Weekly Drash - Bamidbar
Compliments of First Fruits of Zion
Bamidbar - במדבר : “In the wilderness”
These Things Happened as Examples
Thought for the Week:
Though the wilderness is a dry and waterless place, it is also a place of miraculous provision. The absolute deprivation caused by wilderness requires people to rely utterly on God. In the wilderness God provides for His people.
The book of Numbers opens with the words, “The LORD spoke to Moses bamidbar (in the wilderness) ...” The word bamidbar (במדבר) means “in the wilderness.” The Hebrew name of the book is Bamidbar. “In the wilderness” is a good description of the stories in the book of Numbers because this fourth book of the Torah records events that occurred over the thirty-nine years of the wilderness wanderings.
Wilderness is a place of refuge, provision and revelation. It is not necessarily a bad thing. Since wilderness requires us to rely on God, it can nurture spiritual health. The prophets sometimes look back at the wilderness experience nostalgically as they remember the romance of Israel following God through the desert. The prophet Jeremiah says:
Go and proclaim in the ears of Jerusalem, saying, “Thus says the LORD, ‘I remember concerning you the devotion of your youth, the love of your betrothals, your following after Me in the wilderness, through a land not sown.’” (Jeremiah 2:2)
Through the prophet Hosea, the LORD says of unfaithful Israel, “Behold, I will allure her, bring her into the wilderness and speak kindly to her.” (Hosea 2:14)
God instituted the Feast of Tabernacles as an annual remembrance of Israel’s wilderness experience. (Leviticus 23:42–43) The festival is strategically placed right after the harvest. When the Israelite was enjoying a sense of success and abundance, God wanted him to remember the historic wilderness experience of his forefathers. God wants us to remember the days in the wilderness, lest we forget that He is our true provider. “Otherwise, you may say in your heart, ‘My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth.’” (Deuteronomy 8:17)
In Deuteronomy 8, Moses warns Israel against success and prosperity that might harden their hearts, causing them to forget God. He reminds Israel that God led them “through the great and terrible wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water.” (Deuteronomy 8:15) He reminds them of the water from the rock and the manna from heaven.
Throughout the book of Numbers, a standard plotline emerges. The Israelites become dissatisfied. After all, the wilderness experience is taxing. They complain or openly rebel. God becomes angry. Moses intercedes. The people repent. Several of the episodes of the book are built upon this simple theme. Obviously God wants His people to remember the lessons of the wilderness. Paul tells us, “Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved.” (1 Corinthians 10:6)
Shavuah Tov! Have a Good Week!
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