Friday, May 19, 2017

Administrative Order in the Wilderness Camp

After the Amalekites fled the scene and the Israelites settled back down in their tents, at the foot of the mountain, Moses’ father-in-law showed up bringing his family with him, that is Moses’ wife and sons. Before any kind of national organization could be put into place, YHVH was about to have His appointed leader attend to his own family.  Obviously this is one of the most important issues in a budding nation. Without the families being set under the divine order of the Kingdom of Elohim, the nation, which YHVH is forming will be devoid of a strong foundation. “For the husband is head of the wife, as also Messiah is head of His body; and He is the Savior of the body…  Husbands, love your wives, just as Messiah also loved His body and gave Himself for her” (Ephesians 5:23-25). The expression of true love is not compatible with hierarchal governance, as love under-girds and does not overlord; its gives life and does not take it; love serves and is not served. Love cares for and supports the family.

Hidden in Moses’ sons’ names was a message for Moses himself.  ”Gershom (for he said, ‘I have been a stranger in a foreign land’) and… “Eliezer (for he said, ‘the Elohim of my father was my help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh’)” (Exodus 18:3-4). When Moses faced his children once again, he had to recall the help and deliverance that he had been granted by the Almighty. Additionally, the restoration or reunification of that family served as a reminder to the people that, they too had been strangers in a foreign land and had been delivered from the same (above-mentioned) sword. 

As the house of Joseph in this generation, we too are included in the company of  Peter’s addressees, whom he defines as ‘paraepidemous’-aliens-strangers in the nations of our residence, living alongside the local or native non-Israelite people.   YHVH has been reminding the wanderers all along the way what His mighty right arm has done for them/us.  So for an extra boost a Midianite priest comes to them, rejoicing over the goodness of YHVH in delivering them from the hand of the Egyptians (Exodus 18:9).  It seems that the Midianites were not the only ones that were impacted by Israel’s miraculous rescue and salvation.  Some of the other nations living in the vicinity heard and were filled with fear, just as was prophesied in the Song:  “Fear and dread will fall on them; by the greatness of Your arm they will be as still as a stone, till Your people pass over, O YHVH, till the people pass over whom You have purchased” (Exodus 15:16).  

Are we aware that our spiritual deliverance has also had the same effect on the rulers and principalities of this age?   When Yeshua was here in flesh and blood the demons recognized him, shuttered and even pleaded with him not to torment them.  Now that He is in us and we are in Him, how is it that those same spiritual entities are not just as afraid of our presence?  Or are they? Perhaps we are underestimating the results of the ‘finished work’! 

Returning to our historical account  – Moses’ father-in-law witnessed his daughter’s husband judging disputes in the Israelite camp from morning till night, with hundreds of people standing around waiting to hear the verdicts and decisions that pertained to their grievances. This would have taken Moses, who was heading for a ‘burn out’, away from his newly reunited family. All this made Jethro very concerned.  Moses was so busy with this work that, quite likely he did not have time to seek YHVH for wisdom as to solutions for the daily dilemmas that faced him. YHVH’s intervention took the form of a Midianite priest who stepped in, and suggested that the arbitrator needed to share the responsibilities by selecting or vetting men with certain qualifications who would come to his assistance. While not taking away from the kingship and rule of the Elohim of Israel, Jethro proposed the following regarding these potential officers:

"And you shall teach them the statutes and the laws, and show them the way in which they must walk and the work they must do.  [This is foundational; otherwise the people would do what was right in their own eyes.] Moreover you shall select from all the people able men, such as fear Elohim, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them [the people] to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. And let them judge the people at all times. Then it will be that every great matter they shall bring to you, but every small matter they themselves shall judge. So it will be easier for you, for they will bear the burden with you.  If you do this thing, and Elohim so commands you, then you [Moses] will be able to endure, and all this people will also go to their place in peace" (Exodus 18:20-23 emphases added).  Please notice that, subject to Elohim’s command (quoting Jethro’s above-cited words), the potential officers were not to lord it over the people, but were to teach them the statutes, laws, and ordinances or right rulings for civil order in the families, communities and tribes of the nation. These laws were a pre-cursor to the Torah that Israel was about to receive shortly from YHVH.

Moses never once protested or challenged Jethro’s advice. On the contrary, he proceeded to do as he was told. Did Moses ‘know in his spirit’ that it was YHVH’s voice speaking through a Midianite priest? Did he feel ‘deep down’ that it was time that Israel became somewhat more organized, and did the reasons postulated by Jethro make so much sense that it did not for one minute raise the thought, one that nowadays is commonplace in parallel situations: ‘This could be the work of the flesh, and not of the spirit, but perhaps after I pray about it I’ll know more’. Also, did Moses know that he and the people he was leading needed in some way to respond to the Elohim who did so much for them, and take a pro-active stance? Was this somehow a prerequisite to the giving of the Torah and the enactment of the eternal Covenant with Israel? 

Even before the great ‘Torah and Covenant event’, some of the laws were already active.  Paul infers to this principle:  “…for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of Elohim, but the doers of the law will be justified;  [citing as an example] for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves,  who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness” (Romans 2:13-15). 

Referring back to the above-raised questions and to the dynamics described, it may be worth our while to examine their application to the situations and condition that we are in, during this interim and indefinite time period of our wilderness sojourn.  Once again, the beginning of structure forming, delegation of administrative responsibilities, by way of it also being a pro-active response denoting willing participation on the part of the various members of the Israelite community, may all be useful examples for us to consider. This being especially so, when highlighted by the fact that all this took place just prior to one of the most significant events in the life of the People of Israel.  YHVH seems to have taken favorably to this development, in spite of the fact that in Exodus chapter 18 there is no mention of “thus said YHVH”.  

Friday, May 5, 2017

Warfare in the Wilderness

Up to this point in Israel’s short journey in the wilderness, complaining, murmuring, and fear of perishing from hunger and thirst have been at the forefront.  Even after Elohim gave the Israelites their desires they still remained un-repented from harboring all those negative attitudes, and therefore were not really experiencing freedom.  We have already noted that the Hebrew people were prisoners to their fleshly desires and fears, to the point that they were even willing to go back to slavery for the sake of their pots of meat, leaks and onions.  Can you imagine the conversations that were carried on the airwaves during those days; the gossip, the accusations that were leveled at Moses and Aaron? All that in spite of the fact that Moses told them that it was not him and his brother whom they were judging and condemning, but YHVH Himself.  From their point of view Moses lied to them about going to a land of milk and honey.  Dying of thirst or starving to death was not what they envisioned.  He had already disappointed them before, and here again they were at death’s door. Thus they wanted to stone Moses and Aaron. But YHVH, again by His great mercy, charged Moses to take the rod with which he “stuck the river [Nile] and strike the rock” (Exodus 17:5), thus supplying water in the desert.*

Our wilderness journey is sometimes marked by similar behavior.  Often we tend to find scapegoats to blame for our problems or circumstances.  Yeshua, the leader and head of His nation/body maintains that "that which we do" (or even think about) regarding "the least of these, His brethren, we do it to Him".  Fear and stress about our simplest needs has us behaving at times just like our ancestors, although the Messiah left us with instructions to not worry about food and clothing: "And do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious/fear filled mind. For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things.  But seek the kingdom of Elohim, and all these things shall be added to you” (Luke 12:29-31). 

The ‘world’ and its kingdoms with the variety of their tantalizing merchandize can become objects of worship, whether overtly or covertly.  When they do, it is but a short path to sin, as these creature comforts become a (false) source of contentment, satisfaction, excitement, granting temporary peace, joy and relief.  The Word of Elohim points out that Lucifer, “the ruler of this world has made the earth tremble… shook kingdoms… has made the world as a wilderness and destroyed its cities” (Isaiah 14:16-17 emphasis added).  Thus, in spite of the lights and glitter of the world, as long as it is under the dominion of its prince, it is nothing but a dry barren desert.  But as for us, although we are in the world, we are not to be of it (ref. John 17:16). 

Because the Children of Israel carried on in their rebellion against YHVH’s headship, asking in unbelief:  "Is YHVH among us or not?" (Exodus 17:7), He brought on the scene one of their relatives to greet them with the sword: Esau’s firstborn grandson Amalek.  It is interesting to note that many years before, when Jacob was returning to the Land, Esau came with 300 men to meet him.  At that point he did not harm his brother, because he had sworn that he would not do so until after their father’s death.  Now several centuries later, Esau’s progeny felt that they had an opportunity to eliminate the seed of Jacob.  The spirit of revenge, hatred and murder was still at work in these cousins, who were about to carry out their progenitor’s oath. Once we understand this episode in the wilderness, it is not hard to know what is happening today in our generation.  With our Israelite identity restored to us while still in the wilderness of this world, we could become a target of the same spirit and people group.  Did YHVH not declare that He would have war with Amalek from generation to generation? When Israel was in Egypt they were protected by a foreign power, but now they were a (seemingly) rag tag army of people in an unprotected environment, with only a few swords and maybe some farming tools with which to defend themselves.  Notice that Amalekites went after the weak and the stragglers.

It is good for us to note what YHVH says about this cousin of ours.  Let us examine his name:  “Am” of course means “a people”, while the root m.l.k (mem, lamed, kof) forms the verb “malok”, which means “to decapitate or wring the head” (of a fowl, such as in Lev. 1:15 and 5:8), just as Haman the Agagite (of the Amalekite royal house) wanted to do to Mordechai the Jew. This should be a wakeup call in our generation, as it is this very spirit that is making attempts to cut us off from the headship of our Messiah and our Elohim.  To decapitate the body of Messiah, in a manner of speaking, is a work of the spirit of Amalek.  “Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from Elohim (Colossians 2:18-19 emphasis added. See also Eph. 4:14-16, taking note especially of verse 14: “tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine”, and the ‘remedy’ for that condition).  

Let us return now to the battle scene that took place in Rephidim, in the Wilderness of Sin. There we see the wielding of the rod of Elohim up on a hill, while simultaneously wielding the sword in the valley. It was Moses, with the help of his brother Aaron the Levite and Hur of Judah, whose responsibility it was to lift up the rod, while Joshua the Ephraimite led an Israelite warring team who were able to subdue their enemies only while the rod on the hill was lifted up. In later generations Israel’s Messiah would be lifted up resulting in a total victory over principalities and powers of darkness.  Like Joshua the Ephraimite, leader of the military force, we too can now go out with total confidence and be victorious while Yeshua is being lifted up. 

The battle concludes with YHVH’s declaration regarding Amalek, and with a promise that He would utterly “blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven” (17:14). In other words, “the prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2) who is "under heaven" is destined to be removed and forgotten, and so will the “sons of disobedience” who carry and express his nature in this realm (of utmost importance is Ezekiel 20:38, to which we have made reference at the beginning of this series).  The concluding verse of Exodus chapter 17 goes on to expound on this enemy and his tactics; YHVH has a “war with Amalek from generation to generation” because the usurper attempts to lay his “hand on the throne of Yah” (literal translations).   Yah chose the nation of Israel to be the head and not the tail, which puts this nation at odds with the "prince of this world". 


*In Isaiah 53:4 the Suffering Servant is also being referred to as being “struck by Elohim” (literal translation; the same Hebrew word as the one used here for “striking the rock”). And of course, the reference to Him as the rock occurs several times both in the Tanach and in the New Covenant Writings, as well as to Him being the source of living water.