Parashot Matot-Masaei July 22nd

There are two parashot this weekend (this occurs whenever there is not a Jewish leap year):

Parashat Matot:

Parasha: Numbers 30:2 - 32:42

Haftarah: Jeremiah 1:1 - 2:3

 

Numbers 30.2-4: “When a man vows a vow to the Lord, or swears an oath to bind himself by a pledge, he shall not break his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth. Or when a woman vows a vow to the Lord, and binds herself by a pledge, while within her father’s house, in her youth, and her father hears of her vow and of her pledge by which she has bound herself, and says nothing to her; then all her vows shall stand, and every pledge by which she has bound herself shall stand.”

This obligation to keep the words we vow is a reflection of God’s character. God is truth, and every word he speaks is truth and needs no vow to confirm it, because God cannot lie. Those who are God’s children should reflect his character. “But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath, but let your yes be yes and your no be no, that you may not fall under condemnation.” (James 5.12)

For all this, there were two occasions on which God did take a vow. The first was a promise made to Abraham: “And the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven, and said, ‘By myself I have sworn, says the Lord, because you have done this, and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will indeed bless you, and I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore. And your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies, and by your descendants shall all the nations of the earth bless themselves, because you have obeyed my voice.’” (Gen 22.15-18) The writer of Hebrews connects this vow to the coming of the Messiah and to the second vow of God, made in connection with Melchizedek (see Heb 6.13-20).

The second occasion on which God swore a vow was directly related to the priesthood of the messianic Son of David: “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, “’You are a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.’” (Psa 110.4).

The coming of the descendant of Abraham in whom all the families of the earth would be blessed, and Messiah Son of David, who was to be a priest forever, these were promises so central and important that God took an oath, swearing by himself, because there is none higher.

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Parashat Masei:

Parasha: Numbers 33:1 - 36:13

Haftarah: Jeremiah 2:4-28, 3:4; 4:1-2

 

Numbers 35.14-15: “You shall give three cities beyond the Jordan, and three cities in the land of Canaan, to be cities of refuge. These six cities shall be for refuge for the people of Israel, and for the stranger and for the sojourner among them, that any one who kills any person without intent may flee there.”

Num 35.1-15 gives the cities of refuge and the principle of a safe place to flee to where a person can avoid the vengeance of the one who has been wronged. It begins with the cities that are to be given to the priestly families. Not only were the cities associated with the tribe of Levi, the whole process of fleeing there was connected to the life of the high priest. The person who fled there was safe as long as the high priest lived. When the high priest died, the fugitive could leave the city and should be safe from revenge. Whether that safety was really guaranteed would depend, of course, on human nature, on whether the relatives of the slain person were ready to give up their desire for revenge.

The New Testament provides us with an interesting connection between the Messiah and the cities of refuge. “So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he interposed with an oath, so that through two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible that God should prove false, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to seize the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner shrine behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.” (Heb 6.17-20)

All of us have sinned against God. As believers in the Messiah, we have fled to him for our refuge. (The Greek word here for “refuge” has the same root as the word used in the Septuagint to translate “lanus” [to flee] in the parashah.) Messiah is our place of refuge. Only in him are we safe from vengeance. However, unlike the foreshadowing of the cities of refuge, he is also our high priest. The whole point of the passage in Hebrews in comparing the Messiah to Melchizedek is that he lives forever. Because he never dies, we will be safe forever, as long as we remain in him.

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Haftarah: Jeremiah 2.4-28; 3.4; 4.1-2

Isaiah 1.1-20 (T)

In Jeremiah 2.13 God calls himself “the fountain of living water.” This idea is repeated in Jer 17.13: “O Lord, the hope [or water source] of Israel . . . they have forsaken the Lord, the fountain of living water.” (and see Psa 36.10). The image also appears in the heart of a very messianic passage in Zech 13.1: “On that day there shall be a fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness.”

Indeed, the Messiah himself is the source of living water: “Jesus said to her, ‘Every one who drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’” (John 4.13-14)

“On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and proclaimed, ‘If any one thirst, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me, as the scripture has said, “Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.”’” (John 7.37-38)

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