In the previous Torah reading, כי תבוא Ki Tavo, we learned the importance of having character that survives stressors big and small. This week’s portion, נִצָּבִים Nitzavim (“standing,” Deut. 29:9–30:20), underscores the building blocks of that character: loving the LORD with all our heart, soul, strength and mind. We learn that the “New Covenant,” or “New Testament” really isn’t so new, but choosing a lifestyle that leads to life and not death does require us to leave our old “dead works” behind.
When life or our trust in the LORD seems to get too tough for too long, it’s tempting to give up. Yet we should look back on how far we have come in our new life in the Kingdom of Heaven through the mercy given us on the name of Yeshua haMashiakh (Jesus the Christ). Our journey from our old life is much like Israel’s journey from bondage in Mitsraim (Egypt) to freedom at Sinai and rest in the Promised Land, a trek recounted for the second generation in the Torah passage (parashah) מסעי Massei (or Mase’y, “journeys of”).
The traditional companion passage (haftarah) for Massei is Jer. 2:4–28; 3:4.
The following are Bible study recordings and notes from Hallel Fellowship teacher Richard.
Parashah: Num. 33:1–36:13
We may be tempted to give up when the end of our jobs, our relationships or lives are looming or they get too tough. Yet Moshe embodies apostle Paul’s encouragement to “fight the good fight” and “run the race” with all we have until we reach our goal or it’s time to pass the baton to the next person. Moshe encouraged the tribes of Reuben and Gad to pitch in to the hard settlement of Canaan, even when their new home was secured.
This is a difficult, laborious chapter with lots of hard-to-pronounce names — 40, 42 or 43 depending on the count. Yet the name of each encampment carries important teachings from what happened at each site and the meaning of the names themselves.
It might not be the literal meaning of the name but based on the symbolism of what occurred at that place. These are God’s names for these places, not necessarily the common names given to those places by the inhabitants at the time.
There’s a bigger picture to be found in the names of these places that Moses records and we endeavor to discover God’s picture.
In the closing chapters of the book of Numbers, among a discussion of land grants to the tribes of Israel we read of a justice-and-mercy system for murderers that prophetically links ransom of the accidentally guilty to the death of the high priest.
The borders of the modern state of Israel are a fraction of the territory the LORD granted the long ago. The promises for a much larger area from Genesis to Revelation speak to the wider vision of many nations in the Kingdom of Heaven and how our vision for our own potential may be too narrow.
The book of Numbers is more than just a collection of long lists of numbers of people in the tribes and families of Israel and of places where the people camped for 40 years. It shows us how God prepares His people then and now to move forward into the tasks He has for them. Numbers contains lessons of character refinement of a people.
“As God is my witness, I will do that.” Such words can roll off our tongues easily, but we can forget that One is witnessing such a vow and watching to see whether we respect the Creator enough to follow through. That’s why Moshe (Moses), Yeshua haMashiakh (Jesus the Christ) and His apostle Ya’akob (James) warned us against dragging the LORD in to co-sign on our promises.
Yisrael’s promise to remain faithful to the One Who delivered the people out of bondage in Mitsraim (Egypt) eroded under the temptation of a flesh-friendly religion. So a former ally of 40 years ago became an existential enemy and had to be defeated. The wisdom of being very careful in making promises and seeking the strength to keep them is the subtext of the Torah reading מטות Matot (“tribes”), covering Numbers 30–32.
Part of the Golden Rule (Lev. 19:18) is concern for other people. One way to view the somber warnings in the common Torah reading בְּחֻקֹּתַי Bechukotai (“in My statutes”) is God is concerned about the world so much that its lifeline — Israel — has to remain pure.
The usual complementary reading to Leviticus 26-27 from the Prophets is Jer. 16:19-17:14.
It is only God Who can restore life from death, not only the death of a person but the death of a nation. God warns Israel, and He will destroy their nation if they walk in idolatry. But He will also restore their nation if they will humble themselves and accept their guilt.
The topic of Leviticus 26-27 is God’s anger: the just anger that comes when His people do not follow the way He has laid out for them. God reveals the blessings He will give them if they obey Him and give their hearts to Him and the curses that will come upon them they disobey Him by running towards other gods.
The book of Leviticus is not written in chronological order but in thematic order. God may also repeat a point several times as an emphasis on that particular point.
A common catchphrase for believers in Messiah Yeshua (Jesus the Christ) is “walk by faith and not by sight” (2Cor. 5:7). Key memorials from God’s calendar that help with practicing the faith that is preached are the שְּׁבִיעִת Shevi’it or שְׁמִטָּה Shemitah (“seventh” [year] and “release,” respectively, i.e., sabbatical year) and the יוֹבֵל Yobel (Jubilee). They are the focus of the Torah reading this week, בְּהַר Behar (“on mount” [Sinai]), covering Lev. 25:1-26:2.
The complementary reading (haftarah) commonly accompanying Behar is Jer. 32:6-27.
Keeping the Jubilee year with both crops and servants was an act of faith by the people of Israel. It is difficult to live in freedom — liberty — and it is so easy to fall into bondage and slavery. God set up a safety net to protect the people from permanent bondage and slavery and to protect the land from being over consumed and dried up.
The shabbats (sabbaths) of the land and the Yobel (Jubilee) are not about the U.S. or other countries, but about the land of Israel. Yet even in the diaspora (outside the land), there are lessons we can learn about how we should trust in God, how far God can take care of His people and how we are to take care of our families and each other.
Read study notes and listen to recorded discussions by teacher Richard on this week’s Torah reading, פקודי Pekudei (“countings”), covering Ex. 38:21–40:38.
Also, check out teacher Daniel’s studies on the standard Haftarah (Writings and Prophets) reading for this week.
The people of Israel being making the different parts of the Tabernacle in Exodus 38-39. In Exodus 40, the people assemble the Tabernacle with Moses handling the final touches. The book of Exodus ends with God’s signaling His approval of the work of the people’s hands by visibly dwelling within the Tabernacle.
There is a lot of exactness described in Exodus 39-40 for the design of the furniture and implements of the Tabernacle of Israel. One lesson we can draw from this is every piece of furniture had its own exclusive place. Every item had its irreplaceable function in God’s house. We were all brought to God’s High Priest first. Yeshua the High Priest presented us to the Father. When God calls us to Himself, He calls us to our irreplaceable task too. Another lesson from the directed precision is God trained the people to stay where He stayed and move when He moved.
When Yeshua told the elders that the scriptures speak of Him, many of us had no idea how much Messianic foreshadowing is found in this book. The exit from Egypt after Passover and the journey to Canaan was orderly, not chaotic. The journeys to and from Egypt, for Abraham, Joseph, Jacob and the Messiah are a lesson for us.
Haftarah: 1st Kings 7:51–8:21
A description of the design of Solomon’s palace seems more appropriate for an architecture textbook than the Scriptures. Yet the elements of the design tap frequent symbols in Scripture, pointing to the roles of “priest” and “king” in the Messianic Age.
Like with the previous passages on the design of the temple and Solomon’s palace, the design of the two pillars at the entrance of the temple reveals the prophecy by Ezekiel’s lying on one side and the other. Solomon was prophesying the number of years the temple would stand before being destroyed.
Continuing the lessons from the items in the temple Solomon built for God, we look at the washing basins and see a parallel between the design elements and the role of God’s Spirit in cleaning the lives of believers and our role in that.
Continuing the 1st Kings 7 exploration of the lessons of the design of the temple Solomon built for God, we see a division of copper and gold items. The lesson of copper in the outer temple area and gold in the inner temple area is God wants to clean us by moving us from the world of the Snake to God’s world.
The lessons of God’s covering His people’s rebellion and moving His dwelling among His people, symbolized in the appointed times of Yom Kippurim and Sukkot, were acted out on a human level during the dedication of the first temple.
King Solomon built a structure for God’s presence to occupy in Yerushalayim (Jerusalem), but Solomon’s prayer points toward God’s people’s being the dwelling place of God.
A chiastic structure buried in 1st Kings 8 compares messianic figures of Moshe (Moses), David and Shlomo (Solomon) by changing up the historical and thematic order of them. This swapping is very important because it reveals elements of the character of the Messiah.