This week our Torah portion begins the Book of Numbers. The Hebrew name is Bamidbar which means "In the Wilderness". It is the story of the 40-year journey from Sinai to Canaan. The lessons learned from that journey apply to life in general as well as our journey as Messiah followers. One of the great lessons that we learn is how important it is to keep our eye on the goal and not be deterred by immediate circumstances. God had promised them that they would inherit a wonderful land. Moses describes the land as a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing forth in valleys and hills; a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey; a land where you will eat food without scarcity, in which you will not lack anything; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper. Moreover, he says: “When you have eaten and are satisfied, you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land which He has given you” (see Deut 8:7–10). What a blessing this is! Unfortunately, immediate circumstances caused the people to become disillusioned and mistrusting of God. They even wanted to return to the slavery in Egypt!
This Sunday night begins Shavuot, the celebration of the reception of the Torah and the pouring out of the Ruach HaKodesh. Remember that it was after the great moment at Mount Sinai that the people became disillusioned because of difficulties. For Messiah followers, we also can forget the great promises of God because of difficulties and challenges in life. Just as there were many people in the wilderness who felt defeated, so there are many Messiah followers who have taken their eye off the prize and live as if there is no hope. The truth is that life is hard. Paul himself said, “For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also, we ourselves, having the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body” (Rom 8:22–23). Yes, we groan. But we have hope!
To keep that hope on the front burner, we must keep our eyes fixed on Yeshua. We must be familiar with passages of Scripture that describe the future. We must encourage one another to stay focused. This past year has been a difficult year. However, it gave us an opportunity as individuals and as a community to test the mettle of our faith. Hopefully we have grown spiritually and become stronger as we dealt with difficult circumstances, adapted when necessary, and saw blessings in our lives.
Right now there is a crisis in Israel. Many people have lost the vision of the promise of the future and have become cynical and disillusioned. In Micah chapter four, we read of a day when the Lord will be king in Israel and all the nations will come to Jerusalem to receive wisdom from the Torah. In addition, the Messiah will settle all disputes and there will be peace. As Messiah followers, we must remember these kinds of promises in the Scriptures and provide the encouragement and hope that can only be found in the reality of the Messiah. When we have this hope, we can live faithfully according to Biblical principles of mercy and justice. God has given us a taste of the future and a way of life that brings the future into the present! May we be encouraged and emissaries of the Good News of the Messiah.