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Ruminations

Rumination #33: The presence of light reveals flaws. The revelation of the Holy One, blessed is He, reveals our unworthiness to receive that revelation. But that is not the purpose for light, nor for the revelation of HaShem.

There is a line of thinking in some theologies (sadly even among some who call themselves "Messianic") that goes something like this: The purpose for the "Law of Moses" was to reveal sin and our need for a Savior. Now that Jesus has come, and the way of salvation is made clear, we no longer need the "Law of Moses" – instead we have a new law, the "Law of Christ."

While some Scripture passages certainly indicate that the Law reveals sin, there is something missing from this theological misdirection. The effect of the revelation of HaShem always reveals man's frailty and sin.

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw HaShem sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the Temple. Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried to another and said: "Holy, holy, holy is HaShem of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!" And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke. So I said: "Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, HaShem of hosts."
Isaiah 6:1-5

Was the purpose of Isaiah's vision simply so he would know that he was a sinner? How absurd and man-centered! It was a revelation of the Holy One of Israel, blessed is He.

The Torah is the revelation of the righteousness of HaShem. It reveals Who He is and it reveals His Messiah. Just as the flaws of a work are revealed in the daylight, so are our weaknesses, our failings, and our sins are revealed in His Presence. And just as a candle is subsumed in the brilliance of the mid-day sun, so is our meager obedience to His righteous standard is as filthy rags.

But let us not be confused… the purpose of the Torah is not to reveal sin. May it never be said! The purpose of the Torah is to reveal HaShem. It is to reveal Messiah.

For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me.
John 5:46

For Messiah is the goal of the Torah, in righteousness to everyone who believes. For Moses writes about the righteousness of the Torah, "The man who does those things shall live by them."
Romans 10:4-5

Parashat Nasso - 'Lift' (Numbers 4:21-7:89)

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

Vayedaber HaShem el-Moshe lemor:
Naso et-rosh b'nei Gershon gam-hem l'veit avotam l'mishp'chotam:

Then HaShem spoke to Moses, saying: "Also take a census of the sons of Gershon, by their fathers' house, by their families."

Numbers 4:21-22

In our last parasha (B'mid'bar), we saw that the phrase, "take a census" is the Hebrew phrase, "lift the head." We saw the phrase repeated throughout those first four chapters of the book of B'mid'bar [Numbers]. This week's portion continues the process. The portion name, "Nasso" comes from the first word in the phrase, "Naso et-rosh b'nei ger'shon [Lift the head of the sons of Ger'shon]."

Once again, remember that this not a census in the way that men do them. This is not about gauging the strength of the army (or in this case, the Levite families); nor is it about measuring something for a program (or a "build the building" campaign). This was about naming the name of each man - and identifying him with who he was, and to Whom he belonged. In each case, they were men who had a G-d-given destiny. It was about being who they were created to be. At the end of last week's Torah portion we saw that the sons of K'hat [Kohath] were identified (by lifting their heads). As Levites, it was their duty to carry the furniture of the Tabernacle. Two more families of Levites are named and given duties in this week's parasha: Ger'shon and M'rari.

The naming of names continues in this parasha, and then we have some seemingly disconnected passages. Let's look at a summary of the contents of this week's portion:

Beloved, the theme of all of these verses is the same. They are all about living consistently as we were created to be; and thus bringing glory to the One Whose Name has been placed upon us. Again, it is all about "names" - and it is about "lifting up" HaShem's Name.

Of particular interest is the connection between the "test of the suspected sotah" and the Birkat Kohanim. You may ask, "What does the test of a suspected unfaithful wife, have to do with the Aaronic Blessing?"

A Name, beloved, a Name. His Name.

There is great significance in the "sotah" passage (that is, the test of the suspected unfaithful wife). An entire tractate of the Babylonian Talmud is devoted to it. Lest some go off half-cocked, understand that this passage has always been viewed in Judaism as a practical method of promoting marriage and freeing a wife of suspicion, as opposed to a "trial" as it is often portrayed in the classical tradition of treating the Torah as antiquated. Of course, in so doing, they are missing the deep truths in this passage and its companion passages of Isaiah 54, and John 8:3-11. Isaiah 54 is an encouragement that G-d will vindicate His own. John 8 is about the woman "caught in adultery" brought to Yeshua to see what He would do. What connects this to the sotah passage is the fact that under Torah, there were only two possibilities for this woman "caught in the act":

Considering the test of the suspected sotah and the use of the dust from the Tabernacle/Temple floor in testing her innocence, it brings a whole new angle to the common question, "What was Yeshua writing in the dust?"

Of course, we know that Yeshua was not abrogating Torah in demanding two valid eyewitnesses ("He who is without sin, cast the first stone") as our antinomian brothers and sisters would have us believe: Yeshua was using Torah correctly: to reveal sin, to bring one to repentance, and to set one free. Which brings me to my main point (I know, sometimes it takes me a while to get there). The Name.

In the test of the suspected sotah, the priest will take some water from the Laver in the Mish'kan [Tabernacle] and mix some dust from the floor of the Mish'kan. Then the priest will place the woman under oath with a curse attached to it. Then the oath will be written down, and then the letters scraped off into the water that has the dust of the Mish'kan in it. Then the woman, if she agrees, will drink the mixture. If she is innocent, then she will be openly declared as innocent, and she will conceive and have children. If she is guilty, the curse will be applied to her, and her, "belly will swell, her thigh will rot, and the woman will become a curse among her people."

Sounds like some tough medicine indeed. Of particular interest is this "oath" that is written down, and then scraped into the water and dust mixture.

Then the priest shall put the woman under the oath of the curse, and he shall say to the woman "HaShem make you a curse and an oath among your people, when HaShem makes your thigh rot and your belly swell; and may this water that causes the curse go into your stomach, and make your belly swell and your thigh rot." 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.
Numbers 5:21-23

Look what is being scraped into the water! The ineffable Name of G-d, listed twice in the oath is scraped into the water. Notice, this is the only time in the entire Scripture that the Name of G-d is erased in this manner. This is serious stuff indeed. What does this water do? It either opens the womb of the suspected sotah, or it curses her. The Name of G-d becomes a curse to her?!!

We've seen something like this before. The very Word of G-d either brings freedom, or it brings death. It brings freedom in the revelation of the path of salvation - or it brings condemnation and death for those unwilling to repent. Our antinomian brothers and sisters like to focus upon the condemnation of Torah (thereby somehow claiming its abrogation), without understanding that the words of the Creator of the Universe have always had two possible outcomes for man: life, or death. Isn't it interesting how often we describe G-d's Word as a sword - and yet sometimes fail to remember that the very analogy describes something that cuts both ways? Scripture makes sure we understand this by repeatedly making that comparison. In Hebrews we are told:

For the Word of G-d is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
Hebrews 4:12

G-d's Word does indeed cut both ways. It brings life to those who are following the path back to the Tree of Life - the path with Messiah through the veil. It brings death to those who, by disobedience, and a lack of repentance stubbornly seek for their own way back to the Garden. G-d's Name cuts both ways as well. It is a Name that can bring blessings and life, and it is the Name that will condemn the wicked.

The Birkat Kohanim [Aaronic Blessing] is also about the Name (Numbers 6:24-27). The Birkat Kohanim is used in some circles as a way of benediction, or placing a general wellbeing upon G-d's people. You see it often used this way at the close of some denominations' "worship services." A pastor stands up at the end of a service and pronounces a blessing of peace upon the people, as if to say, "Go in peace."

The Birkat Kohanim is not about giving you a blessing of "peace" (the peace mentioned is reflective of the peace of the Messianic Kingdom, where all will be holy unto HaShem). Our parasha tells us the reason for the Birkat Kohanim: it is about the Name, and placing it upon us, thereby blessing us. It is the essence of these past two week's parashot are about: being who the Creator created us to be. It is about ownership. The Birkat Kohanim is like saying, "These are My treasured possession. They are Mine. My Name is written on them." It is why it is said with the kohen's hands in the shape of the letter shin, which is symbolic for one of G-d's Names, "El Shaddai."

The Birkat Kohanim merely the placing of a blessing on the people by an Aaronic priest. It is G-d, standing behind the kohen, placing His Name upon the people through the priest. The blessing... is His Name on us.

The Birkat Kohanim can have special significance to those who love Messiah and His Torah. It is often part of the weekly Shabbat, which begins Friday evening in the homes of believers - with the man of the home (as representative for the family) placing the Name of the Almighty upon His family. Ashkenazi tradition also has the chazan, the prayer leader, pronouncing the Birkat Kohanim during Morning Prayers.

We who know Yeshua have had our heads lifted. We have had Him speak His prophetic blessings upon us - writing His Torah upon our hearts and causing us to walk in His ways. He has given us His Name as our identity. He has given us clear instructions not only not to sully His Name, but to bring it glory. We do that not by what we claim we believe... but how we live.

For we are His workmanship, created in Messiah Yeshua for good works, which G-d prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
Ephesians 2:10

Y'varech'cha HaShem v'yish'm'recha
Yaer HaShem panav elecha vichuneka
Yisa HaShem panav elecha
V'yasem l'cha shalom.

HaShem bless you and keep you
HaShem make His face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you
HaShem lift up His countenance upon you and give you shalom.
Numbers 6:24-26

So they shall put My Name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them.
Numbers 6:27

Haftarat Nasso 'Lift' (Judges 13:2-25)

This week's Torah portion includes the instructions in Numbers 6 regarding the Nazarite vow. Most folks do not know much about Nazarites, the vow of the Nazarite, or the purpose for Nazarites. Beloved, there is much about the instructions regarding Nazarites that we honestly do not know. Scripture does not tell us directly the purpose of the Nazarite. Our haftarah reading from the Prophets includes the account of how Samson was promised, and the instructions about how he was to be a lifelong Nazarite.

First, regarding Nazarites, there are some important facts we can be certain of:

In addition to that, the Nazarite will on the day of the completion of his vow:

Then the Nazarite may drink wine, cut his hair, and bury the dead thereafter. So, what is the Nazarite vow all about? Beloved, it is about separation. The word nazar means to separate or to consecrate. To be a Nazarite is to be consecrated to HaShem for a special purpose. That may be all we can read directly from the Scripture regarding purpose, but the examples of Nazarites give us a better idea. Beloved, although Nazarites having nothing to do with "Nazarenes" - Nazarites have everything to do with Messiah.

Our haftarah deals with the calling of Samson as a Nazarite. Samson was a Nazarite from before his birth. He is a type (a foreshadowing) of messianic figure. Our haftarah begins this way:

Now there was a certain man from Zorah, of the family of the Danites, whose name was Manoah; and his wife was barren and had no children. And the Angel of HaShem appeared to the woman and said to her, "Indeed now, you are barren and have borne no children, but you shall conceive and bear a son. Now therefore, please be careful not to drink wine or similar drink, and not to eat anything unclean. For behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. And no razor shall come upon his head, for the child shall be a Nazarite to G-d from the womb; and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistine."
Judges 13:2-5

When Manoah later meets up with this mysterious "Angel of HaShem" he asks him his name.

Then Manoah said to the Angel of HaShem, "What is Your name, that when Your words come to pass we may honor You?" And the Angel of HaShem said to him, "Why do you ask My name, seeing it is wonderful?"
Judges 13:17-18

An interesting thing happens when you unpack that little word "wonderful." Is this a proper name? It does not appear that way. The Gutnick Chumash translates this word as "hidden." It is the word peliy which means, "incomprehensible." It reminds me of another Scripture passage.

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty G-d, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His Kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of HaShem of hosts will perform this.
Isaiah 9:6-7

In Isaiah 9:6, the word used as a Messianic title is pele, and you guessed it - the noun form of peliy. It means, "incomprehensible." Which reminds me of another Scripture (we are stringing pearls, so hang on).

Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called "Faithful and True," and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a Name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His Name is called "The Word of G-d." And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty G-d. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: "KING OF KINGS AND L-RD OF L-RDS."
Revelation 19:11-16

Back to the Nazarite vow… we read of another famous Nazarite in Acts 21:17-28. The Apostle Paul took a Nazarite vow, and accompanied four other believers in fulfilling their Nazarite vows, following the instructions from Numbers 6. Paul was accused of being against the Temple, the Torah, and the Jewish people. Even believers had begun to believe this false testimony regarding Paul. Ya'akov [James] an elder of the Jerusalem congregation suggested that Paul prove his devotion to the Temple, the Torah and the Jewish people by fulfilling a Nazarite vow, and paying for others to fulfill their Nazarite vows.

When Paul came to Jerusalem, the elders of the congregation of believers in Jerusalem describe their pious congregation this way:

And they said to him [Paul], "You see, brother, how many myriads of Jews there are who have believed, and they are all zealous for the Torah."
Acts 21:20b

Therefore do what we tell you: We have four men who have taken a vow. Take them and be purified with them, and pay their expenses so that they may shave their heads, and that all may know that those things of which they were informed concerning you are nothing, but that you yourself also walk orderly and keep the Torah.
Acts 21:23-24

Of course Paul, who was falsely accused by both believers and unbelievers, agrees to the suggestion.

Then Paul took the men, and the next day, having been purified with them, entered the Temple to announce the expiration of the days of purification, at which time an offering should be made for each one of them.
Acts 21:26

There is an interesting thing regarding the Nazarite vow; if it could not be ended in the Mish'kan or later the Temple, with the offerings, then it could not be ended. It is possible that Paul lived the rest of his life as a Nazarite. In Acts 22 it appears that Paul was unable to complete his Nazarite vow.

Which leads me to my favorite Nazarite of all. Did you know that Yeshua was a Nazarite? No, He was not a Nazarite while He ministered here. However, something interesting takes place at His last Passover Seder before His death and resurrection.

But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father's Kingdom.
Matthew 26:29

Beloved, a temporary Nazarite vow is made with a declaration of intent for it to be fulfilled at a later date. And it cannot be fulfilled until the Nazarite returns to the Mish'kan or the Temple to cut his hair and offer the offerings from Numbers 6. Which reminds me of another Scripture:

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. And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, "Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last. I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death."
Revelation 1:12-18

I am waiting for the day, when He will come to fulfill His vow. I am waiting for the day that I will see Messiah, standing at the door of the Temple - cutting His long white hair and offering it on the altar. I am waiting for the moment He takes up His cup and raises it, and blesses - and then drinks once again the wine from His cup. Fulfilled.

Prayer Focus for Nasso -  "Borei pri hagafen" [Creator of the fruit of the vine]

Every Shabbat, and most of Yom Tov [holy days] are welcomed with the fruit of the vine and bread. It speaks of the eternal Shabbat. It speaks of the World to Come. It speaks of Messiah. We remember You, Yeshua!

Baruch atah HaShem, Ekoheinu Melech ha olam, Borei pri hagafen
Blessed are you HaShem, our G-d, King of the Universe, Creator of the fruit of the vine.

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Rick Spurlock
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B"H