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Teachings

Balak-B’midbar/Numbers 22:2-25:9

Torah Portion: Balak B’midbar/Numbers 22:2-25:9 

Today we study one of the most important Torah portions of the year. I am sure we are all familiar with this story from years past. I want us to take a fresh look at it from a perspective that is somewhat different. I pray I can adequately get my point across in this study.

The verses I would like to begin with are found in Numbers 23:8-9. I would like us to look at verse nine especially, “As I see them from the mountain tops, gaze upon them from the heights, Behold it is a people that dwells alone, not numbered among the nations.” I would like us to look at what this phrase meant when it was spoken and also what it means to us today.

For centuries in Christian Europe Jews were treated as a pariah people. The Jews at their core were seen as a people to be avoided, to be shunned, to be exploited. All agreed that Jews were different. The question arises, how and why were they seen this way? Biblically, it was not that Jews alone knew G-d. The scriptures mentions many people who knew G-d. Even Balam had some knowledge of G-d. Melchizedek, king of Salem, later to become Jerusalem was described as a priest of G-d. Moses’ father in law Yetro was a Midianite priest but he believed in G-d. Even Pharaoh stated of Joseph, “Can we find anyone like this man, in whom is the spirit of G-d?” Genesis 41:38

G-d does not appear only to Jews. He does not answer only Jewish prayers. Even Jewish sages hold that the righteous of the nations have a share in the world to come. Malachi 1:11-12 makes the point that G-d’s name is honored. Jewish rabbis through the centuries never saw Jewish closeness as a privilege but as a responsibility. (Amos 3:2)

Biblically the Jewish people were seen in Exodus 19:6 as a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. Their position was seen as a witness that G-d exists, He alone is the L-rd. Isaiah 43:10-12 says Israel in its history and laws would be a witness to G-d, His supremacy and His uniqueness.

As we look at history however we see a different scenario play out. We see in the Middle Ages Jews were hated because of their religion. In the nineteenth and early 20th century they were hated because of their race. In the 21st century they are hated because of their national statehood of Israel.  

We have this play out on our televisions almost daily. Israel finds itself alone. This brings us back to our verses at the beginning when Balam said a people that dwell alone, not reckoning itself among the nations. Our world has this history of seeing the Jewish people and the state of Israel as being alone. However, Torah shows us that is not the way it should be.

The first time we see this used in Torah is in Genesis 2:18 when G-d said of Adam, “It is not good for man to be alone.”  Later we see in Exodus 18:17 when Yitro said to Moses, “What you are doing is not good.” None of us can live and thrive alone. Balam, was no  lover of Israel that is clear as we read on in our portion and see the advice he gave to Balak. He told him to send women in to tempt the men of Israel. It  worked until Pinchas took matters into his own hands.  So even this “blessing” of Balam was not a blessing but a curse.

The Torah never taught that Israel was to be solitary or alone. However, it did teach that the time would come when the nations would turn to Israel. Jews would become an inspiration when many people would say, “Come let us go up to the mountains of the L-rd, to the temple of the G-d of Jacob. He will teach us His ways, so we may walk in His path, the law will go out from Zion, the word of the L-rd from Jerusalem.” Isaiah 2:3

So what is our place in this plan of G-d? Are we to replace the people of Israel or are we to join with them? G-d’s plan is that we would join them as the ones grafted in to the Jewish tree. 

Romans 11:11-31sums it up.

11 So I ask, have they stumbled so as to fall? By no means! But through their stumbling[a] salvation has come to the gentiles, so as to make Israel[b] jealous. 12 Now if their stumbling[c] means riches for the world and if their loss means riches for gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!

13 Now I am speaking to you gentiles. Inasmuch as I am an apostle to the gentiles, I celebrate my ministry 14 in order to make my own people[d] jealous and thus save some of them. 15 For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? 16 If the part of the dough offered as first fruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; and if the root is holy, then the branches also are holy.

17 But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, a wild olive shoot, were grafted among the others to share the rich root[e] of the olive tree, 18 do not boast over the branches. If you do boast, remember: you do not support the root, but the root supports you. 19 You will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” 20 That is true. They were broken off on account of unbelief,[f] but you stand on account of belief.[g] So do not become arrogant, but be afraid. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you.[h] 22 Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen but God’s kindness toward you, if you continue in his kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off. 23 And even those of Israel,[i] if they do not continue in unbelief,[j] will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again.24 For if you have been cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these natural branches be grafted back into their own olive tree.

25 I want you to understand this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not claim to be wiser than you are: a hardening has come upon part of Israel until the full number of the gentiles has come in. 26 And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written,

“Out of Zion will come the Deliverer;
    he will banish ungodliness from Jacob.”
27 “And this is my covenant with them,
    when I take away their sins.”

28 As regards the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but as regards election they are beloved for the sake of their ancestors, 29 for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. 30 Just as you were once disobedient to God but have now received mercy because of their disobedience, 31 so also they have now been disobedient in order that, by the mercy shown to you, they also may now[k] receive mercy.

Based on these verses in Romans we should be able to see our place in G-d’s eternal plan. We are to support and bless Israel. In no way should we see ourselves as superior or having taken their place as the apple of His eye. The modern state of Israel has many issues that do grieve the Father. However, when we look at Christianity today we also have issues that break the heart of G-d. Our history is stained with the blood of Jewish people.  We don’t get to turn our backs on them because they are sinners. We are to support them and make them jealous of our faith. Our Messiah, and their Messiah is a Jew. He pointed out their sins but did not break His promises to them.  When we as believers read Torah we should see its commandments as still valid for us who follow Yeshua our Jewish Messiah. Some of those commandments may only apply to people who are Jewish by birth. Most of the commandments apply to us as well. This may sometimes bring us in conflict with other believers. 

As we conclude this study, I would ask you to consider these words I have written and how this might work out in your own life. If you have a different opinion on these verses we can always talk about it. Bless each of you today.