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May 20, 2023: Parashat Torah Portion Bamidbar

This week’s Parashah Torah Portion Bamidbar is taken from Numbers 1:1-4:20. Join Dr. Jeffery Myers, as he presents two optional responses we can have, when going through the wilderness experience of difficulties in life, and what the correct response should be, according to the Torah and YESHUA.

Follow along in the AUDIO PODCAST, by clicking on the play button below, and reading along with the notes, as you listen to today's Parashah Torah Portion:

Lion of Judah Speaks: Parashah Torah Portion Bamidbar - Numbers 1:1-4:20

As we open the Book of B’midbar (Numbers) we are in the Sinai desert. The wilderness is not just the setting but one of its dominant themes. The wilderness and its challenges shape Israel and us into the holy nation Elohim called them (us) to be. The 40 years of wandering seems to be a tragic delay, the result of mistrust- but the same 40 years prepared Israel to take the Land. What is a desert? It is a place of exile and fruitlessness but it is also a place of encounter with Elohim. The word “wilderness” is “midbar” in Hebrew. We also see another hint of something grand within this word in Hebrew…” davar” which means “word”. In many Hebrew words, the prefix MEM, signifies location. For example, the root word for “dwell” is “shachan” and the word for the place of dwelling is “miskan” (tabernacle in wilderness). We also have lamp in Hebrew which is “ner”, the place of lamps is “menorah”, the lampstand within the tabernacle.

The Hebrew language allows us to make an imaginative word study: Desert, midbar, is the place of the WORD, davar—the place of revelation! The Book of Numbers (B’midbar) is “in the wilderness”, continues the story of Elohim’s self-revelation that began in Genesis (Beresheet). It also records, with realism and honesty Israel’s failures (repeated ones) to respond to that self-revelation, a failure that seems to threaten the heart of the divine plan. However, in the end, the plan holds and goes forward and a new generation prepares to enter the Promised Land.

The visual of a desert reveal there is no office buildings, factories, supermarkets. Therefore, no jobs, boss, towns and neighborhoods. You are neither on the right side or wrong side of the tracks. It is a place where you get manna from heaven and wear the same shoes for 40 plus years. This is why the sages say, “Elohim gave us the Torah in the desert.” Elohim wanted NO shareholders in His Torah, no corporate structure, no social or political context…in fact, no context whatsoever! It was just us and the Torah…no denominational input or bias. He wanted us to understand that the Torah is not the product of any particular age, environment or type of culture but that it belongs absolutely to each and every one of us. When we understand…He sends us into the world so it is up to us to make His Torah relevant in all places and in all contexts.

Yes, the desert is desolate, bare; where survival is chancy and death stares us in the face. It is where without irrigation and our air conditioning we would never go. A place where there is no food or water but plenty of sun and scorpions to kill us. However, this is where He leads us, blindly or should I say trustingly…He leads and we follow! Even Yeshua began His ministry in the wilderness where John appeared as a “Voice crying in the wilderness”. In the wilderness He calls Israel to turn away from sin, turn back to Elohim and be immersed in the waters of the Jordan (Isaiah 40:3-5). All of Judah and Jerusalem went out to the wilderness in response to John’s preaching and there Yeshua appeared.

In Mark 1:12-13 and only in Mark it says that Yeshua was “driven out” into the wilderness. This echoes the language of Genesis 3:24. We see that both accounts center on temptation, the temptation that defeats Adam and Eve but which Messiah overcomes. The temptation of Messiah in Mark is a reversal of the sin of Adam and Eve. The wilderness in Mark is the place of restoration. Even though the wilderness is barren and remote, it is because of these qualities that we can hear Elohim’s word.

In Numbers 1:1 it says, “Adonai spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai…”. In the wilderness Elohim speaks! The Torah is teaching us that it is in the place of difficulty, challenge and temptation that we find Him. Adam and Eve lost Elohim in the garden, but Yeshua regained Elohim in the wilderness. It is the same for us, the difficulties that we face can become the source of new understanding and relationship with Elohim.

However, the wilderness is also a place of complaining, rebellion and failures. Life’s difficulties bring us encounters with Elohim but they can also embitter and destroy us. So, the same geography can be the place of revelation or rebellion! What makes the difference? Our response! Your drama, your own B’midbar experience will either bring you to trust Adonai who has revealed Himself to you to be trustworthy or will you let the desert wanderings PUSH you into complaining and disobedience, which walk hand-in-hand.

Our greatest challenges in life can lead us into either revelation or rebellion. The question is…Will you come out better and stronger or embittered and defeated? What makes the difference? Our response! If we trust Adonai—wilderness becomes a place of encounter with Him. Our difficulties and disappointments in life can draw us into greater understanding of Elohim and His ways or they can drive us away from Adonai altogether. Again, it depends on our response. How are you responding to the tough, frustrating situations that are in your life right now? How will you respond to difficulties in the next few days or months?

The bride in the wilderness…it comes up now when Shavuot is celebrated, the festival which commemorates when the Torah was given in the desert at Sinai. But Rav…I am so thirsty in the desert! The desert is full of water but the water is down deep. You have to bring it up! As we apply the Torah and use the world around us for the service of Elohim and betterment of humanity, we elevate and refine this “desert”, making it into a rich, fertile land—a dwelling place for the DIVINE.

Shabbat Shalom Mishpocha,

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Are you thirsty today? Do you need His Presence in the midst of your desert experience? Come and worship Him on this Sabbath day as we gather to meet the King. What will your response be to life’s difficulties? Let your praise and worship be heard in the desert! Let your voice be raised not in complaint but in faith and hope knowing that Elohim is in complete control. Come to the mountain and hear the revelation of Elohim. It will change your life. See you at the altar!

Shalom Aleichem

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