Messianic Torah Portion Ki Tisa – ‘When you take’ (Exodus 30:11-34:35). This weeks Torah Portion commentary is written by Rick Spurlock.
Rumination #21: Light is not the absence of darkness – likewise righteousness is not merely the absence of sin. Righteousness is active, not passive.
In the theologies that maintain a wide separation between the righteous and righteousness, there is considerable confusion as to the responsibilities of the righteous. A question to ask an adherent of such a theology might be, “Because I am declared to be righteous, and because whatever righteousness I have is imputed to me, are you saying that I am not ‘obligated’ to live a righteous life?” Of course, they would immediately backtrack and declare the righteous must become more “sanctified” over time – which is simply a theological construct to distance the righteous from righteousness, and yet somehow maintain the standard that we must not continue in sin (Romans 6:1). What a confusing mess such theologies have foisted upon unsuspecting congregants, and what a mess they have made as they struggle to be able to even define sin in a way that negates the “Law of Moses” (to their liking) and yet still allows them to pretend to care about the righteous standard of HaShem. In other words, it is theological gobbly-gook that cannot stand the test of logic, much less the support of the Scriptures.
How much better to simply allow the Scriptures to teach us that although we believers are reckoned as righteous (imputed righteousness), we must still live out that righteousness in day-to-day living. Righteousness is not only about rejecting sin – it is about simple obedience; and of course, we cannot obey if we do not know HaShem’s righteous standard, which is the Torah. Such simple obedience is positive and proactive. It emanates from the righteous, like light. It comes from the real thing that sanctifies the righteous, the real thing that sets us apart from the world: the commandments of the Almighty, and our faithfully obeying Him.
You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may seeyour good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
The lamp is the mizvah [the Commandment], the light is the Torah(Proverbs 6:23). Let the Torah shine – live it out!
Parashat Ki Tisa – ‘When you take’ (Exodus 30:11-34:35)
The title for this week’s Scripture portion comes from the second verse:
Ki tisa et-rosh benei-Yisra’el lifkudeihem venatnu ish kofer nafsho la’HaShem bifkod otam velo-yihye vahem negef bifkod otam.
When you take the census of the children of Israel for their number, then every man shall give a ransom for himself to HaShem, when you number them, that there may be no plague among them when you number them.
What is it speaking of when it says, “When you take“? We learn that the focus of this verse is the half-shekel for the service of the Tabernacle – but that is not what is taken. What is being referred to is the census. The word for “census” is rosh, or “head.” It is speaking of a “head count.” It is something that happens every ten years by constitutional mandate in the United States. It is something that happens every Sunday in churches across the country. But beloved, there is a right way, and a wrong way to take a “census.” The wrong way leads to a “plague among them when you number them.”
One key to understanding why there is a right and wrong way is found in the word “number” as in, “when you number them.” The word is b’p’kod [in numbering] from the root verb pakad. Pakad is where we get the word pikudim, or “precepts.” Pikudim point to our responsibilities to HaShem our Master. Doing His pikudim is our duty as His people. But the only One Who has right to declare our duty to our Maker, is our Maker alone. Israel was not Moses’ army. As believers, we are not the army of any leader other than our Master Yeshua. Taking a “census” and a “numbering” of a people can lead to problems if it is not done correctly. Remember King David? There is an important connection between this week’s portion and the account when David took a census… the wrong way.
So the king [David] said to Joab the commander of the army who was with him, “Now go throughout all the tribes of Israel, from Dan to Beersheba, and count the people, that I may know the number of the people.” And Joab said to the king, “Now may HaShem your G-d add to the people a hundred times more than there are, and may the eyes of my lord the king see it. But why does my lord the king desire this thing?”
David should have listened to Joab in this case. Sadly, he realized it too late.
And David’s heart condemned him after he had numbered the people. So David said to HaShem, “Ihave sinned greatly in what I have done; but now, I pray, O L-rd, take away the iniquity of Your servant, for I have done very foolishly.”
Now when David arose in the morning, the word of HaShem came to the prophet Gad, David’s seer, saying, “Go and tell David, ‘Thus says HaShem: “I offer you three things; choose one of them for yourself, that I may do it to you.”‘” So Gad came to David and told him; and he said to him, “Shall seven years of famine come to you in your land? Or shall you flee three months before your enemies, while they pursue you? Or shall there be three days’ plague in your land? Now consider and see what answer I should take back to Him who sent me.” And David said to Gad, “I am in great distress. Please let us fall into the hand of HaShem, for His mercies are great; but do not let me fall into the hand of man.”
So HaShem sent a plague upon Israel from the morning till the appointed time. From Dan to Beersheba seventy thousand men of the people died. And when the angel stretched out His hand over Jerusalem to destroy it, HaShem relented from the destruction, and said to the angel who was destroying the people, “It is enough; now restrain your hand.” And the angel of HaShem was by the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. Then David spoke to HaShem when he saw the angel who was striking the people, and said, “Surely I have sinned, and I have done wickedly; but these sheep, what have they done? Let Your hand, I pray, be against me and against my father’s house.”
And Gad came that day to David and said to him, “Go up, erect an altar to HaShem on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite/” So David, according to the word of Gad, went up as HaShem commanded.
What stopped the plague in King David’s day? An altar erected on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. It was the same threshing floor that King David purchased – and his son Solomon later erected the Temple upon. It was the same place where HaShem declared that His Name would always be there (2Chronicles 7:12-16). It was the Temple Mount.
So what is it about the half-shekel “ransom” for each Israelite that kept the plague that comes from a census at bay? Beloved, I believe it is simply a question to Whom the people belong. Again, there is G-d’s way, or the world’s way. The way to “number” the people was to have them bring a half-shekel. Everyone twenty years and older was to bring this as an offering, and that offering would provide a covering for them to protect them from the plague that comes from a census. Notice that it is not “each one give as he has purposed in his own heart” – it is everyone twenty years and older. All were to give the same amount. The same for the poor and the wealthy. Why this way? Because when the leaders went to count the half-shekels, although they would have an accurate count of the people, they would then use the half-shekels for the Tabernacle (and later the Temple). It was clear: these were G-d’s people, His army.
Notice the difference in the common “numbering” (i.e. fund raising) found today, and throughout our sad history. Men number their congregations often to discover their influence, and to plan their programs and their buildings. It is often their plans and their vision that dictates the way of accounting. In this manner, like King David, they have taken the place of the Almighty. The people are not theirs, they are HaShem’s. There is a plague that has swept across our nation – and it continues to take its toll.
Remember, there is G-d’s way, and man’s way.
This week’s portion shows us in graphic terms the difference between G-d’s way, and man’s way. This portion contains the both the sin of the Golden Calf, and the true revelation of the character of G-d. In the case of the sin of the Golden Calf, if one reads the text carefully, you can see that the people were not attempting, in their minds, to worship a god other than HaShem. The sin was in worshipping HaShem in a forbidden way – and defining HaShem in ways that He has not. The people actually bowed to the Golden Calf and called it (heaven forbid) by HaShem’s most Holy Name.
There is G-d’s way, and man’s way.
G-d’s way is that He may only be worshipped as He has defined. We are not free to “find what works for us” – it is His way, or it is an abomination.
As Moses ascends the mountain for a second time, after the sin of the Golden Calf, we are given a glimpse into the very character of the Almighty. There on the mountain, the King of the Universe declared His Name to Moses. He revealed Himself.
Now HaShem descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the Name of HaShem. And HaShem passed before him and proclaimed, “HaShem, HaShem G-d, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.” So Moses made haste and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshiped.
In Exodus 34:5-8, G-d proclaims His Name to Moses, by describing Himself. Beloved, this is the One True G-d, the G-d of Abraham, the G-d of Isaac, and the G-d of Jacob. He and no other – no matter what one might call “G-d.”
The Thirteen Attributes of HaShem are significant, so let’s look at them in the traditional enumeration:
- HaShem [a Yod, a Hay, a Vav, and a Hay]: emphasis upon covenant-keeping and mercy.
- HaShem: repeated, He is unchanging.
- G-d [Ek]: Divinely merciful.
- Compassionate [Rachum]: As a mother is to her infant.
- Gracious [Chanun]: Shows favor to the undeserving.
- Slow to Anger [Erek Apayim]: Waits for sinners to repent.
- Abounding in Loving-kindness [Rav Chesed]: Covenant faithfulness.
- Truth [Emet]: Not capricious or varying.
- Keeps Lovingkindness for thousands [Notzeir Chesed L’Alafim]: Covenant devotion.
- Forgives Iniquity [Nosei Chata’ah]: Bears intentional sin.
- Forgives Transgression [Nosei Pesha]: Bears rebellious sin.
- Forgives Sin [Nosei Chata’ah]: Bears inadvertent sin.
- Who Cleanses [Nakeh]: He cleanses sin.
There is G-d’s way, and man’s way. Man’s way is to follow good business practices in marketing and running a “church.” G-d’s way makes shows us that the people are His.
Man’s way is to construct his own god, and to put religious trappings and the name of the “G-d of the Bible” to it. But it is still just a Golden Calf.
There is man’s way and G-d’s way. Let’s stay on the path. G-d’s way is the only way for us.
Haftarat Ki Tisa – ‘When you take’ (1Kings 18:1-39)
Beloved, pay attention to this week’s Torah and haftarah reading because within them is the nature of idolatry, and it is this: ascribing the Name and character of the Holy One, blessed is He, to something other than Him. It is easy to make the connection between modern materialism and idolatry, and if that is as far as you go in staying away from idolatry, you will remain idolatrous. No, it is not materialism alone we should combat. It is about not knowing G-d, and thereby making our own god, one in the image that we consider. That is idolatry. That makes us all idolatrous to one degree or another.
The connection between this week’s Torah portion and the haftarah is the subject of idolatry. The Golden Calf of Exodus becomes “Ba’al” of 1Kings 18. With Ba’al [L-rd], once again we take a word that applies to our Master, the King of the Universe, and applied it to something other than Him. No one is “L-rd,” but our G-d! So take the comments about “Allah is just Arabic for god'” or any idolatrous analogy and set it aside. There is only One – and He is the G-d of Abraham, the G-d of Isaac, and the G-d of Jacob. He is G-d of Israel.Beside Him, there is no god. If the Mormons’ G-d is not the G-d of Israel, then they worship a false god. If the Baptists’ G-d is not the G-d of Israel, then they worship a false god. If the Catholics’ G-d is not the G-d of Israel, then the Catholics worship a false god. If the Presbyterians’ G-d is not the G-d of Israel, then the Presbyterian worships a false god. You cannot take the G-d of Israel and leave out His People, Israel. Anti-Semitism is anti-G-d. Apart from Israel, there is no salvation.
Some reading schedules will have this week’s haftarah listed as 1Kings 18:20-39, because that is where the meat of the idolatry begins (pardon the pun).
So Ahab sent for all the children of Israel, and gathered the prophets together on Mount Carmel. And Elijah came to all the people, and said, “How long will you falter between two opinions? If HaShem is G-d, follow Him; but if Ba’al, follow him.” But the people answered him not a word.
Once again, to our shame, we showed our lack of faith. We had chosen the wrong god.
Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come near to me.” So all the people came near to him. And he repaired the altar of HaShem that was broken down. And Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of HaShem had come, saying, “Israel shall be your name.” Then with the stones he built an altar in the name of HaShem; and he made a trench around the altar large enough to hold two seahs of seed. And he put the wood in order, cut the bull in pieces, and laid it on the wood, and said, “Fill four waterpots with water, and pour it on the burnt sacrifice and on the wood.” Then he said, “Do it a second time,” and they did it a second time; and he said, “Do it a third time,” and they did it a third time. So the water ran all around the altar; and he also filled the trench with water. And it came to pass, at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near and said, “HaShem G-d of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that You are G-d in Israel and I am Your servant, and that I have done all these things at Your word. Hear me, O HaShem, hear me, that this peoplemay know that You are HaShem G-d, and that You have turned their hearts back to You again.” Then the fire of HaShem fell and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood and the stones and the dust, and it licked up the water that was in the trench. Now when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, “HaShem, He is G-d! HaShem, He is G-d.”
What was the difference between their worship of Ba’al and HaShem? What caused them to abandon Ba’al? It was not merely the fact that fire came down from heaven in a miraculous sign. No, what made the difference beloved is this, “that this people may know that You are HaShem G-d, and that You have turned their hearts back to You again.” Beloved, only the work of the Living G-d can bring us to repentance for our idolatry. Only He can turn our hearts to Him so that we can see Him for Who He is, instead of our own manufactured god.
Beloved, only the Spirit of the Living G-d can enlighten our hearts to know Him. We must turn to His Word as the revelation of Who He is. It should not come from your Rabbi, or your Pastor. They cannot teach you Who He really is. It was not Elijah who revealed G-d to us on Mount Carmel – it was HaShem Himself. You must pick up His Word and have it transform your mind, to be written on your heart. You must read, and do. Only then will you abandon your Ba’al. Only then will you turn your back on your Golden Calf. Beloved, He is not G-d of our own making. He is Creator, not created.
Fall on your face and say, “HaShem, He is G-d! HaShem, He is G-d.”
Prayer Focus for Ki Tisa – ‘Ma Tovu’ – [How Goodly]
Part of Shacharit [the morning service] each day is “Ma Tovu.” It is an ancient prayer from Numbers 24:5. We know that what sets us apart from all the idolatrous people around us is not our own merit, but the fact that the Almighty has chosen us, and has made His dwelling among us – even in us. Jerusalem is the Place where His glory resides. It is the Place of His Name, the Place of our King Messiah’s throne. We sing this prayer as we assemble for prayer each day.
How goodly are your tents, O Jacob, your dwelling places, O Israel. As for me, through Your abundant kindness I will enter Your House; I will prostrate myself toward Your Holy Sanctuary in awe of You. O HaShem, I love the House where You dwell, and the place where Your glory resides. I shall prostrate myself and bow, I shall kneel before HaShem my Maker. As for me, may my prayer to You, HaShem, be at an opportune time; O G-d, in Your abundant kindness, answer me with the truth of Your salvation.
— ArtScroll Translation
Standing in Prayer with all Israel,