Posts Tagged With: B’midbar

Parched Ground

How do we display the image of Elohim (G-d) in the earth?parched ground

Recently, I participated in an online correspondence class with a rabbi. In it, he made mention of the davar (word) and its relationship to the midbar (wilderness/desert). I know many of you are already familiar with this connection, but for the sake of those who are not, I will briefly explore this notion. In Hebrew, the root of midbar (desert) is davar (word). In other words, the wilderness comes directly from the Word. Being in the desert is akin to receiving the Word. Or to be more precise, the wilderness is where YHWH’s Word is tested in us. In the Torah, the Book of Numbers chronicles the Children of Israel’s wanderings in the desert. Thus, quite fittingly, this book is called BaMidbar or “in the wilderness” in Hebrew.

When YHWH miraculously removed ancient Israel from Egypt or when He rescued us from the figurative house of slavery (sin and death), where did He take them or us? Was it straight to the Promised Land? Or was it into the desert or wilderness? The fact that we all must face a literal or figurative desert upon being saved sounds counterintuitive at first. What do we need to learn in wilderness? I think Bill Cloud said it best (I’m paraphrasing Bill here): “God can remove us from Egypt, but we find that Egypt is still in us.” In other words, salvation, deliverance, and sanctification are ongoing processes. The desert becomes a type of threshing floor for our souls. All that offends is refined, purified, and threshed in the scorching sands of the desert. The Word that began a good work in us continues its commission to test and humble us. The difficulty and the pain of the wilderness “does good” for us in the end. For Abba, this is a labor of love.

“He led you through the great and terrible wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water; He brought water for you out of the rock of flint. “In the wilderness He fed you manna which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do good for you in the end. (Dt. 8:15-16)

But the desert has one more vital message to teach us. It is in our wilderness where G-d speaks. In the ups and downs of the desert, we learn to discern the difference between the Shepherd’s voice and the enemy’s crafty imitation. When we are stripped of all the comforts of Egypt, we finally reach the end of self. It is there, in the midst of what appears to us as chaos and disorder, that the G-d of order speaks kindly to us and lifts our weary heads. With no more worldly distractions, the Word reveals what is in our hearts. Each revelation offers us an opportunity to repent and return to the Master’s loving embrace.

Ones That Speak

While all the above is fascinating, even if a little scary, that’s not what struck me in the Rabbi’s lesson. He mentioned that one way we are like G-d is in the fact that we have the faculty of speech. We are the only creatures in His vast creation that, like Him, have words. We are medeber (ones that speak). Think about this for moment. In the same way that davar and midbar are connected, so is medeber. This means that we are not ONLY “ones that speak”, but “ones like a desert”.

Have you ever thought of yourself as a desert? Maybe our souls have felt dry or parched during a great trial, in the midst of mourning, or while suffering for righteousness sake or on account of our own sins. But have you ever considered that our wilderness journey should be as close and familiar to us as speech?

We were not only meant to speak, but we were meant to drink like the parched earth of a desert. Consider the many passages that urge us to partake of the Living Waters.[1] Or think about how the Word of G-d is figuratively referred to as rain or water.[2] We should be like the thirsty ground, eagerly waiting for the gentle rain of Abba’s Word. Considering that Adam was formed from the dust of the ground, this makes perfect sense. Mankind is essentially dirt or dust. And the ground NEEDS the heavenly rains like we NEED the words of our heavenly Elohim.

Dirt and Seeds

seed-plant-life-garden-grow-dirt-wide.1200w.tnWe are, at our core, the substance (dirt) in which seeds can be planted in order for New Life to grow. The Word is equivalent to a Seed in Scripture.[3] Coincidence? I don’t think so. If words are seeds, we should be careful what we allow to take root in our soil or dirt. I believe these words or seeds can come from three places: G-d, the enemy, and ourselves.

Thus, the enemy’s word is a seed. The words we speak are seeds. The words others speak are seeds. But the only Seed that is always truth and always produces life is the Word of YHWH. The question is how do we know, and I mean without a doubt know that we know, whether the seed we are receiving is G-d’s Seed?

This is where the dry, dirty side of our essence comes in to play. In order to hear or receive the Word of Adonai, we must become like a desert. All distractions and things that vie for our attention must be removed in order for us to really hear or shema YHWH. In the wilderness, our nephesh (flesh) is denied worldly pleasures and conveniences. One reason that fasting is so effective is because it strips the nephesh of gratification. Any time our nephesh (with all its thoughts, desires, and appetites) is ruled over by our younger (new) spirit-man, our connection to YHWH is strengthened. And our flesh serves us rather than us serving it.

Whose Voice?

speakingMany times, we listen to the voice of our own desires rather than the Words of YHWH. Like the Tree of Knowledge, it speaks both good and evil. We know this voice so well that we often mistake it for the Holy Spirit (especially when its speaking “good”). Let’s face it, when it seems as if we will get to avoid suffering in a dry desert, our voice (or even the voice of the enemy) sounds like good counsel to our itching ears. This is why various people can all claim to be hearing from the One Holy Spirit, yet will have conflicting ideas, agendas, and doctrine. We are ones that speak, but rarely are we willing to become a desert. We must learn to submit to the wilderness and allow the Word to test us.

Emptying ourselves of our own desires (even those we deem good and profitable or even godly) is the key to becoming the image of Elohim in the earth. You want to love YHWH with all your heart and love your neighbor like yourself? It will cost you flesh and bone. Are we willing to suffer for YHWH and our neighbor?[4] Or would we rather cause others to suffer so that we can have things our way? Do we open our mouths and speak life (healing/shalom) to others or do we use our speech to persuade others to do things the way we like it or see it? Which voice is the Holy Spirit and which is the voice of our own nephesh (soul)?

The acquisition of treasures (desires of our hearts/flesh) by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor, the pursuit of death. (Pr. 21:6 added parenthesis mine)

 

If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless. (Jam. 1:26)

Watch Your Mouth

He who guards his mouth and his tongue, Guards his soul from troubles. (Pr. 21:23)

shut your mouthOur mouths cause us more trouble than any other member of our bodies.[5] Is this because we only desire to be ones that speak and not ones like a desert? After all, you can’t speak AND drink at the same time! Interestingly, if we fail to choose to become a humble desert before YHWH, He will take us there kicking and screaming. Our only choice in the matter is the method of how we arrive and how we act once we get there. YHWH’s Word is ALWAYS tested in the wilderness/desert.[6] Consider the many judgments that result with the people and the land becoming desolate. In these cases, Abba’s judgment has in effect “shut our mouths”.[7]

Is Adonai just an angry tyrant or does He know something that we desperately don’t want to accept? The Bible says that G-d is Love and that He chastises those whom He loves.[8] He takes us to the desert because He knows that the testing of the wilderness will reveal our hearts. We need to face the serpent on the pole, so that we may be healed and saved. The serpent is the voice of our own selfish desires. It is the crafty forked tongue that whispers both good and evil. When we heed its voice rather than Adonai’s, we are stung with its venom and take the fast track toward death.

This is why we must die daily like the lamb offerings in the Tabernacle and the Temple. Our beast must be brought to the altar. Like all creatures, the beast doesn’t submit easily. It is excellent at convincing us (with its mouth) that all is well. The smooth words of the serpent appeals to our feelings of entitlement, self-righteousness, and piety. The beast does not like to identify with suffering or humility. But like Cain, we are told to MASTER this impulse.

Hearing-GodWe do this by becoming what we were created to be. We are a desert; a vast wilderness laid bare for all of heaven to see and judge. In this position, we are no longer mouths that speak to justify or coerce; rather, we become a sponge that soaks up the words of life. Though the Living Word kills the flesh, it quickens the spirit.

This is the key to humility, hearing from Abba, and loving our neighbor sacrificially. It is also what molds and shapes our clay vessels into the image of our great and loving Elohim. If we really got this we would no longer scorn our fiery trials or fear the seemingly empty places of life. Instead, we would prostrate ourselves under the heavens and allow the Word to truly divide between our soul (nephesh) and spirit.

For the word of God is living and active 
and sharper than any two-edged sword, and 
piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit,
 of both joints and marrow, and able to judge 
the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 
And there is no creature hidden from His sight, 
but all things are open and laid bare 
to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do. 
(Heb. 4:12-13)

[1] Jer. 2:13; 17:13, John 4:10-11, Rev. 7:38

[2] This post speaks about the early and latter rains.

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, And do not return there without watering the earth And making it bear and sprout, And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it. (Is. 55:10-11)

“So let us know, let us press on to know the LORD. His going forth is as certain as the dawn; And He will come to us like the rain, Like the spring rain watering the earth.” (Hos. 6:3)

So that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word. (Eph. 5:26)

[3] Luke 8:11

[4] Suffering for Righteousness’ Sake

To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing. For, “THE ONE WHO DESIRES LIFE, TO LOVE AND SEE GOOD DAYS, MUST KEEP HIS TONGUE FROM EVIL AND HIS LIPS FROM SPEAKING DECEIT. “HE MUST TURN AWAY FROM EVIL AND DO GOOD; HE MUST SEEK PEACE AND PURSUE IT. “FOR THE EYES OF THE LORD ARE TOWARD THE RIGHTEOUS, AND HIS EARS ATTEND TO THEIR PRAYER, BUT THE FACE OF THE LORD IS AGAINST THOSE WHO DO EVIL.” Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. AND DO NOT FEAR THEIR INTIMIDATION, AND DO NOT BE TROUBLED, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong. (1 Peter 3:8-17)

[5] James 3

[6] Think about Moses and Yeshua. Were they each not tested in the wilderness? What about Paul? Can you recall a period where he was tested in the desert? Consider the Children of Israel, Job, David, Jeremiah, John the Baptist, and others. Can you connect these righteous men with both suffering and the desert/wilderness? Does the Bible give us examples of those who willingly flee to the desert and those who are taken there against their will? What is the difference between these two experiences? What is similar about these experiences? It seems as though we ALL must experience the wilderness. The question is: Will we go willingly or by force?

[7] Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God. (Rom. 3:19)

[8] FOR THOSE WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE DISCIPLINES, AND HE SCOURGES EVERY SON WHOM HE RECEIVES.” (Heb. 12:6)

Categories: Musings | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Know Your Place

The Spirit of Shavuot

After reading this past week’s Torah portion, B’midbar,[1] and celebrating the fourth Biblical festival of Shavuot (Pentecost), I began to think about our various “positions” before YHWH. The Mussar middah (character trait) humility has at its core the question of a person’s proper place. A balanced person neither thinks too highly of himself nor too lowly. Likewise, he or she doesn’t focus too much on self or on the faults of others. This sounds so simple, but the issue of humility is a great struggle for most of us. (Me included!)

signIn parsha B’midbar, YHWH described not only the placement of each individual tribe as they camped, but also outlined the order in which they would travel and go to war. The tribal leaders were named and the duties of the priests for the movement of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) were established. YHWH is very specific and organized. There was no question as to one’s duty or placement in the body of Israel. Today, instead of “knowing our place”, we seem to be all over the place in both physicality and deed; each thinking his way, interpretation, or understanding is higher or better.

This creates confusion, not unity. Instead of being united like the believers at Shavuot in Acts Chapter 2, we seem to be more scattered and divided like they were after Messiah’s last Passover and subsequent crucifixion. Using this as a model, we know that Yeshua’s desire was for them to come back together as one people at Shavuot. This is why the risen Messiah told them during the days of the Omer count to go to Jerusalem and WAIT for the promise of being “clothed with power from on high”.

“And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”  (Luke 24:49 NASB. See also Acts 1:4)

We all know what happened next.

And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. (Acts 2:1 KJV)

When we fully come into the Spirit of Shavuot, we know our proper estate. Can you even imagine how glorious the unity of the people was? Look at what their actions produced; it’s eerily similar to when God spoke the Ten Words to the people standing at the base of Mt. Sinai at an earlier Shavuot:

And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.  (3)  And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.  (4)  And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. (Acts 2:2-4 KJV)

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.  (17)  And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain.  (18)  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.  (19)  When the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and God answered him with thunder. (Ex. 19:16-19 NASB)

YHWH descended Mount Sinai in fire at the giving of the Ten Commandments and the people trembled. Later He descended in fire again, but this time, instead of manifesting on a mountain, the fire sat upon the people. Like the mountain, the people were not consumed. In both cases, the Word of YHWH went forth like FIRE at the feast of Shavuot!

The people in each of the above examples were unified. I dare say that their theology was NOT what united them. It’s difficult to find two people that have the same opinion on any given matter. Jews have a saying to express this: “two Jews, three opinions”. So what did unite the people? Or better yet, what CAN unify us?

The two most memorable Shavuot festivals have at their heart two great leaders. And there is one trait that both are said to possess that I find most fitting for us to focus on within the theme of unity. Moses is called the most humble man on earth.[2] Later, the one like unto Moses[3] is also called humble.[4] By following Moses’ and Yeshua’s example, it’s not our theology and opinions that binds us into one accord. Rather, it’s our willingness to “know our place” or live in a state of humility.

The Humility of Shavuot

“Always seek to learn wisdom from everyone, to recognize your failings and correct them. In doing so you will learn to stop thinking about your virtues and you will take your mind off your friend’s faults.”Cheshbon ha-Nefesh by Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Satanov.

If there is one thing that I notice more than anything on television, the blogosphere, and social media, it is that our focus is continually on the faults of others. I see very little introspection and meekness. As Rabbi Menachem mentions in the above quote, it is by seeking to learn wisdom from EVERYONE that we are enabled to really see our own failings and correct them.

Everyone? Even the heathen, pagan, atheist, and cult follower? Most would squawk that these lost souls have no wisdom. Is this true? The last time I checked, they too were made in the image of God. While they may need redemption, they too are a holy soul and YHWH cares greatly for them. Pride is what causes us to assume that we have nothing to learn from these precious ones.

But this is also true of those that we interact with from the redeemed. Just because Joe Schmoe doesn’t think, believe, or act out his walk with YHWH exactly like you do, doesn’t mean that you are better than him or that he doesn’t have something yet to teach you. Again, it’s PRIDE that keeps us from gathering together. I’ll give you an example from my own life.

Years ago, I was part of a congregation in FL. The local Seventh-Day Adventist (SDA) church allowed us to meet in their building. I personally don’t think or believe like SDAs. Other than obeying the Sabbath, I thought I didn’t have much in common with these folks. One day, the SDA group asked us to join with them to break bread. To be honest, I didn’t really want to go. My prideful little self secretly thought, “What could they possibly teach me at this point?” I know you’ve never had a thought like that about a person or group, but I freely admit my debauchery to you anyway. 🙂

FootwashingLong story short, I went… begrudgingly. The meal was fine. It was more or less a communion service in their fellowship hall. Since I associate communion with Passover, I felt that the meal wasn’t quite “accurate”. (More pride.) Then something odd happened. The people rose from their seats and began to break off for a foot washing ceremony. Without anyone leading, spontaneous songs and hymns began to flow from the lips of these people. A sweet Spirit entered our midst and I think my mouth hung open, lol.

Married couples went to one room. Singles of the same sex went off into two other areas (children included). A sink and a stack of basins were in each room for us to gather water. One spouse sat while fresh, warm water was poured over the other’s feet. Song and praise continued to flow throughout the building. It was one of the most touching experiences I’ve ever had in my life. The water was just water, but it felt like SO much more than that.

It was SO much more than that! YHWH humbled me in a way that day that I will NEVER forget. Washing someone else’s feet is the epitome of humility. But I honestly believe it takes even MORE humility to have someone else wash YOUR feet.

Feet are the lowest part of our bodies. Since they are what touch the earth and because they are what carry our every weight and burden, they are likened to our nephesh (soul/flesh). They are our beast (of burden). And they get dirty. They, more than any other part of us, need frequent washings. You can walk around in the dirt all day and your hands can remain clean, but not your feet.

Some of you may know that I’m a licensed manicurist. I give pedicures (wash, clean, and manicure of the feet) all the time. I actually enjoy it. I consider it a privilege to care for a person in this way that is often difficult for them to do for themselves. But without soap, sweet ointments, or even toenail polish, the foot washing that I gave and received at that little SDA church has stood out as the best of the best.

Having my feet washed in the presence of YHWH and His people nearly overwhelmed me. The chip on my shoulder fell off the minute the water touched my toes. This is the Spirit of Shavuot. I wanted to separate myself out like the disciples did at Passover and Unleavened Bread, but Abba wanted me to humble myself and gather together with His people in one accord and one place.

Shavout isn’t about perfect doctrine or halachah. It is one of the pilgrimage feasts and as such, it is literally a FOOT festival. You must tame your feet and direct them to Jerusalem to receive the promise of the Father. The journey will make your feet both tired and dirty, but when you arrive, true disciples will be there with fresh water and songs of praise on their lips. Better yet, YOU will be there happy to wash the grime and mud off of your neighbor’s feet.

The heart of the commandments is LOVE. And there is no better way to express the love for your brother than to wash his feet. In a sense, this humble act says; let me wash the dirt from your lower nature. I know walking through life gets your soul muddy. I understand. I too, have a dirty nephesh. Let me refresh you. Allow me to care for you by meeting a need we all share regardless of our theology or lack thereof. I love you anyway. Let me learn something from you. You matter to me.

If we think about Moses and Yeshua, didn’t they do exactly this? Both dealt with imperfect and challenging people. Both humbled themselves and SERVED the people. They knew their place. Instead of calling fire down from heaven to destroy those with dirty feet, they tenderly washed the people.[5] The result was a fiery Word in the mouth of Israel.

Since Shavuot is about the Bride receiving her ketubah (Torah Covenant) and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, I thought it would be fitting to conclude with the words of Abigail, a bride of King David. Let’s see what wisdom this model bride can teach us:

woman-kneeling-in-prayerWhen the servants of David came to Abigail at Carmel, they spoke to her, saying, “David has sent us to you to take you as his wife.” She arose and bowed with her face to the ground and said, Behold, your maidservant is a maid to wash the feet of my lord’s servants.” (1Sam. 25:40-41)

Abigail was a humble bride; one any king would desire. She proved this through the selfless action of foot washing. Shavuot beckons us to ask: “What do I do with the feet of those I encounter? Do I step on their toes? Do I turn my nose up at their grime? Or do I bow down low and tenderly wash them clean?” May we become a maidservant like Abigail. When the King comes to take us as His Bride, may we know our place as ones who wash the feet of His servants!


[1] Numbers 1:1- 4:20. B’midbar literally means “in the wilderness”.

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

[3] “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me [Moses] from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him.” (Dt. 18:15)

[4] “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Mat. 11:29-30)

[5] Ex. 19:10-11; John 13:5-13

Categories: Moedim, Mussar, Torah Portions | Tags: , , , , , | 7 Comments

Torah Portion: Mattot and Massei

Numbers 30:1- 36:13, Jer. 1:1-2:4-28, 3:4, Mt. 5:33-37, James 4:1-12

Mattot

The first of our double portion for this week’s Torah reading is Mattot. Mattot is translated as “tribe(s)” 182 times in our Tanakh (O.T.); and as rod(s) or staff another 66 times. Below is Strong’s definition followed by the Ancient Hebrew Lexicon of the Bible’s entry for this word.

Strong’s H4294

    מטּה From H5186; a branch (as extending); figuratively a tribe; also a rod, whether for chastising (figuratively correction), ruling (a sceptre), throwing (a lance), or walking (a staff; figuratively a support of life, for example bread): – rod, staff, tribe.

AHLB#: 1285-H (N)

1285) ac: Shake co: Branch: The pictograph “mem” is a picture of water, the “tet” is a picture of a basket which contains objects. Combined these mean “liquid contained”. A green branch still contains water allowing the branch to be flexible. A green branch can then be bent to the desired shape and left to dry.

Based on the light shed by our lexicons, what is it to be a tribe? Have you ever heard the phrase “When you’re green you’re growing”? According to ancient Hebrew, to be part of a tribe is to be a tree branch— a green growing branch that is still moldable or flexible. To remain green, this branch must have life giving water still flowing through it. In other words, the word picture shows us a tree (a whole complete unit) and that tree has many branches, but all the branches are a part of the one tree. I recall Yeshua using this very word picture to explain our relationship to Him in John 15.

 John 15:1-8  “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.  (2)  “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.  (3)  “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.  (4)  “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.  (5)  “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.  (6)  “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.  (7)  “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.  (8)  “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. (NASB)

Branches exist for the purpose of producing leaves and fruit. The leaves absorb light/energy which is likened unto the (Torah) and this light ultimately is what powers the leaves to produce food for the whole tree. [Bread from Heaven, anyone?] The fruit however, has an entirely different purpose.

Trees produce fruit for the sole purpose of propagating seeds. And those seeds will produce the exact same tree. This is why Yeshua said, “You will know them by their fruit”. If the fruit doesn’t match the tree they are claiming to be, then we can be sure that they are liars. Trees are known by what kind of fruit they produce.

Mat. 7:15-20  “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.  (16)  “You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they?  (17)  “So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.  (18)  “A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit.  (19)  “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  (20)  “So then, you will know them by their fruits. (NASB. See also Mat. 7:16, 12:23; Luke 6:44)

Now that we understand that as a “branch” or “tribe” of Israel we should be absorbing light (learning Torah) and producing fruit (keeping Torah), is it any wonder that Paul uses the analogy of the olive tree for Yah’s family in Romans chapter 11? Please go and reread this whole chapter.

Yeshua and Sha’ul/Paul are teaching the same message. If you or I (branches) do not do what we were created to do (produce fruit) we are cut off from the tree (Messiah). However, if we do what we were created to do, then we are grafted into The Olive Tree: Yeshua. Therefore, a tribe is a branch in the house of Israel/Yeshua.

Vows

This aptly named Parashah begins by teaching us the Torah of vows in chapter 30. There is basically a simple rule for men: he must keep his vow. Period. There is no recourse for him should he break his vow or obligation. (vs. 2). But the rest of this chapter deals with vows made by women. If you’ve read any of my posts on women, you know that I seek godly restoration for the roles of men and women. That being said, most commentaries on this passage tend to use a skewed lens as they peer into the fact that while a man’s vow must be kept, a woman’s vow may be annulled by her father or husband. Sadly, too many commentators write that this is because the woman is weak, easily deceived, and acts impulsively compared to a man.

If we allow the WHOLE counsel of God to speak to this issue, we can easily see that an assessment such as this is a result of flawed theology and doesn’t even come close to connecting how YHWH created woman or how He SEES her. Remember Hagar? She is the one that proclaims that YHWH was the Elohim that sees her— El Roi[1].

I believe that YHWH not only created woman with a unique role, but with a special purpose in the restoration of all things. If we find ourselves feeling put out like Hagar, we need only to meet the Master by the well of Living Waters. There, He will allow us to SEE with new eyes. How glorious it is when we realize that the Creator of Heaven and Earth really SEES us! This passage is far from being misogynistic.  Instead, if we have eyes to SEE, it is liberating not only to women, but to the Body of Messiah.

In His most endearing of terms for His people, YHWH calls us His wife and His Bride. Both men and women have an opportunity to be included in this glorious remnant. As His special treasure, we are kept in His care. As our Master, Father, and Husband He takes responsibility for us —- flaws and all. What better hands could we ever hope to trust in? When I read this passage about the importance of vows and the glaringly obvious difference between the responsibility of men and women, I have to conclude that this passage is teaching us about YHWH and His people. You see, only He — our Father and Husband — can annul the foolish vows that we make. While it is not impossible to make good on our vows, it is improbable. What else could have motivated the Messiah and James to say the following?

Mat 5:33-37  “Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, ‘YOU SHALL NOT MAKE FALSE VOWS, BUT SHALL FULFILL YOUR VOWS TO THE LORD.’  (34)  “But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God,  (35)  or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is THE CITY OF THE GREAT KING.  (36)  “Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black.  (37)  “But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil.

Jam. 5:12  But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath; but your yes is to be yes, and your no, no, so that you may not fall under judgment.

I am very thankful that as my Abba and Husband, YHWH can annul vows for me. I believe men would also give a hearty A-mein to that! A bond-servant relinquishes all of his rights into the hands of his Master. The servant trusts the Master with his/her life. A servant has no need to make a vow, for he/she lives to serve/please the will of the Master. I am continually amazed by the Messiah’s presence in the volume of the Scroll[2]! It really is all about Him and His relationship with us. But like Hagar, we have to first meet Him at the well and have our eyes opened to His splendor and most tender affection for us.

Massei

This is the last parashah (portion) in the book of B’midbar (Numbers). B’midbar is a book that means “in the wilderness” and so it does chronicle each step and stop as the Israelites marched toward the Promised Land over a 40 year period. Our portion, Massei, can be defined as “pulling up stakes” as this is the word picture we are given from the Hebrew. We usually translate it as “journeys”, since a journey can convey the meaning of pulling up tent pegs to move toward another location.

At this point in the wilderness, the children of Israel are preparing to go in and take possession of the Promised Land, Canaan. YHWH instructs Moses to record each of the 42 stops or encampments that Israel made while dwelling in the wilderness. (Num. 33:2) An inexperienced Torah reader may be tempted to skim or skip over most of chapter 33’s place names. They may seem boring or even arbitrary to the untrained Greek eye. But nothing could be further from the truth! These 42 stops have many past, present, and future implications for those that follow our Master, Yeshua, and keep His commandments.

The rabbis have long taught that each of the 42 encampments is a clue to the “journey” that we are on as we walk and sometimes stubble toward the Promised Land. There can be no coincidence that there are also 42 months (3 ½ years) in the Great Tribulation. But, I’m getting ahead of myself. I’d first like to draw your attention to the number 42.

42

The number 42 is significant for several reasons. For those of you that are familiar with the Creation Gospel model, the fact that 42 is the product of 6 x 7 will be very telling.

First, 6 x 7 is the number of man (and/or the beast) and of rest, spiritual perfection, or wholeness. Second, 6 and 7 are also representative of the Spirits of Knowledge and Reverence, the festivals of Yom Kippur and Sukkot, and the assemblies of Philadelphia and Laodicea.

These pairings suggest two similar paradigms. The first paradigm is man, as E.W. Bullinger suggests[3], working out his opposition to God. Every person is capable of acting like a man created in the image of Elohim or resorting to his/her base nature (i.e. evil inclination, flesh) that reflects the image of a beast. This inward struggle is common to all of mankind. Like Cain, we have a choice — everyday. Will we walk in the Way of Messiah and mirror His image? Or will we relent to the desires of our flesh and reveal the image of the beast? Both man and beast were created on day 6. This is why the number of the beast is also the number of man[4].

For those that deny or afflict their souls on Yom Kippur (6), sweet rest and rejoicing follows on Sukkot (7). But there is another paradigm revealed in this number as well. Let’s peruse some other instances of the number 42 in Scripture.

  • If we count the 2 years from the original Pesach in Egypt to the evil report and 40 years from Kadesh Barnea to Jericho when Israel finally enters the Land, we get a total of 42 years.
  • Israel’s wilderness journey’s had 42 stops or stages where they sometimes cooperated with YHWH and other times they opposed Him.
  • There were young boys that mocked the ascension of Elijah to Elisha and 42 of them perished before Elisha in the Name of YHWH by 2 female bears. (2 Kings 2: 23,24)
  • The beast is given 42 months to control the earth (Rev 13:5). We also know that 42 months equals 3 ½ years.
  • In our Parashah, the number 42 comes up twice. Once in the wanderings listed above and a second time in ch.35. The Levites were designated 42 cities among their brothers in the Promised Land, besides the 6 cities of refuge.

While the first paradigm reveals an inward struggle, the second pattern exposes a very real outward battle. Those that choose to live by their own desires will find that they are indeed enslaved by the beast. As his captives, they have a natural hatred for the servants of the Most High. We can see this pictured in the last two assemblies mentioned in the Book of Revelation. Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love, symbolizes people who are willing to sacrificially love God and others. This is the epitome of the Holy Spirit of Knowledge[5]. This intimacy is portrayed by the 42 cities given to the Levites in the Land. It is vital that Yah’s people always have an intermediary present. But as we progress to the last assembly, Laodicea, we see a very different image.

Laodicea is neither hot nor cold, so she believes she is just right. But her condition is so vile that it makes the Master want to vomit. In other words, she has no reverence or fear of the LORD — the 7th manifestation of the Holy Spirit. The white garments she should have received on Yom Kippur (6) are missing when Sukkot (7) comes around. Yet she childishly wallows in her pride and ignorance. Without sincere repentance, the beast will overtake her like the 2 bears that slew the 42 young boys who mocked the ascension of Elijah to Elisha.

Have you ever wondered why the beast is given “42” months to control the earth? Most people understand that the number 40 represents probation, trial, and chastisement for those whom YHWH loves[6]. But what happens when we add “2” to that number? Two denotes division and difference in the Bible. For example, the second day of creation DIVIDES the upper and lower waters, the second sentence in scripture speaks of chaos, and the second chapter reveals 2 trees representing life and death. These instances continue throughout the Bible in regard to the number two[7]. While it is true that the world that YHWH loves is put to the ultimate test (40) in the Apocalypse, the addition of the number 2 reveals the vehicle that YHWH will use to accomplish this task: the enemy.

Obviously, the heart of YHWH desires for us to come to repentance above all else. This is what our trials and tribulations are all about. We must tame the animal nature or beast within and choose to walk in His Way, reflecting His image. This is expressed in its fullness when we love YHWH with all our heart and love our neighbor as ourselves.

Pulling Up Stakes

Our journey begins in the same place for all people living in all times——- Rameses. One thing those of us that are returning to the Torah know and know well is that all roads do not lead to Rome——– or even Egypt——- but to Babylon, or Babel. Rameses means “child of the SUN” and all false worship can be traced back to sun worship that was first concocted in Babylon.

I urge you to look up each of the 42 place names of Israel’s wilderness journeys in Hebrew. I’m certain that you will find a place name that expresses your current life situation, station, trial, or movement. Like Israel, we all are all on journey with YHWH. We may not all be at the same place at the same time, but one thing is certain. There will be a day that we are. In the meantime, consider it another test when you are faced with brethren who are not as far down the path or who are further ahead of you in the Way. How we treat or mistreat them may dictate our next “stop”.

Moreover, it is clear that there is real war along the Way. One of the more pronounced foes is the Canaanites. While the Canaanites are outward enemies, the “spirit” of the Canaanites can reside in our hearts if we allow the beast within (our flesh/evil inclination) to have rule. YHWH gives us this warning:

Num. 33:55-56  ‘But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then it shall come about that those whom you let remain of them will become as pricks in your eyes and as thorns in your sides, and they will trouble you in the land in which you live.  (56)  ‘And as I plan to do to them, so I will do to you.'”

This is essentially the same message He gives to us in the 42 month rule of the beast in the Book of Revelation. If we do not repent and walk after Him, we will be counted with the beast and receive its punishment.

Rev. 12:14  But the two wings of the great eagle were given to the woman, so that she could fly into the wilderness to her place, where she *was nourished for a time and times and half a time (42 months), from the presence of the serpent.

Rev. 14:9-12  Then another angel, a third one, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand,  (10)  he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.  (11)  “And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.”  (12)  Here is the perseverance of the saints who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.

We must willingly pull up the tent pegs when YHWH’s cloud moves our encampment. This is our perseverance as verse 12 above attests. This double portion and all of Scripture for that matter tells the same story in different ways again and again. YHWH loves us and desires for us to dwell with Him in His house. However, we have 2 interwoven enemies that battle for our affections. The first one is the beast within (our flesh, evil inclination, or fleshly desires). The second is the serpent from the beginning, who speaks to our desires. We are told that we CAN overcome the enemy by choosing the Life YHWH has offered us in Yeshua. This New Life of YHWH has House rules that keep or guard us from the beast: His commandments.

But as we live out these earthly lives, we are in a constant state of choosing. This is why our journey requires perseverance! To persevere is to persist, continue, endure, insist, proceed, stick with, etc. And with the empowerment of the free gift of the Spirit of God, we can do just that.

Chazak! chazak! V’neet’chazek!

(Be Strong! Be Strong! And let us be strengthened!)


[1] Genesis 16

[2] Hebrews 10:7

[3] Bullinger, E.W., Number in Scripture: Its Supernatural Design and Spiritual Significance, Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1967, p.268

[4] Rev. 13:18. Also, The Creation Gospel Workbook 1 explores this further.

[5] Is. 11:2

[6] Bullinger, E.W., Number in Scripture: Its Supernatural Design and Spiritual Significance, Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1967.

[7] For instance, even the Brit Chadashah (N.T.) displays this pattern. Consider the 2nd books of Corinthians, Thessalonians, Timothy, Peter, and 2 John; they each speak either about the enemy/antichrist or the church in ruin/apostasy.

Categories: Torah Portions | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Sukkot… In the Wilderness

B’midbar, in the wilderness, is the biblical name for the book of Numbers. It is the fourth book of Torah and aptly depicts the Israelites’ journey while in the wilderness after leaving Egypt. This particular segment of the Torah chronicles the tragic story of Israel’s unbelief, discontentment, and disobedience. It begins at the foot of Mount Sinai where the children of Israel received the Torah, the Law of Moses, and follows them through a forty year period of trials and testing.

The Promised Land was approximately an eleven day journey from the foot of Mount Sinai to the border of land of Canaan. (Deut 1:2) Yet, YHWH kept them in the wilderness for forty years! Apparently, it wasn’t the distance that stood between the children of Israel and the Promise Land, but the condition of their hearts. The Father’s desire was to prepare them to live in obedience to Him once they arrived. He desired and demanded their complete trust in Him alone. The journey was a painful but necessary part of training Israel to be His unique people.

The wilderness process taught the people who God was and was not. It also taught the people about who they were. We must not forget that we are just like our ancestors and that our “wilderness” is there to teach us the same truths our predecessor’s had to learn. The Torah, the instructions, accomplishes both of these goals. It clearly displays the fact that we are a sinful people, prone to rebellion and doubt. But it doesn’t leave us hopeless, no instead; it teaches us how to relate to our Holy God in our fallen state.

Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) is an eight day festival given to commemorate the wilderness journeys of our ancestors. It takes place every year in the seventh month on the Hebrew calendar after Yom Teruah (Feast of Trumpets) and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement). The primary directives given to us to celebrate this feast can be found in Leviticus chapter 23. We are to dwell in a booth, which is a temporary dwelling place, such as a tent. Verse 43 sums up YHWH’s reason for this commemoration:

“that your generations may know that I made the people of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.”

We are to always remember this journey as if we ourselves were there and brought out of the land of Egypt. Why? Because once we are redeemed from Egypt (sin), we too will be taken to the foot of Mount Sinai, receive our instructions (Torah) and trek through the dry, hot wilderness before we can enter into the Promised Land. We will experience trials and tests that will teach us about our God and the true state of our own hearts.

There have been a few times that I knew I was in the wilderness and actually thought that the Father was finally taking me into the Promised Land. To my own dismay, I all too soon discovered that instead of removing me from the wilderness, the cloud had simply moved and the camp along with it. I found myself even deeper still in the abyss of the wilderness. I used to cry out: Why? I used to hate the wilderness, but now I realize that it is in the wilderness that God speaks. It is in the wilderness that I learn and grow. It is here that I am prepared for what is to come.

If you’ve never celebrated the feast of Sukkot by going into the “wilderness” and dwelling in “booths”, I suggest you make it a habit. This year we had the pleasure of staying on a friend’s property to camp during the festival. It was wonderful and…awful. I felt a tremendous compassion for the ancient Israelites.

I thought of simple things like using the bathroom. Can you imagine what an ordeal it would have been for an Israelite woman to relieve herself in the middle of the night? She had to go outside the camp and their camp was no small gathering. Or what about all that sand? I live in Florida and the dirt here is almost completely sand. My feet were in a perpetual state of dirtiness the entire week! Once washed, they inevitably were covered in dirt and sand within minutes. Then there is the constant close proximity of your neighbors. We truly do not know what it is to love our neighbor until we live side-by-side with them for an extended period of time. Oh, and our beds! Our big nice cushy beds call out to our crippled backs by the end of the week! Spoiled doesn’t even begin to describe the state of our delicate American hearts (and backs)!

All these little confessions may seem trivial or worldly to the super-spiritual, but I assure you that even the loftiest of us may find ourselves humbled by even an eight-day sabbatical like this. Yes, it is a celebration, but don’t think for a moment that it is not also a test. The Father knows all too well that we need constant reminders in our lives to keep us on the straight and narrow path. The weekly Sabbaths, the New Moons, the yearly Feasts, the seven-year releases, and the Jubilees are all sign-posts that guide us through the wilderness into the Promised Land.

We are each on a journey through the wilderness. It is imperative that we learn everything that this passage offers to us. Sometimes it may seem lifeless, dry, and our thirst for water great. Sometimes the heat may scorch our face and our sweat sting our eyes. Sometimes the night may be so cold and empty that our heart aches from utter loneliness. Sometimes our appetite for the luscious smorgasbord of Egypt cannot be shaken from our longing taste buds. These are the desires of our flesh. We must master them. Our only hope is found in our Redeemer. He alone can satisfy the ever longing groans of our hearts.

He brings Living Water from the Rock and quenches the unbearable thirst. When He stands with us the scorching sun cannot burn our face. He is our Maker and our Husband and wraps His strong arms around us tight and whispers words of love upon longing ears. He changes the desires of our hearts to line up with His will and our appetite is sated by His every Word.

Jeff Benner’s Ancient Hebrew Lexicon of the Bible, describes the pictographic meaning of the Hebrew word, B’midbar, quite eloquently. According to the Hebraic understanding, the “wilderness” is a place of order, or a sanctuary. It shares the same root with “davar” the Hebrew word for “Word, as in speech”. Therefore, the wilderness is a place of order, sanctuary, and a place where YHWH speaks. How different we tend to think of the wilderness! We usually associate it with chaos and a period where hearing the voice of the Father is difficult.

I suggest that we correct our thinking about the wilderness and line up our mind with the Father’s. The physical elements that surround us in the wilderness may appear to us as desolate and empty, but if we adjust our vision just right, we will see that the path is clearly marked and it is filled to over-flowing with the Spirit of the Master! There is a definite order to our wilderness journey and it is a place where He comes and speaks to us.

Perhaps, we simply need ears to hear!

May your Sukkot be blessed! Baruch HaShem!

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