Parashat Shlach Lecha - June 17th

שלח לך Shlach Lecha

Numbers 13.1—15.41

To begin let's look at a few verses from this week's Torah Portion.  “And all the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The whole congregation said to them, “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! Why is the LORD bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become a prey. Would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?’ . . . And the LORD said to Moses, “How long will this people despise me? And how long will they not believe in me, in spite of all the signs that I have done among them? I will strike them with the pestilence and disinherit them, and I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they.’ But Moses said to the Lord . . . ‘Please pardon the iniquity of this people, according to the greatness of your steadfast love, just as you have forgiven this people, from Egypt until now.’ Then the Lord said, ‘I have pardoned, according to your word.’” Numbers 14.2-4, 11-13, 19-20:

Had Moses not interceded on behalf of the nation, they would have been struck down on the spot, and deservedly so! But Moses is long gone, as is his mediatorship. That covenant is a broken covenant. But Messiah Jesus, the Supreme Mediator between God and Man, is alive today and able to make eternal and effective intercession for all who trust in him.

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Numbers 15.2-5: “Say to the people of Israel, When you come into the land you are to inhabit, which I give you, and you offer to the Lord from the herd or from the flock an offering by fire or a burnt offering or a sacrifice, to fulfill a vow or as a freewill offering or at your appointed feasts, to make a pleasing odor to the Lord, then he who brings his offering shall offer to the Lord a cereal offering of a tenth of an ephah of fine flour, mixed with a fourth of a hin of oil; and wine for the drink offering, a fourth of a hin, you shall prepare with the burnt offering, or for the sacrifice, for each lamb.”

Sacrifices were to be accompanied by grain, oil, and wine. We are reminded that the first specific priestly act in the Bible was when Melchizedek brought bread and wine to Abraham (Genesis 14.18). So too, when the Messiah was preparing for his own sacrifice, he brought out bread and wine for those for whom the sacrifice was made.

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Numbers 15.27-31: “If one person sins unwittingly, he shall offer a female goat a year old for a sin offering. And the priest shall make atonement before the Lord for the person who commits an error, when he sins unwittingly, to make atonement for him; and he shall be forgiven. You shall have one law for him who does anything unwittingly, for him who is native among the people of Israel, and for the stranger who sojourns among them. But the person who does anything with a high hand, whether he is native or a sojourner, reviles the Lord, and that person shall be cut off from among his people. Because he has despised the word of the Lord, and has broken his commandment, that person shall be utterly cut off; his iniquity shall be upon him.”

This passage makes a distinction between unwitting sin and sin done “with a high hand”; God’s salvation includes a provision for those who are unaware. However, we are held responsible for what we know; if we know God’s requirement and we sin intentionally, we will be punished. “Whoever knows what is right to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” (James 4.17)

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Numbers 15.30: “But the person who does anything with a high hand, whether he is native or a sojourner, reviles the Lord, and that person shall be cut off from among his people.” This is not the first time we have encountered the threat that a person might be cut off from his people. It appeared first in Genesis 17.14, “Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.” Since circumcision was given as the sign of Abraham’s covenant with God, failure to meet God’s requirement of circumcision meant the person did not belong to the people of God.

This becomes highly significant when we consider the promised Messiah. In Deuteronomy 18.18-19 God promises this: “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brethren; and I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. And whoever will not give heed to my words which he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him.” The phrase “I will require it of him” is fairly vague. However, when Simon Peter quotes these same verses in Acts 3.22-23, he makes the meaning quite unmistakable: “Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet from your brethren as he raised me up. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. And it shall be that every soul that does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.’” When God sends his Messiah, the question will not be “Can a Jew believe in him?” The coming Messiah is the very essence, the peak of God’s program for his people. A person’s failure to accept him means that person “is cut off from the people.”

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Haftarah: Joshua 2.1-24

In the haftarah we meet Rahab, who, according to the text, was a prostitute (zonah). The early verses of the New Testament list her as one of the ancestors of the Messiah, “Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king” (Matthew 1.5-6).

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Shabbat Shalom!

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