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B'Midbar/Numbers 10:35 Arise, O L-rd, and let Your enemies be scattered and let those who hate you flee before You.
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These are the words that Moshe would say whenever the - the Ark - would move forward on its journey in the midst of the people of Israel. Although the word is a Qal imperative m.s. form with a paragogic from the root - to rise or arise -Rashi suggests that it should be translated "Halt, wait" on the grounds that it would be disrespectful of Moshe to tell HaShem to start moving, but could ask Him to slow down or wait for the people if He got too far in front of them. Targum Onkelos changes "Arise" into "Reveal Yourself", partly to remove the anthropomorphic physical action and partly to imply that it is HaShem's deeds rather than His presence which would cause His enemies to flee.
Rashi also comments, "Those who hate you: These are those who hate Israel, for whoever hates Israel hates the One who spoke and brought the world into being" and cites Psalm 83:3-4 to show that those who hate G-d are those who conspire against His people: "Behold, Your enemies make an uproar; and those who hate You have exalted themselves. They make shrewd plans against Your people, and conspire together against Thy treasured ones" (Psalm 83:3-4[2-3], NASB).
This verse and the one that follows it have become part of the standard synagogue liturgy; they are recited whenever the Torah scroll is taken out of the Ark or returned to it. Judaism sees the Torah scroll as being almost an embodiment of G-d's presence for His name and His commandments are to be found on every page. Two of the prophets - Micah and Isaiah - spoke of this when they said, "For from Zion will go forth the law, even the word of the L-RD from Jerusalem" (Micah 4:2 and Isaiah 2:3, NASB); these phrases too have become part of the same item of liturgy and are chanted either as the Torah is taken out of the Ark or while it is being processed around the synagogue.
While some commentators think of these words being directed at the Ark,Hirsch correctly understands that the words are really directed towards G-d Himself, for where the Torah finds a welcome, there also G-d is welcome. Hirsch says, "Moshe recognised that this Torah from its very entry into the world would have to expect opponents and people who would hate it. Its demands for justice and love are so very much in opposition to the dictates of force and selfishness ... The upkeep of these dictates against the laws of justice and love guarantees the coalition of all the people in power who form a tacitly united front in the world, opponents to the Torah who form a barrier to the entry of its influence into the world in general." Here, Hirsch is recognising that wherever the word of G-d seeks entry, there will be vested interests in the world who will be bound to oppose it, who will gather together for the express purpose of blocking such an entry, who will unite to minimise or eliminate its influence among people.
So it was when Yeshua, Himself the Living Torah, came into the world and sought to announce the coming of the Kingdom of G-d. Just after His birth, when He was taken to the Temple for the "Redemption of the Firstborn" ceremony, it was prophesied that He would arouse opposition: "Shim'on blessed them and said to the child's mother, Miryam, 'This child will cause many in Isra'el to fall and to rise, he will become a sign whom people will speak against'" (Luke 2:34, CJB). Although He was welcomed by many, He was quickly surrounded by opponents, by those who tried to silence Him, as the Gospels make clear: "The P'rushim went out and immediately began plotting with some members of Herod's party how to do away with him" (Mark 3:6, CJB); "They made plans to arrest Yeshua surreptitiously and have him put to death" (Matthew 26:4, CJB); "The head cohanim and the whole Sanhedrin looked for some false evidence against Yeshua, so that they might put him to death" (Matthew 26:59, CJB). Yeshua spoke about the inevitable divisions that would come about because of Him and the Gospel when He said, "Those who are not with me are against me, and those who do not gather with me are scattering" (Matthew 12:30, CJB).
We should recognise that in our world too, the word of G-d still brings division and opposition. As we proclaim the truth of Yeshua - the cross and resurrection, heaven and hell, the coming judgement - our words force people to take sides, either in or out of alignment with G-d. Our delivery doesn't much matter, whether we try to be diplomatic or confrontational; the very speaking of the words, the acting out of G-d's commandments, the difference that our lives show from the standards of the world; all these shout louder than we could ever imagine and compel everyone with whom we come into contact to make a choice. Since people instinctively realise that putting off or avoiding a decision is in fact making a choice to reject, they are often openly hostile because their spiritual position has been challenged and making a choice that they would have preferred to ignore or defer or has been forced upon them against their will. We should not think that it is our eloquence that has provoked the response; it is the Holy Spirit working in our hearers' hearts to convict them of sin and their need to repent. In fact, a little more well-judged mention of hell-fire and brimstone would not go amiss in many circles today!
We should always be ready to obey the promptings of the Spirit and be prepared to open our mouths and quote from Scripture at appropriate moments. Let Moshe's words be our prayer at those time, whether we are the one speaking or one of the group where the conversation is taking place: "Arise, O L-rd and let Your enemies be scattered." By praying in this way we amplify and intensify the moment; we are calling on G-d to confirm His own word, to act in the way that He has told us He acts. This is a prayer that is guaranteed to be heard and although the results are not predictable, something will happen. A tense or explosive situation will be defused, a time of sorrow can be transformed to joy, an argument may be resolved, or a serious discussion may dissolve into laughter. "See, the Word of G-d is alive! It is at work and is sharper than any double-edged sword - it cuts right through to where soul meets spirit and joints meet marrow, and it is quick to judge the inner reflections and attitudes of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12, CJB)!
Further Study: Isaiah 51:19-11; Psalm 110:1-2; Jeremiah 15:16; 2 Corinthians 4:2
Application: If you are timid about quoting Scripture or speaking out something that the Ruach HaKodesh has given you, the time has come to be bold. G-d's word is needed in our world today and He wants to speak through you. Take a deep breath, pray Moshe's words and speak. Your words - G-d's words - can and will change the world!
© Jonathan Allen, 2009
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