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We left the last parashah with Phinehas (Pinchas) killing the Israelite man and Midianite woman to stop the plague. Now God makes a covenant that the lineage of Pinchas will be the High priests forever because of his jealousy for God. God commands Moses to go to war with Midian but first, a new census is taken because the prior generation has died in the desert. No further mention of the war is given at this point but we return to it in Chapter 31.
The daughters of the Zelophead (who had no sons) request an inheritance and God makes a new statute which identifies the Order of Inheritance regarding family inheritance of land in Israel.
God tells Moses his time has come so Moses asks God to place someone in charge of the people, and God chooses Joshua.
This parashah ends with God having Moses remind the people of the requirements for the offerings that were to be made daily, as well as the festivals that he first told us to honor in Leviticus.
Moses is told he is going to die and his first thought is of the people he has led for the past 40 years. He isn’t concerned about how will he die, will it hurt, will he be taken up into God’s bosom- no thoughts for himself and total concern for those that he will leave behind. This action on Moses’ part shows us the type of person he was: thoughtful, concerned for others, humble even unto death (sound familiar?) and obedient.
Today what I would like to talk about is why God is having Moses repeat the offering instructions to the people before he dies. When I read this I had to ask myself, “Why? Why is God having Moses remind the people about something that they already have been told and have written down for them?” The answer seems to be because God knew that these offerings were a central part of the daily life of the Children of Israel and, as such, must be followed. They are so important they bear repeating.
Again, why? Because without those daily activities of worship and annual celebrations of the Lord the people would easily fall into corruption. And we see that happening throughout the remainder of the Tanakh: when the leadership fails to enforce the daily offerings and festivals, the people fall into sin and worship the gods of their neighbors.
It is like the old adage: good habits are hard to develop and easy to lose, whereas bad habits are easy to develop and hard to lose.
We need to remember to pray daily, to worship the festivals God gave and when we celebrate holidays (not to be confused with Holy Days: the former are man-made and the latter are God commanded) we should celebrate only those that still honor God and do not replace the festivals he gave us in Leviticus, which are repeated here in this parashah. Only by repetitive worship can we maintain our faith and the strength of that faith, especially in light of our leader’s sinfulness and distracting activities.
When I say “repetitive” I do not mean to repeat prayers and perform actions robotically: what I mean is that we need to develop a regular prayer life and to remember the festivals God told us to celebrate. The ones he reminds us of in this parashah are the daily offerings, Shabbat and new moon, New Year, Day of Atonement and the pilgrimage festivals. Daily, monthly and annually we perform these rites and celebrate these festivals so that worship becomes a regular part of our lives. Every time throughout history that this cycle of worship was broken, the people fell into corruption.
What is your personal worship cycle? Do you pray every day? Do you honor the Lord by celebrating his festivals as he said you should? Too many people (both Christians and Jews) do not honor the Lord by celebrating the festivals as instructed. God isn’t very pleased with a half-way attitude when it comes to our worship of him. Another thing I have noticed: when you pray, who are you praying to? Is it to God or is it to Jesus? Jesus isn’t the answerer of our prayers- he is the intercessor. There is a big difference between intercession of prayer and interception of prayer.
The take-away for today is that we all need to develop a regular cycle of worship: daily and continual prayer, festival celebration as God said to (excepting for the sacrifices, of course) and constant reading of the Bible to remind us of who we are worshiping. Look at your life with spiritual eyes and see all that God has done, and is doing for you, and above all be appreciative for whatever you have. It may be great or it may be small, but if you have anything then thank God for it. He will hear and, knowing what you need, provide what is best for you.
Sometimes it is very hard for us to believe God is working for good in our lives, and that is what faith is all about- steadfastly believing God loves you and wants only the best for you when your life at that moment makes it impossible to believe. These are the times when the cycle of worship we have been talking about today helps us maintain our faith.