HOLINESS, DECISIONMAKING AND TORAH READING
The Torah provides a solid foundation for Israel, and, of course, all of us who worship and follow YHVH, the God of Israel, through the sacrifice of the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53; I'll get back to this later.
I will begin with Exodus 24 and touch on certain elements through to chapter 34; since I am not qualified to provide exegetical analysis, a few personal reflections on the WORD in these chapters as they apply to myself and to our life together as the people of God will be the scope of my musings.
In Torah, not only are the WORDS themselves of utmost importance; the ONE speaking them must be known.
According to Exodus 24: "Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up and saw the God of Israel. Under his feet was something like a pavement made of lapis lazuli, as bright blue as the sky. But God did not raise his hand against these leaders of the Israelites; they saw God, and they ate and drank ." (emphasis added).
When our way of seeing and living comes out of the PRESENCE of the "God of Israel", we can be sure that we are safe; I will not enter into a discussion of the complexity of the emphasized part of the quotation, but it is amazing to me that when God has invited us into His Presence, then that Presence where we "see God", which we are told in Exodus 33, is fatal, is, in fact, safe for us. What a life-giving TRUTH!
This God, YHVH, the Creator and King of the Universe, the God of Israel, is the source and foundation of this WORD which we have before us.
We did not, through vigorous, active searching, arrive at an understanding of Him; but rather, He revealed Himself to man.
According to the text, this revelation, throughout time, came to specific and specially chosen people from Adam and Eve through Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham Isaac and Jacob, Moses and the Prophets, and among may others, King David and finally through Yeshua and Ruach Hakodesh, the Holy Spirit of God, whom Yeshua said He would send; on Shavuot, Pentecost, the Feast of the LORD commemorating the giving of Torah, the Holy Spirit came to all mankind who will, in Faith, trust Him as He opens the revealed TORAH/WORD.
But, back to the passage.
This account of "seeing God" is followed by the instructions for the Tabernacle and the Ark of the Testimony, and all of the other furnishings for the place YHVH's PRESENCE would reside among men. Aaron, the High Priest, is given clear instructions regarding how he is to be clothed when he approaches YHVH in the Tabernacle. The symbolic "sacred garments", described in Exodus 28, will ensure two specific aspects of the High Priest's time in the PRESENCE: first, the 12 names of the sons of Israel are engraved on the two shoulder sections of the "ephod", and second, the "breastpiece for making decisions", is to be worn with the ephod to ensure that all important decisions are made in the Presence of the YHVH.
Exodus 28 tells us, “Whenever Aaron enters the Holy Place, he will bear the names of the sons of Israel over his heart on the breastpiece of decision as a continuing memorial before the Lord. 30 Also put the Urim and the Thummim in the breastpiece, so they may be over Aaron’s heart whenever he enters the presence of the Lord. Thus Aaron will always bear the means of making decisions for the Israelites over his heart before the Lord."
Thus Aaron, representing all Israel, will stand before the Almighty on their behalf to make decisions for the nation before their God. The "Urim and Thummim" represent the options of Blessings one hand and Curses on the other, a reminder that all decisions have consequences that can bring either.
So, not only is YHVH the source of Torah, but decisions regarding Israel's national life based on the directions of Torah will be made in the PRESENCE of YHVH.
When YHVH says that Israel belongs to Him and He is their God, He means just that; and He graciously provides Israel with all the recourses they need to be the nation through whom YHVH will Bless all the other nations of the earth.
After the disastrous "golden calf" affair of Exodus 32, YHVH's immediate punishment and the looming possibility that YHVH would send an Angel to guide them the rest of the way to the Promised Land while He Himself would not go with them since His PRESENCE might annihilate them because of their "stiff-necked" nature, Moses is on his face before God, pleading for His mercy on His people.
Moses knows that without their God, they are nothing; he pleads with God:
"If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.”
14 The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
15 Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. 16 How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?” (emphasis added).
Here is the heart of the matter: YHVH called Israel to be a Holy, set-apart people; and Moses knows that if YHVH's PRESENCE is not with them to display, before the nations of the earth, that they are a Holy Nation belonging the Creator and King of the Universe, no one will know that they are different. They are, after all, only human, and "stiff-necked" at that, and absolutely in need of the PRESENCE to differentiate they from everyone else.
With the coming of "the Suffering Servant", Yeshua, His death, resurrection, ascension back to Heaven and the coming of Ruach Hakodesh, the Holy Spirit of God, this PRESENCE permeates the people of God with an internal fountain of Living Water which not only sustains and nourishes us, but flows from us to nourish the world around us.
Now, in our day, YHVH is gathering His people back to their LAND and we, those who are "in Christ", are called to co-operate with God's purposes and participate in this re-gathering and re-settling of His people. We have a grave responsibility; and the Church is not doing well in fulfilling that obligation to God.
As a Church we have set up far too many NGOs that do not serve the people of God well, and sometimes are diametrically opposed to YHVH's purposes for His people; I will elaborate on that in another blog; there is much to be said.
Later in Exodus 33, the account of Moses in YHVH's Presence continues, but complicates the earlier part where Moses and several others, including the 70 elders, "saw God, and they ate and drank"; here, after assuring Moses that His PRESENCE will go with the people, YHVH says to Moses, " I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.”
18 Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.”
19 And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.”
21 Then the Lord said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. 22 When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.”
So, we have a mystery: Moses and the elders "saw God, and ate and drank", and Moses spoke with Him "face to face", but here YHVH says that "no one may see me and live". I think there must be an explanation hidden in the "cleft in the rock" where Moses was sheltered as YHVH walked past him; but that is for another time.
I must conclude.
Israel is moving quickly to its 2015 election on March 17th. Before that event, Prime Minister Netanyahu is invited and scheduled to speak to the US Congress on March 3rd.
I challenge us all to pray that: (1) Mr. Netanyahu will prepare that speech in the PRESENCE and deliver it in the power or Ruach Hakodesh; and (2) that Israelis will be moved by this same Holy Spirit of God to search for Torah-influenced men and women to vote into the next Knesset.