Chukat (Regulations) Numbers/B’midbar 19:1-22:1
Haftorah Reading: Judges 11:1-33
Messianic Scripture John 3:9-21, 4:3-30, 12:27-50
This week we look at a Torah portion filled with many questions. We read of the red heifer. We read of the death of Aaron and Miriam, the two siblings of Moshe. Any one of these could be discussed for hours and even then find there is so much more that could be said. However, today I want to major on only a couple of questions.
First, to begin, I want to give a working definition of the word used as the title for this portion, Chukat. This word means regulation. However, as we dig a bit, it is a word also denoting a regulation that is hard to grasp the logic behind what it is relating to us.
The best example of this is the regulation of the red heifer that we find at the beginning of our verses. In this Chuk we see the ashes being used to cleanse a person who had become unclean by contact with a dead body. The priest would take a mixture of the ashes from the red heifer, mix it with other items and sprinkle the unclean person and they would then be clean. The difficult to understand part comes as we read on and see, as the person becomes clean, the priest administering the ashes becomes unclean. This has stumped religious leaders for centuries so I don’t expect us to solve this question today. I do think it teaches us an important lesson. For me, it says we may not always understand exactly why some things come into our lives but we can always be sure that G-d is saying something to us through the situations He uses to speak and direct us from day to day. That is what really matters. He is there and has not left us with the stench of death clinging to us. But He has been there all the time to bring life to us when we have lost our way.
In our portion we read in Numbers 21:4-9 of another incident of the people coming to Moshe and complaining, again, of the lack of bread and water, except for the manna which they loathed. In fact we have read over and over through the Torah about the on-going cases of the people complaining and wishing they were back in Egypt. Over all there were between 10-14 times we heard this and other complaints of the people during their time in the desert. However, this will be the last time. Think of why it would be the last and what would be different in this case.
In verse 6 we read of G-d’s punishment and also of His remedy. First, the punishment, he sent poisonous snakes among the people. These snakes bit the people and many died. As we read on in verses 7-9 we see the people coming to Moshe and confessing their sin. They had complained and spoken against the L-rd and against Moshe. Moshe prayed and G-d gave him the cure. He was to make a bronze serpent like the ones biting the people. He was to set it on a pole and everyone who was bitten could look upon it and they would live.
We see the people confess their sin and accept G-d’s solution to rid themselves of the effects of their sins. Where do we see our coming to faith compared to this incident? In John 3:14 we read that Yeshua must be lifted up like this bronze snake here in our portion. We, to be save from a spiritual death, must look upon Him. We must lift up our eyes and realize we are not forsaken but G-d loves us and has not left us. We can easily become stuck in a cycle of complaining about everything in our lives as these people did. The answer for us, as it was for them, is to lift our eyes, confess our sins and doubts and allow G-d to teach us and lead us. He has never forgotten us.
So here in our portion we read the last time the people complained. I asked earlier why this was the last time. My opinion is they must have finally learned the lesson we all need to learn. G-d loved them, provided for them and never left them to perish in the desert. He will do the same for us. He loves us.