Torah Portion: B’midbar (In the desert) B’midbar/Numbers 1:1-4:20

1.What is the connection between the HafTorah found in Hosea 2:1-22 and the Torah portion, Deut 1:1-4:20? 

Both include numbers. In B’Midbar, a census was taken. Hosea was a prophet to the northern kingdom. In these verses, Hosea 2:1-20,  Hosea looks ahead in time to the Messianic age when the people of Israel will be too numerous to count.  

The wilderness or desert plays a part in each. B’Midbar,(desert or wilderness) is in the very name of the book and in Hosea 2:14 it says, “I will lead her into the wilderness.” 

B’Midbar is on a deeper level about a marriage contract between G-d and the people with the giving of the Torah being that contract. In Hosea we read of Hosea’s marriage to Gomer. G-d uses this imagery of marriage to teach Israel and us a powerful lesson. G-d uses what happened between Hosea and his wife to speak to us. Hosea did not give up on Gomer. G-d does not give up on us.

2.Also in Hosea it says G-d will give them peace in their land and they will change how they address Him. In Hosea 2:16 it says , “And it shall be in that day, says the L-rd, that you shall call me My husband (Ishi) and shall no more call me My master (Baali). What do you see is the significance of the change in how they would address G-d?

G-d loves us and wants to have a relationship with each of us. That relationship is as a man who loves his wife and will not give up on her. G-d makes this point in Hosea 2:16 by contrasting two Hebrew words. 

He contrasts the common word used even today for husband, ba’ali which translates in English to “My lord, or my master.” It is a word based on power of one over the other. The wife is looked at as one to obey or one who is owned by another. G-d says in this verse that He desires a different word to describe His relationship with us. That word is, “ishi,” or my man, one who loves me, cherishes me, sees me as his partner. He does not see me as one that is owned.” 

This goes back to Genesis 2:23-25 where he says, “bone of my bone, “ two distinct people, each respecting the other. They are called “ish and isha or man and woman. This is the relationship G-d desires, where we know He loves us and as our partner in this world wants the best for us. He has betrothed us as His and given us a way to live together, to be what He intended, as a husband should relate to his wife in this world.  So He is our “Ishi” not one who does not value us and only expresses his power over us.

3.As we start this book of Bamidbar 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 something. It was an escape from slavery. 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 received the Torah, built the Tabernacle and are ready to move on.  This time they are looking forward not backward. We might think the hard part is over because they are on the way to the Promised Land.  Is that what happened? No, the journey from is always easier than the journey to. Why do you think that is so? 

Leaving is easy, arriving is hard.  Why is going to something new so hard? It means making a home in place where we have not been before. We become strangers in a strange land. We need to learn new skills, shoulder new responsibilities, acquire new strengths. That calls for willpower. 

The Torah gives us good examples of how hard it can be.  “Terah took his son Abram … and they went out together from Ur of the Chaldeans to go into the land of Canaan; but when they came to Haran, they settled there” (Gen. 11:31). Terah had sufficient willpower for the journey-from (Ur of the Chaldeans) but not for the journey-to (Canaan). It was left to Abraham to reach the destination.

The Israelites, in their journey, made a series of mistakes. They focused too much on the present (the food, the water) and too little on the future. When they faced difficulties, they had too much fear and too little faith. They kept looking back to how things were instead of looking forward to how they might be. The result was that almost an entire generation suffered the fate of Abraham’s father. They knew how to leave but not how to arrive. They experienced exodus but not entry.

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 excited about 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 move away from what was, into a new life of what can be possible with G-d’s direction.

We begin our 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.  In difficult times we can look back at our past life and think that was much easier. Change can be hard. It is easier to just float along.

What happens if we just settle and float along through our days? We don’t grow much. To grow in our journey with the Father we need to spend time with Him hearing what His plans are for us. We need to set boundaries. I think living the life of a believer means purposefully finding G-d’s will for our life. That direction can change as we move through life so it is a continual process until our work on earth is finished. 

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.

The children of Israel were excited leaving Egypt but it took them 40 years to get to Israel. They got side tracked. For me, I have a list of things G-d has called me to “go to” in my life.

Going to

1975 Going to Bangladesh

1978 Going to Israel with the Baptist

1997 Going to Israel raising my own support

1999 Going back to America

2000 Beginning Road to Zion Org

2005 Taking work groups to Israel and teaching

But there are some things I can’t do now. I am limited now. It would be easy to just sit and watch TV but that is not G-d’s plan for me.  When you stop “going to”, stop planning, stop working toward something, you stop growing. What’s behind us is not as important as what G-d is saying to us today.  He knows my limits but He still has a call on my life.

Here’s an assignment for the week. Take a look back through your life this week and look at what journeys G-d has taken you on. What journey are you on right now and where might He be leading you?  We may remember times when we took a wrong turn for a bit but then we were able to get back on track. Never give up on looking to your Heavenly Father for where He wants you to be and what He wants you to do.

4.Now I want to take some time and talk about the book of Ruth. This book is read on Shavuot every year. Shavuot begins this year on Tuesday evening, June 11th. What ties this book to this holiday? 

One simple link between the festival of Shavuot and the Book of Ruth is that the story probably took place around the time of Shavuot. 

This is backed up by the fact that when Naomi and Ruth reach Bethlehem, Ruth worked in the field harvesting grain. In Ruth 1:22 it says, “So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabite, her daughter in law with her, who returned from the country of Moab, and they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest.”  This points us to the fact that the Book of Ruth takes place during harvest season. 

The story of Ruth teaches us about the power of redemption and kindness, and how even in the darkest of times, G-d’s plan can unfold in ways we could never have imagined. 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.” 

What does Ruth’s declaration to Naomi, Your people my people, your G-d my God, say to us? 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. 

Ruth was willing to give up her old self and step into her new family, new identity, and a new calling.   Ruth trusted G-d, and He provided her with all she needed while also blessing her with a husband, a son, and ultimately she was in the lineage of Yeshua the Messiah.

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. 

Shavuot is known as a time of firstfruits when people were commanded to bring the first fruits of their harvest to the Temple. Here are a few verses where firstfruits is mentioned in scripture.

Lev. 23:15-17, “And you shall count for yourselves from the day after the Shabbat from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering: seven Sabbaths shall be completed. Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall offer a new grain offering to the L-rd. You shall bring from your dwellings two wave loaves of two-tenths of an ephah. They shall be of fine flour; they shall be baked with leaven. They are the first fruits to the L-rd.”

Exodus 23:16-17, “and the Feast of Harvest, the firstfruits of your labors which you have sown in the field; and the Feast of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you have gathered in the fruit of your labors from the field. “Three times in the year all your males shall appear before the L-rd G-d. 

Numbers 28:26, “Also on the day of the firstfruits, when you bring a new grain offering to the L-rd at your Feast of Weeks, you shall have a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work.”

James 1:18, “Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.”

I Corinthians 15:20, “In reality, the Anointed One has been raised to life from the dead, the firstfuit of those who have died.

I Corinthians 15:23, “But each one in individual sequence: the Anointed One, the firstfuit, then at His appearing those who belong to the Anointed One.” 

Jeremiah 2:3 “Israel was holy to the L-rd, the firstfruits of His harvest; all who devoured her were held guilty, and disaster overtook them, declares the Lord.”

Revelation 14:4 speaks of the 144,000 as the firstfruits to G-d and to the Lamb.

As we study each week and see G-d’s appointed times 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.