Torah Portion: B’midbar (In the desert) B’midbar/Numbers 1:1-4:20
Haftorah Reading Hosea 1:10-2:20
Tonight, I have several topics I want to cover. I would like to begin with my question of the week. When we start this book of Torah I think it is worthwhile to compare it to the second book of Torah called Sh’mot/Exodus. In both, the people commit a terrible sin. In Exodus it was the golden calf and here in Numbers it was the sin of the bad report of the spies. In both situations G-d threatened to destroy them and start over with Moshe. Both times Moshe appealed to G-d and G-d relented.
However, even with these similarities there is a major difference in the two books. Exodus was about a journey from. It was an escape from slavery. It was about a journey from something. Here, tonight, in the book of Numbers, we see the beginning of a journey to something. The people have left Egypt behind and have been in the desert for a little over a year. They have received the Torah, built the Tabernacle and are ready to move on. This time they are looking forward not back. We might think the hard part is over because they are on the way to the Promised Land. However, as we will read in Numbers, we will see how the “journey to” is much harder than the “journey from.”
We can see an example of this when Terah and his family from Ur set out for Canaan. They reached Haran and Terah decided to settle there. He had the will power and strength to start the journey “from” but not the strength for the journey “to.” That part of the journey was left for his son Avraham to finish.
I believe our life as G-d’s people, can be compared to this. When we are confronted with our sin and make the choice to accept Yeshua as Messiah we are in that first stage of the journey from. We are leaving our life of sin, our life of living as unbelievers and being controlled by our sins, much as Israel when they fled Egypt.
We begin the journey to. However, we are faced with a whole different life now. We must learn to study G-d’s Word, to pray, to meet together with other believers. We have new responsibilities. We must learn discipline, learn how to trust G-d for our needs. This takes time and the temptation is there to slack off. Change can be hard. It is easier to just float along.
This new life takes effort on our part. It takes planning, setting boundaries. Mainly, I think it takes finding G-d’s will for our life. We might spend months planning our next vacation but how much time do we spend planning our life both spiritually and practically? We can easily fall into the trap of just floating along through life.
There is a word used often in the Hebrew scriptures to describe this. The word is “Vayechi.” In English it means, “And it came to pass.” This word almost always precedes some tragedy. In our spiritual walk we cannot let things just come to pass. G-d has a point, a purpose to our life and it requires us to be active in pursuing His purpose and actively fulfilling it. It doesn’t matter if we are 20 or 70 years old. Our life is in His hands and we are to pursue His purpose, His plan. I urge each of you to not let the world distract you. G-d has a specific plan that fits your life only. You are here to do His will not to just let life happen.
Now I want to take some time and talk about the book of Ruth. This book is read on Shavuot every year. What ties this book to this holiday? When you read the four chapters of Ruth you see Ruth leaving her own land and traveling to Israel with her mother-in-law Naomi. In chapter one verse 16 we read a verse that I am sure you have all heard before. She said to Naomi, “Your people are my people, your G-d is my G-d.” As the book continues, we see Ruth went out to glean in the fields of a relative of Naomi’s dead husband. This relative’s name was Boaz. What crop was being harvested? It was the time of the barley harvest. The barley had been growing from Passover and was now ready for harvest. Today is the last day of counting the Omer, which means tomorrow will be Shavuot. This holiday was when the people celebrated the harvest and brought wheat bread to the Tabernacle.
What does Ruth’s declaration to Naomi, Your people my people, your G-d my God, say to us? It might help us to remember the Messiah came from the descendants of Ruth. King David was also a descendant of Ruth. G-d chose to bring His revelation of Messiah to the whole world through a woman who came into the Jewish family by her own faith in G-d. She did not ask Naomi to join her. Instead she left her gods, her family and her past life behind. She came into her new family and rather than bringing her past with her she joined with the people of G-d.
As we study each week and see G-d’s holidays come around what does it mean for us? We have been grafted into this Jewish olive tree. We have been adopted in as family members. I pray each of us see what a privilege it is to become one of the family.