“Man is free, but everywhere he is in chains,” wrote a French philosopher in the mid-18th century, setting off a firestorm in Europe against monarchy.1 But more the three thousand years earlier, a greater shockwave resounded from within the superpower empire of Mitzraim, and that’s what we see in this week’s Torah reading, שמות Shemot (“names,” Exodus 1:1–6:1).
The prophet Bilam (Balaam) is not an isolated individual, an anomaly in Scripture. He was not the first or last emissary to the Gentiles. God did not leave them without guidance. Bilam is a foreshadowing of the ministry of Saul of Tarsus, aka the apostle Paul, whose experience on the road to Damascus echoes the account in the Torah reading בָּלָק Balak of Bilam’s experience with a “recalcitrant” she-donkey.
We don’t know which pharaoh that helped raise Moses or which pharaoh Moses confronted to free the ancient Israelis from slavery.
“I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you.” (John 16:12–15 NAS95)
Yeshua taught many things about the Kingdom of God, but now the close students had to understand many things. John, at the end of his gospel, said:
“And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written.” (John 21:25 NASB)
We can wish that John had more paper, more storage and had written more of Yeshua’s words down for us. What was said was what needed to be said. What else we need to know is what was written down. Part of the Spirit’s role is to help us remember what was said and apply it.
You probably know people in your life who know the word of God better than you know and don’t believe a word of it. What do you do with the Word of God?
As you read through the Scriptures you start to notice lots of repetition, not just a simple repeat of words but also repeat of themes.
In a time when possessing one’s own written copy of the scriptures was very expensive, students would memorize large portions of scripture so they would have it with them at any time.
The most effective communication ― transmission of a message and motivating action ― is repetitive.
Many passages in the Bible are repetitive ― for a reason. Repetition helps with memorization.
Chiastic literary structure pairs lines or thoughts in one section of a passage (group of verses, chapter or group of verses) with lines later on. The crux, or chi (Greek letter X, pronounced kai), of a chiastic passage is the line not repeated or the last line. There are several common chiastic patterns:
- A B C D E D’ C’ B’ A’ [thought E is the point]
- A B C D E A’ B’ C’ D’ [thought E is the message]
- A B C A’ B’ C’ [thought C is the message]
An excellent example of a chiastic structure is in John 1:1–14: The crux is Jn. 1:9; the “true Light” had come into the world.
Chiasmus of Revelation
Another example in passing is the book of Revelation. There are many allusions, or references back to the writings of the Prophets. There’s a giant chiastic structure in Revelation. The entire book is a chiastic structure, but there are smaller ones embedded throughout the book, too. The crux of Revelation is judgment; that is the “punchline.” God is going to take down the one who rules this world and he will not get up again. He is going down forever.
A (prologue, Rev. 1:1–8)
B (seven assemblies, 1:10–3:22)
C (seven seals, 4:1–8:1)
D (seven trumpets, 8:2–11:18)
E (judgment, 11:19–14:20)
D’ (seven plagues, 15:1–16:21)
E’ (fall of Babylon, 17:1–19:10)
C’ (millennium, 19:11–21:8)
B’ (new Yerushalayim, 21:19–22:9)
A’ (epilogue, 22:8–17)
Lessons on chiasma
When you see things repeated, pay attention. There are messianic themes throughout the Scriptures, not just in the lives of certain proto-Messianic figures such as Joseph or King David but even in physical places. Certain places have Messianic teachable moments as well including Shiloh. Shiloh is an object lesson that God had put His name in a particular place but He also removed His name from that place when they didn’t want to be led by God anymore.
Another common pattern in Scripture is a pattern called parallelism. They are a double-barreled one-liner. You see it a lot in poetry. Hebrew parallelism helps explain the lesson via an “in other words” device. It’s common in Psalms:
“[A] I will meditate on Your precepts [A’] And regard Your ways. [B] I shall delight in Your statutes; [B’] I shall not forget Your word.” (Psa. 119:15–16)
Meditation on God’s Law involves observing, i.e., studying, how God acts. “Delighting” in God’s Law involves keeping it front of your mind. Delighting in God’s word means that we do not forget it. It’s not just a smile on your face, it’s a smile that actually does something good.
“[A] Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? [A’] And who may stand in His holy place? [B] He who has clean hands [B’] and a pure heart, [C] Who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood [C’] And has not sworn deceitfully.” (Psa. 24:3–4)
“Clean hands” means a pure “heart,” i.e., thoughts and resulting behavior. Such purity of thought means that what one says and how one acts is really what’s in one’s heart.
“The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.” (Luke 6:45)
A pure heart is when one’s thoughts, behavior, and speech are pure.
Lessons on parallelism
- Context in Scripture can help us check our views and understand difficult passages.
Context in life can help us not lose hope or become self-absorbed.
Prophetic figures or references to historical events call the reader to reflect on the past, learn from the past to understand the present and future.
Messianic figures: Yosef, Moshe, Aharon, Shimshon (Samson, partly), David
Prophetic figures: Mitsraim (Egypt), Edom, Babylon
Lesson: Reflection on what God has done in our lives and in the world can help us find peace with whatever we’re experiencing in the present and “the meaning of life.”
The Helper would bring to mind and explain Yeshua’s testimony about the Kingdom of God.
The apostles came to understand how what Yeshua did fulfilled ― pleroo, i.e., filled up, made complete ― God’s “preview of the Coming Attraction” through the prophets.
You can see the Helper’s work in passages in the Gospels that include reference to reflection on what was written in the TaNaKh (Torah, Prophets and Writings, i.e., Hebrew scriptures of the Bible).
The role of the Helper in communicating God’s instructions and intentions first happened around the time God gave the Testimony (10 Commandments) at Sinai and when Israel was entering the Land.
Yeshua said three times that the Helper would “take of Mine” (John 16:14, also v. 15) and give it to the Eleven. What was being transferred was what the Spirit “heard” from the Father. A similar transference happened with Moshe on the approach to Sinai:
“So Moses went out and told the people the words of the LORD. Also, he gathered seventy men of the elders of the people, and stationed them around the tent. Then the LORD came down in the cloud and spoke to him; and He took of the Spirit who was upon him and placed Him upon the seventy elders. And when the Spirit rested upon them, they prophesied. But they did not do it again.” (Num. 11:24–25)
The Spirit that was on Moshe would be on the 70, too, ordained to bear the burden of fielding the concerns (gripes) of the people, so it all wouldn’t fall on Moshe alone (Num. 11:17). Moshe couldn’t carry the burden of all the complaints of the people on his shoulders, so he appointed 70 elders to share the work.
You see that later in the book of Numbers that Yeshua ben Nun (Joshua) was ordained similarly:
“So the LORD said to Moses, ‘Take Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand on him; and have him stand before Eleazar the priest and before all the congregation, and commission him in their sight. You shall put some of your authority on him, in order that all the congregation of the sons of Israel may obey him.’ ” (Num. 27:18–20)
It’s great to see this. Notice that it says that God’s Spirit already was “in” him, rather than “on” him as it was for the 70 elders in Numbers 11. You see this later in the life of King Shaul as well. He was filled with the spirit but it didn’t remain. The Spirit was replaced with a bad spirit and no longer heard God speaking to him.
Yeshua ben Nun didn’t just receive power, but authority as well. “Take of what is Mine and give it to you.” The Spirit is to lead them into all truth. It doesn’t mean that whatever that pops into our heads is the truth. Rather, the Spirit is there to help us recall what God has said before. When we need them to call to account for the hope within us, the Spirit gives us the words to say. Our prayer should be what we what the Apostle Ya’akob framed our need for God’s Spirit as part of the personal transformation promised in the “New Deal” (New Covenant) foretold (Jer. 31:31–34; Ezek. 36:25–26):
“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” (Jas. 1:2–8)
Yeshua warned them that as they came after Him, they will come after them. Yeshua is telling them they will not be left helpless. They will be given the words to say and the wisdom to know what they mean. As God teaches us of what the Kingdom of God is really like, we can see the lessons in the parallelisms. One phrase is defined and clarified by the next.
Wisdom isn’t self-absorption and navel-gazing, which are destructive.
God wants us to ask for wisdom, how to understand the Kingdom of God vs. the world around us.
We always need to look at the context of a verse when it baffles us. Looked at previous verses, previous chapters and even read the entire book. Sometimes you have to take a 30,000 view of it.
Why are these chaisms there? There is a big picture that we can’t see. For example in Hebrews 11, those heroes did not see everything but they trusted that God could see that they were going to end well. If you can see beyond your front bumper, you might get hit. You have to look beyond where you are to see where you are going. Just “feeling good” isn’t a good way to live.
God has not left us alone, He has given us His Helper, not just for the deep groaning but to give us wisdom and understanding.
The things related to the Torah are the baseline, that’s the basic requirements. You want an “attaboy” for the bottom rung? If you want to be more than a servant, if you want to be Yeshua’s friend, you need to want to know God’s heart about the matter, just God’s rules on a matter. You have to long for a heart change, a motivational change that goes beyond our thoughts into our deeds and our hearts. Who are you when no one is looking? Who are you when someone depends on you?
What the Spirit does for us is to remind us of what Messiah Yeshua did for us on the cross. He bore the burden of our guilt, absorbing it and unloading it onto His Son.
Because of that God wants us to be new people, not chained to our old lives. We are all trying to leave the old man or old woman behind. God has not left us alone. We can call out at anytime. That is what is great about prayer and meditation on God’s word.
There are people who know the truth, they know the Bible better than you do yet they don’t want to do it. We can only pray that ranks of those who don’t care shrinks as the lies are removed and the liar, haSatan, is taken away.
Our time to respond to God is not determined by the calendar. Everyone of us has a day to decide if we want to enter His rest, that day is called today. We are to enter and remain in His rest, not as tourists but as citizens.
Speaker: Jeff. Summary: Tammy.
The “bad report” brought by the spies about the land God promised to give Israel was a dishonest report. Yet because the majority of the spies were willing to spread lies, the honest report of the two faithful spies was drowned out. The leaders of Israel believed the false report so completely that they were planning an insurrection to have Moses and Aaron stoned and then appoint a “leader” who would return them to Egypt. Numbers 14 is an example of democracy gone wrong. It is also a story that shows us God’s great forbearance with us in our lack of faith. We would not have tolerated the 10 times of grumbling that God tolerated. Yet He had to enact discipline too.
The “bad report” brought by the spies was a dishonest report. It was from a different spirit than the spirit in Caleb and Joshua. We all have a spirit in us given to us by God. It’s built to hear from God but the majority of the spies did not want to hear from God so they brought the bad report.
The people of Israel believed the bad report of the 10 spies rather than the good report of Caleb and Joshua. This is an example of majority rule that goes wrong.
They were in the area of Param, just south of where Israel is today, heading north. God later moved them to the other side when they refused to accept the land.
“Then all the congregation lifted up their voices and cried, and the people wept that night. All the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron; and the whole congregation said to them, “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness!” (Numbers 14:1–2 NASB)
They weren’t grumbling silently in their hearts, they were very vocal and even some of them were planning a insurrection against Moses and Aaron and planing to appoint a leader to lead them back to Egypt.
As we go on, we will see that the people didn’t just disdain Moses and Aaron but they were also showing disdain against God.
We think that God has infinite patience but even God has His limits. He had to enact discipline at some point. He reached his limit and death took place. After all, He created the flood to eliminate the majority of mankind. He has the power to take life at will. We try to soften God but God is bigger than us.
They rejected God’s gift of the promised land, the land He had promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, preferring slavery and degregation in Egypt.
“…Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! Why is the LORD bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become plunder; would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?” So they said to one another, ‘Let us appoint a leader and return to Egypt.'” (Numbers 14:2–4 NASB)
This is interesting, they wanted to appoint their own leader, rejecting the leaders God chose for them. Even willing to kill the leaders God had given them because they were too scared to go into the Promised Land.
Moses and Aaron responded with humility, not self-defense or hubris. The righteous spies even tore their clothes in response, mourning the rebellion. They mourned that they were not able to convince the children of Israel to have faith in God. God was giving them a land that already had what we needed to live: orchards, vineyards, fields, homes and public buildings. They would have lacked nothing.
What are we supposed to learn from this? Where should we focus our attention? Should we be like Aaron? Moses? Joshua?
“Only do not rebel against the LORD; and do not fear the people of the land, for they will be our prey. Their protection has been removed from them, and the LORD is with us; do not fear them.” (Numbers 14:9 NASB)
The phrase in Hebrew translated as “they will be our prey” is literally “they will be our bread.” Bread back in those days did not come from a bakery, pre-sliced. It was torn apart by hand and eaten that way.
Yet, Joshua and Caleb’s plea fell on deaf ears and the crowd responded with murder in their hearts. It was ten against two.
“But all the congregation said to stone them with stones. Then the glory of the LORD appeared in the tent of meeting to all the sons of Israel.” (Numbers 14:10 NASB)
The glory of God is His power, not physical beauty. It comes with might and destruction. We see here that God then turns to Moses and starts His own lament.
“The LORD said to Moses, ‘How long will this people spurn Me? And how long will they not believe in Me, despite all the signs which I have performed in their midst? I will smite them with pestilence and dispossess them, and I will make you into a nation greater and mightier than they.'”(Numbers 14:11–12 NASB)
It does sound like God can’t control His anger, but that is not the case. Moses responds to Him and reminds Him that His name is known all over the world because of what He did to Egypt. The eyes of the world are on them now and if God kills all the people of Israel the world will see it too. God was testing Moses.
When Moses tells God:
“The LORD is slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, forgiving iniquity and transgression; but He will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generations.” (Numbers 14:18 NASB)
The English phrase “forgiving iniquity” literally means “carrying iniquity” in the Hebrew. This is what Messiah Yeshua did for us on the cross. He carried our iniquity. How long can you carry your suffering? God can carry it for far longer. When justice remains undone, how long does your mercy hold out? How long do you hold back your anger? God extends mercy longer than we do. God holds back His anger longer than we do. We would not have tolerated 10 times of grumbling that God tolerated. Each of us will have to go through this as time goes by. We want God to “hurry up” and come in our world and bring about the Messianic Age but in the meantime, great tragedy will come first before all is resolved.
Adam and Eve’s first sin was their lack of trust in God. They did not trust God’s word. They didn’t believe that God told them the entire truth. Lies have become truth and truth has become a lie, not just in the USA but in all parts of the world. When Adam and Eve realized they had taken hold of a lie, they had to pay the consequences.
“So the LORD said, ‘I have pardoned them according to your word; but indeed, as I live, all the earth will be filled with the glory of the LORD. Surely all the men who have seen My glory and My signs which I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness, yet have put Me to the test these ten times and have not listened to My voice, shall by no means see the land which I swore to their fathers, nor shall any of those who spurned Me see it.'” (Numbers 14:20–23 NASB)
This issue is going to come up again. When God says “trust Me” and “do what I tell you to do even though the odds are against you.” Are you ready to believe God that He will deliver you into His kingdom. There will be a lot of death and destruction to get there. Can you witness the death of 10,000? Do you have that kind of faith in God?
How was Caleb different? This verse is the most important verse in this entire chapter.
“But My servant Caleb, because he has had a different spirit and has followed Me fully, I will bring into the land which he entered, and his descendants shall take possession of it.” (Numbers 14:24 NASB)
Caleb was willing to “pick up his cross” and follow God all the way. The cross is an implement of torture and death. Caleb was willing to follow God all the way. Are you willing to give up something small to follow God fully? Do we have to give up our home? Work somewhere else? Go someplace else that isn’t as pleasant as it is where we are now? Yeshua tells us “Blessed is he who endures to the end.”
This is not the end of troubles Moses had to endure in the wilderness. They could not plant trees, or vineyards, eating nothing but manna and the occasional goat, lamb or steer for 40 years. No garlic, onions or spices.
“The LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, ‘How long shall I bear with this evil congregation who are grumbling against Me? I have heard the complaints of the sons of Israel, which they are making against Me. ‘Say to them, ‘As I live,’ says the LORD, ‘just as you have spoken in My hearing, so I will surely do to you; your corpses will fall in this wilderness, even all your numbered men, according to your complete number from twenty years old and upward, who have grumbled against Me. ‘Surely you shall not come into the land in which I swore to settle you, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun. ‘Your children, however, whom you said would become a prey ― I will bring them in, and they will know the land which you have rejected. ‘But as for you, your corpses will fall in this wilderness. ‘Your sons shall be shepherds for forty years in the wilderness, and they will suffer for your unfaithfulness, until your corpses lie in the wilderness. ‘According to the number of days which you spied out the land, forty days, for every day you shall bear your guilt a year, even forty years, and you will know My opposition. ‘I, the LORD, have spoken, surely this I will do to all this evil congregation who are gathered together against Me. In this wilderness they shall be destroyed, and there they will die.'” (Numbers 14:26–35 NASB)
Their grumbling was an act of disdain against God. They looked down on Him, they did not trust Him, they doubted Him.
Be careful what you ask for. They had previously spoke out against Aaron and Moses saying they wanted them to die in the wilderness. They said it often enough that God gave them what they wanted as a punishment for their disobedience. They would have lived in abundance and safety in the Promised Land but they did not believe that God could terrorize and clear the land of the evil inhabitants.
They were going to appoint their own leader and leave. Remember what their main complaint was?
“Why is the LORD bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become plunder; would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?” (Numbers 14:3 NASB)
God says that the women and those who are 20 or under at this time will enter the land in safety while the men 20 years old and up will be the ones to die in the wilderness.
“Your children, however, whom you said would become a prey ― I will bring them in, and they will know the land which you have rejected. ‘But as for you, your corpses will fall in this wilderness. ‘Your sons shall be shepherds for forty years in the wilderness, and they will suffer for your unfaithfulness, until your corpses lie in the wilderness.” (Numbers 14:31–33 NASB)
All the good blessings we have come from God, not us. Everything we have that we give to our children and to others are simply gifts from God we are passing on.
The children had to suffer for the sins of their elders. They had to endure until all that generation passed away.
Why do we bear one another’s burdens? This is not bearing one another’s sins. God bears our iniquity and transgression, He carries them on His shoulders. That’s heavy. He created all of mankind and He wants us to come back.
He doesn’t “put up with” our sins, transgressions and iniquities. His Son carried them and paid the ultimate price for them.
Reader: Jeff. Speaker: Richard Agee. Summary: Tammy.