Bamidbar-Naso – “In The Wilderness”-“Take Up”

This week’s parasha is a double portion. The first is entitled B’Midbar which translates to “In the Wilderness”. The second is entitled Naso, which means “Take Up” and it covers Chapters 1 through 7 in the Book of Numbers.

Two years after the nation of Israel left Egypt by The Lords mighty hand, Adonai commanded Moses to take a census and count the people. Moses was to first count all the men aged 20 and above who were able to go to war. This number totaled 603,550 and did not include the tribe of Levi.

Adonai declared that when He struck down the firstborn of Egypt, He set apart the firstborn of Israel in their place. So they were counted next and the total number of firstborn males from the Tribe of Levi that were a month old or more was 22,273.

Then, Moses counted the men who were between the ages of 30-50 years-old from the Levitical families of Gershon and Merari, along with the Kohathites, in order to perform service in the Tabernacle and the Tent of Meeting.

I noticed that the minimum age was thirty, which is the same age at which Yeshua began His ministry. I submit that we should be spiritually mature and ready to serve the Lord by the time we reach the age of thirty.  That’s not to say that you can’t start at an earlier age, or even at a later stage of life. But it would seem that by Yeshua’s example, thirty is the perfect age for full time service to the Lord.

The Parasha then moves from the taking of the census to what’s called the sotah, or a situation when a wife is suspected by her husband of being unfaithful, but there are no witnesses. These verses outline a solemn and unusual legal procedure that a woman underwent in order to establish her guilt or innocence.

Next the laws of the Nazirite were given. A person who voluntarily took this temporary vow could not have contact with any dead body, not even that of his parents; nor was he permitted to consume any product of the vine; such as wine or grapes, or even grape juice, nor were they allowed to cut their hair.

These restrictions are similar to those of the kohanim, the priests. But, in fact, the Nazirite’s restrictions were even greater than those of the priests. For example, a priest was permitted contact with the dead if it concerned his immediate family. Only the High Priest shared the Nazirite’s absolute prohibition regarding contact with the dead.

Furthermore, while priests were prohibited from drinking alcohol while “on duty,” in the sanctuary, it was permitted at other times, and they definitely were not forbidden to consume other grape products. Not so for the Nazirite. Priests were allowed to trim their hair. But for the period of the vow, the Nazirite would not be permitted to do so.

In these various ways, the Nazirite’s sanctity surpassed even that of the High Priest.

It would behoove us as believers in Messiah Yeshua to take note of Israel’s set-apart status, and individuals within that nation that God set apart to accomplish His purposes. The modern world tries to blur the distinction between the common and the sacred, but the Everlasting God has not changed. There are holy things, and we should respect that. We may not always understand the reasons for His choices, but we can be confident of His supreme wisdom.

In the example of the Nazirite, we have a beautiful picture of sacred status – with increased responsibility – entered into voluntarily by any man or woman who desired to draw nearer to the Lord, and who was willing to accept the terms of this particular challenge.

I want to conclude with Numbers 6:22-27 which describes the Aaronic blessing, a blessing that has been voiced countless times across thousands of years.

To ‘bless’ means to offer up something valuable or in abundance. The Hebrew word for “keep” is shamar which literally means “to guard or watch over”. A related word is shamiyr which means “briar”. When a shepherd was out in the wilderness with his flock, he would sometimes construct a makeshift corral out of thorns and briar bushes to help protect the sheep from predatory animals. This might be the origin of the expression we sometimes hear: a “hedge of protection”.

We might paraphrase the Aaronic Blessing in this way: “The Lord will offer you abundance and will surround you with protection. The Lord will illuminate the wholeness of His being toward you, bringing order to your life, and He will beautify you. The Lord will lift up His presence and have regard for you, and He will set in place all you need to be whole and complete.”

When the Israelis left Egypt, they left with an abundance of gold, jewels and other valuables. Adonai had blessed the children of Israel richly through the Egyptians. But He didn’t really bless them just so that they could have a lot of stuff. He wanted them to use these resources to serve a much greater purpose; that purpose being the worship of the Creator of the Universe. So a great portion of those riches were used to build the Tabernacle that Adonai used to manifest His presence.

It reminds me that when we get to Heaven, we will be rewarded with crowns for our faithfulness during our stay here on Earth. But these crowns will not be given to us as a fashion statement or to compare who has the greatest collection of crowns; instead we are going to place these crowns at the feet of Messiah Yeshua in worship. In a sense, the children of Israel being richly rewarded for their years of hard and bitter labor, and then joyfully dedicating their riches to the worship of God foreshadows this future event.

Many people mistakenly believe that the “God of the Old Testament” was a vengeful, angry, uncaring God. But the awesome blessing contained in the midst of the Torah shows how wrong this view is. On the contrary, Adonai’s kind intentions and love towards His creation is made obvious; He desires that each one of us be whole and complete in Him. I trust that each one of you will discover that wholeness and completeness in our Lord and Redeemer, Yeshua the Messiah.