Exodus 30:11–34:35: You are not ‘just a number’ to God

How are we made holy or “set apart”?  Our good deeds or the good deeds of an illustrious ancestor? It isn’t by genealogy, John the Baptist made that clear. He counts us among His people when we answer God’s call upon our heart and actions through Messiah Yeshua. The foundation for that holiness through the Messiah is put down in Torah reading כי תשא Ki Tisa (“when you take,” Exodus 30:11–34:35).

Exodus 30:11–17: Census by shekel

“The LORD also spoke to Moses, saying, “When you take a census of the sons of Israel to number them, then each one of them shall give a ransom for himself to the LORD, when you number them, so that there will be no plague among them when you number them.” (Exodus 30:11–12 NASB)

God tells Moses to take a census but He also tells Moses that there’s a ransom involved in this process.

At first glance this looks similar to the English phrase “take a head count.” Commentators have struggled with understanding why the LORD called for taking a census but opposed taking a census of people directly.

כִּי תִשָּׂא אֶת־רֹאשׁ בְּנֵי־יִשְׂרָאֵל לִפְקֻדֵיהֶם (Exodus 30:12)

The Hebrew phrase translated “when you take a census of the sons of Israel to number them” (NASB) literally is translated “when you lift a head of sons of Israel to supervise them.”

The meaning of the Hebrew verb פָּקַד paqad (Strong’s lexicon No. H6485) for “to number” is “oversight of a subordinate.” The basic meaning is to exercise oversight over a subordinate, either in the form of inspecting or of taking action to cause a considerable change in the circumstances of the subordinate, either for the better or for the worse.

The Bible records censuses that were for righteous purposes and censuses that were called for selfish purposes. The question is who are those who are being counted being asked to subordinate themselves to? Are they being counted as a member of a nation for the nation’s purposes or are they being counted as a member of God’s kingdom for God’s purposes?

If your heart and your actions aren’t intent on following God, why would you want to be counted among His people?

Good censuses: Two accountings in Numbers

Purpose: Counting fighting men 20 and older.

  • Numbers 1: To muster the armies of Israel for the first entry of the Land, which was aborted because of lack of trust in God.
  • Numbers 26: It’s now four decades since the Exodus. After debaucheries, rebellions and resulting plagues wiped out what old age didn’t of the ranks of Israel, the fighting force is numbered again for the second generation to enter the Land.

Bad census: 2Samuel 24; 1Chronicles 21

Purpose: Mustering an army to conquer territory God did not promise the children of Israel.

“Now again the anger of the LORD burned against Israel, and it incited David against them to say, ‘Go, number Israel and Judah.’” (2Samuel 24:1 NASB)

“Then Satan stood up against Israel and moved David to number Israel.” (1Chronicles 21:1)

Satan = שָׂטָן (H7854): Satan, adversary, accuser

The LORD was Israel’s adversary because of Sha’ul’s killing of the Gideoni (1st Samuel 21).

The plague from David’s action led to the establishment of the altar for what would be the place of the LORD’s name in Yerushalayim (2Samuel 24:18–25). David, the LORD’s anointed, blocked the anger/wrath of God against Israel by calling for the judgment to be on him and his family. That was a ransom David paid for his census folly.

Good census: Counting the paid ransom for the people.

Purpose: Collecting money to build the Tabernacle. Everyone paid the same half-sheqel, rich and poor.

God numbered His people by “ransom” paid (Exodus 30:12).

The first ransom was during Pesakh (Passover) the blood of the Lamb that blocks the LORD’s destroyer. That blood on the door protected everyone who lived in the house from death. The death of the first-born of Egypt also was a ransom of the children of Israel, something of a recompense for the first-born of Israel who were victims of Pharaoh’s genocide.

The lesson God is trying to teach us about how to do a census and when we do a census is “You aren’t a number!”

Exodus 31:12–16: Guard Shabbat, because the LORD sanctifies

There are layers of Shabbat recorded in scripture. The Shabbat provides weekly reminders that the LORD is:

  • Creator (Genesis 2; Exodus 20)
  • Provider (Exodus 16)
  • Savior (Deuteronomy 5)
  • Sanctifier (Exodus 31)

Pesakh is not the only reminder of their salvation from slavery in Egypt. The Shabbat itself is a reminder of their freedom from bondage. It’s is freedom to be bound to God and slavery to be bound to man.

The word sanctify means “to make holy.” The Hebrew word for holy is קדש qadash  that means “to set apart.” This holiness, like grace/mercy/favor, is a gift from the Holy One.

Messiah Yeshua spent a lot of His earthly ministry healing people on the Shabbat to teach people that God is the one who provides healing. God heals them so they can more fully serve Him not only on Shabbat but every day.

Exodus 30:17–21: Wash basin

“The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “You shall also make a laver of bronze, with its base of bronze, for washing; and you shall put it between the tent of meeting and the altar, and you shall put water in it. “Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet from it; when they enter the tent of meeting, they shall wash with water, so that they will not die; or when they approach the altar to minister, by offering up in smoke a fire sacrifice to the LORD. “So they shall wash their hands and their feet, so that they will not die; and it shall be a perpetual statute for them, for Aaron and his descendants throughout their generations.”” (Exodus 30:17–21 NASB)

Washing of the hands and feet was a ritual signifying that a priest’s hands (creations) and feet (actions and lifestyle) are ready for service. Our hands do things and create while our feet move us towards behavior. Our feet follow the direction from our brain.

The basin itself doesn’t clean anyone.

As part of the “nations of priests” (Exodus 19) and an “ambassador of Messiah” (2Corinthians 5:18–21), we are to remember that being cleansed by Heaven on the inside is key to the ritual reminder of cleaning the outside.

“Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? And who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, Who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood And has not sworn deceitfully. He shall receive a blessing from the LORD And righteousness from the God of his salvation.” (Psalms 24:3–5 NASB)

Who would stand in the holy place? Priests. David was a king and could not literally walk into the holy place, but David’s heart wanted to be there. When the priest walks up to the basin, he is leaving what happened outside the tabernacle outside and not bringing it into the holy ground.

Messiah Yeshua addressed rituals on washing hands in Mark 7:1–16.

Today, this is preserved in Judaism in hand-washing before a cohen gives the Aharonic blessing in a synagogue, before eating bread at kiddush and twice during the Pesakh seder. They established the synagogue as a facsimile of the Tabernacle and took the rituals of the tabernacle into the general community. These rituals provide teachable moments but to tell people that if they don’t perform them that they are committing a sin against God is an act of overreach.

Exodus 32–34: Elohim v. the golden calf

The people approached Aharon to build a Golden Calf using Moshe’s long absence as a pretext to create a deity to worship. They wanted to be like Egypt, where they had come from, and the other nations, which had a physical representation of a god or multiple gods in their temples. Yet when Moshe came down from the mountain, he doesn’t bring a template of an idol for the people to worship but a template of a tent, a place of meeting God. God asked them to make Him a tent, but He never asks them to make a representation of Himself.

The abomination of desolation happens when the presence of the Lord leaves a place because children of Israel no longer allow God to occupy the first place of honor in their hearts. The heart must come along with one’s actions. The prophet Daniel was a witness to one of those “abominations of desolation” yet he prayed towards the Temple daily that there would be a return to that Temple and that he would live to see it happen.

The golden calf and its aftermath was a huge wake up call for the children of Israel but not the last one. Today’s haftarah in 1Kings 18:1-39 was another wakeup call but at that time, Israel did not have one Golden Calf but two of them. God’s glory departed the Northern Kingdom well before the children of Israel themselves were exiled from their land.

Learning the Creator’s full Name

“The LORD descended in the cloud and stood there with him as he called upon the name of the LORD. Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, ‘The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.’” (Exodus 34:5–7 NASB)

This is God’s name, regardless of how one wants to pronounce the letters YHVH/YHWH.

Like Father, like Son

Paul reminds us that we are to desire to have a mind like Christ has (1Cor. 2:15–16). One of Yeshua’s last statements had words of forgiveness:

“’Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.’” (Luke 23:34 NASB)

The leaders of Israel should have known what they were really doing when they condemned Him to death, but they didn’t.

Like YHWH, like Moshe, Yosef, Daniel, Paul

We see in Exodus 32:7 the example of Messiah Yeshua in the mind of Moshe who begged God, “Forgive them or blot me out of Your book of life.”

Are we as mercy-minded as Yosef, Moshe, Daniel, Yeshua and Paul to call those who are not on the same path as we are — fellow “Christians” or “Messianics” — our brothers and sisters, to lay our lives down so they aren’t blotted out?

There is one offering that can prevent us from being blotted out, which is acceptance of Messiah Yeshua’s atonement for us. There is no other atonement that can do more for mankind that His.

When we see the Day of the LORD approaching, God will send a strong delusion, so strong many will believe a lie.

“ ‘Then if anyone says to you, “Behold, here is the Christ,” or “There He is,” do not believe him. For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect.’ ” (Matthew 24:23–24 NASB)

“[T]he one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.” (2Thessalonians 2:9–12 NASB)

We can thank God that He gives hope in the midst of despair and that even when the abomination of desolation comes, He is willing to restore things to the way He wanted it to be all along.

Summary: Tammy


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