Weekly Torah Commentary Beha’aloscha June 9, 2017

Torah reading:  Numbers 8-12

Haftorah reading: Zechariah 2:14 – 4:7   (Zechariah 2:10 – 4:7 in English translations)

The prophet Zechariah served the LORD after the remnant of Judah had returned from the 70-year Babylonian exile. His prophetic ministry was active during the reign of Darius, the ruler of the Medes and Persians. His career is not marked by the reign of a king over Israel or Judah, because there was no king of Israel or Judah in this period after the exile.

Profoundly conscious of all of God’s promises to Israel throughout the centuries, and given their recent return to Jerusalem after seventy years in Babylon, the prophet urges them to be joyful.

rejoice

Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion (Zech 2:10)

God doesn’t expect His people to be passive or “cool” in light of His faithfulness in bringing them back after seventy years just as Jeremiah had prophesied. God expects them to sing and rejoice, to be thankful and worshipful.  The prophet goes on with even more reasons for joy.

I am coming and will dwell in your midst (Zech 2:10

The first reason why God’s people should be excited is because He will be among them in a unique and powerful way. To this day the assurance of His presence with us is more than enough reason to be thankfully happy, even in the midst of difficult times.  David wrote in Psalm 16:11, ‘In Your presence there is fulness of joy.’  God is always with us, He will never forsake us.  You can anchor your soul in that promise for the Holy One of Israel does not lie; neither is He unfaithful.  He promised to be with us always and He is.  Is that not what faith is all about? Trusting absolutely in His revealed Word which can never, ever fail.

Zechariah goes on to give the returned exiles another reason to be joyful.

Many nations shall be joined to the LORD in that day and will become My people. Then I will dwell in your midst and you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you. (Zech. 2:11a)

This is a profoundly prophetic verse.  Read it again quietly to yourself.

First of all, we see that God’s love and His Redemption is for ALL nations.  His choice of Israel was for a purpose and a mission: to make His Name known and loved across the world, ‘a light to the nations’.

Now there’s something interesting about light.  It exposes what already exists.  Therefore, Israel’s national mission was (and is) to demonstrate individually and as a nation the power and the blessing of living in relationship with the Holy One of Israel.  Israel’s calling was never intended to be introspective; rather, their calling is for the sake of the rest of the nations.  Here He explicitly tells Israel more nations are going to become His people lest Israel become smug or arrogant about her calling.

Secondly, through the prophet, God informs us that He will bring many peoples into His Kingdom. He is making known to Judah and to all of Israel that His blessing upon them was never intended to isolate them from the rest of the world but to make them effective and impacting witnesses of His goodness for the sake of awakening the rest of the world to God’s love.  This echoes the thought we’ve already expressed: Israel was to be the model nation.  It was to their high calling that Zechariah was appealing, reminding and exhorting them to be mindful of WHY they were chosen and WHY they were brought back to Jerusalem.  It wasn’t just to make them happy; it was for the purposes of God’s eternal Redemption plan which was to encompass ALL the nations of the world.

Then I will dwell in your midst and you will know that the LORD of Hosts has sent me to you. (Zechariah 2:11b)

Thirdly, this second half of verse 11 clearly prophesies the Messianic Kingdom to come.  It jumps to future generations: ‘Then’ – or ‘At that time’ speaks of the future when King Messiah will literally ‘dwell in your midst’ and all Israel will know that the LORD of Hosts has sent Him, for the world will be at peace, wars will cease and His reign from Jerusalem will encompass the entire world.  Finally, the dream of Avinu Malkenu – Our Father and our King – will be realized as men and women, boys and girls from every nation under heaven worship Him in truth.  What a glorious day that will be!  What an amazing future awaits us!

In Tune with Torah this week = In light of the glorious future God has prepared for His people, should we not live with eternity in view? How will it impact your life today, this week, this year if you purpose to live conscious that you are just a traveler passing through on this planet but your true and eternal home awaits you?

Shabbat Shalom

 

Weekly Torah Commentary – Va’eira January 27, 2017

Torah reading:  Exodus 6:2-9:35

Haftorah reading: Ezekiel 28:25 – 29:21

On the first day of the first month of the 27th year during our exile, the LORD spoke to me. ‘Son of man, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon made his army fight hard against Tyre. They struggled until they all had bald heads and sore shoulders. But he and his army gained nothing from the fight with Tyre. Therefore, the LORD your King says: I will give the country called Egypt to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. He will ruin it and he will rob it. He will carry away all its wealth. With this, he will pay wages to his army. I have given him Egypt as a reward. In what he has done, he worked hard for me. This is what the LORD your King says. At that time, I will make Israel to become strong again. You will speak to them. Then they will know that I am the LORD.’  Ezek. 29: 17-21

In the first sixteen verses of Ezekiel 29, the LORD spoke to Ezekiel to prophesy against Egypt.  He describes the king of Egypt as being like ‘a great crocodile in the river’, warns him that another nation (Babylon) will attack and conquer them and He (God) will ruin the country.  For forty years Egyptians will be banished and scattered from their country but after that time, they will return and this shall be a sign to the Israelites that they, too, will return to their native land.  More importantly, it will be a sign to Israel that the LORD’s promise to them is sure and will indeed come to pass.  For when they see this prophecy of Ezekiel’s against Egypt come to pass, they will know that his prophecy that Israel will be restored will also come to pass. Notice the last words: At that time, I will make Israel to become strong again.  You will speak to them. Then they will know that I am the LORD.

There is the key: …that they will KNOW that I am the LORD.

Throughout biblical history, we are confronted with the issue of faith vs. fear.   Though the Israelites knew about God’s covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as well as the covenant at Mt. Sinai, along with all the miracles the children of Israel experienced through the centuries, nevertheless in Ezekiel’s day, they still doubted Israel’s restoration.  Every visible indication was that Israel as a sovereign nation on the land promised to Abraham was finished, thrown into the dustbin of history…that is, if you only looked at what was visible.

However, the promises of God are not dependent on what is visible, but on His eternal and intrinsic integrity.  God cannot lie.  When Israel was exiled because of her sinfulness, He nevertheless had promised they would eventually return, that the God of heaven would keep His Word to Abraham and his descendants.

But given the conditions around them, the people of Ezekiel’s day doubted.

Aren’t we too often so much like them? On the one hand, we declare that we believe the Scriptures to be the eternal, inviolable Word of God but when visible situations or our earthly circumstances seem to contradict what we believe how easily are we prone to doubt.  In times like that, we may even say things like ‘I know God can help me but I’m not sure He will in this instance.’  May God forgive us!

Sometimes we are simply impatient.  We want an answer and we want it now.  We want to see a situation change and we want it yesterday!  It is precisely in times like these that it is vital to remember all the blessings God has already provided us in our lifetime.

One of the most powerful deterrents to doubt is an attitude of gratitude.  Giving thanks to our heavenly Father on a daily basis is to the soul like Vitamin C to the body – it strengthens your immunity against the ‘dis-ease’ of doubt!

I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth, we read in Psalm 34:1.

Praise the LORD! Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!  Psalm 106:1

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.
Psalm 136:1

John Henry Howett wrote: Life without thankfulness is devoid of love and passion. Hope without thankfulness is lacking in fine perception. Faith without thankfulness lacks strength and fortitude. Every virtue divorced from thankfulness is maimed and limps along the spiritual road.  How true!

thanks

To train ourselves that our first thought on waking up will be ‘Thank you, my God, for another day to live and serve You’ is a worthy pursuit. Beginning our day with thanksgiving sets an atmosphere, a positive outlook that makes the new day an adventure instead of a drudgery.

In Tune with Torah this week = check out your ‘gratitude attitude’.  How is it doing?  On a scale of 1 – 10, how grateful were you this week for God’s daily blessings in your life?  We too often focus on the ‘big’ things and forget to thank Him for the multitude of so-called ‘little’ things He does for us continually.  He deserves our thanks for EVERYTHING!

Shabbat Shalom