Parashat Mattot (Tribes)
Bamidbar (Numbers) 30:2-32:42
Haftarah: Jeremiah 1:1-2:3
During the next three weeks there are special readings from the Haftarah portions called “Between the Mitzarim (straits)”. This three-week period is connected to the first and second destruction of the Temple, as well as the exile of the people of Israel into the diaspora. They are based on Lamentations 1:3 which says:
Judah has gone into exile out of affliction and harsh servitude; she lives among the nations, but she has not found a resting place; all those who pursued her have overtaken her in the midst of distress.
In general, there is no connection between the Parashah (the Scripture portion from the first five books of the Bible) and the special Haftarah (the Scripture portion taken from the Prophets). However, the more I read the Word of God, the more I see the connection between God’s judgment and His amazing grace, which is something that, if we embrace, can deepen our understanding and appreciation of God.
In our reading portion from Numbers 30:2–32:42 we read of Moses’s final battle against Midianites before he dies:
Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Take vengeance on the Midianites for the sons of Israel; afterward you will be gathered to your people.”
As we continue to read the story, we see that, once again, Israel did not do as they were instructed because they spared the Midianite women who “caused” the men to be unfaithful to God:
And Moses, Eleazar the priest, and all the leaders of the congregation went out to meet them outside the camp. But Moses was angry with the officers of the army, the commanders of thousands and the commanders of hundreds, who had come from service in the war. And Moses said to them, “Have you spared all the women? Behold, they caused the sons of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to be unfaithful to the LORD in the matter of Peor, so that the plague took place among the congregation of the LORD! ”
I wrote “caused” since I believe that the men were as much at fault and could not blame the women. They could have resisted the temptation. Regardless, the point here that in this story we see that the people of Israel fell into disobedience and idol worship over and over, which cost them heavily in the end.
In the Haftarah, we read of God’s call to Jeremiah as well as a verse that explains what God was doing:
“For, behold, I am calling all the families of the kingdoms of the north,” declares the LORD; “and they will come and place, each one of them, his throne at the entrance of the gates of Jerusalem, and against all its walls around, and against all the cities of Judah. And I will pronounce My judgments against them concerning all their wickedness, since they have abandoned Me and have offered sacrifices to other gods, and worshiped the works of their own hands.”
God’s call to Israel was always to be a sacred people set apart for a holy God. However, as we know throughout history, Israel turned their back to God, which resulted in judgment. In the wilderness it was an entire generation – including Moses - who did not enter the Promised Land; many years later, judgment came in the form of a painful exile. Because of this, we can say the fact that Israel exists today is undeniably because of God’s amazing, endless grace!
There is an amazing connection between God’s judgment and His grace; while we may not fully understand it, we ought to be thankful for it. We all deserve judgment for our idol worshiping, but what He has given us instead is everlasting grace through His Son, who He sent to reconcile us to Himself. If we truly understand what we deserve, then we will be truly thankful for the incredible gift He has given!
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