Thought for the week

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‘Parsha Chukat’ - Murmering and disobedience have consequences

Numbers 20:12-13: “Then the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe Me, to hallow Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.” This was the water of Meribah (strife), because the children of Israel contended with the LORD, and He was hallowed among them.”

The ‘parsha’ (‘Torah’ portion) this week, ‘Parsha Chukat’ (Decree), found in Numbers 19:1–22:1, is the 39th weekly ‘Torah’ portion in the annual Jewish cycle of ‘Torah’ reading. The corresponding ‘haftorah’ (reading of the prophets) is found in Judges 11:1-33.

‘Parsha Chukat’ opens with the ritual law of the red heifer which purified a person from impurity brought on by contact with a dead person or animal.
The heifer had to be without blemish, have no defect and not have borne a yoke.
Eleazar the priest was to take the heifer outside the camp, observe its slaughter, take some of its blood with his finger and sprinkle it seven times toward the Tabernacle.
The entire heifer was then burnt together with a piece of cedar wood, a bundle of hyssop, and a scarlet thread. The ashes were then collected and used to create the water of lustration (spiritual purity).
 
Our ‘parsha’ tells us that after forty years of journeying through the desert, the people of Israel arrived in Kadesh, in the wilderness of Zin. Moses’ sister, Miriam, died and was buried there.

The land was parched and water was scarce and the Israelites complained to Moses and Aaron saying: “Why have you made us come up out of Egypt, to bring us in unto this evil place? It is not a place of seeds, or of figs, or of vines, or of pomegranates; nor is there any water to drink.”
G-d instructed Moses to gather Aaron and the congregation together and G-d told Moses to speak to a rock in front of the congregation and that the rock would give forth water.
However, when the congregation were gathered, Moses, angry at their constant complaining, admonished the people and struck the rock twice with his rod. Water poured out of the rock and the congregation - as well as the beasts - drank the water.
G-d then spoke to Moses and told him that, because he did not believe G-d to sanctify Him in the eyes of the people by striking the rock instead of speaking to the rock, Moses would not bring the Israelites into the land which G-d had given them.
The name of that place was called the “Waters of Strife”.

‘Parsha Chukat’ goes on to tell us that Moses sent messengers to the king of Edom, asking permission to pass through his land in order to reach the Land of Canaan. The Edomites refused and massed their armies to block Israel's passage. Israel turned away from them and journeyed from Kadesh to Hor HaHar where G-d told Moses and Aaron that Aaron was about to die. The reason for this was that Moses rebelled against G-d at the “Waters of Strife” and struck the rock instead of speaking to it; therefore, G-d would not allow Aaron to enter into the land of Canaan.
G-d instructed Moses to take Aaron and Aaron's son, Eleazar, up to the top of the mountain and dress Eleazar in Aaron's priestly garments, as there Aaron would die.

Canaanites from Arad attacked the Israelites and the Israelites prayed for G-d’s help and pledged the war spoils to the Tabernacle; the Canaanites were defeated and their cities rifled.
The children of Israel journeyed on and, once again, the people murmured against G-d and Moses saying: “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and our soul loathes this worthless bread.”
G-d then sent venomous serpents among the people that bit them, and many died. The people repented of sinning against G-d and against Moses, and Moses prayed for the people.
G-d told Moses to make a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; He then told Moses that everyone who was bitten, upon looking at the serpent on the pole, would live.

Leaving the desert, the Israelites camped at Matanah, Nachaliel and Bamot before arriving at the plains of Moab. They sent messengers to Sichon, King of the Amorites, requesting permission to pass through his land.
Sichon gathered his armies and attacked the Israelites who defeated the Amorites and occupied their land. When Og, King of Bashan also massed his people against the Israelites, he, too, was defeated and his lands were occupied.

‘Parsha Chukat’ concludes with the children of Israel camping in the plains of Moab across from Jericho.

‘Haftorah Chukat’ describes how the people of Israel were attacked by the Ammonites. The Israelites required the assistance of Jephtah to lead them in battle against this military threat.
Jephtah the Gileadite was the son of a harlot and was sent away from his home by his half-siblings. He settled in the land of Tob where he became a great warrior. When Jephtah was called upon to lead the Israelites into battle against Ammon, he agreed on one condition: If he led Israel against Ammon and G-d delivered Ammon into his hand, he would become their head, The Israelites accepted Jephtah’s terms.

Jepthah first tried to bring a peaceful resolution to the conflict by sending messengers to reason with the king of Ammon, declaring his peaceful intentions. In his message, he also discussed the Israelites' conquest of the lands of Sichon and Og, victories which are related in this week's ‘Torah’ reading.
However, the king of Ammon remained inflexible. Jephtah then successfully led his countrymen into battle and they conquered and eliminated the Ammonite threat.

There are two lessons to be learnt from this week’s ‘parsha’.

The first lesson concerns the danger of murmuring against and questioning G-d. We see this clearly in Numbers 21:5 when the children of Israel asked: “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and our soul loathes this worthless bread.”
In Verse 6 we see the result of their murmuring: “So the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and many of the people of Israel died.”

Many people today question G-d when they face trials and tribulation asking why G-d has done this to them.
Trials and tribulation may be an attack of the enemy, and there are times when G-d allows it; the story of Job is one such example. However, trials and tribulations can also be G-d testing our faith, obedience and love for Him.

James 1:2-4 declares: “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”
Trials and tribulation are there to perfect us and make us complete – this is G-d’s love; He wants us to lack nothing spiritually; He wants us to be like gold: Job 23:10: “But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.”

However, constantly murmuring against and questioning G-d is dangerous. In Genesis 6:3, G-d declares: ““My Spirit shall not strive with man forever””.

The second lesson concerns the danger of disobeying G-d. In this week’s ‘parsha’ we see the consequence of Moses’ disobedience to G-d by striking the rock instead of speaking to the rock as G-d commanded him. Because of this, both Moses and Aaron were denied access by G-d to the Holy Land, both dying before the Israelites entered Canaan.
Moses had done all the hard work of bringing the Israelites from Egypt to Canaan; he spent forty years in the desert with them. Yet the consequence of His disobedience was that he and Aaron would not have the privilege of entering the Holy Land.

Today, the principle of disobedience to G-d remains the same - there is always a consequence.
An example of this is that if one commits a crime and he or she repents, confesses their sin and asks G-d to forgive them of their sin, their sin is forgiven them; however the consequence – prison – remains.

Now, there are two specific areas where Christians often are disobedient to G-d’s word.
The first area is the ‘Great Commission’ in which Yeshua tells us to take the gospel to all nations – Mark 16:15: “And He (Yeshua) said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” Unfortunately, many Christians don’t do this; it’s usually left to the evangelists and pastors to do.
The ‘Great Commission’ is not Yeshua’s suggestion; it’s His mandate for the church.

The second area concerns the Gentile Christians.
One of the most important mandates for Gentile Christians is to take the gospel to the Jewish people by provoking them to jealousy. Sadly in this area, the majority of Christians fall very, very short.

We already see G-d’s intention to use the church to provoke the Jewish people to salvation in Deuteronomy 32:21: “They (the Jewish people) have provoked Me to jealousy by what is not God; They have moved Me to anger by their foolish idols. But I will provoke them to jealousy by those who are not a nation; I will move them to anger by a foolish nation.”
It is generally accepted that “those who are not a nation” refers to the church.

This intention is reinforced by ‘Rav Shaul’ (the Apostle Paul) in Romans 11:11-14: “I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles. Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness! For I speak to you Gentiles; inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, if by any means I may provoke to jealousy those who are my flesh and save some of them.”

In other words, one of the reasons that Gentiles are saved is “to provoke the Jewish people to jealousy so that they may be saved”. Sadly, this is often left to Jewish Believers to do, as very few Churches, ministries and even Christians take the gospel to Jewish people. I, myself came to salvation through Jewish Believers.
And again, “provoke the Jewish people to jealousy so that they may be saved” is not a suggestion; it is G-d’s command for the Gentile church.

Now in obedience to G-d’s command regarding the ‘Great Commission’, I want to give those of you reading this and who may not be a born-again follower of Yeshua, the good news of salvation.

G-d, because of His love and compassion for you; because He wants to have an intimate, personal relationship with you; because He wants you to have eternal life,
not eternal death has, through His Son Yeshua, been faithful to forgive your sins through the work of the cross. He is also faithful to grant you eternal life in heaven,
through the death and resurrection of Yeshua.

As the heifer in ‘Parsha Chukat’ had to be without blemish and have no defect, so scripture records that Yeshua was the perfect sacrifice – without blemish and without defect.
He died on the cross, shedding every last drop of His blood, thus taking our sins upon Himself, guaranteeing all who believe in His death and resurrection and who invite Him to become L-rd of their lives, eternal life in heaven…and this is for both Jews and Gentiles.

If you are not saved, please accept Yeshua as your L-rd and Saviour by praying the prayer of salvation found at the end of this article.

Finally, don’t murmur against or question G-d. Be obedient to His voice and His word; remember, murmuring, questioning and disobedience will have consequences.
We love you.
Shalom.
Scripture of the week: Numbers 20


SALVATION PRAYER

Thank you Yeshua for Your love for me.
Thank you for giving up Your life on the cross for me and for taking my sins upon Yourself.
I confess that I have sinned.
I repent of my sins and I turn from everything I know to be wrong.
I invite You to come into my life as my Messiah, my Saviour.
By Your grace I will serve You all the remaining years of my life.