Weekly Torah Commentary – Toldot November 17, 2017

Torah reading:  Genesis 25:19 – 28:9

Haftorah reading: I Samuel 20:18-42

This week’s reading begins by telling us of other sons whom Abraham had by Keturah, his second wife whom he married after the death of Sarah.  We are also told of Abraham’s death and burial;  we read a list of Ishmael’s descendants; and, a description of the birth of Esau and Jacob. Frankly, this reading at first glance doesn’t seem very relevant to where we all live.

So what was Moses’ purpose in writing it?

Moses was writing to a people about to go in and conquer the land promised to Abraham’s descendants through Isaac. The previous generation had the opportunity to conquer that land, but they died in the wilderness because of their unbelief. Now this generation had an opportunity to obey God in His redemptive plan of giving the land of Canaan to Abraham’s descendants. God’s purpose as promised to Abraham will be fulfilled. The question is, will this generation be used of God to fulfill it, or will they, too, be set aside?

I believe that the main point Moses was trying to convey was that God’s purpose according to His choice will stand. God is sovereign; what He says, He will do. But even so, His chosen people must submit and commit themselves to His purpose if they want His blessing.

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Whenever a great leader, who has founded a work or a movement, passes away, there is concern for who will carry on. However, with God’s program, there is no such concern. His purpose is greater than any man. The most certain thing in this world is that God will do what He has said. Nothing can thwart His purpose.

This section of Genesis shows that God keeps His promises. God had promised to make Abraham the father of a multitude of nations (17:4). The list of Abraham’s sons through Keturah, several of whom grew into nations, shows a part of the fulfillment of God’s promise. Even though we don’t recognize most of these names, Israel did. The existence of these nations was a demonstration to Israel that what God promises, He does.

The text goes on to make the point that Abraham gave all that he had to Isaac (25:5). While he gave some gifts to Keturah’s sons, he sent them away.  It is not that he rejected them; rather we learn from ancient records, that Abraham commissioned Keturah’s sons to go to distant lands to teach the people about the one true God – the God of Israel. Isaac, on the other hand, was God’s choice to continue the calling of Abraham, and thus God blessed him after Abraham’s death (25:11). As they were Isaac’s descendants, the generation going into the Land needed to see their part as God’s chosen means of fulfilling His promises to Abraham, and they needed to obey God in taking the promised land.

Then Moses lists the generations of Ishmael (25:12-18). Why? To make the same point–that God’s purpose according to His choice will stand. Abraham had asked God that Ishmael might live before Him (17:18). God denied that request because He had chosen Isaac, but He promised Abraham that Ishmael would become the father of twelve princes, and that He would make him into a great nation (17:20). Moses records the fulfillment of that in 25:18. The point again is, God’s purpose according to His sovereign choice was accomplished.

Moses hammers home the same concept in the account of the birth of Esau and Jacob. If God was going to make a great nation of Abraham through Isaac, then obviously Isaac needed to have children. But Rebekah, like Sarah, was barren. For 20 years there were no children in their marriage. But Isaac prayed and the Lord answered in accordance with His promise to Abraham.

But even in that situation, God made a choice. He told Rebekah that two nations would come from the twin sons in her womb, and that the older (Esau) would serve the younger (Jacob). Esau became the father of the Edomites. Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel, became the father of that nation. It was God’s purpose that Israel’s descendants, those to whom Moses was writing, fulfill God’s purpose according to His choice of Jacob, by conquering the promised land.

So everything in the text is there to make the same point–that God chooses certain people for His purpose and that His purpose according to His choice will be accomplished.

These verses reveal two striking things about God’s choice:

First, God’s choice usually runs counter to man’s wisdom.

If we were going to pick a man to be the father of a multitude of nations, we’d probably run the couple through a fertility test and then pick the one who looked the most promising. God picked a couple who couldn’t produce any children. Then, we’d make sure that his son and his wife were fertile. In God’s sovereignty, the son’s wife was barren. His half-brother, Ishmael, didn’t seem to have any problem producing twelve sons, but Isaac could produce only two, and that only after 20 years of pleading with God. If we had to pick between the two sons, we’d pick the oldest. He seemed to be the strongest. The youngest was a wimp and a deceiver! God picked him. That’s how God’s choice usually runs–counter to man’s wisdom.

If God chose those who were strong in themselves, they would boast in themselves and God would be robbed of His glory. If God chose those who first chose Him, they could brag about their intelligent choice. So God chooses those whom the world would never choose. When His purpose is fulfilled through them, He gets the glory.

Secondly, God’s choice operates on the principle of grace, not merit.

One of the most difficult, but most rewarding, truths in the Bible to grasp is that God doesn’t operate on the merit system. He doesn’t choose those who have earned it or who show the most potential. He doesn’t choose on the basis of birth order or strength. If He did, He would have picked Ishmael over Isaac. Ishmael was tough; he grew up by surviving in a hostile desert. Isaac was a mild, blah sort of guy, not noted for much except digging a few wells.

This bothers people, because it humbles our pride, but it’s one of the most rewarding concepts in the Bible to lay hold of. It means that your redemption does not depend on you and your feeble hold on God, but on God and His firm grip on you.  It casts you totally on God and His sovereign grace, which is a good place to be. It floods you with gratitude as you consider His goodness and His mercy in choosing you in spite of your sin.

That doesn’t mean we can do anything we want. While God is sovereign, He has given me the responsibility to obey Him. I can’t presume on being one of the elect and go on living for myself.

Our responsibility is simply to submit to God and seek to obey what His Word clearly reveals, namely, that God’s sovereign purpose according to His unconditional choice will stand. When I quit fighting and submit myself to God and His ways, my relationship with Him flourishes.

The Lord didn’t wave His wand over the land of Canaan so that Israel could move in without any struggle. They had to commit themselves to God’s purpose and fight to get it.

Abraham is the example in our text. He submitted and committed himself to God’s purpose, and God blessed him abundantly. We read that he died “satisfied with life” (25:8). The expression is literally “full of years,” but it means more than just old. It implies that he couldn’t ask for anything more from life than God had given him. The only way you can truly die that way is if you have lived to further God’s purpose.

In Tune with Torah this week = Sometimes it’s easy to look at all the evil in the world and get discouraged because it seems like God’s side is losing badly.  The great truth is that God will accomplish His sovereign purpose. Let us therefore encourage one another to submit ourselves wholeheartedly to our heavenly Father and devote ourselves without reservation to His purposes.

Shabbat Shalom

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Weekly Torah Commentary – Vayelech October 7, 2016

Deuteronomy 31

Be strong and courageous; do not be afraid or tremble at them for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you.  He will not fail you nor forsake you.  31:6

A timely message indeed to a world that seemingly has much to fear.  Societal unrest, terrorism, monster storms like the one bearing down this very day on the southeastern part of the United States, conflict among nations – all of these and more can cause ‘men’s hearts to faint’ as the Scripture says elsewhere.

Yet the word to us this week is ‘Be strong and courageous…’  What is courage?

courage

Courage is grace under pressure.

Karl Barth wrote that Courage is fear that has said its prayers.

Someone else has said that Courage is doing what you are afraid to do; that there is no courage unless there is something to be afraid of.

There are many examples of courage exercised in the Bible:  Moses before the Pharaoh,
David as he faced down Goliath, Abigail as she saved the entire household of Nabal
and Esther when she went before the king to save the Jews, to name just a few.

Courage always starts on the inside, in our inner man. We learn His instructions and commit to living by them, regardless of others’ opinions, knowing He has promised to be with us and never leave us. He goes with us into every difficult situation in life.  Is He is for us – and He is – who can be against us?

Courage takes a stand and makes things right.  If we submit to peer pressure and follow the crowd, we lower ourselves to their level.  By standing firmly on our convictions, we invite them to a higher standard.  Even if 20 million people believe in an irrational idea, it’s still irrational!  Numbers do not give credibility to the idea. Only the truth and righteousness found in God’s word gives credibility to any idea. Simply swimming with the tide leaves you nowhere. If you believe in something that’s good, honest and bright — stand up for it 100%. We are to be God’s change agents in this world.

Courage is contagious, have you noticed?  It’s something like a wildfire.  Once it starts to spread, there isn’t much you can do to stop it.  One act of courage and change an entire nation.  Again, think of Esther whose one act of courage saved the Jewish people from extinction.

Courage is the product of a person following God.  Courage will take you beyond your self-imposed limitations.  Courage is knowing that when I walk with God and obey Him, the very worst that could happen cannot really hurt me.  Courage stretches you beyond where you are now.  It takes you to a higher level in life and enables you to serve God to the best of your ability and reach the potential He planted in you when He created you.

Courage is strength in the face of pain or grief.  It is bravery, fearlessness, boldness, audacity and daring, empowered by the grace of God.

Joshua certainly needed courage to assume the leadership of the children of Israel upon the death of Moses.  Imagine what that must have been like.  Moses has been in charge for forty years; Moses has seen God on the mountain top; Moses heard their problems and found solutions and so much more.  Imagine how you would feel being called to follow a leader like Moses!  Is it any wonder that Moses said to Joshua more than once, ‘Be strong and courageous.  The Lord will be with you as He was with me.’

In Tune with Torah this week = is there a person, a situation, a problem that you are reluctant to face, to deal with though you know you need to?  The word of the Lord to us this week is ‘Be strong and very courageous for the Lord your God is with you.’

Shabbat Shalom

 

Weekly Torah Commentary – Ki Tetzei September 16, 2016

Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19

Do not hate an Edomite, because he is your brother.
Do not hate an Egyptian, because you were a stranger in his land. (Deut. 23:8)

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Two verses in this week’s portion deal with the prohibition to hate.  The portion deals with so many other issues that it’s easy to miss this commandment – do not hate.

But why these particular two verses?

The Egyptians of Moses’ day had enslaved the Israelites, “embittered their lives”, subjected them to a ruthless regime of intensely hard labor and forced them to eat the bread of affliction. They had embarked on a program of attempted genocide, Pharaoh commanding his people to throw “every male [Israelite] child born, into the river” (Ex. 1:22). And God tells the next generation of Israelites: ‘do not hate’?

It’s as if none of this had happened, as if the Israelites owed the Egyptians a debt of gratitude for their hospitality. Yet Moses and the people were where they were only because they were escaping from Egyptian persecution. Nor did he want the people to forget it.  It is commanded in the Torah that every year on Passover we are to remember what the Egyptians did.  But why? So we would never succumb to enslaving others.

What is really at stake here with these two verses cuts to the very heart of what is about to happen to the children of Israel.  It is nearly time to enter the Land and Moses knows that in order to live in freedom, you must let go of hatred. A free and moral society cannot be built by people consumed with hatred and resentment.  It just doesn’t work.

Bitterness, resentment, humiliation, a sense of injustice, the desire to inflict injury on your former persecutors are all evidences of a profound lack of freedom. Those who hold on to anger against their persecutors remain captives.  They may be ‘free’ externally but the soul is in captivity and poisons the mind and the emotions.  Anyone who allows their ‘enemy’ or ‘persecutor’ to define who they are has no understanding of freedom.

What Moses is telling them is that they must live with the past, but not in the past.

Hatred and freedom cannot coexist.  To create and maintain a non-persecuting society out of people who have been persecuted, the chains of the past must be broken; memory robbed of its sting; and pain re-directed into constructive purpose and the determination to build a different future.

Hatred projects our conflicts onto someone else whom we can blame but only at the cost of denying our own responsibility. That was Moses’ message to those who were about to enter the promised land: that a free society can be built only by people who accept the responsibility of freedom; by a people who are not defined by what they hate but by what they dream and work for.  This was the insightful message of Dr. Martin Luther King, among others.  Dr. King once said: Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness.  How right he was…and still is.

People who hate harbor a permanent feeling of injury, a feeling that is out of all proportion to reality.  In their subconscious a perverse feeling convinces them that they alone possess the truth, that they are some kind of superhumans, and thus deserve the world’s complete recognition and submissiveness. They want to be the center of the world and become deeply, even violently irritated when those around them do not recognize them as such.

They are like spoiled or badly brought up children who think their mother exists only to wait on their every whim and who throw a tantrum if she occasionally does something else, like spending time with her other children, her husband, a book or her work. They interpret it as a personal attack instead of normal living.

Ultimately the hater is obsessed with himself.

Some have suggested that those who hate suffer from an inferiority complex.  Actually the opposite is true: the hater is so sure of his own superiority that hate is the only response to those who do not affirm or appreciate his self-generated true worth.  A serious face, a quickness to take offense, strong language, shouting, the inability to step outside himself and see his own foolishness – these are typical of one who hates.

Our Torah portion this week enjoins us: Do not hate... Rather choose the way of the prophet who said ‘The joy of the LORD is your strength.’  Nehemiah 8:10

In Tune with Torah this week = is there any hate in your heart towards anyone?  If so, this is the time to acknowledge it, repent of it, ask God for freedom from it and determine to change your attitude for the truth is this: Hatred kills the one who harbors it; only love and peace bring health and well-being, physically as well as spiritually.

Shabbat shalom

Weekly Torah Commentary – Re-eh September 2, 2016

 

This week’s jam-packed portion opens with these words: “I set before you a blessing and a curse. The blessing: if you obey the commandments of God…; the curse if you do not … and you follow other gods.”

It continues with rules and laws for the land of Israel primarily oriented towards staying away from idol worship and from embracing the other religions in the land.

The source of the Chosen People concept is found in 14:1-2: “You are a nation consecrated to God your Lord. God has chosen you from all nations on the face of the earth to be His own special nation.”  We have been chosen for responsibility, not privilege — to act morally and to be a “light unto the nations”. As descendants of Abraham through Isaac, we are first and foremost to be a people of Faith in the One True God, the Holy One of Israel.

The Torah states, “For if you shall diligently keep all these commandments which I command you to do them, to love the Lord, your God, to walk in all His ways and to cleave to Him…” (Deuteronomy 11:22). How does one “cleave to the Almighty?”

The Torah tells us that even someone who appears to be highly observant of the commandments and loves God, must show in his behavior and interactions with others that he is an imitator of God (“to walk in all His ways”). Only then can a person be considered as one who cleaves to Him. Emulating God means being compassionate and bestowing kindness on others. As He is merciful so we should be merciful, as He bestows kindness, so we should bestow kindness. One might think that a person who loves God need only devote himself to prayer and Torah study and by this means he will cleave to God. We see from this verse, however, that an essential ingredient in cleaving to God is caring about our fellow man.

It is by truly caring about others (you shall love your neighbor as yourself) that we show ourselves to be godly.

It is noteworthy that this portion of the Torah is read just before the onset of the Hebrew month of Elul which will begin at sundown tomorrow. Elul, when spelled in Hebrew letters, is the acronym for the words, “I am to my beloved, my beloved is to me” (ani l’dodi v’dodi li) Oftentimes those words will be inscribed on the inside of an engagement ring).

ShofarElul

The month of Elul is a time of heightened spirituality when the Almighty is, as it were, extends grace for repentance in a unique way. It is a time of introspection and preparation for Rosh Hashanah. It is a time to do a spiritual audit and to commit to making whatever changes necessary to deepen your connection with Him. 

In Tune with Torah this week = as we approach the month of Elul, let us take very seriously the admonition to use this coming month as an opportunity to do a true “check up from the neck up” – to examine ourselves and our thought life as it is our thoughts that give birth to our words and our behaviors. How are we doing at loving others as we love ourselves, for example? This is the month to search our own souls and determine to grow in godliness in the new Hebrew year, 5777, which will begin on October 3, 2016.

Shabbat shalom

Weekly Torah Commentary – Devarim August 12, 2016

Deuteronomy 1:1 – 3:22

In the fortieth year on the first day of the eleventh month, Moses spoke to the children of Israel, according to all that the Lord had commanded him to give to them.  Deut. 1:3

 

We have come now to the final book of the Torah, Deuteronomy.  Moses has reached the age of 120 and he knows his end is near.  Therefore he undertakes to review and repeat to the new generation of Israelites all that the Lord has done and said since their parents first left Egypt.

The first thing we notice is that at his advanced age, Moses is still clear minded with a sharp memory.  As he rehearses the events of the past forty plus years, every detail is as clear to him as it if it happened yesterday.  He is an amazing example of healthy and wholesome aging.

In a generation like ours where the ‘senior’ population is significantly larger than in previous generations, the topic of aging well or aging successfully is a popular one.  Both from a medical standpoint as well as a psychological one, many writers publish articles and books on the subject.  My question as I ponder the opening of this week’s Torah portion is: How did Moses attain to 120 years of age ‘with his eye undimmed and his strength undiminished’ as is written later in Deuteronomy?   It’s unusual enough for someone to live to 120, let alone to do so with such mental and spiritual clarity!

There may be other reasons but let me suggest two, from which we can all derive inspiration, regardless of our present age.  The prophet Isaiah wrote: Those who trust in the Lord find new strength.  They will soar high on wings like eagles; They will run and not get weary.  They will walk and not faint.  Isaiah 40:31 (NLT)

eagle

Multiple times throughout the Torah we are reminded that Moses spent a great deal of time in prayer before the Lord, in seeking His face for direction on how to fulfill the mission the Holy One of Israel had given him.  He spent forty days – twice – on top of Mt. Sinai in the very intense presence of the Almighty and the Torah testifies that even his face glowed when he descended the mountain.  His intimate relationship with God was, I believe, a key to his vibrant and energetic long life.  Perhaps Isaiah was thinking of Moses when he penned the verse above.

Secondly, Moses is a unique portrayal of the axiom: Don’t retire; get re-fired!  Remember that it was at the age of 80 that he encountered the burning bush and heard the call of God to lead his people out of slavery.  He did not protest, ‘I’m too old; find some young whipper-snapper, God!’  The only protest he made was that he doubted his own ability, not that he was too old!!  By submitting to God’s will for his life and accepting the mission he was given, Moses was ‘re-fired’ for a task that would consume the final 40 years of his life and which he completed with such distinction that to this day, the children of Israel call him Moshe Rabeinu, Moses, our teacher.

What motivated him when he woke up each morning of those last 40 years?  He had a purpose that was greater than himself.  He invested the last third of his life into a generation that would outlive him and carry on the message he had received in the presence of the Lord.  The last third of his life was all about others, not himself. How different from the way modern senior citizens often look at their ‘golden years.’

I’ve heard contemporary senior citizens say things like, ‘I’m retired so I can do whatever I want now’ or ‘I’m past 70 so I’m just relaxing and enjoying myself.’  Moses would be appalled!

Life itself is a gift from God. Living to an advanced age is a gift that many people don’t receive. Given that by the age of retirement careers and professions are no longer a focus, should we not instead consider that our later years are a precious opportunity from God to invest ourselves in the next generation? That instead of selfishly focusing on our own pleasures alone, that we see this season of life as the opportunity to devote our lives to others in some meaningful way?

Moses certainly did so and the fruit of his efforts lasts these thousands of years later.  There can be no greater legacy than imparting to the next generation the spiritual and moral values that will guide them into a successful life in the eyes of God and man.

In Tune with Torah this week = if you are retired or near retirement, what are you doing with the gift of time available to you in this season of life?  Are you using it for God’s purposes?  Have you identified a purpose, an inspiration for your golden years?

If you are of the ‘next generation’, do you recognize that your elders have gained much wisdom through life experiences?  Do you listen to them? Do you gather nuggets of truth for your own life?

Shabbat Shalom

Weekly Torah Commentary – Matot-Maasei August 5, 2016

Numbers 30 – 36

In this week’s portion, two of the tribes, Reuben and Gad, agree together that the land east of the Jordan is ideally suited as pasture for their large herds and flocks of livestock. They approach Moses and ask permission to settle there rather than cross the Jordan. Initially, Moses is furious at their request.  “Shall your fellow countrymen go to war while you sit here?” he asks. Had they learned nothing from the sin of the spies who, by demoralizing others through their behavior, condemned an entire generation to forty years of wandering in the desert?

Reuben

The Reubenites and Gadites get the point. They protest that they are not trying to exempt themselves from the struggles of their fellow Israelites. They are fully prepared to accompany them into the promised land and fight alongside them to conquer the Land. “We will not return to our homes until every Israelite has received his inheritance.”  After declaring publicly their commitment to participate in taking the Land, Moses grants their request on condition that they fulfill their word. “When the land is then conquered before God you may then return, innocent before God and Israel, and this land will be yours as your permanent property before God.”

The phrase – ‘you will be innocent before God and Israel’ – teaches an important lesson. It is not enough to do what is right in the eyes of God. One must also behave in such a way as to be seen to have done right in the eyes of one’s fellow man. It is incumbent upon us to live in such a way that we are above suspicion, men and women of uncontested integrity.

That sounds great but the reality of life is that at times even when we do conduct ourselves in a manner that we think is above suspicion and full of integrity, we still may find ourselves the object of criticism and judgments from others.  When that happens, how do we handle it?

First of all, those who pass judgment on others say more about themselves than they do about the person they are criticizing.  Remember that!  What we should be doing is finding the best in every person, not emphasizing what we perceive as their weaknesses or failures. (If, however, the criticism is constructive, our response should be one of humility and teachableness.)

Secondly, keep in mind that keeping a clear conscience before God is a much higher priority than being approved of by men.  It takes courage to do right, even if one has to stand alone, but that is the kind of integrity and courage that great men and women throughout the ages have exhibited and we do well to follow in their footsteps.

Reuben and Gad accepted Moses’ criticism and correction.  To their credit they kept their promise and went in to the Land to fight against the enemies of Israel.  But in the end, they returned to the other side of the Jordan.  They stopped short of taking possession of the Land God had promised Israel.  At the very border, instead of looking straight ahead, they looked to the right and to the left and decided to stay.

This is a second deeply significant lesson out of this week’s Torah portion.  When God instructs us, it is not enough to go part of the way, or even 98% of the way.  If we are committed to live by His Word, there is no room for compromise. Go all the way!

After the death of Moses, God spoke to Joshua and said, “Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the Torah which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go. Joshua 1:7

We are constantly bombarded with more than enough distractions in this world that easily draw our attention ‘to the right and to the left’ of what God has told us in His word.  This week’s Torah portion, as we come to the end of the book of Numbers, closes with these two very significant admonitions.

  1. Let integrity guide your thoughts, words and actions regardless of whether or not anyone understands. Your focus is to please God, not men.
  2. Refuse to be a 98% kind of person.  Go for the gold!  Be radical enough to obey God fully.

In Tune with Torah this week = taking these two principles to heart and checking our own lifestyle.  How are we doing?

Shabbat shalom

 

 

Weekly Torah Commentary — Chukat July 15, 2016

Numbers 19:1 – 22:1

The first thing we need to understand is that between vs. 22 of Numbers 19 and vs. 1 of Numbers 20, thirty-eight years have passed!  The congregation of the sons of Israel who arrived at the wilderness of Zin ‘in the first month’ are, by and large, the children of the generation that came out of Egypt.  You may remember that God had decreed that generation would die in the wilderness because of the sin of the Golden Calf and their children would go into the Land.

This new generation set up camp in Kadesh and Miriam died there and was buried.  Immediately afterward we read:

“There was no water for the congregation and they assembled themselves against Moses and Aaron. The people thus contended with Moses and spoke, saying, ‘If only we had perished when our brothers perished before the Lord! Why have you brought the Lord’s assembly into this wilderness for us to die here?  Why have you made us come up from Egypt to bring us into this wretched place? It is not a place of grain or figs or vines or pomegranates; nor is there any water to drink.’

This generation grew up knowing  that they were destined to enter the Land.  They watched over the years as one after another of the elder generation passed away.  By this time there were few of the elderly left and Moses was now almost 120 years old.  It is a very different situation from the time when this generation’s parents had complained about a lack of water.

In Exodus 17: 1-7 a similar complaint was brought to Moses: ‘Give us water to drink’.  Moses turned to the Lord Who instructed him to strike the rock and water would flow out.  He did – and it did.

All these years later, the children present the same complaint but with a slightly different inference. What they are really saying is ‘Moses, why did you bring us out here? Why have we settled here in Kadesh? We’re supposed to be going into the Land.  Look, the older generation is just about gone. Get us out of this desert now.  We don’t want to wait anymore!’

Moses and Aaron fell on their faces at the entrance to the Tabernacle.  The Lord spoke to Moses, commanding him to take his rod – the staff he had used at so many critical junctures of the journey – and in the presence of the people, to speak to the rock and water would flow.

MosesRock

So Moses and Aaron gathered the people.  With the staff in his hand, Moses addressed the people: ‘Listen now, you rebels! shall we bring forth water for you out of this rock?’  Then he struck the rock twice and water flowed.

But God was not happy with Moses. He said, ‘Because you have not believed Me, to sanctify Me as holy in the sight of the sons of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the Land which I have given them.’  Key word: ‘believed’

Many have suggested that Moses’ punishment was due to his outburst of anger and/or because he disobeyed by striking the rock instead of speaking to it.  is there anything else here we need to discover?

Notice that God did not rebuke Moses for not ‘obeying’ Him but for not ‘believing’ Him. It was Moses’ faith – or lack thereof – that God faulted him for.

Moses had always used the rod in the working of miracles. But here, God was changing the strategy. God said , ‘Speak’ -use your voice, Moses.  It was a test, one that Moses had faced before.

We remember a much earlier time when God was also annoyed with Moses.  In Exodus 4: 10-14, Moses protests God’s call on his life saying ‘Please, Lord, I’ve never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since You have spoken to Your servant to Your servant; for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.’  The Lord said to him, ‘Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I the Lord?  Now then go and I, even I, will be with your mouth and teach you what you are to say.’  But Moses said, ‘Please Lord now end the message by whomever You will.’  Then the anger of the Lord burned against Moses.

Moses was comfortable using the rod.  He was not comfortable using his voice.  But that’s what God told him to do.  He didn’t believe God could use his voice to perform a miracle.  (God had ‘never done that before’ – where have you heard that before?) Moses’ lack of faith in this instance had profound consequences, particularly as it was the second time in his life that he resisted using the spoken word when God commanded him to do so.

In Tune with Torah this week = The Bible teaches us that FAITH is what pleases God.  How many times have we felt prompted to do an act of kindness, to perform a godly task, to reach out to someone in need but we rationalized it away and didn’t do it?  The natural fruit of Faith is Obedience.  When we disobey the Lord, there is always a connection to our faith.  This week, let us learn from Moses that when God asks us to do something, He also gives us the grace and the ability to do it.  Let us be quick to obey, thereby demonstrating the authenticity of our Faith!

Shabbat Shalom

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