Thursday, July 12, 2018

Preparing for the Promise | Parashat Matot-Massei | By His EVERY Word

Parashat Matot-Massei
פרשת מטות מסעי

Matot  “Tribes”

Massei  “Journeys”

Torah: Numbers 30:2-36:13
Haftarah: Jeremiah 1:1-2:8; 3:4
B’rit Chadashah: Matthew 5:33-37

Shabbat | 14 July 2018 | 28 Tamuz 5778

The 9th of Av
Tisha B'Av 2018 begins at twilight 
Saturday, July 21
and ends at twilight

Sunday, July 22

Tisha B’Av and Between the Straits
“...mourn with those who mourn.” Romans 12:15 NIV

“Should I weep in the fifth month (AV), separating myself, as I have done these so many years?” Zechariah 7:3 KJV

The three week period between the 17th of Tammuz and the 9th of Av have historically been days of great hardship and catastrophe for the Jewish people. This time is called “Between the Straits,” from Lamentations 1:3:
“Judah is gone into captivity because of affliction, 
and because of great servitude: 
she dwelleth among the heathen, she findeth no rest: 
all her persecutors overtook her between the straits.”

The Haftorah readings during these three weeks are taken from chapters in Isaiah and Jeremiah dealing with the Temple's destruction and the exile of the Jewish people. 

This is a time of mourning for the Nation of Israel, in which joy and celebration is minimized. The sting of Divine judgement is acutely felt. Weddings and public celebrations are put off as pleasure and frivolous activity gives way to introspection and repentance.

The day of Tisha B’Av is commemorated in synagogues around the world by the reading of the book of Lamentations and the recitation of prayers of mourning. The Torah cabinet is draped in black.

Major Catastrophes That Occurred on Tisha B'Av:
  • The 10 Spies‘ evil report of the Promised Land was accepted by the congregation of Israel in the desert, bringing severe judgment, forbidding them from entering the Land of Israel. (1312 BC)
  • The First Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians, led by Nebuchadnezzar. 100,000 Jews were slaughtered and millions more exiled. (586 BC)
  • The Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans, led by Titus. Some two million Jews were slaughtered. Another one million were exiled. (70 AD)
  • The Bar Kochba revolt was crushed by Roman Emperor Hadrian. More than 100,000 Jews were slaughtered. (135 AD)
  • Jerusalem was renamed Aelia Capitolina by Rome. The Temple area was plowed under, Jews no longer were allowed access, and Jerusalem became a pagan city as all traces of the God of Israel were erased. 
  • Pope Urban II declared the First Crusade. Untold masses of Jews were murdered. (1096 AD)
  • The Jews were expelled from England. (1290 AD)
  • The Jews were expelled from France. (1306 AD)
  • The expulsion of Jews from Spain under the Spanish Inquisition was completed on Tisha B'Av in 1492.
  • WWI broke out on the eve of Tisha B'Av in 1914, setting the stage for the Holocaust.
  • The mass deportation of Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto to extermination camps began on the eve of Tisha B'Av in 1942.
We encourage you to pray earnestly for the Jewish People during this time of mourning and historic tragedy. And stand for Israel and the Jewish People.

Israel exists quite literally in a narrow place—between the straits, surrounded by hostile enemies on every border. The Middle East—and much of the Muslim world is a powder keg awash with the blood of untold massacres of civilians—Muslims ... Christians ... caught in the clash of spiritual kingdoms. 

Israel (as well as America) is on the radar. A nuclear Iran continues to be a real threat to Israel as well.

The grievous error of anti-Semitism continues to gain ground in the western Church. In the past, the charge of “deicide,” or “killing God,” fomented crusades, massacres, expulsions, inquisitions, pogroms, culminating in the horrors of the Holocaust. 
Today, the popular “cause” is anti-Israelism, Palestinian-Christianity, outlandish accusations against Israel of apartheid, racism, and oppression—costing Israel what should be her best friends—followers of her Messiah. Yet God has not forsaken His Covenant People, Israel, nor His Promises, which are eternal. (If He has forsaken Israel, who can hope in Him?
We can praise God that today the U.S. has an Administration that supports Israel and has finally moved the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, honoring the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act passed by Congress!
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 30:2-16  Vows~The Sacredness of Speech
“If a man makes a vow to the LORD, or swears an oath to bind himself by some agreement, he shall not break his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth.” v. 2
Words are powerful things. We are told they embody the very power of life and death. (Proverbs 18:21) Speech reflects one of the attributes of the image of Adonai in His creation. (James 3:9) Indeed, the vast expanse of the Heavens, the seasons governed by its celestial bodies, the earth, the seas, and all living creatures were called into being by the Word of the LORD. The Divine and His Kingdom were made manifest by His Word, which first thundered from atop a burning mountain, then spoke prophetically through His chosen vessels.  The soul of man and his assurance of eternity are kept by covenant, by vow, by the Word of the Almighty.

Why do we [who bear the Name of Adonai] speak so carelessly?
In Numbers 30:2, Adonai says that to break one’s word is literally to profanehis word. The Hebrew word for break is chalal  חלל, meaning profane as in the usage in Exodus 20:25 and Leviticus 18:21.
We are known by both our actions and our words—they should be consistent. Others know and judge the word of our testimony by our lives. Sadly, since the phenomena of “televangelists,” the world has been given a message that Christians are untrustworthy, insincere, deceptive, unethical, and worse. Many have done violence to the message of Messiah through the testimony of their lives.

Unfruitful Words Will Be Condemned at the Bema Seat
Proverbs 12:22 tells us, Lying lips are an abomination to the LORD  Yeesh, that’s strong! 
The Hebrew, sheqer שקר, is not only referring to real lies,” but any false or untrue words, words spoken in vain (carelessly), as well as false oaths, and fraud or deception. This is not only an “Old Testament” paradigm—it’s a Kingdom principle.
Yeshua pulled no punches. Regarding careless speech, He said in no uncertain terms, “I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:36-27
In this verse, the Greek word, argos ἀργός, translated “idle” is defined as lazy or unfruitful.” 
Regarding integrity, honesty, and consistency: “But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one. (Matthew 5:37) That’s pretty straightforward!

Our lives are not our own. As representatives of the LORD Most High, we are living epistles read by all. What we do and say reflects on Him—tells others about His nature, His character. 

The biblical Hebrew word, sah’far ספר, meaning to talk, to relate, to declare,” 
shares the same root as the Hebrew word sapphire in the Bible.

Our speech should enrich the hearernot with flattery, 
but with truth, wisdom, godliness, value, and grace

Words are like precious gems, use them wisely. 

For many of us, it takes discipline—and awareness. We speak before we think. Insincerity, flattery, and “white lies” are not considered “real lying,” if we are even aware of doing them at all. God says otherwise. His standard is higher than that of the world—situational ethics are not ethics at all in His Kingdom. 

Every word is tried and judged—our words revealing the condition of our heart. “But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man.” Matthew 15:18

If we are wise, we will have a heart to honor the King in all our ways, including speech. “The heart of the wise teaches his mouth, and adds learning to his lips.” Proverbs 16:23 

And He will help us.

Consider a small sampling of God’s Word on the matter of our words:
  • A wholesome tongue is a tree of life... Proverbs 15:4
  • He who speaks truth declares righteousness, and a false witness, deceit. Proverbs 12:17
  • A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who speaks lies will not escape. Proverbs 19:5
  • Whoever guards his mouth and tongue keeps his soul from troubles. Proverbs 21:23
  • The truthful lip shall be established forever, but a lying tongue is but for a moment. Proverbs 12:19
  • A wholesome tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit. Proverbs 15:4 (Hebrew: seh-lef סלף: crookedness or flattery)
  • He who rebukes a man will find more favor afterward, than he who flatters with the tongue. Proverbs 28:23
  • A lying tongue hates those who are crushed by it, and a flattering mouth works ruin. Proverbs 26:28
  • Let me not, I pray, show partiality to anyone; Nor let me flatter any man. Job 32:21
  • For I do not know how to flatter, else my Maker would soon take me away. Job 32:22
  • Do not associate with one who flatters with his lips. Proverbs 20:19
  • A man who flatters his neighbor spreads a net for his feet. Proverbs 29:5
  • (they) by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple... Romans 16:18
  • they mouth great swelling words, flattering people. Jude 1:16
  • A fool's mouth is his destruction, And his lips are the snare of his soul. Proverbs 18:7

Numbers 31:1-54  Midian Reaps Vengeance

Taking on Another’s Offense 

“Like one who takes a dog by the ears, 
is he who passes by and meddles with strife not belonging to him.” 
Proverbs 26:17
“And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: ‘Take vengeance on the Midianites for the children of Israel. Afterward you shall be gathered to your people.’” vv. 1-2

The last thing Moses was charged with by YHVH was to lead the armies of Israel in exacting a merciless destruction on the Midianites. This almost inconceivable action was to satisfy Adonai’s justice for Midian conspiring with Moab and enticing Israel into gross sin.

“A dispute which did not concern them...”
The sages of old explain the heightened judgment against Midian as they had no cause against Israel, but took up the cause of Moab, and followed Balaam’s counsel to destroy the Chosen Nation. Rashi said, “... the Midianites were angered over a dispute which did not concern them. (See Sifrei Mattoth 33)
It is sometimes stunning just how little the “wisdom of ages,” actually ages! Proverbs 26:17 paints a word picture here, comparing a person who inserts himself in another’s altercation, as being like one who provokes a dog by grabbing him by the ears—he’s sure to provoke an attack.
(Of course this takes wisdom. If one witnesses a physical attack on an innocent victim, and there is no alternative, one may be called upon to place them self in harm’s way to save another. The Proverb, however, applies to taking up the offense of another where no imminent danger is present.)

My husband witnessed this very principle played out repeatedly during his tenure as a senior officer in state prisons. He recounts many stories of inmates inserting themselves in disputes which were not their own, only to receive some form of injury, perhaps even loss of life—and the least consequence, disciplinary action. All for violating a biblical principle.  Thinking their action was righteous or noble to take up the cause of another inmate, they may shake their head and say, No good deed goes unpunished. But it is ancient wisdom that never changes—because the fiber of man never changes. And the Master knows us well!
The Midianites did not have a noble cause when they took up the dispute of the Moabites. In fact, Moses had spent many years in Midian, married a Midianite woman, and his father-in-law, Jethro, was a Midianite priest. As mentioned previously, the collusion of the Midianites with Moab against Israel was, “...thus the outcome of ‘sinat chinam שנאת חנם—causeless hatred,' the source of the most terrible cruelties throughout human history." (Rabbi JH Hertz) Although Israel paid dearly for her own sins, the wrath of Adonai was kindled against this wicked people. His immutable laws demanded their destruction. Curse Israel and be cursed. Genesis 12:3
Wholly Holy—Take No Captives
“So there were recruited from the divisions of Israel one thousand from each tribe, twelve thousand armed for war. And they warred against the Midianites, just as the LORD commanded Moses, and they killed all the males. They killed the kings of Midian with the rest of those who were killed—Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur, and Reba, the five kings of Midian. Balaam the son of Beor they also killed with the sword. And the children of Israel took the women of Midian captive, with their little ones, and took as spoil all their cattle, all their flocks, and all their goods. They also burned with fire all the cities where they dwelt, and all their forts. And they took all the spoil and all the booty—of man and beast. Then they brought the captives, the booty, and the spoil to Moses, to Eleazar the priest, and to the congregation of the children of Israel, to the camp in the plains of Moab by the Jordan, across from Jericho. And Moses, Eleazar the priest, and all the leaders of the congregation, went to meet them outside the camp.” vv. 5-13
The battle was a stunning victory for Israel, but Moses was shocked that the troops had brought back captives. “Have you kept all the women alive?” v. 15

He reminded them, “Look, these women caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to trespass against the LORD in the incident of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the LORD.  (v. 16) This was no small incident. When the plague finally abated, 24,000 Israelites were dead. 

These Moabite women, who worshiped Ba’al with debauchery and sexual perversity could not be allowed to defile the families of Israel—especially as they are preparing to enter the Promised Land. Nor could the young male Moabites be allowed to remain among Israel to produce offspring. What seems barbaric to our modern sensibilities, was the singular remedy: “Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known a man intimately.” v. 17
Though barbarous and cruel, this action serves as a paradigm for dealing with sin our lives. We cannot be faint-hearted, but ruthless.
The females who had never “known a man intimately.” (v. 18) were allowed to live to become wives or servants, protected and trained in the ways of YHVH.
“Then Eleazar the priest said to the men of war who had gone to the battle, ‘This is the ordinance of the law which the LORD commanded Moses: Only the gold, the silver, the bronze, the iron, the tin, and the lead, everything that can endure fire, you shall put through the fire, and it shall be clean...’” vv. 21-24

The Law of Kashering, then and now, sterilizes in a practical sense, and purifies in a ritual sense every object that can withstand fire. Objects that cannot be passed through the fire can be washed in clean water. 

Throughout the Scriptures we will see a theme develop. Fire is an elemental force of creation, destruction, testing, and purification. As God’s holy workmanship, our lives will be tested, refined, and purified by the fire of His Presence and the trials of life, as we yield to Him. 
“Behold, I send My messenger, And he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, Will suddenly come to His temple, Even the Messenger of the covenant, In whom you delight. Behold, He is coming," Says the LORD of hosts. But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner's fire And like launderers' soap.” Malachi 3:1-2
“He lays the beams of His upper chambers in the waters, Who makes the clouds His chariot, Who walks on the wings of the wind, Who makes His angels spirits, His ministers a flame of fire. Psalm 104:3-4
“...each one's work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one's work, of what sort it is...” I Corinthians 3:13
“But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men...” II Peter 3:7
“These things says the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire...” Revelation 2:18
He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” Revelation 21:7-8

Numbers 33:1-56  Sanctify the Land ... or Else ...

This chapter begins with a recitation of Israel’s journey from Egypt through forty years, and more than forty-two encampments in the wilderness. On the first day of the fifth month (the month of Av), in the fortieth year of wandering, Aaron went up to Mount Hor “at the command of the LORD (v. 38), and died, at the ripe old age of 123.
Verses 50-56 are essential in understanding the untenable situation Israel finds herself in to this very day!
     “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When you have crossed the Jordan into the land of Canaan, then you shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you, destroy all their engraved stones, destroy all their molded images, and demolish all their high places; you shall dispossess the inhabitants of the land and dwell in it, for I have given you the land to possess...
     “But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then it shall be that those whom you let remain shall be irritants in your eyes and thorns in your sides, and they shall harass you in the land where you dwell. Moreover it shall be that I will do to you as I thought to do to them.’” vv. 50-56
This minuscule piece of worthless real estate in the midst of the vast sea of oil rich Arab nations belongs to the LORD of Heaven and Earth. He has mandated it—deeded it—to the Children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—for His purposes, by the power of His Name. 
Politically incorrect as it may sound, the Almighty has commanded Israel to possess all of the Land  (which amounts to barely a dot on the earth). 

Everything and everyone given to idolatry was to be utterly swept away. Israel is not to allow people who worship idols/foreign gods or their objects of worship, which are an abomination to the LORD, to remain in His Holy Land. In Exodus 23:33, Adonai warns Israel that they will be a snare, causing them to sin against Him and serve their gods. Deuteronomy 7:16 reiterates that they will be a snare, adding the warning that Israel shall have no pity on them; nor shall they serve their gods. 
Ruthlessness was called for to serve Adonai. No compromise. And the crafty serpent of old whispered in their ear, “Did God really say...” Genesis 3:1
Israel “did not destroy the peoples, concerning whom the LORD had commanded them, but they mingled with the Gentiles and learned their works; They served their idols, which became a snare to them.” Psalm 106:34-36
Fast forward to today. Through nearly two thousand years of diaspora, scattered to the four corners of the earth, Israel endured persecution, pogroms, crusades, and the Holocaust. In 1948, Medinat Yisrael, the State of Israel was reborn, yet the Holy Place, Jerusalem, where God placed His Name forever (II Kings 21:7, II Chronicles 33:7) was still a dream.
However, on June 7, 1967, on the third day of the Six Day War, Jerusalem   returned to Israel’s hands! By the sixth day, with the stunning and miraculous victory, Adonai had delivered the Sinai Peninsula, the Golan Heights, and the entirety of the Land from the Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea!
Although most referred to the victory as “miraculous,” and it was celebrated with the blowing of shofars, reciting of heartfelt prayers, and readings from the Bible, the leaders of Israel once again ignored Adonai’s mandate to possess all the Land, and sanctify it—set it apart as HOLY unto HIM alone. 
Making grand, magnanimous gestures for the approval of the world was more important—which they did not receive anyway for their sacrifices! 

Almost immediately, Minister of Defense, Moshe Dayan extended the olive branch to Israel’s sworn enemies: “To our Arab neighbors we extend, especially at this hour, the hand of peace. We did not come to Jerusalem to conquer the Holy Places of others.”

Dayan ceded administrative control of the Temple Mount compound to the Jordanian Waqf (Islamic trust) while overall security control of the area was supposed to be maintained by Israel

Dayan announced that Jews should be allowed to visit the Temple Mount, yet would not be allowed to hold religious services there in deference to the Muslims. This left intact the worship of allah, a foreign godand the high places where he is worshiped with magnificent splendor and visibility, for all the world to seein defiance of the God of Israel! The Dome of the Rock also proclaims epithets against the God of the Bible and Jesus in its massive exterior mosaics

The Knesset passed the Protection of Holy Places Law granting special legal status to the Holy Sites and making it a criminal offense to desecrate or violate them, or to impede freedom of access to them. Jerusalem became a reunified city that ensured freedom of religion and access to holy sites for all ... or so it seemed.
Only Israel has abided by this. The Waqf has desecrated and destroyed numerous ancient biblical sites, and has had a continual program of mining through the Temple Mount interior, grinding and crushing precious ancient artifacts in an effort to erase Israel’s history. 
Jews and Christians are forbidden to even carry a Bible on the Temple Mount—which has no historical or religious relationship to the Arabs or Islam. Jews are often forbidden access at all. Consequently, the bloody second intifada in 2000 began because the Prime Minister of Israel wanted to visit the Temple Mount. 

The Arabs who worship Allah, a foreign god, in the Land that Adonai called to be His alone, have surely proven to, “be irritants in your eyes and thorns in your sides” (v. 55), as Adonai warned. 
This is a chilling and heartbreaking verse when one considers the horrific injuries suffered by victims of homicide bombers, their explosive belts laden with nails, screws, and other small projectiles that blind and torment the injured survivors—thorns”...

Numbers 34:1-29  The Divine Borders of Israel

The LORD said to Moses, ‘Command the Israelites and say to them: 
   When you enter Canaan, the land that will be allotted to you as an inheritance is to have these boundaries:
   “Your southern side will include some of the Desert of Zin along the border of Edom. Your southern boundary will start in the east from the southern end of the Dead Sea, cross south of Scorpion Pass,continue on to Zin and go south of Kadesh Barnea. Then it will go to Hazar Addar and over to Azmon, where it will turn, join the Wadi of Egypt and end at the Mediterranean Sea.
   “Your western boundary will be the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. This will be your boundary on the west.
  “For your northern boundary, run a line from the Mediterranean Sea to Mount Hor and from Mount Hor to Lebo Hamath. Then the boundary will go to Zedad, continue to Ziphron and end at Hazar Enan. This will be your boundary on the north.
  “For your eastern boundary, run a line from Hazar Enan to Shepham. The boundary will go down from Shepham to Riblah on the east side of Ain and continue along the slopes east of the Sea of Galilee. Then the boundary will go down along the Jordan and end at the Dead Sea.
   This will be your land, with its boundaries on every side.’”  vv. 1-12
(Click on map to see detail.)

The Land of Israel is preeminent throughout the Scriptures. Mentioned by name more than 2500 times, it is of exceptional importance to Adonai, who has also made Himself known as the “God of Israel.”
“...the land which you cross over to possess is a land of hills and valleys, which drinks water from the rain of heaven, a land for which the LORD your God cares; the eyes of the Lord your God are always on it...” Deuteronomy 11:11-12
Being of such great value to our God, Israel ought to be of value to us as well. Many Christians relegate Israel to “another dispensation,” or “the Old Testament,” labeling it as no longer relevant. Yet it is the geographical center of all biblical prophecy—from beginning to end. 
If you are anticipating the return of Yeshua, look to Israel—to Jerusalem—where He will plant His feet on the Mount of Olives. He is not coming to Paris or Rome or even New York City. 
According to the Bible, He is also not coming to a place called Palestine. It’s unfortunate that so many Christians are insensitive to this grave error which mocks God. 

In 135AD, when Hadrian renamed Israel, Syria Paelestina, and Jerusalem, Aelia Capitolina, it was with the singular purpose to erase the God of Israel and establish the pagan gods of Rome. The name Palestine declares the Bible to be inaccurate, claiming that the Philistines prevailed over the Israelites. 
The word Palestine is not in the Bible in any original text—Hebrew or Greek. The King James version [erroneously] uses it in one verse: “...all the coasts of Palestine. Joel 3:4
However, the concordance reveals it is actually the Hebrew word, Peleshet  פלשת, “Philistia, land of sojourners, the west coast of Canaan,” also translated “Philistines.” The Philistines lived in the region on the west coast of the land of Canaan, which the LORD renamed Israel.

From 135AD, until Israel was reborn in 1948, the Jews and Arabs living in the region were Palestinian Arabs and Palestinian Jews. The Jewish newspaper was called the Palestine Post
There was never, however, an indigenous Palestinian people with a unique language, government, monetary system, culture, or identity at any time before Arafat’s PLO was invented in the 1960s.
The name Palestine was not known in biblical times. When Christians use the phrase, “Palestine in the time of Jesus,” or print Bible maps of Israel calling it Palestine, they erroneously and perhaps unwittingly support a heinous political agenda to destroy Israel and revise a false history, nullifying the Bible. 
Palestinians now claim that they are the ancient Philistines who were there before Abraham (and therefore the Jews), which is not what the Bible says.
The Philistines were a foreign race who were utterly destroyed (Amos 1:8, 6:2, Zephaniah 2:5, Zechariah 9:6, etc.). The Arabs are the sons of Ishmael, a semitic people. Ishmael is the son of Abraham by the Egyptian handmaid Hagar. Ishmael was not given the Covenant for the Land and the Messianic line. That was through Isaac and Jacob. However, Ishmael and the twelve tribes that came from him do have the massive oil-rich lands that comprise the Middle East!
 (Click to enlarge.)

Numbers 35:1-34  Cities for Levites and Cities of Refuge
And the LORD spoke to Moses in the plains of Moab by the Jordan across from Jericho, saying: Command the children of Israel that they give the Levites cities to dwell in from the inheritance of their possession, and you shall also give the Levites common-land around the cities. They shall have the cities to dwell in; and their common-land shall be for their cattle, for their herds, and for all their animals. ...The city shall be in the middle. This shall belong to them as common-land for the cities.” vv. 1-5
The Priests who served before the Lord had no inheritance in the Land: “Levi has no portion nor inheritance with his brethren; the LORD is his inheritance, just as the LORD your God promised him” (Deuteronomy 10:9). Therefore, they were apportioned regions to dwell in. Including the Cities of Refuge, forty-eight cities in all were appointed. Dispersed throughout Israel, the Levites spread the knowledge of Adonai and His Word from these spiritual centers.

Cities of Refuge | One law from one Lawgiver
“Now among the cities which you will give to the Levites you shall appoint six cities of refuge, to which a manslayer may flee. And to these you shall add forty-two cities. So all the cities you will give to the Levites shall be forty-eight; these [you shall give] with their common-land. These six cities shall be for refuge for the children of Israel, for the stranger, and for the sojourner among them, that anyone who kills a person accidentally may flee there.” vv. 6-7, 15
In a barbaric world where blood vengeance ruled, Israel would be a society that distinguished between willful murder and accidental homicide. The Cities of Refuge were inhabited by Levites—men who could make such distinctions. 

All life was sacred, and therefore required wise justice, lest innocent blood be shed, compounding the tragedy. The Cities of Refuge were for all—Israelite and foreigner alike. 

One law from one Lawgiver

Haftarot  Matot-Massei
Jeremiah 1:1-2:8; 3:4

With this Haftarah selection we come to a turning point. Jeremiah 1:1-2:3 does not have within it a common thread that can be traced back to its corresponding Torah selection. From this point on, the sages, who originally selected the Haftarah text, looked to a different end. Up to now they wanted a passage that dovetailed into, or embellished, the Torah portion, but now, and in the future texts, the Haftarah will reflect the horrific events of the impending destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. Our Jeremiah passage launches us into this theme. 
Much can be said of the ministry of Jeremiah. He was known as the “weeping prophet” (Jeremiah 9:1, 13:17), the “prophet of loneliness” (16:2), and the “reluctant prophet.” (1:6) For over forty years he spoke for the LORD, this ministry spanning from 627 B.C. under King Josiah to around 586 B.C. It was by then that Jerusalem had fallen to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon and Jeremiah had been taken to Egypt, a captive of fleeing Jews. Jeremiah was to close his eyes on the remembrance of the destruction of the holy city and its crown jewel, the Temple. 

Our opening verses in this prophetic book cover Jeremiah’s objection to the work Adonai is calling him to. (1:6-10) YHVH, the “I Am” of Moses’ encounter, rejected the objection, and placed His words in Jeremiah’s mouth. The Almighty said to him: 
“Behold, I have put My words in your mouth. See, I have appointed you this day over the nations and over the kingdoms, To pluck up and to break down, To destroy and to overthrow, To build and to plant.” 1:9-10
And so the ministry of Jeremiah began. Have you ever wondered if God had already outlined the steps of this great man? Put another way, was there a design to his life in the mind of God from the beginning, not just the beginning of Jeremiah’s life but from the very beginning when the plan of God was first formulated in our Maker’s mind? Notice what Jeremiah says about this.
“Now the word of the LORD came to me saying, ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.’” Jeremiah 1:5
David speaking of himself in Psalm 139:13-16 carries this thought a little further. 
“For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother's womb.  I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them.”
Are we not awed at what has just been said? Jeremiah tells us that God knew him before he was even conceived, (Jer.1:5) and that God set him apart for His chosen work (Jer. 1:5) before Jeremiah’s birth took place.

Not only was Jeremiah known and set apart, but David adding to this concept tells us that God formed David’s very physical being (Ps. 139:13-15) and that every day of his life was foreordained (Ps.139:16), written in His book before the first day of his life ever took place.
There can be no doubt that God had a life’s plan for Jeremiah and David. And there can be no doubt that He has a plan for each of our lives. What we have read is universal. It is a principle that applies to all of us. The only question is how do we as believers in Yeshua respond to God’s plan for the lives He has given us. 
You may respond, “But I have sinned. I have not been obedient to His leading.” How does that fit? Did God plan my sin, my turning away from Him? The answer is an unequivocal no. God is not the author of sin. (Genesis 1:31; James 1:13; I Corinthians 14:33) 
We must understand that God knew each of us before He began creation. He formed His perfect plan for us at that time and saw to it that our physical form and mental capabilities fully equipped us to accomplish His plan for our lives. Then, after our birth we each had choice in our lives to be, or not to be obedient to His plan. What He saw us do before we were ever born, yes in eternity past, is what He wrote in His Book. That is God’s foreknowledge. Consequently nothing takes Him by surprise. He knows all, from the beginning to the end.

The best for each of us obviously is to follow God’s plan for our lives from the beginning of its revelation to us, just as Jeremiah did. And those are the days that were written for his life before he was ever born. But what of people who have sinned, even sinned badly. Did God ordain that, write it down so that they had no choice but to sin so. No, never. But knowing they would live as they did, choose that path, He wrote those days down in His book. By His foreknowledge He knew the path they would choose. And thus as David puts it, “And in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them.” Psalms 139:16

So, how should the believer in Yeshua who has not consistently followed God’s will for his life now live? Is his life of service over? Should he conclude that failure is the only thing that is written of the rest of his life? No, while we know that the rest of our lives has already been written in His book, we must not forget that what was written was determined by what we are yet to decide in this present life. So, we can live it well, exactly as He would lead us from this day forward.

Some may say it is too late. I have sinned too badly.There can be nothing left for God to use me for. And so these will bury themselves in final days of unproductively, in refusal to hear the call of God upon their lives to yet serve Him now. They will have had that end written in His book long ages ago. But this does not have to be the end of the written story of their lives. Before creation God will have written something else should they now choose to obediently serve His call upon their lives. And do we dare not follow His leading, even now? 

Isaiah (740 to 680 B.C.), warning the Southern kingdom of Judah prior to Jeremiah, could well chime in here on our saying “no” to what our Maker has already predetermined to be His path for our lives. Isaiah makes the folly of our refusal to follow His will pretty plain. 
“Woe to the one who quarrels with his Maker—An earthenware vessel among the vessels of earth! Will the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you doing?’ Or the thing you are making say, ‘He has no hands?’ Woe to him who says to a father, ‘What are you begetting?’ Or to a woman, ‘To what are you giving birth?’” Isaiah 45:9,10

How do we dare say no to our Maker, the planner of our lives? His plan is perfect. Whether it is success, or failure, yield to it today. That is what will have been written long ago of you and your service to Him. From here on may it be His way ... not our way.
“The mind of man plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.”

                                                                                 Proverbs 16:9

B’rit Chadashah  Matot-Massei
Matthew 5:33-37

Our B’rit Chadashah for this week reads as follows:
“Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not make false vows, but shall fulfill your vows to the LORD.’ But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is The City of the Great King. Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil.”  Matthew 5:33-37
Our B’rit Chadashah selection covers a theme dealt with in this week’s Torah section. In light of the Haftarah portion not covering similar Torah themes now, one may well ask why would the New Covenant selection still relate to the Torah? The simple answer is that it is obviously not the sages that selected these readings, since the New Testament at their time was a long way off from being produced. Indeed, the portions selected for the B’rit Chadashah are not universally the same week in and week out. Because this week’s selection reflects in part on the Torah portion, let’s look at it.

Above we have seen ethics and sanctification of speech addressed in the Torah portion as it relates to vows. (Numbers 30) A vow was never to be looked upon lightly by the one making it. You may recall the consequences of a rash vow we looked at just recently. Judges 11 records the story of Jephthah vowing to God that if victory in a coming battle were to be his, he would sacrifice to God the first thing that was to come out of his door upon his return home. (Judges 11:30-31) This rash vow ended up costing him a daughter, his only child. 11:38-39

When we come to Matthew 5:33-37 we see the Messiah addressing the issue of vows. In this Sermon on the Mount the Messiah zeros in on a number of Covenant principles given Moses and this early Jewish family of Adonai. With each issue He raises it to a higher standard
Concerning the physical act of adultery He says we actually commit the sin by even just thinking of it. (Matthew 5:27-28) Concerning murder He says that simply being wrongfully angry with a brother will bring the same judgement before the court as murder would. (Matthew 5:21-22) And so when He addresses “vows” a higher standard is given as well. So what is that standard?

Do you remember when as a child a friend would ask if you would do something? It seemed that simply saying you would was never enough. You were then asked, “Do you promise?” Or perhaps it was the big one, “Swear on a stack of Bibles?” The simple word of “Yes” or “No” didn’t often seem to be enough. So it was with our Jewish brethren. A simple “Yes” or “No” was not the best affirmation one could give. No, but if you made a vow, then the deal was sealed.

So our Messiah raises the standard. He says in effect, “Your word alone is good enough.” Any need of further confirmation only weakens the validity of what you say any other time. This brings character into question so that one will appear to always need something else to support what he says. 
Yeshua would say rather, “But let your statement be, 'Yes, yes' or 'No, no'; anything beyond these is of evil.” Matthew 5:37
After all isn’t the bottom line for us as Paul says, “Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds.” Colossians 3:9 KJV

As a believer wouldn’t it be great to have the reputation that our word and our word alone was ... simply good enough?

Wishing you and yours Shabbat Shalom!
In Messiah's Love,
His EVERY Word Ministries