Masei / Journeys
Our Journey Towards Shabbat…
We are always on a journey. Sukkot reminds us of our temporary life in a temporary world. To be a Hebrew is to be on a journey. That is how it began when Abraham first heard the words “Lech Lecha” (Go For Yourself) the call to leave and begin the journey. That is how it began in the days of Moses, when he was called to tell Pharaoh ‘Let My people go’. And that is the point repeated in this parsha Masei when it begins with the stages of the journeys of the Israelites.
Numbers 34 continues with boundaries, and chapter 35 continuing with towns and the cities of refuge. Numbers 36 concludes Masei and the book B’midbar with the inheritance of Zelophehad’s daughters.
Our journeys are all different, yet there is a similar pattern: go and stay. The wording between setting up and encamping, walking and standing still, is part of the rhythm of our lives. Bilaam’s blessing reminds us of the two: “How lovely are your tents, Oh Jacob, and your dwelling places, Israel.” Tents are for people on a journey. Dwelling places are constant and still. We journey towards something, and the dwelling place is within us.
Psalm 1 describes both: ‘Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; 2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. 3 He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper. 4 The ungodly are not so, but are like the chaff which the wind drives away. 5 Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. 6 For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the ungodly shall perish.’
In the beginning of Psalm 1 we are walking, moving, towards the righteousness of God, away from the counsel of the ungodly. What is the ungodly? One who does not emulate Adonai. One who would not rest in His Covenant and obey His Torah and Son. Therefore, the contrast of the ungodly: ‘his delight is in the Torah of the Lord…’
The ending of Psalm 1 speaks of the people of God as ‘a tree planted by water bringing forth fruit…’ How prophetic.
When we begin to leave our Hellenistic past, we proceed on the journey toward the ways of Elohim. We might begin with a Passover dinner at a friend’s house, or a congregation. We might journey on to buy a shofar, or a tallit, or we might start eating only kashrut foods. Our journey may be fast paced, or we slowly trudge along. As we travel on our journey, we have tents of resting, and we have tents of gathering encouragement and edification from our fellow believers in the Walk and of course from God.
Part of the ending of our journey towards the Ways of Elohim is to enter into the Sabbath. The Shabbat seems to be the final resting place, the final stop for a dwelling place. Once the Sabbath is part of someone’s life, it should be solid and non-optional.
Unfortunately, there are those that still consider The Sabbath optional. It is a choice for us to make, but it is not an option. One can choose not to keep the Sabbath, but it can never be undone. Even if we make the choice to disregard the Shabbat, it is still a holy time.
The Sabbath begins sunset Friday night and ends sunset Saturday night. There are twenty-four hours in the Sabbath. It is not limited to one hour on a Saturday, or three hours at a synagogue; it is the full twenty-four hours coinciding with God’s timing. It falls on what culture has named ‘weekend’. But that word is not in Scripture. The Word tell us that Sabbath is holy and set apart, and six days you shall work. The Sabbath has been blessed by God, Exodus 20:8-11.
When we live in a world of ‘our’ weekends, timing will undoubtedly center around ourselves as it becomes a time for us. What are we going to do or get done on ‘our weekend?’
We live in the diaspora where, unfortunately, there is nothing in our legislature that honors the set apart times of Elohim. It’s up to us to choose to set time apart to honor Him. The times and holidays of the diaspora are the polar opposite of God. Being in the diaspora, it is easy to concentrate on ‘our time’ and ‘my way’ and ‘my desires’, thus losing sight of the specialness of Shabbat, of community and of His Word. Saturdays and Friday nights become consumed with sporting events, birthdays, parties, recitals, garage sales, restaurants to go to, yards to clean, houses to paint, and on and on.
But those are things we do for us, for our glory. None of those things bring glory to Him and His Word, for in essence we are desecrating the Sabbath. We excuse our behavior.
Isaiah 58:13-14 tells us:
“If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath,
From doing your pleasure on My holy day,
And call the Sabbath a delight,
The holy day of the Lord honorable, and shall honor Him, not doing your own ways,
Nor finding your own pleasure,
Nor speaking your own words,
14 Then you shall delight yourself in the Lord;
And I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth,
And feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father.
The mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
Those verses may be translated into a negative message, a depressing day. ‘Don’t be joyful.’ But that is not what the prophet is saying at all. If we translate that message into our language, it would render: ‘do enjoy the Sabbath, do keep it set apart, do delight in the Lord, do honor His holy day thus honoring Him, do go to Synagogue and study Scripture, do speak His Words.’
When we deviate from those instructions, when we hit a garage sale, or a party, or a store, or clean our home, or mow the yard, or fish or go see a movie or go to a seminar or conference, are we keeping the Sabbath special? Or are we just doing some things that we want to do because it is Saturday? Are we speaking His Words or ours? Are we honoring the day He blessed? Can we unbless something He blessed? Do we glorify Him by creating a weekend for us? It is His Sabbath, His time, His twenty-four hour space in time, that He set apart and blessed for us. It is not our weekend to catch up on errands– it is His time.
Mark 2:27 ‘And He said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. 28 Therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.”
May your journey lead you into the Sabbath – completely.
Chazak! Chazak! V’nitchazek! Be Strong! Be Strong! And May We Be Strengthened!
Masei / Journeys
Masei begins with ‘These are the journeys of the children of Israel who left the land of Egypt in their legions, under the charge of Moses and Aaron.’ Numbers 33:1. It is interesting that Masei begins with ‘journeys’ and later in this parsha includes the cities of refuge. We also read about the land given to the people of Israel by YHWH. B'midbar (Numbers) 34:1-2 states, "Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Command the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When you come into the land of Canaan, this is the land that shall fall to you as an inheritance—the land of Canaan to its boundaries. Verses 3-15 continues with the description of those borders. Interesting to note that the borders described in Masei are not the same as what is described in Israel’s future borders as found in Genesis 15:18-21. The borders promised to Abraham will come when Yeshua returns to provide a true refuge for the commonwealth of Israel and all of His people walk in the Torah. This is reiterated in Ezekiel 37:19-28.
Masei continues with the cities of refuge in Numbers 35:6. This verse states that within the boarders spoken of as the "land of Canaan", six cities of refuge were to be established for someone who had killed a person to flee for refuge from the "go'el hadam", Hebrew for ‘the blood avenger’.
The person who was found to have killed someone could flee the "go'el hadam" (the blood redeemer) and find refuge in one of the cities of refuge. The blood redeemer, otherwise known as the "avenger of blood" usually was the deceased nearest kinsman. Numbers 35:12: ‘They shall be cities of refuge for you from the avenger that the manslayer may not die until he stands before the congregation in judgment.’
We are all guilty of death and are in need of refuge. We have all sinned as Romans 6:23 states. ‘For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Yeshua HaMashiach our Lord.’ Our sin not only results in our death, but those to whom we wound or lashon ha’ra. Furthermore, our sin also resulted in the death of Yeshua The Messiah. Isaiah 53:5 states, "But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.’
Romans 5:8 ‘But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.’
1 John 2:2 ‘He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.’
Who then would be the "go'el hadam" the blood redeemer for Yeshua The Messiah? It would be The Lord Himself. The whole earth will be judged by Him. It would only be by the life and death of His Son that He would provide salvation for all those who seek refuge in Yeshua. And although we may have been ignorant of the death we have caused, and it may have been unintentional, we nonetheless must flee and find refuge to live. How many times have we ‘killed’ someone with our tongue? As Proverbs 18:21 states: ‘Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.’
Acts 17:30-31 states, "Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, 31 because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.’
In so many ways the cities of refuge, "aray miklat" in Hebrew are a huge metaphor for Yeshua and the refuge we have through Him. During the time that the cities of refuge existed a person who had killed another was directed to a close city of refuge, “ir miklat" in Hebrew, by a sign on the road that said "miklat miklat", which means "refuge, refuge". In Hebrews 10:7 states that Yeshua said: ‘Then I said, 'Look! In the scroll of the book it is written about Me." Regarding signs pointing to refuge, Yeshua tells us in John 14:6 that "...I AM the Way -- and the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father except through Me".
These cities were deliberately placed throughout the land of Israel so that anyone in any part of Israel seeking refuge could easily and quickly access that city of refuge that was called by God. Psalms 85:9 states, "His salvation is near for those who fear Him, so that glory will be in our land". Psalm 145:18-19 teaches us, "God is close to all who call on Him, to all who sincerely call on Him. He fulfills the desire of those who fear Him; He hears their cry and saves them".
Like the path to Yeshua, the path to the cities of refuge was to be made easy and accessible, it just took following the directions. If the path to the city pointed to the north and the one fleeing deviated to the south, he would miss the city of refuge. This is true of following Yeshua, as John 14:15 clearly states: ‘Yeshua said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” Keeping the commands of Yeshua begins with recognizing what they are. These are all part of the testimonies of God.
It states in Masei that once in the city of refuge, the person was safe. But as soon as they left the safety of the walls, there was no other place of safety. And, if the slayer where to leave, death could claim him. But, if someone stayed in the city, they were safe. Just as if we stay in Yeshua we are safe. Romans 8:33-39 states, ‘Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” 37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Yeshua HaMashiach.’
John 10:28-30 states: “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”
What has been our journey? Have we strayed from God? Have we journeyed down a path of murder – lashon hara – or gossip and bitterness? Have we accidently taken a sword to our brothers? Have our journeys led us down a path to ultimate death?
Yeshua The Messiah is our forever and always refuge. Psalms 7:1 states, ‘O Lord my God, in You I put my trust; save me from all those who persecute me; and deliver me,"...