Chukat פרשת חקת
Torah: Numbers 19:1-22:1
Haftarah: Judges 11:1-33
B’rit Chadashah/New Covenant: John 3:17-21
Shabbat | 1 July 2017| 7 Tamuz 5777
The King’s “High” Way
A Holy God Can Be Served Only By a Wholly Holy People
for His goodness,
And for His wonderful works to the children of men!
Let them exalt Him also in the assembly of the people,
And praise Him in the company of the elders.
He pours contempt on princes,
And causes them to wander in the wilderness where there is no way;
Yet He sets the poor on high, far from affliction,
And makes their families like a flock.
The righteous see it and rejoice,
And all iniquity stops its mouth.
Whoever is wise will observe these things,
And they will understand the lovingkindness of the LORD.
When did you last consider where you kept the deeds you produced? Are they deeds that must be hidden, and thus you have kept them in darkness so as not to be made known? Or are they deeds that our righteous God would approve of, that would meet the standard that Yeshua set, and thus you would not be ashamed to bring them into the light for their proper future reward?
In this week’s Parsha we will see each ~ deeds that warrant hiding in darkness, and those that would bring reward when exposed to the light. Both ungodly and godly men produce these deeds. We will again see the Congregation of Israel grumble against Moses and suffer terribly for their deed ~ an act I’m sure they would have rather hidden in that darkness. And we will see a godly man, Jephthah, produce acts “wrought in God,” acts that would bear up under the light of the righteous standard yet to be set by the Messiah to come.
Our Journey continues along our King’s “High” Way, as He reveals mysteries and tries men’s hearts, ever paving the way of righteousness. In this week’s Parsha we ponder perplexing prophetic symbols: The Red Heifer, the seeming idolatry of the bronze serpent, and the rock of contention at Meribah, which we find to be a picture of the Messiah ... all intriguing pictures in the midst of rebellion and failure. All challenges to examine our own hearts. Are we walking in faithfulness? Does our life bear the fruit, “wrought in God?”
It is unfortunate that today, evil deeds need not be hidden, for evil is exalted. Yeshua told us that His return, "will be just like the days of Noah.” (Matthew 24:37) What did He mean? What peculiar signs Characterize the days of Noah? How close are we? A quick glance at the news headlines over the past few months is chillingly prophetic!
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 19:1-22 The Red Heifer~The Enigmatic Cow
A Mysterious Statute
“Now the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, ‘This is the ordinance of the law which the LORD has commanded, saying: ‘Speak to the children of Israel, that they bring you a red heifer without blemish, in which there is no defect and on which a yoke has never come. You shall give it to Eleazar the priest, that he may take it outside the camp, and it shall be slaughtered before him; and Eleazar the priest shall take some of its blood with his finger, and sprinkle some of its blood seven times directly in front of the tabernacle of meeting. And the priest shall take cedar wood and hyssop and scarlet, and cast them into the midst of the fire burning the heifer.
Then the priest shall wash his clothes, he shall bathe in water, and afterward he shall come into the camp; the priest shall be unclean until evening.
And the one who burns it shall wash his clothes in water, bathe in water, and shall be unclean until evening.
Then a man [who is] clean shall gather up the ashes of the heifer, and store [them] outside the camp in a clean place; and they shall be kept for the congregation of the children of Israel for the water of purification; it is for purifying from sin. And the one who gathers the ashes of the heifer shall wash his clothes, and be unclean until evening.’” vs. 1-9
The statute regarding the Red Heifer has been regarded as one of the most mysterious in Scripture. While its purpose was purification from sin, paradoxically, it defiled all who were involved with the preparation of its ashes and the water of purification. “It purifies the impure, and at the same time, renders the impure the pure!” (JH Hertz)
It is noted in Hebraic commentaries that the other items used in the curious service all have symbolic significance:
- The majestic cedars of Lebanon represent the pride of man
- Hyssop represents humility, sin, uncleanness, and death
- Scarlet was a special color, necessary for the garments of the High Priest—the linen and the breastplate of judgment, as well as the Holy Tabernacle textiles.
The Red Heifer and the Golden Calf
“You shall give it to Eleazar the priest...”
The sages of old considered the ordinance of the Red Heifer to be connected to the grievous sin of the Golden Calf, thus requiring a remedy for this particular sin brought into the world—the water of purification. As Aaron had been involved in the idolatrous incident at the foot of Mount Sinai, he could not be the one chosen to carry out this important sanctifying rite.
“...the ordinance of the law...”
In Hebrew, Chukat haTorah חֻקַּת הַתֹּורָה, refers to statutes or ordinances ordained by Adonai, which are perhaps understood by Him alone, such as the prohibition against eating pork and shellfish. Beyond our reasoning or vision, we are asked by the Divine to trust and honor Him as we display our devotion and lift His glorious Name before a perishing world.
Perhaps these “chukkim,” ordinances, inexplicable as they may be, serve as powerful object lesson, teaching the profound truth that a Holy God must be served wholly by a holy people.
“Whoever touches the body of anyone who has died, and does not purify himself, defiles the tabernacle of the LORD. That person shall be cut off from Israel. ...And for an unclean person they shall take some of the ashes of the heifer burnt for purification from sin, and running water shall be put on them in a vessel.” vs. 13, 17
In Hebrew, “running water” is actually “living water,” mayim chayim מַיִם חַיִּים. The picture is another dichotomy: the ashes of the dead cow, which defiles the living, mixed with living water, cleanses the unclean who touched the dead!
Watching for the Tenth Red Heifer in Our Time
There is a promise given to Israel that is believed to depend upon the ashes of a future Red Heifer:
"Then I shall sprinkle pure waters upon you, and you shall be clean, from all your uncleanness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. I will also give you a new heart, and I will place within you a new spirit... " Ezekiel 36:25-26
The Temple Institute in Jerusalem has been dedicated to “every aspect of the Biblical commandment to build the Holy Temple of G-d on Mount Moriah” since 1987. A deeply religious and reverent Orthodox Jewish organization, they have reconstructed the Temple vessels and vestments to biblical specification, and are training a holy Priesthood for Divine service, identified by DNA testing. They firmly believe in the imminent coming of the Messiah to rebuild the Holy Temple and the restoration of the Tabernacle of David.
An important aspect that is missing, however, is the Red Heifer. “For without it, the Divine service of the Holy Temple cannot be resumed.”
The Red Heifer is not just any reddish cow—it has to be perfect—no blemish, infirmity, or white hairs. Every possible Red Heifer born is watched over and scrutinized. So far, every one has sported a few white hairs, rendering it ritually imperfect, and signaling it is not the special cow provided by God for this purpose. Perhaps because the final sacrifice for sin was already provided—the One who said “rivers of living water” will flow from the hearts of those who believe in Him... John 7:38
It is believed that the Tenth Red Heifer will be prepared by the Messiah
The Mishna (the earliest Rabbinic writing) records the ceremonial burning of nine Red Heifers through Israel’s history: the first by Moses; another by Ezra, and seven others. In the Mishna, Maimonides relates this ancient tradition with the coming of the Messiah: “... and the tenth red heifer will be accomplished by the king, the Messiah; may he be revealed speedily, Amen, May it be God's will.”
Those of us who know Messiah Yeshua, may rejoice that Adonai did not tarry, nor leave us without a High Priest or a sacrifice for sin. Still, we await His return, as the remnant of Israel awaits His first appearing. Even so, come! “And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.” Revelation 22:17
The Temple Institute notes that this is a time of “spiritual renaissance” for Israel. Notwithstanding the amazing number of Jewish followers of Messiah—the greatest number in the world since the first century—there is a reawakening among the Jewish People to seek Adonai and learn the Hebrew Scriptures.
The Temple Institute believes this heralds a great revival. Perhaps they are right. Perhaps we can pray for Israel and her love relationship with Adonai with more fervency, for He promises to be found by those who love Him and those who seek Him earnestly:
“I love those who love me,
And those who seek me diligently will find me.”
“And you will seek Me and find Me,
when you search for Me with all your heart.”
Tradition records the Levites worshiping in prophetic song as the destruction of the Holy Temple in the Jerusalem took place in 70AD. The Temple Institute takes inspiration from this: “They sang not of destruction, or revenge, but of promise and continuation, renewal and rebirth. The Levites saw that Jerusalem and the Temple Mount would stand desolate for nearly two millennia... but they would be regathered to Israel once again ... June 7th, 1967, was the day they saw this come to pass. This day could be considered the first step towards the rebuilding of the Holy Temple. For this day marked a turning point in Jewish history, and began a new era, which progresses in our own time, and moves towards the great destiny of the Jewish people, to be a light to the nations and a people who walk with God in their midst.”
June 7, 1967 was indeed a prophetic day. The liberation of the Temple Mount and the Western Wall by Israeli Defense Forces punctuated the stunning and miraculous victory of the Six Day War. Israel prayed at all that remained of the Holy Temple in the Jerusalem for the first time in nearly two thousand years!
“We are now walking on one of the main streets of Jerusalem towards the Old City...” The recordings of soldiers, generals, and rabbis, weeping as they trod the ancient streets of the city, prayed for daily and dreamed of for millennia, are riveting.
And with this amazing event, God’s prophetic clock leapt forward ... “And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled” (Luke 21:24). Something shifted. Revival broke out—the “Jesus Movement” of the late 1960s. But this revival was different. For the first time since the first century, Jewish People—in great numbers—were coming to faith in Yeshua, Israel's Messiah! And they weren’t disappearing into the local church. They were inspired by Adonai to embrace their heritage and restore lost riches to the church—the Hebraic roots of the faith. It was a sign to the Body of His faithfulness! And perhaps a sign of the “time.”
Numbers 20:1-29 Moses’ Outburst and Edom’s Malevolence
Kvetching Again (From Yiddish: kvetshn, to complain, whine...)
The waters of Meribah
“Then the children of Israel, the whole congregation, came into the Wilderness of Zin in the first month, and the people stayed in Kadesh; and Miriam died there and was buried there. Now there was no water for the congregation; so they gathered together against Moses and Aaron. And the people contended with Moses and spoke, saying: ‘If only we had died when our brethren died before the LORD! Why have you brought up the assembly of the LORD into this wilderness, that we and our animals should die here? And why have you made us come up out of Egypt, to bring us to this evil place? It is not a place of grain or figs or vines or pomegranates; nor is there any water to drink’.” vs. 1-5
Does this not sound familiar?! Obviously the longer they are away from the horrible conditions of slavery in Egypt, the dimmer their memory grows. It’s easy to understand why Moses would feel angry and be tempted to lose his temper with this ungrateful bunch! Yet, Moses knew he had only to turn to Adonai, YHVH Yireh יהוה יראה “The-LORD-Will-Provide.” Genesis 22:14 for the provision
“So Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly to the door of the tabernacle of meeting, and they fell on their faces. And the glory of the LORD appeared to them. Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Take the rod; you and your brother Aaron gather the congregation together. Speak to the rock before their eyes, and it will yield its water; thus you shall bring water for them out of the rock, and give drink to the congregation and their animals.’” vs. 6-8
So Moses took the rod—the rod which had wrought miracles in Egypt, and blossomed with fully ripened almonds, exhibiting the favor of Adonai, “from before the LORD as He commanded him.” v. 9
And then, did Moses proclaim to the people how gracious, faithful, and longsuffering is their God, as he raised Aaron’s rod, so that water would miraculously gush forth from the rock, sating the thirst of all, including the animals?
No, Moses was angry.
And, gathering the congregation of Israel together, he railed at them: “Hear now, you rebels! Must we bring water for you out of this rock?” v. 10
The waters of Meribah will ever stand as an iconic symbol of warning. The word “rebel” used here, is marah מרה, expressing Moses’ disgust with their reprehensible “disobedience toward God,” which is ironic considering his own behavior to follow. Marah is related to the word, Meribah, in Hebrew, Mer-ee-vah, מריבה, which means strife or contention. “Those were the waters of Meribah, because the sons of Israel contended with the LORD, and He proved Himself holy among them” (v. 13). The incident at Meribah is used repeatedly throughout Scripture cautioning, admonishing, teaching, against unfaithfulness, hardening our hearts to God, rebelliousness, disparaging His holiness, testing the LORD, etc. (Ex. Psalm 95:8-9, 106:14, Hebrews 3)
“Then Moses lifted his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came out abundantly, and the congregation and their animals drank." v. 11
Moses was carried away by anger and didn’t stop with his verbal outburst. Instead of speaking to the rock as Adonai had commanded, he struck it ... twice.
“Had he merely spoken to the rock, the miracle would have been undeniable, and God’s Name would have then been sanctified in the eyes of the unbelieving multitude.” (JH Hertz) We are tempted to identify with Moses, but he carried the Name, the reputation of God in the sight of men...
“Then the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron,
‘Because you did not believe Me,
to hallow Me in the eyes of the children of Israel,
therefore you shall not bring this assembly
into the land which I have given them.’” v. 12
What a tragedy! This was a heavy price to pay for an angry outburst and what may seem like a little dramatic embellishing on God’s Word... We just don’t comprehend how jealous God is over His Name, His Sovereignty, His Holiness, His Truth.
“For the Lord, whose name is jealous, is a jealous God” (Exodus 34:14).
“Brethren, the whole history of the human race is a record of the wars of the Lord against idolatry. The right hand of the Lord hath dashed in pieces the enemy and cast the ancient idols to the ground. Behold the heaps of Nineveh! Search for the desolations of Babylon! Look upon the broken temples of Greece! See the ruins of Pagan Rome! Journey where you will, you behold the dilapidated temples of the gods and the ruined empires of their foolish votaries. The moles and the bats have covered with forgetfulness the once famous deities of Chaldea and Assyria. The Lord hath made bare his arm and eased him of his adversaries, for Jehovah, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.” Rev. CH Spurgeon
“Judaism teaches that the greater the man, the stricter the consequent guilt and punishment, if there is a falling away from that standard.” (S.R. Hirsch)
The New Covenant also warns, “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment” (James 3:1). This ought to give us pause. The world reveres (perhaps “idolizes” is more apt) leaders and “great men,” granting them greater latitude and grace, often winking at sin. Even among believers we often do the same thing.
The way of the LORD, the King’s Way, is “utterly-other-than” ... and those who carry His Name need always remember that what we do and say either sanctifies or diminishes that Divine Name in the eyes of the world.
Here’s the key:
- Moses didn’t lose the great blessing of leading Israel into her Promise as much for his momentary disbelief, as for robbing God of the opportunity to sanctify His Holy Name in the midst of His People
- Moses did not represent Adonai truthfully or accurately. Adonai was to be glorified through His chesed (lovingkindness), and the life-giving water miraculously flowing from the rock at His Word. Instead, the Children of Israel heard Moses’ rage, and witnessed the physical violence of him striking the rock. How woefully he robbed the LORD of glory.
Let us pray that we never so misrepresent God, robbing him of his honor before others in like manner.
The New Covenant opens this passage for us further, relating the rock that was stricken as the Messiah, the Living Rock who was stricken for us. (I Corinthians 10:4)
The Unbrotherliness of the Edomites
JH Hertz comments on the Edomites’ cruelty to Israel during Israel’s hardship in the wilderness: “The sufferings which the Israelites had undergone should have filled the Edomites (sons of Esau) with brotherly sympathy, and induced them to help their kinfolk. The unnatural hostility towards Israel at a later period is the subject of the Book of Obadiah:
"The Prophecy of Obadiah is directed against Edom, the nation descended from Esau. It thus connects with the Sedrah, reflecting the opposition between two brothers in the story of Jacob and Esau. The bitter enmity of the Edomites to Israel was particularly inexcusable because of their common descent. The Prophet Obadiah instances the cruelty of the Edomites in the day of Israel’s ruin. Apart, however, from the denunciation of unbrotherliness wherever exhibited, the book has a wider application.
"Other nations in later times played the cruel role of Edom towards Israel. Against these, too, according to our commentators, Obadiah prophetically inveighs and predicts Israel’s triumph over them. The forces of evil will never destroy Israel, because Israel’s Faith and Truth enshrined in it, are eternal.”
“Now Moses sent messengers from Kadesh to the king of Edom. ‘Thus says your brother Israel: “You know all the hardship that has befallen us, how our fathers went down to Egypt, and we dwelt in Egypt a long time, and the Egyptians afflicted us and our fathers. When we cried out to the LORD, He heard our voice and sent the Angel and brought us up out of Egypt; now here we are in Kadesh, a city on the edge of your border. Please let us pass through your country. We will not pass through fields or vineyards, nor will we drink water from wells; we will go along the King's Highway; we will not turn aside to the right hand or to the left until we have passed through your territory’.” vs. 14-17
“Then Edom said to him, ‘You shall not pass through my land, lest I come out against you with the sword.’” v. 18
“So the children of Israel said to him, ‘We will go by the Highway, and if I or my livestock drink any of your water, then I will pay for it; let me only pass through on foot, nothing more’.” v. 19
“Then he said, ‘You shall not pass through.’ So Edom came out against them with many men and with a strong hand.” v. 20
Israel appealed to her brother to simply be allowed to pass through the land—to stay on the highway, not veering off of it—and to pay for anything, even water that they may consume.
The King’s Highway was the safest and most direct route into Canaan. But Edom not only refused, but came after them!
The King’s Highway was the safest and most direct route into Canaan. But Edom not only refused, but came after them!
In the sight of Adonai, it is a shameful thing not to care for your brother in need. The Torah has much to say on this subject. Consider:
“If there is among you a poor man of your brethren, within any of the gates in your land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart nor shut your hand from your poor brother, but you shall surely open your hand to him, and shall surely lend him sufficient for his need [in that] which he wants.” Deuteronomy 15:7,8
Really? Open our hand WIDE?
Give not only to the need, but what he “WANTS?”
Can’t you just hear that crafty serpent from Gan Eden (the Garden of Eden): “Surely God didn’t really say…”
Yeshua gave much more than a tithe.
He gave not according to our worthiness.
He surrendered the whole of His being to the cruelest of subjugation that we who deserve nothing would have life.
Where did we get this idea that money is more precious than human beings?
That “stewardship” of money means to safeguard our bank balances while our brothers and sisters go without daily needs or live in grinding insufficiency?
Do we think that we will stand before the Bema Seat of Judgment and not have to answer for stockpiling our wealth and building palaces for ourselves while closing our hearts and hands to our brothers and sisters? (Does this mean Adonai expects us to give to those who flagrantly squander their resources on ungodly living? There may be times the LORD will move us to bless someone so He may move them to repentance through His goodness, but generally speaking, no.)
Deuteronomy 8:12-17 challenges us not to forget generosity and kindness in times of abundance. “When you have eaten your fill, and have built fine houses to live in, and your herds and flocks have multiplied, and your silver and gold have increased, and everything you own has prospered..." beware lest your heart grows haughty and “you forget the Lord your God—who freed you from the great and terrible wilderness...and you say to yourselves, ‘My own power and the might of my own hand have won this wealth for me.’”
It’s a challenge. When faced with abundance, is personal success taken for granted? In the face of comfort, will God be forgotten? Will hands filled with riches close over the open hands of the destitute and the homeless poor?
“Chesed” (lovingkindness) is called the backbone of Torah. Adonai desires that His love, mercy, grace, and faithfulness be known through the acts of His Children. A wise Talmudic saying teaches that the Torah begins with chesed and ends with chesed.
Numbers 21:1-35 The Bronze Serpent
Again with the Kvetching!
“Then they journeyed from Mount Hor by the Way of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the soul of the people became very discouraged on the way.
And the people spoke against God and against Moses: ‘Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and our soul loathes this worthless bread.’
So the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and many of the people of Israel died.
Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, ‘We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD and against you; pray to the LORD that He take away the serpents from us.’
So Moses prayed for the people. Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.’ So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.” vs. 1-9
This is such a stunning example of the frailty of mankind, having been forever affected by the venom of the ancient serpent. He doesn’t trust his Creator and turns on Moses, his brother as well. It’s a deadly wound that inflicts the children of Adam.
Moses has regained his composure and returns to the high road—the King’s High Way—readily forgives his wayward brethren, and intercedes as always, when they appeal for relief from the fiery serpents that are biting them, causing death.
Curiously, Adonai instructs Moses to fashion a likeness of a serpent out of bronze, and lift it as a standard on a pole.
Isn’t this idolatry? It wasn’t meant to be. However, it did eventually become an object of veneration until centuries later, King Hezekiah “broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made; for until those days the children of Israel burned incense to it, and called it Nehushtan*” (II Kings 18:4). *Nechushtan in Hebrew means “a thing of brass.”
This is a common idiosyncrasy, not limited to ancient Israel or pagan religions. If we believe any religious object is imbued with supernatural power to protect or heal, we have placed it in the same category as an amulet or an idol.
In attempting to understand the unusual remedy of looking upon a fashioned object, the sages wrote: “Did then the brazen serpent possess the power of slaying or of bringing to life? No, but so long as the Israelites looked upwards and subjected their hearts to their Father in Heaven, were they healed. But when they refused, then were they destroyed.” (Mishnah)
“The brazen serpent was a token of salvation to put them in remembrance of the commandments of Thy Law, for he that turned toward it was not saved because of that which was beheld but because of Thee, the Saviour of all.” (Wisdom of Solomon)
In the fullness of time, the Saviour of all did arrive. And when He was yet with us, by night a teacher of Israel came to Him—Nicodemus, a Pharisee, a Jewish ruler. He recognized Yeshua by His signs, that He was from Adonai.
Yeshua told him a mystery. He said, “...as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.
“God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.
But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.” John 3:14-21
We don’t know for certain if Nicodemus came to faith in Yeshua as Messiah. The last clue we have is found in John 19:39. Nicodemus brought a hundred pounds of myrrh and aloes and joined Joseph of Arimathea, a disciple, who came to take Yeshua’s body to the tomb. This would be an open declaration of standing with Yeshua, and cost Nicodemus his position, at the very least.
It seems likely that Nicodemus did come to understand the deep things Yeshua spoke of to him. If not, one can only imagine how the words must have come flooding back as he saw “the Son of Man lifted up” on that cruel Roman stake of execution, remembering that late night conversation with the only begotten Son of God...
In Messiah's Love,
His EVERY Word Ministries
Our Haftarah portion is Judges 11:1-33. The Bible certainly lays out the panorama of human character. We see it from the worst to the best. These thirty-three verses chosen for us to consider contain some of those human character traits and stand as guideposts for us to chart applicable areas of our lives by.
Our story begins by introducing us to Jephthah who was born of unfortunate circumstances. His father, Gilead, had had his moment of sexual weakness and had lain in the Biblical sense with a harlot. The consequence of this encounter was a child, Jephthah. Societies view point of this young man was unfortunately much the same as it is today. Of no fault of his own Jephthah was considered to be something less in social standing than those born of a traditional father and mother.
Gilead, however, did what would be considered the right thing to do. When born, he took Jephthah into his house and raised him as his firstborn, which gave him inheritance rights of a double portion. Other sons were subsequently born to Gilead and his wife after Jephthah. All our text tells us is that when the other sons grew up they drove Jephthah out of the house on the pretext that he had no right to an inheritance since he was the son of another woman. It looks as though because of his brothers greed they seized upon Jephthah’s social circumstance to fatten their own pockets.
At the root of this tale thus far told is without a doubt the sin nature. Just look at the extended pain it caused in exchange for a a brief moment of pleasure; a child socially marked, siblings given false reason for defrauding their half brother of his rightful inheritance, and a married couple undoubtedly at odds with each other over his son and their children.
How blinded we can be to future pain by the pleasures of lust in the present moment. Any guideposts there, perhaps marked, “Stay Clear!”?
As our story moves on we find that Israel is still in that cycle we spoke of last week. It would start off with religious apostasy, then God would bring oppression to get their attention, once gotten deliverance through a judge followed, and then reform, for a time.
Jephthah has moved on now to the land of Tob. He is done with the folks back home. The entire bunch to include the elders had hated him and driven him from his father’s house. (11:7) He has since become a noted warrior and gathered a band of warriors—worthless though they were (11:3)—to his company. Along with acquiring a reputation he is now a family man and as we will see, apparently a very good one at that.
So in the midsts of this story we see the cycle reappear:
“Then the sons of Israel again did evil in the sight of the LORD, served the Baals and the Ashtaroth, the gods of Aram, the gods of Sidon, the gods of Moab, the gods of the sons of Ammon, and the gods of the Philistines; thus they forsook the LORD and did not serve Him. The anger of the LORD burned against Israel, and He sold them into the hands of the Philistines and into the hands of the sons of Ammon. They afflicted and crushed the sons of Israel that year; for eighteen years they afflicted all the sons of Israel who were beyond the Jordan in Gilead in the land of the Amorites.” 10:6-8
So here we have it again, religious apostasy and then oppression. And now deliverance is on the way. How strange the twists of life. The elders of Gilead, the very group that had hated Jephthah and driven him from his childhood home seek him out in Tob and ask him to be their deliverer. How did they get to this point? This must be the answer.
“...the sons of Israel cried out to the LORD, saying, ‘We have sinned against You, for indeed, we have forsaken our God and served the Baals.’ The LORD said to the sons of Israel, ‘Did I not deliver you from the Egyptians, the Amorites, the sons of Ammon, and the Philistines? Also when the Sidonians, the Amalekites and the Maonites oppressed you, you cried out to Me, and I delivered you from their hands. Yet you have forsaken Me and served other gods; therefore I will no longer deliver you. Go and cry out to the gods which you have chosen; let them deliver you in the time of your distress.’ The sons of Israel said to the LORD, ‘We have sinned, do to us whatever seems good to You; only please deliver us this day.’ So they put away the foreign gods from among them and served the LORD; and He could bear the misery of Israel no longer. Then the sons of Ammon were summoned and they camped in Gilead. And the sons of Israel gathered together and camped in Mizpah. The people, the leaders of Gilead, said to one another, ‘Who is the man who will begin to fight against the sons of Ammon? He shall become head over all the inhabitants of Gilead.’”
Our story goes on to answer this last question of who this judge shall be, that shall fight against the sons of Ammon. Jephthah is the man. A deal is struck. If he will fight for Israel and if he defeats the sons of Ammon he will rule Gilead. You know the rest of the story. Jephthah accepts the deal, gathers more men, and meets and defeats Ammon.
But something tragic happens in the personal life of Jephthah.
In his exuberance to take on this mission he believes Adonai has given him he makes a rash vow. He says:
“If You will indeed give the sons of Ammon into my hand, then it shall be that whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the sons of Ammon, it shall be the LORD's, and I will offer it up as a burnt offering.” 11:30-31
So with the victory won he returns to his house and we read:
“When Jephthah came to his house at Mizpah, behold, his daughter was coming out to meet him with tambourines and with dancing. Now she was his one and only child; besides her he had no son or daughter. When he saw her, he tore his clothes and said, "Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low, and you are among those who trouble me; for I have given my word to the LORD, and I cannot take it back.” 11:34-35
And his daughter’s response was:
“So she said to him, "My father, you have given your word to the LORD; do to me as you have said, since the LORD has avenged you of your enemies, the sons of Ammon.” v. 36
There has been much speculation as to how this story actually ended. The possibilities run all the way from the daughter was offered as a sacrifice, to as Keil and Delitzsch believe she was given to the priesthood to serve as a life long celibate in the sanctuary of the Lord. I suggest you grab a good commentary and let me know what you think. But how about this?
Do you see any guideposts in this latter half of our story? I do. I see a father who as a misfit youth was cast out of his family in shame, that was not his to bear. Who instead of turning his back on those who had hated him and done him evil, followed Adonai’s will and fought for them. Who was willing to follow through on what he must have later known was a rash vow to God. Who had to of instilled in his only child those qualities of acceptance of the very hard things life brings, of being obedient to her parents, of honoring her father, and his commitments to his God. Why else would she have submitted to her father’s vow as she did?
I see a man I would of liked to have personally known. He made mistakes, but he did not waver from his responsibility to raise his child properly, or to be obedient to Adonai’s direction, or to serve Him with all his heart, even to the giving of his only child.
B'rit Chadashah Chukat
As we come to our B’rit Chadashah we are directed to what is for most of us the most familiar book of the Bible and the best known chapter in it. It is the Gospel of John and the third chapter. For our purposes here we will focus in on just five verses 17-21.
“For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.”
We start with verse 17, “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.”
When it comes to heaven or hell, the Messiah came with singularity of purpose. His focus, His mission, was to see that men were saved, not that they were sent to hell. We might feel that it is a cruel God that sends men to an eternity apart from Adonai. But it is not God that sends them, He only facilitates their sure transfer, a transfer they have sealed themselves by not accepting the free gift of salvation from Hell, a gift offered in verse 16. No, The Messiah was not sent to judge, but to save.
Verse 18 reads, “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
What is so clear here is that there IS a judgement. It IS real. It exists and has fallen on all of us, but judgement was not the Messiah’s purpose in coming to mankind. This is a judgement that can be and is removed by the once for all work of Yeshua on that tree, for you and me, if we put our faith in His work for us. “He who believes is not judged.” But for the one who does not believe, this one has already—in the past, before Messiah came—been judged. And that judgement which Messiah came to set us free from hangs over that sinner, “because he has not believed in the Name of the only begotten Son.”
And what is that judgement? It is an evaluation of each man’s deeds. And the vehicle for that evaluation is light. What do you suppose is that light? Why it is the Messiah Himself. He is that light, that standard to which we are compared. But remember the purpose of His coming was NOT to be a judge, but to be a Savior. However, in His incarnate person as He walked amongst His creation we were shown the standard of perfection, of sinlessness, of perfect obedience to the Father, YHVH. And we all fail that standard miserably, so much so that we are most deserving of being eternally separated from God, for our deeds are evil. How could such human imperfection ever be allowed into the company of such divine perfection? I think we each instinctively know the answer. We could not. We know that our deeds can never meet up to the holy standard of God. That’s why we love darkness, so we can hide the wicked fruit of our lives, fruit of a nature that will never meet God’s standards. So we love darkness, rather than light.
And thus John says, “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.” v.19
Verse 20 goes on to say, “For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.”
Of course we hate the light. It exposes what we have done that we should not, and that which we should have done that we did not. Who among us would want to walk into a dark room filled with the saints of old, the angelic hosts, and God Himself... and flip the light switch that brings illumination for all to see, yes for all to see the very deeds that will separate us for eternity from a holy God.
We do not come to the Messiah of our own because we cannot bear to have our deeds exposed when compared to His holy standard. Doesn’t John later record the Messiah as saying, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day” (6:44). So we hate the light and love the darkness.
Now we arrive at verse 21, and what a wonderful place it is to come to after having spoken of deeds of darkness and separation from God. Here John says, “But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.”
Up to this point we have seen that Messiah had not come to be a judge of men but to be their Savior. But along with His incarnation to be this Savior came the standard by which He lived, and by which the lives of those He came to save could be measured. Messiah’s standard was perfection. Measured against even the best of man’s actions this standard of perfection made anything man did look far inferior. It brought to light the inadequacy if not the sinfulness of any of man’s deeds done apart from that which was “...wrought in God.” After all, are not the best acts of man, done apart from the agency of God in him, as a filthy rag? Isaiah 64:6
This standard then was in effect a light, a light that shined upon the evil deeds of man. This was a light that any man would run from while he looked for darkness in which to hide his deeds.
But now we see another type of man, one who does not run from the light. Indeed he comes to the light. He comes to the light so that his deeds may be seen, but seen how? John says, “that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” This is a seed truth that Messiah would later expand on in John 15 where He says that the ONLY good fruit a man can bear is that which is produced through Him, or in other words deeds manifested as having been wrought in God.
This is the counter opposite of the man who hates the light, who does not come to the light that his deeds would not be exposed. This is the man who has taken the sixteenth verse to heart and made the truth of it his own. He has believed in the saving work of the Messiah. And now he produces deeds that are worthy of reward. (I Corinthians 3:12-15) This is fruit that can stand the test of being placed against Messiah’s standard because this fruit has actually been produced by God through this saved and yielded servant. So this believer runs to the light to continually test his life and its product against the standard his Savior has set.
This light is the Messiah. The Messiah sets the standard, and YHVH (Adonai Himself) produces this fruit through the saved and yielded believer. It is fruit that is, “wrought in God.”
My prayer, for the rest of my life is that this is the fruit I will bear, not a fruit that I must hide in darkness, but a fruit that I will willingly bring to the light. For this is a fruit wrought in YHVH, a fruit gladly measured against the standard of Yeshua.
And now, what about you? What decision will you make in view of the light that would and ultimately will shine upon all the deeds of all mankind and even yours as well?
Yes ... what about you?
In Messiah's Love,
His EVERY Word Ministries