Bereans Online

Bereans Online parashah commentary is copyrighted, however you are free to distribute as you see fit.


Rumination #34: What identifies the disciples of Messiah? Is it a creed, a bumper sticker, a membership?

Over the centuries, there have been numerous ways that so-called "true believers" of Jesus have identified themselves. Creeds and statements of "I believe" as well as tie pins, necklaces, and bumper stickers are like secret handshakes between fellow members. But what is the real way to identify a disciple of Messiah?

Of course, any child of the 1970s "Jesus Movement" can tell you, "They will know we are Christians by our love, by our love." The popular camp song is derived from Yeshua's statement about His followers:

By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.
John 13:35

It sounds perfect, but out of context it is without meaning or substance. Beloved, we do not know what love is, without knowing how the Almighty defines it. And He has defined it - again and again, and yet men are loathe to obey Him.

And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves G-d must love his brother also.
1John 4:21

You can never separate love from the commandments of the Almighty. Love and the revelation of G-d's righteousness (the Torah) are inseparable. Love of G-d, and love of each other are defined in the Torah. Cast it aside, and you will only think you love G-d and your brother.

By this we know that we love the children of G-d, when we love G-d and keep His commandments. For this is the love of G-d, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.
1John 5:2-3

The disciples of Messiah are marked by our love for one another. Our love for one another is defined by the Torah. Without the Torah, "love" has no biblical definition.

We are a part of an eternal lamp. We ourselves are wicks that fuel the flame, revealing the Shekinah to the world around us. What is the oil that keeps our wick lit, what is our "love"? It is Torah deeds, beloved.

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
Matthew 5:16

Parashat Beha'alotcha - 'When you set up' (Numbers 8:1-12:16)

This week's Scripture portion is named for a word in the second verse.

daber el-aharon ve'amarta elav beha'alotcha et-hannerot el-mul penei hamenorah ya'iru shiv'at hanerot:

"Speak to Aaron, and say to him, ‘When you arrange the lamps, the seven lamps shall give light in front of the lampstand.'"
Numbers 8:2

Beha'alotcha is translated as "arrange" or "light" in some modern English translations. In some ways this obscures the root of the word in our English Bibles. The root is alah, [raise up, ascend] which shares the same root as olah. We have seen this word before, it is part of the phrase, korban olah [mistranslated "burnt offering"). We saw this a lot in the book of Leviticus. It is to raise, or ascend, and when matched with the word korban olah, we saw the two verbs joined to provide the image of "draw near, and ascend" in the worship of the Almighty. Alah is also the root for aliyah, when someone "goes up" to read the Torah, or when someone "goes up" to the Land of Israel.

So, the question we must ask is, why is this parasha named for "lifting" something up?

It is about the erecting, the lighting, and "lifting up" of the Menorah in the Mish'kan [Tabernacle]. The seven lamps are the only earthly light that is to be found in the Mish'kan. It seems odd that this verse makes the point that the seven lamps of the Menorah give light "in front of the lampstand." Why in front? The odd wording indicates that the lamps pointed inward to the center of the Menorah.

To understand that, let me paint a picture for you. Imagine the billowing smoke from the altar of incense, creating a cloud that fills the entire Holy Place of the Tabernacle. Imagine it so thick that you can hardly make out any shapes at all. Standing in front of the Veil, turn to the left and face back toward the entrance into the Holy Place. What would you see? Seven Eyes. The seven lamps of the Menorah. Yes, beloved. Those seven lamps of the Menorah were meant to look like Seven Eyes.

Remember back in Parashat Tetsaveh (Exodus 27:20-30:10) we saw the relationship between the Menorah and eyes? Specifically, the Eyes of HaShem.

We learned that the Menorah was constructed with golden almond clusters as a decorative motif, or so it seems. When we look at the Hebrew we learn that the Hebrew word for almond is sh'kad, which comes from the root shakad, which means "to watch." In John's vision we are told that the Seven Eyes also represent the "Seven Spirits" of G-d.

And from the throne proceeded lightnings, thunderings, and voices. Seven lamps of fire were burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.
Revelation 4:5

These are to be compared to the "Seven Eyes" on the stone in Zechariah 3:8. As in all things, this is to reveal Messiah. He is seen in the Menorah.

Likewise, the "lifting up" or "lighting" of the Menorah as the commandment was given in this week's portion is likened to our relationship to Messiah. He, the Light of the World, is revealed in this world by us, His disciples, reflecting Him. Like the lamps of the Menorah were to direct light to the center ("...the seven lamps shall give light in front of the lampstand...") - so too, we are pointing to our Master by our acting out His deeds of righteousness.

Lift Him up. Beha'alotcha.

"Lifting up" Messiah is also seen in how we approach the commands of the Almighty. Consider something else found in this week's parasha. Numbers 9:1-4 describes an interesting account of a group of men who, because of corpse defilement, did not have an opportunity to share in the Passover that year. We read in this week's portion how G-d permitted those who "missed" Passover because of a number of issues, to have a '"Second Passover" a month later. Without going into all the details regarding why this could occur, I want to focus in on why these men came with their complaint to Moses in the first place. It is something many have never considered, because sometimes we are looking through the wrong theological glasses.

The classic understanding of the "Old Testament"' is that in the Law of Moses people were "saved" by works (like sacrifices, obedience etc.). Let me tell you up front, in case you do not already know it: this is false. The problem is our understanding of the English word "salvation." Have you ever wondered how a major sect of Judaism in the First Century ever had any draw, if they believed that there was no resurrection from the dead? Think about it: if the Law of Moses, or the Tabernacle/Temple institutions had anything to do with eternal salvation, how could the Sadducees have been anything other than a few nutcases?

Regardless of their theological error, the beliefs of the Sadducees give us a glimpse into the issue of "salvation" and the entire Tabernacle/Temple worship experience. Where we (and Paul in 1Cor 15) would ask, "If there is no resurrection from the dead, what is the point?" Apparently there was a point, albeit a temporal and experiential one.

The Tabernacle/Temple system was never about eternal salvation. It never promised to be. Calling the Torah as a '"works-based-salvation plan" is one of the silliest inventions of so-called scholars over the past centuries. Simple observation will reveal that. The point of the Tabernacle/Temple was not about eternal salvation. It was always (and still is) about being in the Presence of the Creator of the Universe. He had promised to dwell in their midst. He has promised to dwell in our midst. There was a powerful draw to the Tabernacle and then the Temple. It was the single place on earth where heaven intersected the earth. It was all about worshipping and experiencing G-d. It was about a love relationship, the desire to be near Him.

Likewise, keeping the commandments is to be a part of a love relationship - all about experiencing the Presence of G-d, and revealing His glory to others.

In Numbers 9, these zealous men, desperately wanted the opportunity to keep a commandment - and in keeping the command, to experience even for a moment, the Presence of G-d. They wanted to do the mitzvah [commandment] of Passover. They were zealous for HaShem, and it showed. They could have (like so many today) said, "Oh well. I missed it. No loss. I couldn't keep Passover - maybe next year." 

We should be like these men who earnestly desired to share in the Passover. They were zealous for the commands of HaShem. In that zeal they, "lifted up" the light of the Menorah.

These men in Numbers 9 remind us of two Pharisees in the First Century. Men, who because of their love for our Master, took His body and laid it in a tomb - thereby making themselves tamei [ritually unclean] and thereby foregoing the Passover that year. I am speaking of Yosef of Arimatea [Joseph of Arimathea] and Nakdimon ben Gurion [Nicodemus] (John 19:38-42). No doubt, they zealously kept the command of the Second Passover, thirty days after our Master's execution and resurrection.

I see young men today in Torah communities that are much like Yosef and Nakdimon. They love Messiah. They show their love for Him by being zealous for His commandments. The purposely go out of their way in order to fulfill a mitzvah [commandment]. As an example, they do not normally wear four cornered garments, but choose to put them on in order that they can do the mitzvah of wearing tzitzit [fringes] seen in next week's parasha. When their acts of kindness, modest respect for women, and respect of elders is seen, so are the tzitzit that identify their deeds as obedience to the commandments of HaShem, and not merely random.

Here's to the zealots - those men and women who daily live lives that lift up Messiah. They know what it is to let their light shine.

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
Matthew 5:16

For the mitzvah [commandment] is a lamp, and the Torah a light; reproofs of instruction are the way of life.
Proverbs 6:23

Beloved, you are the light of the world. We reflect our Master, Who is seen in the Menorah. Lift Him up. Let your deeds shine...

You are the light of the world,
Let your light shine before all men,
That they may see your deeds and glorify our Father in heaven.
The lamp is the mitzvah, the light it shines is the Torah.
The lamp is the mitzvah, the light it shines is the Torah.

by Arba Minim

Lift Yeshua up. Beha'alotcha.

Haftarat Beha'alotcha 'When you set up' (Zechariah 2:14-4:7)

This week's reading from the Prophets found in Zechariah 2:14-4:7 is also about the Menorah.

Beloved, you may think you understand the Menorah - after all, it is a "lamp" for the Mish'kan, and later the Temple. Think about it, there is no other natural light in the Mish'kan or the Temple. Beloved, if you think the Menorah purpose was to provide working light for the Misk'kan, you would be wrong.

The Bible connects light, with eyes. The Menorah, although it provided light to the Holy Place, that was not its purpose. As we have already seen, the seven lamps of the Menorah, powered by olive oil, represent something else in the Tabernacle in the heavens. It is eyes. Seven eyes.

In our haftarah portion we are introduced to "seven eyes" immediately after we are introduced to a mysterious figure called "My Servant, the Branch."

Hear, O Joshua, the High Priest, you and your companions who sit before you. For they are a wondrous sign; for behold, I am bringing forth My Servant the Branch. For behold, the stone that I have laid before Joshua : Upon the stone are seven eyes. Behold, I will engrave its inscription,' Says HaShem of hosts.
Zechariah 3:8-9

We know from Jeremiah 23:5 and Jeremiah 33:15, that "The Branch" is a title for Messiah. It is the word, tzemach, coming from the root verb which means to sprout, or shoot up.

Isn't that odd? Zechariah introduces Messiah, "The Branch" to us, and then tells us about a stone with seven eyes upon it, and then moves on without explaining any correlation. Keep reading. Watch, as our haftarah continues.

Now the angel who talked with me came back and wakened me, as a man who is wakened out of his sleep. And he said to me, "What do you see?" So I said, "I am looking, and there is a lampstand of solid gold with a bowl on top of it, and on the stand seven lamps with seven pipes to the seven lamps. Two olive trees are by it, one at the right of the bowl and the other at its left." So I answered and spoke to the angel who talked with me, saying, "What are these, my lord?" Then the angel who talked with me answered and said to me, "Do you not know what these are?" And I said, "No, my lord." So he answered and said to me: "This is the word of HaShem to Zerubbabel: 'Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,' says HaShem of hosts. 'Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain! And he shall bring forth the capstone with shouts of "Grace, grace to it!"'"
Zechariah 4:1-7

A lampstand with seven lamps, and a capstone? A stone with seven eyes? Messiah, "The Branch"?

If you continue reading past the end of our haftarah, you will get the connection between the seven eyes on the stone, and the Menorah.

For who has despised the day of small things? For these seven rejoice to see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel. They are the eyes of HaShem, which scan to and fro throughout the whole earth."
Zechariah 4:10

Yes beloved, the Menorah pictures the eyes of HaShem. In fact, their very construction pictures this as well. Each of the seven lamps of the Menorah are decorated with golden almonds. In Exodus we read about the construction of the Menorah:

Three bowls made like unto almonds, with a knop and a flower in one branch; and three bowls made like almonds in the other branch, with a knop and a flower: so in the six branches that come out of the candlestick. And in the candlestick shall be four bowls made like unto almonds, with their knops and their flowers.
Exodus 25:33-34

The word for these decorative almonds is the word m'shekadim, from the root verb shakad, which means, "to watch." Yes, the Menorah is all about "eyes" and "watching." So, what is the Messianic connection, and why does Zechariah bring up "The Branch"?

For that beloved, it is helpful to turn to the Revelation.

I was in the Spirit on the L-rd's Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet, saying, "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last,"... Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters; He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength.
Revelation 1:10, 12-15

That is Messiah standing in the midst of the seven lamps of the Menorah, which in this vision refers to seven assemblies in Asia. Later in the Revelation we read:

And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of G-d sent out into all the earth.
Revelation 5:6

Beloved, the Menorah represents the eyes of HaShem. It is those same eyes that are on the Stone, which caps the Temple. It is those same eyes that are on the Lamb, which stands as if slain. The Branch [Tzemach] is a wondrous sign. He is the Lamb. As our haftarah opens, it promises, that He will dwell with us.

Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion! For behold, I am coming and I will dwell in your midst." says HaShem. "Many nations shall be joined to HaShem in that day, and they shall become My people. And I will dwell in your midst. Then you will know that HaShem of hosts has sent Me to you.
Zechariah 2:14-15 (2:10-11 in English)

Prayer Focus for Beha'alotcha -  "Malchut Beit David" [Kingdom of the House of David]

The 15th blessing from the Shemoneh Esrei [the Amidah] blesses HaShem that He is keeping His promises regarding the House of David, and the promise of Messiah. It is a powerful prayer, especially for those who know that the Messiah Son of David is Yeshua of Nazareth. In this prayer, not only is the title "The Branch" referenced three times, our Master's Name is uttered three times in various forms.

Et Tz'mach David av'd'cha m'herah tatz'miach,
The Branch of David Your servant, quickly cause to sprout up,

v'karno tarum bishuatecha,
and exalt His power with Your salvation,

ki lishuat'cha kivinu kal hayom.
because for Your salvation we hope all day long.

Baruch Atah HaShem, matzmiach keren yeshuah.
Blessed art Thou, HaShem, Who brings forth the Manifestation of Salvation.

Beloved, all Israel prays this prayer. Three times, every day. Baruch HaShem!

Bereans Online eNews

Standing in Prayer with all Israel,

Rick Spurlock
Bereans Online