Thursday, July 24, 2008

Parashat Matot

Parashat Matot (Tribes)
July 26, 2008/23 Tammuz 5768

Numbers 30:1-32:42
Jeremiah 1:1-2:3
Acts 9:1-22

Parashat Matot demonstrates the transforming power of G-d that works both as we follow His word and as we allow the Ruach Ha’Kodesh (Holy Spirit) to enter our lives and guide our actions.

Numbers 30 described vows, particularly their importance and how they relate to the relationships between husband and wife, and fathers with young daughters still at home.

Numbers 30:1 Moses said to the heads of the tribes of Israel: “This is what the L-RD commands: 2 When a man makes a vow to the L-RD or takes an oath to obligate himself by a pledge, he must not break his word but must do everything he said. (NIV)

In Numbers 31, the nation of Israel is triumphant against the Midianites, and the spoils of the conquest are divided. Numbers 32 described what happens to the Transjordan tribes – these were two tribes, Reuben and Gad, with large herds and flocks who request to have their portion of the Land of Israel to be east of the Jordan River. Moshe objects to this at first.

Numbers 32:14 “And here you are, a brood of sinners, standing in the place of your fathers and making the L-RD even more angry with Israel 15 If you turn away from following him, he will again leave all this people in the desert, and you will be the cause of their destruction.” (NIV)

The tribes, however, plead their case and receive permission after stating that they will be advance troops in case of an attack. These lands become part of the Biblical boundaries of Israel.

In the Haftarah portion, coming from the Book of Jeremiah, the L-rd calls Jeremiah, and through this call we can see the L-rd’s call on our own lives.

Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”
6 “Ah, Sovereign L-RD,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am only a child.”
7 But the L-RD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a child.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you.
8 Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the L-RD. (NIV)

This is not the only example in Scripture where someone is called by G-d to do something, only for that person to have doubts. Sometimes as believers, we know in our hearts that G-d is with us, but we’re still afraid to act even if we are sure He is guiding our actions. Verses like these in Jeremiah should give us comfort and confidence that when He is with us, we need to let go and trust.

The Brit Chadasha portion is from Acts. Saul, a Jewish persecutor of believers in Yeshua becomes Paul, someone who is moved to preach the Gospel.

Acts 9:21 All those who heard him were astonished and asked, “Isn't he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn't he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?”
22 Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Yeshua is the Messiah. (NIV)

The transformation of Saul to Paul demonstrates how people can change though G-d’s redeeming power. We all have our “before and after” stories as believers. Paul has one of the most dramatic stories of coming to faith in the entire Bible, and one to which many Jewish believers can relate. Some of us come from backgrounds where we were quite suspicious and hostile toward believers in Yeshua, especially Jewish believers, who were seen to be traitors to their heritage. Then when Yeshua comes into our lives, our perspective totally changes. Non-Jewish believers also have their own stories of how answering the call of Yeshua on their lives has changed them.

A believing life involves faithfulness – just like the adherence to vows required in Numbers. It involves obedience – just like listening to and acting upon the call of G-d in our lives. And it involves transformation – just like Paul experienced. Blessed be He who calls us and transforms our lives!

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