) via the promise of the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:25-27; cf. Hebrews 8:7-13; 10:14-18). With the Comforter and Teacher indwelling a heart that has been circumcised by the Lord, we should understand more clearly what Moses says when we read this section of Deuteronomy.

Through the comforting promptings of the Spirit, we can each appreciate what truly fearing and revering the Lord is all about, as we pursue Him in prayer and supplication. We should desire to walk in His ways so that we can please Him, as we are being conformed to the image of the great example we have in Yeshua. We can learn to love Him more, as we understand the greater depths of His love for us. We can seek to serve Him with all of our hearts, minds, souls, and strength. Finally, we can each seek to obey His commandments so that He can bless us according to His Word, recognizing that in Yeshua, our sins are forgiven as we confess and repent from our misdeeds.

Those of us who follow the Torah today as Messianic Believers cannot forget Yeshua. Not surprisingly, the issues that the Messianic community faces largely surface among those who tend to deemphasize Yeshua’s place in a person’s life. A fervent belief in Yeshua is absolutely imperative for a person who wants to study and understand the Torah properly. If we lose sight of the goal of the Torah being Yeshua (Romans 10:4), then we will be unable to correctly fear the Lord, walk with Him, love Him, serve Him, and obey Him properly. If we do not have a steadfast belief in Yeshua and in His accomplished work, then our good works will all be performed in vain.

As this Torah portion so eloquently explains, people do not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. Do you feast on His Word to fulfill you every day? Do you “feast” on Yeshua, allowing the Lord to empower you to perform His work here on Earth? I pray that you do so. Enjoy your feast of His Word on this Shabbat, remembering that our God requires faith in His Word to please Him!


NOTES

[1] CHALOT, 281.

[2] Deuteronomy 8:1-20.

[3] Deuteronomy 9:1-29.

[4] Deuteronomy 10:1-22.

[5] HALOT, 2:1372, 1373.

V’et’chanan

V’et’chanan

I pleaded

Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11
Isaiah 40:1-26

“Call Upon Him!”


by Mark Huey
mark@outreachisrael.net

V’et’channan is one of the most compelling Torah portions in the entire annual cycle. With a reiteration of the Decalogue[1] and the Shema[2] being just two of the many words that are declared, the commentaries written about this critical juncture in the sojourn of Ancient Israel are voluminous. One could spend days dissecting the grand significance of the Decalogue and the Shema, as these two critical pieces from the Bible have doubtlessly molded the thoughts and views of countless followers of the Creator God since. While these studies are definitely beneficial and recommended for the ardent student of the Torah, the aspect of this week’s reading, that seemed to settle in my spirit, is the comment that Moses made regarding the opportunity that God’s people have to call upon Him:

“For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as is the Lord our God whenever we call on Him?” (Deuteronomy 4:7).

There should be no doubt that this week I am being influenced by the distressing affairs that are currently going on in our world. These are troubling times for many who follow the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. From my limited perspective, if there were ever a time to call upon Him, this is such a time. The fact that these particular Scriptures just happen to be studied this week is not by chance, because our Sovereign God is intimately aware of the circumstances of His Creation. The question that keeps coming to my mind is just how we should all be calling on our God as we each deal with the various challenges of this hour.

As born again Believers, each of us should already know that since we have a personal relationship with our Heavenly Father, via the work of the Risen Savior Yeshua, with us being granted the indwelling presence of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit)—that we can have the confidence to approach the Lord with our requests (Hebrews 4:16). These following words from David, who knew the Lord and is often referred to as one after God’s own heart, should have much more meaning to you as you experience the presence of the Spirit of God in a redeemed heart of flesh by your faith in the Messiah:

“The LORD is righteous in all His ways and kind in all His deeds. The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth. He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him; He will also hear their cry and will save them. The LORD keeps all who love Him, but all the wicked He will destroy. My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD, and all flesh will bless His holy name forever and ever” (Psalm 145:17-21).

One can definitely see a connection between how Deuteronomy 4:7 speaks of those who “call on Him,” and Psalm 145:18, those “who call upon Him in truth.” The noticeable difference, between these two phrases, is how Psalm 145:18 adds the requirement that God’s people call upon Him b’emet or “in truth,” also rendered as “in integrity” (HCSB). Surely, with a knowledge of God’s truth, and a comprehension of His holiness and awesome power, we will be able to properly issue our requests—and most especially our pleas for His mercy and intervention—to Him.

Personally, I have been praying for many different situations this week. Messianic Believers always have the current events present in the Land of Israel, and the proverbial “mess” in the Middle East to pray about. This past week (for 12 August, 2011), though, there has been the growing “mess” in the global economy, and specifically the U.S., to pray about. Uncertainty about the future is running rampant, especially as the value of homes, property, one’s investment portfolio, and confidence in government(s) plummet “down the tubes.” Many people want direction regarding these, and other challenges.

I am reminded that it is often in the broken moments of life, that God finally has the opportunity to reveal Himself. It is when questions seem to go unanswered, that people can come to the end of relying on themselves, and turn to their Creator for mercy, comfort, and even redemption. There is something truly wonderful about seeing that you are nothing without the Lord. When you can honestly confess that you need to totally trust in Him, and recognize that what He is doing or allowing is for your ultimate good—it is then that the understanding witnessed in the Shema can be realized:

“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deuteronomy 6:5).

To love the Lord your God with all of oneself, means that you totally accept what He is doing in you and your environment. While you might not completely like what is going on, and you might want it to change, the fact remains that He as Supreme Creator is still in charge. He knows the beginning from the end. He is not confounded by the horrific circumstances that have caused turmoil for someone’s financial holdings or stocks this week.

In V’et’chanan, we see a prophecy of how in the Last Days, those who are scattered of Israel will return to the Lord, and be gathered back to the Promised Land. Within this word are ever-critical admonitions about how His people are to turn to Him with all their beings, and how He is astutely faithful to His covenant:

“The LORD will scatter you among the peoples, and you will be left few in number among the nations where the LORD drives you. There you will serve gods, the work of man’s hands, wood and stone, which neither see nor hear nor eat nor smell. But from there you will seek the LORD your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul. When you are in distress and all these things have come upon you, in the latter days you will return to the LORD your God and listen to His voice. For the LORD your God is a compassionate God; He will not fail you nor destroy you nor forget the covenant with your fathers which He swore to them” (Deuteronomy 4:27-31).

As you can read, our compassionate God will remember His promises to the ancients. This is one promise we can all rely upon, something which faithful followers have always turned to throughout the remainder of Holy Writ:

“Now therefore, our God, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who keeps covenant and lovingkindness, do not let all the hardship seem insignificant before You, which has come upon us, our kings, our princes, our priests, our prophets, our fathers and on all Your people, from the days of the kings of Assyria to this day” (Nehemiah 9:32).

“Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Yeshua our Lord, equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Yeshua the Messiah, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen” (Hebrews 13:20-21).

I would urge you to please take the time to regularly cry out for all of those who truly need Him. Are you one of those people? We live in a world today, where circumstances appear to be getting worse and worse, and are completely out of our control. This is when the Lord can move. Please take the time to call upon the Lord. Pray for all of those being affected by what is happening today, because He is the only One who can bring true shalom, true peace and tranquility, to those whose lives are being turned upside down and into chaos. May we be among those who know that we can call on Him in this time of need!


NOTES

[1] Deuteronomy 5:1-21.

[2] Deuteronomy 6:1-12.

Devarim

Devarim

Words

Deuteronomy 1:1-3:22
Isaiah 1:1-27

“Rehearsing the Truths”


by Mark Huey
mark@outreachisrael.net

The Book of Deuteronomy is a repetition and an amplification by Moses, of many of the commands of the Lord given in the Torah, so that the Ancient Israelites would not disobey Him, as they prepared themselves to enter into the Promised Land. In the opening chapters of Devarim, the reinforcement of an historical perspective is recorded, as Moses recalled many of the places where he probably had to admonish the people to obey the Lord:

“These are the words which Moses spoke to all Israel across the Jordan in the wilderness, in the Arabah opposite Suph, between Paran and Tophel and Laban and Hazeroth and Dizahab” (Deuteronomy 1:1).

Moses then defined the boundaries of what has been described as “the Greater Israel” that was promised to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob:

“The LORD our God spoke to us at Horeb, saying, ‘You have stayed long enough at this mountain. Turn and set your journey, and go to the hill country of the Amorites, and to all their neighbors in the Arabah, in the hill country and in the lowland and in the Negev and by the seacoast, the land of the Canaanites, and Lebanon, as far as the great river, the river Euphrates. See, I have placed the land before you; go in and possess the land which the LORD swore to give to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to them and their descendants after them’” (Deuteronomy 1:8-11).

When one plots out these boundaries, it is abundantly clear that in modern times, the State of Israel has never come close to securing for itself all of what was originally promised. It has not been since the days of Kings David and Solomon that this promise was actually fulfilled. But that was over 2,500 years ago, and in the interim, Israel has not been able to secure all of these territories and have control over these promised regions in the Middle East. We know that according to prophecy, when Israel is restored in the Last Days, that somehow Israel will occupy these borders. However, when or how this will specifically take place is anyone’s guess at this point in time.

The key with seeing Israel restored, more than anything else, is that all must corporately acknowledge Yeshua the Messiah as its king. Most of the Jewish people on Earth today have rejected Yeshua as the Messiah, and most in Christianity fail to recognize who He was as a First Century Jewish Rabbi. This has begun to significantly change in the past thirty to fifty years through the growth of Messianic Judaism and the Hebraic Roots movement. Many Jews have turned to faith in Messiah Yeshua, and many non-Jewish Believers have recognized the importance of their Hebraic Roots. Without one’s personal recognition that apart from Yeshua dwelling inside of us, unredeemed human beings can do nothing of eternal significance:

“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned” (John 15:4-6).

Many of our Jewish brethren who are not Believers have sought redemption through a refined system of following the Torah, that—without the Holy Spirit—could be at best good human works. How many of these works are offered by rote without the right intentions? (The same could be said of any Christian “good works” offered by rote as well.) We know that the Lord is not impressed with our sacrifices and attempts to please Him with works of the flesh. Just consider some of the statements made in this week’s Haftarah selection from Isaiah:

“‘What are your multiplied sacrifices to Me?’ Says the LORD. I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed cattle; and I take no pleasure in the blood of bulls, lambs or goats. When you come to appear before Me, who requires of you this trampling of My courts? Bring your worthless offerings no longer, incense is an abomination to Me. New moon and sabbath, the calling of assemblies—I cannot endure iniquity and the solemn assembly. I hate your new moon festivals and your appointed feasts, they have become a burden to Me; I am weary of bearing them. So when you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you; yes, even though you multiply prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are covered with blood. Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from My sight. Cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, reprove the ruthless, defend the orphan, plead for the widow. Come now, and let us reason together,’ Says the LORD, ‘Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool’” (Isaiah 1:11-18).

These statements were obviously given against an historical backdrop of ancient people presenting empty offerings before God, and going through religious motions. While on one level they were loyal to the Father, on another they were disloyal by failing to obey key statutes and commandments that would enact His justice.

Can you imagine what religious Jews contemplate when they review these, and other similar verses? What do they think is being said by Isaiah while they fight terror and Muslim extremists? Do you think that some see how God greatly desires His people to have a broken spirit and broken and contrite heart—which completely loves Him and is devoted to Him?

“For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise” (Psalm 51:16-17).

This is the sacrifice that pleases Him alone.

On the other hand, many of those, who have been truly born again down through the centuries, have concluded that following the Torah is not really necessary in order to demonstrate good works. What many did not take into account is the fact that the curse of the Law and its capital penalties, have indeed been atoned for via the sacrifice of the Messiah, being nailed to the cross (Colossians 2:14). Yet, while our salvation is by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9), we have each been created to walk in good works (Ephesians 2:10). The promise of the New Covenant, quite contrary to somehow abolishing the Torah—actually includes the stipulation that the Holy Spirit will write the Torah onto the hearts and minds of the redeemed (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:25-27; Hebrews 8:8-12; 10:16-17). Disobedience to God’s Instruction, surely impedes the oneness that the Lord desires to have with us!

This age-old dilemma persists to this very day. But, things have indeed started to change with the arrival of today’s emerging Messianic movement. Jewish and non-Jewish Believers are coming together in unity like never before—and they are learning to truly appreciate the value of Moses’ Teaching. The Book of Revelation says that two common denominators will define the end-time saints: there will be a group of people who have a testimony of Yeshua, knowing that He is the Savior, and they will obey the commandments of the Torah of God (Revelation 12:17; 14:12). This group is beginning to steadily emerge throughout the world. With this understanding comes a great responsibility to become a true disciple of the Messiah Yeshua and walk as He walked. It most especially involves a responsibility of understanding the imperative value of being able to love God and neighbor, the foremost of the Torah’s commandments.[1]

As our ministry has observed over the years, a wide number of non-Jewish Believers are embracing a life of Torah observance, which previous generations have surely missed out on. Yet, for many this is being done with increasing urgency—as they are convinced that the days of Jacob’s Trouble are rapidly approaching. While we should be able to appreciate that many have tried to stay in tune with what is happening in our world, and in Israel in particular—understanding the importance of the Messianic lifestyle, with a skewed sense of timing for the Last Days, has been most debilitating for our faith community. If one believes that the trauma of the Great Tribulation is getting ready to begin this year or next year, there is a tendency to be unbalanced in relation to the wider breadth of Scripture. One’s presumed growth in the Lord can be extremely unbalanced and unstable.

Since 1996, I have personally witnessed many voices across the Messianic spectrum who have proclaimed that the Great Tribulation was about to begin. By looking at world circumstances, these people have forced Scripture texts to fit with current events, or vice versa, and have created a great amount of angst and fear among those sincerely seeking the Lord. While some of their theories have indeed “jumpstarted” many into taking the Scriptures more seriously, far too many have fallen away when prognostications do not materialize. This has done some considerable damage to the Body of the Messiah and has not helped the growth and stability of the Messianic movement. Credibility is challenged in all regards when the so-called “urgency of the hour” is the compelling word, and predictions fail to come true.

Even today, as the conflict with Hezbollah and Hamas rage throughout Israel, we are hearing a chorus of statements by some who are anxiously communicating that the world is on the verge of Armageddon. Time and experience are the best teachers. Since I have worked my way through multiple scenarios over the past decade and longer, I can sincerely relate one major breakthrough that has tempered our ministry’s balanced approach to teaching the Word of God.

Several years ago, our family came to the conclusion that the return of the Messiah was not at all incumbent on running numbers and calculating years for the Second Coming.[2] Too many presuppositions that have gone into the different numbering and chronological schemes can be easily challenged. Recalculating recalculations of recalculations has been a less-than-constructive activity for today’s Messianics. The Apostle Peter says instead how we “ought…to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God” (2 Peter 3:11-12). He employs the present active participle speudontas—“hastening”—to describe this action. The righteous behavior of Believers affects “the coming of the day of God,” not any human being’s mistaken calculation of it. What we do as the Lord’s people will affect when the Messiah returns. What we do regarding our godly behavior, in obedience to the Lord, will “work to hasten its coming” (CJB), “speed its coming” (NIV), or be “hurrying it along” (NLT). This is a very Hebraic principle that is paralleled by what the Jewish Sages tell us:

“Said R. Yohanan in the name of R. Simeon b. Yohai, ‘If the Israelites keep two successive Sabbaths in a proper manner, they will be saved immediately’” (b.Shabbat 118b).[3]

(Obviously, if the Rabbinic principle of keeping two Sabbaths is correct, then it would be keen for us to understand that remembering Shabbat is far more than just abstaining from our labors. Shabbat is to teach us important things about eternity [cf. Hebrews 4:1], undoubtedly to be known by those who observe it properly.)

While some might argue with our conclusions, this one determination has been directly responsible for us to maintain a long-term, steady approach to the work and responsibilities of Messianic ministry. Rather than be like the sprinter who tires after a short distance, we instead approach the work of discipling others like a marathon runner. While we recognize that the race has an ultimate end—namely the restoration of God’s Kingdom—it is through patience, perseverance, and steadfast endurance that we will complete the race of faith. While this method may not be as exciting or stimulating as others, it has allowed us to maintain a balance and fair-mindedness, that we believe will help us complete our call to reach out and leave a sound legacy to those who will follow after us.[4]

One of the basic elements of this long-distance approach should be seen in a consistent, weekly study of the Torah. We all must face the fact that human nature has a tendency to become lackadaisical with repetition. But is it not repetition and practice which ultimately allow the greatest musicians or athletes—or any professional—to excel at their chosen profession? Is it not through repetition and practice that we inculcate our minds with almost automatic responses in given situations?

What about the study of God’s Word? How is one going to be able to respond in a godly manner, unless he or she has devoted the time to study the Bible? The battle in the mind is where most of the conflict of fallen human nature and the indwelling Spirit occurs. It is only through a diligent and consistent study and application of the Word of God that we can overcome the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the Devil.

Moses understood that God’s people needed repetition of His Instruction, and thankfully down through the ages, the Jewish Sages and Rabbis also realized this aspect of our humanity. Consequently, the Torah cycle as we now know it was developed to have the Jewish people rehearse the truths that it communicates. Sadly, many contemporary Christians, who have had a real life encounter with the Messiah of Israel, are under the illusion that the New Testament has replaced the Torah—not recognizing that the Torah, Prophets, Writings, and Apostolic Scriptures are all integral parts of God’s written Word.

The introduction of a consistent and practical Torah study for many people has greatly enhanced their faith and understanding of the life of Yeshua and the Apostles. If one does not read and reflect on the teachings of Moses, it is difficult to know when you are committing a sin of commission or omission. I have discovered that each year, as I have faithfully reviewed the Torah portions every week, that the Holy Spirit will bring certain areas in your life to your attention that need to be changed. This does not occur in a single year. On the contrary, if we are maturing in our faith—applying Scripture properly takes a lifetime!

With all of this being said, we can each turn to the patterns established by Moses and joyfully study his words and admonitions. We can each ask the Holy Spirit to illuminate areas of our walk that need positive change as we are being conformed to the image of the Messiah Yeshua. May we each relish the opportunity to rehearse the truths and be changed from glory to glory as His sanctifying work continues in our lives!

We do not know all that God is doing today with His people, because we simply cannot see time and space and the universe from His perspective, but we do know that when one part of the Body of Messiah suffers, the whole body suffers along with it. This not only concerns our Jewish brothers and sisters suffering from terrorism today—but all members of the community of faith all over the world, who today might not even know that a Messianic movement exists. As the Apostle Paul reminds us,

But now there are many members, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’; or again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it” (1 Corinthians 12:20-26).

If this is a time of great affliction for the Jews living in the Land of Israel, then perhaps the Holy One will use our prayers of intercession to reveal Himself. Likewise, we must pray for any Believer suffering from personal or corporate traumas. We must also pray for the enemies of Israel, as Yeshua the Messiah alone is the only answer for the members of Hezbollah or Hamas. We must pray that in this time, the Lord reveals Himself in a unique way to all members of the human family. Our prayers are described in Revelation like incense unto God, being gathered in His throne room in golden bowls:

“When He had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints” (Revelation 5:8).

Perhaps, as we each rehearse whatever truths He brings to mind as we intercede this weekend, our Heavenly Father will be pleased with our petitions and return those prayers to those who in a like manner are crying out for His salvation and hand to move. Remember that God’s Kingdom can only be restored first by the restoration of individuals unto Him. May we fervently pray to this end!


NOTES

[1] 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.

[2] Consult the blog editorial “The Hastening of Righteousness” by J.K. McKee.

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

[4] Consult the author’s article “The Messianic Marathon: A History Lesson,” appearing in the September 2008 issue of Outreach Israel News.

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.