Weekly Torah Commentary – Korach June 23, 2017

Torah reading:  Numbers 16 – 18

Haftorah reading: I Samuel 11:14 – 12:22

The Torah reading this week narrates the rebellion of Korach and his followers against the leadership of Moses.  In keeping with that account, the Haftorah reflects the same theme albeit in terms of the whole congregation of Israel.  It is especially interesting that it is Samuel, a descendant of Korach, who deals with the present situation in a vastly different manner than his ancestor.

From Israel’s earliest days, God had always provided the nation with a righteous leader – either a prophet or a judge, and it was God’s intent to continue to do so.  He reserved the position of King for Himself and rightly so.  Samuel understood this well and the thought of any ‘king’ over Israel other than the Holy One Himself was totally outside of Samuel’s understanding and thinking.

But the people wanted a king; they wanted to be like the other nations, not unique in their national character.  Samuel the prophet inquired of the LORD who allowed him to anoint Saul as king over Israel.

So all the people went to Gilgal.  There they made Saul king before the LORD in Gilgal; and there they slaughtered feast peace-offerings before the LORD; and there Saul, as well as all the men of Israel, rejoiced exceedingly.  I Sam. 11:15)

Saul

Over and over again, Samuel instructed the people that such a king must be different than the kings of other nations.  He himself must be subservient to God’s laws and be careful to promote God’s honor rather than his own.  He must be a servant to the people, not a master who rules arbitrarily.  He must guide Israel in the ways of the LORD. Saul did well as king for awhile, but the end of his story is tragic.

Samuel continually pleaded, argued and instructed the people to follow the LORD and to live according to His ways, but over and over again, they sought their own will and went astray.

Hidden in this account is a principle that we do well to learn.  Anytime we pursue and actively ‘make happen’ something that is not God’s will for us, tragedy of one sort or another follows.  I am reminded of a verse in the psalms:  He gave them their request but sent a wasting disease with it.  (Psalm 106:15)  When the children of Israel were in the desert, they frequently complained and begged Moses – and God – for what they did not have.  Their complaining was so persistent that at one point, God granted their request for meat by sending quail into the camp.  However, their reaction was not to thank God but to eat gluttonously until they made themselves sick.  It is that picture that I believe the psalmist had in mind when he penned psalm 106.

What does that say to us today?

We do not always know what to ask God for.  Truth be told, we may well pray misguided prayers more often than not.  We find it difficult to really trust that our Father in heaven does know what is best for us.  We have our plans; we have our ideas.  His plan is better every time.

Have you ever prayed and prayed and prayed for something in particular and after a while, God answers but once you have it, you think to yourself, ‘Why did I want this?’  It turns out not to be everything you thought it was going to be?  That is what the psalmist meant when he said, ‘He gave them what they asked for but sent a wasting disease with it.’

God is not unkind or cruel to do so.  He hears your petition and I believe He genuinely tries to get our attention, correct our thinking and steer us in a different direction.  But we are a stubborn people.  We get fixated on what we want and don’t hear that still small voice within saying, ‘Go this way instead.  It’s better.’

So when we don’t listen, He sometimes answers but with the answer comes conditions or results that we didn’t expect.  That’s exactly what happened when Israel demanded a king and it’s exactly what happens to us as well.

In Tune with Torah this week = Think back over your life. Can you think of times you prayed for something in particular and God didn’t give it to you? Later on, did you realize that your Father knew best and you wonder why you ever asked in the first place?  It became so obvious that what you thought you wanted would have ended in disaster.

Perhaps now you’ve been praying a long time for something your heart is set on.  Have you asked the LORD: Is this Your best for me?  If not, please change my heart and re-focus my attention.

Shabbat Shalom

 

 

Weekly Torah Commentary – Shemini April 21, 2017

Torah reading:  Leviticus 9-11

Haftorah reading: 2 Samuel 6:1 – 7:17

When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, uncovering himself in the eyes of his servants’ maids, as one of the foolish ones shamelessly uncovers himself!” David said to Michal, “It was before the LORD, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the LORD’s people, Israel. I will celebrate before the LORD. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these maids you spoke of, I will be held in honor.” And Michal daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death.   2 Sam. 6:20-23

Daviddances

Remember that David was a simple shepherd boy – a teenager – when the prophet Samuel was sent to anoint him the next king of Israel. At the time, Saul was reigning over Israel and when David killed Goliath, he won the king’s favor.  However, that didn’t last long for Saul became exceedingly jealous of David and his abilities as the commander of his army. Eventually David becomes King and Jerusalem becomes his city, The City of David.

In I Samuel 18 there’s an interesting verse that bears on this week’s reading: “When Saul saw and knew that the LORD was with David, and that Michal, Saul’s daughter, loved him, Saul became still more afraid of him, and he remained his enemy the rest of his days.”  (vs. 28-29)  Saul gave his daughter in marriage to David but Saul’s jealousy and fear of David continue until we read in 1 Samuel 25:44 that Saul gives his daughter who was married to David to another man by the name of Palti.

After the death of Saul, David decides he wants his first wife, Michal, back and sends one of his men to escort her back to David’s palace (2 Samuel 3:14-22). Talk about dysfunctional relationships!

This complicated relationship between David and Michael continues to the point where in this week’s Haftorah, we get this description of David taking the ark into the city Jerusalem, his City, the city of David.

David was wearing an ephod or the priestly garments as he danced with all his might before the LORD – a dance of worship, of celebrating the goodness of God, of recognizing God’s power and glory.  David worshiped with everything in him.

When he got home afterwards, Mrs. Michal had her critical speech ready and memorized! In essence she says to her husband, the king, ‘You sure made a fool of yourself today!’

Why did Michal speak so harshly to David?

There may be several reasons but here at least are a few.

Remember that she loved David and had been his first wife.  When her father tore her from him and gave her to another man because of his own (Saul’s) jealousy, perhaps she felt abandoned that David did not come after her and rescue her from this new ‘husband’ right away.  Perhaps she struggled with resentment against both her father and her husband and if that resentment festered in her, bitterness would have developed and this was the moment it poured out of her onto David.

Alternatively, could there have been some tension between the ‘wife born into royalty’ and the lowly shepherd become king? Was that the reason behind accusing him of being ‘undignified’? In modern terminology would she be calling him a ‘peasant’, ‘a country bumpkin’?

David’s answer is to point out that what he was doing, he was doing for the LORD.

It was before the LORD, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the LORD’s people Israel—I will celebrate before the LORD. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes.” (vs. 21-22)

David makes it quite clear to his wife that his dancing is a perfectly acceptable form of celebrating the God He loves so ardently. Though he was King of Israel, David celebrated with abandon the One Who is King of the Universe and lets Michal know in no uncertain terms that nothing she says will keep him from passionate worship of the LORD.

Good for him!

The verse that follows is ominous and one can’t escape the connection.  Michael, daughter of Saul, had no child to the day of her death.  (Vs. 23) In biblical times, infertility was seen as one of the worst judgments of the LORD against a woman.

It was not wise to criticize the one doing the dancing!  It is never wise to criticize another person’s expressions of love and devotion to the LORD, even if it’s not ‘your style’ of worship.  The worship is not addressed to you!  It’s addressed to the Holy One of Israel.  Who are we to criticize how another person worships Him?

Notice 2 Samuel 6: 16 Then it happened as the ark of the LORD came into the city of David that Michal the daughter of Saul looked out of the window and saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD; she despised him in her heart. (emphasis added)

That word despised has synonyms such as hated, loathed and detested. There can little doubt that her ardent love for David had gone cold. But somehow, I don’t think her verbal attack was only about the dancing, do you?  Resentment had been simmering under the surface for a long time.

King David reckoned himself small in comparison to the God of Israel and cared little for the opinions of men. If the maids had noticed his zeal and passion for God, well then, he was fine with that.  ‘May it inspire them to passionate love for God!’ would have been his way of looking at the situation – radically different from Michael’s.

Is there more here for us to glean so many centuries later?
Are you convinced that what God thinks of you is what really matters in life?  Or like Michal, are you overly conscious of ‘what others might think’ if you stand strong in your faith and its expression?

Michal would have been an extremely brave or extremely cheesed off woman to confront the king in the way she did. But with her upbringing her own view she saw David because of his dancing as a ‘vulgar fellow’.

In society today we encounter opposition to our faith in God, to our celebration of Him.  The secular mind calls it foolishness.  Like Michal they have their ‘reasons’, but there is NO ‘reason’ for you or I to be moved or weakened in our faith by the opinions of other people.

Was David wrong to dance, to celebrate before the Lord? This was a King who had seen the power of God in his life. He knew what it was to sense the ‘joy of the Lord’ for it was this king who had written Psalm 16 which ends with these words: ‘In your presence is fulness of joy and at Your right hand, there are pleasures forevermore.’ vs. 11

In Tune with Torah this week = Is the presence of the LORD real in your life? Do you know that you know that He is with you? That He loves you with an unconditional love? That His attitude toward you is one of blessing?  Joy is much more than a feeling; it is an attitude of life fueled by an abiding awareness of God’s personal love for you!

May your joy in Him increase this Shabbat and throughout the rest of your life.

Shabbat Shalom