At the beginning of this parashah, the Israelites have come to the border of Cana’an, and 12 men, one prince from each tribe, are sent into the Land to reconnoiter and bring back a report.
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The 12 men, of whom Joshua and Caleb are members, spend 40 days in the Land. Upon their return, they all say how wonderful the land is; Caleb and Joshua are ready and eager to go in and take possession. But, the other 10 princes say they see the giant Anakim there and that the cities are well fortified and protected. They say if the people try to conquer the land they will all be destroyed and their children taken as slaves.
The people are utterly demoralized, and as their fear overtakes them they again complain against Moses and Aaron, whining like they always have about why he ever took them from Egypt to die in the desert. They are so upset they talk about choosing a new leader and returning to Egypt.
God tells Moses that he is fed up with these people and will destroy them and make a new nation from Moses. Moses, interceding on their behalf, reminds God (using the same argument he used at the sin of the Golden Calf) that if God did that, then the nations who are in awe of God now will say that God wasn’t able to deliver on his promises. He asks God to show the forgiveness and mercy that he declared about himself earlier (Exodus 34:6-7), and God says he will do as Moses asks.
However, the guilty will be punished and the people will spend one year in the desert for each day they were in the land until the entire generation that defied God and rebelled against his order to possess the land is dead. The children they said would be slaves in the land will, instead, be the ones to inherit and own the land.
After Moses tells them what God has decreed, the people feel even worse and in their desire to make atonement, they again rebel against God and decide that they will go in and take possession. Moses warns them not to go because God is not with them, but they fail to listen. Again. So, when they attack they are routed and completely defeated (which is why the place they were defeated is called Hormah, which means “utterly destroyed”.)
God sends them into the desert and instructs Moses to remind them of the things they must do with regard to sacrifices and first fruits when they do enter the land.
This parashah ends with the story of a man who was caught collecting sticks during the Shabbat, and upon asking God what is to be done, God says the man must be stoned to death. God also commands that thereafter, every man is to wear tzitzit, the fringes around their clothes, in order that each one will see the tzitzit of the other and by seeing that, remember to obey God.
One of the most important things that God says in this parashah, which he says continually throughout his instructions to us, is in Numbers 15:15-16 (CJB):
For this community there will be the same law for you as for the foreigner living with you; this is a permanent regulation through all your generations; the foreigner is to be treated the same way before Adonai as yourselves. The same Torah and standard of judgment will apply to both you and the foreigner living with you.
In our modern world, the idea of “sojourning” is pretty archaic, and we would more likely say that someone has converted instead of saying they sojourn. A very (pardon my saying it this way) Christian term, that many are more comfortable and familiar with, is to say that one is “grafted in”, which is, in essence, the same thing as sojourning. Whatever label you wish to put on it, the idea is the same: someone has decided that they would rather be associated with and part of one organization than another, whether the defining difference is religion, geography, or lifestyle.
The Pharisee living in the First Century called Shaul, that nice tentmaker from Tarsus, talked a lot about grafting in, specifically the Gentile ex-pagans he helped become grafted onto the Tree of Life, which is the Messiah. He talks often of Grace being given to these Gentiles who can now receive it as the result of their decision to spiritually sojourn with the Jewish people (I say spiritually sojourn with them because they were already living with them.)
But what has happened to his teachings is that they have been twisted around, and instead of the Grace he was talking about, Grace has been made into a system by which people are allowed to reject the Torah! Modern Christianity has turned Grace from being received for joining the Jewish people and accepting their Messiah to rejecting the Jewish people and using God’s Grace as an excuse to reject the Torah.
Don’t they know that by rejecting the Torah they are rejecting God?
I have, for years, heard people preach against the Torah in favor of Grace, making it seem that Torah and Grace are exclusive of each other: in other words, you can’t have obedience to the Torah and receive Grace. You are either under Grace or under Torah, also called being under the law.
Hmmm…well, if I am not under the law that means, by definition, I am above the law. So, nu? do you think that you are above the law? Does God’s Grace give you the authority to reject God’s instructions, the ones he gave, which are the ones Yeshua taught regarding how we are to live and worship?
I have heard often how Shaul (supposedly) says Believers are under Grace and don’t have to obey the Torah, and how people have taken that to wrongly equate obedience to the Torah with Legalism, but let’s see what God says. And guess what? God tells us exactly how he feels about those who reject the Torah, right in this parashah, Numbers 15: 30-31 (CJB):
But an individual who does something wrong intentionally, whether a citizen or a foreigner, is blaspheming Adonai. That person will be cut off from his people. Because he has had contempt for the word of Adonai and has disobeyed his command, that person will be cut off completely; his offense will remain with him.
This is what God says about anyone who disobeys the Torah commandments, whether they think they are allowed to or not. He doesn’t say those who do something wrong because they think they are allowed to are fine: no, God says that those who disobey on purpose will be cut off from his people. And this command is also addressed, just before this verse, to both the native-born and the foreigner who sojourns with (is grafted into) the society of the chosen people of God.
And that means anyone who receives Yeshua as their Messiah; period, end of line, discussion over: shut the door on your way out!
Like it or not, if you profess to believe in Yeshua (Jesus) as the Messiah and the son of God, then you are grafted in, i.e. an adopted son or daughter of Abraham and thereby (at least) spiritually one of the chosen people of God.
And that means you are subject to the same rules as the chosen people of God because God said so!
Being under the law is not a bad thing; in fact, it is the best thing that can happen to anyone because God promises, in Deuteronomy 28, that when you obey his instructions you will be bountifully blessed!
Obedience to the Torah is basically from one of two motivations: you either obey because you are trying to earn something or you obey as a result of your love and respect for God. Obedience to the Torah that stems from trying to earn salvation is called Legalism; obedience to the Torah because you love the Lord and want to please him, the same way you would do what your father or mother tells you out of respect and knowing that they only want the best for you, is called faithful obedience.
And God tells us that obedience to the Torah pleases him in Ezekiel 18:23.
Grace and Torah are not exclusive, they are inclusive. As we can see from Numbers 15:30, God says anyone who disobeys his instructions on purpose will be cut off, i.e. not accepted into God’s presence. Even if you profess to believe in Messiah, try to live a righteous life, but do so expecting that Grace is all you need, you are fooling yourself.
Grace cannot be given to someone who rejects God, and when you disobey the instructions that God gave, you are rejecting God.
Obey the Torah not to earn anything but to show God that you respect his authority, love him, and want to do only that which pleases him; when you do, you will receive from God all that God can give you.
However, if you like the idea that you don’t have to do what God says because of what men tell you, then expect only that which men can give you.
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That’s it for this week, so l’hitraot and Shabbat Shalom!