Yes, Yes; No, No; Men are men; Women are Women. Numbers 30 – part 1

(Due to the length of this post, it is split over two postings.  This is part 1.)

Numbers chapter 30 is perhaps one of the more ignored chapters of the Bible.  In our culture today this chapter is considered antiquated and degrading to women.  Why?  Because it makes a clear distinction between men and women, and there can be no argument about it.  But this distinction between the roles of man and woman is not a new topic for this chapter; it occurs throughout the Bible.  Many will try to discount such chapters by saying that it was for those cultures back then when women were viewed as under men.  One commentary (Mathew Henry Commentary) even goes so far as to say that women didn’t own anything, so they couldn’t be held to a vow.  Oh, I forgot to mention, Numbers 30 has to do with taking vows.  This chapter makes a big deal about taking vows.  Why?  This first part of the post deals with vows.  The next part deals with why men and women are treated differently.

Yeshua (Jesus) makes the statement, “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.”  Matthew 5:37  (ESV)

Taking a vow (in colloquial language, ‘swearing to do something’) is taken very seriously by God.  One of the “10 Statements” (10 Commandments) states, ‘do not take the name of Yehovah (the LORD) your God in vain.’  I know most of Christianity views this as only having to do with saying His name (which most Christians don’t actually even know), but this statement has long been viewed as having two separate meanings.  The first is that if you take a vow, be sure to keep it!  (Numbers 30:2).  [The second does have to do with misusing His name.]

If you make a vow to Yehovah (the LORD) your God, you shall not delay fulfilling it, for Yehovah (the LORD) your God will surely require it of you, and you will be guilty of sin.  But if you refrain from vowing, you will not be guilty of sin.  Deuteronomy 23:21-22 (ESV).

Yeshua (Jesus) was simply restating what was already written: don’t swear to do something and then don’t do it!  God does not like that.  Better not to swear (vow) at all.

This command has nothing to do with being unsure about doing something (and I have heard people use those words of Yeshua (Jesus) to try and say that you can’t ever be unsure or doubt).  No! The words have to do with taking vows (swearing).

It is such an important topic to God that many of the sacrifices that God proscribed have to do with completing vows (and weren’t for sin).  In “those days”, a vow would often sound like, “As Yehovah (the LORD) lives, I …”.  People would use His name in their vow.  Today, the equivalent would be something like this, “I swear to God …” or “I promise to do…”.   So, don’t do it!  Simply let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no’.  To vow (swear / promise) and not do it is a sin against God!  It even applies to how we speak to our children.  So let’s watch our speech for this reason (as well as other reasons highlighted in scripture).

This may not seem like an important topic for today, but that is only because it is ignored, and as seen in Numbers chapter 30, the vow topic highlights the difference between men and women.

The fact that men and women are being treated differently in this scripture section is dealt with in part 2 of this posting.

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(Part 2 will show up in a couple days.)

What do the Sacrifices from the “Old Testament” have to do with Today? (Numbers 28-29)

Most Christians, when asked what they know about the sacrificial system will respond in one of these ways:

“They were done away with by Jesus’ death.”

“They were a burden.”

“They only atoned (covered over) sin.”

And this is almost always done so with a dismissive tone as if the sacrificial system was something bad and God did good to get rid of it.  Would you be surprised to hear that none of the above statements (with a partial exception for the first) are true, and that such statements hide some wonderful truths that Christians would be well to pay attention to.

Let’s start with a fundamental difference between Christianities point of view about the “Law of God” and the Jewish point of view.  Christians look at a law such as “don’t eat blood” and say, “I have to obey that?!”  It is a burden that has to be followed.  The Jewish point of view (including Yeshua’s point of view) would say, after having an opportunity to eat meat with the blood still in it, but not doing so, “I got to worship God by not eating blood just now.”  I hope you can get a glimpse of how fundamental this difference is as it affects you entire view point of the “old Testament.”

So, back to the sacrificial system.  Looking at Numbers 28 to 29, there is a long list of sacrifices to be given and instructions on how (this is just one place in the “Law” where sacrifices are discussed).  Note a few things.

First, the vast majority of the sacrifices have nothing to do with sin.  Nothing. 

This is true for all sacrifices.  There are sacrifices of thanksgiving, praise, finishing vows, and ritual purity (which is not about sin).  There are some sacrifices for sin.  Most are for the community (such as all those in the Numbers 28-29 passage).  There are some for individuals (such as in Leviticus 6:4-6).  Many of the sacrifices for sin are for ‘unintentional’ sin.

There are no sacrifices (with very few exceptions) for deliberate sin!  Consider King David and his sin with Bathsheba.  There was no sacrifice for that!

God forgave sin when people repented (actively turned from the sin).  This is the same in the “Old Testament” as in the “New.”  Consider 1 John 1:9,

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (ESV)

“But what about Jesus’ sacrifice?” you may ask.

Yeshua’s (Jesus’) sacrifice “takes away the sin of the world,” just as it is written of him.  That includes the sin that we don’t even know about, or we don’t even realize is sin (such as following age old traditions that are completely accepted within Christianity but not accepted by God).  But even with Yeshua’s (Jesus’) sacrifice, we need to repent when we sin.

Lastly there are a couple important lessons to learn from the sacrificial system.  Note that God required that the animals sacrificed be “without blemish.”  In other words, it was to be one of the best animals.  And He was very specific about how it was to be done.  No pagan practices were involved.

When we worship God, do we give our best?  How often do we buy something new for those in need instead of giving old stuff (which is good, but not worship as God sets forth).

If we can learn anything from the sacrificial system, it is this: Give our Best in all our worship of God, and worship Him as He wants.

[Note: ‘Worship’ here is not limited to singing, but in every facet of life where we can be obedient to Him, including in our helping others.]

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What’s Your Life Goal?

What is your life goal?  I realized just recently that somewhere along the line of life, my life goal moved over to this:  I want a comfortable, quiet life where I can learn of God and follow Yeshua.

When did Yeshua (Jesus) ever promise us a comfortable or quiet life when we followed him?  He didn’t.  I strayed away from the greatest commandment,

Hear O Israel!  The LORD our God, the LORD is one.  You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart; with all your soul; and with all your might.

God calls us to give completely of ourselves to Him.  Yeshua (Jesus) told us to ‘take up our cross and follow him.’  That certainly isn’t a description of a comfortable, quiet life.

The effects of not having my goal correct were becoming apparent in many aspects of my life.   Anxiety, stress, and even depression.   And yet I would tell myself that I was trusting God for all things.

What does my life look like when I have one or the other goals first in my life?  When comfort was my life goal, I’d be often thinking about material needs, entertainment, and stress reduction.  When Yeshua is my life goal, then I would be spending much more time doing what the word of God says: “speak of His law when I sit in my house and when I walk on my way and when I lie down and when I rise up” (paraphrase of Deuteronomy 6:7).  We see in the Psalms that King David did this.  Yeshua also tells us to not be anxious about our life (Matthew 6:25-34).  “Anxious” doesn’t have to mean worrying about something, but simply thinking about it and going after something.  Wanting it.

Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.  But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.  Matthew 6:31-33 (ESV).

There is nothing wrong with having material things.  But for me, I was thinking of such things more often then God’s word.

What we spend our time thinking about and going after shows us what our life goal is.

So, measure your own life by God’s word and check what your life goal is.  Follow the words that are part of the verse that Jesus (Yeshua) called the ‘greatest commandment’ and transform your life (see Deuteronomy 6:4-9).  If you’re like me, it is best to start with small steps and increase as you go.  When our goal is correct our lives will be peaceful (which does not mean uneventful).  It is what God promised.  We can trust Him.

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Balaam, Balak, and the talking Donkey: Numbers 22 and 23

Before I start I have to say that this study isn’t about the donkey.  There are tons of teachings, preachings, and even songs about the donkey out there.  No, this study is about Balaam.  Specifically Balaam’s first encounter with the messengers from Balak, and his first message from the LORD.

Numbers 22:12-13, “God said to Balaam, “You shall not go with them.  You shall not curse the people, for they are blessed.”  So Balaam rose in the morning and said to the princes of Balaak, “Go to your own land, for the LORD has refused to let me go with you.” (ESV)

Notice something interesting in what Balaam told the messengers?  He didn’t tell them all of what God had said.  It reminds me of how a child may act when he asks his parents if he can do something.  They say no and explain why.  The child then goes to his friends, pouting, and says, “my parents won’t let me.”  Balaam is acting the same way, and in doing so, two things are set in motion.

First, Balaak is encouraged to ask again, but with more reward promised.  I wonder if Balaam didn’t hope this would happen…

Second, an opportunity to honor God was lost.  God’s words were changed in that Balaam only reported some of what God said.  Balaam never reported the explanation God gave.  Balaam dropped the bit about a blessing.  Balaam was looking for immediate rewards (from Balaak for cursing Israel) and thus chose to ignore God’s promise.

So to do we today change God’s words.  One way is that people who give “a word from the Lord” may interpret those words into something different – something the speaker thinks the hearers want or need to hear.  This is a dangerous thing to do.  It puts one into the ‘false prophet’ camp.  However, much more rampant is the other way God’s word is changed.

The majority of us take some of God’s word, ignore or explain away other parts, and then run with it.  We forget that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  I see way to many examples of this behavior to even begin to list, but here are two examples:

God said (somewhat contracted for emphasis ), “Don’t eat pork … therefore you should be holy for I am holy.”  (Levitcus 11 and Deuteronomy 14).   As Balaam only reported the first part of what God said, so people only report the “Don’t eat pork.”

The blessing is deliberately left off to make it easier to disregard the command in favor of the immediate rewards of the world (eating anything we want), just as Balaam didn’t say that Israel was to be blessed as he was looking for rewards from Balak.

Another example is this, “Don’t store up treasures for yourself… for where your treasure is, there your heart is also.”  (Matthew6:19-24).  All of us make excuses why we can’t give to charities or the poor.  We remember only the command “don’t store up treasures for yourself” and disregard it in favor of immediate “rewards”, forgetting the blessing that would come (in this case, our heart being in heaven).

So it comes down to this.  Yeshua (Jesus) never said that following God wouldn’t require hard choices.  Rather he said the opposite with such as the words, “take up your cross daily and follow me.”

It is making those hard choices that refine us into the holy people we are to be.  Choosing to follow His word, even when it goes against what we want to do, or what everyone around us is doing, refines us to be the set apart (holy) people God wants us to be.

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Forgiveness and Offense

The following was written in reply to a great post by the blogger “Tancy” titled, “You will be offended“.   Her post deals with a topic that has been twisted or ignored in the churches.  Here are my comments to her post.  Read her post to get the full picture.


Thanks Tancy for the timely words, as in our day, and in our churches, it has become vogue to ‘not forgive’, though this is behavior is buried behind other words. You make the comment, ” If you do not learn to forgive, … you won’t be eligible for God’s forgiveness either.” I know few Christians who would recognize your comment as Christ’s words immediately after he gave “the Lord’s prayer” (Mat. 6:9-15). They are words, however, that we need to remember at all times.

It seems that Yeshua’s (Jesus’) words are slipping away from the churches and our daily lives. Who remembers, and practices, Yeshua’s words where he states that we are to forgive (without exception) even up to “seventy times seven” times (and if you’re counting, you are missing the point). And what about the apostle Paul’s words where he exhorts us to bestow even greater honor, and treat with modesty, those that we deem ‘unpresentable’. (1 Cor. 12:22-24).

I like your comment, Tancy, of, “forgiveness is a decision to let go of resentment and thoughts of revenge.” I’ve seen people’s live get eaten up and ruined simply because they were unwilling to let go of resentment and hurt.

Perhaps some of the problem is the teaching around ‘forgiveness’ that one finds today. It is an unfortunate fact of life that sin has consequences, even after one repents or is forgiven. Forgiveness does not mean an unconditional restoration of a relationship. One needs to be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” (Matt. 10:16). Some things take time to heal, but they will never heal as long as one does not ‘let go and forgive.’
When one finds oneself caught by unforgiveness, and can’t even bring oneself to forgive, one can start by asking God to help. But in the end, the step has to be taken, and the offender forgiven.

I’ll close with these words of Yeshua, “judge not, lest you be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged, and by your standard of measure, you will be measured.”

So, keep proclaiming His word, even when it seems others aren’t. Thanks for your post.

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