Torah Portion for week 36: Numbers 8 – 12
BeHaalotecha (In your making go up)
We live in a world that has many different needs in the various areas of life. Whether they are physical, emotional, or spiritual, people’s needs today are real. One area of need that more and more people are becoming aware of is the issue of leadership. Who is the leader of your life?
People today are looking for leaders, true leaders, who can guide them in their different areas of life. Sadly, all around us we see nations, societies, families, and individuals who are suffering from a major lack of leadership; the effects of this problem are evident every day at all levels of society. It is easy to be discouraged by this reality and find ourselves longing and looking for leaders that we can look up to and follow with complete trust.
It is always encouraging to find that the Bible addresses such issues early in Israel’s history; in this week’s reading portion, taken from Numbers 8 – 12, we find an outstanding example of who should lead our life. We meet the nation of Israel at the beginning of their second year since the exodus from Egypt, getting ready to depart from Mount Sinai for the promised land. Before their departure we read (in Numbers 9:1-3) that the time had come for them to celebrate the Passover for the first time since they had left Egypt. This must have been a unique experience as they were reminded of God’s great redemption just a year ago – it is always important to remember all that God has done for us so far in our lives.
Now, who will lead the way? Moses would be the first name to come to mind, but no, it is God himself who will lead his people as we read in Numbers 9:15-18:
On the day that the tabernacle was set up, the cloud covered the tabernacle, the tent of the testimony. And at evening it was over the tabernacle like the appearance of fire until morning. So it was always: the cloud covered it by day and the appearance of fire by night. And whenever the cloud lifted from over the tent, after that the people of Israel set out, and in the place where the cloud settled down, there the people of Israel camped. At the command of the LORD the people of Israel set out, and at the command of the LORD they camped. As long as the cloud rested over the tabernacle, they remained in camp.
Amazing! God’s very presence was leading the way for Israel, showing them when to leave and where to camp. What a blessing it is to have God tell you exactly when and where to go! Later verses explain that God also showed Israel how long they must stay in each place – whether for a day, a week, a month, or even more, God was the one leading his nation. What mercy and comfort for a nation who has just been born to have a God who reveals exactly what they should do and where they should go.
This is a powerful lesson for our lives, and a real need for examination: Is God leading us in our lives today? Do we understand that the God of Israel wants to direct every aspect of our lives? And are we, like ancient Israel, totally dependent on God’s very presence to lead by his Spirit? One can only wonder what transformation and revival we would experience if the leaders of our nations would grasp this truth and ask God to lead the way!
But there is even more to come. We find that there was also a certain tribe who was to lead the way once God gave the signal to depart. Numbers 10:14 explains: “The standard of the camp of the people of Judah set out first by their companies . . . ,” even as the LORD had instructed in Numbers 2:1-3. The tribe of Judah pops up again out of the pages of Scripture and reminds us that it is the name of Judah that we need to pay attention to in our lives, because out of his seed a true and everlasting leader will come, the King Messiah himself. As stated in the Messianic prophecy in Genesis 49:10, “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet.”
God not only can lead your life, but, he also has given the King from the tribe of Judah to go ahead of you in all your journeys. In John 10:14-15, Yeshua says, “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.” He is the one who should lead your life, because He is good and knows the way and has laid down his life for you in order to take away your sin and give you a new heart that will want to follow God. As he said in John 10:3b, “The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” I encourage you to take whatever circumstances of life you are facing right now and ask the Good Shepherd from the tribe of Judah to lead your way.