Parashat Masei (Journeys)
Bamidbar (Numbers) 33:1-36:13
Haftarah: Jeremiah 2:4-18, 3:4 & 4:1-2
Our Parashah opens with:
These are the journeys of the sons of Israel, by which they came out of the land of Egypt by their armies, under the leadership of Moses and Aaron.
It goes on to describe the path through which Israel went in the desert all the way from Egypt to Moab.
I find it interesting that the beginning of their journey is recorded from the moment of God’s redemption from slavery under the Egyptians:
Now they journeyed from Rameses in the first month, on the fifteenth day of the first month; on the day after the Passover the sons of Israel started out boldly in the sight of all the Egyptians, while the Egyptians were burying all their firstborn whom the LORD had fatally struck among them. The LORD had also executed judgments against their gods.
As we read this, one would think that the knowledge of God’s miraculous deliverance would cause Israel to devote themselves solely to follow the God that delivered them; however, as we continue to read, we see that was not the case, as Israel repeatedly took their eyes off the LORD in rebellion. Yet, although they paid the price for such rebellion, God continued to show His endless love, grace, and faithfulness to His people and His promises.
In our Haftarah portion, we read of the pain that Israel caused God by turning their backs on Him and walking in their own ways:
Hear the word of the LORD, house of Jacob, and all the families of the house of Israel. This is what the LORD says: “What injustice did your fathers find in Me, that they went far from Me, and walked after emptiness and became empty? They did not say, ‘where is the LORD who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, who led us through the wilderness, through a land of deserts and of pits, through a land of drought and of deep darkness, through a land that no one crossed and where no person lived?’ I brought you into the fruitful land to eat its fruit and its good things. But you came and defiled My land, and you made My inheritance an abomination.”
A key verse here is verse 5: “What injustice did your fathers find in Me, that they went far from Me, and walked after emptiness and became empty?” It clearly shows that instead of keeping their eyes on the LORD and acknowledging the great things that He had done for them, they took their eyes off Him and walked after their own empty ways.
As I write this, I can’t help but think about my own journey of being redeemed by the blood of the Lamb; while it started at the moment of my own personal redemption, or as I like to call it, the moment that His story in my life started, how many times have I taken my eyes off the LORD and followed my own empty ways?
At times, we unintentionally take our eyes off the Lord, and by doing so, we leave the source of life, our Redeemer, trying to do things in our own strength, which only leads to exhaustion, burn out, and failure:
For My people have committed two evils: they have abandoned Me, the fountain of living waters, to carve out for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that do not hold water.
As you walk your journey with the LORD, I want to exhort you to keep your eyes on Him. Remember the One who brought you from darkness to His light, the One who called you to Himself; keep your eyes gazed on Him and follow His footsteps in His strength and not your own. I believe all we need to do is receive His living water, drawing from the source that will always refresh and renew us — that is our God!
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