Messianic Torah Portion Chukat-Balak
Bamidbar (Numbers) 19:1- 25:9
Knowing the proper way to worship HaShem is critical to walking in holiness. In showing His people how to worship Him, HaShem commanded us to perform rituals that are reflections of His nature. For example, a priest had to perform the rituals required for purification. HaShem uses rituals to train us in the understanding of holiness. Unfortunately, when we perform rituals routinely it is easy to forget what aspect of HaShem the ritual is teaching us. When we forget what the rituals teach, it becomes easy to develop our own interpretation. When we lose touch with HaShem this way, we become more susceptible to deceiving doctrines. As a result, it becomes easy create a doctrine based on our own understanding. When man creates doctrines based on his own understandings the original teachings of HaShem are forgotten. Yeshua experienced this and warned us of the consequences as Mathew 15:4-6 in The Complete Jewish Bible states"For God said, 'Honor your father and mother' and 'Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.' But you say, 'If anyone says to his father or mother' "I have promised to give to God what I might have used to help you" then he is rid of his duty to honor his father or mother.' Thus by your tradition you make null and void the word of God." Replacing the Torah with man's doctrines makes the Torah ineffectual. When every teacher has his or her own understanding the Torah is interpreted many different ways and the body becomes disunited. We can see this in Luke 13:14-16 when Yeshua confronted an individual who had developed his own doctrinal understanding. "The ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because that Jesus had healed on the Sabbath day, and said unto the people, There are six days in which men ought to work: in them therefore come and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day. The Lord then answered him, and said, Thou hypocrite, doth not each one of you on the Sabbath loose his ox or his ass from the stall, and lead him away to watering? And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?" The ruler of the congregation interpreted healing as work. Therefore, the ruler did not want Yeshua to perform a healing on the Shabbat. Chukat holds a good example of how drifting away from the original intent of the Torah eventually leads to this type of false understanding.
In Chukat HaShem judges the Children of Yisrael for speaking against Him and Moshe. To execute His judgment HaShem sent fiery serpents into the camp as B'Midbar 21:6 states "The LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died." When the Children of Yisrael repented for their transgression, HaShem provided a way for them to escape judgment. HaShem commanded the Children of Yisrael to create a brass serpent that would deliver them from the penalty of judgment. We can see this in B'Midbar 21:8-9 which states "The LORD said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looks upon it, shall live. Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived." Anyone who looked on the brass serpent would not die. Even an individual who had already been bitten by a fiery serpent. The brass serpent was Yisrael's protection against the consequences of judgment. Even though the fiery serpents remained in the camp HaShem protected His people from the consequences of their bite. HaShem used the brass serpent as a reminder to Yisrael that He would protect them and redeem them from judgment.
As time passed The Children of Yisrael forgot about the Torah. They began to participate in idolatrous practices. The brass serpent that HaShem used for good became an object used for idolatry as M'Lakhim Bet 18:4 states "He removed the high places, and brake the images, and cut down the groves, and brake in pieces the brasen serpent that Moses had made: for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it: and he called it Nehushtan." Neglect of the Torah had separated Yisrael from the truth of HaShem's teachings. The Children of Yisrael began to interpret worship the way they wanted. As a result, the brass serpent that HaShem had commanded them to create became an idol for them to worship. What HaShem had originally created to bring life, was now bringing death. Yisrael had separated themselves from the Torah and they did not know why the brass serpent had been created. The Children of Yisrael had completely perverted the meaning of the brass serpent.
The sin that the Children of Yisrael committed can happen in any generation. The Children of Yisrael fell into idolatry because they did not use the Torah as a base for understanding holiness. As a result, the Children of Yisrael interpreted the meaning of the bronze serpent differently than HaShem had intended. The brass serpent became an object of worship, and the creator of the brass serpent was forgotten. What HaShem had created for good, was transformed into a stumbling block that brought death. To avoid repeating their sin, we must understand the teachings of HaShem as presented in the Torah. The Torah teaches us to understand HaShem, and avoid creating false doctrines. Therefore, the Torah protects believers from creating man made form of worship.
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