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

Tonight, we finish the book of B’Midbar/Numbers by reading the last two Torah portions, Mattot and Masa’ei. In these sections Moshe covers a variety of topics with the people before they enter the Land without him.

Interestingly, the first subject he talked about was the issue of vows. Our words are important and carry power. In Proverbs 18:21 we read the tongue has the power of life and death. In Matthew 5:33-37 we read the words of Yeshua concerning vows. He said, “Just let your yes be yes and your no be no.” Think a moment on how we see words used in scripture. We can start with Genesis chapter one. G-d created the world by His words. It is through speech that we pray, that we ask for forgiveness for our sins. Words spoken cannot be taken back. All of this should move us to speak only when we have thought through what we are about to say and the effect it will have on the hearer. Too often we let our mouth get in front of our mind. G-d looks at this seriously. So here we see Moshe warning the people about vows. What is a vow? Anytime we begin by saying, “I will never…” or “I will always…”, we are making a vow. My point is that G-d takes this seriously and once the words are out there we are bound by them. Think before you speak, will my words bring life or will they bring death?

Now, on to my first question I sent out this week. In B’Midbar/Numbers 32:1-5 we read of the request of the tribes of Reuben, Gad and later the half tribe of Manasseh when they went to Moshe and asked to stay on the eastern bank of the Jordan rather than cross over into the Promised Land.

Why do you think they made this decision? We have talked about their priorities before. Scripture says they saw it as good land for their cattle.

Think for a moment, G-d gave a promise to Israel thousands of years before when He spoke to Avraham. G-d promised him a Land, in fact Avraham walked through it. The Jews spent 400 years as slaves in Egypt. Then Moshe arrived with the mission of leading them home to their own land. They left Egypt when G-d set them free and began the journey. Now, forty years later, they stood ready to go over and take possession of the Land. At this point, these two and a half tribes went to Moshe and in effect said,Thanks for all you have done but we are good here. After all it is good for our cattle and by the way, we will take time to build houses for our families. If you read this portion you know what Moshe’s reaction was so we will not spend time going over it. But I want us to discuss how these people came to their decision to not cross the Jordan into the Land promised to them. What could possibly have kept them from realizing this dream of their ancestors for so long?

I think they lost sight of G-d’s call on their life and rather than focusing on that, they allowed their own priorities and comfort to take its place. I believe, as I have said many times, each of us has a call on our lives. None of us, as G-d’s people, are here to just enjoy the scenery, or to spend our time focused on ourselves and what appears to be good for us. We should allow nothing to get in our way and keep us from accomplishing G-d’s best for us. There is nothing wrong with being successful in life. But these tribes let the land they could see with their eyes, a plentiful place for their cattle, to draw them away from G-d best for them. They settled for second best. They stood on the door step of G-d’s promise to them and walked away from it. I would urge you to not allow anything to come between you and G-d’s plan for your life. It will require you to stay focused on Him daily, and not get sidetracked and accept less that what He has planned for you. None of us are here to just pass the time. Be about what His will for you is in this life. Don’t stop on the door step and say, “I’m good here.”  It is interesting to remember it didn’t take too long for these tribes vanished from history. They did not seize the promise and cross over into their destiny.

Now, I want to spend a few minutes speaking about the Hebrew month that started last night at sundown. This is the month of Av. What sets it apart is all the things that have happened over the centuries to the Jewish people during this month, especially on the ninth of Av which begins next Saturday evening as the Sabbath ends. What things have you found that happened to the Jewish people on the ninth of Av?

Garry Phillips spent time compiling a list of events that happened during the month of Av. I want to thank him for his time compiling this list and will give each of you a copy of it. G-d is a G-d of history. We do not live in a world that just spins along on its own but we live in a world that the Master controls. Rest in that knowledge each day.

My last question this week: have we as a country and as a people of faith been influenced by culture more than we think? Are those things commanded in scripture still valid or are some of them out of date now? Give me examples of things you see expressed in Christianity today that may conflict with what scripture tells us. Are there things in your own life that are more a result of the prevailing culture you live in than your faith? 

And as we say when we finished studying a book of Torah…

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