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(Num 19:1 - 22:1)

B'Midbar/Numbers 20:27   And Moshe did just as Adonai commanded and they went up to Mount Hor in the eyes of all the assembly.


There are many occasions when the Torah tells us that Moshe did what The Name ...

HaShem: literally, Hebrew for 'The Name' - an allusion used to avoid pronouncing the Tetragrammaton, the so-called 'ineffable' name of G–d
HaShem had commanded him to do. This particular occasion, however, was more difficult for him than most. This was to be the moment for Aharon to die and Moshe was to escort him and his son Eleazar, who was to take over from his father as the Cohen Gadol for all Israel, up Mount Hor to where that would take place. Moshe had seen people die before, of course; apart from the many Israelites who had died during the past thirty eight years in the wilderness, his older sister Miriam had died. Moshe was 120 years old; Aharon, his brother was older, but they had been very close in the last forty years, leading Israel during that wilderness time even though Moshe was the leader and Aharon the High Priest. Now that the moment of separation had arrived, for neither Moshe nor Aharon were to enter the Land after their public disobedience over striking the rock for water rather than speaking to it, Moshe probably had a large lump in his throat.

The third verb in the text , the 3mp Qal prefix form of the root , to go up or ascend, is here used with a vav-conversive construction to denote a sequential single past event - "and they went up". This jars slightly with the first verb, , the 3ms Qal prefix form of the root , to make or do, "and he did": he did - they went up. Jacob Milgrom points out that the Samaritan Pentateuch reads , the 3ms Hif'il prefix form with a 3ms suffix pronoun, so "and he (Moshe) brought him (Aharon) up"; this harmonises on the same singular subject for both verbs, Moshe. That still leaves a mismatch against HaShem's instructions a couple of verses earlier, "Take Aharon and his son Eleazar, and bring them up to Mount Hor" (v. 25, NASB, so given the text's insistence that Moshe did just as HaShem had commanded, Milgrom speculates that an original version might have had , the 3ms Hif'il prefix form with a 3mp suffix pronoun: "and he (Moshe) brought them (Aharon and Eleazar) up." That would harmonise both a singular subject and a plural object. Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia acknowledges the Samaritan variation, but knows no text following Milgrom's speculation.

Two traditional Jewish sources comment on the way that Moshe obeyed HaShem's command. Who Is ...

Rashi: Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (1040-1105 CE), French rabbi who wrote commentaries on the Torah, the Prophets and the Talmud, lived in Troyes where he founded a yeshiva in 1067; focuses on the plain meaning (p'shat) of the text, although sometimes quite cryptic in his brevity
Rashi, based on Midrash Tanchuma, says, "Even though the matter was difficult for him, he did not hesitate." Even though Moshe found the command personally difficult - Aharon was his brother, after all - he did not shrink back or argue, but - assuming there is no hidden break between verses 26 and 27 - promptly got on with it and did as he was told. The Midrash comments, "This serves to teach you that although He bade him put into effect an evil decree against Aharon he did not dally" (B'Midbar Rabbah 19:19). Even though Moshe (and presumably Aharon also) knew full well what was coming, Moshe played his part in carrying out HaShem's instructions, promptly and efficiently. The Midrash further extemporises that HaShem offered Moshe some words of consolation for Aharon - "You can comfort him with the assurance that he is bequeathing his crown as an inheritance to his children, whereas you will not do so to yours" - although that probably made Moshe feel even worse!

There is no denying that obeying the L-rd is not always the most comfortable or easy thing to do. After G-d's stunning victory over the priests of Ba'al at Mt. Carmel, the prophet Elijah heard the threats that Queen Jezebel made against him and ran away; all the way to Mt. Horeb in Arabia. When the L-rd asked him what he was doing, hiding in a cave on the mountain, Elijah replied, "I have zealously served the L-RD G-d Almighty. But the people of Israel have broken their covenant with You, torn down Your altars, and killed every one of Your prophets. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too" (1 Kings 19:10, NLT). Elijah's heartfelt cry was, "This is too hard for me, I can't take it; I want out of here." The biblical text records him telling G-d a few verses earlier, "It is enough; now, O L-RD, take my life, for I am not better than my fathers" (v. 4, NASB). He was in fear of his life and wanted G-d to stop the world so that he could get off.

Jeremiah too knew the discomfort of speaking out for the Lord: "I have become a constant laughingstock, everyone jeers at me. For every time I speak, I must cry out, must shout, "Lawlessness and rapine!" For the word of the L-RD causes me constant disgrace and contempt" (Jeremiah 20:7-8, JPS). He knew that the word of the Lord that he spoke brought him deeper into the opprobrium of the people: "I heard the whispers of the crowd -- terror all around: 'Inform! Let us inform against him!' All my supposed friends are waiting for me to stumble: 'Perhaps he can be entrapped, and we can prevail against him and take our vengeance on him'" (v.10, JPS); the people held him personally responsible. So much so that Jeremiah wanted to stop speaking for the L-rd: "I thought, 'I will not mention Him, No more will I speak in His name' -- but His word was like a raging fire in my heart, shut up in my bones; I could not hold it in, I was helpless" (v. 9, JPS); but he found that he couldn't turn it off. G-d had laid His words on Jeremiah's heart and he just couldn't muzzle them or avoid them; they had to come out, no matter what the personal cost.

Three of Daniel's contemporaries, like him originally captives from Judah taken into exile in Babylon, but now in service in Nebuchadnezzer's administration, also found that life in G-d's service got rather hotter than they had dreamed. They refused to bow down and worship a huge golden statue that the king had had made, even to the point of being thrown into a burning furnace. The king challenged them personally and they had to declare that "Our G-d whom we serve is able to save us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will save us from your power, O king. But even if He does not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your god or worship the statue of gold that you have set up" (Daniel 3:17-18, JPS). They meant it - "even if He does not" - they put their commitment to G-d before their own lives and had to face the possibility that they would get called on it.

Yeshua too was called to obey G-d above His own comfort or desires. Luke tells us that, "And it came about, when the days were approaching for His ascension, that He resolutely set His face to go to Jerusalem" (Luke 9:51, NASB). Other versions have 'steadfastly set' for the Greek verb , to confirm, establish, strengthen; this is a reflection of the text, "For the L-rd G-d helps Me, therefore, I am not disgraced; therefore, I have set my face like flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed" (Isaiah 50:7, NASB). Yeshua had warned the disciples that He was to be rejected by the Jerusalem authorities and be killed; he also challenged them about the cost of discipleship - what it would cost them to follow Him. The disciples had seen the transfiguration, miracles of healing and casting out of demons. Yeshua's ministry in the Galil was going well, but He responded to the call of the Spirit moving Him onwards towards the cross. He was resolute; he refused to be distracted or dissuaded from what He knew He had to do.

The writer to the Hebrews hints that this same situation will arise in our lives as followers of Messiah Yeshua: "Let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us" (>Hebrews 12:1, NASB). Encumbrances or difficulties will surround us: really good reasons why we can't or shouldn't stand by commitments that we have made, accidents and emergencies that stop us dead in our tracks, tiredness or illness that slow us down or make it impossible to continue. As the modern saying goes: stuff happens. And often we need to take notice of these issues, rest properly, spend time with our families, make sure our commitments are commensurate with our abilities and resources. At the same time, if we know that G-d has a call on our lives and that He has set a goal before us, we must push ahead and put the appropriate effort into making sure that the goal is reached, the task achieved, the deadline met. We need to run the race with endurance - sometimes that demands sacrifice, inconvenience, hardship, suffering, pain; good old fashioned blood, sweat and tears! No-one reaches the top of their profession or vocation without some grief. There is no serious ballet dancer whose feet don't ache significantly at times, with stretched ligaments, broken bones or strained muscles, but dances on anyway. There is no committed athlete who hasn't collapsed from exhaustion, panted and gasped for breath, agonised through injury time, yet still runs, jumps, sprints and pushes their body to the limit to reach for gold.

Just as Moshe had to swallow hard and obey G-d's command, so do we. There is no get out for those who are committed to G-d and the way of the kingdom. He doesn't ask us to go beyond our limits, but He often asks us to push our limits out beyond our comfort zones towards where He knows the real limit lies. Sometimes the only way to find G-d is to get out there where He is, even if it hurts.

Further Study: Ezekiel 3:5-11; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27; Ephesians 4:22-24

Application: How are you on limits? Do you sit inside yours and resist any risk that might take you outside, or are you prepared to let G-d stretch you a bit more than might be comfortable to grow your reach in the kingdom?

© Jonathan Allen, 2015



09:26 24Jun15 Tom Hiney: The cost of discipleship is certainly great, but if the demand is to help to fulfil God's plan[will], it has to be done.

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