Boundaries and Vows

Torah Portion: Mattot (Tribes) Masa’ei (Stages) B’midbar/Numbers 30:2-36:13

Haftorah Reading: Jeremiah 1:1-2:28; 4:1-2

Today we finish the book of Numbers or B’Midbar by reading two portions of scripture. In these readings we will see many things that still speak to us today. In Masa’ei we read about the setting of boundaries for each tribe. G-d laid out exactly where each tribe would settle and told them they were responsible to cleanse to the land of its former inhabitants. They were told to destroy the idols and high places of the former inhabitants.


I want to take a minute and look at Numbers 33, the beginning of Masa’ei. In this chapter we read of G-d’s instructions to the people. In verses 52-56 G-d commanded Israel to drive out the people who lived in the area that was to become Israel. We read where G-d said, drive them out, tear down their high places and destroy their images of the Canaanite gods. I mention this because Israel failed to carry out these words of G-d and later in history Israel reaped the consequences of their actions. These people did exactly what G-d said they would do. They became thorns in the side of the Israelites. In fact, they caused Israel continuing trouble through the years. Only during the reign of King David and King Solomon did Israel control all the land promised by G-d.

This should teach us a powerful lesson. G-d’s word is important for each of us. It does not give room for short cuts. It was important then and important now to remember His word is true and important to be followed. It is easy to become involved in the things of the world. However, G-d has given us a higher calling than that of the world. We are to be the light and the salt for people seeking G-d.  I believe this is as true now as it was when the children of Israel crossed over into the Land of Promise. The road is narrow and sometimes difficult but it is the path we are called to.

Now on to my question of the week. This week we read of the boundaries or borders set for each tribe’s allotment of land when the crossed over the Jordan. In fact we read of boundaries all through scripture. We see this concept used to describe both physical and spiritual boundaries. How does this idea of boundaries relate to our lives today?

Before you answer let me give you a few thoughts which I pray will help us all answer this question. First, if we look at Numbers 34:6, “As for the western border, you shall have the Great Sea for a border; this shall be your western border.” In this verse we see the Hebrew word for border used three times in this one verse. The word for border is Gavul. This word means boundary and border, edge and margin. Here we see it used to set the western boundary of the land to be the Mediterranean Sea. This boundary was to be the most western edge of the land of Israel. When Israel came into the land the Philistines were the people they found along this area of Israel. As we all know these people were a constant thorn in the side of Israel. Why? The Israelites only partially cleared them from the land. As a result they were an on-going problem. This whole idea here in our portion was that borders are meant to protect us, to allow us to live our life as believers without having to continually deal with old enemies over and over.

In the Messianic scripture, in Matthew 10:5-6 we read where Yeshua set boundaries for His disciples. “When He sent them out to share the Good News, He told them Go nowhere among the gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” We know He expanded the mission to the whole world in Acts 8:1. However, here He set boundaries as to where they should go.  Yeshua also set boundaries on Satan when he tempted Him in Matthew 4:1-11.

The point being here, boundaries are important to each of us. G-d expects us to pay  attention to what He is saying to us. His words should be how we decide what to do, what to say, what to be involved in and what to remove from our life. In Acts 16:6-7 we read of Shaul being limited on where to go. G-d sets limits on where His people should go and what His people should be involved in. This can be hard for us to submit to. Sometimes we choose to run ahead or hold back from what G-d is saying to us. If we go down a road not intended  for us we usually know it pretty quickly. The Holy Spirit will trouble us when we have crossed over the boundary G-d has set for us. Pay attention to His leading and stay on track, no matter what the world says or even what your flesh is telling you. The Spirit of G-d has set boundaries for us for our good, to bring life not death. That must be our guide.

What are some of your thoughts on boundaries? Have you ever been convicted by the Holy Spirit when you have crossed over G-d’s boundary for you? I pray you will pay close attention to the boundaries that G-d has shown you. Bless you this week with a clarity of what is and what is not from the Father.

I have One last passage of scripture to look at. Numbers 30:3-17 These verses talk about making vows. In a vow I promise to do something. I am creating something that did not exist before – namely an obligation. Why was there even a need for making a vow? At this time and most any other time society and order are fragile things. Chaos can happen without some type of order that brings peace.

Torah uses these verses on vows to bring order. More importantly, the word of G-d brings order. It shows us things we can do and things we do not do. So vows can come into play to establish order. A healthy society operates on trust. Without trust chaos follows. In our Torah portion two of the tribes, Reuben and Gad made a vow to be on the front lines until the rest of the Israelites were settled in the promised land. Words spoken can create order. We can see that in Genesis where G-d spoke and it happened. Something new came into being. Vows are a part of this order.

We read in the Messianic scripture Yeshua introduced a new concept. In Matthew 5:33-37 Yeshua laid out the importance of being a trust-worthy person. He said, “Let your yes be yes and your no be no. We as the people of G-d must be above reproach. We are required to be truthful and carry out our words. People must see us as people who have an unblemished record of doing what we say, carrying out what we promise. In our world today this may seem like a lost concept. However, that does not change how we are to live and how we represent our Heavenly Father

Hazak, Hazak, v’nit’chazek! Be strong, be strong and let us be strengthened!