Weekly Torah Section: Ki Tisa (When You Take) Exodus 30:11-34:35, Haftorah: I Kings 18:1-39
We begin with the Haftorah reading in I Kings 18. To orient ourselves these events happened in the 9th century BCE during the reign of King Ahab. Ahab married a princess of Tyre named Jezebel. She introduced the worship of her god, Baal to Israel. Baal was supposed to be the god of rain and storms. She also sought to kill all the prophets of the L-rd. Many of the people in Israel followed both Baal and the true G-d of Israel. Deut. 11:16-17 says that if the people turn to other gods, G-d will shut the heavens and there will be no rain and crops will fail. So here G-d sends Elijah with this message, a direct challenge to this so called god of rain.
In I Kings 18:1 G-d sends Elijah back to Ahab to tell him that G-d was going to send rain. How long had the drought been going on? Luke 4:25 and James 5:17 tells the drought lasted three and one half years. What does this time period correspond with in the Bible? We can see in Daniel 7:25, Daniel 12:7, Revelations 12:6, Revelations 11:2-3 it corresponds with the 3 ½ year tribulation period. Here, and in Daniel and Revelations believers suffer persecution and are hunted down.
I want to move over to my main point now. In I Kings 18:21 Elijah presents the people of Israel with a choice. Choose Baal or choose the L-rd. In this verse the word translated as hesitate is “pesach” from which we get the word Passover. The word actually means to skip or dance around. So really he was saying how long are you going to dance around the issue, skipping from G-d to god. Quit setting on the fence. This reminds us of Revelations 3:15-16 where the Laodiceans were described as being neither cold nor hot. How long do we sit on the fence trying to decide if something is right or wrong – if we want to commit ourselves to G-d or not. What is usually the real problem? We may know the truth, but do not want to pay the price. We may rationalize things to make ourselves feel better. We may say it is too hard, or we don’t have the time or finances, or G-d asks too much, or maybe we will stand out as different or weird.
Here Elijah puts forth a plan. It is the same test for the G-d of Israel and for Baal. Elijah and the prophets of Baal would make two altars and on those altars they would put two bulls. Then the test would be to see who the true G-d was. It would be the One that rained down fire on the sacrifice and consumed it. People agreed that this was a good plan. Elijah chose twelve stones here for his altar and drenched it with twelve jars of water. Why twelve? Where was he speaking and to whom? Elijah was speaking to the ten northern tribes but was showing in using the twelve stones and twelve jars, that they were still bound to their brothers to the south. He offered the offering at the time of the temple evening sacrifice. The timing was to show they were still bound together and even though their leaders had set up different times and places for their worship, the place chosen by G-d was still Jerusalem. The people finally stood on G-d’s side. Where do you stand?
Now to the Torah section. First in Exodus 30:11 G-d tells Moses to take a census of the people and as part of that census each man must give ½ shekel to ransom their souls so no plague would be among them. Kpar (in Hebrew) is the word used here and usually translates as atonement. But here it is rightly translated as ransom. Every time it is used like this it refers to money paid by one guilty of taking a life in circumstances that do not constitute murder. Also the word for plague can be translated as defeat in battle. So what does this say? G-d values life even the life of an enemy that wanted to kill them. So these men of Israel were going to be required to take lives in battle. This money was to make clear the horror of shedding human blood, even in battle. G-d loves His creation and so should we. Life is precious and even in cases of war is not to be taken lightly.
G-d in Chapter 31 goes over the subject of Shabbat again. And here He instructs the people to have this island of time, whether you think Saturday or Sunday is that day is not the point. The point is that G-d and His children need time away from the things of this world. Here two words are used; one word is keep the Shabbat. A better translation would be to do the Shabbat. How does one do the Shabbat? How do we do a day to G-d? One way is to prepare ahead of time. Do everything possible to make sure you are unencumbered on the day reserved for G-d. Readjust your schedule, do all your running around before that days arrives. Then you are ready to be with G-d and not bothered by things of this world.
The other word is observe. The Hebrew translation uses the word to guard instead of to observe. What do we do when we guard something such as our house? We take every precaution to see that nothing gets in which would disturb or harm the tranquility of our home. In the Torah, in matters of life or death there are no gray areas things are either holy or unholy, clean or unclean, there is no middle ground. Like Elijah and the people of Israel, do this or do that but do not stay on the fence. In Hebrews Chapter four those that have believed in Messiah has entered the rest of G-d. We have ceased from our labors and rest in Him. So this earthly day of rest is a picture of what G-d has done for us in Messiah. Guard it closely and do it. Nothing should interfere.