A talking donkey may seem like fodder for a cartoon, but this passage — בָּלָק Balak, Num. 22:2-25:9 — contains a very real message for Israel about its future and the Messiah. Often, the Creator uses what we don’t expect — an animal, a prophet not of Israel — to shake up the complacent and underscore the gravity of the situation.
Death seems normal, because we see it all around us. But a major message of the Bible is death is out of place in the order God created. The mysterious ritual of the red heifer sacrifice detailed in this week’s reading — חֻקַּת Chukat (“statute of”) — is a pattern of what Heaven had planned for the healing mission of Yeshua haMashiakh (Jesus the Christ).
Jealousy vs. contentment. Covetousness vs. peace. Humility vs. pride. This continual battle against short-sighted self-will and trust in the LORD’s over-the-horizon view underlies the rebellion against Aharon (Aaron), God’s anointed, led by Korakh (Korah) in this week’s reading — קֹרַח Korakh, Leviticus 16–18.
This foreshadows the rebellion against the ultimate of God’s Anointed, Yeshua the Mashiakh (Jesus).
Rebelliousness, laziness and fear lead us to fight against, avoid and run from what we know — or should know — we should do. This week’s reading, שְׁלַח Shelakh (“send,” Numbers 13–15), takes a deep dive into a pivotal moment where all three killers of Israel’s faith in the LORD and His messengers.
As the Torah reading בְּהַעֲלֹתְךָ Beha’alotcha (“when you raise up” [the lamps]) begins, the menorah and the Levites are dedicated to God’s service, and the Tabernacle is ready for business.
However, this reading is permeated with all sorts of ingratitude and complaining, from the people complaining about the manna to Miriam and Aaron complaining about Moses. God doesn’t put up with any of it. Whether it’s sending down a consuming fire or a plague, God doesn’t put up with people grumbling about His provision.
The common Torah reading for this week (נָשֹׂא Nasso, “take up” or “carry,” Num. 4:21–7:89) continues the census of the priesthood of Israel, caretakers of the earthly embassy of the Creator. Yes, there’s a Messiah-centered connection between determining who could enter the מִשְׁכָּן Mishkan (“Tabernacle”), testing the faithfulness of a wife, commissioning and decommissioning someone under a Nazirite vow and the 12 days of gifts from each of the tribes of Israel at the dedication of the Mishkan.
All of us will face trying times that will reveal who we really are, our character. The Torah reading בְּמִדְבַּר Bamidbar (“in the wilderness”) over Num. 1:1–4:20 takes us along with our ancient ancestors in faith on a journey toward true rest God provides. That’s a trek that’s as relevant now as it was then.