PARASHA: “B’Midbar” (in the wilderness) NUMBERS 1:1-4:20;
The word "Midbar" is interesting. it means "wilderness" or "desert". In this word is another word; "D'bar" which means "Word" and "Bar" is Aramaic for "Son" So, derashically or symbolically speaking, we can look at this as; Being in the wilderness or desert, we still have the Word of God, which was authored by the Son of God, who IS THE WORD, (John 1:1)
We start the new Torah Sefer (book) called “Numbers” in English because it talks about “numbering” the tribes of Israel. We wonder why the reason for “numbering the people?” For this reason, we need to go back to the beginning to see. God told Moses to number the tribes. It wasn't Moses' own idea, it came from God.
In Egypt, Israel was a hodge-podge of undisciplined slaves working for Pharaoh, In Adonai’s timing, He sent Moshe, a “Messiah Type” to lead the people out of slavery to freedom. Once out of Egypt, came the task of taking Egypt out of the Israelites. They came to Har Sinai, ready to become a nation united under YHVH. The Ten Commandments served as the document in stone, a “Ketubah” to solidify the covenant. Now, the United Tribes of Israel under YHVH are established. But this is only the first part. Each Shavuot, we remember the giving of the “Torah in Stone” in the midst of thunder and fire.
Now that the nation is established, YHVH takes a count, why the count? As a nation, as every nation in the world has, the Nation of Israel needs an army! So, the count is taken to form the very first IDF (Israel Defense Force). I am sure that many of you that are reading this have served in one of the branches of the Armed Forces of the USA, or of other countries. I myself served in the US Army from 1972-to 1984. I met many people and learned many things. It was a great experience and a special time in my life. Quite a few of my family members also served in the Armed Forces, the first being an ancestor of mine, Richard Ellis, who served in the Massachusetts Militia in 1640.
YHVH takes up the count and “enlists” every man who is 20 years old and older. They will serve in the armies of Israel. All those who are …”20 years old and upward who are able to go to war.” After the numbering, part of the daily life would have been practicing and learning how to use different combat weapons, back then would have been swords, spears, bows and arrows, and slingshots. Moshe would have headed up the training, being himself a veteran soldier from when he was a prince in Egypt, and also a soldier in the Egyptian army before accepting his calling.
Every soldier has a job to do. Today we call these jobs MOS, (Military Occupation Specialties) One of mine was that of chaplain assistant. I was to assist a catholic chaplain who everyone called; “Father McCarthy” who had a bulldog named “Gus” who also went to chapel with him. 11 of the 12 tribes were called to be fighting men yet the tribe of Levi, was called to be the “chaplain tribe” They were exempt from combat duty, they would attend the Tabernacle and services. There were the kohanim (the priests) who would be the “chaplains” and the “Levites” who would serve as the “chaplain assistants” sort of speaking.
So, you are thinking, what does this numbering have to do with us as born-again believers in Messiah Yeshua? We are all soldiers in God’s army of believers. He’s got us all numbered. Yes, he has your number! We need to again, go back and look at our lives before and after Messiah Yeshua. Before we were just a bunch of “hodge-podge lost sinners in the camp of HaSatan, until Yeshua took us out of that camp by shedding his blood on the cross of Calvary, when we accepted his sacrifice, we were officially “out” of the camp. Yet, there would still be a lot of “HaSatan and worldly influence” still in us, so, like the Israelites, “Egypt” was still in us.
When we accepted Messiah Yeshua as our Mashiach and Goel (Redeemer) we were added to the Commonwealth of Israel, now part of the Community, the “Adat” which began at Sinai 3500 years ago. We are the “olive branches” that have been “grafted into” the Olive Tree.
Now that we are members and citizens of “HIS People” we also are considered “soldiers” in the LORD’s Army. However, we fight a different type of war. In this world, armies fight with RPGs, M-16s, Kalashnikovs, Berettas, M-60s, etc. We fight against, “spirits and principalities of darkness” it is a spiritual war against HaSatan and his demons. Only through the Ruach HaKodesh (The Holy Spirit) and the power of His WORD can we overcome the onslaughts of the enemy. He realizes he has lost the war, yet still continues to fight a losing battle, which was won at the cross 2000 years ago.
As the Kohanim ministered and had jobs to do, and also the soldiers had their jobs to do, we believers also have jobs within our “Kehilot” and “Adat” (congregations). That is why the Holy Spirit has given gifts of the Spirit so that we might all serve in different capacities in the body of Messiah. In this way, the body grows and prospers. Some are rabbis, and pastors, who also serve as teachers, we also have ministers in music and praise, finances, maintenance, prayer intercessors, counselors, and the list can go on.
The twelve tribes of Israel encircled the Tabernacle, with the tribe of Levi next to it. The “Mishkan” was at the center of the People. So also, YHVH should be the “Center” of our life. The whole purpose of our life is to serve our God and Creator, while loving and supporting our brothers and sisters in the faith, reaching out to others who are lost, and teaching Torah to those who have ears to hear and learn. We are “numbered” in the eyes of Elohim, HE knows who we are, He has numbered the hairs on our head, and there is no such thing as “retirement” in the work of YHVH, well, there is…. It is called d-e-a-t-h.
Another detail which I would like to add to this midrash. When Adonai numbered the people, he chose leaders out of each tribe. In all groups of “chosen,” there are “leaders”. They can be pastors, rabbis, Sunday school teachers, Torah teachers, counselors, etc. But every group needs a leader or leaders. If not, we have a lot of sheep running around without shepherds. We see the names of the leaders. Many ask about the meanings of the names. Well, here they are as follows. Starting with chapter 1, verse 5;
“Elizur’ = My God is the rock;” Shelumiel” = At peace with God. (I know, it sounds like “Schlemiel” but it isn’t. “Zurishaddai” = My Rock is Shaddai; “Nahshon” = Serpent, “Aminadab” = The (Divine) kinsman is generous; “Nethaniel” = God hath given; “Eliab” = God is Father; “Elishama” = God hath heard, or God hears; “Ammihud” = The (Divine) kinsman is glorious; “Gamaliel” = God is my reward. In later times, it was the name of many famous rabbis, like the rabbi of Apostle Paul; “Pedahzur” = The Rock hath redeemed; “Abidan” = The Father hath judged; “Ahiezer” = The (divine) Brother is a help; “Ammishaddai” = The People of Shaddai; “Pagiel” = The lot (or fate) is given by God; “Eliasaph” = God has added; “Deuel” or “Reuel” = God is a friend; “Ahira” the (divine) brother is a friend.
The other aspect of the Book of Numbers is the journeys of the Israelites for 4 years. Some might call those years, "wandering" but that is not the correct word since "to wander" is to "walk around aimlessly, without a purpose. God had a purpose. It was to teach Israel to trust in HIM and to follow HIM by his Cloud by day and the Fire by night. It wasn't His perfect plan since He would have brought them directly into the Promised Land had they not doubted the promise of conquest of the land of Canaan. Remember the 12 spies? 10 came back with a negative report, and because they believed in that negative report, they were condemned to journey for 40 years in the wilderness.
Our life is a journey. There are many stops along the "Road of Life." One could call these "transitions" or "epochs" We might say the transition from babyhood to childhood, from childhood to adolescence, from adolescence to our teen years, from teen years to young adulthood, from adulthood to marriage, job, family, and all along the way, the time of "education" which never really stops. Then we transition into "senior citizen years" the "grey hoary head years" (that's me and my wife) and finally, the final stop which brings us into eternity and into the perfect presence of God. Our physical death. But isn't death just another transition of life? does life ever stop? No, it doesn't. Earth is just the proving grounds. To those who have accepted Yeshua/Jesus as Savior and LORD, eternity is before us and our rewards await us.