Thursday, June 16, 2016

Lifting Up the Divine Name | Parashat Naso | By His EVERY Word



Parashat Naso  פרשת נשא
“Lift Up”

Torah: Numbers 4:21-7:89
Haftarah: Judges 13:2-25
B’rit Chadashah/New Covenant: Acts 21:17-26

Shabbat | 18 June 2016 | 12 Sivan 5776

יְבָרֶכְךָ יהוה, וְיִשְׁמְרֶךָ
יָאֵר יהוה פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ, וִיחֻנֶּךָּ
יִשָּׂא יהוה פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ, וְיָשֵׂם לְךָ שָׁלוֹם

The LORD bless you and keep you;
The LORD make His Face to shine upon you,
and be gracious unto you;
The LORD lift up His Countenance upon you,
and give you peace.
Numbers 6:24-26

This week’s parashah contains the beautiful Priestly Blessing, in Hebrew, Birkat Kohanim. Although originally given to Aaron and his sons, the Levitical Priesthood, as sole conveyors of this precious blessing to the Congregation of Israel, it is not uncommon to hear it used as a closing benediction in the greater assembly of believers today. 

Followers of Yeshua (Jesus), also called a “a royal priesthood,” (1 Peter 2:9) have the privilege and authority to convey this ancient and powerful blessing to their family members as well as the family of Messiah, thereby placing the very Name of Adonai upon them as the text says: "So they shall put My Name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them." Numbers 6:27

The Priestly Blessing was a spectacular event in the days of the Great Temple in Jerusalem. For nearly two millennia, however, this precious tradition was limited to small gatherings. Today, Jews are once again able to gather en masse for this coveted blessing on the three annual pilgrimage festivals: Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot. 

Following the miraculous liberation of Jerusalem at the culmination of the Six Day War in 1967, the Jewish People have enjoyed access to the Western Wall, the remaining supporting wall of the Temple Mount, where modern-day Levites pronounce this ancient blessing over thousands with joy and gladness.
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 anything?
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, such as Hillel who influenced the Apostle Paul. 
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. 


Watch a modern day Birkat Kohanim (Priestly Blessing) at Jerusalem's Western Wall




Numbers 4:21-49  Bearing the Holy Things of Adonai
“Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: ‘Also take a census of the sons of Gershon, by their fathers’ house, by their families. From thirty years old and above, even to fifty years old, you shall number them, all who enter to perform the service, to do the work in the tabernacle of meeting. This is the service of the families of the Gershonites, in serving and carrying: They shall carry the curtains of the tabernacle and the tabernacle of meeting with its covering...’” vs. 21-25
It is from the word “take” in the first sentence that the name of this Torah portion, “Naso,” is derived. Both “take” in verse 21, and “carry” in verse 25 are forms of the same Hebrew word, nasa נשא. It means, to lift, bear, carry, or take
Interestingly, this is the very same Hebrew word used in the Ten Commandments when Adonai said, “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.” Exodus 20:7
Of the more than 650 usages of nasa/naso in the Old Testament, greater than 400 are rendered as “bear, carry, lift up,” etc. Only 58 times is “naso” used to mean, “take.” 

This of course illuminates the commandment, "You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain," in Exodus 20:7. 

We focus on using His Holy Name improperly as an epithet, and observant Jews believe we should not even pronounce or print the sacred Name. Although improper or irreverent usage of His Name would certainly be included in this commandment, when we understand the true meaning of Hebrew word, nasa/naso it is clear that YHVH is revealing a more sublime maxim.
Adonai is instructing His People not to bear or carry His Name in a manner that is unworthy or inconsistent with who He is, or that gives the world a false message about His holiness.
Thus we see the continuing building of the Kingdom of YHVH; detailed instruction, precept upon precept, that men will learn to discern the common from the holy, and how to handle the Holy things of God. 

Verses 1-20 of Numbers 4 dealt with tasks assigned Aaron, his sons, and the sons of the Kohathites in the care and moving of the Wilderness Tabernacle. The remaining verses now speak to the service of the families of the sons of Gershon, and the sons of Merari, defining their duties in the Tabernacle of Meeting.

According to the commandment of Adonai, each of these families were counted, and those who would serve the LORD under the hand of Moses were mustered for duty. v. 49

Numbers 5:1-31  The Ordeal of Jealousy
“And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: 'If any man's wife goes astray and behaves unfaithfully toward him, and a man lies with her carnally, and it is hidden from the eyes of her husband, and it is concealed that she has defiled herself ... or if the spirit of jealousy comes upon him and he becomes jealous of his wife, although she has not defiled herself then the man shall bring his wife to the priest.vs. 11-15
Drinking the Waters of Bitterness
Marital infidelity within a community of believers, like a wildfire, is a destructive force that devours many in its path. The effects are visible for years—perhaps generations. 
In these verses, Adonai establishes an ordinance—curious to our sensibilities—to remove doubt or suspicion of marital unfaithfulness from within the congregation of Israel. The unique ceremony, known as the Law of Sotah, safeguards the innocent wife who is the object of unfounded jealousy, while revealing the guilt of the unfaithful. (The Hebrew word sotah שטה means to go astray or turn aside.)

The priest prepares a concoction of holy water in an earthen vessel, mixed with dust from the floor of the Tabernacle, and words of a curse:
“And the priest shall put her under oath, and say to the woman, ‘If no man has lain with you, and if you have not gone astray to uncleanness while under your husband's authority, be free from this bitter water that brings a curse. But if you have gone astray [while] under your husband's [authority], and if you have defiled yourself and some man other than your husband has lain with you ... the LORD make you a curse and an oath among your people, when the LORD makes your thigh rot and your belly swell.’ 
“Then the woman shall say, ‘Amen, so be it.’
“Then the priest shall write these curses in a book, and he shall scrape them off into the bitter water.” vs. 5:19-23
Proverbs 26:2 gives assurance that, “A curse without cause shall not alight.” So the woman without guilt has nothing to fear in saying, “Amen,” and taking the cup. For those of guilty conscience, it is likely they would refuse the cup, belying their secret. 

Although it is the woman that is asked to drink the bitter waters, if adultery has occurred, she is not the only guilty party. The Torah treats both parties to adultery in precisely the same fashion.

“And if the woman be not defiled, but be clean; then she shall be cleared, and shall conceive seed.” v. 28, JPS 1938

The great Hebrew Sage, Nachmanides, also known as the Ramban, noted that the Sotah Law required God's specific miraculous intervention to make it work. While the Torah hangs a heavy burden over the guilty adulterer of a horrible death that will follow the bitter drink, it also promises the wrongfully accused and innocent woman that she will conceive a child even if she is barren. (Talmud, Sotah 27b)

An Exhortation for Men

Adonai knows what is in the heart of man[kind]. Therefore He addresses the issue of sexual immorality and temptation quite pointedly throughout the Old and New Covenant. There is nothing new under the sun

Often, temptation is characterized as an enticing woman. Is Adonai warning His sons of Adam that the daughters of Eve are the problem? 

In one sense, yes. Just as the first woman was tempted into rebellion against God, and then tempted the man with the fruit of rebellion, men need to be aware and vigilant against the enemy’s tactics, which have not changed much over thousands of years. 

For most men, the lust of the eyes, particularly in the area of women, are a fowler’s snare, and a powerful weapon the enemy of our soul exploits against us. Even King David fell prey to this trap, and incurred heartbreaking generational consequences in spite of his sincere repentance.

Adonai desires better for His children. He doesn’t only say, “Don’t do this, don’t do that.” He gives us the formula for successful living:
“My son, keep my words, 
And treasure my commands within you. 
Keep my commands and live, 
And my law (Torah) as the apple of your eye.”
Proverbs 7:1-2
Adonai promises men that if they keep (in Hebrewobserve, obey) His Word, treasure and obey His commandments,  and have His Torah as the apple of their eye, they will have life

If God’s Torah is the apple of his eye, then his eye is sanctified. Satan may shout, “Look at this! Look at that!” 

But the one who delights in the Law of God will not reap the destruction that comes from sin. His eye is fixed on the things that are eternal.



An Exhortation for Women

Adonai warns His beloved sons to beware of women cloaked in the attire of a harlot,” who wait at every corner and cause men to stumble and sin. 
“With her enticing speech she caused him to yield, With her flattering lips she seduced him ... he went after her, as an ox goes to the slaughter. As a bird hastens to the snare, He did not know it would cost his life”   
The Hebrew text notes that among the many slain and wounded were great and powerful men—even kings. Adonai exhorts men, 
“Do not let your heart turn aside ... her house is the way to hell, descending to the chambers of death.” Proverbs 7:10-27
Is this speaking only of the prostitute and adulteress? No. There is a much broader picture here. 

Daughter of Eve, are you causing your brother to stumble and sin by presenting yourself in the manner of the harlot [by your dress] in the marketplace? ...or perhaps worse, in the assembly?
You will say it is the fashion of the day—haute couture. Consider, if one lived in Greece, Carthage, Rome, or France in their decline, the haute couture and accepted “norms” of their culture would parallel our own moral decay: exaltation of decadence, vulgarity, and promiscuity—and rejection of standards of modesty, decency, and godliness. 


“For by means of a harlot [A man is reduced] to a crust of bread...”Proverbs 6:26

“For a harlot is a deep pit, And a seductress is a narrow well.” 
Proverbs 23:27
This is not beauty. The harlot’s allure is satan’s subterfuge. Sugar-coated arsenic. 
Should not those who carry the Name of the Adonai readily identify with, and desire that which is of His Kingdom, rather than the world that is perishing? 
His Kingdom is characterized by love for one another. If we love our brothers, why would we put stumbling blocks in their path to cause them to fall? 

Let us not continue to offer the bitter fruit of destruction to our brothers, but rather as daughters of a new order, a royal priesthood, let us help our brothers by clearing the path they tread, the one that leads to life.

Numbers 6:1-31  The Nazirite Vow
“Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: 'When either a man or woman consecrates an offering to take the vow of a Nazirite, to separate himself to the LORD, he shall separate himself from wine and [similar] drink; he shall drink neither vinegar made from wine nor vinegar made from [similar] drink; neither shall he drink any grape juice, nor eat fresh grapes or raisins. All the days of his separation he shall eat nothing that is produced by the grapevine, from seed to skin. All the days of the vow of his separation no razor shall come upon his head; until the days are fulfilled for which he separated himself to the LORD, he shall be holy. Then he shall let the locks of the hair of his head grow. All the days that he separates himself to the LORD he shall not go near a dead body. He shall not make himself unclean even for his father or his mother, for his brother or his sister, when they die, because his separation to God is on his head. All the days of his separation he shall be holy to the LORD.’” vs. 1-8
Confusion of the words, Nazirite (referring to the vow), and Nazarene (with reference to Nazareth), seems to be the origin of the plethora of artwork depicting Yeshua with long hair

Yeshua was not a Nazarite. He was referred to as a Nazarene in Matthew 2:23. (The apostle Paul, in I Corinthians 11:14, would not have stated that it is shameful for men to have long hair if His Master Yeshua had long hair.)

The Nazirite Vow is something special. In fact, the text says that the act of separation is “pala” פלא which in Hebrew means: “to be marvelous, be wonderful, be surpassing, be extraordinary, separate by distinguishing action, to be beyond one's power, etc.” 

This is an extraordinary demonstration of devotion and consecration unto YHVH.
  • Abstaining from grapes, wine, raisins, and vinegar, meant abstaining from some of the greatest symbols of God’s pleasurable abundance and provision to devote oneself to Adonai.
  • Abstaining from cutting the hair was turning from vanity and self concern. 
  • Abstaining from the freedom to indulge in the normal rites of familial grief and mourning in order not to become ritually impure by touching a dead body was possibly the greatest sacrifice.
We find evidence in Acts 18:18 that the apostle Paul had taken the Nazirite Vow, and in Acts 21:23 that four other men had as well. However, the rite seems to have eventually died out following the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD, the dispersion of the Jews, and loss of Hebraic expression in the church.

The Priestly Blessing~The Birkat Kohanim

Following the instructions for the Nazirite Vow, Adonai next instructs Moses on how Aaron and his sons are to bless the Children of Israel. Referred to in Hebrew writings as “the crown and seal of the whole sacred order,” upon which Israel is now to be organized as the People of God for their entrance into the Holy Land. 

This iconic blessing endures to this day as the cornerstone benediction of Jew and Gentile alike. In three short verses that build and enlarge toward the ultimate wholeness: shalom, the Priestly Blessing is all-encompassing—holistic, and worshipful. Let’s unpack it.
“And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: ‘Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, 'This is the way you shall bless the children of Israel. Say to them: 
“The LORD bless you and keep you; 
  • With the Provision of YHVH: Life, Health, Prosperity
  • With Divine Protection: From Stumbling, Harm, Wickedness
  • With the Guardianship of YHVH: May God Shield from Sin and Evil Influence
“The LORD make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you;

  • “May YHVH give thee enlightenment of the eyes, the light of the Shechinah; may the fire of Prophecy burn in the souls of thy children; may the light of the Torah illumine thy home.” (Sifri)
  • May the Grace of YHVH be extended to you and through you that others will know Him and glorify Him
  • May you know the joy of living a life so delightful to YHVH that His light shines from you
“The LORD lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace.” vs. 22-26
  • May YHVH turn His lovingkindness to you
  • May YHVH firmly establish for you “Shalom” (שלום completeness, soundness, welfare, wholeness, prosperity, quiet, tranquillity, contentment, peace).
  • “Peace, say the Rabbis, is one of the pillars of the world; without it the social order could not exist. The Prophets longed for a Messianic peace that should pervade the universe, and include ... all peoples ... that should include also the beasts of the field.” Isaiah 11:6-10 FROM THE PENTATEUCH AND HAFTARAHS, SONCINO PRESS, 1938, CHIEF RABBI DR. J.H. HERTZ
The concluding verse is powerful. Adonai says that this is not just an exercise in praying for good things, as we so often view "blessing."

When the priests pronounce this specific blessing, YHVH is putting (suwm שומה ordaining, affixing as a sign, fashioning, transforming, establishing) His Name on the People of Israel and it is HE that WILL bless them.
So they shall put My name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them.” v. 27
This artifact containing the Priestly Blessing (Numbers 6:24-26) is believed to be the oldest copy of Scripture in existence. It was found at the Ketef Hinnom archaeological site near Jerusalem. Inscribed on two tiny silver scrolls, the texts were discovered in 1979 by Gabriel Barkay, Professor of Archaeology at Bar-Ilan University. After extensive testing by international sources, a confirmed date of 586/7 BC was established.

Numbers 7:1-89  The Voice from the Between the Cherubim
“Now it came to pass, when Moses had finished setting up the tabernacle, that he anointed it and consecrated it and all its furnishings, and the altar and all its utensils; so he anointed them and consecrated them. Then the leaders of Israel, the heads of their fathers' houses, who were the leaders of the tribes and over those who were numbered, made an offering. And they brought their offering before the LORD, six covered carts and twelve oxen, a cart for every two of the leaders, and for each one an ox; and they presented them before the tabernacle. Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Accept [these] from them, that they may be used in doing the work of the tabernacle of meeting; and you shall give them to the Levites, to every man according to his service.’” vs. 1-5
Offerings of the Princes
Moses has now completed erecting the Holy Wilderness Tabernacle, also called the Tent of Meeting, in Hebrew Ohel Moed. He has anointed and sanctified it in its entirety, including the Altar, and all the vessels and utensils that will be used by the priests. The detailed narrative that follows chronicles the “Offerings of the Princes,” the gifts for the Sanctuary from each of the heads of Twelve Tribes of Israel.

This was a stately and reverent processional unto the Almighty, conducted in a manner befitting YHVH: “For the LORD said to Moses, ‘They shall offer their offering, one leader each day, for the dedication of the altar.’” v. 11 


The Voice of Adonai
After twelve days of sacrificial giving from the entire congregation of Israel, Moses went into the Tabernacle and the Divine Voice spoke to him.

The Voice that called to Moses from the midst of the Cherubim was every bit as powerful as the Voice of the Revelation at Mount Sinai. Unto Moses alone did YHVH speak, “One Speaking to him from above the mercy seat that was on the ark of the Testimony, from between the two cherubim; thus he spoke to him.” v. 89

In Exodus 25:22, Adonai had promised to meet with Moses and speak to him from the mercy seat: “...there I will meet with you, and I will speak with you from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are on the ark of the Testimony, about everything which I will give you in commandment to the children of Israel.”


Our God is faithful!
“Therefore know that the LORD your God, He is God, 
the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations 

with those who love Him and keep His commandments...” 

Deuteronomy 7:9


Haftarah  Naso
Judges 13:2-25


Our Haftarah portion of Scripture is Judges 13:2-25, and what a great portion of Scripture it is. 

So, let’s do some digging.

Once while in a class on news reporting I was told that any good story should always answer the basic questions: who, what, why, when, where and how

As I moved around in a couple different career fields in my life, I found that principle never really changed. These questions, if handled properly, circle in the story and present the best and most complete picture of what is being told. We’ll apply these questions to Judges 13 and see if we don’t come up with that best and most complete picture.

WHO?
The number of participants in this chapter is four. The most prominent is, “...the Angel of the Lord.” (vs. 3f.) He appears first to the mother of Samson. This messenger is identified as the angel of the Lord. He is not an angel from the host of heaven, but God Himself come to give a message to this mother to be. He identifies Himself as God in v.18 stating of His name, “...it is wonderful.” This is the same name—“Wonderful”—given to the Messiah in Isaiah 9:6. We therefore have a theophany, one of a number of pre-incarnate appearances of Yeshua in the Old Testament before His birth by Mary.

Next in the order of prominence is the mother of Samson. She is introduced to us in v. 2. She is nowhere named in Scripture, but is identified as the wife of Manoah. 

Then there is Manoah, the father-to-be of Samson. We are told that he is of the tribe of Dan. (v.3) Up to this time he had had no children. His wife was barren then, but later bore him at least two or more sons after Samson’s birth. Judges 16:31 says that at Samson’s death, “...his brothers and all his father’s household came down, took him, brought him up, and buried him...” 

And our fourth character is Samson of whom this story is about. All that is told us in this chapter is that he was born, was blessed of the Lord, and was eventually stirred by the Spirit of the Lord. (vs.24-25) He is however known as being among the Bible’s most prominent of Nazarites, the others being Samuel and John the Baptist. All three are prominent in that they each were set apart for service to God as Nazirites while in their mother’s womb. (Two of them by God and one by their mother. Can you guess which is which?)

WHAT?
At hand is the story of a man and a woman given instruction by God in caring for their first child. The angel of the Lord appears first to the wife of Manoah. She is told that she will give birth to a son who will be a Nazirite. Here is our link to the Torah portion of Numbers 6:1-21. 

This will require special circumstances in the pregnancy and childhood years. Since the child was to be a Nazirite from birth Manoah’s wife during her pregnancy would have to follow the restrictions normally just placed on a Nazirite for the length of his vow. This meant that she could drink no wine or strong drink, nor eat any unclean thing. And when the child was born his hair was not to be cut. vs. 4-5

WHY?
Why was this going to take place? Why another judge? The nation of Israel had entered the promised land under the leadership of Joshua. They had taken control of much of the territory that God had promised them, but not all of it. When Joshua died no one central leader took his place. The tribes worked together under a tribal confederation. Local judges led as best they could. They were responsible for seeing that the Torah was adhered to, deciding disputes, and drawing support for military campaigns as needed. Each of the tribes was responsible to complete the acquisition of their promised portion of land. 

During this period, 1380 to 1050 B.C., and long before our story of Samson, Israel had fallen into a recurring cycle of apostasy, oppression for their sin, deliverance, and reform, only to repeat the cycle again. “In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 17:6) It is a period of history when the people of God did not trust Adonai as their Theocratic King. Thus, they repeatedly required His divine intervention through the agency of, the judges. 

WHEN? 
When our story picks up, the tribe of Dan, Samson’s tribe, had not yet taken possession of their allotted portion of land, the fertile lowlands between the Mediterranean coast and the hill country of Judah. To boot, the Philistines who occupied that territory were sorely oppressing the Danites who were living in the bordering lands. (Judges 18:1) They were in need of a deliverer, or judge, and Samson was to be that person. 

WHERE?
Our story speaks of two appearances of the Angel of the Lord. The first is only to the wife of Manoah and does not tell us where this theophany took place. The second is to both Manoah’s wife and Manoah. This manifestation takes place while  the mother to be is sitting in a field. She then leaves to get her husband and after she returns with him the two of them speak with the Angel of the Lord.

HOW?
Lets ask “how,” this way. How, does all of this fit together? As I read the thirteenth chapter of Judges I don’t see it being about Samson as much as it is about his parents. Later, more on Samson will follow. No, here is a story about Mom and Dad.

Mom is obviously a righteous woman. After all she warranted a visit not just from an angel, but from the Angel of the Lord. So important was her mission and valued her qualifications that God Himself had seen fit to make this appearance. She was blessed to know that her curse of barrenness was to be taken away and that she had been set apart to give birth to a future judge of the nation of Israel. And so, very specific instructions are given her regarding her manner of life while Samson was in the womb and how she was to care for him after birth. She was not only blessed with this child, she was trusted to carry out God’s desires for His next deliverer of Israel.

Manoah was most certainly a righteous man as well. After his wife related all that had happened, he prays. And his prayer is answered. The Angel of the Lord reappears to Manoah’s wife while she is in a field. Manoah is fetched by his wife and has his face to face encounter with the Angel of the Lord. But notice the interchange.

At no point did Manoah’s wife ever question this messenger. She simply accepted what she was told and presumably was dutifully obedient to the instructions given her. Her husband, however, wanted to know more and so prays, ...O Lord, please let the man of God whom You have sent come to us again that he may teach us what to do for the boy who is to be born.” v. 13:8 (Italics mine)

Manoah’s prayer is answered. He is brought to the field where the Angel of the Lord is waiting. Now note the interchange between the two.
“Then Manoah arose and followed his wife, and when he came to the man he said to him, ‘Are you the man who spoke to the woman?’ And he said, ‘I am.’ Manoah said, ‘Now when your words come to pass, what shall be the boy's mode of life and his vocation?’ So the Angel of the LORD said to Manoah, ‘Let the woman pay attention to all that I said. She should not eat anything that comes from the vine nor drink wine or strong drink, nor eat any unclean thing; let her observe all that I commanded.’” vs.13:11-14
Did you catch that?  Manoah wanted more information than the Lord had first given. The Lord however gave no additional details. Manoah and his wife go on to worship who they eventually recognize as God (v.22: “...for we have seen God.”) and the Angel of the Lord ascends into heaven in the flame of the alter upon which a sacrifice had been offered to Him.

How often it is that God gives us just enough information or leading, but no more, to take the next step. Manoah and his wife had been given just enough information to take their next step. But they had no idea what great things God would perform as a result of their obedience to Him. And they wouldn’t find out until they were first obedient to that first step of leading.

Our natures are such that we want to know it all, and right now, but God just doesn’t deal with us that way. Don’t we just have to first listen and hear, followed by obeying. Then, trust Him for the next step. God simply didn’t tell Manoah what He was going to bring about through Manoah’s obedience.

Perhaps the answer is there for us as well.
Listen...Hear...Obey...and trust God for the next step...    




B'rit Chadashah  Naso
Acts 21:17-26

Why Did the Apostle Paul Take the Nazirite Vow?


Our New Testament portion of Scripture is, not surprisingly, one that deals with a Nazirite vow. And why not. As we considered the Haftarah portion we read that Samson was himself subject to  that which surrounded such a vow. (Judges 13:4) Our story for this B’rit is found in Acts 21.

As interesting as the Nazirite vow is to sort out in its Old and New Testament context, a more important subject comes up to us. It is the Apostle Paul’s adherence or lack thereof to the Torah or Mosaic Covenant. 

In verses 15 through 20 we are introduced to the controversy at hand. Paul and company have just arrived at Jerusalem. Though not mentioned here they have brought with them the collection for the saints that had been previously gathered. (I Cor. 16:1-4) Paul makes his report first to the brethren who receive him gladly, and the next day to James and the elders of the Jerusalem church. Several points are to be noted in the response given to Paul at this second meeting. 

First, James and the elders glorify God. (v. 20) They realize that the work that has been done and the results it gained would not have happened if it were not for the hand of God in all of it. How easy it is for us as believers to look to human hands as being responsible for godly gain. In reality it is always our Lord who gives the increase, while we are just the tools He uses for the task He is to accomplish.

Second, Jerusalem is filled with believing Jews who are Torah observant. (vs. 20) As to the actual number it may have reached as high as 50,000 or more. David H. Stern in his Jewish New Testament Commentary (1989, page 301) lays out a complicated yet convincing argument for this large number. As an aside he also calculates that at this time there were very possibly as many as one million believing Jews in the then known world. This potentially large number gives all the more weight to the importance of what is to follow. And that is that...

Third, the believing Jews of Jerusalem have been told that Paul was teaching those Jews living among the Gentiles, to forsake Moses. 

“...and they have been told about you, that you are teaching all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs.” v. 21

In the very next verse these Jerusalem church leaders ask, “What then is to be done?” (vs.22) From this point on the remedy for what was falsely believed about Paul is laid out. What is most interesting about this remedy, however, is not the course of action to be taken. It is rather what the text does say and what it does not say about what the Apostle Paul believed and taught concerning the Mosaic Law. But I digress. Here is the remedy that was given to Paul:

“Therefore do this that we tell you. We have four men who are under a vow; take them and purify yourself along with them, and pay their expenses so that they may shave their heads; and all will know that there is nothing to the things which they have been told about you, but that you yourself also walk orderly, keeping the Law.” vs. 23,24

So, Paul was to put the minds of the Jerusalem believers at rest by engaging in this Nazirite vow with four others who had already began the process themselves. This would satisfy the Jerusalem believers. How? By making them see that “...there is nothing to the things which ...have been told about you.” But, what else does this passage say and what does it not say concerning Paul’s beliefs and life style as it regarded the Law.

A basic principle of interpreting Scripture - that is figuring out what it means - is what is called the golden rule of interpretation. And here is what it says: “When the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense.” So what plain sense might we glean from our passage?

First, what it DOES NOT say. It does not say that Paul was telling Jew or Gentile to forsake Moses. It does not say that Paul was telling anyone - Jew or Gentile - to not circumcise their children. And it also does not say that Paul was telling Jew or Gentile to not live their lives according to Mosaic Law. (v. 21) Amazingly enough there were those then who accused Paul of teaching these very things. And even more amazingly there are those now who with the completed New Testament in hand still accuse Paul of teaching these very things.


And Second, what it DOES say. It does say that the outcome of Paul’s participation in  the Nazirite vow is that all will know that there is no truth to any of the above accusations

Put another way; 
(a) Paul did not tell any Jew to forsake the Mosaic Law 
(b) Paul did not tell any Jew to cease the practice of circumcision 
(c) Paul did not tell any Jew to not live according to Jewish customs. (v. 21) 

OH! And one other thing it does say...

It goes on to say that by keeping this Nazirite vow something else will be known about Paul. Here it is, “...that you yourself walk orderly, keeping the Law.” (v. 21) In the original language the nature of this word is that it speaks of a singular individual who is presently and continuously in the act of guarding one’s self so as to not violate, i.e. to keep, to observe. THIS THEN was Paul’s relationship to the Mosaic Law. 

Let’s remind ourselves of what that golden rule of interpretation said: “When the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense.” 
Many have brought other passages of Scripture to bear against this passage and others like it, to show that the Law has been made invalid or simply set aside for a time. Certainly there is much debate to be had as it regards all of them. But let’s never forget to let the plain sense of Scripture speak for itself, and then seek no other sense.

So what might we take from this?

As to the Mosaic Law’s validity for life today - where applicable and possible - we must bow to the plain sense of what is said

Paul’s attitude was this:

...the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.” 
Romans 7:12
    
 For I joyfully concur with the Law of God in the inner man.”
Romans 7:22

Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be. On the contrary we 
establish the law.”
 Romans 3:31

Paul would say along with the Psalmist,
“Thy Word (the Law) is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path.” 
Psalm 119:105

And the Messiah’s words were these:

Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill (fully preach). For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
                                                         Matthew 5:17-19
As servants of the Great God and King, Jesus Christ His commission should be warrant enough to not only live the Law, but teach it just as He taught it to His disciples. And what was it that He taught? In reference to Mosaic teaching He told His disciples to do and observe as the scribes and Pharisees taught, BUT NOT as they lived. 
“...therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them.” Matt. 23:3
And as this wound down to His final words - now for the church to come - He said:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe ALL that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Matthew 28:19,20

Shall we then not go...


Shall we then not do as we are commissioned...




Shabbat shalom!
In Messiah’s Love,
His EVERY Word Ministries