When the world spins, stand!
Torah Portion: Chukat (Statute) B’midbar (Numbers) 19:1-22:1; Balak (Numbers) 22:2-25:9
Haftorah Readings: Judges 11:1-33, Micah 5:6-6:8
Last week we read and studied the Torah portion Korach. Tonight, we look at Chukat and Balak. What is easily overlooked is the time passing between Korach and Chukat. Korach occurred about two years after the crossing of the Reed Sea. Now, here in Chukat, we see the people standing at the doorway to the Promised Land. So our Torah portion takes place 38 years after we last read of the incident of Korach. These people are the children, who are now adults, of the people we last read about. However, as we read this portion we see they had not changed much. Here in our portion we read of the death of Aaron and again of the lack of water. We see a people who rebelled and rose up against Moshe and were punished by the venomous snakes that G-d brought among them. We also see G-d’s provision for them when He instructed Moshe to make a bronze snake. He held the bronze snake up before the people and whomever was bitten could look upon it and be saved. We also see the snake mentioned in John 3:14-15, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness even so must the Son of man be lifted up so that whoever believes in Him has eternal life.” Just as the serpent in the desert brought physical salvation from death, whomever looks upon the Messiah and believes in Him receives eternal salvation.
I go over all this to get to an important point for all of us. In today’s portion, in Numbers 21:4 we read of the people turning away from the Promised Land because their way was block by the Edomites. The Edomites would not allow Israel to pass through their land. G-d told Moshe he could not engage in war with Edom instead they must bypass their land.
In this verse we read, “And they traveled from Mt Hor on the road to the Reed Sea and the soul /spirit of the people became short on the road.” Think of this for a bit, for almost 40 years their goal had been to get to their inheritance. They longed to enter the Land and enjoy its blessings. Now, they had to turn around and go back the way they had come in order to bypass Edom. Have you ever had an experience like this? You have been working toward a goal. You get close and G-d says, not yet, turn around. These people reacted poorly. They rose up against Moshe and G-d. They demanded water. Here again, we have a new generation making the same demand/mistake their parents made – rebellion.
The Hebrew word I want us to consider here in this sentence of 21:4 is “ketzer” which is usually translated as short or shortness. We see this word used in Numbers 11:23 when Moshe asked G-d is His hand too short or limited in power. We also see this word in Exodus 6:9 when Moshe spoke to the people about G-d’s promise to deliver them from slavery. Here we find the people could not respond because their spirit was ketzer or short.
Now, today we read again of this shortness of soul. They had lost their patience over not being able to enter the Promised Land. Often delays and detours frustrate us. Waiting is not something that comes easily to us. We see it every day around us and maybe even in our own lives, especially when we have expectations or are under pressure.
This is clear in the life of King Saul in I Samuel 13:6-8. Here Saul was told by Samuel to wait for his return. When he returned he would offer a sacrifice to G-d and tell Saul what to do, what G-d’s instructions were. As we read these verses we see Saul lost all patience, did not wait for Samuel as he was told, and performed the sacrifice himself. When we read on in verses 10-14 we see the result of his shortness of patience and not doing things in the right order. Samuel told him because of his sin the kingdom would be taken from him and he would have no heir to the kingdom after him.
When we come to the Messianic scripture we read many verses that tells us how important it is to be able to wait, to stand before G-d. Acts 1:4, Romans 8:23, I Thess. 1:10 and others tell us the importance of not losing our patience and of being able to stand on G-d’s word, to not lose heart. G-d is truly faithful and will bring His will to fruition in our lives. Even when the world seems to be spinning out of control we stand on the Word of G-d. We stand on G-d’s promises. This is so important now and even for us in the future. We as the children of G-d cannot lose heart or give up but we must wait on Him, the Lover of our soul.