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).
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.
“Now the LORD said to Moses, ‘Cut out for yourself two stone tablets like the former ones, and I will write on the tablets the words that were on the former tablets which you shattered.'” (Ex. 34:1)
Some commentators believe God was angry at Moses for breaking those tablets with the 10 Commandments, but I don’t believe so. When Moses broke the tablets, Moses was simply acknowledging that the people had already broken the covenant that just 40 days earlier they had promised to uphold when they said, “What you say, we will do.” So it was appropriate for Moses to break those tablets. But it was also appropriate that the tablets had to be remade.
The events in Exodus 33 were a direct consequence of the golden calf in Exodus 32. After that incident, God commanded Moshe (Moses) to move his personal tent outside the camp where the people of Israel were camping. God is a gentleman. When He is not wanted, he leaves.
The golden calf is synonymous with syncretism and rebellion against God. This incident profoundly shaped how Israel developed as a nation and how it devolved into two nations later. It also shows us how a small, powerful minority can change the character of a nation and indelibly mark it for good or bad.
Idols are actually as prevalent in modern times as they were back in the days of Rehoboam and Yeroboam (Jeroboam). Bowing down to a statue as a representation of a divine is not as common in our world, but what is common is spiritual idolatry — the core of physical idolatry.
Moses spoke this discourse in the 11th month of the 40th year of the wilderness wanderings. Moses reminded the children of Israel that the reason that God was granting them power and favor to conquer the land of promise is of the great iniquity of the peoples already in the land, not because of the righteousness of the children of Israel. God also says that He is leading the children of Israel into the land to “confirm the word (הָקִים אֶת־הַדָּבָר haqim et-ha-davar, Strong’s lexicon Nos. H6965 and H1697) which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” (Deut. 9:5).
Other texts: Acts 3, Numbers 11, Exodus 17, Exodus 32, Mark 13
Moses told Israel not to be afraid of the people who are already there. God would be with the people to evict the evil people currently possessing the land, even though the inhabitants were more numerous, bigger and stronger. They were not fighting against the people who were in the land. They were to fight to make themselves a unified nation who can lead other nations. He refuses to allow the children of Israel to recoil in cowardice. He calls on them to clean up the land so it will be a fit habitation for Him to dwell with them. (Deut. 9:1–5)
Moses went to great pains to remind the children of Israel of at least four different incidents the children of Israel had committed over the previous 40 years — from the sin of the Golden Calf and in other places such as תַבְעֵרָה Taberah, מַסָּה Massah, קִבְרֹת הַתַּאֲוָה Kibroth-hattaavah and קָּדֵשׁ בַּרְנֵעַ Kadesh-barnea. Those were acts of extreme rebellion against the LORD. (Deut. 9:22–24)
Moses reminded the people how he had to receive the 10 commandments twice because of their sin. The 10 commandments are all about the duties of the people towards God and to each other. These were placed in the Ark of the Covenant, which they will carry with them into the Land, which Aaron, Miriam and Moses will not enter with them. (Deut. 9:15–21)
Moses reminded them repeatedly of their stubbornness and how they need to diligently keep all of God’s commandments. God tells them to love the less fortunate: the stranger, the poor, the widow and the fatherless because He loves them.
The words of Torah are not unknown to us. But just as we have to be reminded of some of the important events of our past, the children of Israel needed to be reminded too.
God told the sons of Israel again that He is a consuming fire (Deut. 4:24). He reiterated His prior warning of the consequences of going after idolatry. When God becomes an all-consuming fire, He shows His awesome power, which inspires fear and trembling. When Aaron’s two son’s sinned against the Tabernacle, they were not consumed with a physical fire but with His word.
The Book of Acts tells us that God came down as a fire a second time on the Shavuot (Pentecost) after Yeshua’s resurrection. Three thousand Jews responded to Peter’s call to Yeshua and were baptized. The imagery back to Sinai did not escape their comprehension and they responded by vowing to follow the Lord all the way.
God has put within us a desire to respect leaders who have a strong inner strength, so that we would also give that towards Him.
God says that he gave them manna in the wildness not because it was a wonderful thing but it was a simple bread. They did not live by manna alone because the manna was barely enough for subsistence. They were sustained by God’s power. Their clothes did not wear out, their feet did not swell from the repeated walking and hiking. When Yeshua said that we can not live on bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God, He was referring back to the manna, which provided bare subsistence but did not completely fill their bellies.
The Torah is the one thing that gives us understanding about God. We know the Lord when we read what He says, act on it and understand that is true. Chapter 9 ends with the admonition to believe God and have faith that He will give them whatever they need to be victorious.
When we read the New Testament and we review the life of Yeshua, he tells them there are certain things He did not want them to forget, including His death and suffering on the cross. Many Christians only want to remember the resurrection but they don’t want to remember what came before it. Yeshua was taking on the sins, transgressions and iniquities of the world. God had to separate Himself from Yeshua at that point. That is great suffering. God brought about the death of His own Son for mankind. It’s hard to accept. Yeshua tells His disciples at the last Passover feast that He longed to spend that final time with them.
God required Israel to fear Him, walk with Him, love Him and serve Him with all their hearts and souls. Notice we have to fear Him first, then walk in His ways, then we love Him and serve Him and others. Many Christians teach that the first thing we need to do to respond to God is to love Him, but that is not what God tells us. Our first response to Him should be fear (just from the Apostolic Writings: Acts 9:31; 13:16, 26; Rom. 3:18; 2 Cor. 5:11; 7:1; 1 Pet. 2:17; Rev. 14:7; 15:4; 19:5). Loving God comes later, after we have cultivated an appropriate fear of Him and have learned to walk in the ways He calls us to walk.
Reader: Dave DeFever. Speaker: Richard Agee. Summary: Tammy.