Justice, Mercy, Humility
Torah Portion: Balak Numbers/B’midbar 22:2-25:9
Haftorah Reading: Micah 5:6-6:8
Messianic Scripture II Peter 1:1-22, Jude 11, Rev. 2:14-15
Today we have some very interesting issues to cover in the next hour. I would like to begin with my question of the week and talk about the reading from the prophet Micah found in Micah 5:1-6:8. Does anyone know why we read from the prophets each Shabbat?
Through the centuries Jews were forbidden to read the Torah portion. So, to get around this restriction, a portion from the prophets that had a connection to the Torah portion was read to “remind” them of the Torah portion. In the reading of Micah this week we see that clearly in Micah 6:5, “My people, remember what Balakking of Moab plotted and what Balaam son of Beor answered. Remember your journey from Shittimto Gilgal, that you may know the righteous actsof the Lord.”
However, I want us to look Micah 6:8. What does the L-rd require of you? He requires us to act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with our G-d.
Let’s take a moment and look at each of these words. Justice, in Hebrew is mishpat and means much more than punishing the guilty and finding the innocent not guilty. It also contains the responsibility to look out for the poor and down trodden. It expects us to deal with people with no regard for social standing or wealth.
Mercy or chesed in Hebrew, is the second quality to be a part of our lives as G-d’s people. It carries the meaning of emulating G-d as He has shown chesed toward us in His goodness and faithfulness.
Lastly, we come to, “walk humbly with G-d.” The Hebrew word is Hatznea. It says to us to live our life without arrogance and pride, boasting only in our G-d. I think these qualities are so important for our lives every day. You also might have noticed that these were not part of Bilam’s life.
Now on to our Torah portion today. First, a bit of recent history will give us a good indication that Bilam was a real person, and apparently a well-known seer in his day. In 1967 a plaster inscription was found on the wall of a pagan temple in Jordan. This inscription was dated to the eighth century BCE. This writing spoke of a seer having a night vision. The person was Bilam ben Peor or Bilam son of Peor. This has been the earliest reference ever found of a person in the Torah. This is always very interesting when we see such supporting evidence of our readings.
As we look at our verses today several things stood out to me. Some which might give us insight into our own lives. When King Balak of Moav saw the Israelites approaching his land how did he react? He searched for someone who could help him supernaturally. Remember, his kingdom was well established with a strong military while the Israelites were a wandering group of former slaves whose only defense was G-d. Balak understood this and sought out his own spiritual hired gun. Bilam was no match for the Father. What does this teach us in our life?
In each of our lives we feel a daily assault on our life as the people of G-d. Whether it is from the daily drumbeat of attacks on our values as believers or a direct assault on our life style as G-d’s people. What do we do? Do we lash out by assaulting the person or are we required, by our faith, to stand on our faith and speak truth without becoming involved in a never ending argument? The real temptation is to either adapt and accept that this is just the way it is now, or maybe we can even find a way to at least accept some of these ideas as a way to compromise.
I believe as G-d’s people we are called to exhibit the qualities talked about in our reading from Micah today. All we do must reflect who we are as the people of G-d. We are to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly before G-d. The battles of today are truly His. He expects us to stand for truth and to do that in a way that reflects Him.
As you study you will find Bilam is mentioned at least three times in the Messianic Scriptures. Those verses are found in Jude 1:11, II Peter 2:15 and Revelations 2:14. Each of these scriptures remind us to hold fast to our faith, to not abandon our never changing G-d and not fall into going along with the world’s definition of what is right.
I pray we are all able to incorporate these traits more and more in our lives as we face life’s situations.