A few weeks ago, in Parashat Behaalotecha, Joshua expressed concern over Eldad’s and Medad’s prophesying in the camp and encouraged Moshe to stop their prophesying. Much to Joshua’s surprise, Moshe’s answer was, “Are you jealous on my behalf? If only Adonai would make all the people prophets! If only Adonai would put the Spirit on all of them,” (Numbers 11.29)![i] Moshe recognized that “the Ruach rested on them” (Numbers 11.26), and that he would not fight or struggle against the working of Adonai. However, in this week’s portion, Korach, Numbers 16.1 – 18.32, the situation was different. If one looks simply at the words spoken by Korach and his followers, it appears to be a similar situation to that of Eldad and Medad. Korach proclaimed that “all in the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them” (Numbers 16.3). This agrees with the LORD’s proclamation, “and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19.6, cp. Deuteronomy 7.6). However, as we have seen time and time again, the attitude of the heart is just as important as the words spoken. At the onset (v. 2), Scripture states that Korach and his following raised themselves against Moshe, and by inference Aaron. But Moshe saw through his personal challenge and identified the root issue,
Truly, it is against the LORD that you and all your company have banded together. For who is Aaron that you should rail against him? – Numbers 16.11
Just as in last week’s portion, Shelach, the ten spies caused all of Israel to rebel against the word of the LORD, so Korach used the word of the LORD to cover his rebellious heart and lead another troupe to rebel against Hashem’s divinely appointed leadership.
The Haftarah this week is from I Samuel 11.14 through 12.22. There are a number of connections between Moshe and Samuel. The Psalmist noted specifically that when Moshe and Aaron, and Samuel prayed on behalf of the people, the LORD answered (Psalm 99.6). When things deteriorated to the point that discipline and judgment were imminent, the prophet stated, “Even if Moses and Samuel stood before Me, My soul could not be toward this people” (Jeremiah 15.1). By the people’s choice, Moshe became the mediator between the LORD and the people, “You, speak to us, and we will listen, but do not let God speak to us, or we will die” (Exodus 20.19). Samuel was the last mediator and judge before the giving of a king so that Israel would “be like all the other nations” (1Samuel 8.20). One of the last pleas of the people to Samuel was “Pray for your servants to Adonai your God, that we would not die, for we have added to all our sins this evil by asking for ourselves a king” (1 Samuel 12.19). Ya’acov may have had this incident in mind when he wrote,
You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives … Don’t you know that friendship with the world is enmity with God. – James 4.2-4
The lesson to be learned here may well be that not only should we guard our hearts (Proverbs 4.23) but we should actively depend more on the Ruach of Adonai to guard and guide not only our prayers but every word that comes from our mouths as well as the attitudes of our hearts. Shaul reminded the believers in Rome,
In the same way, the Ruach helps in our weakness. For we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Ruach Himself intercedes for us with groans too deep for words. And He who searches the hearts knows the mind of the Ruach, because He intercedes for the kedoshim according to the will of God. – Romans 8.26-27
Yeshua taught that we should guard not only our prayers but every word that proceeds out of our mouth.
…from the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man from his good treasury brings forth good, and the evil man from his evil treasury brings forth evil. But I tell you that on the Day of Judgment, men will give account for every careless word they speak. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned. – Matthew 12.34-37
While Ya’acov imparts a negative perspective, “no human being can tame the tongue” (James 3.8), the psalmist encourages us to maintain a proper attitude and right kavanah in relation to the words we speak.
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable before You, Adonai, my Rock and my Redeemer. – Psalm 19.15
[i] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are from Tree of Life (TLV) Translation of the Bible. Copyright © 2015 by The Messianic Jewish Family Bible Society.