We learn more from our failures than our successes

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

Haftorah Reading: Jeremiah 1:1-2:28

Messianic Scripture  Matt. 5:33-37, James 4:1-12

Tonight we finish the book of Numbers with these last two Torah portions. I would like to begin by looking at the first portion, Mattot, beginning in Numbers 30:2-17. We will not look at every verse but rather talk about what G-d is saying to us today about the words that come out of our mouth every day.

We live in a world today where words don’t seem to matter much. We have probably all heard someone say something like, “I will always…” or “trust me.” Then we might see that same person doing or saying the exact opposite of what they vowed to always do or never do. Maybe we have even done the same thing ourselves.

In Matthew 5:33-37 we read what Yeshua says about this very subject. I think we can see the connection between our Torah portion and His words. In His words we read, “But let your yes be yes and you no, no. For whatever  is more than these is from the evil one.”

He is saying it is far better that we do not come to the place of vowing. Our yes or no should be enough. Our reputation as believers should be based on our credibility as one of G-d’s people and a vow should not need to be added.  If we cannot be trusted we will find ourselves already in the trap of the evil one.

This is so important in our world today. We see mistrust all around us. As G-d’s people we must stay above what has become normal practice in society. Our word has much to say about who we are. G-d forbid we damage the name of G-d by not being trust-worthy. In Acts 21 we read where Paul made the trip to Jerusalem at great personal danger to fulfill his vow to return. Vows are very serious. Consider the words that come out of your mouth.

Now on to my question of the week which was, As you read through the Torah portion Masa’ei we see a listing of 42 journeys the Israelites made during their journey in the wilderness. Some of them we have heard of before but many we have not.  Consider your own life in light of this portion, what point do you think this listing of places is making that also would be relevant to our own life? 

Keep your seatbelts on because in this short portion we read about forty two stops the children of Israel made during their exodus from Egypt until where they stand across the river from the Promised Land. Some of these are mentioned earlier yet some are not in this list. Fourteen of these stops took place in the first year following their exit from Egypt. Eight more took place after the death of Aaron. So in the intervening years between exit and entry to Israel we have the remaining twenty stops. Even the description of some of the stops are very basic, such as, we left X and arrived at Y. So why does Torah spend all this time on a somewhat bland list of names? I read an article this week that I think shed some light on this question for me. Nelson Mandela talked in one of his speeches about the “long walk to freedom.” Remember the distance from Egypt to Israel could have been covered in a few days so why did it take forty years? In scripture, G-d says in Exodus 13:17, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” What can we learn from this? Freedom takes time to flower. We all are, in some ways, on this same journey. This list of places teaches us an important lesson. If you notice this list ends at the door of Israel. However, the people still had a way to go. They had to cross the river. They had battles to fight like in Jericho and Ai. So why stop the list here?

Let us tackle this one step at a time. It would seem to me G-d is making a point here in this seemingly dry list. Our journey to freedom is a spiritual journey and it has to do with how we learn to be free from our own spiritual Egypt. It does not happen all at once. It happens in the failures we experience along the way and how we handle them. That is what this portion is all about. Our journey is long, starting when we came to the L-rd, or even before that, when we began to ask, “Is this all there is to life?  Is it just about getting what we can with no regard for anyone except ourselves?”

No, it is so much more. It is about knowing He is with us every day and in everything we do or experience. He is there to bring us into true freedom, step by step. He is there to pick us up when we fall. He is our encourager to keep moving in His direction. Here in this section there were many stops. Our journey does not end until we draw our last breath and are gathered into the arms of G-d. Every experience is to teach us. Every experience is to bring us closer to Him, even the experiences that are hard while we are going through them. Even the times when we miss it and make choices that were not the best, G-d does not give up on us. He is there to shed light on where we are and the mistakes we have made, expecting us to learn from them. 

I am sure each of us have had those times when we see our errors or sins. We learn from those times and move on, closer and closer to our Heavenly Father until that time we rest in His arms.

Bless each of you fellow travelers. G-d loves us and will show us a better way if we are committed and willing to follow Him.