Parashat Mattot (Tribes) & Masei (Tribes and Journeys)
Bamidbar (Numbers) 30:2-32:42 & 33:1-36:13
Haftarah: Jeremiah 2:4-28, 3:4, 4:1-2
In the Parashah of this week, we read a description of the journeys of the children of Israel from out of Egypt:
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. Moses recorded their starting places according to their journeys by the command of the LORD, and these are their journeys according to their starting places. 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.”
I believe that the above verses are important for us to understand as it is not just a summary of the journeys of the children of Israel from Egypt to the plains of Moab (the place in which Israel stayed before crossing into the promised land). But rather, it tells the amazing story of how God delivered His children and executed judgment against the false Egyptians gods.
I believe that the last point is an important one for us to note, as it shows not only God’s superiority over other gods, but also His desire to be known as the one and only God that Israel would worship.
In the Haftarah portion from Jeremiah 2:4-7, we see God’s deliverance from Egypt mentioned. We also see a mention of the journey that they went through. However, the most important thing that we learn in this passage is God’s desire for Israel to follow and worship Him alone and not to turn to false gods:
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.”
God brought Israel through the long, difficult journey out of Egypt into the Land of Promise, in order that Israel would honor Him and make Him their God. Yet, Israel did not do so, but turned away from God to follow idols and false gods. They defiled not only God’s land and turned it into an abomination, but I believe that it was ultimately God’s name that they defiled.
I find it interesting that in Jeremiah there is a question being raised: “What injustice did your fathers find in Me, that they went far from Me, and walked after emptiness and became empty?” We see this question is raised to the leadership and as we continue to read Jeremiah 2:8 we find some very difficult words towards the leaders of Israel:
The priests did not say, ‘Where is the LORD?’ and those who handle the Law did not know Me; the rulers also revolted against Me, and the prophets prophesied by Baal and walked after things that were of no benefit.”
The first point that I want to drive out of the verses above is the important role that leaders play in leading people to God, rather than away from Him. The leader’s role is to lead, not just with empty words but by example in how they live. Having a title does not and will not make a person a leader.
The second point is that there is a great danger in not seeking God and in pushing Him aside, because we can easily seek out idols – even to the point that we are unaware we are doing it!
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.
I want to exhort you to take time this weekend to reflect on your own personal walk with God. Are you intentional about your relationship with Him? Or have you unintentionally turned away from Him and started following idols, trying to fill up your own “cistern” with your own strength? I would like to encourage you to repent and return in the areas that you are doing so.
The second word of exhortation is for you to take the time and pray for your leaders to seek God and “walk the walk” instead of “talking the talk”.
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