This is the Ordinance of the Law

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The reading this Shabbat is called Chukat (“This is the ordinance of the law”), from Numbers 19:1-22:1. From the prophets we will be reading Judges 11:1-33, and from the New Testament we will be reading from John 3:1-21. The Hebrew date today is 3 Tammuz, 5782.

In the Hebrew Bible, the names of the months are 1st, 2nd, 3rd — the months don’t have names, nor do the days, they are just numbers. We have Phoenician names of months from the time that Solomon brought thousands of foreign workers from Tyra. They are only in the chapters that deal with the construction of the First Temple in Jerusalem in the days of Solomon.

I actually want to start today to discuss the Hebrew (pagan) name of this month, Tammuz. The names of the months that are used in the Jewish calendar in the last approximate 2000 years are Sumerian, Babylonian, and Canaanite names — most of them names of pagan gods.

Tammuz is the worst of the Babylonian gods. He was mainly the god of the summer harvest. He died in the winter and was resurrected in the spring. Because Tammuz was the god of fertility, the rites of worshiping Tammuz were absolutely horrible.

Tammuz was very popular in Canaan. And the Israelites adopted him so deeply that in the book of Ezekiel we read that inside the Temple in Jerusalem they had a statue of Tammuz, and the women were crying for him.

Tammuz was the god that had power over everything that the shepherd culture of Israel wanted. He was the god that made the wheat grow and be harvested, and he made the grass in the hills of Judea and Galilee grow in abundance.

If I had to describe Tammuz in terms of 21st century Christian culture, Tammuz would be the ultimate god of prosperity. Many of the prosperity-preaching pastors, and a few messianic Jewish rabbis, would be very happy with Tammuz. They would gladly worship Tammuz and promise prosperity to anyone that would bring a bushel of fresh harvested wheat or barley to put at the feet of the priests in the temple of Tammuz.

The reason that I am sharing this with you, dear brothers and sisters, is that modern Judaism, both in the diaspora and in Israel, has much to clear and clean up in the process of restoration, in the return to the Torah and the prophets and the writings. (We call them in Hebrew “Tanach”, and in English you call these books “The Old Testament.”)

Cleaning up paganism, in my opinion, is essential before the return of the Lord. Here is a picture of the return of the Messiah from Isaiah chapter 60:1-9:

“Who is this who comes from Edom, With dyed garments from Bozrah, This One who is glorious in His apparel, Traveling in the greatness of His strength?— ‘I who speak in righteousness, mighty to save.’ Why is Your apparel red, And Your garments like one who treads in the winepress? I have trodden the winepress alone, And from the peoples no one was with Me. For I have trodden them in My anger, And trampled them in My fury; Their blood is sprinkled upon My garments, And I have stained all My robes. For the day of vengeance is in My heart, And the year of My redeemed has come. I looked, but there was no one to help, And I wondered That there was no one to uphold; Therefore My own arm brought salvation for Me; And My own fury, it sustained Me. I have trodden down the peoples in My anger, Made them drunk in My fury, And brought down their strength to the earth. I will mention the loving-kindnesses of the Lord And the praises of the Lord, According to all that the Lord has bestowed on us, And the great goodness toward the house of Israel, Which He has bestowed on them according to His mercies, According to the multitude of His loving-kindnesses. For He said, ‘Surely they are My people, Children who will not lie.’ So He became their Savior. In all their affliction He was afflicted, And the Angel of His Presence saved them; In His love and in His pity He redeemed them; And He bore them and carried them All the days of old.” — Isaiah 63:1-9 [NKJV]

Note who this text from Isaiah describes first – the one that is coming from Edom and Bozrah. This was a code word for Rome, and later for the Roman Catholic church.

This glorious One, traveling with the greatness of His strength (meaning He is all-powerful) is coming to judge the people of the land (the world), and HIs garments are stained with blood, because the judgment that is coming is not ice cream from Ben and Jerry’s. It is a horrific event that will cause death and suffering in the world.

In the first coming of the Messiah described in Isaiah 53, the Messiah comes humble, rejected, suffering, taking our sins upon His shoulders. Not in the second coming. He is now riding on a horse, not on a donkey. He still has lovingkindness for His children. He still will bestow mercies to His people, but He will also bring judgment on the evildoers and those who rebelled against Him and the Lord.

The reason that I am writing this to you, dear brothers, is because not only Christianity has much to clean up in preparation for the return of the Lord to this world to be King and Savior. But because Judaism and the nation of Israel also have to clean up and get away from the tons of idolatrous and pagan things that we have carried with us during the more than 2000 years of diaspora.

I would like to see Jews help Christians to restore the faith of the apostles and the prophets of God, and would like to see Christians encourage Jewish disciples of Yeshua to clean up the vestiges of paganism that we have imported to the land of Israel, but also to our Jewish hearts. This cleanup is an urgent necessity for both Jews and Christians.

We each can’t do it alone. And history of the last few centuries proves that the Protestant Reformation and the Restoration Movement that started in 1807 in Cain Ridge, Kentucky, have both failed miserably. Instead of creating unity, like the original pastors in Cain Ridge wanted, more division and new denominations keep growing like poisonous mushrooms, spreading hate and not love for each other. A thing that would be easy for the Jewish people would be to clean up from the pagan heritage that we carried with us from Babylonian, Roman, Protestant, and American paganism.

You might be angry with me, for being so direct, opinionated, and harsh. No, dear brothers and sisters around the world, don’t ascribe to me harshness or meanness or hate of my Christian or my Jewish brothers and sisters.

The only thing that I am concerned with is my deep love for you, my Christian brothers and sisters from the valleys to the highest mountains of this world. My only concern is that when the Lord returns to Zion with a sword in His hand, we will enjoy His love and grace and not the judgment that He is going to afflict on those who have been stuck in the old paganism that our fathers were infected with by their places of exile.

The diaspora was and is a threshing floor that is separating the wheat from the chaff in the judgment of the Lord upon His return. I want to be among those who have cleaned up and taken the extra oil for my lamp in case the Lord is delayed and coming late.

I don’t want to celebrate the death of Baal on the first day of the seventh month, as new year. I want to hear the trumpet sound and declare war on idolatry, not sink in the deep pools of blood of those who have worshiped the beast. I hope you too want the same!

Now a few words on the Torah reading of this shabbat. This shabbat is one of the special shabbats called “The Shabbat of the Red Cow”. The Red Cow ceremonies are fascinating.

The one that is very interesting to me is the one where a husband is suspecting that his wife is not being faithful to him. He takes from the ashes of the Red Cow (heifer) that is burned outside the camp and mixes these ashes in water and lets his wife drink from that water that is mixed with the ashes.

If she is speaking the truth when she says that she was faithful and didn’t sin, nothing will happen to her. However, if she is not speaking the truth and she did actually committed adultery – the same water with the same ashes would give her very big and serious pain, and it would be known to all that she did commit adultery and betrayed the trust of her husband…

One more function of the ashes of the Red Cow is the cleansing of the person who had leprosy. Without the ashes of the Red Cow (heifer), a person who had leprosy, or was suspected of leprosy, could not be declared clean. And a person who touched a dead person or a beast could not be declared clean.

The other major issue in this week’s portion of the Torah is the story of Moses and the rock that gave Israel water. The story is much more complicated for Christians, because they don’t remember what happened in Exodus chapter 17 when Israel also didn’t have water and Moses cried to God.

This is what God spoke to Moses:

“So Moses cried out to the Lord, saying, ‘What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me!’ And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Go on before the people, and take with you some of the elders of Israel. Also take in your hand your rod with which you struck the river, and go. Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock in Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink.’ And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel. So he called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, because of the contention of the children of Israel, and because they tempted the Lord, saying, ‘Is the Lord among us or not?’” — Exodus 17:4-7 [NKJV]

The story in our Torah portion is the cause why God didn’t allow Moses to cross the Jordan River into the Promised Land. It is a harsh punishment that was given to Moses for striking the rock in place of talking to it. But, I am sure that the Lord had another agenda for Moses, and for the type of leadership that was needed to launch a military campaign to conquer the land that God gave to Abraham and his seed as an everlasting inheritance.

So, we do see that the first time there was a need for water in the wilderness of Sinai, the Lord told Moses to take the leaders of Israel with him, and strike the rock, and water came out of the rock.

In 1 Corinthians 10:1-5, Paul makes some very strange statements. The most difficult to understand is verse 4:

“…and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.” — 1 Corinthians 10:4 [NKJV]

I would like to unravel the mystery that Paul is bringing here. The first thing that I would like to do is to try to understand this text in the simple and plain exegesis.

“Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ. But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.” — 1 Corinthians 10:1-5

“And the people thirsted there for water, and the people complained against Moses, and said, ‘Why is it you have brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?’ So Moses cried out to the Lord, saying, ‘What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me!’ And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Go on before the people, and take with you some of the elders of Israel. Also take in your hand your rod with which you struck the river, and go. Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock in Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink.’ And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel. So he called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, because of the contention of the children of Israel, and because they tempted the Lord, saying, ‘Is the Lord among us or not?’” — Exodus 17:3-7

“Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Take the rod; you and your brother Aaron gather the congregation together. Speak to the rock before their eyes, and it will yield its water; thus you shall bring water for them out of the rock, and give drink to the congregation and their animals.’ So Moses took the rod from before the Lord as He commanded him. And Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock; and he said to them, ‘Hear now, you rebels! Must we bring water for you out of this rock?’ Then Moses lifted his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came out abundantly, and the congregation and their animals drank.” — Numbers 20:7-11 [NKJV]

“…who led you through that great and terrible wilderness, in which were fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty land where there was no water; who brought water for you out of the flinty rock…” — Deuteronomy 8:15 [NKJV]

“And they did not thirst When He led them through the deserts; He caused the waters to flow from the rock for them; He also split the rock, and the waters gushed out.” — Isaiah 48:21 [NKJV]

Paul knew that pharisaic midrash of the rabbis’ previous generations. The Rock that gave the water according to Paul is the Messiah, and the Messiah, as the Rock, followed them in the wilderness.

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