Friday, June 15, 2018

The Sons of Disobedience | Parashat Korach | By His EVERY Word

Korach קֹרַח

Torah: Numbers 16:1-18:32
Haftarah: 1 Samuel 11:14-12:22
B’rit Chadashah/New Covenant: Romans 13:1-7

Shabbat | 16 June 2018 | 30 Sivan 5778

The Sons of Disobedience

The Great 

Let no one deceive you with empty words, 
for because of these things the wrath of God 
comes upon the sons of disobedience.  
Therefore do not be partakers with them. 

Ephesians 5:6-7

Our Celestial Benefactor created a wondrously habitable planet for us,
delicately balanced with exquisite precision
to sustain life
—within the immeasurable
vastness of the cosmos—
white-hot stars spinning at the center of exploding galaxies,
deadly, poisonous gasses, oceans of blackness, silent, lifeless void,
and glittering, brilliant heavens
that resound with His Glory.
Magnificent! Divine! Awe-inspiring! 

Yet, we are not awed,
nor are we humbled. 

Neither was man impressed with the Glorious Garden of God’s Delight where he walked with the Almighty in the cool of the evening.

No, his heart desired something other
to be found in that garden ... his eye lusted after the one fruit that would destroy his life—in the midst of a bounteous banquet of life-giving provision.

Little has changed.
Lives are still shipwrecked for the pursuit of forbidden fruit. Seduced by smooth lies yet emanating from that ancient throat, the heart leaps with the cadence of the rebel yell. 
The soul lifts itself in anarchistic pride, defying the Master of All—and for the briefest moment believes it is free. 

Yet freedom is soon unmasked as a vacuous and sudden free-fall
into rebellion’s terrifying chasm.
There just seems to be something in the heart of man that is enticed by wickedness,
that more easily buys the lie than the truth, and that desires to cast off all restraint. 

Even once enlightened and redeemed, much like Lot’s wife—we just can’t help ourselves—we are drawn to look back, still fascinated by the darkness and destruction from which we were rescued. 

Rebellion to God is deeply rooted in the fiber of humankind. In biblical terms, we “despise the LORD.” (Numbers 11:20, 15:31, 16:30, etc.) 

We err if we smugly think that the rudimentary character flaw that led to mutiny against Moses is peculiar to the sons of Israel. 

The New Covenant is replete with admonishment and correction for followers of Messiah, not to use our liberty “as an occasion for the flesh, but to walk as “children of light.” (Gal. 5:13, Eph. 5:8)

For we too easily fall in with the “children of darkness,” and enjoy fellowship with unsavory and unfruitful works of the same. 

It’s a story as old as time itself…

Such is the warp and woof of the Sons of Disobedience—Korah, Izhar, and Dathan, who gathered against Moses and Aaron and sowed seeds of rebellion in The Desert of Discontent

Say first, for Heav'n hides nothing from thy view
Nor the deep Tract of Hell, say first what cause
Mov'd our Grand Parents in that happy State,
Favour'd of Heav'n so highly, to fall off 
From thir Creator, and transgress his Will
For one restraint, Lords of the World besides?
Who first seduc'd them to that foul revolt?
Th' infernal Serpent; he it was, whose guile
Stird up with Envy and Revenge, deceiv'd 
The Mother of Mankind, what time his Pride
Had cast him out from Heav'n, with all his Host
Of Rebel Angels, by whose aid aspiring
To set himself in Glory above his Peers,
He trusted to have equal'd the most High, 
If he oppos'd; and with ambitious aim
Against the Throne and Monarchy of God
Rais'd impious War in Heav'n and Battel proud
With vain attempt.
Paradise Lost, John Milton, 1674

Yes, it began in the Garden, when the serpent enticed the woman and the man to transgress the Word of the LORD, appealing to the desire of their flesh.
This is the very same deception sweeping through the church today—deceiving, enticing, and dividing the Body of Messiah through the LGBTQ movement. It challenges the church on its message of "love," and at the same time challenges the veracity of the Bible from the very foundation and therefore God's authority and sovereignty... 
Did God REALLY say, "a man (אִישׁ ish—man,husband,male) shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife (אִשָּׁה ishah—woman,wife,female), and they shall become one flesh."? Genesis 2:24
Did God REALLY create them "male and female..."? Genesis 5:2 
Of course He did. Anyone who took Biology 101 knows that. It guarantees the propagation and proliferation of life on earth! It's patently absurd to suggest that all physiological science has suddenly changed. With the exception of a minuscule number of people born with chromosomal and/or reproductive abnormalities, the human race is simply born with a set of either male or female chromosomes

There are a small number of babies born each year with any number of physical anomalies. We address those issues medically and neither ridicule nor exalt them as something normative to emulate. Would it not be absurd to give our newborn a cleft palate because a few babies are born with one and we believe ours will FEEL like he has one when he grows up? Or remove an arm or leg? 

Society has taken this tiny number (less than 2%) of babies born with chromosomal and/or reproductive abnormalities, and exploded with myth after myth of spurious pop psychology and pseudo science to make sexual perversion and deviant behavior not only acceptable, but celebrated.

We should not be surprised, however. This is prophecy unfolding before our eyes. The world will not become heaven on earth—no, anything but. We are told that it will be as the days of Noah when Yeshua will return. 

But we are not talking about the world here. We are talking about the congregation of the faithful. Those called by His Holy Name. Why would compromise with this evil even be considered in the church?

How can the church celebrate that which the Bible calls us to repent of? Shall we also have a celebration for adulterers? Liars? Thieves? Murderers? Do they not also feel compulsion to do what they do? Should they not be free to express their desires? Who's to say THEY weren't born that way?


We were all born with the nature of Adam. Sin. In one form or another. 
Your sin is not more worthy of a platform or celebration—or acceptance by the Body of Messiah than mine. 
This is why we need a Redeemer.
And that's the Good News!
Yeshua, the sinless Lamb of God, laid His life down that we may have eternal life—and FREEDOM. Freedom from the tyranny of sin—of our old nature.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17

Hallelujah! Do you believe it? Can God do this? Of course.

 But our belief must be in HIM, not a god formed by our own hands that we made up that goes against the Bible. That is an idol that cannot save. And we must have true repentance in our hearts—that means we agree with God that what He says is sin IS sin and we desire to turn from it and walk in HIS ways, not the ways of sin and death. 

No one is forced to come to the Kingdom of God. For those who say His ways are too hard, they can walk away. Many even turned away from Yeshua for they said His sayings were too hard. (John 6:60) But we cannot tear down His word to accommodate our pet sins—and even worse, seduce brothers and sisters into compromise against God.

For those of us who are fearful that our faithful stand will be hurtful to others, consider: if we don't present the true Gospel, but pervert the image of God to an idol who cannot save, how is that true agape love? We must endure to the end as Yeshua exhorted in Matthew 24. He commanded us NOT TO BE DECEIVED. And warned that many would come in His Name, (affirming His Name!) and  yet entice to sin and apostasy, and would persecute the saints ... and that the agape love of many would grow cold because of the great wickedness and transgression of God's righteousness.
Yet, He promises that those who endure and persevere unto the end shall be saved.
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 16:1-17:13  The Desert of Discontent
Feed It and It Will Grow~The Roots of Rebellion Flourish

Now Korah the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, with Dathan and Abiram the sons of Eliab, and On the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took [men]; and they rose up before Moses with some of the children of Israel, two hundred and fifty leaders of the congregation, representatives of the congregation, men of renown. They gathered together against Moses and Aaron...” vv. 16:1-3

Having lost the Divine Promise, the spectre of forty years’ internment in the desert was an effective crucible; sifting hearts and revealing character. In our previous parashah we saw the Children of Israel crying out in fear, to select a leader a new leader other than Moses and return to Egypt. (Numbers 14:4) Adonai had desired to eradicate the entire congregation of Israel and begin a new people with Moses, but Moses interceded for the sake of God’s Holy Name among the Nations. Only the ten spies who spread the evil report and those who had participated in rebellion lost their lives. But the Promised Land was lost to the entire generation, who would remain in the wilderness for forty years lest they take the poison of rebellion into the Land of Promise. But the seeds of rebellion had already been sown...

Korah was Moses’ cousin, who resented not being appointed leader of the Levite clan. The stereotypical demagogue, he intuitively recruited others of like mind ... the “sons of Reuben,” Israel’s firstborn son, who had lost his birthright—discontented leaders who seemingly had nothing to lose—readily bought into the mutinous vision, and with 250 others, challenged Moses’ God-appointed authority. 

“...all the congregation is holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the LORD?” v. 16:3

A Little Truth ... A Little Lie
There is nothing new under the sun. Here we see the familiar cunning of the wicked one. In the same way he skewed biblical truth to tempt Yeshua (Matthew 4:1-10), we find him inspiring rebellion and confronting Moses utilizing the same tactic. 
  • Truth: “...all the congregation is holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them.” 
  • Wrong Application:Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the LORD?” This rebellion flagrantly disavows Adonai’s Divine choice of leadership, leading another group of Israelites into the great and grievous Mutiny, iconic in religious literature to this day.
Rebellion, in Hebrew, meriy מְרִי, akin to bitterness—represents serious, foundational sin that separates man from God. The Scriptures relate it to witchcraft (divination) and idolatry. For rebellion [is as] the sin of witchcraft, And stubbornness [is as] iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD...” I Samuel 15:23
Rebellion often springs from bitterness or resentment. If we nurse bitterness, we become vulnerable to  divination or witchcraft, which is the voice of false prophets (whose source is the wicked one), and idolatry, which is allegiance to another source other than Adonai—rejecting His Word and His ways, for the world, the flesh or the wicked one. In our stubbornness, our hardened heart allows us to slide easily into iniquity (sin).
Rebellion by its nature infects many. The wicked one is also known as “the accuser” in both the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Covenant (Psalm 109:6, Revelation 12:10). He whispers in our ear, “Did God really say...?” causing us to doubt the LORD. He whispers malicious things about others, breaking down trust. He whispers seductive, ego-inflating fantasies, stirring man to cast off all reason and restraint. 
In following the father of rebellionwho is the destroyerdestruction will come in certain measure, to the corrupt company that defies the Holy One of Israel. Not because God is merciless and vengeful, but because He is Just. 
He is Creator (Isaiah 40:48), and His spiritual laws are as enduring as His physical laws. If a soul is foolish enough to jump off a roof, he will not float, he will fall to his peril. 
Defy the LORD at one’s own peril as well. “The wages of sin is death...” Romans 6:23 

Yes, we have forgiveness and eternal life through Yeshua. In this life, however, we generally reap physical consequences for physical sin. A thief may be forgiven by God, spiritually speaking, but he still has to pay his debt to society. Adonai “spoke” moral laws into being for “life”—optimal living. Rebel against God, and live a nihilistic lifestyle, and consequences will reverberate from your life outward, touching many others.
In the case of these sons of disobedience, their lawless and godless contagion was sweeping through the congregation, and about to draw their compatriots into the pit ... literally.

“And Korah gathered all the congregation against them at the door of the tabernacle of meeting. Then the glory of the LORD appeared to all the congregation. And the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, ‘Separate yourselves from among this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment.’ Then they fell on their faces, and said, ‘O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, shall one man sin, and You be angry with all the congregation?’

Moses and Aaron again intercede, pleading on behalf of their undeserving people. 
“So the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the congregation, saying, “Get away from the tents of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram.’” Then Moses rose and went to Dathan and Abiram, and the elders of Israel followed him. And he spoke to the congregation, saying, ‘Depart now from the tents of these wicked men! Touch nothing of theirs, lest you be consumed in all their sins.’" vv. 16:1-3
     “And Moses said: ‘By this you shall know that the LORD has sent me to do all these works, for [I have] not [done them] of my own will. If these men die naturally like all men, or if they are visited by the common fate of all men, [then] the LORD has not sent me. But if the LORD creates a new thing, and the earth opens its mouth and swallows them up with all that belongs to them, and they go down alive into the pit, then you will understand that these men have rejected the LORD.’
     “Now it came to pass, as he finished speaking all these words, that the ground split apart under them, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all the men with Korah, with all [their] goods. So they and all those with them went down alive into the pit; the earth closed over them, and they perished from among the assembly. Then all Israel who [were] around them fled at their cry, for they said, ‘Lest the earth swallow us up [also]!’ And a fire came out from the LORD and consumed the two hundred and fifty men who were offering incense.
     “On the next day all the congregation of the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron, saying, ‘You have killed the people of the LORD.’ Now it happened, when the congregation had gathered against Moses and Aaron, that they turned toward the tabernacle of meeting; and suddenly the cloud covered it, and the glory of the LORD appeared.
And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Get away from among this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment.’ And they fell on their faces. 
     “So Moses said to Aaron, ‘Take a censer and put fire in it from the altar, put incense [on it], and take it quickly to the congregation and make atonement for them; for wrath has gone out from the LORD. The plague has begun.’ Then Aaron took [it] as Moses commanded, and ran into the midst of the assembly; and already the plague had begun among the people. So he put in the incense and made atonement for the people.
     “And he stood between the dead and the living; so the plague was stopped.”
     “And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: ‘Speak to the children of Israel, and get from them a rod from each father's house, all their leaders according to their fathers' housestwelve rods. Write each man's name on his rod. And you shall write Aaron's name on the rod of Levi. For there shall be one rod for the head of [each] father's house. Then you shall place them in the tabernacle of meeting before the Testimony, where I meet with you. And it shall be [that] the rod of the man whom I choose will blossom; thus I will rid Myself of the complaints of the children of Israel, which they make against you.’ And Moses placed the rods before the LORD in the tabernacle of witness. Now it came to pass on the next day that Moses went into the tabernacle of witness, and behold, the rod of Aaron, of the house of Levi, had sprouted and put forth buds, had produced blossoms and yielded ripe almonds.vv. 17:1-9
Only Aaron’s rod budded, producing blossoms and “ripe almonds.” (v. 8) It was a signal from the Almighty for all to see that Aaron was His Divinely appointed Priest. Numbers 16-17
Why an “almond” branch? The word almond in Hebrew is sha-khad שקד. It is the same “shoresh,” the three root Hebrew letters, as sha-khed שקד which means “to keep watch of or over, to be alert, or be wakeful over.”  
Adonai used this wordplay with Jeremiah: “The word of the LORD came to me saying, ‘What do you see, Jeremiah?’ And I said, ‘I see a rod of an almond tree.’ Then the LORD said to me, ‘You have seen well, for I am watching over My word to perform it’” Jeremiah 1:11-12
“And the LORD said to Moses, ‘Bring Aaron's rod back before the Testimony, to be kept as a sign against the rebels, that you may put their complaints away from Me, lest they die.’” Numbers 17:10

The almond branch would be seen as a sign, preserved along with the stone tablets of the Law in the Ark of the Testimony, in the Holy of Holies. Who would see these sacred items? The Divine Presence and His singular minister, the High Priest. However, the memory of Korah’s Rebellion would serve as a vivid and terrifying warning, enduring through the ages,  “For if we sin  willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.” Hebrews 10:26-27  

Aaron’s rod also testifies to the mercy and faithfulness of God. Adonai suffers yet another insurrection from His ungrateful brood ... The earth swallows alive Korah, his co-conspirators, and their families ... Then the 250 men were consumed by fire as they are offering incense ... Finally, when Aaron “…stood between the dead and the living…” (16:48) Adonai allows the plague to abate with a death toll of 14,700. A staggering figure—however, Adonai desired to consume them all. 

It is clear that among the Sons of Israel there will ever be merely a remnant who are wholly holy—walking wholeheartedly before Him. Does that not also speak of the condition of man? What is the remedy? Can we choose to be in that remnant, rather than stagger along life’s path, tossed to and fro? I believe the answer is YES! I think of Joshua’s declaration: “...choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve ... But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD. Joshua 24:15

Consider now Psalm 42 in light of the horrific account of Numbers 16 and 17:

A Contemplation of the sons of Korah
As the deer pants for the water brooks,
So pants my soul for You, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. 
When shall I come and appear before God?
My tears have been my food day and night, 
While they continually say to me, 
“Where [is] your God?”
When I remember these [things], 
I pour out my soul within me. 
For I used to go with the multitude; 
I went with them to the house of God, 
With the voice of joy and praise, 
With a multitude that kept a pilgrim feast.
Why are you cast down, O my soul? 
And [why] are you disquieted within me? 
Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him [For] the help of His countenance.
Deep calls unto deep at the noise of Your waterfalls; 
All Your waves and billows have gone over me.
The LORD will command His lovingkindness in the daytime, 
And in the night His song [shall be] with me—A prayer to the God of my life.
As with a breaking of my bones, My enemies reproach me, 
While they say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”
Why are you cast down, O my soul? 
And why are you disquieted within me? 
Hope in God; For I shall yet praise Him, 
The help of my countenance and my God.
Psalm 42

Haftarah Korach
I Samuel 11:14-12:22

The Torah portion of Numbers 16:1-18:32 has moved our sages of old to select I Samuel 11:14-12:22 for the corresponding Haftarah portion. What might one have to do with the other? 

The Israelites of the Egyptian bondage were a difficult people to deal with. Once across the Red Sea their record of disruption and disobedience never seemed to stop. So grievous to Adonai were their actions that on more than one occasion He threatened to destroy the entire people and raise up a new nation through which to pass on the Abrahamic blessings. So it is of no surprise that we see it all again this week.

Numbers 16:1-18:32 speaks of four such sinful actions; the Levites against Aaron, Dathan and Abiram against Moses, the tribal chiefs against Aaron, and the entire nation against Moses. Considering the consequences that came as a result these and many other rebellious acts one would think that the Israelite people would have learned not to rebel, but rather to trust their God. But they did not.
So, what of the connection of our two sections of Scripture? It can be summed up in two words, rebellion and consequence. For both are seen in each section. 
Let’s review for a second. Israel did eventually enter the Promised Land. Reading from the beginning of Exodus you’d of thought God would have slain them all before they made it in. Moses and Aaron had both died. Joshua then led the initial crossing of the Jordan and then eventually passed away after much of the land had been secured. The Jews were told to continue in securing the land God had promised to them. And, that is about the point where the tires fell off the car.

Now comes a period about which God says, “Every man did what was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 17:6) The time line runs from about 1380 to 1050 BC. And during this period there is a cycle that repeats itself again and again; religious apostasy, oppression, deliverance, and reform. This repetitious pattern is seen in Judges 2:10-19.  

The pattern begins with the outright forsaking of the Lord and worshiping an idol or combining in some fashion (syncretism) worship of both Adonai and a false god. Either way God chastens the offenders for this through the agency of an oppressor, a hostile nation. Put a man, or a nation, in a hammerlock long enough and eventually you’ll hear the cry, “Uncle!” Now the mercy and grace of God is manifested by the raising up of a redeemer or judge. Ultimately a return to covenant fidelity comes about. This is the cycle. Then it starts all over again.

Of all the judges Samuel is the last. About him God said that he judged Israel all the days of his life. He did this in civic affairs (I Samuel 7:16), the nation’s religious life  (7:6,17), and militarily matters (12:11). Perhaps his greatest heart ache as a judge was the nation’s insistence on having a king. 

Up to now Israel had been a theocracy. Almighty God had been their King and the judges, His representatives to the people. This had worked well when in the course of things Israel had been delivered from their oppressor and was in the reform phase of that cycle we mentioned above. But now Israel wanted to be like everybody else. Everyone else had a king. Why shouldn’t they have one as well?

The Ammonite king, Nahash, had brought the issue to a head. He certainly was not the first oppressor, but it was by his actions that the inadequacies of a judge were seen. (But remember it was only because of religious apostasy that God allowed oppression to come and then a judge to bring deliverance and reform.) Now, the Israelites thought that a king could more successfully deal with these national threats.

Samuel objected to a monarchy and said the theocracy was the better way. But the people still insisted, and so God told Samuel to let them have their way.    
“Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah; and they said to him, ‘Behold, you have grown old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint a king for us to judge us like all the nations.’ But the thing was displeasing in the sight of Samuel when they said, ‘Give us a king to judge us.’ And Samuel prayed to the LORD. The LORD said to Samuel, ‘Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them.’”  I Samuel 8:4-7

The people had made their wishes clear. They wanted a king to rule them. Samuel had made his feelings known. He saw them as rejecting the theocracy, and Samuel’s leadership under God. And God then spoke to the reality of the situation. It was not Samuel that was being rejected, but God Himself. 

Our portion concludes with Samuel making a farewell address to public ministry as a judge. Read this and grab ahold of the truths within. 

“Then all the people said to Samuel, 'Pray for your servants to the LORD your God, so that we may not die, for we have added to all our sins this evil by asking for ourselves a king.' Samuel said to the people, 'Do not fear. You have committed all this evil, yet do not turn aside from following the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart. You must not turn aside, for then you would go after futile things which can not profit or deliver, because they are futile. For the LORD will not abandon His people on account of His great name, because the LORD has been pleased to make you a people for Himself.'” 
  I Samuel 12:19-22 
So what are these truths then?

First, rejecting God to be like everybody else is sin. They wanted a king.

Second, even after committing sin—repeated and grievous—one can serve the Lord. They were told to do this with all their heart.

And Third, God will not abandon His people. Why?  Not because they weren’t that bad. They were the worst. And not because they hadn’t really turned away from their God. Because they had. No. The Lord will not abandon His people on account of His great name. You see, His keeping His people validates who He is. His good name counts on Him doing what He said He would do for and through His people. 

Wow, the marvelous mercy and grace of our God. Mercy because He did not do to the Israelites what they time after time were so deserving of. And because He is ever as merciful to us, though we too fail Him time and again. And then there is that grace, so rich and full. Ever giving to His chosen nation what they were never deserving of, ever giving to us today that which we do not warrant.  Can any doubt, that it is all of Him? He saves us. He keeps us. He will carry us home. And all of this in spite of ourselves. Why?

For His name’s sake... 

This is who He is.

B’rit Chadashah Korach
Romans 13:1-7

Our B’rit Chadashah is Romans 13:1-7. 
It is the linchpin portion of Scripture on the Christian’s relationship to his government: 

“Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. 
Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. 
For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; 
for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. 
Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience' sake. 
For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. 
Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.”

Even in the most devout of believers questions arise as to how much obedience should be rendered to their government. History has given us examples of believers living under the worst of governments—as was the Apostle Paul when he wrote these words—to arguably the best of governments—as we have here in the United States. Whether at one end or the other, or somewhere in between, questions will arise as to how obedient must we be. 

Interestingly we find this seemingly unrelated passage as the suggested New Testament reading to our Torah and Haftarah passages for this week. Let’s think about this for a second. When we read of Moses and Aaron being confronted with disobedience we think of it as religious in nature. But was it solely religious? When Samuel was confronted with disobedience was that disobedience only in the religious sense? Were not Moses and Aaron, and Samuel, civil leaders as well as spiritual ones? 

Certainly under the Mosaic and Samuel governments civil law existed and it was expected to be obeyed. If it wasn’t there were consequences; sacrifices at least for forgiveness and perhaps punishment as well. Indeed obeying the civil law of the day was closely associated with the religious. It seems to me that so closely associated was the civil to the religious that one could consider obeying the civil law a spiritual act of service. Now you may not entirely agree with the premise, but it seems to me to have application as we consider Paul’s instruction in Romans 13:1-7.

Just a few verses prior (Romans 12:1) we have Paul saying, “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” But present them for what? Well, Paul tells us. Romans 12:3-8 speaks of that the spiritual service of worship being fulfilled through the use of our spiritual gifts in the church body. Next, in verses 9-21 we see the extension of this spiritual service of worship as it now reaches out into our interaction in society. And what follows is 13:1-7, our responsibility to the government over us. 

Following this contextual theme of spiritual service of worship Paul now says that obeying the civil authorities is a part of it as well. But how is being obedient to our government a spiritual thing?

I think that being spiritual—which actually means being submissive to and led by the Holy Spirit of God—can be accomplished in every aspect of our lives: by giving our bodies as that living sacrifice (Romans 12:1), by serving the church through the use of our spiritual gifts (12:3-8), by proper interaction in society (12:9-21), or even by being obedient to our government (13:1-7).

Maybe where some of us have gone awry is that we have moved obedience to our government to a place where it’s not as important as the spiritual stuff. We therefore can speed to church to perform our spiritual duties. Really? Or fudge, but just a little, on some of those more questionable tax issues. Hum. Maybe we can even ignore our responsibility to the voting booth. My one vote won’t make that much difference anyway. Ouch, there’s those close elections... And in our form of government aren’t we morally obligated to stay informed and cast our vote?

I think the reality of this is that we are to obey our government and to take part in that form of government that God has placed us under. That is an act of spiritual service we are told to comply with. After all, it really is a spiritual issue just like it was for those folks that Moses and Samuel governed civilly over. 
So, how about it? Ready to do some spiritual work in the area of the government over you? Study up. Be informed. And then vote. Believe it or not, that is being spiritual.  We can start with that.

Have a blessed Shabbat!
In Messiah's Love,
His EVERY Word Ministries