Developing the Theme of Family through the Torah Portions. Number Thirty-Six.

Dr Clifford Denton.

Beha’Alotcha: Numbers 8:1-12:16.

22nd June 2024/16 Sivan.

Speak to Aaron, and say to him, ‘When you arrange the lamps, the seven lamps shall give light in front of the lampstand.’ (Numbers 8:2)

Picture by Helen McNeill

This week’s portion reveals how far the earthly life of God’s people sometimes is from the perfection of the Kingdom of God. On the one hand, we have the wonder of God’s holiness brought to His people. On the other hand, we have a picture of the nature of mankind in this fallen world.

The Tabernacle and its ministries are shadows of the eternal Kingdom of Heaven. The first part of the portion concerns the order God intended for His people on earth, reflecting heavenly principles. Clear instructions were always given by through Moses with whom God spoke face to face.

The lights were to shine continually into the Holy Place where the Levites ministered. The setting apart of the Levites for service was solemn and ordered. The camp was established according to God’s precise instructions, and God would lead the way by His presence in the cloud and fire, with specific directions of how to announce His intent with the blasts on the two silver trumpets. Some delegation of leadership responsibility was by the appointment of 70 elders. God’s order for the community of His people on earth was very detailed and promised peace and safety because of His care for them.

Yet the people complained, showing their distrust of the God who was leading them. Even Miriam and Aaron rebelled against Moses, God’s appointed leader.

This is the nature of mankind through every generation. We live in a world that inherited sinful ways at the Fall and continues in rebellion ever since the great Flood. God’s programme of restoration began with the Children of Israel. Yet, despite all that God did, the tendency for His people to rebel continued. The seriousness of their craving for the luxuries of Egypt was shown by the plague that God brought on His people and the seriousness of their rebelling against God’s order was shown in the leprosy that came upon Miriam.

We might consider this description of the early days of the nation of Israel as past history from which mankind has moved on. Yet consider the world today. The New Covenant is known throughout the world, and the Bible is available to every person in the world, yet mankind devises its own ideas of how to order the kingdoms of the earth. All that Yeshua prophesied of our days in Matthew 24, Luke 21 and Mark 13 is coming about with increasing intensity. We live in days about which the biblical prophets spoke, confirmed dramatically in the Book of Revelation.

The types and shadows of the Old Covenant are explained in the Book of Hebrews. As they are interpretable in New Covenant terms among God’s people today, so we might expect to have learned all we need to, as believers, to establish kingdom structures and principles in our lives. Yet this is precisely the moment when we should take stock. It is well known that the principles that are accepted in the world find their way into the Church because even believers can be beguiled by what the world offers. That which is ungodly can find its way in through compromise.

The seven branched candlestick shining out into the place where the Priests of God ministered is symbolic of the sevenfold Spirit of God given to believers to shine His light into the world (Isaiah 11:2, Revelation 3:1, Matthew 5:16). The Spirit of God is given to believers to enable them to live lives in God’s ordered communities of faith, succeeding where the Children of Israel fell short without Him.

However, it is not as simple as we might sometimes think. When Paul wrote to the Corinthian Church, for example, there were many matters to put right. The clearest expression of the potential failure of our Christian communities to live up to the order of God’s Kingdom is given in the letters to the seven congregations in Revelation 2 and 3.

When reading our portion this week, therefore, we would be wise to prayerfully consider the contrast between the intended order of God’s Kingdom on earth and the natural tendency to complain and even rebel against God’s design. Notice where the complaints began. Even when the structure of the community was made clear every family was weeping at its tent door, craving for what the world had offered them in Egypt (Numbers 11:10):

Then Moses heard the people weeping throughout their families, everyone at the door of his tent; and the anger of the Lord was greatly aroused; Moses also was displeased.

God’s Kingdom is built on the foundation of family, so when things are not as robust as they should be in the structure of the believing community, we should look to ourselves and our families first. Are we craving for the transient things of the world, we and our children? This is a question that we would be wise to ask in this world of today. The world is moving onward to the great rebellion which eventually will bring the judgements of God declared in the Book of Revelation. Read about this carefully. What is coming to the world in our generation is very similar to the woes that fell on Egypt. Despite what the Children of Israel witnessed when the ten plagues fell on the Egyptians, they still craved the luxuries of Egypt rather than the presence of God on their wilderness journey. Ancient history though this may be, it is very relevant for the present time and more so as the last days draw even nearer, with the antichrist system rising. We will witness much shaking of the ungodly systems of the world.