Torah Portion: Pinchas B’midbar/Numbers 25:10-30:1
Haftorah Reading: I Kings 18:46-19:21
Today we have an interesting Torah portion and Haftorah portion. I would like to begin with something that has been in my head all week. I pray you will be touched by the verses as I was. Please read I Kings 19:9-12. In the beginning of the Haftorah section we read of the confrontation between Elijah and the priests of Ba’al. Most of us know these verses well. Elijah met 400 of the priests of Ba’al on the top of Mt. Carmel in northern Israel to settle the question of who was G-d. Was it Ba’al or G-d Almighty?
If you remember the priests of Ba’al cried out to their god. They tore their clothes and cut themselves in their religious frenzy but to no avail. Nothing happened. Elijah taunted them about their failure. He then took his offering and put it on the altar he had built. He soaked the wood with water. G-d appeared and consumed the wood and Elijah’s offering. The people shouted that G-d was the L-rd and no other and proceeded to kill the 400 priests of Ba’al.
Queen Jezebel heard the news about what had happened and issued a threat to Elijah that she was going to kill him. What did he do? He ran until he came to the mountain of G-d at Horeb. He entered a cave on the mountain. He heard the voice of G-d asking him, “What are you doing here Elijah?” Elijah answered, “I have been very zealous for the L-rd G-d Almighty.”
Before we go on I would like to know what you think of Elijah’s answer? Was zeal the answer G-d accepted? When we read on G-d caused His Presence to pass by the cave. G-d brought a powerful wind that tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks but G-d was not in the wind. Next G-d caused an earthquake but He was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake G-d brought a fire. He was not in the fire. After the fire came a gentle whisper. G-d again asked Elijah, “What are you doing here?” In verse 14 Elijah replied again, “I have been very zealous for the L-rd G-d Almighty.”
Remember back in verse 10 G-d asked him the same question and Elijah gave the exact same answer. It seems to me G-d is trying to get a point across to Elijah. What do you think G-d is saying to Elijah? This week I have considered this question. What is G-d saying to me and maybe to you as well. How are we to be zealous for the L-rd? In our times there are places where we may be called to take a stand, to say, this is as far as I can go, no further. It is important for us to be able to stand for truth and speak out. You might have had some of those times already. Our world seems to be in a constant state of flux. Lines are drawn and divisions have been set in place. One side sees the other as evil and feels it must be defeated. Sometimes the “other” truly is sinful. However, it matters greatly how we put our foot down. Do we use our position to trample people who might not be where they should be? Do we label a person as hopeless or do we use our faith to keep lines open to be used by G-d to bring healing and sometimes peace between people?
I believe Elijah is an example of someone who worked in the extremes to some degree. G-d asked him twice what he was doing there. And each time his answer was the same even though G-d had told him there were another 7,000 who had not bowed the knee to Ba’al. It seems G-d was making a point to Elijah. He was reminding Elijah that he was not the only one still faithful to G-d. But He was also telling him that as a prophet, and us as G-d’s representatives in our world, must also have compassion even as we are sharing G-d’s truth with the world. We cannot just sit down under a tree and bemoan the world situation.
We live in an environment where people are given two choices, either you are with us or you should be silenced and minimalized. We are to hold fast to the truth but also show the love of G-d to people who may not hold the same view that we have. If as G-d’s people we cannot do this our world is in for a dark future.
Again, how can we be zealous for G-d? Jean’s father was a good example for me when I was growing up. After I became a believer my father and mother joined the church. Later my father was given the opportunity to teach a Sunday School class. Before his return to faith my father had a problem with alcohol. When he became active in church he stopped drinking. It was a wonderful time for our family. But, after about three years he gave in to this old temptation and when back to his old ways. Jean’s father, who was our pastor, talked to him and tried to encourage him for a period of time. When there was no change in his behavior he met with my father and told him he could no longer teach and would no longer be considered a member of the church. He said my father would be welcomed back into the fellowship of the church if he could overcome this addiction. This was hard for my father. Jean’s father continued to pay occasional visits to my father’s work place to talk to him but my father was never able to overcome this problem. They continued to be friends until my father passed away. As pastor of the church, Jean’s father felt he had to make a stand for G-dly behavior in the church’s leadership but he never cast my father aside or ended their friendship.
I believe we are called to such a life. Yes we must stand against sin firmly. But we must not give up on what G-d can do in a person’s life. It is important for us to keep lines of communication open. We may be the only example of G-d’s love and mercy that they will see.
Briefly I would like to touch on the topic of laying on of hands. In the Torah portion in Numbers 27:18-23 we see G-d commanding Moshe to lay hands on Joshua. What was the purpose of this action? To both spiritually and physically display before the people that Joshua would be their future leader and that he had received some of Moshe’s spirit and authority to lead the people. This was confirmed by the people listening and following Joshua. In the sacrifices when someone brought a sin offering, as part of the proceeding, they laid their hands on the animal and symbolically transferred their sins to the animal. The animal was then sacrificed. This same principle applies to Yeshua and our belief in Him as our Messiah.
Sometimes the laying on of hands is misused today and does not have a Biblical basis. One example of a correct use of this is the purpose of healing. Mark 16:17-18 speaks of believers laying hands on the sick and they will recover. There are many more verses about healing.
Act 8:14-17 talks about people receiving the Holy Spirit after the disciples laid hands on them. Interestingly, they had not received the Holy Spirit until they laid hands on them.
Acts 13:1-3 tells of Barnabas and Saul being set apart for ministry. Here the Holy Spirit told the prophets and teachers to set them apart for ministry which included fasting, praying and laying on of hands.
I take the time to share this information with you to help you be aware of when this is being used correctly and when it might be misused. Bless each of you today. David