A Conversation Between Man and God

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I have been teaching from and writing every week on the Torah portion that is read in the synagogues around the world. The reading of the Torah and the prophets every week is a very very old tradition.

In the New Testament we see this tradition practiced both in the land of Israel and in the diaspora (The Jewish communities spread throughout the Mediterranean basin and beyond). Here are a few examples of the importance of this tradition:

“Or have you not read in the law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless?” – Matthew 12:5

“So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read.” – Luke 4:16

“For those who dwell in Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they did not know Him, nor even the voices of the Prophets which are read every Sabbath, have fulfilled them in condemning Him.” – Acts 13:27

“For Moses has had throughout many generations those who preach him in every city, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath.” – Acts 15:21

In our congregation like in most congregations of Jewish Disciples of Yeshua around the world, the Torah is read on the Sabbath and after the Torah we read from the prophets (It is called in Aramaic “The Haftarah”) and after the prophets we also read from the New Testament. All the passages that we read usually have a common thread that connects the Torah, the prophets, and the New Testament.

On this Shabbat of February 19th 2022, around the world, in all synagogues, the reading will come from Exodus, Exodus 30:11-34:35, the name of this portion of the Torah is called Ki Tisa:

“When you take the census of the children of Israel for their number, then every man shall give a ransom for himself to the Lord, when you number them, that there may be no plague among them when you number them.” – Exodus 30:12

Because this Shabbat is a special Shabbat there is an additional reading from Numbers 19:1-22, and it is called Parah (“cow”). The Haftarah (the reading from the prophets) will come from 1 Kings 18:1-39, and Ezekiel 36:16-38. From the New Testament we will be reading from 2 Corinthians 3:1-18.

You might say to yourselves, these Jewish disciples of the Messiah in Jerusalem surely read in public so much text every Sabbath. You are right, we do read much texts from the Word of God every Sabbath, Just like the apostles did and our forefathers did around the whole wide world.

Here are some more examples of the apostle Paul who traveled around the Mediterranean Sea spreading the good news of the Messiah:

“And after the reading of the Law and the Prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent to them, saying, ‘Men and brethren, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, say on.’” – Acts 13:15

“For we are not writing any other things to you than what you read or understand. Now I trust you will understand, even to the end.” – 2 Corinthians 1:13

“But even to this day, when Moses is read…” – 2 Corinthians 3:15

Now I must get into this Sabbath’s reading of the Torah in our community in Jerusalem.

There are two of the most dramatic events during the wilderness wandering of the children of Israel in the Sinai Desert for those 40 years of testing and training, the boot camp, of the children of Israel before they enter the promised land of Canaan and settle it as an eternal inheritance.

The reading starts with the command of the Lord to Moses to number the children of Israel, all of them, and also to build a tabernacle, a Tent of Meeting between the priests and the children of Israel with the Lord God. A unique temple designed for the children of Israel.

Immediately after these commands, and while Moses was 40 days and nights on the top of Mount Sinai receiving the Torah from the Almighty God. The children of Israel are impatient and they urge Aaron, the older brother of Moses to provide for them a god that will lead them.

This is the first of the most dramatic events in the Bible that appears in our reading on this Shabbat. The question comes up to the structure of our reading. Why did God command Moses to take a census, to count the children of Israel, and why did God command the building of the Tabernacle as a place of His dwelling in the middle of the camp of Israel?

Here is what I think – the Torah here is showing two things by bringing the command to count the people of Israel and the command to build the Tent of Meeting (The Tabernacle) before the events of the building of the golden calf by Aaron, and by the request of the children of Israel.

  1. God counts every person and knows the deeds of their hearts, hands, and the path of our legs step by step. When there is a collective sin like the building of the golden calf (a statue of one of Egypt’s main goddesses, Hathor), each individual is important and is counted and is going to be either blessed or punished for the sin that each committed.
  2. The Torah doesn’t always follow in the chronological order of the events. The Torah is set as a stage for the education and correction and administration of the children of God in all generations of God’s children. The word Torah doesn’t mean law in the Hebrew language like in the translations to Greek, and all the other languages, of the Christian Bible. The word Torah means “instruction, teaching, training”. This is the reason why the inspired word of God tells us about the census, the counting of the children of Israel by individuals and not by tribes or clubs of people.
  3. Chapter 30 starts with a message of hope, not of condemnation, but with the anticipation of the sin of the golden calf, and the punishment and at the same time with the promise of God that He will dwell in the middle of the camp of Israel even after the sin of the golden calf.

I would describe what is happening here in chapter 30-31 as God gesturing to the children of Israel by putting His two fingers in front of His eyes, and turning them toward the children of Israel saying, “be careful I am watching you!”

The second dramatic event in our reading of this week’s Torah portion is the conversation and the response between the Lord and Moses. The sin of building the golden calf by Aaron and the children of Israel was such a big sin that angered the Lord God of Israel so much that He says to Moses:

“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Depart and go up from here, you and the people whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt, to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, “To your descendants I will give it.” And I will send My Angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanite and the Amorite and the Hittite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite. Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; for I will not go up in your midst, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.’” – Exodus 33:1-3 [NKJV]

In simple English – God says to Moses, “Look, these are your people. They don’t want to be My people. You take care of them and bring them to the land of promise. I am tired of these people. I have other things that I would like to do now, they don’t really appreciate me and they wanted an Egyptian goddess to lead them into the land that I have promised Abraham and his seed as an everlasting inheritance. OK. I will keep My promise to this stiff-necked people, but I will send my messenger (angel) to lead them. I have better things to do!”

Moses responds to the Almighty God with these words:

“Then Moses said to the Lord, ‘See, You say to me, “Bring up this people.” But You have not let me know whom You will send with me. Yet You have said, “I know you by name, and you have also found grace in My sight.” Now therefore, I pray, if I have found grace in Your sight, show me now Your way, that I may know You and that I may find grace in Your sight. And consider that this nation is Your people.’” – Exodus 33:12,13 [NKJV]

The bottom line of what Moses says to God in this argument is: “And Consider that this nation is Your people.” In other words, Moses says to God, “No Sir! These are not my people, they are Your people and You better take care of them Yourself.”

This is the beginning first act of this great drama in the 40 years of wandering in the Sinai Desert, the entrance to the land of Canaan and the settlement of the children of Israel according to the word of God.

Moses and God compromise and Moses received one of these unusual answers by God as an accommodation specially for Him. God says to Moses I will reveal to you My true character and nature. I will give you a personal and special show of My nature.

Here is one of the most fascinating conversations between a man and God! Moses argues with God and says:

Moses:

“Now therefore, I pray, if I have found grace in Your sight, show me now Your way, that I may know You and that I may find grace in Your sight. And consider that this nation is Your people.”

God:

“And He said, ‘My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.’”

Moses:

“If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here. For how then will it be known that Your people and I have found grace in Your sight, except You go with us? So we shall be separate, Your people and I, from all the people who are upon the face of the earth.”

So the Lord said to Moses, “I will also do this thing that you have spoken; for you have found grace in My sight, and I know you by name.”

And he said, “Please, show me Your glory.”

Then He said, “I make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.”

But He said, “You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live.”

And the Lord said, “Here is a place by Me, and you shall stand on the rock. So it shall be, while My glory passes by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock, and will cover you with My hand while I pass by. Then I will take away My hand, and you shall see My back; but My face shall not be seen.”

And the Lord said to Moses, “Cut two tablets of stone like the first ones, and I will write on these tablets the words that were on the first tablets which you broke. So be ready in the morning, and come up in the morning to Mount Sinai, and present yourself to Me there on the top of the mountain. And no man shall come up with you, and let no man be seen throughout all the mountain; let neither flocks nor herds feed before that mountain.”

So he cut two tablets of stone like the first ones. Then Moses rose early in the morning and went up Mount Sinai, as the Lord had commanded him; and he took in his hand the two tablets of stone.

Now the Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth…”

(Taken from Exodus 33:13–34:6 [NKJV].)

I think that these words and revelation of the Lord to Moses are some of the most important and most revealing words that give us a window into the very nature of God Almighty. Notice, dear brothers and sisters, that there is no malice nor meanness in God’s nature.

Like a good father, sometimes He has, for the sake of the future of His children, to give punishment for educational reasons, to the children whom He loves. Please dear brothers and sisters, use this revelation that God gives especially to Moses in order to encourage Moses after the sin of the golden calf.

For me personally these texts from the Torah are a sure anchor for my faith in God. Yes, these words are the most important lesson for my life. There are three things that we must learn from these texts from the Torah:

First, we sin because of our impatience and insecurity. We want to substantiate our divine nature and be small gods ourselves. We want to set the course of our life, and our satisfaction in life, and our creative abilities, all alone without the help or the advice or without instruction from our Creator. We forget that we are created by the Almighty Creator and we have limited independence in this life.

Most of the things in our lives are given to us by the Creator: Who our father and mother is going to be. If we will have the “Y” chromosome or the “X” chromosome (if we will be born as men or women). How tall we will be and what color hair we will have and what color skin we will have and in what country we will come to the light of day. All of these things are given to us and no one asks us what we want.

Second, that we must learn is that God, the Creator, gave us a book of instruction for life. Not for living only, but for living according to the manufacturer’s instructions so that we can have the best lives and the most satisfactory life in this world, and in the world to come.

Third, that is important for us to learn from these texts in the Torah is that God loves us so much, even when we sin such grave and serious sins like the making of the golden calf that was a rejection and a vote of no confidence against the Lord God who created us and loves us so much that He gave His only begotten Son Yeshua as a sacrifice for our sins and as the provision of salvation in this life and eternally.

Let us remember these lessons and give and renew our relationship with the Creator of the world, yes, even of our whole galaxy, the sun and the moon and all the stars in our galaxy even this beautiful blue ball called Earth.

There is much more to be learned from every page and word of the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. Read, eat, drink, and dream, the Bible!

This article originally appeared on Netivyah and is reposted with permission.