weekly torah tidbits

July 4, 2020     -   Tammuz 12, 5780
Chukat – Balak:  "Statute/Balak"

Torah:  Numbers 19:1-25:9         
Haftarah: Judges 11:1-33; Micah 5:6-6:8
Brit Chadasha (New Testament): John 3:10-21; 1 Corinthians 1:20, 31

Learning to Follow the Leader

     What do we do when the L-rd gives us instructions that don't seem to fit our ideas?  Do we ignore the L-rd's instructions and go our own way, or do we follow, in simple, childlike faith and obey the L-rd?  These chapters in Numbers give us both kinds of examples: obedience based on faith and disobedience.  

     One of the more controversial episodes is the time when Moses disobeyed the L-rd (Numbers 20:9-11).  The L-rd instructed Moses to speak to the rock and command water to come out.  Instead, Moses lifted his staff and hit the rock twice.  Water came gushing out of the rock and the people of Israel (all 2 million of them) had their thirst quenched.  Moses' action does not seem particularly "sinful."  Why did the L-rd get so angry that He punished Moses by forbidding him from coming into the land of Canaan? 

     Many Biblical scholars connected Moses' action to Yeshua's death.  When Moses struck the rock earlier (Exod. 17:5-7), his action symbolized Yeshua being struck (i.e. dying on the cross). Just as Yeshua could only die once, the rock could only be struck once.  This is an interesting explanation, but is this what the Word is really saying? 

     First of all, we need to examine the L-rd’s response: "...you did not trust in Me enough to honor Me as holy in the sight of the Israelites...," (20:12).  The L-rd explains that this was a faith issue on the part of Moses.  He had seen that striking the rock "worked" before, so perhaps he lacked the faith to trust that just speaking would cause water to come gushing out of the rock.  After being pushed to the limit, it's understandable that Moses would break out in anger.  Yet, Moses was the L-rd's representative (i.e. leader) and he should not have allowed his anger to distract him from following the L-rd's instructions. Psalm 106:33 supports the view that part of the problem was Moses' rash words (v.10): "...must we bring you water out of this rock?" 

     The people of Israel were guilty of sin in their words of unbelief, (Num. 20:2-5) so the L-rd wanted to show what the power of words, His words, could do.  He wanted Moses to speak G-d's words in this situation and demonstrate to Israel how powerful His words are ("honor Me as holy...").  Our challenge, as Yeshua’s disciples, is to learn to follow Him.  Even in cases where we have a hard time following Him, we need to remember that our heavenly Father knows best...