Parashah B’Midbar (In the Desert) Numbers 1 – 4:20

We begin the 4th book of the Torah.

God commands that a census be taken so that we know how many we have that are able to serve, both in the military and for the service of the Tabernacle. We are also reminded that all the first born belong to God, both of people and of animals, because God took all the firstborn of the Egyptians as a ransom for His people, Israel.

The Levites are counted separately and their first born are ransom for the first born of the other tribes.

Here we can see, again, the consistency of God: everything belongs to God. Everything that grows, everything human, everything animal, everything- of the produce we give a tenth to God, and all the first born we give to God. From our tithe the Levite takes their portion, and as a sort of return, the Levites supply the first born to God from their tribe as a way of paying back the other tribes.

That’s a little convoluted, and it’s my own way of looking at that arrangement- I hope I explained it well enough so that (at least) some of you may understand what I mean.

Taking a census is OK, so long as it is in accordance with God’s commandment. This census was taken to identify who can serve doing what, and is needed now because the people are about to travel to the Promised Land. The Tabernacle needs to be moved and the people need to know who will be responsible for protecting them as they travel. God also identifies how, exactly, the camp is to be arranged and the order of travel.

We are also told that those who are unclean must be kept outside the camp because God is in the camp and nothing unclean may be near Him. OK- that sounds fine. If you are unclean you can’t be in the same place where God is, that makes sense….and then it hit me: inside the camp there is protection, but outside the camp you are exposed to the world without protection. And if attacked, you can’t go into the camp- you are unclean. You have enemies all around you; not that your own people are your enemy, but as long as you are unclean, they are not allowed to help or protect you.

When we sin or disobey God, we are unclean. As such, we are no longer under His protection- we are “outside of the camp”, aren’t we? God tells us of all that He will do to bless us when we are “clean”, i.e., obeying Him. And He also tells us all the terrible things that will happen to us when we ignore and disobey Him. We read this in Leviticus and we are told this, over and over, throughout the Torah. The best place to get this listing of blessings and curses will come later, in Deuteronomy (Chapter 28.)

Sin not only separates us from God, but since we are outside the camp when we are unclean, it separates us from each other, as well. We may be physically close, but we are spiritually separated, and eventually that spiritual uncleanliness will show itself in our actions. Then we will be physically forced away from other Believers, because our actions will show we are no longer clean enough to be in the camp, spiritually or physically.

Sin excommunicates us, one way or another.

Does that mean if I do wrong I am no longer a child of God? Heavens no! We all sin, and there is a BIG difference between sinning without care and sinning without meaning to. When we sin, thanks to Yeshua, we can be cleansed then and there. And when we do T’shuvah in our hearts, the uncleanness that sin causes can be washed away ASAP when we ask for forgiveness. We can be back in the camp in a heartbeat, or (more accurately) in a prayer.

Those who were physically unclean had to wait until sundown, but we can be cleansed immediately. We can remain in the camp, where God walks with us, and that is all thanks to Yeshua and to God, who keeps His promises, especially the ones made through Yeshua ha Maschiach.

We all will sin now and then- we can’t help it, really, but we can regret it. Regretting it will lead to T’shuvah, which will lead to confession, which will lead to requesting forgiveness in Yeshua’s name, which will cleanse us and we will be able to re-enter the camp.

Outside the camp is a dangerous and scary place- you do not want to be there.

Knowledge isn’t wisdom

You’ve all heard people say that too much information is dangerous, right? Or maybe when talking about someone else, they’ll be referred to as having just enough knowledge to be dangerous?

I know the bible pretty well- I am familiar with most of what is in there, and can remember what has been said, but not always by whom and not always where. But if I know something is in there, I know it is in there.

Just as important, maybe even more so, I know what is NOT in there.

However, I never want to be a bible “scholar” because I feel that knowing every single aspect and part of it prevents one from appreciating the unity of the whole thing. Sort of like seeing a completed jigsaw puzzle but only recognizing the individual pieces.

I have the highest respect for true scholars, and I may be totally off-base thinking that when someone knows the bible extremely well that they (may) lose sight of the overall message because they become so focused on every single word, and with the processes and inter-relationships and order of books, and time of the writing, and who really wrote what, etc. I believe when you get that deeply involved in the minutiae that you can’t “see the forest for the trees” anymore.

I also don’t care much for numerology. I recognize (especially with Hebrew, where the letters of the alphabet are also numbers) that what appears to be a numerical anomaly may represent a coded message. I get that, but when I read that nuts aren’t to be eaten at Rosh Hashannah because the numerical value of the Hebrew word for nuts has the same numerical value as the Hebrew word for sin, well I think that’s just….nuts!

How many people have you met that know something but don’t understand it? For instance, there is a religious group whose members are very dedicated, respectfully so, about ministering to people. They go door-to-door with tracts and pamphlets, and one thing about them is that they know their bible! They can give you a bible quote for anything you ask about. But when you listen to them, and when you also know the quote, you realize how often they take these quotes out of context and , sometimes, use them in a totally wrong way. Here is where knowledge is not wisdom, or understanding. It amazes me, in a bad way, that people who know their bible so well have totally missed the truth of what it is saying.

It’s similar to the adage that goes, “Figures don’t lie, but liars figure.” I am not calling these people liars, per se, but I am saying that their lack of understand about what they are talking about makes them tell lies. They misinterpret the bible because they are using what is in there to justify what they want to say, instead of saying what is in there.

This is why I want to know the bible as a friend, as a close accomplice and soul-mate, but not the way a doctor knows a cadaver. I want to have an intimate knowledge of the ins and outs of what God is telling us in His word; I want to be able to connect the dots where they exist, and know enough to recognize when these dots aren’t connected.

But above all, I want to stay innocently unaware of the letters, the number relationships and the many “secret” messages. Abraham didn’t ask God to explain anything, did he? He just did what God told him to do. I don’t want to know about that one word in Revelations which, when the numerical value is added to itself three times (once each for the Father, Son and Holy Spirit), then divided by 5 (the number of books in the Torah) and then multiplied by 12 (once for each tribe of Israel) tells us the name of the Anti-Christ.

By the way, I just made all that up so don’t go looking for it.

The enemy knows the word of God better than anyone, and will use it against you. He even tried to use it against Yeshua, who probably helped write the thing! That is why I want you, also, to know it well: well enough to know what is in there, well enough to know what is not in there, and well enough to know when someone is misusing it.

Having too much knowledge can be dangerous, so have just enough knowledge to remain safe.