TORAHSCOPE – Shemini – Eighth – 30 Mar 2019

Shemini

Eighth

True Shock and Awe

Leviticus 9:1-11:47
2 Samuel 6:1-7:17 (A); 6:1-19 (S)

The title of our Torah portion for this week, Shemini or “Eighth,” points one to the chronological context of the “eighth day” that begins this section of Leviticus. A glance at the concluding statements from Tzav last week, notes how the seven days of consecration which God required of Aaron and his sons has just been completed. Aaron and his sons had been very busy anointing and consecrating the Tabernacle, various implements for sacrifice, different accoutrements for the Tent of Meeting, and even themselves:

At the doorway of the tent of meeting, moreover, you shall remain day and night for seven days and keep the charge of the LORD, so that you will not die, for so I have been commanded. Thus Aaron and his sons did all the things which the LORD had commanded through Moses” (Leviticus 8:35-36).

Our selection in Shemini begins with, Now it came about on the eighth day that Moses called Aaron and his sons and the elders of Israel” (Leviticus 9:1). Now that the seven days of consecration are completed, the glory of God is ready to manifest itself before the Ancient Israelites. The Tabernacle’s system of offerings and sacrifices is ready to begin its designated function:

Then Aaron lifted up his hands toward the people and blessed them, and he stepped down after making the sin offering and the burnt offering and the peace offerings. Moses and Aaron went into the tent of meeting. When they came out and blessed the people, the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people. Then fire came out from before the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the portions of fat on the altar; and when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces” (Leviticus 9:22-24).

This is a very dramatic and exciting section of Scripture to contemplate and imagine in one’s mind’s eye. Now that the anointing and consecration of the Tabernacle have been completed, and all of the required sacrifices have been offered, the glory of the Lord, kavod-ADONAI, appears.

Aaron first lifts up his hands, and then Moses blesses the people. Then, God’s glory falls upon the Tent of Meeting. In a powerful way, a fire comes down and consumes the burnt offering and portions of fat on the altar. The appearance of the all-consuming fire was so overwhelming that the people shouted for joy that their offerings were acceptable and fell on their faces in awe.[1]

Aaron’s Sons Consumed

Following Leviticus ch. 9, there is a distinct break as the scene of the Tabernacle changes from readers seeing the glory of God manifested—to a very tragic incident involving the deaths of Nadab and Abihu. For some unstated reason in the text, the two eldest sons of Aaron decided to offer up some “strange fire” (Heb. eish zarah) that was unauthorized by the Holy One of Israel. They soon discover that unsanctioned activities at this sacred placebased on their own volitional choiceshave terminal consequences:

“Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took their respective firepans, and after putting fire in them, placed incense on it and offered strange fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them. And fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD” (Leviticus 10:1-2).

The death of these two men was a stunning and unexpected tragedy. It was a clear display of God’s apparent displeasure with the actions of Nadab and Abihu. Moments before in the text, a holy fire consumes sacrificial offerings. But then, for offering up “unholy fire” (RSV) or “unauthorized fire” (NIV), the heirs-apparent of Aaron are consumed. As the Hebrew verb akal describes it, they were “eat[en], devour[ed], consume[d]” (AMG).[2] This is the same verb used previously for the consumption of the offering (Leviticus 9:24). The same God who demonstrated His pleasure with the presentation of offerings before Him in Leviticus 9, is now displeased with the presentation of inappropriate fire before Him in Leviticus 10.

Aaron was in total shock after seeing his two sons die by the force of God. Because of the severity of the Levitical service, Moses communicates these direct commands to Aaron, which he had received from the Lord:

“Then Moses said to Aaron, ‘It is what the LORD spoke, saying, “By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy, and before all the people I will be honored.”’ So Aaron, therefore, kept silent” (Leviticus 10:3).

Certainly, these words from God spoken by Moses, struck a chord with Aaron. Could it have been possible that Aaron thought back to the admonition uttered just before the Decalogue was received at Mount Sinai? Here the instruction was, “Also let the priests who come near to the LORD consecrate themselves, or else the LORD will break out against them” (Exodus 19:22).

At this juncture, Moses was warning not just the Levites, but by extension all of the Ancient Israelites, to not be presumptuous about approaching their Creator. The priests needed to be reminded about the necessity of personal consecration, lest they be punished for presenting something unholy or inappropriate before the Lord.

Leviticus 10:3 is clear how “Aaron remained silent” (NIV) as Moses delivered instruction following the deaths of Nadab and Abihu. Can you imagine what was going through his mind? He was responsible for the golden calf incident in Exodus 32, and yet here he was still standing, in spite of three thousand Israelites slaughtered. For what could seem to be a far lesser offense than committing idolatry against the Holy One, he had to look at the charred remains of his sons. Aaron understood in a very visible way that in order to be in the presence of the Lord, one must be sanctified unto Him.

What can we learn from this today, in the era of New Covenant when Yeshua’s sacrifice has offered permanent forgiveness from sins? The Lord still requires His people to be holy in order for them to access to His presence. He demands that He be glorified and properly honored by His creatures. It is quite possible that Aaron was terrified into thinking that he could be the next victim of the consuming fire of God. While Believers today might have the sacrifice of Yeshua covering their transgressions, even the Apostolic Scriptures admonish us, “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12).

Pleasing the Holy One

There is speculation by the Jewish Rabbis that Nadab and Abihu were perhaps under the influence of alcohol when they made the bad decision to offer up strange fire on the altar.[3] This is a possibility, as they could have been intoxicated so as to not properly follow the procedures that the Lord required of them as consecrated priests. The mention of this prohibition, several verses later in Leviticus 10, is a good textual clue that they could have indeed been drunk:

“Do not drink wine or strong drink, neither you nor your sons with you, when you come into the tent of meeting, so that you will not die—it is a perpetual statute throughout your generations—and so as to make a distinction between the holy and the profane, and between the unclean and the clean, and so as to teach the sons of Israel all the statutes which the LORD has spoken to them through Moses” (Leviticus 10:9-11).

The problem with alcohol may provide some explanation, but we need not overlook some of the verses which appear between the description of Nadab and Abihu’s death (Leviticus 10:1-3) and then the description of how priests were not to drink while on duty (Leviticus 10:9-11). Some intriguing statements are made in Leviticus 10:6-7, succinctly describing how holy God considers the priestly office to be:

“Then Moses said to Aaron and to his sons Eleazar and Ithamar, ‘Do not uncover your heads nor tear your clothes, so that you will not die and that He will not become wrathful against all the congregation. But your kinsmen, the whole house of Israel, shall bewail the burning which the LORD has brought about. You shall not even go out from the doorway of the tent of meeting, or you will die; for the LORD’s anointing oil is upon you.’ So they did according to the word of Moses” (Leviticus 10:6-7).

Aaron’s other two sons, Eleazar and Ithamar, will take the place of Nadab and Abihu as priests. They are all instructed not to mourn for the untimely deaths of their brothers. Then they are told to not even leave the Tent of Meeting, because “the anointing oil of the LORD is upon you” (RSV).

The God of Israel was very serious about His chosen priests honoring the office in which they were to serve. In some respects, you can ascertain that from the shock of the consuming deaths of Nadab and Abihu, a genuine awe and reverence of the Lord has settled in the hearts of Aaron and his other sons. Obedience to these directives was adhered to without question. As this section of Leviticus closes, Moses asks Aaron and his sons why they have not followed the instructions to partake of the “holy” offerings that were clear instructions from the Most High:

“‘Why did you not eat the sin offering at the holy place? For it is most holy, and He gave it to you to bear away the guilt of the congregation, to make atonement for them before the LORD. Behold, since its blood had not been brought inside, into the sanctuary, you should certainly have eaten it in the sanctuary, just as I commanded.’ But Aaron spoke to Moses, ‘Behold, this very day they presented their sin offering and their burnt offering before the LORD. When things like these happened to me, if I had eaten a sin offering today, would it have been good in the sight of the LORD?’ When Moses heard that, it seemed good in his sight” (Leviticus 10:17-20).

Aaron responds to this rebuke with a very heartfelt reply, which indicates that the circumstances of his sons’ deaths, in his mind, prohibited them from eating the sin offering. Having seen his two sons die in a very tragic way, and having heard the admonitions about mourning and leaving the presence of the Lord while under the anointing, Aaron’s heart seems to finally be in the right place.

Even with the potential for immediate Divine retribution, Aaron’s contrite response was, “would the LORD have approved?” (NJPS). Apparently, this was what the Lord was looking for from His high priest and his sons, and Moses was satisfied with the response (Leviticus 10:20). Since Aaron was not consumed for disregarding the requirements for the sin offering, the Lord was pleased with his service as high priest of Israel.

In Shemini, God makes it clear through a very dramatic episode, what He required of the Levitical priesthood. As exemplified in Aaron and his sons, He desires a set-apart people who understand the call upon their lives, and who put His interests as Creator ahead of their own as mortals. Aaron learns from the shocking deaths of Nadab and Abihu that being presumptuous with how someone approaches God can bring significant consequences. Aaron was a changed man. Is it possible that he went through some kind of a mental checklist, asking the question of whether or not God would approve, before every priestly action he took? These initial scenes had to be preparatory for the great responsibility that being the high priest of Israel would entail.

Conforming to His Image

Today, as representatives of the God of Israel in the Earth, we need to approach our service unto Him with the same kind of sobriety that Aaron developed. We need to understand His ways, a very important part of which involves personal Torah study. So much knowledge and understanding about God’s holiness can be imparted to us by a review of the weekly parashah, as we contemplate not only the continuing trajectory of God’s Word, but also His mission and calling for our individual lives.

In Leviticus 11, a part of our Torah portion for this week, we encounter the first major instruction detailing the kosher dietary laws. Many Believers today will casually dismiss these directions given by God, because they think they were only for a previous time or age. But at the same time, several prominent evangelical Christians today—because of the poor health of many in our society—have spoken in favor of the health benefits that are derived from not eating certain meats. Are God’s people to be regulated by Him in simple matters like their diet? Can you learn anything about God’s holiness by what you eat?[4]

As we search our own hearts in these days of “shock and awe,”[5] perhaps we should ask the Lord to give us hearts that are reminiscent of Aaron’s heart—hopefully without having to witness the same kind of dramatic encounters that he saw! Learning from Shemini, before we take actions, we should learn to ask the simple question of whether or not God would approve. By training our hearts and minds to such a pattern of behavior, those called into His service can demonstrate how they are being conformed to the image of Yeshua:

“For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified” (Romans 8:29-30).

Let us be reminded that Yeshua only did what the Father instructed Him to do:

“So Yeshua said, ‘When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me’” (John 8:28).

By His grace, may we also be reminded that we, as obedient servants, should be doing only that which the Lord has instructed us. By being sensitive to His will, not only will He be glorified—but we might find ourselves truly in awe of His work through us. If we choose otherwise, we may be in for an unexpected shock! (Click to Source)


NOTES

[1] As an aside, it is interesting to note two things from this account. First, witnessing supernatural actions in person can generate enough fear to buckle the stiffest of knees. Second, the witnesses to God’s glory falling and the fire consuming the offerings caused the Ancient Israelites to fall on their faces. This incident, and others throughout the Scriptures (i.e., Genesis 17:3; Numbers 16:4; Joshua 5:14; Daniel 8:17; Matthew 17:6), indicate how people generally respond to the genuine presence of God.

Back in the early to mid-1990s, a phenomenon was moving through various charismatic circles known by a variety of names such as the “Toronto blessing” or “holy laughter.” As people claimed to have been blessed by various speakers, etc., many were falling down under the supposed power of the Holy Spirit. In many cases, as they were being prayed for, the typical response was to see people fall on their backs as they were being touched—rather than fall forward on the face, as is typical from the Scriptural examples.

Things like this should make one pause and ask just what kind of a “spirit” was being served. If more of the participants had been conscious of the Biblical examples where people fall on their facesbefore God, there could have been a recognition that these actions needed to be viewed with a more critical eye. Thankfully today, as more and more Believers become better acquainted with the basic principles of God’s Torah, He will equip us to more properly question the origins of the various spiritual phenomenon we encounter.

[2] Baker and Carpenter, 49.

[3] J.H. Hertz, ed., Pentateuch & Haftorahs (London: Soncino Press, 1960), 445.

[4] For a further discussion, consult the articles “To Eat or Not to Eat?” and “How Do We Properly Keep Kosher?” by J.K. McKee.

[5] The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq (2002-2003).

TorahScope: Vayikra – He called – “Sacrificial Identification” – 10 March, 2019

Vayikra

He called

Leviticus 1:1-5:26[6:7]
Isaiah 43:21-44:23

“Sacrificial Identification”


by Mark Huey

The Torah portion Vayikra begins the Book of Leviticus, and serves as the Hebrew name for the entire text. Chs. 1-7 detail sacrificial laws for individuals, for the congregation of Israel, and for priests. This is followed by chs. 8-10 describing the worship in the completed Tabernacle. Chs. 11-17 focus on the laws of clean and unclean, purity and purification, and conclude with the institution of the Day of Atonement. Chs. 18-26 compose laws of marriage, personal and social ethics, the appointed times, land tenure, and national welfare. The final chapter of Leviticus, ch. 27, deals with oath making and tithes.

If you will recall from Pequdei’s closing verses from the end of Exodus, the Tabernacle was completed and the glory of God took up residence in the midst of Israel (Exodus 40:34-38). Now that the means to offer sacrifices were available, a description of the sacrificial system is given. Please note how the Pentateuch is not necessarily narrated for us in absolute chronological order, because if this were the case, then Exodus 40 should be followed by Numbers 7, which records the consecration of the Tabernacle. Instead, the different books of the Pentateuch have been organized for us the way they have because of theological and literary reasons.

With the Tabernacle now in place at the end of Exodus, the Book of Leviticus begins by describing the sacrificial system which would be able to cover the sins of the Ancient Israelites. In our parashah for this week, the differentiations between the burnt offering,[1] grain offering,[2] peace offering,[3] sin offering,[4] and guilt offering[5] are described. There is also some clarification between unintentional sins and intentional sins, and how different people are supposed to handle the different offerings in order to receive forgiveness. One of the verses that immediate jumped out at me, when I started reading Vayikra, was Leviticus 1:4:

“He shall lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, that it may be accepted for him to make atonement on his behalf.”

Offerings Defined

In contemplating all the different offerings, and the distinctions between the intentional and unintentional sins, seen in Vayikra, I thought about a number of things. Making free will offerings to God was an expected “given” among the Ancient Israelites. These offerings were to be presented before the Lord as a token of their appreciation of His goodness toward them. Perhaps, I reckoned, the people knew that as limited mortals they were not necessarily in right relationship with an Eternal God, and so they would feel led to just give something to Him. Such an innate desire to offer up the best of one’s flocks or herds as burnt offerings, or simply a sacrifice to please the Lord, might salve one’s conscience for a short time.

Early in our Torah reading, we encounter the Hebrew word qorban, used for “offering,” and simply means “offering, oblation” (BDB):[6]

“Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘When any man of you brings an offering [qorban] to the LORD, you shall bring your offering of animals from the herd or the flock. If his offering is a burnt offering [qorban] from the herd, he shall offer it, a male without defect; he shall offer it at the doorway of the tent of meeting, that he may be accepted before the LORD’” (Leviticus 1:2-3).

Apparently, there is not a completely accurate English word to describe all the things that qorban could fully entail. The term qorban is derived from the root qarav, basically meaning “come near, approach, enter into” (TWOT).[7] When an Israelite brought forth a qorban offering, it was designed by God to draw His people closer to Him. The physical act, of offering up a farm animal that had economic value, was a far greater “sacrifice” than simply taking the time to pray or observe the daily worship of the Tabernacle. There was a realized cost associated with offering up one’s prized agricultural possession. Some of the individual’s “treasures” or assets were losing their lives.

Millennia later, Yeshua described how one could tell where a heart was located. He taught, “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21).

When one of the Ancient Israelites would make an offering of a prized animal, the individual was tangibly displaying his or her desire to be in communion with the Creator, frequently having to make restitution for some kind of sin or error committed. And on another level, by offering a living animal as a covering for sin, the message of substitution would be visibly communicated. The one who was offering up the animal had to identify with it, by laying his hands upon it right before it is killed:

“He shall lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, that it may be accepted for him to make atonement on his behalf. He shall slay the young bull before the LORD; and Aaron’s sons the priests shall offer up the blood and sprinkle the blood around on the altar that is at the doorway of the tent of meeting” (Leviticus 1:4-5).

In the Book of Leviticus, now that the Tabernacle was constructed and the sacrificial altar was erected, the priests had the venue and the God-given directions on how to properly offer sacrifices. Here in Vayikra, we are reminded once again that our Creator has required a blood sacrifice for the atonement of sin. As it will be later stated, animals’ lives will have to be offered before God in order to (temporarily) cover the errors committed by humans (Leviticus 17:11).

Identification

The next thing that really seemed to catch my attention, in reading through Vayikra this week, was the overwhelming reminder that various Israelites were frequently having to lay their hands on the heads of animals being sacrificed. By doing so, they were having to identify with these animals, and recognize that the shed blood of the animals were, in essence, covering for punishment that was rightfully theirs.Whether one was offering a bull, lamb, or goat, the laying on of hands was standard procedure. Consider the following passages from our selection:

“He shall lay his hand on the head of his offering and slay it at the doorway of the tent of meeting, and Aaron’s sons the priests shall sprinkle the blood around on the altar” (Leviticus 3:2).

“If he is going to offer a lamb for his offering, then he shall offer it before the LORD, and he shall lay his hand on the head of his offering and slay it before the tent of meeting, and Aaron’s sons shall sprinkle its blood around on the altar” (Leviticus 3:7-8).

“Moreover, if his offering is a goat, then he shall offer it before the LORD, and he shall lay his hand on its head and slay it before the tent of meeting, and the sons of Aaron shall sprinkle its blood around on the altar” (Leviticus 3:12-13).

“He shall bring the bull to the doorway of the tent of meeting before the LORD, and he shall lay his hand on the head of the bull and slay the bull before the LORD. Then the anointed priest is to take some of the blood of the bull and bring it to the tent of meeting, and the priest shall dip his finger in the blood and sprinkle some of the blood seven times before the LORD, in front of the veil of the sanctuary” (Leviticus 4:4-6).

What you also might have noticed is that after the identification with the animal by the laying on of hands, the person making the confession has to watch it being killed, and then witness its blood sprinkled. This method of covering for sin should have left a lasting impression on the one who has brought the live animal to the priest. Even if one became somewhat desensitized to seeing animals killed, the animal still had economic value—an economic value which in some way was being thrown away as a punishment for improper deeds.

It is difficult for us living in the Twenty-First Century to often identify with what is recorded in much of Leviticus. Most of us have never even seen a farm animal slaughtered, and then butchered so that we might enjoy some fresh, homegrown meat. But if you ever have seen this occur, then you should vividly remember how, as the blood drained from the animal, its life force leaves. By the laying on of hands for identification purposes, and then watching the blood being sprinkled around the altar and various places, the qorban achieves its purpose to bring some person a covering for sins.

From Shadow to Reality

For the most part, in order to really study the sacrificial system as described in this parashah, I had to turn to the Rabbinical authorities for answers. My examination did not uncover too many Messianic interpretations of these procedures, and evangelical Christian sources are often most concerned about what the sacrificial system meant within the religious milieu of the Ancient Near East. While such historical information is good, what does a Torah portion like Vayikra really communicate to Messianic Believers today?

I simply remembered how the Apostolic Scriptures have some excellent things to say about the sacrificial system seen in the Torah. The author of Hebrews summarizes the need for the ultimate sacrifice, only available through the shed blood of the Lamb. He asserts how the animal sacrifices of the Torah, because they have to be repeated over and over again, do not provide the permanent covering for sins that the sacrifice of Messiah Yeshua provides for us:

“For the Law, since it hasa shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, because the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have had consciousness of sins? But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year by year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Therefore, when He comes into the world, He says, ‘SACRIFICE AND OFFERING YOU HAVE NOT DESIRED, BUT A BODY YOU HAVE PREPARED FOR ME; IN WHOLE BURNT OFFERINGS AND sacrifices FOR SIN YOU HAVE TAKEN NO PLEASURE. THEN I SAID, “BEHOLD, I HAVE COME (IN THE SCROLL OF THE BOOK IT IS WRITTEN OF ME) TO DO YOUR WILL, O GOD”’ [Psalm 40:6-8]. After saying above, ‘SACRIFICES AND OFFERINGS AND WHOLE BURNT OFFERINGS AND sacrifices FOR SIN YOU HAVE NOT DESIRED, NOR HAVE YOU TAKEN PLEASURE in them’ [Psalm 40:6] (which are offered according to the Law), then He said, ‘BEHOLD, I HAVE COME TO DO YOUR WILL’ [Psalm 40:7]. He takes away the first in order to establish the second. By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Yeshua the Messiah once for all. Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD [Psalm 110:1], waiting from that time onward UNTIL HIS ENEMIES BE MADE A FOOTSTOOL FOR HIS FEET [Psalm 110:1]. For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified” (Hebrews 10:1-14).

Here, the author of Hebrews reminds his audience of the need for a sacrifice, so that one can draw near to the Lord. And of course, what we find in this passage is that Yeshua Himself willingly became the offering for those who believe in Him, inaugurating a Melchizedkian priesthood before the Father in Heaven. In this post-resurrection era, animal sacrifices would at best be redundant reminders of how He had to come and provide a permanent sacrifice for sinful humanity. Our author plainly tells us, “by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy” (Hebrews 10:14, NIV).

The challenge for us is that, by faith, we must believe the report that the Messiah has come and has died for our sins—providing permanent restitution that the animal sacrifices of Vayikra could not provide. We have to believe that He is seated at the right hand of the Father in Heaven, waiting for that day when His enemies will be made a footstool for His feet. We have to identify with Him, lay our hands upon His head, and let His blood atone for our sins. For many, confessing their sins before the Lord is very difficult, as it forces them to recognize that they are yet to be perfected. We are limited mortals in need of the mercy of an Eternal God!

As you consider the varied offerings of Vayikra, we need to pray for others who need to accept the precious blood of the Messiah of Israel and His willing sacrifice! We need to pray that as people read through these chapters of Leviticus, they might recognize how animal sacrifices can only go so far. (Click to Source)


NOTES

[1] Leviticus 1:1-17.

[2] Leviticus 2:1-16.

[3] Leviticus 3:1-17.

[4] Leviticus 4:1-35.

[5] Leviticus 5:1-6:7.

[6] Francis Brown, S.R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs, A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament(Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1979), 898.

[7] Leonard J. Coppes, “qarav,” in TWOT, 2:811.

 

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TorahScope: Ki Tisa

17 February, 2019

Ki Tisa – When you take

Exodus 30:11-34:35
1 Kings 18:1-39 (A); 18:20-39 (S)

“Signs of Life”


by Mark Huey

Ki Tisa covers a wide variety of topics that range from describing the half-shekel tax collected,[1] to the infamous golden calf incident,[2] and to instructions regarding the Sabbath.[3] Additional instruction is given regarding hand washing,[4] anointing oil[5] and incense formulas,[6] and how the Tabernacle is to be used.[7] Moses also relates significant interchanges that he has with the Holy One as he received the tablets of testimony, pleaded for the people of Israel, and then eventually witnessed the very glory of God.[8] These, and other events described, give students of the Torah much to ponder this week.

As one meditates upon this selection from Exodus, a multitude of impressions can be generated. For this student, three seemingly unrelated passages in the parashah became linked. The first Scriptural mention of the Book of Life (Exodus 32:32-33) generated some curiosity that led to some reflections about how serious the Father is about His children and their actions. These thoughts were then coupled with the passage about Shabbat or the Sabbath being a sign between God and His people (Exodus 31:12-18). Finally, the passage about Moses desiring the Lord’s Divine presence struck a chord (Exodus 33:12-23). Let me explain.

Moses’ Intercession

Seeing the many things detailed in our parashah this week, the people of Israel are in serious trouble. Moses ascends Mount Sinai to receive God’s Instruction. While there, Moses is informed that the impatient Israelites have fashioned a golden calf and are riotously worshipping it. The Lord threatens extermination of these sinners:

“Now then let Me alone, that My anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them; and I will make of you a great nation” (Exodus 32:10).

Thankfully, as a result of Moses’ intercession, God decides not to do this:

“So the LORD changed His mind about the harm which He said He would do to His people” (Exodus 32:14).

At this point, we understand just how serious the Lord is about His people not worshipping other gods. Moses comes down the mountain with the tablets inscribed by the very finger of the Creator. Upon seeing the revelry over the golden calf, he shatters the tablets. Moses issues a call of loyalty to the Most High (Exodus 32:19-28a). At this point, all the Levites respond and they are summoned to take up their swords against all who worshipped the false god. Three thousand Israelites lose their lives (Exodus 32:28b), while the Levites are consecrated for the call He has placed upon them to fulfill the obligations of priesthood:

“[T]hen Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, ‘Whoever is for the LORD, come to me!’ And all the sons of Levi gathered together to him. He said to them, ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, “Every man of you put his sword upon his thigh, and go back and forth from gate to gate in the camp, and kill every man his brother, and every man his friend, and every man his neighbor.”’ So the sons of Levi did as Moses instructed, and about three thousand men of the people fell that day. Then Moses said, ‘Dedicate yourselves today to the LORD—for every man has been against his son and against his brother—in order that He may bestow a blessing upon you today’” (Exodus 32:26-29).

The next day, God and Moses get into a debate. Moses offers himself as “an atonement” for the sins of the Israelites. (I believe that this offer is reminiscent of what Yeshua would later accomplish, actually being the permanent atonement for the sins of humanity.) The dialogue between Moses and the Lord continues:

“On the next day Moses said to the people, ‘You yourselves have committed a great sin; and now I am going up to the LORD, perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.’ Then Moses returned to the LORD, and said, ‘Alas, this people has committed a great sin, and they have made a god of gold for themselves. But now, if You will, forgive their sin—and if not, please blot me out from Your book which You have written!’ The LORD said to Moses, ‘Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book’” (Exodus 32:30-33).

Interestingly, this is the first mention of the Book of Life in the Holy Writ, a record of those who stand under God’s favor. The most important place we see the Book of Life mentioned, though, is in the final judgment recorded by John in the Book of Revelation:

“And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:12-15).

One thing is very certain from the interchange between God and Moses, when seen through the filter of Revelation 20:12-15: a person does not want his or her name to be missing from the Book of Life.The consequence of sinning against the Most High by worshipping another god (Exodus 32:33), and then being among those judged “according to their works” (Revelation 20:12, NRSV), is a very frightening concept.

Another important thing is mentioned when the Lord speaks to Moses. God alone has the ability to blot out or erase a name from the Book of Life (Exodus 32:33). We should simply recognize that He has given His children ample understanding throughout the Scriptures to take loyalty to Him seriously. It is not impossible to truly be loyal to God, but demonstrating loyalty to Him is not something that is entirely passive, either.

While pondering the gravity and reality of the Book of Life, reflecting on Ki Tisa, two passages came to my mind from this parashah. First, God describes an action that can serve as a tangible sign between us and Him, that we are striving to be His. Secondly, the evidence of His presence in our midst, as sought by Moses, is a definite sign that we are His. One is an action we can take, and the other is an action God takes.

Shabbat Observance

Earlier in this Torah portion (Exodus 31:12-18), the Lord gives His people some specific instruction about how to remember Shabbat, or the seventh-day Sabbath. This day of rest was to be an important sign between Israel and the Lord, which was to distinguish them among the nations. Remembering Shabbatwas to serve as a tangible sign, for future generations, that Israel was His chosen people and that God created the universe by His supreme hand:

“The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘But as for you, speak to the sons of Israel, saying, “You shall surely observe My sabbaths; for this is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the LORD who sanctifies you. Therefore you are to observe the sabbath, for it is holy to you. Everyone who profanes it shall surely be put to death; for whoever does any work on it, that person shall be cut off from among his people. For six days work may be done, but on the seventh day there is a sabbath of complete rest, holy to the LORD; whoever does any work on the sabbath day shall surely be put to death. So the sons of Israel shall observe the sabbath, to celebrate the sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant.” It is a sign between Me and the sons of Israel forever; for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, but on the seventh day He ceased from labor, and was refreshed.’ When He had finished speaking with him upon Mount Sinai, He gave Moses the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written by the finger of God” (Exodus 31:12-18).

Here in these verses, as the finger of God has completed inscribing the Decalogue, He twice mentions within the span of a few verses two important things. First, the remembrance of Shabbat is a sign between the Lord and His people “throughout your/their generations” (Exodus 31:13, 16). Secondly, the Ancient Israelites were told that anyone who profanes or works on Shabbat would receive the penalty of capital punishment (Exodus 31:14b, 15b). This is extremely serious, and the fact that it is reiterated compounds the gravity of the statute.

Here in the Book of Exodus, we see how important the Lord considered the institution of the Sabbath to be. It is considered a Creation ordinance (Exodus 31:15), as we remember how God Himself rested after His six periods of creating the universe (Genesis 2:2). Even if we believe in this post-resurrection era that the capital punishment for not remembering the Sabbath has been absorbed by the sacrifice of Yeshua the Messiah (cf. Colossians 2:14), why does it seem that many Christians today want to overlook the Biblical imperative to rest on the seventh day? At most, the being “cut off” they would experience would not be participating in all of the good things that resting for a complete day naturally offers us.

Much of the negativity that today’s Messianic Believers encounter, when telling Christian family or friends that they are keeping the Sabbath, comes from various encounters we read in the Gospels (i.e., Matthew 12:9-14; Mark 2:23-28; 3:1-6; Luke 6:1-5, 6-11; 13:10-17; John 5:10, 15-16; 7:22-23), and how they have been too commonly read. We see scenes where Yeshua the Messiah is either seen arguing with some of the religious officials in His day, or how He is rebuked by them for doing “unauthorized” things on the Sabbath. Bible scholars today are not all agreed that Yeshua opposed the keeping of the Sabbath, as much as He opposed the different streams of Jewish tradition present in His day that made it difficult for the Sabbath to be a legitimate day of rest for the normal person—and how some authorities opposed the legitimate doing of good on the Sabbath, as He was rebuked for healing people.[9] And notable to also remember, is how Yeshua did not oppose all tradition—just those traditions that specifically took away from accomplishing the purpose of His Father.

Yeshua’s ministry and teachings clarified much of what the Torah originally intended profaning the Sabbath to be. In His Sermon on the Mount, Yeshua spends a considerable amount of time working through various Torah commandments as they related to one’s heart intent (Matthew chs. 5-7). He did not come to fufill and thus abolish the Law, as many may inaccurately teach—but instead to fulfill the Law by showing people how to live out its intentions properly in human life (Matthew 5:16ff). When it came to the issues concerning Shabbat, our Lord demonstrated that healing and doing good was appropriate. Yeshua stated how “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath” (Mark 2:27, NRSV), and how its rest is something which can benefit all people.

The Presence of God

A little further on in our parashah, we encounter a second visible sign that clearly marks the people of God. God’s presence is to be among His people:

“‘Now therefore, I pray You, if I have found favor in Your sight, let me know Your ways that I may know You, so that I may find favor in Your sight. Consider too, that this nation is Your people.’ And He said, ‘My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.’ Then he said to Him, ‘If Your presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here. For how then can it be known that I have found favor in Your sight, I and Your people? Is it not by Your going with us, so that we, I and Your people, may be distinguished from all the other people who are upon the face of the earth?’” (Exodus 33:13-16).

Here, the Hebrew word panim or “face” is actually translated as “presence.” When the face of God Himself shines upon His people, it is evidence of His favor and blessing toward them. Such favor was to be so tangible toward Ancient Israel, that in their comings and goings, they would be distinguished among all others on Earth. As further detailed, this would involve God being merciful to His people:

“The LORD said to Moses, ‘I will also do this thing of which you have spoken; for you have found favor in My sight and I have known you by name.’ Then Moses said, ‘I pray You, show me Your glory!’ And He said, ‘I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the LORD before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion.’ But He said, ‘You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!’ Then the LORD said, ‘Behold, there is a place by Me, and you shall stand there on the rock; and it will come about, while My glory is passing by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by. Then I will take My hand away and you shall see My back, but My face shall not be seen’” (Exodus 33:17-23).

Here, as Moses pleads for the presence of the Most High, He concedes that His glory will be evident, but that neither Moses nor any other would see His specific “face.” Instead, God’s glory, goodness, grace, and compassion would be evident among the people of Israel—demonstrating the substance of what His “face” really is. His attributes, which are frequently embodied in the later New Testament term agapē, would manifest themselves among the Ancient Israelites. In due time, the presence of His very Spirit would move beyond the Tabernacle or Temple, and would be fully dwelling within the hearts of His people (cf. Ezekiel 35:25-27). We see some of the specific aspects of God’s “face” listed, as He passes beside Moses on Mount Sinai:

“Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, ‘The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations’” (Exodus 34:6-7).

How much do these attributes sound like the summarizations of the agapē love demonstrated by Messiah Yeshua, who offered Himself up for our sins? Consider the Apostle Paul’s description of what Believers are to embody, as a direct result of Yeshua’s atoning work:

“So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love [agapē], which is the perfect bond of unity” (Colossians 3:12-14).

The Apostle John also writes about the great love of God manifested toward us:

“In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit” (1 John 4:10-13).

We know that unlike Moses, whose offer of personal atonement was not acceptable (cf. Exodus 32:30), Yeshua’s offer, as the Son of God, is acceptable (Hebrews 9:26-28).

Two Signs

Today as Believers in Yeshua the Messiah, who have been washed of our sins by His work, we should be experiencing the presence of our Creator, as originally revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai (Exodus 34:6-7). We should have His love and His blessings enveloping us, ever-reminding us of how much the Lord really does care for us and wants us to commune with Him! This presence of God should fill us up with His love, which we are surely to demonstrate to all people we encounter.

Yet if we possess the presence of God inside of us, are there any specific actions we can demonstrate which reflect on the goodness He has showered? I would submit to you that remembering Shabbat or the seventh-day Sabbath (Exodus 31:12-18), a day each week when we can rest and experience refreshment in Him, is something that we need to be considering. Shabbat is a time when we get to focus on the Lord in a very unique way, ceasing from our labors, and allowing Him to reveal His presence to us.

How do we learn to balance the value of these two aspects of our faith? How do we remember the many imperatives we see in the Scriptures to demonstrate love toward others (i.e., 1 Corinthians 13:4-8; Romans 12:9-17)?

Many generations of Jewish people faithful to the Lord’s ways have experienced the blessings of Shabbat, and we can hope that many who truly pressed into Him on the seventh-day were supernaturally revealed the truth of Messiah Yeshua as they sought God for answers. Similarly—and whether or not today’s Messianics really want to admit it—many generations of Christians faithful to the Old Testament have also experienced the blessings of the Sabbath, albeit they have observed it on the first day. Even though a “Sunday Sabbath” was not our Father’s original intention, He has still honored the dedication of many Christians in past history who strived to make Sunday a day of abstention from work and commerce—something which only in the latter-half of the Twentieth Century was really lost.

In our day as the Father restores His people through the growth of the Messianic movement, not only will Jewish Believers get to experience the blessedness of the Sabbath by their faith in Messiah Yeshua—but many non-Jewish Believers will get to experience some of the things that have made Jewish remembrance of Shabbat so special. The edifying traditions that enable us to really focus on who the Lord is, and which bring us together as families and communities where He dwells, can help focus our remembrance of the Sabbath as we consider who we all are as His redeemed people. We all await the return of our King, and the much greater rest He will bring to us in the future (Hebrews 4:9-11).[10]

(Click to Source)

 


NOTES

[1] Exodus 30:11-16.

[2] Exodus 32:1-35.

[3] Exodus 31:12-17.

[4] Exodus 30:17-21.

[5] Exodus 30:22-33.

[6] Exodus 30:34-38.

[7] Exodus 31:1-11.

[8] Exodus 32:11-34:35.

[9] Cf. S. Westerholm, “Sabbath,” in Joel B. Green, Scot McKnight, and I. Howard Marshall, eds., Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1992), pp 716-719, for a summary of some of the opinions present in academic thought.

[10] For a further discussion, consult the Messianic Sabbath Helper by Messianic Apologetics.

 

TorahScope: V’et’chanan – I pleaded – “Promises Reiterated to a Chosen Nation”

22 July, 2018

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V’et’chanan

I pleaded

Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11
Isaiah 40:1-26

“Promises Reiterated to a Chosen Nation”


by Mark Huey

This week’s parashah is so filled with incredible descriptions of the Lord’s love, promises, and anticipated plans for His chosen people, that direct quotations from this reading will be extensively repeated, because I feel that not much can be really added to the compelling words of Moses. For clearly, after the opening paragraph where Moses made his final appeal to the Almighty, to gain entrance into the Promised Land, the realization that he was going to die prior to Israel’s entry, undoubtedly inspired him to simply restate in a very precise and succinct manner, many of the promises and admonitions communicated to Israel over the previous forty-year sojourn. In precise language the Ancient Israelites received a summary account of what was promised, and most importantly, what was required of them in final preparation to invade Canaan, with Joshua as their new leader, following the death of Moses:

“I also pleaded with the LORD at that time, saying, ‘O Lord GOD, You have begun to show Your servant Your greatness and Your strong hand; for what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do such works and mighty acts as Yours? Let me, I pray, cross over and see the fair land that is beyond the Jordan, that good hill country and Lebanon.’ But the LORD was angry with me on your account, and would not listen to me; and the LORD said to me, ‘Enough! Speak to Me no more of this matter. Go up to the top of Pisgah and lift up your eyes to the west and north and south and east, and see it with your eyes, for you shall not cross over this Jordan. But charge Joshua and encourage him and strengthen him, for he shall go across at the head of this people, and he will give them as an inheritance the land which you will see.’” So we remained in the valley opposite Beth-peor” (Deuteronomy 3:23-29).

Now that Moses’ fate is understood, he turned to reminding Israel of the critical need to take his words of discourse seriously, not adding to them or taking away from them. Not only was Israel to cling to the Lord with the understanding that they were a uniquely chosen nation with a mission from Him to not only take their inheritance—but that they were to retain their new territorial possession, by faithfully remembering what had been communicated to them, and inculcating it to future generations:

“Now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the judgments which I am teaching you to perform, so that you may live and go in and take possession of the land which the LORD, the God of your fathers, is giving you. You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you. Your eyes have seen what the LORD has done in the case of Baal-peor, for all the men who followed Baal-peor, the LORD your God has destroyed them from among you. But you who held fast to the LORD your God are alive today, every one of you. See, I have taught you statutes and judgments just as the LORD my God commanded me, that you should do thus in the land where you are entering to possess it. So keep and do them, for that is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ 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? Or what great nation is there that has statutes and judgments as righteous as this whole law which I am setting before you today? Only give heed to yourself and keep your soul diligently, so that you do not forget the things which your eyes have seen and they do not depart from your heart all the days of your life; but make them known to your sons and your grandsons” (Deuteronomy 4:1-9).

Of course, understanding that Israel was indeed to be a great nation, with a unique relationship with the Creator who had providentially chosen to impart His wisdom to them—made it imperative that the current and future generations were to instruct their progeny with these blessed truths. Hence, we find in history how the Jewish Sages developed various systematic studies of the Torah, which certainly allow students and followers of the Almighty to consistently review, and hopefully, actively rehearse these truths.

Maintaining absolute trust in the Holy One was going to be crucial for enduring success in the Promised Land. Moses turned to recollecting the words spoken by the Lord and heard by the Ancient Israelites, with the specific reminder that the Decalogue (the Ten Words or Ten Commandments) included the foundational instructions for learning to worship Him, and ultimately for demonstrating love for neighbors. Avoiding the temptations of falling into the traps of the pagan nations the Israelites were to supplant was essential, so Moses pointed out the errors of acting corruptly toward graven images or even the awesome lure of a wide host of celestial bodies:

Remember the day you stood before the LORD your God at Horeb, when the LORD said to me, ‘Assemble the people to Me, that I may let them hear My words so they may learn to fear Me all the days they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children.’ You came near and stood at the foot of the mountain, and the mountain burned with fire to the very heart of the heavens: darkness, cloud and thick gloom. Then the LORD spoke to you from the midst of the fire; you heard the sound of words, but you saw no form—only a voice. So He declared to you His covenant which He commanded you to perform, that is, the Ten Commandments; and He wrote them on two tablets of stone. The LORD commanded me at that time to teach you statutes and judgments, that you might perform them in the land where you are going over to possess it. So watch yourselves carefully, since you did not see any form on the day the LORD spoke to you at Horeb from the midst of the fire, so that you do not act corruptly and make a graven image for yourselves in the form of any figure, the likeness of male or female, the likeness of any animal that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the sky, the likeness of anything that creeps on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the water below the earth. And beware not to lift up your eyes to heaven and see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, and be drawn away and worship them and serve them, those which the LORD your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven. But the LORD has taken you and brought you out of the iron furnace, from Egypt, to be a people for His own possession, as today” (Deuteronomy 4:10-20).

The Lord God demanded absolute allegiance to Him and His ways, and by reading these words, each of us should be constantly reminded of even the subtlest forms of idolatry which can seep into the heart. As is admonished, each of us must watch ourselves carefully, because ultimately the Holy One is looking at the hearts of His people. Any deviation from worshipping Him exclusively, will have major negative consequences. Even something as inane as reading a daily horoscope can turn His face away from His people—so be forewarned that He is a jealous God!

Moses’ admonition to Israel is that the jealous God they are to worship and serve will absolutely execute judgments, if and when the Israelites deviate from His instructions. Moses knew the result of his transgression at Meribah, and forecasted that when the people of Israel would fall into corrupting temptations, that God would execute righteous judgment. This would require Him to scatter and exile His people into other nations, where they would naturally be influenced to worship other gods. But as a loving Heavenly Father, He would also provide a solution to disobedience, as His people could repent and turn back to Him. They would be surely able to seek Him with all of their hearts and souls, because the Lord is the One who made irrevocable promises to the Patriarchs, regardless of the lack of faith at times that would be exhibited by their descendants:

“Now the LORD was angry with me on your account, and swore that I would not cross the Jordan, and that I would not enter the good land which the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance. For I will die in this land, I shall not cross the Jordan, but you shall cross and take possession of this good land. So watch yourselves, that you do not forget the covenant of the LORD your God which He made with you, and make for yourselves a graven image in the form of anything against which the LORD your God has commanded you. For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God. When you become the father of children and children’s children and have remained long in the land, and act corruptly, and make an idol in the form of anything, and do that which is evil in the sight of the LORD your God so as to provoke Him to anger, I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that you will surely perish quickly from the land where you are going over the Jordan to possess it. You shall not live long on it, but will be utterly destroyed. 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. Indeed, ask now concerning the former days which were before you, since the day that God created man on the earth, and inquire from one end of the heavens to the other. Has anything been done like this great thing, or has anything been heard like it? Has any people heard the voice of God speaking from the midst of the fire, as you have heard it, and survived? Or has a god tried to go to take for himself a nation from within another nation by trials, by signs and wonders and by war and by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm and by great terrors, as the LORD your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes? To you it was shown that you might know that the LORD, He is God; there is no other besides Him. Out of the heavens He let you hear His voice to discipline you; and on earth He let you see His great fire, and you heard His words from the midst of the fire. Because He loved your fathers, therefore He chose their descendants after them. And He personally brought you from Egypt by His great power, driving out from before you nations greater and mightier than you, to bring you in and to give you their land for an inheritance, as it is today. Know therefore today, and take it to your heart, that the LORD, He is God in heaven above and on the earth below; there is no other. So you shall keep His statutes and His commandments which I am giving you today, that it may go well with you and with your children after you, and that you may live long on the land which the LORD your God is giving you for all time” (Deuteronomy 4:21-40).

How wonderful it is to realize that despite the human propensity to wander away from the Lord God, He always provides a means to return to Him and reestablish relationship! However as stated, a major key is to not disobey His commandments.

At this point in our Torah reading, having just seen Moses’ emphasis on Israel’s need to adhere to God’s statutes and commandments, Moses repeated the Ten Commandments (cf. Exodus 20). The fact that these are reiterated in this Torah portion should remind anyone who is seeking the Lord that He takes these commands very seriously. He expects all of His people, ancient or modern, to adhere to them:

“Then Moses summoned all Israel and said to them: ‘Hear, O Israel, the statutes and the ordinances which I am speaking today in your hearing, that you may learn them and observe them carefully. The LORD our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. The LORD did not make this covenant with our fathers, but with us, with all those of us alive here today. The LORD spoke to you face to face at the mountain from the midst of the fire,while I was standing between the LORD and you at that time, to declare to you the word of the LORD; for you were afraid because of the fire and did not go up the mountain. He said, “I am the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me. ‘You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, and on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments. ‘You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain. Observe the sabbath day to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant or your ox or your donkey or any of your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you, so that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out of there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD your God commanded you to observe the sabbath day. Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you, that your days may be prolonged and that it may go well with you on the land which the LORD your God gives you. You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, and you shall not desire your neighbor’s house, his field or his male servant or his female servant, his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” These words the LORD spoke to all your assembly at the mountain from the midst of the fire, of the cloud and of the thick gloom, with a great voice, and He added no more. He wrote them on two tablets of stone and gave them to me’” (Deuteronomy 5:1-22).

Of course, the reception of the Decalogue was such a profound experience for Moses and the Israelites, that Moses would follow this by recalling many of the details of that historic event. He reminded the people that they audibly heard the voice of the Lord, and they responded by promising to follow Him and His word without ever questioning it. But as experienced during the desert sojourn, Israel’s ability to live up to its word was compromised by years of disobedience, and the subsequent deaths of the generation that fell short of the goal to enter into the Promised Land. Hence, another reminder of the need to keep God’s commandments and receive the blessing rather than the curse, was issued:

“And when you heard the voice from the midst of the darkness, while the mountain was burning with fire, you came near to me, all the heads of your tribes and your elders. You said, ‘Behold, the LORD our God has shown us His glory and His greatness, and we have heard His voice from the midst of the fire; we have seen today that God speaks with man, yet he livesNow then why should we die? For this great fire will consume us; if we hear the voice of the LORD our God any longer, then we will die. For who is there of all flesh who has heard the voice of the living God speaking from the midst of the fire, as we have, and lived? Go near and hear all that the LORD our God says; then speak to us all that the LORD our God speaks to you, and we will hear and do it.’ The LORD heard the voice of your words when you spoke to me, and the LORD said to me, ‘I have heard the voice of the words of this people which they have spoken to you. They have done well in all that they have spoken. Oh that they had such a heart in them, that they would fear Me and keep all My commandments always, that it may be well with them and with their sons forever! Go, say to them, “Return to your tents.” But as for you, stand here by Me, that I may speak to you all the commandments and the statutes and the judgments which you shall teach them, that they may observe them in the land which I give them to possess.’ So you shall observe to do just as the LORD your God has commanded you; you shall not turn aside to the right or to the left. You shall walk in all the way which the LORD your God has commanded you, that you may live and that it may be well with you, and that you may prolongyour days in the land which you will possess” (Deuteronomy 5:23-33).

To ensure their success in the mission to conquer, secure, and occupy Canaan, Moses admonished Israel to diligently teach and keep all of the Lord’s statutes and commandments. What is often known as the Shema is recited, as Israel must bear true allegiance and fidelity to the One God of Creation—and not to any other gods or objects of worship. The blessings of following His ways are noted, with the requirement that God’s people are to fear Him and only Him, as the jealous God does not want to kindle His anger against disobedient children:

“Now this is the commandment, the statutes and the judgments which the LORD your God has commanded me to teach you, that you might do them in the land where you are going over to possess it, so that you and your son and your grandson might fear the LORD your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged. O Israel, you should listen and be careful to do it, that it may be well with you and that you may multiply greatly, just as the LORD, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey.Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. Then it shall come about when the LORD your God brings you into the land which He swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you, great and splendid cities which you did not build, and houses full of all good things which you did not fill, and hewn cisterns which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant, and you eat and are satisfied, then watch yourself, that you do not forget the LORD who brought you from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall fear only the LORD your God; and you shall worship Him and swear by His name. You shall not follow other gods, any of the gods of the peoples who surround you, for the LORD your God in the midst of you is a jealous God; otherwise the anger of the LORD your God will be kindled against you, and He will wipe you off the face of the earth” (Deuteronomy 6:1-15).

Since the Lord is absolutely aware of the proclivity of the human heart to wander away from Him and is concerned that the people will continue to “test Him” as done by the previous generation, Moses reminded His ancient audience about the testimony of what had transpired, as the Lord delivered Israel from bondage to the Egyptians:

“You shall not put the LORD your God to the test, as you tested Him at Massah. You should diligently keep the commandments of the LORD your God, and His testimonies and His statutes which He has commanded you. You shall do what is right and good in the sight of the LORD, that it may be well with you and that you may go in and possess the good land which the LORD swore to give your fathers, by driving out all your enemies from before you, as the LORD has spoken. When your son asks you in time to come, saying, ‘What do the testimonies and the statutes and the judgments mean which the LORD our God commanded you?’ then you shall say to your son, ‘We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, and the LORD brought us from Egypt with a mighty hand. Moreover, the LORD showed great and distressing signs and wonders before our eyes against Egypt, Pharaoh and all his household; He brought us out from there in order to bring us in, to give us the land which He had sworn to our fathers.’ So the LORD commanded us to observe all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God for our good always and for our survival, as it is today. It will be righteousness for us if we are careful to observe all this commandment before the LORD our God, just as He commanded us”(Deuteronomy 6:16-25).

Remembering Israel’s deliverance from Egypt is absolutely critical to understanding the love of our gracious God. This is why the annual remembrance of the Exodus, commemorated at the Passover seder, is so important for His people to come together, and remember His salvation activity!

Our Torah portion closes, as Moses issued this most key instruction, by citing the seven nations that were then occupying the Promised Land. He reassured the Israelites that with God going before them, they would utterly destroy them, despite overwhelming odds in military strengths. But after the Conquest would be completed, Moses warned Israel about not only the temptation of making covenants with their defeated foes, but also the lure of intermarriage with the pagan women, who might turn Israel toward worshipping other gods (similar to what had already been done on the plains of Moab with the sin of Baal-peor). The absolute reminder that Israel was to be a holy people before the Lord, and a uniquely chosen people exclusively for the possession of the Holy One, should be a great incentive to obey His ways and trust in Him:

“When the LORD your God brings you into the land where you are entering to possess it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and stronger than you, and when the LORD your God delivers them before you and you defeat them, then you shall utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them and show no favor to them. Furthermore, you shall not intermarry with them; you shall not give your daughters to their sons, nor shall you take their daughters for your sons. For they will turn your sons away from following Me to serve other gods; then the anger of the LORD will be kindled against you and He will quickly destroy you. But thus you shall do to them: you shall tear down their altars, and smash their sacred pillars, and hew down their Asherim, and burn their graven images with fire. For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but because the LORD loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers, the LORD brought you out by a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments; but repays those who hate Him to their faces, to destroy them; He will not delay with him who hates Him, He will repay him to his face. Therefore, you shall keep the commandment and the statutes and the judgments which I am commanding you today, to do them” (Deuteronomy 7:1-11).

As is noted down through history, as recorded in the balance of the Torah and the Tanakh, Israel has had a tendency to fall into all sorts of idolatry, and general disobedience of God’s ways. Despite the assurance that the faithful God who keeps His covenantal promises with the Patriarchs, and whose lovingkindness extends to a thousand generations—He is the God of Creation who will judge those who hate Him and deny His Word, and as is true in far too many cases, His very existence.

With all of these awesome promises and instructions given this week, I hope that everyone, who reads and studies these words, will revel in His sufficiency to not only provide protection and deliverance from the obstacles of life—but that His promises will be fulfilled to those who sincerely search for Him. Finding faith in God must be coupled by trust in His beloved Son, our Messiah Yeshua, who came to Earth to shed His precious blood for the transgressions of all people. For, when disobedience occurs, there is a Divine solution to the problem. Only in Yeshua can ultimate salvation and redemption be found! (Click to Source)

 

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TorahScope: Devarim – Words – The Fighting Father’s Promised Plan Reiterated – 15 July, 2018

Devarim

Words

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

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“The Fighting Father’s Promised Plan Reiterated”


by Mark Huey

This week as the final book of the Torah commences, our parashahDevarim, essentially begins a lengthy reiteration of the forty year desert sojourn of the Israelites, with reminders of the Lord’s promises sprinkled in among the testimony of a people challenged with trust in the Almighty. The aged prophet/leader, Moses, was fully aware of the stark reality that he would not be allowed to enter the Promised Land, so in an attempt to set the record straight once again for the Israelites, he recalled much of the itinerary with positive and negative testimonies of how various events transpired. However, what must have been a painful exercise in remembering the failures, Moses ultimately wanted the people to know that the Holy One would absolutely fulfill His promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This is also something that modern-day followers of Yeshua the Messiah should know without a shadow of doubt:

“In the fortieth year, on the first day of the eleventh month, Moses spoke to the children of Israel, according to all that the LORD had commanded him to give to them, after he had defeated Sihon the king of the Amorites, who lived in Heshbon, and Og the king of Bashan, who lived in Ashtaroth and Edrei. Across the Jordan in the land of Moab, Moses undertook to expound this law, saying, ‘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 1:3-8).

During the course of this week’s reading, we find some sound principles regarding how Israel’s chosen leader handled the challenges of guiding the recalcitrant brood of Israelites, from bondage in Egypt to the precipice of entering the Promised Land. But, understand that because of the sovereign call on the life of Moses and the level of unique intimacy he had with the Lord, speaking to him face to face (Exodus 33:11), Moses had a genuine fear of Him and knew that His words were without equivocation. This created a problem, because those whom Moses was leading did not have as much familiarity with the Lord, which inevitably manifested in not only challenges to his leadership—but also in how to spread the workload. Hence, one of the first things Moses did, as he communicated to the people of Israel, is that he reminded them that leadership responsibilities needed to be shared by wise, discerning, and experienced leaders and judges:

“I spoke to you at that time, saying, ‘I am not able to bear the burden of you alone. The LORD your God has multiplied you, and behold, you are this day like the stars of heaven in number. May the LORD, the God of your fathers, increase you a thousand-fold more than you are and bless you, just as He has promised you! How can I alone bear the load and burden of you and your strife? Choose wise and discerning and experienced men from your tribes, and I will appoint them as your heads.’ You answered me and said, ‘The thing which you have said to do is good.’ So I took the heads of your tribes, wise and experienced men, and appointed them heads over you, leaders of thousands and of hundreds, of fifties and of tens, and officers for your tribes. Then I charged your judges at that time, saying, ‘Hear the cases between your fellow countrymen, and judge righteously between a man and his fellow countryman, or the alien who is with him. You shall not show partiality in judgment; you shall hear the small and the great alike. You shall not fear man, for the judgment is God’s. The case that is too hard for you, you shall bring to me, and I will hear it.’ I commanded you at that time all the things that you should do” (Deuteronomy 1:9-18).

Note in this description of the way judges were to handle the disputes, which they were to judge righteously and equitably, including issues between fellow native Israelites as well as the sojourners within the community. The emphasis witnessed, was not on fearing human people—but understanding the fear of the Lord, and that He is the ultimate judge of every person. This is a great reminder to anyone who is a part of today’s Body of Messiah, who either seeks, or is already recognized as one with the responsibilities of leadership in the community of faith. We may also wish to consider some of the requirements articulated by the Apostle Paul to his young disciple Timothy, who had the responsibility to sort out the leadership positions in the vicinity of Ephesus:

“It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do. An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the [assembly] of God?), and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. And he must have a good reputation with those outside the [assembly], so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil” (1 Timothy 3:1-7).

As members of the Body, it is imperative that people do not submit to leadership that does not qualify according to the tenor of the various principles laid out in the Holy Scriptures (i.e., 1 Timothy 3:8-13; Titus 1:5-16). We should each be most concerned about the thrust of what Moses communicates in Exodus 18:19-22 and Deuteronomy 16:18-20:

“Now listen to me: I will give you counsel, and God be with you. You be the people’s representative before God, and you bring the disputes to God, then teach them the statutes and the laws, and make known to them the way in which they are to walk and the work they are to do. Furthermore, you shall select out of all the people able men who fear God, men of truth, those who hate dishonest gain; and you shall place these over them as leaders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens. Let them judge the people at all times; and let it be that every major dispute they will bring to you, but every minor dispute they themselves will judge. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burdenwith you” (Exodus 18:19-22).

“You shall appoint for yourself judges and officers in all your towns which the LORD your God is giving you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with righteous judgment. You shall not distort justice; you shall not be partial, and you shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and perverts the words of the righteous. Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue, that you may live and possess the land which the LORD your God is giving you” (Deuteronomy 16:18-20).

Note the emphasis in these two statements from Moses about the temptation of “dishonest gain,” and the perversion of monetary or compensatory “bribes” to judges. Clearly, this is a reminder of the Biblical axiom that the “love of money is the root of all sorts of evil” (1 Timothy 6:10a), and if greed or selfish ambition is detected in leadership, it should be an absolute warning that motivations are impure (Philippians 1:17; Romans 2:8). Be warned brothers and sisters! These temptations are rampant today, and such a cancerous infection in the Body of Messiah does much damage to the hearts and souls of sincere Believers! (Just read the Epistle of Jude for a sobering assessment.)

After recalling some aspects of leadership, our Torah reading turns to perhaps one of the most disappointing points in Israel’s desert sojourn, when the twelve spies returned from Canaan with contradictory reports. Lamentably, the lack of faith, exhibited by the ten spy majority, redirected the Israelites to nearly forty more years of wandering in the desert. The great emphasis placed by Moses, on this testimony, is that the people simply did not trust the Lord and the promises He had made to not only Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—but directly to Moses himself:

“I commanded you at that time all the things that you should do. ‘Then we set out from Horeb, and went through all that great and terrible wilderness which you saw on the way to the hill country of the Amorites, just as the LORD our God had commanded us; and we came to Kadesh-barnea. I said to you, “You have come to the hill country of the Amorites which the LORD our God is about to give us. ‘See, the LORD your God has placed the land before you; go up, take possession, as the LORD, the God of your fathers, has spoken to you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” Then all of you approached me and said, ‘Let us send men before us, that they may search out the land for us, and bring back to us word of the way by which we should go up and the cities which we shall enter.’ The thing pleased me and I took twelve of your men, one man for each tribe. They turned and went up into the hill country, and came to the valley of Eshcol and spied it out. Then they took some of the fruit of the land in their hands and brought it down to us; and they brought us back a report and said, “It is a good land which the LORD our God is about to give us.” Yet you were not willing to go up, but rebelled against the command of the LORD your God; and you grumbled in your tents and said, “Because the LORD hates us, He has brought us out of the land of Egypt to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites to destroy us. Where can we go up? Our brethren have made our hearts melt, saying, ‘The people are bigger and taller than we; the cities are large and fortified to heaven. And besides, we saw the sons of the Anakim there.’” Then I said to you, “Do not be shocked, nor fear them. The LORD your God who goes before you will Himself fight on your behalf, just as He did for you in Egypt before your eyes, and in the wilderness where you saw how the LORD your God carried you, just as a man carries his son, in all the way which you have walked until you came to this place.” But for all this, you did not trust the LORD your God, who goes before you on your way, to seek out a place for you to encamp, in fire by night and cloud by day, to show you the way in which you should go’”(Deuteronomy 1:18-33).

Despite the literal presence of the Almighty depicted in a pillar of fire by night and a cloud by day, the rebellious Israelites not only struggled with trust, but actually provoked the Lord to anger, resulting in the judgment of the Exodus generation. But then to further incite Him, the smitten Israelites foolishly decided to take on the Amorites without the guidance and protection of the Lord:

“Then the LORD heard the sound of your words, and He was angry and took an oath, saying, ‘Not one of these men, this evil generation, shall see the good land which I swore to give your fathers, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh; he shall see it, and to him and to his sons I will give the land on which he has set foot, because he has followed the LORD fully.’ The LORD was angry with me also on your account, saying, ‘Not even you shall enter there. Joshua the son of Nun, who stands before you, he shall enter there; encourage him, for he will cause Israel to inherit it. Moreover, your little ones who you said would become a prey, and your sons, who this day have no knowledge of good or evil, shall enter there, and I will give it to them and they shall possess it. But as for you, turn around and set out for the wilderness by the way to the Red Sea.’ Then you said to me, ‘We have sinned against the LORD; we will indeed go up and fight, just as the LORD our God commanded us.’ And every man of you girded on his weapons of war, and regarded it as easy to go up into the hill country. And the LORD said to me, ‘Say to them, “Do not go up nor fight, for I am not among you; otherwise you will be defeated before your enemies.”’ So I spoke to you, but you would not listen. Instead you rebelled against the command of the LORD, and acted presumptuously and went up into the hill country. The Amorites who lived in that hill country came out against you and chased you as bees do, and crushed you from Seir to Hormah. Then you returned and wept before the LORD; but the LORD did not listen to your voice nor give ear to you. So you remained in Kadesh many days, the days that you spent there’” (Deuteronomy 1:34-46).

Here, the great lesson to learn is that when one disobeys the Lord by lacking in faith in His Word—then do not attempt to rashly rectify the disregard for His commands by doing something in the flesh to make up for the transgression. It is better to simply confess the sin, seek forgiveness, and repent of the action—following this with praying and patiently waiting upon Him, so that whatever period of disfavor would dissipate and restoration would be achieved. For as stated to Moses years earlier, the Almighty is a long suffering Creator who forgives the iniquities of His children:

“Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, ‘The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations’” (Exodus 34:6-7).

In Deuteronomy ch. 2, Moses recalled the more recent episodes with the descendants of Esau (Edom), the descendants of Moab, and the descendants of Ammon. The various challenges with these people groups, in the final days of Israel’s sojourn, should remind the reader that the Holy One had made some promises to Esau regarding His descendants’ occupation of the Mount Seir region (Joshua 24:4), and even the incestuously-initiated offspring of Lot (Genesis 19:36-38). Apparently, according to further insight from the Apostle Peter, the Lord considered Lot righteous, despite his wine-induced indiscretions. Note that once again the warning for modern-day Believers about the association of intemperate alcohol consumption and the lustful indulgence of the flesh:

“[A]nd if He rescued righteous Lot, oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men (for by what he saw and heard that righteous man, while living among them, felt hisrighteous soul tormented day after day by their lawless deeds), then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge the flesh in its corrupt desires and despise authority. Daring, self-willed, they do not tremble when they revile angelic majesties, whereas angels who are greater in might and power do not bring a reviling judgment against them before the Lord” (2 Peter 2:7-11).

Finally, as Devarim winds down to a conclusion, there is a strong statement for all to remember that ultimately followers of the Holy One of Israel are not to fear mere mortals, but to fear the Almighty. After all, it is He who fights for His people, not only in the physical realm, but equally important, in the spiritual battles that take place between human vessels:

“Then I commanded you at that time, saying, ‘The LORD your God has given you this land to possess it; all you valiant men shall cross over armed before your brothers, the sons of Israel. But your wives and your little ones and your livestock (I know that you have much livestock) shall remain in your cities which I have given you, until the LORD gives rest to your fellow countrymen as to you, and they also possess the land which the LORD your God will give them beyond the Jordan. Then you may return every man to his possession which I have given you.’ I commanded Joshua at that time, saying, ‘Your eyes have seen all that the LORD your God has done to these two kings; so the LORD shall do to all the kingdoms into which you are about to cross. Do not fear them, for the LORD your God is the one fighting for you’” (Deuteronomy 3:18-22).

Ultimately, as the reiteration of God’s promises to the children of Israel continue for the balance of the final book of the Torah, everyone should be reminded, not only of His promises to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, etc. (and even a host of less-than-righteous people such as Ishmael, Esau, and others)—but that the Lord is the One fighting for His faithful followers. But it must be absolutely understood that the war with the saints is not only on the terrestrial plane, but also taking place in the Heavenly realm. The Apostle Paul summarizes what is recommended for all who engage in the warfare that is inevitable, until the Messiah returns:

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly placesTherefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, HAVING GIRDED YOUR LOINS WITH TRUTH [Isaiah 11:5], and HAVING PUT ON THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS [Isaiah 59:17], and having shod YOUR FEET WITH THE PREPARATION OF THE GOSPEL OF PEACE [Isaiah 52:7]; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take THE HELMET OF SALVATION [Isaiah 59:17], and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel” (Ephesians 6:10-19).

Whether one was a part of the Joshua generation preparing to possess the Promised Land millennia ago, or is among the modern-day followers of Messiah Yeshua—it is imperative that a fuller understanding of the Holy One and His ways, in order to fight the good fight of faith, is required. This is why it is highly recommended that people faithfully study through the Torah on a systematic basis (1 Corinthians 10:11), in order to learn the ways of the Lord—and most importantly—obey them. Without so doing, it would be comparable to unwisely entering into battle unarmed, unshielded, and with little if any hope of survival. The Apostle Paul reminded the Roman Believers about their true status as conquerors in Yeshua the Messiah, and how the redeemed will never be separated from the love of the Holy One:

“But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Messiah Yeshua our Lord” (Romans 8:37-39).

May one and all embrace a fuller understanding of our individual roles in advancing His Kingdom on Earth, through a more profound knowledge of His Word. May we obey it, while depending upon Him to fight our adversaries. Let us, proclaim His truths to the wicked in need of Yeshua’s salvation, that they might be transformed by His love and receive eternal redemption! (Click to Source)

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TorahScope: Pinchas – Phinehas – “A Covenant of Peace” – 1 July, 2018

Pinchas – Phinehas

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

“A Covenant of Peace”

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by Mark Huey

This week’s Torah parashah begins with a summary conclusion to Balak (Numbers 22:2-25:9), describing the gruesome consequences of the sin of Baal Peor (Numbers 25:9-10). This is followed by describing the zeal of Phinehas who stopped the plague upon Israel (Numbers 25:10-18), a census of the Israelites is taken (Numbers 26:1-65), laws of inheritance including women’s rights to inheritance are stated (Numbers 27:1-14), there is a transfer of authority to Joshua (Numbers 27:15-23), and laws for different offerings, often associated with the appointed times, are specified (Numbers 28:1-29:40).

What gets the most attention for readers, to be sure, is how certainly after the tragic events of the lascivious and licentious actions with the women of Peor—resulting in the deaths of many thousands of Israelites—the Lord wanted to restore a sense of order back in the camp, before proceeding with the invasion of Canaan. In the introductory paragraph, the zealous and righteous stroke of Phinehas, to halt the flagrant act of Zimri and Cozb, was rewarded with a perpetual covenant of peace to the Aaronic heirs, commencing with Phinehas. Such blessings were to follow in the line of succession of future high priests:

“Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, has turned away My wrath from the sons of Israel in that he was jealous with My jealousy among them, so that I did not destroy the sons of Israel in My jealousy. Therefore say, “Behold, I give him My covenant of peace; and it shall be for him and his descendants after him, a covenant of a perpetual priesthood, because he was jealous for his God and made atonement for the sons of Israel.”’ Now the name of the slain man of Israel who was slain with the Midianite woman, was Zimri the son of Salu, a leader of a father’s household among the Simeonites. The name of the Midianite woman who was slain was Cozbi the daughter of Zur, who was head of the people of a father’s household in Midian. Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Be hostile to the Midianites and strike them; for they have been hostile to you with their tricks, with which they have deceived you in the affair of Peor and in the affair of Cozbi, the daughter of the leader of Midian, their sister who was slain on the day of the plague because of Peor’” (Numbers 25:10-18).

Phinehas’ zealous piercing, of the quite shameless, copulating couple, is what halted the ensuing plague. This was reminiscent of Aaron’s use of the incense from the altar after Korah’s rebellion, that too saw many Israelites perish (Numbers 16:46:50). More importantly to be sure, the “covenant of peace” bestowed upon Phinehas for his zeal serves as a foreshadowing of what the Holy One will give to His people, in His instruction that Israel expand their outreach to the nations—despite a human proclivity to wander away from Him. The Prophet Isaiah declares,

“‘Shout for joy, O barren one, you who have borne no child; Break forth into joyful shouting cry aloud, you who have not travailed; for the sons of the desolate one will be more numerous than the sons of the married woman,’ says the LORD. ‘Enlarge the place of your tent; stretch out the curtains of your dwellings, spare not; lengthen your cords and strengthen your pegs. For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left. And your descendants will possess nations and will resettle the desolate cities. Fear not, for you will not be put to shame; and do not feel humiliated, for you will not be disgraced; but you will forget the shame of your youth, and the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more. For your husband is your Maker, Whose name is the LORD of hosts; and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel, Who is called the God of all the earth. For the LORD has called you, like a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit, even like a wife of one’s youth when she is rejected,’ says your God. For a brief moment I forsook you, but with great compassion I will gather you. ‘In an outburst of anger I hid My face from you for a moment, but with everlasting lovingkindness I will have compassion on you,’ says the LORD your Redeemer. ‘For this is like the days of Noah to Me, when I swore that the waters of Noah would not flood the earth again; so I have sworn that I will not be angry with you nor will I rebuke you. For the mountains may be removed and the hills may shake, but My lovingkindness will not be removed from you, and My covenant of peace will not be shaken,’ says the LORD who has compassion on you” (Isaiah 54:1-10).

Despite the unfaithfulness of Israel to the Holy One, He has promised to maintain a covenant of peace with them, and He will surely remain true to His Word. However, as was true then and remains consistent today, if and when His people disobey, there are always consequences. The universal principle of reaping what is sown, embedded in the Creation, always applies.

With the offensive to cross the Jordan on Israel’s agenda, as burial parties were surely having to attend to the massive amount of casualties from the plague, the Lord through Moses established some guidelines for distribution of the Promised Land among the various tribes. A census was taken to determine the size of the tribes (Numbers 26:1-51), with fairness to be controlled by a casting of lots with attention paid to the remaining tribal numbers, in order to evenly allocate various parcels of land:

“Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Among these the land shall be divided for an inheritance according to the number of names. To the larger group you shall increase their inheritance, and to the smaller group you shall diminish their inheritance; each shall be given their inheritance according to those who were numbered of them. But the land shall be divided by lot. They shall receive their inheritance according to the names of the tribes of their fathers. According to the selection by lot, their inheritance shall be divided between the larger and the smaller groups’” (Numbers 26:52-56).

With the methodology for land assignment described, Moses reminded the Israelites that the Levites, because of their unique status as priests with various responsibilities, were not to be counted among those receiving a physical land inheritance. In this description, some personal genealogical data is also included, with some specific reminders about the special position of the line of Aaron. Also seen is a reminder about the dreadful deaths of Nadab and Abihu, who perverted their duties (Leviticus 10:1-2):

“These are those who were numbered of the Levites according to their families: of Gershon, the family of the Gershonites; of Kohath, the family of the Kohathites; of Merari, the family of the Merarites. These are the families of Levi: the family of the Libnites, the family of the Hebronites, the family of the Mahlites, the family of the Mushites, the family of the Korahites. Kohath became the father of Amram. The name of Amram’s wife was Jochebed, the daughter of Levi, who was born to Levi in Egypt; and she bore to Amram: Aaron and Moses and their sister Miriam. To Aaron were born Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar. But Nadab and Abihu died when they offered strange fire before the LORD. Those who were numbered of them were 23,000, every male from a month old and upward, for they were not numbered among the sons of Israel since no inheritance was given to them among the sons of Israel. These are those who were numbered by Moses and Eleazar the priest, who numbered the sons of Israel in the plains of Moab by the Jordan at Jericho. But among these there was not a man of those who were numbered by Moses and Aaron the priest, who numbered the sons of Israel in the wilderness of Sinai. For the LORD had said of them, ‘They shall surely die in the wilderness.’ And not a man was left of them, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun” (Numbers 26:57-65).

After restating that the deaths of all the Israelites who believed the bad report, about originally entering the land many years earlier had died (Numbers 14:27-30), Moses now turned to establishing some key rights for the women who were likely widowed in the years prior to the anticipated invasion. Here in the Torah, the daughters of Zelophehad pled for equity when it came to land distribution, and the Lord granted their request with a statute prohibiting any potential discrimination based on gender:

“Then the daughters of Zelophehad, the son of Hepher, the son of Gilead, the son of Machir, the son of Manasseh, of the families of Manasseh the son of Joseph, came near; and these are the names of his daughters: Mahlah, Noah and Hoglah and Milcah and Tirzah. They stood before Moses and before Eleazar the priest and before the leaders and all the congregation, at the doorway of the tent of meeting, saying, ‘Our father died in the wilderness, yet he was not among the company of those who gathered themselves together against the LORD in the company of Korah; but he died in his own sin, and he had no sons. Why should the name of our father be withdrawn from among his family because he had no son? Give us a possession among our father’s brothers.’ So Moses brought their case before the LORD. Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘The daughters of Zelophehad are right in their statements. You shall surely give them a hereditary possession among their father’s brothers, and you shall transfer the inheritance of their father to them. Further, you shall speak to the sons of Israel, saying, “If a man dies and has no son, then you shall transfer his inheritance to his daughter. If he has no daughter, then you shall give his inheritance to his brothers. If he has no brothers, then you shall give his inheritance to his father’s brothers. If his father has no brothers, then you shall give his inheritance to his nearest relative in his own family, and he shall possess it; and it shall be a statutory ordinance to the sons of Israel, just as the LORD commanded Moses”’” (Numbers 27:1-11).

After the issue of equity for the daughters of Zelophehad is resolved, the immediacy of Moses’ impending death is addressed, with a significant display of how the Lord desired His authority to be relegated to future generations. With the pain of remembering the rebellion that compelled the Lord to not let Moses enter the Promised Land, Moses recognized that Joshua was his heir to guide the Israelites into Canaan. Moses stood before the recently anointed high priest Eleazar and the congregation, in order to commission Joshua in their sight:

“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.’ So the LORD said to Moses, ‘Take Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand on him; and have him stand before Eleazar the priest and before all the congregation, and commission him in their sight. You shall put some of your authority on him, in order that all the congregation of the sons of Israel may obey himMoreover, he shall stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall inquire for him by the judgment of the Urim before the LORD. At his command they shall go out and at his command they shall come in, both he and the sons of Israel with him, even all the congregation.’ Moses did just as the LORD commanded him; and he took Joshua and set him before Eleazar the priest and before all the congregation. Then he laid his hands on him and commissioned him, just as the LORD had spoken through Moses” (Numbers 27:12-23).

This precedent, of properly recognizing the authority and bestowing it upon those who the Lord has called into His service—has been established by what has occurred through the transfer of authority from Aaron to Eleazar at Aaron’s death (Numbers 20:25-29), and reoccurs with the conveyance of Moses’ weight of responsibility by the laying on of hands. Centuries later, the Apostle Paul continued this precedence with the laying on of hands to his young disciple Timothy, who Paul recognized as one of his successors in continuing the work he had started:

“For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well. For this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline” (2 Timothy 1:5-7).

“Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe. Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching. Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed on you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery. Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all. Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you” (1 Timothy 4:12-16).

Further clarification, on how the Scriptures describe this transfer of authority, can be gleaned from how Aaron and his sons were originally anointed for their priestly responsibilities. This was to involve an oil anointing of the right ear lobe, right thumb, and right big toe (Leviticus 8: 23-24; 14:14-18). The key to understand is that those who serve the Lord should, by and through their dedicated service, be best able to discern just who it is who is to continue their work, when their own term of dedicated service is largely over.

Our Torah portion includes a long reiteration of all of the offerings required for the daily morning and evening sacrifices, New Moon sacrifices, and the offerings for the appointed times of the Lord (Leviticus 23). These are restated to emphasize the importance of compliance, to this relatively young generation of Israelites poised to enter the Promised Land:

“Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Command the sons of Israel and say to them, “You shall be careful to present My offering, My food for My offerings by fire, of a soothing aroma to Me, at their appointed time.” You shall say to them, “This is the offering by fire which you shall offer to the LORD: two male lambs one year old without defect as a continual burnt offering every day. You shall offer the one lamb in the morning and the other lamb you shall offer at twilight; also a tenth of an ephah of fine flour for a grain offering, mixed with a fourth of a hin of beaten oil. ‘It is a continual burnt offering which was ordained in Mount Sinai as a soothing aroma, an offering by fire to the LORD. Then the drink offering with it shall be a fourth of a hin for each lamb, in the holy place you shall pour out a drink offering of strong drink to the LORD. The other lamb you shall offer at twilight; as the grain offering of the morning and as its drink offering, you shall offer it, an offering by fire, a soothing aroma to the LORD. Then on the sabbath day two male lambs one year old without defect, and two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil as a grain offering, and its drink offering: This is the burnt offering of every sabbath in addition to the continual burnt offering and its drink offering. Then at the beginning of each of your months you shall present a burnt offering to the LORD: two bulls and one ram, seven male lambs one year old without defect; and three-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil for a grain offering, for each bull; and two-tenths of fine flour mixed with oil for a grain offering, for the one ram; and a tenth of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil for a grain offering for each lamb, for a burnt offering of a soothing aroma, an offering by fire to the LORD. Their drink offerings shall be half a hin of wine for a bull and a third of a hin for the ram and a fourth of a hin for a lamb; this is the burnt offering of each month throughout the months of the year. ‘And one male goat for a sin offering to the LORD; it shall be offered with its drink offering in addition to the continual burnt offering. Then on the fourteenth day of the first month shall be the LORD’s Passover. On the fifteenth day of this month shall be a feast, unleavened bread shall be eaten for seven days. On the first day shall be a holy convocation; you shall do no laborious work. You shall present an offering by fire, a burnt offering to the LORD: two bulls and one ram and seven male lambs one year old, having them without defect. For their grain offering, you shall offer fine flour mixed with oil: three-tenths of an ephah for a bull and two-tenths for the ram. A tenth of an ephah you shall offer for each of the seven lambs; and one male goat for a sin offering to make atonement for you. You shall present these besides the burnt offering of the morning, which is for a continual burnt offering. After this manner you shall present daily, for seven days, the food of the offering by fire, of a soothing aroma to the LORD; it shall be presented with its drink offering in addition to the continual burnt offering. On the seventh day you shall have a holy convocation; you shall do no laborious work. Also on the day of the first fruits, when you present a new grain offering to the LORD in your Feast of Weeks, you shall have a holy convocation; you shall do no laborious work. You shall offer a burnt offering for a soothing aroma to the LORD: two young bulls, one ram, seven male lambs one year old; and their grain offering, fine flour mixed with oil: three-tenths of an ephah for each bull, two-tenths for the one ram, a tenth for each of the seven lambs; also one male goat to make atonement for you. Besides the continual burnt offering and its grain offering, you shall present them with their drink offerings. They shall be without defect”’” (Numbers 28:1-31).

“Now in the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall also have a holy convocation; you shall do no laborious work. It will be to you a day for blowing trumpets. You shall offer a burnt offering as a soothing aroma to the LORD: one bull, one ram, and seven male lambs one year old without defect; also their grain offering, fine flour mixed with oil: three-tenths of an ephah for the bull, two-tenths for the ram, and one-tenth for each of the seven lambs. Offer one male goat for a sin offering, to make atonement for you, besides the burnt offering of the new moon and its grain offering, and the continual burnt offering and its grain offering, and their drink offerings, according to their ordinance, for a soothing aroma, an offering by fire to the LORD. Then on the tenth day of this seventh month you shall have a holy convocation, and you shall humble yourselves; you shall not do any work. You shall present a burnt offering to the LORD as a soothing aroma: one bull, one ram, seven male lambs one year old, having them without defect; and their grain offering, fine flour mixed with oil: three-tenths of an ephah for the bull, two-tenths for the one ram, a tenth for each of the seven lambs; one male goat for a sin offering, besides the sin offering of atonement and the continual burnt offering and its grain offering, and their drink offerings. Then on the fifteenth day of the seventh month you shall have a holy convocation; you shall do no laborious work, and you shall observe a feast to the LORD for seven days” (Numbers 29:1-12).

“‘You shall present these to the LORD at your appointed times, besides your votive offerings and your freewill offerings, for your burnt offerings and for your grain offerings and for your drink offerings and for your peace offerings.’ Moses spoke to the sons of Israel in accordance with all that the LORD had commanded Moses” (Numbers 29:39-40).

In reading these instructions in light of Yeshua’s atoning work for sinners as our perfect sacrifice, it is easy to understand why the Apostle Paul would admonish Believers to demonstrate their faith as a living sacrifice:

“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith” (Romans 12:1-3).

While Paul did not necessarily know that the Temple in Jerusalem was going to be destroyed by the Romans in 70 C.E.—which to this day has prevented the ability of the Levites to perform the various sacrifices and offerings at the holy place—he knew that it was critical for followers of Yeshua the Messiah to offer up their lives to service for the Almighty. More difficult than individuals living as a sacrifice to be sure—is for all Believers to be functioning together as a living sacrifice, accomplishing the Lord’s purposes in the Earth. Paul expected the saints to be purified via a washing of the word (Ephesians 5:26), which can and should be done by all born again Believers through daily prayer, supplication, praise, worship, and constant communion with the Lord through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. The most important “word” though that must be embraced is the good news or gospel of salvation, which definitively results in each of us receiving a redeemed heart of flesh that has God’s commandments supernaturally written upon it (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:26-27).

If someone truly wants to serve the Holy One, then he or she will be wholeheartedly thankful for the forgiveness received. By the love one has for Yeshua the Messiah, Believers are to be compelled by the Holy Spirit to obey His commands. As the carnal nature decreases and conformity to the Messiah increases (Romans 8:29-30; John 3:30), then the sort of zeal exhibited by Phinehas should come without reservation, as the Spirit leads and one learns to walk in the ways of God (Galatians 5:16, 18, 25; Romans 8:14) to truly seek to please Him. This should all ultimately culminate, in a personal covenant of peace between oneself and the Creator, and in having the assurance that being counted among the redeemed is one’s final destiny.

May this be our individual and collective testimony, as God’s representatives to this wicked and perverse generation. The world around us needs not only our prayers, but our resolute actions to show them the way to salvation! (Click to Source)

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Torah Commentary – Ki Tisa – When you take – Faith Contrasted – 25 February, 2018

Ki Tisa – When you take

jesus-in-the-synagogue

Exodus 30:11-34:35
1 Kings 18:1-39 (A); 18:20-39 (S)

“Faith Contrasted”


by Mark Huey

This week’s Torah portion, Ki Tisa, is perhaps best remembered for the infamous golden calf incident. Because of this, it is significantly easy to overlook a variety of other details, ranging from the required half-shekel offering,[1] the anointing oil formula,[2] a description of the skilled artisans,[3] reminders about the Sabbath,[4] appeals to the Lord and His response including a description of Himself,[5] and a return to the mountain to receive yet another set of instructions after the first tablets were shattered at the base of the mountain.[6] The differences between how Moses handled his responsibility, versus how Aaron and a certain segment of the Israelite population, impatiently rebelled, is difficult to ignore (Exodus 32:1-10, 19-35). Recorded for future generations to ponder is the human proclivity that is prone to wander away from the Creator. Nevertheless, some benefits for His people accrue, as incredible insight into the essence and attributes of the Holy One are communicated to Moses, as he implored the Lord for mercy (Exodus 33:19; 34:6-7). Thankfully, because the Lord has an ultimate plan for His Creation, this potential deviation from following Him is averted, but not without commensurate punishment for the malefactors.

However, before getting into some of the details about consequences of false worship, it is critical to note that our Torah reading initially delineates more instruction about what the Lord expects from His chosen people. In our previous Torah portion, Tetzaveh (Exodus 27:20-30:10), the Lord had communicated considerable detail about the high priest, the institution of the priesthood, and its respective duties for service in association with the Tabernacle. But now as Ki Tisa continues the record in the Book of Exodus, there is the imperative that individual responsibility is expected of all the people of Israel:

“The LORD also spoke to Moses, saying, ‘When you take a census of the sons of Israel to number them, then each one of them shall give a ransom for himself to the LORD, when you number them, so that there will be no plague among them when you number them. This is what everyone who is numbered shall give: half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary (the shekel is twenty gerahs), half a shekel as a contribution to the LORD. Everyone who is numbered, from twenty years old and over, shall give the contribution to the LORD. The rich shall not pay more and the poor shall not pay less than the half shekel, when you give the contribution to the LORD to make atonement for yourselves. You shall take the atonement money from the sons of Israel and shall give it for the service of the tent of meeting, that it may be a memorial for the sons of Israel before the LORD, to make atonement for yourselves” (Exodus 30:11-16).

In this instruction, it is noted that a wide segment of the Israelite community, regardless of its financial wherewithal, was required to make a contribution. The blessing of compliance to this was an avoidance of plagues. The essential principle established by this instruction was that every person would be responsible for his own actions. While such a “ransom” was useful to conduct a census, the Lord was requiring Ancient Israel to literally entrust its wealth to those responsible for continually ministering unto Him. In some regards, this foreshadows a similar principle enunciated by Yeshua the Messiah, when He was telling His followers about where they should direct their resources:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).

From the census instructions is witnessed another principle that applied originally to the Levitical priesthood, but now is applicable to a wider community of God’s people. This was the requirement that in order to appropriately minister to the Lord or approach Him, one should do so in a state of cleanliness, respecting the sanctity of presenting oneself before Him as the Holy One:

“The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘You shall also make a laver of bronze, with its base of bronze, for washing; and you shall put it between the tent of meeting and the altar, and you shall put water in it. Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet from it; when they enter the tent of meeting, they shall wash with water, so that they will not die; or when they approach the altar to minister, by offering up in smoke a fire sacrifice to the LORD. So they shall wash their hands and their feet, so that they will not die; and it shall be a perpetual statute for them, for Aaron and his descendants throughout their generations” (Exodus 30:17-21).

This basic principle, of cleanliness before the Lord, was expanded upon by King David, as he had the privilege of approaching His presence after the Tabernacle was relocated to Mount Moriah. Note the reverence and awe emoted in this Psalm, which takes the concept of clean hands to a much higher level, as it concerns the need for a pure heart:

“A Psalm of David. The earth is the LORD’s, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it. For He has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers. Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? And who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood and has not sworn deceitfully. He shall receive a blessing from the LORD and righteousness from the God of his salvation. This is the generation of those who seek Him, who seek Your face—even Jacob. Selah. Lift up your heads, O gates, and be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in! Who is the King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O gates, and lift them up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in! Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, He is the King of glory. Selah” (Psalm 24:1-10).

From the opening verses of Ki Tisa, the Lord communicates some universal principles regarding individual responsibilities, and how He wants people to approach Him. So while contemplating the balance of this reading, it will be personally edifying for us to reflect upon just how well we are accepting our individual duties before the Lord and how we are seeking Him. If our hearts are focused on the things of this world, or we have impurities impeding our relationship with Him—perhaps this would be an appropriate time for us to confess our transgressions. For in further reading, we will not only discover how the Lord deals with idol worship, but most crucially that He is a compassionate and merciful God who is slow to anger. He is surely willing to forgive those who faithfully come to Him with a broken spirit and contrite heart (Psalm 51:17).

Idol Worship

Once the issues of personal responsibility and properly approaching the Holy One are addressed, we see various instructions about the fragrant anointing oil with some prohibitions about its usage, a brief description about the artisans designated to make the Tabernacle and the elements of priestly, and a reminder about the importance of remembering the Sabbath rest (Exodus 30:22-31:18). After this, Ki Tisa turns to focus on the tragic golden calf incident. The Israelites were unaware that Moses was receiving two tablets with the testimony of God etched by His own finger, on what would be his first ascent of Mount Sinai (Exodus 24:16-18). But being accustomed to his role as mediator, while viewing from a distance the glory of the Lord like a consuming fire in a cloud shrouding the mountaintop, some became frightfully anxious about his lengthy absence. At this relatively early stage in the desert sojourn, it is safe to say that the faith of the Ancient Israelites was being tested.

After a number of weeks, a segment of the impatient population turned to Aaron, the designated leader in Moses’ absence, and they made an idolatrous request of Aaron to make a tangible “god” which they could follow. In much of the Ancient Near East, the bull was a symbol of lordship, leadership, strength, vital energy, and fertility—and was either deified and worshipped, or used to represent fertility. Aaron complied with their demand. Ironically, not yet aware of the silver half-shekel requirement that was to be instituted, Aaron without any apparent resistance to this unfaithful appeal, perhaps fearing for his own life, asked the people to donate their gold jewelry for the fashioning of a molten calf:

“When He had finished speaking with him upon Mount Sinai, He gave Moses the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written by the finger of God. Now when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people assembled about Aaron and said to him, ‘Come, make us a god who will go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ Aaron said to them, ‘Tear off the gold rings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.’ Then all the people tore off the gold rings which were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. He took this from their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool and made it into a molten calf; and they said, ‘This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.’ Now when Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made a proclamation and said, ‘Tomorrow shall be a feast to the LORD.’ So the next day they rose early and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play” (Exodus 31:18-32:6).

It is difficult to fathom why Moses’ older brother Aaron succumbed to this demand. After all, Aaron had been with Moses from the very beginning of his role as deliverer of Israel, being used as the spokesperson (Exodus 4:14-16) for the inarticulate Moses. Aaron had witnessed all the miracles, from the courts of Pharaoh to an intimate Mount Sinai dinner with the Holy One (Exodus 24:9-11). Aaron’s personal involvement in, or observation of, the Lord’s activities, required him to know that the Lord forbade the making of idols (Exodus 20:3-4). Yet, because of either social pressure or the threat of physical harm, Aaron not only requested the gold jewelry, but he also fashioned the golden calf—even though he later protested to Moses that the golden calf simply emerged from the fire (Exodus 32:24). Aaron’s direct participation and culpability, for these idolatrous acts, were later confirmed during Moses’ reiteration of these events in the Book of Deuteronomy. Apparently, the Lord was about to execute judgment on Aaron, but Moses interceded for him:

“The LORD was angry enough with Aaron to destroy him; so I also prayed for Aaron at the same time” (Deuteronomy 9:20).

In studying the incident of the golden calf in a variety of Torah commentaries, one discovers different interpretations found in assertions made by the Jewish Sages, which in various degrees are intended to provide excuses for Aaron’s actions.[7] Whether it is blaming the idol worship on the non-Israelite “mixed multitude” (Exodus 12:38) that departed Egypt, or avoiding the threat of death, Aaron was involved in the sin and still bore some guilt.

In this instance, upon the delay of Moses’ return from the mountain, the people insisted that Aaron “make a god” to go before them. The proper, faithful reaction, would have been to refuse the request regardless of the consequences. But this is not what Aaron did. Instead, because Aaron complied with their demands, when the golden calf was presented to Israel, the people actually declared that this “god” had brought them out of Egypt! How absurd this exclamation must have been to Aaron, and many within the crowds who had escaped bondage in Egypt—but such sentiments were enough to prevent a wide number from wanting to worship their new deity. We see a classic example of mixing the holy with the profane, and Aaron should have known better. This is a vivid reminder to Messiah followers today, how it is possible for anyone—including designated leaders—to have a lack of, or lose faith, and fall into error.

Several centuries later, history would repeat itself. When King Solomon died, and his realm was split in two, King Jeroboam of the newly established Northern Kingdom resorted to this same practice of fashioning golden calves. His intention was to divert worship from the Lord in Jerusalem, to the false gods set up in Bethel and Dan, so there would be no demand for reunification with the Southern Kingdom:

“So the king consulted, and made two golden calves, and he said to them, ‘It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem; behold your gods, O Israel, that brought you up from the land of Egypt.’  He set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan. Now this thing became a sin, for the people went to worship before the one as far as Dan. And he made houses on high places, and made priests from among all the people who were not of the sons of Levi” (1 Kings 12:28-31).

Apparently, these people did not learn their lesson from the golden calf incident that their ancestors had participated in, and were beguiled by a desperate leader to worship false idols. This should be a warning alarm to all who currently follow the One True God, especially in light of another spoken word. Yeshua the Messiah spoke the following, per the days that would transpire prior to His return:

“And Yeshua answered and said to them, ‘See to it that no one misleads you. For many will come in My name, saying, “I am the Messiah,” and will mislead many” (Matthew 24:4-5).

In a similar manner to Aaron invoking the name of the Most High for a feast before a false idol, there are going to be some teachers or leaders who come via the guise of proclaiming Yeshua in some way—but in reality will be misleading people, unable to discern the mixing of the holy and profane. This is why it is imperative that the faithful followers of Yeshua invest the time to truly understand the ways of the Lord in His Word, so that they may avoid being deceived. In the case of the Ancient Israelites in this week’s Torah reading, the result of false idol worship was a devastating death:

“Now when Moses saw that the people were out of control—for Aaron had let them get out of control to be a derision among their enemies—then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, ‘Whoever is for the LORD, come to me!’ And all the sons of Levi gathered together to him. He said to them, ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, “Every man of you put his sword upon his thigh, and go back and forth from gate to gate in the camp, and kill every man his brother, and every man his friend, and every man his neighbor.”’ So the sons of Levi did as Moses instructed, and about three thousand men of the people fell that day” (Exodus 32:25-28).

The golden calf incident is one of the main examples to be considered from the Torah, as warnings have been issued to all of God’s people throughout the ages (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:11-14). So, as today’s Messianic Believers study the Torah and consider its applications elsewhere, in the Tanakh and Apostolic Scriptures, the multiple warnings that have been issued by God need to be heeded. The fact that every person is individually accountable for his or her own relationship with the Lord—and that people are required to approach Him with cleans hands and pure hearts—should make true worshippers more discerning when tempted by misguided leaders or false teachers.

God’s Merciful Solution

Thankfully, this Torah portion also establishes a foreshadowing of the arrival of the Messiah, often in how a mediator has to bridge the gap between the Eternal and humanity at large. In Ki Tisa, we see how Moses intervened on behalf of the Ancient Israelites, pleading before the Holy One for mercy to be shown to them:

“Then the LORD spoke to Moses, ‘Go down at once, for your people, whom you brought up from the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. They have quickly turned aside from the way which I commanded them. They have made for themselves a molten calf, and have worshiped it and have sacrificed to it and said, “This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt!”’ The LORD said to Moses, ‘I have seen this people, and behold, they are an obstinate people. Now then let Me alone, that My anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them; and I will make of you a great nation. Then Moses entreated the LORD his God, and said, ‘O LORD, why does Your anger burn against Your people whom You have brought out from the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians speak, saying, “With evil intent He brought them out to kill them in the mountains and to destroy them from the face of the earth”? Turn from Your burning anger and change Your mind about doing harm to Your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants to whom You swore by Yourself, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heavens, and all this land of which I have spoken I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’” So the LORD changed His mind about the harm which He said He would do to His people” (Exodus 32:7-14).

It is notable in this passage that the Lord’s first inclination upon speaking to Moses about the rebellious acts of the obstinate Israelites was to eradicate the Ancient Israelites, and to start over with Moses to make a great nation. In capacity as mediator, Moses immediately questioned the Lord’s statement, by reminding Him of His promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Then in a statement that has raised eyebrows for centuries, the text states that the Lord “changed His mind.” This passage illustrates for Bible readers, how the role of a mediator before the Father, is ultimately consummated in the atoning work of the Son. He is currently seated at His right hand, interceding:

“Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Messiah Yeshua is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us” (Romans 8:33-34).

Additionally, while noting the critical role of a mediator in God’s plan for the ages, our Torah portion also goes on to reveal some magnificent attributes about Him. After God’s justice is executed by the Levites (Exodus 32:28), Moses still wanted to know more about the One he served. Noting that he had found favor in the sight of the Lord, Moses wanted to know not only the ways of the Lord, but know Him in a more intimate way:

“Then Moses said to the LORD, ‘See, You say to me, “Bring up this people!” But You Yourself have not let me know whom You will send with me. Moreover, You have said, “I have known you by name, and you have also found favor in My sight.” Now therefore, I pray You, if I have found favor in Your sight, let me know Your ways that I may know You, so that I may find favor in Your sight. Consider too, that this nation is Your people.’ And He said, ‘My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.’ Then he said to Him, ‘If Your presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here. For how then can it be known that I have found favor in Your sight, I and Your people? Is it not by Your going with us, so that we, I and Your people, may be distinguished from all the other people who are upon the face of the earth?’ The LORD said to Moses, ‘I will also do this thing of which you have spoken; for you have found favor in My sight and I have known you by name.’ Then Moses said, ‘I pray You, show me Your glory!’ And He said, ‘I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the LORD before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion.’  But He said, ‘You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!’ Then the LORD said, ‘Behold, there is a place by Me, and you shall stand there on the rock; and it will come about, while My glory is passing by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by. Then I will take My hand away and you shall see My back, but My face shall not be seen’” (Exodus 33:12-23).

In this compelling passage, Moses was able to observe some of the glory of the Lord passing by, with only His “back” viewable. In the course of this interaction, the Lord noted that He was gracious and compassionate. This brief description of the mercy of God was followed by a much more complete explanation, after Moses was commanded to return to the mountain with two new tablets. Now, rather than the Lord exclusively producing the stone tablets, the responsibility of mortals to be involved, in the process of receiving the commands, is noted. But beyond the principles communicated, the Lord expanded upon the description of Himself that eloquently detailed His mercy and forgiveness:

“The LORD descended in the cloud and stood there with him as he called upon the name of the LORD. Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, ‘The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.’ Moses made haste to bow low toward the earth and worship. He said, ‘If now I have found favor in Your sight, O Lord, I pray, let the Lord go along in our midst, even though the people are so obstinate, and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us as Your own possession.’ Then God said, ‘Behold, I am going to make a covenant. Before all your people I will perform miracles which have not been produced in all the earth nor among any of the nations; and all the people among whom you live will see the working of the LORD, for it is a fearful thing that I am going to perform with you’” (Exodus 34:5-10).

The Almighty Creator God is the epitome of love. In all other Ancient Near Eastern societies, when the people worshipping a god or goddess would demonstrate disloyalty—their mythologies describe how great catastrophe and penalties would often immediately come—perhaps by them destroying the nation. Here in the Torah, we do not see this. We see the great disloyalty of the Ancient Israelites who worshipped the golden calf, and the significant restraint of God’s judgment upon His chosen ones.

Faith Contrasted

Ki Tisa commences by emphasizing individual responsibility and accountability for Ancient Israel, with the admonition that approaching the Holy One requires a cleanliness before Him that is more than just physical. It continues with a vivid reminder that faithless impatience can result in following after false idols, and even infect those who are placed in positions of leadership. But the teaching and parallel readings also illustrate that a loving and merciful God will respond to the pleas or actions of a mediator, as was the case when Moses’ pleadings for God’s mercy on Aaron were heeded.

As we each read and reflect upon our parashah for this week, it is crucial to recognize that people are ultimately going to be held accountable for their actions, before a holy and righteous Creator God. But will you be evaluated for punishment, or for the dispersement of rewards for your good works? Many are susceptible to a lack of faith, impatience, impure thoughts, a lack of discernment, and a bevy of iniquities that can seriously impede our relationship with the Holy One of Israel. Hence, it is beneficial to frequently go before the Lord—if and when any thoughts or actions disrupt the blessing of intimate fellowship with Him. The beloved Apostle John honestly described the need for those called into the light of truth, to faithfully confess whatever sin might darken the soul:

“If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Yeshua His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us” (1 John 1:6-10).

May we all forever embrace this eternal truth! (Click to Source)

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NOTES

[1] Exodus 30:11-16.

[2] Exodus 30:22-33.

[3] Exodus 31:1-11.

[4] Exodus 31:12-18.

[5] Exodus 32:11-14; 33:12-23.

[6] Exodus 34:1-35.

[7] Cf. Nosson Scherman, ed., et al., The ArtScroll Chumash, Stone Edition, 5th ed. (Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, 2000), 495; Nahum M. Sarna, “Exodus,” in Etz Hayim, 531.

Torah Reading – TorahScope – Outreach Israel Ministries – Yitro – Jethro – “Blind Faith” – 28 January, 2018

Yitro – Jethro

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Exodus 18:1-20:23[26]
Isaiah 6:1-7:6; 9:5-6[6-7] (A); 6:1-13 (S)

“Blind Faith”


by Mark Huey

The trials and tribulations of Ancient Israel’s deliverance from Egypt continue in this week’s Torah reading, with particular emphasis on the Ten Commandments that are received while the people were encamped at Mount Sinai. After observing the many miracles performed by God to free them from the bondage of Egyptian slavery—including the ten plagues, the cloud and pillar of fire, the parting of the Red Sea, the destruction of the Egyptian army, making bitter water potable, provision of manna and quail, providing water from a rock, and defeating the Amalekites—the Israelites were definitely in awe of the power of their God. By experiencing and witnessing these visible, and in many respects, tangible acts of punishment, provision, and protection—Israel was prepared to do whatever the Lord declared, before even knowing what He was going to require. Accordingly, one might conclude that the people were finally at a point where they exhibited a “blind faith,” willing to follow the instruction of the Lord regardless of the outcome.

Jethro’s Counsel

Before the dramatic encounter with the Almighty, where the Ten Commandments would be issued, we are told about the wisdom imparted to Moses by his father-in-law Jethro. The importance of establishing a reasonable way to judge circumstances within the camp of Israel was proposed by Jethro. Jethro recognized that the people were relying solely on the judgment of Moses to resolve disputes. With thousands of people, and all of the problems that might ensue from human interaction, it was obvious to Jethro that Moses needed to delegate some responsibility to other leaders. These would be individuals who feared God, knew the truth, and hated dishonest gain:

“It came about the next day that Moses sat to judge the people, and the people stood about Moses from the morning until the evening. Now when Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, ‘What is this thing that you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge and all the people stand about you from morning until evening?’ Moses said to his father-in-law, ‘Because the people come to me to inquire of God. When they have a dispute, it comes to me, and I judge between a man and his neighbor and make known the statutes of God and His laws.’ Moses’ father-in-law said to him, ‘The thing that you are doing is not good. You will surely wear out, both yourself and these people who are with you, for the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone. Now listen to me: I will give you counsel, and God be with you. You be the people’s representative before God, and you bring the disputes to God, then teach them the statutes and the laws, and make known to them the way in which they are to walk and the work they are to do. Furthermore, you shall select out of all the people able men who fear God, men of truth, those who hate dishonest gain; and you shall place these over them as leaders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens. Let them judge the people at all times; and let it be that every major dispute they will bring to you, but every minor dispute they themselves will judge. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. If you do this thing and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all these people also will go to their place in peace.’ So Moses listened to his father-in-law and did all that he had said. Moses chose able men out of all Israel and made them heads over the people, leaders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens. They judged the people at all times; the difficult dispute they would bring to Moses, but every minor dispute they themselves would judge. Then Moses bade his father-in-law farewell, and he went his way into his own land” (Exodus 18:13-27).

From the insertion of this encounter with Jethro, juxtaposed between the first few months of the deliverance from Egypt and the reception of the Decalogue, it is reasonable to conclude that God was concerned about an orderly means for Ancient Israel to govern itself. God is not a God of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33). What is seen here in Yitro would later be integrated into many different judicial systems throughout the world. Note that Jethro still advised Moses to remain Israel’s representative before God, with the admonition to teach the statutes and laws of God. Moses did not relinquish his role as a mediator before the Holy One, but he did not need to have to be burdened with every single issue that might have arisen among the people.

 Preparing to Receive the Decalogue

After the departure of Jethro, our Torah portion turns to one of the most incredible events ever recorded in human history. The Creator God descended from Heaven and spoke the Ten Commandments to the people of Israel gathered at the base of Mount Sinai. But before this dramatic encounter occurred, the Lord had some extraordinary words for Moses to communicate to them:

“Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him from the mountain, saying, ‘Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob and tell the sons of Israel: “You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to Myself. Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel’” (Exodus 19:3-6).

Here the Almighty summoned Moses to the mountain to hear this declaration, so that he would share it with Israel. In some opening remarks, God reminded Moses about what He had done to the Egyptians, and how He personally protected the Israelites during their deliverance from slavery and along the path they were traversing. Obviously, there was no need for the Ancient Israelites to take any credit for being at a place of relative safety from their enemies.

There are then some incredible words, which should bring both comfort and awe to each of us who read or hear these words today. In order to be regarded as God’s possession among all the peoples, and be considered a kingdom of priests and a holy nation—Israel was to obey Him. While on the surface, obeying God might sound somewhat doable, especially given anticipated blessings—but what we obviously discover from the remainder of too much of the Torah and Tanakh is that Israel inevitably failed over and over to obey. However, at this particular time in the history of Israel, given the preponderance of recent miracles and deliverance from enemies, and what could be considered a “blind faith,” the Israelites collectively responded to this proposition with a resounding affirmation:

“All the people answered together and said, ‘All that the LORD has spoken we will do!’And Moses brought back the words of the people to the LORD. The LORD said to Moses, ‘Behold, I will come to you in a thick cloud, so that the people may hear when I speak with you and may also believe in you forever.’ Then Moses told the words of the people to the LORD. The LORD also said to Moses, ‘Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments; and let them be ready for the third day, for on the third day the LORD will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. You shall set bounds for the people all around, saying, “Beware that you do not go up on the mountain or touch the border of it; whoever touches the mountain shall surely be put to death. No hand shall touch him, but he shall surely be stoned or shot through; whether beast or man, he shall not live.” When the ram’s horn [shofar, CJB] sounds a long blast, they shall come up to the mountain.’ So Moses went down from the mountain to the people and consecrated the people, and they washed their garments. He said to the people, ‘Be ready for the third day; do not go near a woman’” (Exodus 19:8-15).

Whether this positive response to do all that the Lord would speak, even before He had spoken it—from all the people of Israel—was a reflection of their awe for what the Lord had just done, or whether it was really just enthusiasm being caught up in the moment, the fact is there was a genuine desire of the Ancient Israelites to obey the Lord. Their response must have pleased Him. Yet, immediately following this the Lord began to relay to Moses some warnings about what was to be expected when He would descend upon Mount Sinai. The Lord wanted His people to hear His voice, but He knew that a certain amount of personal consecration was required in order to be prepared to hear Him speak.

Instruction came forth so that, for a three-day period, the people would consecrate themselves through washings and separation from sexual contact. A prohibition about even touching the mountain was included, to keep the people from defiling it before the Holy One descended. Eventually a blast from a ram’s horn would signal that they could approach the base of the mountain, but still not touch it. God was very concerned about protecting the people from their over zealousness to approach the mountain. When God did finally descend to Mount Sinai, it was accompanied with great thunder and lightning:

“So it came about on the third day, when it was morning, that there were thunder and lightning flashes and a thick cloud upon the mountain and a very loud trumpet sound, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled. And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Now Mount Sinai was all in smoke because the LORD descended upon it in fire; and its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked violently. When the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and God answered him with thunder. The LORD came down on Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain; and the LORD called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up. Then the LORD spoke to Moses, ‘Go down, warn the people, so that they do not break through to the LORD to gaze, and many of them perish. Also let the priests who come near to the LORD consecrate themselves, or else the LORD will break out against them.’ Moses said to the LORD, ‘The people cannot come up to Mount Sinai, for You warned us, saying, “Set bounds about the mountain and consecrate it.”’ Then the LORD said to him, ‘Go down and come up again, you and Aaron with you; but do not let the priests and the people break through to come up to the LORD, or He will break forth upon them.’ So Moses went down to the people and told them” (Exodus 19:16-25).

This must have been an awesome sight to behold. After three days of being consecrated for the event, Israelites were gathered by Moses at the base of the mountain, as it turned ominously dark. A cloud descended, accompanied by thunder, lightning, and a trembling quake of the whole mountain. Then as the trumpet sounded, the Lord actually responded to the warning signal by thundering back, and calling Moses to join Him at the top of the mountain. It is difficult to imagine what this must have been like—despite a few attempts by motion pictures like The Ten Commandments or Prince of Egypt to try to portray it.

If you have ever been in a hurricane, coupled with an earthquake, while a tornado is raging by, with lightning lighting up the sky, as you gazed upon a fire blasting volcanic like smoke in the distance—perhaps you could envision this scene, sort of. If nothing else, the fear of the Lord would be an overwhelming emotion, because there would be so much out of your control, that you can only stand there in utter terror. And yet, as these types of natural phenomena are described in Yitro, Moses ascended the mountain to receive the Ten Words. The final warning regarding the priests kept them from touching the mountain, but there was one exception made for Aaron. So, the scene was set for Israel to receive the Word of the Lord from Mount Sinai.

The Decalogue is Spoken

The Holy One spoke forth the Ten Commandments, or the Ten Words, heard by all. These instructions are regarded as perhaps the most important and influential of Divine ordinances, with a resonating effect on all of humankind—most especially those of both Judaism and Christianity:

“Then God spoke all these words, saying, ‘I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments. You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and made it holy. Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you. You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor” (Exodus 20:1-17).

Here, with an entire generation of Israelites to witness and hear, the Lord God proclaimed these Ten Words, which have become foundational building blocks and parameters for living life in a manner that loves Him and neighbor. In the first four commandments, the focus seen is on human relationships with God, and how He wants to be worshipped and followed. The last six commandments deal primarily with human interactions with others, and how God wants us to treat our fellow human beings. Without going into great detail about the specifics of each of these words, when men or women faithfully apply these words to their daily walk with the Lord, they will inevitably be adhering to what Yeshua defined as the greatest commandments in the Torah:

“One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, ‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ And He said to him, ‘“YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND” [Deuteronomy 6:5]. ‘This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF” [Leviticus 18:5]. On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets’” (Matthew 22:35-40).

A Change of Mind

The Israelites had pledged, rather blindly we may say, to do all that the Lord had spoken—without even knowing what He was going to say (Exodus 19:8). They probably liked the idea of having this awesome God, who had delivered them from the Egyptians through a series of miracles, and helped defeat the dreaded Amalekites, speak to them. He was the God who was going to make them great, after all. But Israel’s initial response, to obey all that the Lord spoke, was perhaps being reevaluated by some, as they heard His commandments reverberating from the mountaintop.

After the Ten Words had been declared, we find a terrified people, who had just witnessed an incredible event as the voice of the Lord literally permeated their beings. Despite complying with the request to maintain a distance from the base of the mountain, the visible, audible, and tangible realities of the Creator God speaking directly to them must have been overwhelming—because they declared that if they heard God speak to them, they would die. We quickly discover that after hearing the Ten Words, the Israelites impulsively requested Moses to maintain his intermediary position, as their point of contact with the Holy One:

“All the people perceived the thunder and the lightning flashes and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood at a distance. Then they said to Moses, ‘Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, or we will die.’ Moses said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid; for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin.’ So the people stood at a distance, while Moses approached the thick cloud where God was. Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, “You yourselves have seen that I have spoken to you from heaven. You shall not make other gods besides Me; gods of silver or gods of gold, you shall not make for yourselves. You shall make an altar of earth for Me, and you shall sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen; in every place where I cause My name to be remembered, I will come to you and bless you. If you make an altar of stone for Me, you shall not build it of cut stones, for if you wield your tool on it, you will profane it. And you shall not go up by steps to My altar, so that your nakedness will not be exposed on it”’” (Exodus 20:18-26).

Moses listened to the requests of the Israelites, and responded with an explanation for why the Lord had allowed them to hear His audible voice. Apparently, this unique encounter by the Holy One, with His chosen people, was to test them. The Lord wanted the people to fear Him with a reverence that would help them avoid sin, and be genuine in following His instructions. By hearing His commands in this dramatic fashion, the Israelites were so awestruck, that they immediately asked Moses to be their mediator before God.

Without hesitation, Moses approached God in the thick of the cloud, while the Israelites stood at a distance. Some final instructions were given to Moses that deal specifically with avoiding making idols of precious metals and constructing a proper altar with uncut stones for various sacrifices. Moses did not exhibit any of the trepidation of the Lord, because by this point in time Moses had endured so much intimacy with the Lord, that he realized his position as a mediator for the people was secure.

What about the blind faith declarations of the Israelites a few days earlier? Had this close encounter with the Holy One changed their minds, as they had decided it would be better to let an intermediary act as a go-between with the Holy One?

Blind Faith

It is difficult with certainty to determine what made the Ancient Israelites want a mediator, rather than have direct communication from the Almighty. Perhaps it was simply a fear of physical life, because of the dangers posed by wandering too close to the mountain or the difficulty of being in the presence of holiness. On the other hand, is it possible that the pure vocal declaration of the Ten Commandments from the Holy One of Israel, reverberated with such a strong chord in their hearts, that there was literally a physical manifestation experiencing heart palpitations and other threatening actions?

The significance of the giving of the Ten Commandments has allowed me to realize that this formal delivery to Ancient Israel—may just well be a codification of a wide number of instructions that have already been impressed onto the human conscience/mind/heart, as all people are made in God’s image. In his letter to the Romans, Paul mentioned how the nations can do things of God’s Torah, even if they do not formally have God’s Torah:

“For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Messiah Yeshua” (Romans 2:14-16).

Every person, in some form or fashion, is going to be held accountable for keeping or violating God’s Law.

When you consider the giving of the Ten Commandments, are you at all complying with them? When you think about breaking an ordinance etched in stone with God’s finger, do you at all think about the scene of fire and smoke in which it was given to Ancient Israel? Even if you do not think about disregarding or disobeying any of Ten Commandments, are you ever caught minimally obeying them?

While you are considering this week’s Torah portion, try placing yourself at the base of Mount Sinai, and imagine the Ten Words of God coming forth from a fire-belching, smoking, and trembling mountain top. Pray through each of the commands, reading them out loud so that you hear them (cf. Romans 10:17), and ascertain just where you presently may be in your heart of hearts when it comes to following them.

Will you discover that there is another god in your life, or that an idol is taking up your time? Will you find that you have been profaning the name of the Lord in some of your thoughts or statements? Could you be approaching the Sabbath in ways that need improvement? Have you ever dishonored your parents or your ancestors? Have you been harboring some thoughts about murder, adultery, stealing, bearing false witness, or coveting something—which needs to be confessed and terminated?

Remember that the Ancient Israelites, who seemingly through a “blind faith,” initially had great intentions to do all that the Holy One spoke. But when the Lord did speak the Ten Commandments, the people rapidly turned to Moses because of their mortal fear, rather than press into the voice of God for their own benefit. Thankfully today, with the benefit of the arrival of Yeshua the Messiah onto the scene of history, all people can know that the penalty for breaking the instructions given to Moses and Ancient Israel has been remitted by His sacrifice! We simply have to acknowledge His sacrifice by faith, and receive permanent atonement and forgiveness for our violation of the Father’s commandments. Additionally, rather than being mortally afraid of the bellowing voice of the Holy One, those who are in Yeshua have the privilege of listening to the quiet still voice of the Spirit, as they seek Him in prayer, supplication, and worship.

I consider it a great blessing to be a part of the redeemed in Messiah, having the opportunity to learn more and more about my Creator and His ways, by studying the Torah. The Holy One still desires a people for His own possession, a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation (1 Peter 2:9). May we each be found faithful to be a part of this company of Believers! (Click to Source)

This Weeks Torah Reading – Mikkeitz – At the end – “God Honors Faith” – 10 December, 2017

Mikkeitz

At the end

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Genesis 41:1-44:17
1 Kings 3:15-4:1

“God Honors Faith”


by Mark Huey

Mikkeitz, which is being considered as the Torah portion for this week, continues the narrative about the life of Joseph in Egypt. Joseph finally realized the manifestation of his dreams about his brothers bowing before him. Since being cast into a pit by his brothers and sold into slavery in Egypt, Joseph had to endure false accusations from Potiphar’s wife, which eventually landed him in an Egyptian jail. Yet, from our previous reading, V’yeishev(Genesis 37:1-40:23), Joseph’s faith, in the “word” he discerned from the dreams he had received as a youth, had “tested” him and continued to keep him looking to the Holy One for guidance and comfort (Psalm 105:19).

As this parashah unfolds, it is Joseph’s God-given ability to interpret dreams that ultimately placed him second to Pharaoh, prior to the Almighty using a regional famine to force the sons of Jacob to travel to Egypt from Canaan in search of food. The underlying irony weaved throughout these circumstances is the apparent lack of faith exhibited by the sons of Jacob, as they encountered their inquisitions before the concealed Joseph. The Psalmist summarized an outline of these events centuries later, as all of these circumstances were designed by the Almighty to eventually teach the brothers wisdom, which culminated in a great trust and faith in Him. They would finally be able to understand that the Lord was ultimately in control of the circumstances of their lives:

“And He called for a famine upon the land; He broke the whole staff of bread. He sent a man before them, Joseph, who was sold as a slave. They afflicted his feet with fetters, He himself was laid in irons; until the time that his word came to pass, the word of the LORD tested him. The king sent and released him, the ruler of peoples, and set him free. He made him lord of his house and ruler over all his possessions, to imprison his princes at will, that he might teach his elders wisdom” (Psalm 105:16-22).

In turning to our Torah reading, we are once again reminded of the plight of Joseph, as he languished in the jail reserved for the prisoners of Pharaoh and other high ranking officials. From last week’s parashah, Joseph’s ability to interpret dreams had been recognized by the cupbearer, as Joseph accurately interpreted the fatal dream of the baker and the restorative dream of Pharaoh’s wine steward (Genesis 40). However, for two full years, the cupbearer did not honor Joseph’s request to plead for his release from the jail (Genesis 40:14). So, we see how Mikkeitz opens with Pharaoh’s description of a puzzling dream:

“He restored the chief cupbearer to his office, and he put the cup into Pharaoh’s hand; but he hanged the chief baker, just as Joseph had interpreted to them. Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him. Now it happened at the end of two full years that Pharaoh had a dream, and behold, he was standing by the Nile” (Genesis 40:21-41:1).

Dreams received and the God-given ability to interpret dreams were a significant part of Joseph’s life, and his specific walk with the Lord. As we later discover (Genesis 41:46), Joseph had spent some thirteen or so years either enslaved or incarcerated in Egypt, and he had not yet realized the dream he had of ruling over his family. Still, when given an opportunity while in jail to interpret the dreams of Pharaoh’s baker and cupbearer, he confidently acknowledged his God as the source of dream interpretations (Genesis 40:8).

After a two year stint continuing to ably serve the chief jailer, another opportunity to seek God for an interpretation of dreams presented itself. This time, the dreams were experienced by the demanding Pharaoh, who reflexively sought an interpretation from his magicians and wise courtiers without any success. Finally as we read, the forgetful cupbearer, possibly seeking favor with Pharaoh after the failure of the wise companions, remembered the Hebrew youth who had properly interpreted his own dream:

“Now in the morning his spirit was troubled, so he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt, and all its wise men. And Pharaoh told them his dreams, but there was no one who could interpret them to Pharaoh. Then the chief cupbearer spoke to Pharaoh, saying, ‘I would make mention today of my own offenses. Pharaoh was furious with his servants, and he put me in confinement in the house of the captain of the bodyguard, both me and the chief baker. We had a dream on the same night, he and I; each of us dreamed according to the interpretation of his own dream. Now a Hebrew youth was with us there, a servant of the captain of the bodyguard, and we related them to him, and he interpreted our dreams for us. To each one he interpreted according to his own dream. And just as he interpreted for us, so it happened; he restored me in my office, but he hanged him.’ Then Pharaoh sent and called for Joseph, and they hurriedly brought him out of the dungeon; and when he had shaved himself and changed his clothes, he came to Pharaoh. Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘I have had a dream, but no one can interpret it; and I have heard it said about you, that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.’ Joseph then answered Pharaoh, saying, ‘It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer’” (Genesis 41:8-16).

Once again, without apparent hesitation when asked, Joseph did not take credit for his ability to interpret dreams—but from the onset told Pharaoh that perhaps God would give him the interpretation. Joseph continued to display a consistent reliance upon the God of his fathers, for whatever ability he had been given to interpret dreams. Joseph illustrated the universal principle that God honors those who honor Him, as specifically delineated several centuries later to the Prophet Samuel, and eventually affirmed by Yeshua the Messiah to His Disciples:

“Therefore the LORD God of Israel declares, ‘I did indeed say that your house and the house of your father should walk before Me forever’; but now the LORD declares, ‘Far be it from Me—for those who honor Me I will honor, and those who despise Me will be lightly esteemed’” (1 Samuel 2:30).

“If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him” (John 12:26).

For the Lord’s Divine purposes, faithful Joseph found himself in a unique position to interpret some dreams that had confounded the wise officials of Egypt. Upon hearing Pharaoh’s description of the disturbing dreams, Joseph confidently told Pharaoh that his two dreams were from God, and promptly stated a God-revealed interpretation, while offering a practical solution to the impending famine:

“Now Joseph said to Pharaoh, ‘Pharaoh’s dreams are one and the same; God has told to Pharaoh what He is about to do. The seven good cows are seven years; and the seven good ears are seven years; the dreams are one and the same. The seven lean and ugly cows that came up after them are seven years, and the seven thin ears scorched by the east wind will be seven years of famine. It is as I have spoken to Pharaoh: God has shown to Pharaoh what He is about to do. Behold, seven years of great abundance are coming in all the land of Egypt; and after them seven years of famine will come, and all the abundance will be forgotten in the land of Egypt, and the famine will ravage the land. So the abundance will be unknown in the land because of that subsequent famine; for it will be very severe. Now as for the repeating of the dream to Pharaoh twice, it means that the matter is determined by God, and God will quickly bring it about. Now let Pharaoh look for a man discerning and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt. Let Pharaoh take action to appoint overseers in charge of the land, and let him exact a fifth of the produce of the land of Egypt in the seven years of abundance. Then let them gather all the food of these good years that are coming, and store up the grain for food in the cities under Pharaoh’s authority, and let them guard it. Let the food become as a reserve for the land for the seven years of famine which will occur in the land of Egypt, so that the land will not perish during the famine.’ Now the proposal seemed good to Pharaoh and to all his servants. Then Pharaoh said to his servants, ‘Can we find a man like this, in whom is a divine spirit?’ So Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘Since God has informed you of all this, there is no one so discerning and wise as you are. You shall be over my house, and according to your command all my people shall do homage; only in the throne I will be greater than you.’ Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.’ Then Pharaoh took off his signet ring from his hand and put it on Joseph’s hand, and clothed him in garments of fine linen and put the gold necklace around his neck. He had him ride in his second chariot; and they proclaimed before him, ‘Bow the knee!’ And he set him over all the land of Egypt. Moreover, Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘Though I am Pharaoh, yet without your permission no one shall raise his hand or foot in all the land of Egypt’” (Genesis 41:25-44).

In a providential twist, Pharaoh—who was considered to be a god by his subjects—intently listened to the interpretation and advice of Joseph. Contrary to the many societal prejudices toward the Hebrews (Genesis 43:32), Pharaoh concluded that the wise and discerning youth, in whom the “divine spirit” resided, was just the right person to handle the imminent threat to the future of Egypt. Joseph’s faith in the Almighty, and his bold declaration that gave honor to God before the imperial Pharaoh, resulted in God honoring Joseph with positional authority within Egypt second only to the Pharaoh! This is a most-significant example of what happens when one places faith in God—for all of us to consider—especially in contrast to the seemingly faith-starved brothers who sojourned to Egypt, primarily to seek physical sustenance. Yet, the Almighty also had a plan for the other sons of Jacob. In due time, they would eventually recognize the providential hand of the Lord in their encounters, with an “anonymous” Egyptian purveyor of grain—their brother Joseph—who remained a faithful servant of the ultimate Provider.

From this point, Mikkeitz records how Joseph went about his life, administrating Egypt’s food crisis (Genesis 41:47-49), marrying a daughter of an Egyptian priest (Genesis 41:45), and fathering two sons (Genesis 41:50-52).

Dreams Come True

The realization of Joseph’s dreams now come center stage, when his brothers have to make their way down into Egypt, in order to buy food to survive. Joseph’s brothers did not recognize that they were bowing to the brother they once wanted to kill, but instead, sold into slavery. On the other hand, Joseph recognized his brothers, but rather than revealing himself, he decided that he was in an opportune position to take revenge on his brothers if so inclined.

One can only imagine what must have been going through Joseph’s mind and heart as he confronted his needy brothers. If Joseph had been harboring some hatred for his brothers’ actions toward him, this would have been the perfect time for him to execute judgment. However, because Joseph was wise, discerning, and in tune with the will of God—he inherently knew because of his faith in the Lord that vengeance was His. The Almighty had already honored Joseph with incredible favor and power before the Egyptians. What was he to do with these circumstances? Joseph did, initially, speak to his brothers harshly. However, in the back of his mind he had to remember the dreams about his brothers bowing to him, and so he must have wondered how was he to respond to the event finally taking place. So, rather than take immediate forceful action, Joseph decided to use the occasion to have his brothers experience the fear of death—something he had endured years earlier when these very brothers had threatened to kill him. By accusing his brothers of being spies in Egypt—a capital offense justifying certain execution—Joseph was wisely using these circumstances to teach his brothers some life changing lessons:

“Now Jacob saw that there was grain in Egypt, and Jacob said to his sons, ‘Why are you staring at one another?’ He said, ‘Behold, I have heard that there is grain in Egypt; go down there and buy some for us from that place, so that we may live and not die.’ Then ten brothers of Joseph went down to buy grain from Egypt. But Jacob did not send Joseph’s brother Benjamin with his brothers, for he said, ‘I am afraid that harm may befall him.’ So the sons of Israel came to buy grain among those who were coming, for the famine was in the land of Canaan also. Now Joseph was the ruler over the land; he was the one who sold to all the people of the land. And Joseph’s brothers came and bowed down to him with their faces to the ground. When Joseph saw his brothers he recognized them, but he disguised himself to them and spoke to them harshly. And he said to them, ‘Where have you come from?’ And they said, ‘From the land of Canaan, to buy food.’ But Joseph had recognized his brothers, although they did not recognize him. Joseph remembered the dreams which he had about them, and said to them, ‘You are spies; you have come to look at the undefended parts of our land.’ Then they said to him, ‘No, my lord, but your servants have come to buy food. We are all sons of one man; we are honest men, your servants are not spies.’ Yet he said to them, ‘No, but you have come to look at the undefended parts of our land!’ But they said, ‘Your servants are twelve brothers in all, the sons of one man in the land of Canaan; and behold, the youngest is with our father today, and one is no longer alive.’ Joseph said to them, ‘It is as I said to you, you are spies; by this you will be tested: by the life of Pharaoh, you shall not go from this place unless your youngest brother comes here! Send one of you that he may get your brother, while you remain confined, that your words may be tested, whether there is truth in you. But if not, by the life of Pharaoh, surely you are spies.’ So he put them all together in prison for three days” (Genesis 42:1-17).

In this extraordinary interchange, Joseph had to be struggling with his emotions as he recognized his brothers—while noticing that Benjamin was not among them. But rather than reveal his identity, he put his brothers on the defensive, by claiming that they must be spies searching out the undefended lands of Egypt. The brother’s subject-changing retort indicated that their youngest brother Benjamin was alive, remaining in Canaan with his father. In addition, because they did not know the fate of the brother they had sold into slavery, they assumed that he was dead. Once again, imagine what Joseph must have been thinking when he heard these revelations from his brothers who were passionately attempting to defend themselves. On the other hand, the emotional tables were being turned on the brothers, as the false allegation that they were spies could result in their execution:

“Now Joseph said to them on the third day, ‘Do this and live, for I fear God: if you are honest men, let one of your brothers be confined in your prison; but as for the rest of you, go, carry grain for the famine of your households, and bring your youngest brother to me, so your words may be verified, and you will not die.’ And they did so. Then they said to one another, ‘Truly we are guilty concerning our brother, because we saw the distress of his soul when he pleaded with us, yet we would not listen; therefore this distress has come upon us.’ Reuben answered them, saying, ‘Did I not tell you, “Do not sin against the boy”; and you would not listen? Now comes the reckoning for his blood.’ They did not know, however, that Joseph understood, for there was an interpreter between them.  He turned away from them and wept. But when he returned to them and spoke to them, he took Simeon from them and bound him before their eyes” (Genesis 42:18-24).

Initially, Joseph was going to send one brother to retrieve the youngest brother. But after three days of letting the ten brothers stew and ruminate over their predicament in the prison, the Egyptian prince ironically referenced God when he altered his edict. Joseph’s comment, that he had a “fear of God,” should have been a thought-provoking remark to the brothers—especially since there was a blatant void of references to God on their behalf. Then, in a searching attempt to comprehend their dilemma, the eldest son Reuben spoke to his brothers and directly tied the maltreatment of their brother Joseph to their dire circumstances. Apparently, while in confinement fretting over their personal destiny, the brothers were reminded of their nefarious actions toward Joseph years earlier—and were connecting the two. It appears that the brothers were finally beginning to recognize the consequences of their actions. The measured wheels of eternal justice were beginning to turn—as the brothers’ consciences were being stirred—as the deeply buried thoughts of past actions were being considered, given their current life-threatening situation:

For the remainder of our parashah, the Lord continued to use the judicious decisions of Joseph regarding his brothers, to painstakingly bring his brothers closer to recognizing His providence. Despite the emotional pain of watching and listening to his brothers discuss private matters among themselves—since unbeknownst to his brothers he understood their language—Joseph ventured forth with his objective to teach his brothers a lesson. If revenge was ever in his mind, the thought of restoring his family eventually overwhelmed him, as he had to turn away in order to weep before ordering the incarceration of Simeon, the secondborn son. Nevertheless, the trials of the brothers were just beginning, as God was using Joseph’s actions to get his brother’s attention. This would ultimately reveal to them that the Holy One was in careful control of the affairs of limited, mortal people.

Motivating Fears

Fear of loss is a prime motivator, especially when one senses life-threatening loss. In the case of Joseph’s brothers on their journey back to Canaan, they had to initially consider the loss of Simeon—but upon discovering their money in their satchels, the fear for their own lives became even more paramount. In their trepidation, they wondered what had been happening to them, an indication that they were beginning to view things with God somehow being involved in their affairs. In fact, given their new predicament that would have turned them from not only being spies but also thieves—they were starting to understand that there were consequences for their sinful actions, whether actual or perceived. The Lord was definitely using these events to get their collective attention. But to complicate matters, the brothers were going to have to convey all that had happened during their trip to Egypt to their father Jacob, who continued to grieve over the loss of Joseph years earlier:

“Then Joseph gave orders to fill their bags with grain and to restore every man’s money in his sack, and to give them provisions for the journey. And thus it was done for them. So they loaded their donkeys with their grain and departed from there. As one of them opened his sack to give his donkey fodder at the lodging place, he saw his money; and behold, it was in the mouth of his sack. Then he said to his brothers, ‘My money has been returned, and behold, it is even in my sack.’ And their hearts sank, and they turned trembling to one another, saying, ‘What is this that God has done to us?’ When they came to their father Jacob in the land of Canaan, they told him all that had happened to them, saying, ‘The man, the lord of the land, spoke harshly with us, and took us for spies of the country.  But we said to him, “We are honest men; we are not spies. We are twelve brothers, sons of our father; one is no longer alive, and the youngest is with our father today in the land of Canaan.” The man, the lord of the land, said to us, ‘By this I will know that you are honest men: leave one of your brothers with me and take grain for the famine of your households, and go. But bring your youngest brother to me that I may know that you are not spies, but honest men. I will give your brother to you, and you may trade in the land.’” Now it came about as they were emptying their sacks, that behold, every man’s bundle of money was in his sack; and when they and their father saw their bundles of money, they were dismayed. Their father Jacob said to them, ‘You have bereaved me of my children: Joseph is no more, and Simeon is no more, and you would take Benjamin; all these things are against me.’ Then Reuben spoke to his father, saying, ‘You may put my two sons to death if I do not bring him back to you; put him in my care, and I will return him to you.’ But Jacob said, ‘My son shall not go down with you; for his brother is dead, and he alone is left. If harm should befall him on the journey you are taking, then you will bring my gray hair down to Sheol in sorrow’” (Genesis 42:25-38).

Now to heap additional worries on Jacob after the loss of Joseph, the news that Simeon was in custody—coupled with the potential loss of Benjamin if the brothers were ever going to extricate Simeon from jail—was too much to bear. In a sign that the brothers were beginning to mature and take responsibility for their actions, Reuben spoke up and offered a rather bizarre hyperbolic prescription to his father Jacob for taking Benjamin to Egypt, in order to secure the release of Simeon. Obviously, the trade of killing two grandsons for a son was beyond the pale, figuratively speaking. Jacob categorically rejected the offer, but reminded his sons that his grief continued for his favored son Joseph. Certainly by this point in the account, all of the brothers were dealing with their consciences over the actions that had been taken years ago—but the recognition that God was involved in these matters, was beginning to seep into their thoughts.

Judah Emerges

There is one thing about God that is consistent: when He has a use for someone in His Kingdom’s work, He never lets up on the crucible of affliction, until His chosen vessel is properly formed for His usage. In the case of the brothers who would father the nation of Israel, the trials with the regional famine in Canaan did not cease, and consequently, they were once again forced by the lack of sustenance to venture back to Egypt in need of food. However, since they knew that the demanding Egyptian viceroy meant what he said about their younger brother, they were forced to compel their father Jacob to allow Benjamin to travel with them against Jacob’s will. To complicate matters, the sons were also concerned that they would be considered thieves, because the money they had originally taken to Egypt the first time was surreptitiously placed back in their sacks.

The fear of retribution by the Egyptians for what appeared to be outright theft was a given. As a result of these challenges, it is interesting to note that the emergence of Judah, as a spokesperson and leader for his generation, commenced in full earnest. Genesis ch. 43 details the second journey to Egypt, and specifically records the dialogue between Judah and Jacob (now referenced as Israel), as the critical need for food for his entire family must have overcome Israel’s fear of losing Benjamin to the Egyptians:

“Now the famine was severe in the land. So it came about when they had finished eating the grain which they had brought from Egypt, that their father said to them, ‘Go back, buy us a little food.’ Judah spoke to him, however, saying, ‘The man solemnly warned us, “You shall not see my face unless your brother is with you.” If you send our brother with us, we will go down and buy you food. But if you do not send him, we will not go down; for the man said to us, “You will not see my face unless your brother is with you.”’ Then Israel said, ‘Why did you treat me so badly by telling the man whether you still had another brother?’ But they said, ‘The man questioned particularly about us and our relatives, saying, “Is your father still alive? Have you another brother?” So we answered his questions. Could we possibly know that he would say, “Bring your brother down”?’ Judah said to his father Israel, ‘Send the lad with me and we will arise and go, that we may live and not die, we as well as you and our little ones. I myself will be surety for him; you may hold me responsible for him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him before you, then let me bear the blame before you forever. For if we had not delayed, surely by now we could have returned twice.’ Then their father Israel said to them, ‘If it must be so, then do this: take some of the best products of the land in your bags, and carry down to the man as a present, a little balm and a little honey, aromatic gum and myrrh, pistachio nuts and almonds. Take double the money in your hand, and take back in your hand the money that was returned in the mouth of your sacks; perhaps it was a mistake. Take your brother also, and arise, return to the man; and may God Almighty grant you compassion in the sight of the man, so that he will release to you your other brother and Benjamin. And as for me, if I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved” (Genesis 43:1-14).

The earlier proposal to offer Reuben’s two sons had fallen upon deaf ears (Genesis 42:37), so Judah had to reiterate the need to bring Benjamin to Egypt, in order to at least secure an audience with the Egyptian viceroy. Finally, after reviewing what must have been discussed multiple times with Israel, Judah offered to take full responsibility for the safe travels and return of Benjamin to Canaan. In the event that did not occur, then Judah would take the blame permanently. Apparently, whatever was said given the circumstances, Israel conceded to Judah’s request, and Israel advised that the brothers take double the money and a number of local delicacies to perhaps assuage the demands of the Egyptian prince holding Simeon. Finally, the elderly Israel implored God Almighty to have the Egyptian overlord grant compassion on the brothers and release not only Simeon, but allow the safe return of Benjamin.

After all these years detailing the lives of Jacob and his sons, we as readers are finally finding a mention of the Lord by him. This indicates that Jacob/Israel surely called upon the God of his fathers, for help in trying circumstances. But, this was something that was sorely missing from his sons’ actions recorded. The sons of Jacob/Israel returned to Egypt, and they followed their father’s advice:

“So the men took this present, and they took double the money in their hand, and Benjamin; then they arose and went down to Egypt and stood before Joseph. When Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to his house steward, ‘Bring the men into the house, and slay an animal and make ready; for the men are to dine with me at noon.’ So the man did as Joseph said, and brought the men to Joseph’s house. Now the men were afraid, because they were brought to Joseph’s house; and they said, ‘It is because of the money that was returned in our sacks the first time that we are being brought in, that he may seek occasion against us and fall upon us, and take us for slaves with our donkeys.’ So they came near to Joseph’s house steward, and spoke to him at the entrance of the house, and said, ‘Oh, my lord, we indeed came down the first time to buy food, and it came about when we came to the lodging place, that we opened our sacks, and behold, each man’s money was in the mouth of his sack, our money in full. So we have brought it back in our hand. We have also brought down other money in our hand to buy food; we do not know who put our money in our sacks.’ He said, ‘Be at ease, do not be afraid. Your God and the God of your father has given you treasure in your sacks; I had your money.’ Then he brought Simeon out to them. Then the man brought the men into Joseph’s house and gave them water, and they washed their feet; and he gave their donkeys fodder. So they prepared the present for Joseph’s coming at noon; for they had heard that they were to eat a meal there. When Joseph came home, they brought into the house to him the present which was in their hand and bowed to the ground before him. Then he asked them about their welfare, and said, ‘Is your old father well, of whom you spoke? Is he still alive?’ They said, ‘Your servant our father is well; he is still alive.’ They bowed down in homage. As he lifted his eyes and saw his brother Benjamin, his mother’s son, he said, ‘Is this your youngest brother, of whom you spoke to me?’ And he said, ‘May God be gracious to you, my son.’ Joseph hurried out for he was deeply stirred over his brother, and he sought a place to weep; and he entered his chamber and wept there. Then he washed his face and came out; and he controlled himself and said, ‘Serve the meal.’ So they served him by himself, and them by themselves, and the Egyptians who ate with him by themselves, because the Egyptians could not eat bread with the Hebrews, for that is loathsome to the Egyptians. Now they were seated before him, the firstborn according to his birthright and the youngest according to his youth, and the men looked at one another in astonishment. He took portions to them from his own table, but Benjamin’s portion was five times as much as any of theirs. So they feasted and drank freely with him” (Genesis 43:15-34).

Here, we see that Joseph was continuing to conceal his identity, as God was continuing to administer life-altering lessons to his brothers through Joseph’s decisions. After receiving his brothers as welcomed traders, then releasing Simeon and finding out that his father remained in good health, it is noted that the brothers continued to bow in the presence of Joseph. Their fear of potential conflict remained in their minds.

The most dramatic moment is recorded shortly after Joseph saw his younger brother Benjamin, after years of separation. The long-sought reunion, not yet completed with Joseph revealing his identity, describes the deep emotional aspects of Joseph’s character. Within a few minutes of seeing his brother, Joseph had to remove himself from the group and consoled himself after a period of weeping. Joseph has had a significant period of time to dwell on what he was going to do with his brothers if and when they returned to Egypt. Now that Benjamin was with them, there were some hints extended that reveal some distinct preference for the youngest brother. After serving his brothers and giving Benjamin five times the portion of others, the brothers are at apparent ease with the man who had the power to determine their fate.

The Benjamin Test

The final turn of events, which brought the brothers to the point of emotional exhaustion, is captured in the concluding section of Mikkeitz. Here, we find that Joseph had one more ruse to play on his brothers—in order to determine if they were truly repentant for the actions they had taken over the years, to lie to their father Jacob/Israel about his being sold into slavery. Joseph knew that his brothers, were very concerned about the welfare of their youngest brother Benjamin. Joseph was aware that his father continued to grieve for not only him, but also feared the loss of Benjamin. Somehow, Joseph knew that testing his brothers with the loss of Benjamin, was just the right move to bring them to their knees before the Lord. So, an opportunity presented itself, with the blame placed on Benjamin for the theft of his cup—as Joseph had his house steward arrange the circumstances:

“Then he commanded his house steward, saying, ‘Fill the men’s sacks with food, as much as they can carry, and put each man’s money in the mouth of his sack. Put my cup, the silver cup, in the mouth of the sack of the youngest, and his money for the grain.’ And he did as Joseph had told him. As soon as it was light, the men were sent away, they with their donkeys. They had just gone out of the city, and were not far off, when Joseph said to his house steward, ‘Up, follow the men; and when you overtake them, say to them, “Why have you repaid evil for good? Is not this the one from which my lord drinks and which he indeed uses for divination? You have done wrong in doing this.”’ So he overtook them and spoke these words to them. They said to him, ‘Why does my lord speak such words as these? Far be it from your servants to do such a thing. Behold, the money which we found in the mouth of our sacks we have brought back to you from the land of Canaan. How then could we steal silver or gold from your lord’s house? With whomever of your servants it is found, let him die, and we also will be my lord’s slaves.’ So he said, ‘Now let it also be according to your words; he with whom it is found shall be my slave, and the rest of you shall be innocent.’ Then they hurried, each man lowered his sack to the ground, and each man opened his sack. He searched, beginning with the oldest and ending with the youngest, and the cup was found in Benjamin’s sack. Then they tore their clothes, and when each man loaded his donkey, they returned to the city. When Judah and his brothers came to Joseph’s house, he was still there, and they fell to the ground before him. Joseph said to them, ‘What is this deed that you have done? Do you not know that such a man as I can indeed practice divination?’ So Judah said, ‘What can we say to my lord? What can we speak? And how can we justify ourselves? God has found out the iniquity of your servants; behold, we are my lord’s slaves, both we and the one in whose possession the cup has been found.’ But he said, ‘Far be it from me to do this. The man in whose possession the cup has been found, he shall be my slave; but as for you, go up in peace to your father’” (Genesis 44:1-17).

When the discovery was made that Benjamin had Joseph’s goblet in his sack, the brothers were mortified—and to display their concern, they tore their garments. Not only were they going to lose the company of Benjamin, but the added worry of reporting this to Jacob/Israel totally overwhelmed them with grief. Judah, who had now become the recognized speaker for the group, confessed before the angry Joseph that they were collectively speechless without any excuses whatsoever. But interestingly in the maturation of Judah, he concluded that God had found out the iniquity of the brothers.

Since the iniquity of the brothers was not thievery—because the purported thefts were not valid—was Judah referring to the act years earlier of selling their brother Joseph into slavery? The guilt and shame of those actions could surely bring forth the punishment that they justifiably deserved. Judah was beside himself, but he had to conclude that God was finally bringing justice to fruition. The added knowledge, that Judah had promised a safe return of Benjamin to his father, had to drive him into despair.

Joseph actually gave Judah and his brothers a little cynical relief, by stating that the only person, who needed to be retained as a slave, was the one who had his goblet. Obviously, because this directed the punishment upon Benjamin, the brothers were overwhelmed with emotions, which led to a resolution that only a Sovereign God could have arranged. Our Torah portion abruptly ends with no stated solution.

God Honors Faith

Mikkeitz offers Torah students and readers a contrast to consider, between Joseph and his brothers, as the Holy One used the forced enslavement of Joseph and the excursions of the sons of Jacob into Egypt—to depict how different individuals react to life circumstances. Behind the scenes, He accomplished His will. Later, Joseph would be able to tell his brothers, that “as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive” (Genesis 50:20). However, when presented life challenges are witnessed in Mikkeitz, we have to let the story build, and steadily crescendo as Joseph will eventually reveal himself to his brothers who sold him away.

As we read and contemplate what has been recorded for our instruction, we can either seek to follow the example of faithful Joseph, who had a genuine fear of the Lord honoring Him throughout his life—or follow the complicated examples of his brothers, who through other situations had to painstakingly learn that God was ultimately in control. In the case of Joseph, he was not only honored by his contemporaries, but most importantly is permanently honored by the Holy One as the unique person chosen to save Israel from the regional famine. On the other hand, the brothers were fulfilling their supporting roles as sons of Jacob/Israel, but they are not necessarily all remembered for great feats of trust in God.

In your meditations this week, consider the different choices made by each brother and the results of their choices. Hopefully, we will all choose to follow the example of Joseph, who saved Israel. Ultimately, whether millennia ago or the decisions we make every day—choices have not only temporal consequences, but eternal ones as well. The ultimate choice we must all make is to acknowledge the Savior of Israel, Yeshua the Messiah, who grants us eternal salvation and cleansing from all sins and faithless acts! (Click to Source)

TorahScope – V’et’chanan – I pleaded – “Call Upon Him!” – 30 July, 2017

V’et’chanan

I pleaded

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

torah-scroll-300x200

“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.

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