|This week’s portion begins with the words “When you go out to war against your enemies, and the Lord your God delivers them into your hand…” From reading this verse it seems to imply that God will always give Israel victory over their enemies, right? So, why then in Numbers 10 do we read “When you go to war in your land against the enemy who oppresses you, then you shall sound an alarm with the trumpets, and you will be remembered before the Lord your God, and you will be saved from your enemies.” The verse here speaks about enemies within the Promised Land, oppressing the people of Israel. How can there be enemies oppressing the nation of Israel in their own land if victory over their enemies seems to be guaranteed by God?|
In Deuteronomy 28 we read about the blessing and cursing that comes from either following God’s Torah or not. Here’s what it says, “…if you diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all His commandments…all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of the Lord your God… The Lord will cause your enemies who rise against you to be defeated before your face; they shall come out against you one way and flee before you seven ways.” The blessing for walking according to God’s commandments is victory over all of Israel’s enemies that rise up against them. However, if we continue reading in Deuteronomy 28 it tells us of the curses that come for disobedience. It says, “The Lord will cause you to be defeated before your enemies; you shall go out one way against them and flee seven ways before them…” Israel’s victory against her enemies has never been based on having the most modern military equipment or the best battlefield strategies and tactics. Though all of these are important in warfare, Israel’s first and primary pre-battle concern should have always been “Is ‘Hashem Tzevaot – the Lord of Hosts/Angel Armies’ with us?” As it says in Psalm 20, “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we will remember the name of the Lord our God.”
|Notice, King David says in this Psalm, some trust in this and some in that, but we will trust…No! He doesn’t say trust; rather he uses the Hebrew word “nazkir” which comes from the root word “zachar.” This word means, “to remember.” You see, when Israel was facing enemies all-around they didn’t just need to trust God, they needed to remember God. When enemies came up against Israel it meant that Israel had forgotten to remember God. The Israelites needed to remember that they could trust God, they needed to remember the past victories, and they needed to remember His Promises, Steadfast Love and the Covenant which He had sworn to their forefathers.|
From reading these verses we find that victory over Israel’s enemies is dependent upon Israel’s obedience to God’s Torah. But there is something else I want you to notice about these verses. The verse in Deuteronomy has a very positive outlook. Israel goes out to fight against her enemies and God guarantees victory. The verse in Numbers has a much more bleak outlook. Israel’s enemies are already in the land and are oppressing the nation. What is the difference between these two verses? The answer is “indifference.”
Indifference is the difference that sets these verses apart from one another. The verse in Deuteronomy shows Israel on the offensive, defeating her enemies, while Numbers describes Israel complacently allowing enemies into the Land, putting the Israelites on the defensive. The distinction is the attitude of the Israelites in these two given situations. It is the idea of being Proactive versus Reactive. Most people react to life and swim with the cultural currents and tumultuous worldly tides instead of going counter-culture and swimming upstream, because it’s definitely easier to go for a ride on the lazy river!
King David says in Psalm 57:8 as well as Psalm 108:2, “A’irah Shachar–I will awaken the dawn.” Most people go through life waiting for a nudge from heaven, waiting for the dawn to awaken them. Everyone wants to wake up one day to a fixed world with the sun shining through the window, birds singing, and the sound of peace ‘round the world. But no one wants to do the works it takes to get to that point. It reminds me of a story I was told during my childhood called “The Little Red Hen.” If you don’t know the story then I would encourage you to click on the link to read the full tale, but basically the moral of this parable is “you reap what you sow” and “if you don’t work, you don’t eat.” You see, in the story, none of the animals wanted to do any work except for one industrious hen, but everyone wanted to reap the benefits of the hen’s labor. In correlation to our verse, no one wants to do the hard work of awakening the dawn, but everyone wants the dawn to be awakened. And what dawn are we speaking of? The dawn of the Messiah, as it is written, “But to you who fear My name The Sun of Righteousness shall arise With healing in His wings…” We must take the first step, showing heaven that we desire to see the dawn even as we work to awaken it! As it says in the book of Malachi, “Shuvu Elai V’Ashuvah Aleichem–Return to me and I will return to you.” Rav Mordechai of Lechovitch taught on this verse by using a parable. He said “There once was a prince who was captured by a band of cutthroat thieves, and they took him so far away from his father the king that if he tried to walk home, it would take him ages to arrive. The king sent messengers to tell his son the prince that he was awaiting his return. ‘If you do not begin your journey,’ he wrote, ‘then the king can’t draw close to you either.’ The prince had to take the first step and set out on the journey, even though his steps might have seemed small and insignificant, and it might have seemed that he was not getting anywhere. But if he would start out, then the king would come toward him, taking long powerful strides, and then surely they would be reunited very soon.” The band of cutthroat thieves in this story can be compared to our Yetzer Hara, or, our Evil Inclination, which leads us into sin. But Rav Mordachai continued by saying, “This what the verse means: ‘Return to Me,’ even if it means taking small steps, ‘and I will return to you’ – and I (God) will return with abundant mercy.”
Last week I wrote that we had just entered into the Hebrew month of Elul. A month of “Teshuvah—Repentance” before we come up to the Festivals of “Rosh HaShannah—The Hebrew New Year,” as well as, “Yom Kippur—The Day of Atonement.” In Hebrew, these days also go by another name, “Yimei HaRatzon—The days of desire.” They are called this because it is during this time that God desires to be close to us, and we should desire to be close to Him. In Psalm 149 it says, “For the Lord takes pleasure in His people.” However, in Hebrew it says, “Ki Rotze Hashem B’Amo,” which we can literally translate as “For the Lord’s desire/want is in His people.” Everything God wants is found in His people. Do we desire Him as He desires us? Is our desire found in Him as His desire is found in us?
In this portion we read a verse in Deuteronomy 23 that says, “Motza S’fatecha Tishmor V’Asita…—That which exits your lips you shall guard and do…” This means that whatever we say we should also do. As our Rabbi, Yeshua Himself says in Matthew 5, “Let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes,’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no.’” We must be (or become) a people of our words. Because of this verse in the Torah, “that which exits your lips you shall guard and do…” The Shulchan Aruch (The Code of Jewish Law. By Yosef Caro. 1564.) states that a person should, immediately upon waking recite the “Modeh Ani” prayer. The full prayer goes as such, “Modeh Ani L’fanecha, Melech Chai v’Kayam Shehechezarta Bi Nishmati B’chemlah Rabbah Emunatecha—I gratefully thank You, O living and eternal King, for You have returned my soul within me with compassion — abundant is Your faithfulness.”
Why start out the day by saying these words? Because it says in the Torah “that which exits your lips you shall guard and do…” Immediately, your first conscious thoughts and words recognize God, His Kingship, and His compassionate faithfulness. Now, for the rest of the day you are obliged to guard and do what you said at the beginning of the day. But don’t we often say things without meaning them? Do our words reflect our hearts? It’s not wrong to say these prayers even if they maybe don’t completely reflect our feelings, but our hope should be that by saying these words they eventually become our true heart towards God. It’s just like prophecy; we believe it even though we don’t often see it. Why do we think God changes once it comes to our personal lives? Just because we don’t see God working doesn’t mean He isn’t. During WWII, in a cellar in Cologne, Germany, where Catholics had kept some Jews in hiding, American soldiers found this poem written on the wall, “I believe in the sun—even when it is not shining. I believe in God—even when He is silent. I believe in love—even when it is not apparent.”
|Even when God is silent…I believe. He is our only hope. And, He’s never silent, we’re just often “God-deaf.” When a sound is continuous we learn to block it from our minds; have we done this to God’s ever-constant voice? Maybe so…so we must ask, each of us personally; if I never heard, saw, or felt God near again, would I still believe? |
I must say I believe one of the saddest and convicting questions of our Rabbi, Rabbi Yeshua, is found in Luke 18. He says, “When the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” We are living in the times spoken of in 2 Thessalonians 2. The times of the “strong delusion” are upon us. Can you feel it? Matthew 24 tells us that “…because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.” Has your love grown cold? Do you still believe?
The Rambam (Rabbi Moses Ben Maimon. 1138-1204) wrote Judaism’s “Thirteen Principles of Faith.” They are 13 different statements which one must believe in order to be considered religiously Jewish. Within this list, the 12th statement declares, “I believe with complete faith in the coming of the Messiah, and even though he may delay, nevertheless I anticipate every day that he will come.” This statement became known during the “Shoah—Holocauast” as the “Hymn of the Camps.” (Meaning the Concentration Camps) The reason for this was because of how many Jews perished in the Gas Chambers singing these very words. They sang, “I believe…even though he may delay…” And even as a desperate father cried before Yeshua in Mark 9,
I believe this should become our hearts cry as well, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.”
Grace and peace from God’s bondservant,