The people have been in the desert for a year and have completed building the Tabernacle. Now God tells Moses to have Aaron set up the lampstand, or menorah so that the light will shine in front of it. Next, the Levites are cleansed and dedicated to the Lord for service unto him, and they are to be the substitution for all the firstborn among the people of Israel; all the firstborn of the people are ransomed to God since he took all the firstborn of Egypt as a ransom for the people.
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The Levites are to serve from the ages of 25 through 50; afterward, they are to help with the service but not to perform any of the actual work.
As Passover begins this second year, some men were made unclean and God said that those who could not celebrate Passover in the first month could do so the exact same way on the same days in the second month.
The cloud over the Sanctuary would be the signal for moving or remaining, and when it was taken away from the Tabernacle the people followed it. On the 20th day of the second month of the second year of freedom, the cloud moved to the desert of Paran. I believe this happened on the 20th day as there were those who were still celebrating the Passover because they were unclean in the first month.
As they are getting ready to move, Moses asks his father-in-law to come along and act as a guide, but he refuses. Moses asks a second time, but we aren’t told what answer he was given; however, in Judges 1:16 and 4:11 we read about the descendants of Moses’s father-in-law, so it appears that he did stay with the Israelites.
The final chapters of this parashah deal with the people complaining about not having any meat to eat, which leads Moses to ask God for help because their whining and rebellion is too much for him to bear. God gives some of the spirit he gave to Moses to 70 of the Elders, to help Moses lead the people, and then sent quails to feed them. However, as punishment for their complaining, the people were also cursed with a terrible plague.
In Chapter 12, Aaron and Miriam complain against Moses because of the wife he took, and God calls them to the Tent of Meeting where he chides Aaron and Miriam for speaking out against Moses, who God speaks to as a friend. Miriam is struck with leprosy, although Aaron is not punished. Aaron begs forgiveness from Moses, and Moses begs God to heal Miriam, which he does but requires her to be shut outside the camp for a week.
There certainly is a lot happening in this Shabbat reading, which has special meaning for me because the last section of Chapter 12 was the portion I read for my own Bar Mitzvah, oh so many years ago.
What struck me when I read this week’s parashah is at the beginning, and actually has very little to do with the happenings in this parashah. It was during the instructions for the Levite’s cleansing (Numbers 8:12) where God tells them they must sacrifice a sin offering and then a burnt offering.
The sin offering is, of course, to be able to receive forgiveness of sin, and the burnt offering (also called a wholly burnt offering) is to signify total rededication to the covenant between God and the descendants of Abraham, i.e. renewing one’s promise to obey God’s instructions.
There is a teaching within Christianity that is called OSAS, which stands for Once Saved, Always Saved and it is part of the other (wrongful) teaching that the “law” was nailed to the Cross. This is, of course, not justified by anything in the Bible, anywhere, and teaches people that they don’t have to repent or even ask forgiveness because when Jesus died for their sins, he covered all their sins: past, present, and future.
The truth is Yeshua did die for our sins, past, present, and future, but that forgiveness is NOT automatic.
God will not forgive someone who is not repentant, and also only when he is asked for forgiveness. It is clear that the sacrificial system, which states once we have offered up our sin sacrifice we must follow it immediately with a burnt sacrifice, shows that God requires more than just repentance and asking for forgiveness: God also requires our rededication to obedience. The teaching of “Once saved, always saved” is not how God told us it works.
When we sin, we must first repent; if you don’t really care about having sinned, then you don’t really care about being forgiven, and you certainly wouldn’t consider rededicating yourself to obedience since obedience isn’t all that important to you, anyway. Right?
Sin is pervasive, and it is also very hard to overcome. Our very nature is sinful, and it is only through the leading of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) that we can overcome our sinful desires and sinful thoughts, which (as Yeshua taught us) are just as bad as having actually sinned.
So, the lesson I would like us to learn from this parashah is that repentance is the beginning of forgiveness, sacrifice makes forgiveness possible (thank you, Yeshua), but without your heartfelt rededication to obedience, it will all be unacceptable to God.
Sin will happen, we can’t avoid that, and without the temple in Jerusalem the only way forgiveness is possible is through Yeshua. Yeshua made forgiveness available to us, but without your heartfelt and honest rededication to obedience to God’s instructions, Yeshua’s sacrifice will be rendered impotent.
Yeshua died a mortal death so that you can have eternal life, but if you have an unrepentant heart, do not ask for forgiveness for each and every sin, and refuse to rededicate yourself to obedience after asking for forgiveness, the only future you have is one of eternal punishment.
Hey, don’t blame me! Look, these are God’s rules and if anyone chooses to accept man-made rules over God’s rules, well, then they have no one to blame but themselves! Amen!
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Until next time, L’hitraot and Shabbat Shalom!