Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Shaleeakh Chukat-Balak Bamidbar (Numbers) 19:1- 25:9 on Behalf of Elliot

Here we start with the Laws of purification. The LORD said to Moses and Aaron “bring you a red heifer without blemish” (Numbers 19:2). Why would the LORD want a “red heifer”? A red heifer is a cow which has never been pregnant, and thus cannot yet give milk. They had to find one with a red color – which can sometimes be rare. Normally the animals color doesn’t matter but maybe the color red was supposed to represent blood? The ritual of purification was to un-clean the person so that once again he could offer sacrifices and worship GOD. “The man who is clean is to sprinkle the unclean person on the third and seventh days and on the seventh day he is to purify him (Numbers 19:19) & (Ezekiel 36:25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols). “And the priest shall take cedar wood and hyssop and scarlet, and cast them into the midst of the fire burning the heifer” (Numbers 19:6). When the heifer was burnt, the priest would also put cedar wood and hyssop and scarlet into the fire. In Leviticus 14:4-6, each of these three items are used in the cleansing ceremony for a leper. Cedar is extremely resistant to disease and rot, and is known for its quality and preciousness. These properties may be the reason for including it here - as well as maybe a symbolic reference to the wood of the cross. Some even think the cross Jesus was crucified on was made of cedar. Hyssop was used not only with the cleansing ceremony for lepers, but also Jesus was offered drink from a hyssop branch on the cross (Matthew 27:48), and when David said purge me with hyssop in Psalm 51:7, maybe this was him admitting that he was as bad as a leper. Scarlet, the color of blood, pictures the cleansing blood of Jesus on the cross. Scarlet was used in the veil and curtains of the tabernacle (Exodus 26:31), in the garments of the high priest (Exodus 28:5-6), the covering for the table of showbread (Numbers 4:8), the sign of Rahab’s salvation (Joshua 2:21), and the color of the mocking “king’s robe” put on Jesus at His torture by the soldiers (Matthew 27:28). Bear in mind that death was the strongest defilements because it was the final result of sin.

Now it had been 37 years since Israel’s first mission into the Promised Land (Numbers 13, 14) and 40 years since the exodus from Egypt. The bible is virtually silent about those 37 years of aimless wandering. The generation of those who had lived in Egypt had almost died off, and the new generation would soon be ready to enter the land. Moses Aaron, Joshua and Caleb were among the few who remained from those who had left Egypt. Once again they camped in Kadesh, the site of their first mission that had ended in disaster. Moses hoped the people would be ready for a fresh start. Also, after 37 years in the desert the Israelites forgot that their wanderings were a result of their parents and their own sin. They could not accept the fact that they brought their problems upon themselves, so they blamed Moses for their condition. There was not enough water and the people complained bitterly. Moses struck a rock and it gave enough water for everyone. Also, as seen in Psalm 78, we learned several sources of Israel’s complaining: their spirits were not faithful to God (78:8), they refused to obey God’s law (78:10), and they forgot the miracles God had done for them (78:11). Our complaining often has its roots in one of many thoughtless actions and attitudes. If we can deal with the cause of our complaining it will not take hold and grow in our lives. Also, often our troubles result from our own disobedience. We can’t blame GOD for our sins. Until we face this reality of disobedience, we will have no peace and no spiritual growth.

Many events took place in the desert. The king of Edom refused Israel passage through his land, forcing them to travel around his country. Israel also met resistance from the king of Arad, but soundly defeated him. The next stop was Mount Hor (where Aaron had died); then they traveled south and east around Edom. After camping at Oboth, they moved toward the Amon River and onto the plains of Moab near Mount Pisgah. God wants to give us victory over our enemies which are usually problems related to sin rather than armed soldiers. But first we must fear God and know that he can help us. Second, we must learn to trust him to help us. Third, we must take the steps he shows us and accept God as being God.

“Then the Israelites traveled to the plains of Moab and camped along the Jordan across from Jericho. Now Balak son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites, and Moab was terrified because there were so many people. Indeed, Moab was filled with dread because of the Israelites. The Moabites said to the elders of Midian, “This horde is going to lick up everything around us, as an ox licks up the grass of the field.” So Balak son of Zippor, who was king of Moab at that time, sent messengers to summon Balaam son of Beor, who was at Pethor, near the Euphrates River, in his native land. Balak said: A people has come out of Egypt; they cover the face of the land and have settled next to me. Now come and put a curse on these people, because they are too powerful for me. Perhaps then I will be able to defeat them and drive them out of the land. For I know that whoever you bless is blessed, and whoever you curse is cursed” (Numbers 22:1-6). Now Balaam, who was one of those noteworthy Old Testament characters who, though, may not have been one of God’s chosen people, was willing to acknowledge that Yeshua (the Lord) was indeed a powerful God. He did not believe in the Lord as the only true God. His oracles expose the deceptions of maintaining an outward look (façade) of spirituality over a corrupt inward life. Balaam exhibited himself as being a man ready to obey God’s command as long as he could benefit (profit) from doing so. This combination or mixture of motives, his obedience and profit, would eventually lead to his death. Although he realized the awesome power of Israel’s God, his heart was occupied with the wealth he could gain in Moab. Then he returned to die when the armies of Israel invaded.

Each of us lives through the same process. Who and what we are will somehow come to the surface, destroying any masks (facades) we may have put on to cover up our real selves. In today’s world we continue with facades. We attend churches, synagogues, listen to psalms, cantors, and hear the word spoken by men of God. We commune, smile and seem happy to others, that touchy feeling. Then we leave to go out into the world again. As an example when someone cuts you off or makes a derogatory gesture towards us we react differently. So how do we handle this situation? God said we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. How can we diffuse that feeling of annoyance with the other person? We should reach deep inside of us and think of “why did this happen”, “how should we handle it? First of all we don’t know what the other person may be going thru so we should take it upon ourselves to forgive and press on.

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