Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Parashah# 43Masa’ei (Stages): B’midbar (Numbers 33:1-36:13)
Haftarah: Yirmeyahu (Jeremiah) 2:4-28; 4:1-2
B’rit Chadashah: Ya’akov (James) 4:1-12
Lest the people forget their sins and the kindnesses of the L-rd and the miracles they experienced, G-d orders Moshe to recount the stages knowing how quickly humans tend to forget the “good” experiences and recall the “bad”. This “trip down memory lane” covers the trek from Egypt that represents the secular lifestyle to the Land; deliverance and redemption. There is certainly a valuable lesson in what many mothers told their children; “never forget your upbringing.” Interesting and important to note that all of the “bad” experiences were brought on by their disobedience to G-d!
Let us take a closer look at how Adonai ordered Moshe to orchestrate the taking of the land that has yet to be fully occupied by the Israelites. Keep in mind that the context of “Israel” in this narrative refers to biological Jews. Yet, it is completely applicable to those who consider themselves true believers. Why? Because the biological Jews and we who consist of spiritual and in some cases biological Israelites, are supposed to set the example for right living and worshipping the One True G-d; the G-d of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The final habitation of Israel (the Land) will include all true believers (completed Israelites, NOT completed Jews as we are called by Christians). There is much confusion and misunderstanding about who Israelites are as the same term is used for biological Jews and those who become partakers of the covenants of Israel. This misunderstanding and mistranslation presents a major stumbling block for those seeking the truth of G-d’s Torah. We must read and seek understanding of the whole of G-d’s Torah that makes clear which “group” of Israelites to which the Bible is referring depending on the context of the passage. We also need to know that a true “Jew” is defined by Yahshua in Romans chapters 2-3.
Each place recorded in the recap of the wilderness journey from Egypt to the Land has application to the wilderness journey of every true believer, having a unique significance to the spiritual growth of the Israelites. For example, Num. 33:3 describes how proud the Israelites were when they left Egypt in view of all the Egyptians burying every firstborn. This description of pride is somewhat bothersome. There is no mention that the Israelites felt any compassion for those Egyptians who may have been innocent bystanders caught in the “cross-fire” between G-d and Pharaoh. Was there no sense of sadness among the Israelites as G-d lead them out of Egypt? Is our anger at the realization that many people rebel against G-d’s Torah and will ultimately be lost without true repentance tempered with compassion and search for opportunities to expose them to G-d’s Torah? If not, we need to consider G-d’s compassion towards us to the point of Yahshua’s sacrifice and longsuffering for us to turn our hearts toward “home.”
The first stop was Sukkot (booth). This represents G-d’s provision for His people in every way throughout their and our wilderness journeys. Sukkot is an annually mandated holy convocation (Lev. 23:33). Sukkot also represents G-d’s provision of the Messiah Yahshua who was born during this time of year (Sep-Oct), NOT Christmas! The next stop is Etam which translates as “their bird, or their covering.” These few illustrations help us to understand the importance of recalling all the places to the people during the wandering years. The narrative reminds them of their sinful behaviors at each place in direct contradiction to the names of the places indicating G-d’s presence and provision throughout the journey. This is a lesson for us that in the midst of our “storms” that G-d is with us (Emanuel). We are the ones who must adjust our behaviors and attitudes and draw close to Him so He will draw close to us. James 4:8-10 reads “Draw close to God, and God will draw close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, you hypocrites. 9 Let there be tears for the wrong things you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. 10 When you bow down before the Lord and admit your dependence on him, he will lift you up and give you honour.” It would be most beneficial to your study of G-d’s Torah to look up each name of the places at which the Israelites camped and what occurred at each place to understand the significance of the narrative. It is not a difficult process with the availability of computers if you do not have a reference library. For example, if you type in the search bar “meaning of Sukkot in Hebrew” you will find several references with the answer. Similarly, if you honestly and humbly examine the trials in your life, you will most likely be able to identify possible character flaws that could only be corrected by going through that particular trial. Of course, we usually are unaware of the flaws before and during the trial, only realizing them after we have gone through the trial. It is amazing how YHVH/Yahshua teaches us by way of experience. It is the most profound way in which to learn and grow in our relationship to G-d. Reading and memorizing information is one thing; experiential teaching is another, in which the learning tends to be stored in our mental “hardrives” for later use. This reflects the truth of the often overused phrase “been there, done that.”
The last stop before entering the land is at the plains of Mo’av by the garden, across from Jericho. This should not be surprising. Mo’av translates as “seed of the father.” Recall that the Moabites were the descendants of Lot by one of his daughters. More importantly Ruth who was the great-grandmother of Yahshua was a Moabite princess who converted to the faith of the Israelites. The Israelites are truly the seed of their Father as G-d’s people. We would miss this important point if we did not research the Hebrew meaning of Mo’av. The Hebrew provides such a treasury of information for our spiritual growth for those who search it out through prayerful, humble study.
Next, Adonai speaks to Moshe and commands him to tell the people that before they can occupy the land, they must expel all the people living there, their stone figures, metal statues, and all the high places. This command illustrates the fact that salvation is not free. There is always a price. In the case of our salvation, Yahshua paves the way with His sacrifice, but it is our responsibility to toe-the-line once we’ve crossed the sea into a new chapter. The people could not simply “wish” the inhabitants away. They had to ACT by physically moving the inhabitants out along with everything associated with their pagan ways. G-d warns them and us that if we don’t drive out the inhabitants (sinful ways), those we allow to remain will be “like thorns in your eyes and stings in your sides- they will harass you in the land where you are living. And in this event, I will do to you what I intended to do to them” (Num. 33:55-56). We must leave our “idols” of every type and context behind once we repent and choose to serve G-d. This is part of the wilderness journey. It does not happen overnight. The road to salvation is a process. Why was it necessary to drive the Canaanites out of the land? They were cut off to prevent Israel and the rest of the world from being corrupted (Deut. 20:16-18). When a people starts to burn their children in honour of their gods (Lev. 18:21), practice sodomy, beastiality, and all sorts of loathsome vice (Lev. 18:23, 24, 20:3), the land itself begins to “vomit” them out as the body heaves under the load of internal poisons (Lev. 18:25, 27-30). Thus, “objection to the fate of these nations …” is really an objection to the highest manifestation of the grace of God. This command to cut off the Canaanites symbolizes the manner in which we must repent (to be truly sorry for) and teshuva (turn from our old ways) changing behaviours not consistent with Torah. We cannot walk the fence between the old life and a Torah observant one, for a lukewarm life makes G-d “sick.” Revelation 3:15-16 reads: 15” I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.
The Land is to be divided by lots. Anyone who says it is not Biblical to participate in raffles, play Dreidel, or play the lottery need take note that drawing for land by lots was a command of G-d to Moshe. More land was given to the larger families and less to the smaller ones. There was no arguing over “equitable distribution” as we see today. The borders of the land are obviously larger than the current state of Israel. Gambling or drawing by lots must be considered in the context in which it is being done. We must take care not to judge!
Comparing the current map of Israel to the biblical description, one can easily see there is quite a difference. The nation of Israel will not occupy the entire land of the inheritance described in this parashah until G-d’s plan comes to fruition. To maintain order, G-d designates leaders of each tribe to take possession of the land and divide the inheritance according to His instructions.
Although the Levites were not a tribe, G-d provided for them by ordering the people of Israel to give the Levites cities from each of their inherited land to live in and some of the open land surrounding the cities. These cities served as places of refuge to which a person who killed someone by mistake could flee. The establishment of these special cities was necessary because innocent blood was shed and atonement cannot be made until the cohen HaGadol who was anointed with the oily oil dies. At that point, the one who accidentally killed someone was atoned for and was allowed to return to the land he owned. The land on which the person was killed was no longer considered unclean and defiled (Num. 35:33-34).
Finally, G-d made provision for the daughters of Tz’lof’chad to maintain their inheritance by commanding that they marry within their tribe. We covered this last week but I want to provide the translation of the daughter’s names for your continued learning. Tz’lof’chad the son of Hefer had no sons but daughters; the names of the daughters of Tz’lof’chad were Machlah [infirmity], No’ah [movement], Hoglah [dancing], Milkah [queen] and Tirtzah [pleasing]. Otherwise, their inheritance would become part of the tribe into which they married.
Haftarah: Yirmiyahu (Jeremiah) 2:4-28; 4:1-2
This week’s haftarah is the second of a series of three “haftarot of affliction.” These three haftarot are read during the Three Weeks of mourning for Jerusalem, between the fasts of 17 Tammuz and 9 Av. It would be beneficial to your learning to research these fast days to understand their relevance to the time period. See if you can separate facts from tradition.
The prophet Jeremiah transmits G‑d’s message to the Jewish people, in strong tones chastising all the social sectors, including the leadership, for their abandonment of G-d. “What wrong did your forefathers find in Me, that they distanced themselves from Me, and they went after futility and themselves became futile?” He reminds them of the kindnesses G-d did for them, taking them out of Egypt, leading them through the desert, and settling them in the Promised Land. Even so, the people repaid kindness with disloyalty. “For My people have committed two evils; they have forsaken Me, the spring of living waters, [and furthermore, this was in order] to dig for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that do not hold water.”
G‑d asked them to view the actions of their neighbouring nations, the Kittites and Kedarites, “and see whether there was any such thing, whether a nation exchanged a god, although they are not gods. Yet My nation exchanged their glory for what does not avail.”
Then Jeremiah foretells the future suffering the Jewish people will experience at the hands of their enemies, and also their erstwhile allies: “Your evil will chastise you, and you will be rebuked for your backslidings; and you shall know and see that your forsaking the L-rd your G-d is evil and bitter.”
The haftarah ends on an encouraging note, assuring the people that if they return to G‑d with sincerity, they will be restored to their full glory. In His undying love and compassion towards humankind, He yet tarries for those who will turn from Egypt and follow the King’s Highway before it is too late.
B’rit Chadashah: Ya’akov (James) 4:1-12
We come full circle with the admonishment by James similar to that Moshe gave the people at the beginning of this lesson. Again, it is important to research the names of the places at which the people of Israel stopped on their journey to the Land because it is no less applicable to our walk with G-d in this century. We must never forget from whence we came, Who brought us out, and G-d’s provision throughout our wilderness journey. Self- examination of done honestly is a humbling but beneficial experience. The names of the camps remind the people that G-d was with them every step of the way. They were the ones who wandered away from G-d, not the reverse. Similarly, James brings to the people’s attention the source of their quarrelling and fights are selfish motives not of G-d. James reminds us that we cannot walk the fence with the lusts of the world and pagan religion on one side, and G-d’s Torah and a true Torah-observant life on the other. We are to submit to G-d and no other. If we make a decision to stand for G-d and His Torah, the Adversary will flee. Repeating James 4:8-10: “Come close to G-d and He will come close to you. Clean your hands, sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded people! Wail, mourn, sob! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom! Humble yourselves before the L-rd, and He will lift you up.”
We are not to judge one another for that is arrogant, likened to judging Torah, and speaking contrary to its teachings. If we judge others, we are not Torah observant. Rather, we are acting as a judge. There is only one Giver of the Torah, and only one Judge with the power to deliver or destroy our souls. We must train ourselves to overcome our human nature to judge or speak evil of another person. Interestingly, if we honestly look at ourselves when we think of judging others, we are often seeing a reflection of our own shortcomings either exactly or in concept in the person being judged. Gossiping is simply a behaviour to elevate our own egos through belittlement of another. If we look at another person and purpose in our hearts to judge or speak against them, it may be to our benefit to conduct a little introspection and examine the true motive for our behaviour. Let us never forget the road from Egypt to the Promised Land and the plethora of challenges we must learn to overcome in order to reach our goal of an eternity with YHVH/Yahshua.
- Tamah Davis