Friday, June 15, 2012

On the Precipice of a Promise | Shelakh | Your Weekly Challah

 פרשת שלח

“Send [out] for thyself”

Torah: Numbers 13:1-15:41
Haftarah: Joshua 2:1-24
B’rit Chadashah/New Covenant: Hebrews 3:7-4:1

1 June 2013 | 23 Sivan 5773

Trust in the LORD and do good; 
Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. 

Delight yourself in the LORD

And He will give you the desires of your heart. 

Commit your way to the LORD

Trust also in Him, and He will do it. 
He will bring forth your righteousness as the light 
And your judgment as the noonday.
Psalm 37:3-6

It should have been the “Dream Team”—the twelve men leading the expedition were the captains, the leaders of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. Standing at the precipice of the promise given to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—the realization of the Land of Israelthey doubted. Moses sent them forth with the admonition, “Be of good courage!” But they distrusted. They found the land flowing with milk and honey, and producing abundant fruit, yet deprecated its value and inflated the danger. Joshua and Caleb alone encouraged the congregation of Israel to trust Adonai and dismiss the evil report, but the ten discredited their good report and incited the people to fear and rebellion. 

A tragic turning point for the Children of Israel, who had seen the Glory of the LORD, the redeemed out of bondage now desired to cast off their royal robes, abandon their inheritance and return to enslavement in Egypt! The Divine Wrath of Adonai was stirred. He desired to wipe the slate clean and start over with Moses. Yet Moses intercedes once again—not for Israel’s sake, but for the sake of God’s Name among the Nations. Which is the essence of things after all, isn’t it? That through His children, His Name is sanctified in the earth! Blessed be the Name of the LORD, amen.

He has sent redemption to His people; 
He has ordained His covenant forever; 
Holy and awesome is His name.
Psalm 111:9

For from the rising of the sun even to its setting, 

My name will be great among the nations... Malachi 1:11

A quick intro for some of our newer readers: What’s a Torah Portion, why are we commenting on it, and what relevance does it have to us?
In a nutshell ... Luke 24:27 tells us that Yeshua (Jesus) revealed Himself through the Old Testament Scriptures, beginning with Moses and the Prophets.  From the time of Ezra, the Torah (the first five books of the Bible) has been read in a yearly rotation by Israel, and this tradition is still observed today. 
In Yeshua’s time, a complimentary portion from the Prophetsthe Haftarah portionwas added to the weekly rotation of readings. Thus, for over two millennia, the children of Abraham have kept this unifying rhythm of studying the same Scriptures throughout the yearalong with commentaries from the sages, including those who influenced the Apostle Paul, such as Hillel. It is therefore enriching and enlightening to delve into these foundational treasures, unearthing the riches of hidden insights revealed in the original Hebrew language or “listening” through the ears of Yeshua’s contemporaries to gain a fresh understanding of this faith sprung from Hebraic soil, and purchased with Jewish blood, by a Son of Israel, the King of the Jews. 
Join us now at the Father’s table as we keep the rhythm of Israel for more than two millennia, anticipating fresh manna from our God and King. As followers of Messiah we have added a corresponding New Covenant portion reflecting the fulfillment and crown of the Torah. 

Numbers 13:1-33  On the Precipice of Promise

“And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: ‘Send men to spy out the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the children of Israel; from each tribe of their fathers you shall send a man, every one a leader among them.’ So Moses sent them from the Wilderness of Paran according to the command of the LORD, all of them men who were heads of the children of Israel. And Moses called Hoshea the son of Nun, Joshua” (vs. 1-3).

This is the turning point for the congregation of Israel, redeemed out of slavery, heirs of the Covenant, and witness the majestic glory of YHVH in their wilderness journey. The parallel account in Deuteronomy 1 reveals that Adonai did not initiate the idea to send spies into the Promised Land, but rather capitulated to the wishes of His children.

And Moses called Hoshea the son of Nun, Joshua (v. 16).

From Hoshea הושע meaning “salvation” in Hebrew, Moses changed the son of Nun’s name to Joshua, in Hebrew, Yehoshua יהושוע which means, “YHVH is salvation,” by adding the letter yod י from Adonai’s own sacred name as a prefix.

“Then Moses sent them to spy out the land of Canaan, and said to them, ‘Go up this way into the South, and go up to the mountains, and see what the land is like: whether the people who dwell in it are strong or weak, few or many; whether the land they dwell in is good or bad; whether the cities they inhabit are like camps or strongholds; whether the land is rich or poor; and whether there are forests there or not. Be of good courage. And bring some of the fruit of the land.’ Now the time was the season of the first ripe grapes. And they went up through the South and came to Hebron; Ahiman, Sheshai, and Talmai, the descendants of Anak, were there. Then they came to the Valley of Eshcol, and there cut down a branch with one cluster of grapes; they carried it between two of them on a pole. They also brought some of the pomegranates and figs. The place was called the Valley of Eshcol, because of the cluster which the men of Israel cut down there” (vs. 17-24).

Eshkol אשכל means “cluster,” so named for the abundant clusters of grapes that flourished in the valley. The image of the giant cluster of grapes being carried back from the Promised Land on a pole has become an iconic image of Israel.

Moses sent the spies off with the rallying cry, “Be of good courage.” Although they were to report on the inhabitants and fortifications of the Land, presumably the report would be used for tactical planning, not to abandon the promise of the LORD. The men who led the expedition were rulers—in Hebrew, nah-see, נשיא, princes, captains, or leaders among men. They should not have been timid or given to fear.

They went at the time of the grape harvest—in July or August—and found enormous clusters of grapes that had to be carried back by two men, born on a pole. 

They found the land flowed with milk and honey, Yet, rather than take encouragement from the richness of the land Adonai was giving them, the spies focused on the large race of men it fed, and their fortifications.

“And they returned from spying out the land after forty days. Now they departed and came back to Moses and Aaron and all the congregation of the children of Israel in the Wilderness of Paran, at Kadesh; they brought back word to them and to all the congregation, and showed them the fruit of the land. Then they told him, and said: "We went to the land where you sent us. It truly flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. Nevertheless the people who dwell in the land are strong; the cities are fortified and very large; moreover we saw the descendants of Anak there” (vs. 25-28).

In order to heighten the effect of their negative report, the spies claimed to see the descendants of Anak, who were legendary throughout the region for their stature and fierceness. 

Caleb, however, attempted to calm the company’s fears, ignoring the hyperbolic rhetoric, telling Israel they certainly can take possession of their inheritance!

“Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it” (v. 30).

But the men who had gone up with Caleb and Joshua persisted in their evil report, “The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it [are] men of great stature. There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight” (vs. 32-33).

There we saw the giants...”  Now, in order to convince Israel that the inhabitants are invincible, the spies claim they are the Nephilim—the giants from Genesis 6:4: “There were giants (in Hebrew, Nephil נָפִיל)  on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men and they bore [children] to them...” 

Joshua and Caleb alone now perceive the gift of God as precious. The company of spies has spurned the Land—their inheritance—and has led the rest of Israel into their sin.

Numbers 14:1-45  Protecting the Name of the LORD Before the Nations

So all the congregation of Israel wept throughout that night. They slandered Moses and Aaron, and cried out against the LORD who had redeemed them from Egypt and sustained them in the wilderness. They talked among themselves of abandoning Adonai and Moses, and returning to Egypt:

“And all the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron, and the whole congregation said to them, ‘If only we had died in the land of Egypt! Or if only we had died in this wilderness! Why has the LORD brought us to this land to fall by the sword, that our wives and children should become victims? Would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?’ So they said to one another, ‘Let us select a leader and return to Egypt’”  (vs. 2-4).

So grievous was this sin of betrayal against Adonai and His servants that (according to Jewish commentary) the date of the Ninth of Av was decreed for the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, as well as several major disasters throughout Jewish history thereafter. 

Moses and Aaron understood the depth of damage that had been done and were consumed with shame and grief. Joshua and Caleb, however, tore their clothes to show their grief and humility, and appealed once more to their brethren not to succumb to fear, or to rebel against the LORD. They emphasized the extreme richness (“exceedingly good”) of the Promised Land and the protection and provision (“our bread”) of the LORD:

“...Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the children of Israel. But Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes; and they spoke to all the congregation of the children of Israel, saying: ‘The land we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land. If the LORD delights in us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land which flows with milk and honey. Only do not rebel against the LORD, nor fear the people of the land, for they are our bread; their protection has departed from them, and the LORD is with us. Do not fear them’(vs. 5-9).

Did it work? Did they listen? No!  “...the congregation said to stone them with stones” (v. 10).

Fear is powerful. It destroys faithfulness, fruitfulness, and joy. Therefore Adonai exhorts us: “Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6). “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong” (I Corinthians 16:13).

Can we honestly point a finger at these fearful Children of Israel who had failed Adonai so terribly? We like to refer to the "stiff-necked Jews" who rebelled against God repeatedly, yet how often do we lapse into distrust and take our fate into our hands? How often do we despair and become fearful in our own circumstances? How often do we choose worldly ways rather than waiting on God? The Children of Israel are a microcosm of mankind; examples of the finest and the frailest among men. Through their triumphs, trials, and tragedies, we discover the majesty, mercy, and magnificence of our God.

The Divine Wrath of Adonai was kindled. He desired to wipe the slate clean and begin His great redemption plan over with Moses: 

“Now the glory of the LORD appeared in the tabernacle of meeting before all the children of Israel. Then the LORD said to Moses: ‘How long will these people reject Me? And how long will they not believe Me, with all the signs which I have performed among them? I will strike them with the pestilence and disinherit them, and I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they’” (vs. 10-12).

Yet Moses intercedes once again—not for Israel’s sake, but for the sake of God’s Name among the Nations. And this is the essence of what has been revealed from the beginning. That through His children, Adonai’s Name is to be sanctified in the earth. Through those who carry His Name, the nations will know He is LORD, His is Holy, He is King, and He is worthy to be praised! Blessed be the Name of the LORD.

Now if You kill these people as one man, then the nations which have heard of Your fame will speak, saying, ‘Because the LORD was not able to bring this people to the land which He swore to give them, therefore He killed them in the wilderness.’ And now, I pray, let the power of my Lord be great, just as You have spoken, saying, The LORD is longsuffering and abundant in mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression; but He by no means clears the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation. Pardon the iniquity of this people, I pray, according to the greatness of Your mercy, just as You have forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now’” (vs. 14-19).

Was this also a test for Moses? If so, he once again exemplifies the true intercessor and redeemer he is called to be. 

In interceding for His People, He reminds Adonai of His revealed Divine Attributes: Mercy, Longsuffering, Forgiveness, Lovingkindness—all in Divine measure, above that of mortal man with his frailties, reminding Him of His own Words in Exodus 34:6-7:

“And the LORD passed before him and proclaimed, "The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing [the guilty], visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children's children to the third and the fourth generation.”

Unlike the hearts of the Sons of Israel, Adonai’s heart is moved. The Scriptures say, “Mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13), and when it does so, we can rejoice. However, even in mercy, there is generally a cost. Adonai relents of His wish to bring death to the whole congregation of Israel. Yet there will be a cost: 

“Then the LORD said: ‘I have pardoned, according to your word; but truly, as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD—because all these men who have seen My glory and the signs which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have put Me to the test now these ten times, and have not heeded My voice, they certainly shall not see the land of which I swore to their fathers, nor shall any of those who rejected Me see it’” (vs.20-23).

Although Adonai is glorified in showing His mercy, lovingkindness, forgiveness, and longsuffering, it is not faithful to His character to utterly dismiss such wonton rebellion and defiance. Such cannot receive the promise, or propagate its poison in the soil of His inheritance.

Jewish Commentaries have varying lists of the ten miracles the congregation of Israel had witnessed that should have convinced them of Adonai’s great power. Among those miracles listed:
  1. The pillar of cloud by day and fire by night (Exodus 13)
  2. The parting of the Red Sea (Exodus 14)
  3. The bitter water made sweet at Marah (Exodus 15)
  4. Provision of Manna (Exodus 16)
  5. Provision of Quail (Exodus 16)
  6. Water from the rock at Refidim (Exodus 17)
  7. The giving of the Law from Mt. Sinai (Deuteronomy 4)
  8. The Fire of the LORD at Taberah (Numbers 11)
  9. The Manna and QuailSecond Incident (Numbers 11)
  10. The bronze serpent (Numbers 21)
Adonai had forgiven His Chosen People plenteous times by now. He knew from the time He decided not to destroy all mankind, but to preserve Noah and his family (Genesis 6), that sin would corrupt men’s hearts and entice them to rebel against their Master. Still, His heart is grieved that His beloved Israel, whom He has redeemed by the strength of his own arm, and has revealed His glory to, has yielded to fear and rejected Him

Like Noah in his generation, however, Caleb and Joshua have found favor in the sight of the LORD, having followed Him faithfully:

“But My servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit in him and has followed Me fully, I will bring into the land where he went, and his descendants shall inherit it. And the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, ‘How long shall I bear with this evil congregation who complain against Me? I have heard the complaints which the children of Israel make against Me. Say to them, As I live, says the LORD, just as you have spoken in My hearing, so I will do to you: The carcasses of you who have complained against Me shall fall in this wilderness, all of you who were numbered, according to your entire number, from twenty years old and above. Except for Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun, you shall by no means enter the land which I swore I would make you dwell in. But your little ones, whom you said would be victims, I will bring in, and they shall know the land which you have despised. But as for you, your carcasses shall fall in this wilderness(vs. 24-32).

Caleb and Joshua would be the only ones of their generation to be allowed to enter the Promised Land. Even Moses and Aaron would be denied this privilege. 

What is this “different spirit” that the LORD noted in Caleb? Clearly, it was illustrated by the fact that he followed Adonai fully. This would likely be a person that would be ridiculed in the modern vernacular as “too heavenly-minded to be of any earthly good.” They go against the flow, standing for righteousness and believing God, at any cost. There is “the spirit who works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:2-3). And then there is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, Righteousness, and Promise; guarantor of our inheritance until the Day of Redemption. (Ephesians 1:13-14)

“...the land which you have despised.” Esau despised his birthright/inheritance for a bowl of stew (Genesis 25:30-34), and became Edom, progenitor of the Edomites, losing his right of the firstborn son of Isaac, heir of the promises of Israel.

“...your carcasses shall fall in this wilderness...” The doubters shall die in the wilderness exactly as they said they would! (“...if only we had died in this wilderness!” v. 2

“‘And your sons shall be shepherds in the wilderness forty years, and bear the brunt of your infidelity, until your carcasses are consumed in the wilderness. According to the number of the days in which you spied out the land, forty days, for each day you shall bear your guilt one year, namely forty years, and you shall know My rejection. I the LORD have spoken this. I will surely do so to all this evil congregation who are gathered together against Me. In this wilderness they shall be consumed, and there they shall die.’ Now the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land, who returned and made all the congregation complain against him by bringing a bad report of the land, those very men who brought the evil report about the land, died by the plague before the LORD (vs. 33-37).

“...bear the brunt of your infidelity...” 

The Hebrew translated as infidelity here is a very strong word: zenuwth זנות, meaning whoredom, fornication, and harlotry. In other verses we see that Adonai says it pollutes and defiles the land (Jeremiah 3, Hosea 6) and enslaves the heart (Hosea 4). This makes it clear why Adonai could not allow the generation enter the Promised Land. 

The Bible characterizes rebellion to God as idolatry and infidelity in marriage. It defiles the home, the sanctity of the covenant relationship, and the children generally bear the brunt of it. 

The punishment for the rebellious generation will be one year for each day they were in the land they rejected—forty years for forty days. Plus, the ten spies who brought the evil report and incited the rebellion to God received a plague and died immediately.

Too Little, Too Late
After seeing the ten leaders felled, the Children of Israel seemed to realize their folly and mourned what they had done. They realized they were right there, in reach of the promise of God to the Patriarchs! And once again, they decided to take matters into their own hands. They thought they could make things right by going in and taking possession of the Land NOW, after Adonai had pronounced His judgment. Wrong! Moses warned them they could not go, as the LORD would not be with them, but they went anyway and fell to the Amalekites and Canaanites:

“Then Moses told these words to all the children of Israel, and the people mourned greatly. And they rose early in the morning and went up to the top of the mountain, saying, ‘Here we are, and we will go up to the place which the LORD has promised, for we have sinned!’ And Moses said, ‘Now why do you transgress the command of the LORD? For this will not succeed. Do not go up, lest you be defeated by your enemies, for the LORD is not among you. For the Amalekites and the Canaanites are there before you, and you shall fall by the sword; because you have turned away from the LORD, the LORD will not be with you.’ But they presumed to go up to the mountaintop. Nevertheless, neither the ark of the covenant of the LORD nor Moses departed from the camp. Then the Amalekites and the Canaanites who dwelt in that mountain came down and attacked them, and drove them back as far as Hormah” (vs.39-45).

Numbers 15:1-41  Neither Jew nor Greek, One Before the LORD

I wanted to briefly comment on verses 15-16 in this last chapter of our Parashah, for it contains some language that gives rise to interesting dialogue regarding the relationship of Gentiles to Torah:
“One ordinance shall be for you of the assembly and for the stranger who dwells with you, an ordinance forever throughout your generations; as you are, so shall the stranger be before the LORD. One law (HebrewTorah תורה) and one custom  (Hebrewmishpat משפט ordinance, custom) shall be for you and for the stranger (Hebrewger גר newcomer, foreigner)who dwells with you(vs. 15-16).

This is not an isolated verse, but one of many in which Adonai instructs Israel that the Gentiles (or the “stranger”) who join to them, or their God are to have the same Torah/Law and customs. 

“One law shall be for the native-born and for the stranger who dwells among you” (Exodus 12:49). 

“You shall have the same law for the stranger and for one from your own country; for I am the LORD your God” (Leviticus 24:22). 

But wait, there’s more! (Leviticus 16:29, 17:12, 17:15, 18:26, 25:6, Numbers 9:14, 15:14-16, 15:29, 19:10, Deuteronomy 5:14...)

What’s more, when the stranger takes on the ways of Israel, Adonai will no longer consider them to be strangers, but rather will consider them to be no different than native-born Israeli: “...he shall be as a native of the land” (Exodus 12:8).

There are some believers, therefore, who read Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek...” in this light. Considering the first church continued to be quite Hebraic in expression and nature, the formal break not coming until the Council of Nicea, it may be that this verse is similar to its Old Testament counterparts.

Of course, the verse is primarily referring to a spiritual standing, as it goes on to say there is neither male nor female, and obviously, in this life, even as Believers there is still that distinction! I am just bringing to light an alternate view that some may not be aware of—that although observing Torah is certainly not to be considered a method of earning salvation (in fact much of it is specific to the Temple, Jerusalem, or the Priesthood, and therefore not even applicable for today), perhaps the Gentiles were supposed to be allowed to partake of its blessings ... the knowledge of the holiness of God ... the feasts and holy days, etc.

What is often brought up is the apostolic decision of Acts 15:19-20, “Therefore I judge that we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God, but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood.”

Yet the very next line is left off: For Moses from ancient generations has in every city those who preach him, since he is read in the synagogues every Sabbath.”

There was a terrible problem in the first church. It was the opposite of today. The Jews had a difficult time believing the Gentiles could be part of the redeemed community. That’s why controversies arose regarding whether the Gentiles should first be circumcised, or should they be compelled to learn and keep all of the Torah and the customs before being considered full brothers. Gentiles were previously considered [ritually] unclean, and going into the home of one would render a Jew [ritually] unclean—unfit to participate in the feasts or Temple worship. Understanding that the middle wall of partition had been broken down (Ephesians 2:14) was difficult to grasp. 
How could Gentiles, who eat pork come into a worship service or share table fellowship with these Jewish followers of Yeshua?! Yet, the Holy Spirit had called them. Of that, it was clear. To expect them to learn all the commandments before coming into fellowship, was not acceptable. The apostolic decision was to ask only these few things to begin with so that they could have fellowship: abstain from idolatry, sexual immorality, strangled meat, and blood ... FOR Moses ( the Torah) is preached every Sabbath  
In other words, they will learn the rest (as lifestyle, not for salvation) as part of the fellowship of Believers. 

I realize this is controversial—even my hubby likely will take exception with this interpretation—so please feel free to comment! 

Haftarah Shelakh
Joshua 2:1-24   Spies, Lies and the Mercy of God

Our Haftarah for this Parsha is Joshua 2:1-24. We have just finished seeing through our Torah portion the rebellious nature—once again—of the Jewish nation. After all that Adonai had done thus far, and then having brought them to the doorstep of the Promised Land, this "stiff-necked people" did not trust Him to bring victory in taking the Land. Having been punished now forty years for their rebellion, they are once again at that same tragic doorstep. 

They are a young nation. Not a one is over sixty years old, save two (Can you name them?)

Whereas the first time it was twelve spies that were sent into the Promised Land, now it is just two. Why the difference I wonder? My conjecture is that the first time at God’s direction a representative from each tribe was chosen, so that they then could go back each to his own tribe, and as a trusted member, assure them of what great things lay ahead for them. This time, however, only two spies—by Joshua’s decision alone—are sent. Most likely because no reassurance needed to be given the people. They had seen those twenty and older all die through the last forty years. This new group was done with wandering. They wanted what God had promised them, and they wanted it now

With instructions to “...go view the land, especially Jericho” (Joshua 2:1), two unnamed spies (6:17) are sent to look things over. Upon arriving at Jericho, the spies take lodging in a house owned by Rahab. This encounter tells us of the mercy and grace of God in the affairs of mankind. You're familiar with the account of how Rahab first hid the spies, then lied for them, and ultimately helped them escape the city... You may have even sat through a presentation or two on, “The ethics of lying to accomplish a good end.” But for now let’s focus on another aspect of this story.

Rahab was a harlot, a woman who sold her body to the pleasures of men. Her house was actually an inn where travelers would take lodging, and it doubled as a brothel. This house of ill-repute functioned just like the typical inn of the day for the Canaanite world, and if one were to want a degree of anonymity, this was the place to go.

We don’t know much about Rahab’s individual situation in this Amorite culture, but we do know that the culture had reached its full measure of iniquity. (Genesis 15:16) We also know through historical evidence that at about the same time in Babylon a woman in Rahab’s position was called a “wine-seller” or “ale-wife.” These women owned their own inns, serving food and beverage, and offering lodging and prostitutes for a profit. They were looked upon as occupying the lowest level of society. They were highly regulated by harsh Babylonian law that could warrant a death sentence if they were found even overcharging for drink.

It was probably some other guests that reported the presence of the two Jewish men taking up lodging in Rahab’s establishment. In any case you know the rest of the story. Just imagine the risk she must have known she was taking. Her life was on the line and she knew it. Now, what of the mercy and grace of God in the affairs of mankind?

Rahab was no dummy. She knew of the end that awaited her city. To these spies that she hid she said this, 

“I know that the LORD has given you the land, and that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land have melted away before you. For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. When we heard it, our hearts melted and no courage remained in any man any longer because of you; for the LORD your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath. (Joshua 2:9-11)

So, what of God’s mercy ... in Rahab’s life? Her city was destroyed. Every living thing whether human or animal was killed. (Joshua 6:21) That is except for Rahab and the family she had brought into her dwelling. Mercy is God NOT giving to someone what they DO deserve. Rahab and her family within were no different than any one else in Jericho. They should have been killed as well, but they were not. Why?

First of all, they—and especially Rahab—were judicially selected by God to be objects of His mercy. This is similar to a judge choosing not to impose a deserved sentence on one, out of a group who all deserve and get that same sentence. Paul addresses this concept in Romans 9.

“There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be!  For He says to Moses, "I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION." So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. ...So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.” (Romans 9:14-18)

Certainly those two spies could have turned into any number of similar lodging locations. It’s hard to imagine Jericho having only one. But God divinely chose to order the path of those spies to Rahab’s establishment. And in the course of human events a divine and predetermined (Ephesians 1:11) decision was played out. Rahab and her family were to escape their deserved judgement (That’s mercy, not receiving what you deserve), while the rest of the sinful city would suffer their deserved consequences (And that is justice, getting what you do deserve.) Now that is mercy, but grace?

And, what of God’d grace ... in Rahab’s life? Grace was certainly demonstrated. What could she have possibly done to warrant such an honor? It could only be an act of God’s grace that brought this about. By her life style, her history, and what she was known as Rahab was given something by God that she DID NOT deserve. 

In Matthew 1:5-6 it says, “Salmon was the father of Boaz by Rahab, Boaz was the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse. Jesse was the father of David the king.” 

After being integrated into the Jewish nation Rahab thus finds herself in the lineage of the Messiah, being the great, great grandmother of King David. If that honor to a woman of Rahab’s background is not an act of grace (God giving to one what they do not deserve), I just don’t know what is.

I believe a BIG, BIG reality in the believer’s life is that our Creator demonstrates His grace (GIVING us what we DO NOT deserve) and His mercy (NOT giving us what we DO deserve) every day

It started by giving us salvation from an eternity apart from Him, a salvation we do not deserve. “For BY GRACE you have been saved through faith and that not of yourselves, it is A GIFT OF GOD...” (Ephesians 2:8) 

And of His mercy our Bibles tell us, “This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the LORD's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:23, KJV).

How can we not rise up in joyful praise to Him who has done, and is doing, and will yet do such great things for us?

Yes! To the Almighty, praise His Holy Name!

B’rit Chadashah Shelakh
Hebrews 3:7-4:1  Entering His Rest

Such a heartrending portion of Holy Scripture we are directed to for our B’rit Chadashah study. Hebrews 3:7-4:1 does not tell us of victory gained by the people of God. Rather, it recounts the story of their failure and warns not to follow in the same path.

The failure spoken of is that which we have seen in the Torah portion, Numbers 13-15, but extends through chapter 21. It covers the forty years of wandering in the wilderness, beginning with the nation’s refusal to enter and take possession of the Promised Land. For this act of unbelief, the Israelites would wander one year for every day the spies searched out the treasures Adonai would have given this nation had they just believed their God. (Numbers 14:34) And this unbelief would continue on through that forty years, evidenced by such incidences as Korah’s rebellion (Numbers 16), and the waters of Meribah (Numbers 20:13), where the whole nation contended with the Lord.

God’s footnote on these forty years was not a good one, for His people did not enter into His rest. 

Psalm 95:8-11 records:

“Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as in the day of Massah in the wilderness, 
when your fathers tested Me. They tried Me, though they had seen My work. 
For forty years I loathed that generation, and said they are a people who err in their heart, and they do not know My ways. Therefore I swore in My anger, Truly they shall not enter into My rest."

Out of this I see at least three questions that bear addressing: 
1. What was the Israelites’ failure? 
2. What was the consequence of that failure? 
3. What lesson might we learn from this failure?

What Was the Israelites Failure?

The answer to this is found in the seat of the human emotions. God has chosen to equate this with the human heart. (Note that God’s evaluation of that seat of human emotion is not very complimentary. Jeremiah 17:9 says of it, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick...”

And what did these Israelites allow to happen to this seat of human emotion? They allowed it to harden which led to disobedience. 
  • v.8, “Do not HARDEN YOUR HEARTS as when they provoked me, as in the day of trial in the wilderness...”
  • v.10, “...I was angry with this generation, and said, 'They always go astray IN THEIR HEART...'”
  • v.12, “Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you AN EVIL, UNBELIEVING HEART that falls away from the living God.“
  • v.15 “...while it is said, "Today if you hear His voice, do not HARDEN YOUR HEARTS, as when they provoked me.” 

So what was the Israelites failure? It was in initiating, strengthening, and maintaining a hardened heart condition against God’s revealed will for their lives. He wanted them to enter and take possession of the Promised Land. They believed they could not. So they hardened their hearts against His revealed will. This was their decision, not Adonai’s, and was born of the sin nature that resided in every one of them.    

And so, our next question which regards this willful act of disobedience...

What Was the Consequence of That Failure?

Some brethren would use these verses and the question arising from them as a catalyst for a discussion on the “error” of believing in eternal security. While I personally believe in the “perseverance of the saints,” that, “once saved, always saved “ discussion is not found in this particular passage.

In view here is not life after death, but life before death. The “rest” spoken of here is a rest which would have manifested itself once the Israelites were in the Promised Land while alive, not after they were dead. Understood in this light it is much easier to see temporal consequences of a hardened heart in these verses rather than eternal ones. Look at a sample with me.
  • v.11, “They shall not enter my rest.” Disobedience in this life most certainly does not produce restful this life.
  • v.12, “Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God.” A heart condition not allowing a belief in what God has said is true will only separate us further and further from Him in our daily walk.
  • v.14, “For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end, That word, “if” makes this verse a little harder to see that the temporal is being spoken of here, not the eternal. The word “if” is conditional. It is an, if this then that, kind of thought. So perhaps we might look at the verse this way. 

IF—in this life—we hold fast to the assurances we had when our faith began we will be a partaker of the blessing of Christ, that is to say, as long or as often as we hold onto those blessings. And IF we were to, or could, hold those assurances firmly unto the end we would never be without the blessings of Christ, that is if we were never to let go of those assurances. 

Put another way, the blessings of Christ first experienced at the point of our salvation experience will be manifested in us day by day as long as we are continuing to partake daily of Christ.
  •  ---v.19, “So we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief.” What was their unbelief? 

Not in their God, but in their God’s ability to give them victory in the Promised Land as He said He would.

So again, what was the consequence of that failure; initiating, strengthening, and maintaining a hardened heart condition against God’s revealed will for their lives? The consequence was that they were not able to enter the Promised Land, that promised place of rest.

What Lesson Might We Learn From This Failure?

The consequence of the unbelieving Israelites was that they were not allowed to enter God’s rest prepared for them in His Promised Land. They were kept in the wilderness for forty years until everyone twenty years and older had died. Why? Because they had hardened their hearts against believing that Adonai was able to give them that promised rest in this life.

I Corinthians 10:11 says, “Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.”

So what example might we draw, what instruction might we gain?

For me the instruction would be to never harden my heart against believing God’s “rest” is available for me through the gifts Yeshua has given to all believers; that I can consistently and continually appropriate them as often as I am partaking of Yeshua. For us today not entering the Promised Land is equivalent to setting ourselves apart from that which the Messiah offers us, and choosing rather to live in the flesh. His blessings are our appropriation as we are obedient to Him.

And for me the example is what happened to Israel when allowing their hearts to be hardened, when they did not believe Adonai’s promise. All that remained for them was to live and die in the flesh, never experiencing what could have been had they only lived for their God. 

“Therefore, let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it.”    Hebrews 4:1

Fear failing to walk continually with Him. 

Fear not partaking of all that could be yours if you ... fail to live in His rest.

Shabbat shalom!
In Messiah's Love,
Michael and Sarah