Parashah Shelach Lecha (send for yourself) Numbers 13-15

The children of Israel have been in the desert for more than 2 years, and they are now just outside the Promised Land. Moses is set to enter and take possession, but the people suggest he send spies to reconnoiter the land before they go in. Moses agrees and 12 leading men, one from each tribe, are chosen. They stay in the land for 40 days, then return with a report about how wonderful the land is. However, they then say they saw the Nephalim (a race of giants) and the people living there are fierce with well protected cities, so their report turns to a sorrowful cry of certain defeat. Only Caleb (from Judah) and Joshua (from Ephraim) are ready and willing to attack.

God hears this rebellion and is ready to strike them all down. He says He will make a nation from Moses’s seed (this isn’t the first time this was His desire) but Moses intercedes (again) and God relents destroying them (although He does kill the 10 spies that spread the bad report by a plague.) However, their sin doesn’t go unpunished. God tells them that since they cried their children would be taken as slaves and they would rather die in the desert, God says they will, indeed, die in the desert. They will be wandering for 40 years (one year in the desert for each day they spent in the land), and their children who they said would be slaves will be conquerors. Hearing this dismal decree, the people follow one bad idea with a worse one: they decide to attack, even though Moses says God will not be with them- God has decided this generation will not enter the land,  and true to form, they reject His word (again) and attack. But they are attacking without Moses, Aaron, the Ark, and most importantly, without God, so they get their tuchas’ beaten. Beaten so badly, in fact, that it takes an entire generation to build up enough men of fighting age to be able to attack their enemies.

The last chapter seems out of place, as God is telling Moses what the people should do once they are in the land, but it is not really out of place when you consider that despite the judgment against them, God reminds them that they will be entering the land; not this generation but the next one, and when they do they need to honor and thank God with the sacrifices He is telling them about now. It is an instruction that confirms God’s promise that Israel will, eventually, be in the land.

This parashah is an easy one for me to talk about. The lesson is abundantly clear: what God says to do, we should do, and what God says not to do, we shouldn’t do.

There is, of course, a lot more in here for us to learn about: God’s forgiveness in the midst of His terrible anger, God’s promises will be fulfilled despite what we want, how Moses is humble and his love for his people is overwhelming, even turning the heart of God to forgiveness from His righteous anger. All of this is important stuff, and good fodder for a sermon. But not today.

God has His plans, we have Free Will so we can choose to obey or disobey Him. When we obey what He has planned for us, miracles happen. When we choose to disobey Him, we royally screw ourselves up. And why do we do that? I mean, why do we turn from God? In the bible we see that during the past two years He’d shown the Israelites that He could provide food from heaven, water from rocks, He protected them from their enemies and kept them healthy and secure in one of the the worst climates in the world! Yet, still, they didn’t trust that He could help them overcome their enemies in the land He promised to give them. Oy!  And don’t we do the same thing, today?

We need to realize that we are in control of ourselves, but God is in control of everything, so He is the one to trust. We get used to good things, we get enured to miracles, we get puffed-up in ourselves and ungrateful if something wonderful is done for us more than once or twice. Basically, we learn to expect goodness and, as the old saying goes, “Familiarity breeds contempt.”

That’s why, in Numbers 14:11, God says to Moses:

And the LORD said to Moses, “How long will this people despise me? And how long will they not believe in me, in spite of all the signs that I have done among them?

God asks why the people despise Him- He was feeling unwanted, hated and treated with contempt. And you know what? He was right. That’s exactly how they treated Him.

The question you might be asking now is how could they have done that? How could they be that way?

But that is the wrong question to be asking: the question we all should be asking is, “How many times have I done this?”

Yes…how many times have I, you, we treated God with contempt? Don’t we treat Him contemptuously when we refuse to do as He says? Don’t we show contempt for God when we show contempt for His commandments? And worse than individuals doing this, how many religions do this as dogma? How many Christian churches have taught the Old Covenant is not for them? How many times have you heard someone say the Torah was completed in Jesus so it is no longer valid because we are now under the Blood of Christ? If that was true, if Jesus really did overrule His Father’s commandments with His death, then that means Jesus also showed contempt for His own Father, and preached repealing the commandments of God!

That doesn’t sound very “Christ-like”, does it?

We need to remind ourselves, every minute of every day, how wonderful God’s treatment of us is, how many blessings He pours down on us (most, if not all, we don’t deserve) and how miraculous events occur every day. When we fail to do this, we fail to be as thankful as we should be, and that leads, inexorably, to showing contempt for God.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want God to think, even for a nano-second, that I don’t appreciate everything He has done, is doing and has planned for me.

Many people I’ve met have been taught that because Jesus died for their sins they are going to heaven, so they live their life without regard for Torah, for the bible, or for anyone else. They have been taught they are “saved” because Jesus “accomplished it all on the Cross.” And they never spend even one minute of their time getting to know God or Jesus on their own. So, by choosing to believe what they have been told as Prima Facie fact, they are demonstrating contempt for God because they have rejected His commandments, and that rejection means the blood of Messiah, which was shed for them, is being trampled into the dirt.

Here’s the tough question you need to ask yourself: am I doing this, too?

Parashah Beha’altecha (When you light..) Numbers 8-12

There are a few really important events in this parashah. One is that the Levites are separated from the rest of the children of Israel and dedicated to God, to serve Him only. God reminds us that the first born children of Egypt were sacrificed in order that all of the children of Israel may be set free; therefore, all the first born children of Israel belong to God. The Levites serve as substitute for the first born of all the other tribes, which is why a census of the Levites was compared to the first born of the other tribes, and for the difference there was a payment of 5 shekels per child redeemed ( Exodus 13:1, Numbers 3:1 – 4:29.) 

An important commandment that originated in this reading is for those who are unclean on Passover. This parashah takes place on the first Passover in the desert, the first month of the second year (on the first Passover they were still in Egypt); some men who were unclean by reason of having been near a dead body could not partake in the Passover, and when asked what to do God told Moses that when this happens they are to have their Passover on the 14th day of the second month.

It is also important to note God commanded that all people who worship Him are to be treated the same way; consequently, all people who worship Him are to worship Him the same way (this was first stated in Leviticus 24:22):

Numbers 9:14 – And if a stranger shall sojourn among you, and will keep the Passover unto the Lord: according to the statute of the Passover, and according to the ordinance thereof, so shall he do; ye shall have one statute, both for the stranger, and for him that is born in the land. 

God has Moses make the silver trumpets, which are used to call the people to important events, war and for the issuing in of the Jubilee Year (Yovel.)

Chapter 10 tells us who led each of the tribes as they traveled in the desert, and how when the cloud was lifted up the people traveled, and when it came to rest on the Tabernacle the people remained. Numbers 10:35-36 gives us the prayers that Moses said as the Ark of the Covenant was taken and returned; these prayers are also found in Psalm 68, and are still used today as the Torah is removed and returned to the Ark:

And it came to pass, when the ark set forward, that Moses said:”Rise up, O Lord, and let Thine enemies be scattered; and let them that hate Thee flee before Thee.” And when it rested, he said, “Return, O Lord, unto the ten thousands of the families of Israel.”

Chapter 11 relates how, when the people complained about not having meat to eat (effectively rejecting the miraculous gift of manna God provided to them every day), God sent quails to satisfy them. However, because they did not ask respectfully and rejected God’s provisions, He also sent a plague (perhaps some form of Avian Flu?) that killed many. During this time Moses was overwhelmed by the pressure placed upon him, and to help Moses God had Moses gather 70 Elders for Him to give some of the Spirit (Ruach) that Moses had, so they could help him.

In Exodus 18 we are told that Jethro, Moses’ Father-in-law, recommended that Moses appoint people to help him adjudicate: I believe this is a different event than God giving His Ruach to the 70 Elders. These Elders were to spiritually edify and comfort the people, not to be judges. When they prophesied as the Ruach came upon them, this was a Divine sign of their appointment in this role. Moses also showed his humility and love for the people when he was told that others now had his spirit, and he replied (Numbers 11:29) that he wished all of God’s people were prophets (given God’s Ruach HaKodesh); as stated in Joel and Jeremiah, when we accept Yeshua, this does happen.

The last chapter is the rebellion, so to speak, of Miriam and Aaron against their own brother, God’s appointed leader. They speak out against him for marrying a Cushite woman. Scholars disagree about who the Cushite woman is: it could be Zipporah, a Midianite, since Midian is a synonym for Cushan, where the Kusi people live. It could also be an Ethiopian woman, a second wife. No one knows for sure. Either way, it seems Miriam is the instigator of this speaking up against Moses, and although Moses does nothing to defend himself, God doesn’t like the fact that Miriam and Aaron attack Moses. God decided to defend Moses Himself, and struck Miriam with leprosy. Aaron seemed to get a “bye” on the punishment, most likely because he was just tagging along with Miriam and, as High Priest (Cohen HaGadol) he really couldn’t be unclean because of the position he held. Miriam was struck with leprosy, Moses prayed for God to forgive her (which He did) and Miriam ended up shut outside the camp for 7 days until she could be declared clean by Aaron (in accordance with the Torah.)

BTW…this portion of the Torah was the reading for my Bar Mitzvah, some 50 years ago this month.

As always, there is just so much to talk about. I usually like to talk of Moses’ prayer for Miriam, because it is short and heartfelt, the way I believe we should always pray. In my book on Prayer  I refer to it often.

Today I feel led to discuss, as I (again) often do, about the need for people to realize that the Torah was not done away with by the teachings and life of Yeshua (Jesus); in fact, His life and teachings confirmed the importance and validity of Torah. As shown above, Numbers 9:14 (and other places in the Torah) is very clear that once someone commits to worshiping the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, although they are still considered strangers (Ger, in the Hebrew), or non-Hebrews, they are afforded the same rights and privileges as a native born Hebrew.  As I say, over and over…and over….God has no religion. He has His rules for how we worship Him and treat each other, and if anyone accepts God as their God, which includes those that accept His son, Yeshua, as their Messiah, they are bound up with Israel; and just as Israel, they are bound under the Torah. If you are someone who worships God and accepts Yeshua as your Messiah, you are sojourning with Israel, and also come under the commandment of Numbers 9:14.

Most of Christianity has not learned these two simple lessons: you can’t obey the Son without obeying the Father, and you shouldn’t worship the son instead of the Father.

Once Christian churches begin to teach the Old Covenant as being the basis and root of the New Covenant, instead of teaching that the New Covenant has replaced the Old Covenant, then the full blessing of God will come upon them. Yes, accepting Yeshua as Messiah results in salvation, Grace and blessings, but God never runs out of blessings. He tells us, in Deuteronomy 28, that the more we obey, the more blessings we receive.

I can understand, having studied the history of the schism between Christianity and Judaism, why Christianity might have overlooked that. What I don’t understand is why they still haven’t caught on that they’ve missed it!

If you are a Christian, and you don’t believe that you need to be obedient to the Torah because it is only for Jews, then you, my friend, are missing out on many, many wonderful blessings. And, worse than that, you may even find yourself losing out on the very salvation you feel secure in as you continue to ignore God’s commandments, which He said you must follow! Grace from sin is not license to sin, and disobeying God is a sin.

I am not “Judiazing” anyone, and I am not saying that eating ham will guarantee you go to hell, no matter what else you do: Yeshua’s sacrifice allows us to be forgiven any sin SO LONG AS WE MEAN IT WHEN WE ASK FOR FORGIVENESS! Without true T’shuvah there is no repentance, and subsequently your request for forgiveness will be ignored.  God can see your heart and know if you mean it or not, but the rest of the world can’t do that, which is why Yacov (James) tells us faith without works is dead. To be a light unto the world, you must show your faith through your actions and words, and those actions are detailed in the Torah.

No one can live Torah perfectly, but we are to try to live it as best as we can. Ignoring Torah is rejecting God…you might want to consider that if you have been taught Torah is not for Christians.

Parashah B’midbar (In the Wilderness) Numbers 1 – 4:20

In last week’s Parashah ( for 5/20/17, which was a double) we finished the book of Leviticus. That book was mostly legislative in nature, and now we start the book of Numbers, which is more historical. Throughout this book we will learn of the events that occurred while the Children of Israel spent 38 years wandering in the desert.

Numbers takes up where Exodus left off, which is the first day of the second month of the second year after leaving Egypt, when the Tabernacle of the Lord has been completed and is now in service. This parashah starts with a census God orders Moses to take, which identifies the numbers from each tribe of those over 20 and fit for military service. We see this type of census taken, with God’s approval (unlike the one David took in  1 Chronicles, 21) whenever the people needed to be prepared for war. The census did not include the Levites, who were counted separately, as their duties were not for war but service to God by being in charge of the Tabernacle. God also tells Moses which of the Levitical clans will be responsible for which parts of the Tabernacle, as well as the formation of the camp.

Here is a picture of how the encampment was configured:


This parashah doesn’t appear to have any really deep and spiritual messages, does it? I mean, all we are told is how many of each tribe there are, where they camp and how they are to march. We are also told which clan of Levi is responsible for which parts of the Tabernacle when on the march. There just doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of “meat” to this parashah.

Then, again, let’s look a little deeper and cheat a bit, by knowing what is to happen later.

Did you notice that the Kohathites were encamped next to, and marched alongside of, the Reubenites? Do you remember how Reuben had not received the rights of the Firstborn due to his sleeping with one of Israel’s concubines (Genesis 39:3-4), and that Korah also felt slighted because the Kohathites were not to perform the duties of the High Priest. So although we don’t see anything of particular importance in this parashah, by looking back to it later on we can see that the seeds of collusion and rebellion were planted when the tribes of Kohath and Reuben were made neighbors. Perhaps if they had been at opposite ends of the camp, they would not have come together in rebellion?

Certainly God would have known that this placement, which He decreed, would have resulted in the collusion between these men. And, that being a given, we would have to ask, “Why would God have done that?”

Good question. I think I have an answer, which is the same answer God gave to Job: we won’t always understand God’s plans or why He does what He does.

In the case of Job, God allowed all that suffering to show Satan that Job’s faith is greater than Satan’s attacks. Now, from Job’s viewpoint (as well as his friends) there could be no reason why these terrible things were happening, but in the end we learn that the real issue was between God and Satan, not between God and Job. God used Job to show Satan that strong faith in God is more powerful than anything Satan could do.

Perhaps the positioning of Korah and Dathan so close to each other was to test their faith, and if they failed that test (which they did), then to allow Moses and Aaron to be glorified and honored in the sight of all Israel, which is what happened. God used the evil these men intended against His servants to glorify Himself and show Moses and Aaron to be His chosen leaders (Numbers 17:5):

 The staff belonging to the man I choose will sprout, and I will rid myself of this constant grumbling against you by the Israelites.”

The bible is one complete book, and even though we might not see what message there is for us in one part of it, when we look at it in its entirety, study it well enough to know what will happen and what has happened, then we can see that there is something for us to learn in every part of the book. Such as in this parashah, which on the surface seems to be a collection of names and numbers, but when looked at knowing the events that will later occur, we can see how God is setting the stage now to glorify Himself later.

This understanding of how God works should fortify our faith in God, and give us comfort during times of trials. Just because we may not see, here and now, what God has planned we can always know that He does have something planned. It just may not be time for whatever he has planned to happen, that’s all.

Take comfort in knowing that everything God does, He does with a plan to glorify His name and to establish His rule. When we accept that and work within it, we will be blessed and supported by God, just as Moses and Aaron were; when we work against what God decrees, we will suffer as Korah and his followers did.

We all follow someone, so take the lesson from today’s parashah when you choose whom to follow, that lesson being: look passed the obvious and ask the Ruach Ha Kodesh for insight so you can see not only what seeds are being sown, but what will grow from them.

Fear of the Lord or Afraid of the Lord?

This coming Shabbat Parashah is the story of Korach. I was preparing my message (our Pastor is on vacation and when he is gone I help by leading the liturgy and delivering the message) and, although I usually keep that message separate from these postings, I really feel that it is important enough (well, I would hope they all are) to share here, as well.

After the rebellion is put down by God, Abiram and Dathan are swallowed by the earth, Korach and the 250 mutineers (in the Chumash they call this “The Great Mutiny”) are burned up alive, and the staffs that were placed in the Tabernacle have shown that Aaron’s is the one God has chosen, the people all cry that they are going to die if they come before the Tabernacle.

We can read in B’midbar (Numbers) 17:12-13:

The Israelites said to Moses, “We will die! We are lost, we are all lost!  Anyone who even comes near the tabernacle of the Lord will die. Are we all going to die?”

And, in truth, you can’t really blame them for being afraid. After all, Abihu and Nadab offered unauthorized fire before the Tabernacle and they were burned alive, and now these 250 men (not to mention Korach), all of whom were righteous (well, maybe we won’t mention Korach here) and well-respected leaders of their individual tribes, were also burned alive.

Maybe, just maybe, standing in front of the Tabernacle isn’t such a good idea because even those people who were good were killed.

Of course, we can also say that the people weren’t considering the sin these men committed against the Lord as the real cause of their death.

The truth is that any sinner can come before the Lord if he or she comes with a penitent heart and a contrite spirit. David says so in Psalm 51 (verse 17):

My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise

The people were afraid of God at Sinai, too, but I believe there was a big difference between how they felt then and what they are feeling now: back then their heart was different. Their fear then was a righteous fear- they felt their unworthiness before the Lord and asked Moses to be their representative because they were so unworthy that if they heard God’s voice again they would die, and this attitude God appreciated (Deuteronomy 5:27-29):

“Go near and hear all that the LORD our God says; then speak to us all that the LORD our God speaks to you, and we will hear and do it.’ “The LORD heard the voice of your words when you spoke to me, and the LORD said to me, ‘I have heard the voice of the words of this people which they have spoken to you. They have done well in all that they have spoken. ‘Oh that they had such a heart in them, that they would fear Me and keep all My commandments always, that it may be well with them and with their sons forever!…”

This verse, which Moses tells the people when preparing to turn them over to Joshua, shows us the remorse and pain God felt from the knowledge that this healthy and righteous fear of Him will turn into the type of fear that will lead His people to resent, rebel and (ultimately) reject Him.

Proper “Fear of the Lord” means to respect His holiness and honor Him by being lovingly obedient. Faithful obedience is what God wants more than sacrifice and more than anything else we could ever give Him. He has created everything- there is nothing we have that He cannot give to Himself, except for our love, faithful obedience and worship. Those things God cannot have unless we give them to Him, and that is what He wants more than anything else.

If we are afraid of God, if our “Fear of the Lord” is not awesome respect for Him but is being afraid of what He might do to us, that serves the enemy of God. That is what Satan wants you to feel- Satan wants you to be afraid of God, because that kind of fear will be a wedge separating you from God’s loving protection and blessings. Then, being alone and unprotected, you will suffer the curses of living in a fallen and cursed world, and you will turn against the Lord and curse Him to His face for all your Tsouris. That is what Revelations 16:10 tells us will happen:

“And the fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and its kingdom was plunged into darkness, and men began to gnaw their tongues in anguish and curse the God of heaven for their pains and sores; yet they did not repent of their deeds.”

We need to remember that for those who have accepted Yeshua (Jesus) as their Messiah, there is no more condemnation (Romans 8:1), and we can march boldly up to the throne of God (Hebrews 4:16), unafraid and confident that He will listen to us and that our Intercessor, Yeshua ha Maschiach, is sitting there at His right hand saying to Him, “Father, this one is mine.”

What we need to be afraid of is ourselves. We are the biggest stumbling block to salvation there is: the enemy can’t do anything to us unless we let him, and God will do everything for us, again, if we let Him.  It is our choice, and we are (and will be held) accountable for the choices we make.

Have a healthy “Fear of the Lord”, which will keep you in His Grace, and be afraid only of your own sinfulness and pride, which will separate you from it.


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.

Parashah Chukkot (Statutes) Numbers 19 – 22:1

Where do I even start? The Red Heifer rules? The death of Miriam? The death of Aaron? The defeat of Sihon and Og? What about the incident at Meribah, which made God so angry with Moses and Aaron that He refused to let them enter the Land? And the snakes, which caused Moses to make the brass snake that we hear about later in 2 King, 18:4 (I speak of that in my book.)

The Chumash speaks of the Red Heifer regulations as the most mysterious in the Torah; in all scripture, for that matter. That which defiles everyone involved in the making of it also purifies all those who partake of it. The lesson the Rabbis give us is simply that there are many things that we can not understand, and it is not our understanding that is required by God, but our faithful obedience.

This can also be seen in the sin of Moses at the rock at Meribah. There are a few different commentaries, but (essentially) the way Moses acted showed faithlessness in front of the people, and for that God was not given all the honor He expected Moses to give Him. In Judaism it is believed that the greater the man, the stricter the standards by which he is judged.  This is repeated, in a way, in James 3:1-2 where it says, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” The total and complete obedience of Gods commands are what God expects and demands from us. Moses did not just speak to the rock to show God’s miraculous intervention, he struck it (twice!) with the staff that God told him to take with him. That staff represented the miracle that God caused (Parashah Korach)  and I believe that God wanted Moses to take it, not to strike the rock, but to have it there to remind the people of God’s choice of Moses and Aaron as His representatives and their leaders. Moses used the staff in a totally wrong way, which brought no honor to God at all.

In Chapter 21, verses 4 – 9 (inclusive) we are told of another time the people grumble against Moses. This is at the end of their journey- Miriam and Aaron have died- yet after all these years of God’s miraculous intervention and provision, they still kvetch about everything! Oy! No wonder God was so angry that he sent snakes to kill the people. Yet, when they repented, He told Moses to make a brass serpent and place it high on a pole, high enough that all the people, no matter where they were in the camp, could see it. And when they were bitten, they only need look to the snake and they would not die.

Yeshua said, in John 3:14, that He would be lifted up like the snake in the desert. I see a double-prophecy in this statement, one prophecy to be fulfilled currently and the other aspect to be a far-future event. The current meaning was that Yeshua was going to be placed up on a pole, i.e., He was to be crucified. The future meaning of this prophecy would be that Yeshua (Jesus) would be worshipped instead of God, as the snake (called Nehushtan) was in 2 Kings during the time of King Hezekiah. When Moses placed the snake on the pole, it was to represent the salvation of God- the people still suffered for their sin (they were still being bitten by snakes, and that doesn’t feel very good) but instead of dying they could look to the representation of God’s salvation, the brass snake, and the consequence of their sin (death) was avoided. Today, and for many years, the image of Yeshua, a graven image on a pole (cross) that is displayed in some churches, is worshipped in lieu of God.  Just as the representation of Gods salvation was turned into an idol during the time of Hezekiah, today the “church” has turned Yeshua into an idol- an image and a person to be prayed to directly for salvation and to answer prayers. Yeshua told us to pray in His name; He was telling us to pray to God and to invoke His name. It’s somewhat like when someone wanted to enter a Speakeasy during Prohibition days, when they were stopped at the door they would say, “Joe sent me”, or some other code, that gave them recognition and entry.  When we pray to God, praying in the name of Yeshua is a means to gain entry, to have our prayers recognized and seen as righteous: not because of who we are, but by the righteousness of Him who we are referring to when we come before the Lord. The snake stopped being a representation of God’s salvation and replaced God as an idol, in and of itself. An idol is anything that we worship instead of God. So, too, today the image and the very personage of Yeshua has become an idol, something that is prayed to instead of God. Just as He said He would be.

God, and God alone, is who we worship, who we pray to, and who we obey. God, and no other. Yeshua is our Messiah and, as such, he sits at the right hand of God. At the right hand of God, NOT on the throne of God! So we should pray to God, and ask what we ask in the name of Yeshua; as intercessor to God, not as His replacement.

From all there is in this parashah, let’s remember this: God is the only God, God is supreme, and whatever God tells us to do, whether we understand why or not, we should do. That means E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G God tells us to do, as much as it is possible for us to obey.

And if you want to know everything that God tells YOU to do, read the Torah. Read the Mitzvot (commandments), read the Chukkot (regulations/statutes) and read the Mishpatim (rules).  All of the laws, rules, statutes, commandments, and regulations in there are expected to be obeyed by anyone and everyone who worships El Elyon, Adonai, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the father of Jesus.

There is just so much in this parashah, but if I were to put it in a nutshell, so to speak, I would say that the lesson here for us is to recognize that God isn’t concerned with how well we understand His laws and regulations, just that we show Him our love and worship through obedience.

Yeshua said that if we love Him we will obey Him: like Father, like Son.

Power of Prayer or Power of God?

I was waiting at the hospital yesterday for Donna to finish a procedure and the TV had on one of those “daily” shows, which was talking about a “miracle” kid whose parents state that he has survived because of the power of prayer. Although I was intently playing on my laptop, I stopped to listen for a bit.

They even had a medical doctor who was confirming that study after study has shown people who believe in the power of prayer have remarkable results. He went as far as to say medicine and religion are a powerful combination. It’s about time someone who works in a scientifically-based profession is willing to speak up for prayer.

It was then that I thought- is it really “prayer” we should be giving the glory? Isn’t prayer just a spiritual conduit to God? Shouldn’t we really be saying that it was the power of God that caused the miraculous survival, and not the power of prayer? The family that was being interviewed, and the young man who was the one surviving, knew who to credit as they constantly said it was God who has done this. Yet, don’t we hear often about how powerful prayer is, and it almost seems as though it is prayer that is given the credit. I am afraid that some people are giving the glory to prayer instead of the one being prayed to.

The inherent danger I see in this is that not everyone prays to God; at least, not the God of Abraham , Isaac and Jacob. If people believe that prayer is their salvation, to whom are they praying? Is it God? Is it Allah? Is it the Enemy? Is it just a generic activity, some “New World” idealism that we are able to heal ourselves through some mystical biofeedback mechanism called “prayer?” All of these are viable concerns, don’t you think?  The Enemy has the power (and will have the authority) to perform miraculous signs, so if I am just praying for something to happen, not praying to anyone in particular, and it happens, could it have come from the Enemy? He will do good things for you if it can lead you to trust him enough to accept his mark.

We need to stay focused on the giver of salvation and not (so much) the means. We say we are “saved by the blood of Yeshua”, but in reality we aren’t saved by his blood, we are saved by the fact that He gave it on our behalf. We are not saved by Yeshua, but by God. It was God who resurrected Yeshua (because He was a proper sacrifice) and because Yeshua performed works and lived (and gave) His life in order to make it possible for God to save us; we are saved, ultimately and wholly, by God. Yes, the blood was important, as was the life Yeshua led to make the blood acceptable. The suffering, the passion, everything about Yeshua’s life and death was what made the salvation through His sacrifice possible, and it is because of Yeshua that we can be saved. But it was, it is, and it always will be God who saves us through His Messiah, Yeshua.

In a nutshell, it isn’t prayer or blood or anything other than God who saves. Read the Psalms, listen to the Prophets, and hear what Yeshua is telling us.

The problem with humans is that we always try to complicate things, and add our own meaning. Remember the snake in the desert (Numbers 21)  that Moshe made at God’s command? When people were bitten by the snakes God sent as punishment for their rebellion, if they looked at the bronze statue they would not die. The snake didn’t save them, it was God- the snake was nothing more than a symbol of His mercy. Later, though, we read about how the Israelites worshipped the snake (2 Kings 18) and even gave it a name, Nehushtan. The snake was to be a symbol, just like the blood of Yeshua and the Cross, but these have become almost like idols to many people today. Didn’t God say not to bow to other gods, yet in the Catholic church they bow and worship a graven image on a wooden cross! I know they don’t mean to do wrong, but isn’t that exactly what God said not to do? No graven images, of anything? No bowing down to anyone or anything else? When did they miss that part? Do you think Yeshua is happy that many Christians (forget the Catholics, this is Christian-wide) pray to Him not to intercede with God, but instead of God? Yeshua is the Messiah of God, not the replacement. He is Lord, yes, but not the Lord. His Father is who He worshipped, and still worships, and still gives the glory, and to Yeshua God still is “The Man.”  We pray to Yeshua to intercede, to ask of God, so when we pray to God in Yeshua’s name we are doing what Yeshua would do, aren’t we?

When you talk to people about the power of prayer and the wonderful things that Yeshua did, please make sure that you do not create stumbling blocks by making prayer, blood, even Yeshua, an “idol” that replaces God’s true part in the plan of salvation.  Prayer, by itself, is useless; you must be praying to God, the one, true God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. If you pray to Him, you are to pray in the name of Yeshua. That is the promise Yeshua made- when we pray in His name; that doesn’t mean pray to Him to deliver you, it means pray to God, the one who grants your prayer, the one who is the giver of salvation, the one who is Judge. Pray to God and not to anyone or anything else, and ask Him to answer your prayer, and ask it in the name of Yeshua. Don’t pray to someone else to ask Yeshua to ask God. That’s just silly: why pray “retail” when the manufacturer of your salvation says you can get it “wholesale.”

Maybe I am being over-cautious. Maybe I am making something out of nothing, but I believe we should always be vigilant and careful not to create idols and stumbling blocks in our spiritual lives. In John, Yeshua said that whatever we ask Him to do He will do when we ask in His name, but that doesn’t mean to pray to Him instead of God because Yeshua then adds that it is so He can glorify the Father. It is still all about God. And the easiest way to avoid misdirected prayer is to keep focused on God, pray only to God and ask that God grant your prayer by invoking the name of Yeshua.

You have to decide if you want to pray to a saint, or Yeshua or to God. It is going to be your decision, and you will have to square it away with God, individually. As for me, I pray to God and I ask that He grant my prayers in the name of Yeshua Ha Maschiach. That has worked for me.

Prayer is powerful only because of the one to whom the prayer goes, so when you are talking about how powerful prayer can be, please remember to give the glory not to prayer but to the one who answers your prayers.