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There are lots of topics in this reading, some are related, some are off the wall. This parastatals is a hodgepodge of topics thrown together into one reading.
The two main topics we will discuss today are the census and how we use our rules, slap God’s name on them and end up making an idol of God rather than worshipping the true God, just as the people of Israel slapped God’s name onto a golden calf and worshipped it.
“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 30:11–13 NASB)
The first question one might ask is “What does it matter if people are counted?” Why was it ok for Moses to count the people but David was sinning when doing the same thing? The difference is the purpose. There’s a difference between counting for one’s own use v. counting for God’s use.
David was warned by Joab not to count the people but he did it anyway. God punished David and the people of Israel with a three day plague, which killed a lot of people.
The spot where David made the sacrifice to stop the plague became the spot of the Temple.
The reason men count a population is for their own reasons: taxation, war, social engineering, redistribution of wealth, etc.
When God counts, an atonement is required, including a half-shekel and a “portion to the Lord.” The funds from this census was used to pay for the construction of the Tabernacle. God is counting what is His and atoning for them at the same time.
What is the Temple for Messiah Yeshua? The House of God which consists of people. Messiah Yeshua said that His body was an atonement for our sins and a temple of God? When Messiah died, His death made humanity clean. What was one dirty and sinful is clean and righteous.
Yeshua’s body which died for us covered our sins. The House of God was made by and made of His people. To build the House of God requires atonement. God requires that all of His people are cleansed, atoned and covered.
When each man put his half-shekel in the offering, he was throwing his lot with God. He was making sure that he would be counted as part of God’s house. What God is building includes every man, represented by the half-shekel and they were all acknowledging they need God’s atonement.
This was a way of acknowledging one’s citizenship in God’s kingdom.
Freedom in serving other people and keeping God’s law
There is no sin sacrifice on the Shabbat. There were sin sacrifices in all other holy days but not Shabbat. The Shabbat was a day set aside to learn about God. It was a sign forever and has nothing to do with one’s sins. When you come before God on Shabbat, it’s regardless of who you are or where you come from. No one cares about what you did the night before Shabbat. The function of Shabbat is to give you rest. It’s a rest, not just from work, but from the junk of your life that you have accumulated. It’s a day of peace. The Shabbat is a time to learn God’s laws in small chunks.
The priests worked every day, even on Shabbat. When was their day off?
“The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “But as for you, speak to the sons of Israel, saying, ‘You shall surely observe My sabbaths; for this is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the LORD who sanctifies you.” (Exodus 31:12–13 NASB)
God thought the Shabbat was so important that He commanded that the people refrain from working on Shabbat, even for those who were building His tabernacle. God took the day from His creation on Shabbat, but God hasn’t taken a day off since that first Shabbat. God is always working.
God still answers prayers, draws people to Him, even on Shabbat. He doesn’t take the day off from operation, but He did take a day off from building and creating. The Levites had to keep the Tabernacle running all the time.
The priests and Levites had a small reprieve from some of the work on Shabbat, but the tabernacle did not close its doors on Shabbat. They did not have to travel on Shabbat, they did not have to assemble and tear down the tabernacle on Shabbat.
“The scribes and the Pharisees were watching Him closely to see if He healed on the Sabbath, so that they might find reason to accuse Him.” (Luke 6:7 NASB)
“When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had already been a long time in that condition, He said to him, “Do you wish to get well?” The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I am coming, another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Get up, pick up your pallet and walk.” Immediately the man became well, and picked up his pallet and began to walk.
Now it was the Sabbath on that day.” (John 5:6–9 NASB)
Messiah Yeshua purposefully performed most of His healings on the Shabbat. That was not by accident. He had a reason for doing it that way. Service is freedom. Freedom is God’s words inscribed on our hearts. When we follow God’s words, we are free. Freedom from our sins and burdens. God’s words are freedom and the Levites are serving up this freedom to everyone who comes to the Tabernacle every day of the week, even on Shabbat. The Levite were working on Shabbat to free people from their sinful path.
The priests performed different offerings, including animals, grains, etc. Their officiating over the people’s offerings were a service. The priests services for the people were a way of inscribing God’s laws on the hearts of the people. Service on Shabbat facilitates freedom.
When Messiah told the man to take up his mat and walk, that man was showing the people who saw him walk away with his mat after 38 years of suffering that he was now free to do what he couldn’t do before.
When Messiah healed people on Shabbat, he gave those people freedom. They were now free to follow God. The 10 commandments are the laws of freedom.
Human laws are bondage and slavery. Sin is also bondage and slavery.
“But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.” (James 1:25 NASB)
When we have “authority” over others, we tend to wield it. That is human nature. When we work on Shabbat outside of serving God, we are serving the Adversary instead.
The Pharisees and Sadducees of Messiah Yeshua’s time used their interpretation of God’s laws to enslave the people to them rather than giving them freedom to serve God completely.
If you are working for your boss on Shabbat rather than freeing the ox from the ditch, that is bondage, not freedom.
We are all in the same boat, although we may be on different parts of the boat and learning different lessons about how the boat moves.
There is a similarity between how Moses judged and punished the children of Israel for what happened with the Golden Calf and the test of a wife of a jealous husband. Just look
“It came about, as soon as Moses came near the camp, that he saw the calf and the dancing; and Moses’ anger burned, and he threw the tablets from his hands and shattered them at the foot of the mountain. He took the calf which they had made and burned it with fire, and ground it to powder, and scattered it over the surface of the water and made the sons of Israel drink it.” (Exodus 32:19–20 NASB)
“Then the priest shall bring her near and have her stand before the LORD, and the priest shall take holy water in an earthenware vessel; and he shall take some of the dust that is on the floor of the tabernacle and put it into the water. ‘The priest shall then have the woman stand before the LORD and let the hair of the woman’s head go loose, and place the grain offering of memorial in her hands, which is the grain offering of jealousy, and in the hand of the priest is to be the water of bitterness that brings a curse. ‘The priest shall have her take an oath and shall say to the woman, “If no man has lain with you and if you have not gone astray into uncleanness, being under the authority of your husband, be immune to this water of bitterness that brings a curse; if you, however, have gone astray, being under the authority of your husband, and if you have defiled yourself and a man other than your husband has had intercourse with you” (then the priest shall have the woman swear with the oath of the curse, and the priest shall say to the woman), “the LORD make you a curse and an oath among your people by the LORD’S making your thigh waste away and your abdomen swell; and this water that brings a curse shall go into your stomach, and make your abdomen swell and your thigh waste away.” And the woman shall say, “Amen. Amen.”
‘The priest shall then write these curses on a scroll, and he shall wash them off into the water of bitterness. ‘Then he shall make the woman drink the water of bitterness that brings a curse, so that the water which brings a curse will go into her and cause bitterness. ‘The priest shall take the grain offering of jealousy from the woman’s hand, and he shall wave the grain offering before the LORD and bring it to the altar; and the priest shall take a handful of the grain offering as its memorial offering and offer it up in smoke on the altar, and afterward he shall make the woman drink the water.” (Numbers 5:16–26 NASB)
We have to know our boundaries and limits. Each person has their own. We are not to make our own gods but we all do this all the time. Anytime we say “I’m doing this even thought God really didn’t want me to do it this way…” we are now making our own God. We are claiming to follow the God who revealed Himself in the Bible but we redefine the God we are worshipping and moulding Him into our image if we do things He has said not to do while claiming we are actually following Him. When we slap His name on our own vision of Him, we are following a false God. We make our own gods many times. God doesn’t want us to slap His name on our own rules. That is how we make idols.