“MA’TOVU: How Lovely Are Your Tents Oh Israel?” By Ariel Ehrmantrout
This Weeks Torah Portion is Balak: The Destroyer
Numbers 22:2 through Numbers 25:9
Haftarah Micah 5:6-6:8
Priesthood Instructions: Hebrews 7-14
“MA’TOVU: How Lovely Are Your Tents Oh Israel?”
Numbers 24:1-19″1 Now when Balaam saw that it pleased the LORD to bless Israel, he did not resort to sorcery as at other times, but turned his face toward the desert. 2 When Balaam looked out and saw Israel encamped tribe by tribe, the Spirit of God came upon him 3 and he uttered his oracle: “The oracle of Balaam son of Beor, the oracle of one whose eye sees clearly, 4 the oracle of one who hears the words of God, who sees a vision from the Almighty, who falls prostrate, and whose eyes are opened: 5 “How beautiful are your tents, O Jacob, your dwelling places, O Israel! 6 “Like valleys they spread out, like gardens beside a river, like aloes planted by the LORD, like cedars beside the waters. 7 Water will flow from their buckets; their seed will have abundant water. “Their king will be greater than Agag; their kingdom will be exalted. 8 “God brought them out of Egypt; they have the strength of a wild ox. They devour hostile nations and break their bones in pieces; with their arrows they pierce them. 9 Like a lion they crouch and lie down, like a lioness—who dares to rouse them? “May those who bless you be blessed and those who curse you be cursed!” 10 Then Balak’s anger burned against Balaam. He struck his hands together and said to him, “I summoned you to curse my enemies, but you have blessed them these three times. 11 Now leave at once and go home! I said I would reward you handsomely, but the LORD has kept you from being rewarded.” 12 Balaam answered Balak, “Did I not tell the messengers you sent me, 13 ‘Even if Balak gave me his palace filled with silver and gold, I could not do anything of my own accord, good or bad, to go beyond the command of the LORD -and I must say only what the LORD says’? 14 Now I am going back to my people, but come, let me warn you of what this people will do to your people in days to come.” 15 Then he uttered his oracle: “The oracle of Balaam son of Beor, the oracle of one whose eye sees clearly, 16 the oracle of one who hears the words of God, who has knowledge from the Most High, who sees a vision from the Almighty, who falls prostrate, and whose eyes are opened:
17 “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel. He will crush the foreheads of Moab, the skulls of all the sons of Sheth. 18 Edom will be conquered; Seir, his enemy, will be conquered, but Israel will grow strong. 19 A ruler will come out of Jacob and destroy the survivors of the city.”
1. This week’s portion is called Balak which is the Hebrew word for “Destroyer.” In this portion we find the famous story of the talking donkey that warns the prophet of his madness. In this portion we see that the children of Israel are on the move. They have begun moving toward the Promised Land. Even with all the turmoil that has been going on the last several weeks: Like their complaining about the Manna, Korach and the 250 rebellious leaders who rose up against Moses–and people in general whining and complaining about the blessings of God, we see that God in His faithfulness is moving them ever closer to the promised land that he swore on an oath to give them.
A. In this portion we find the children of Israel are camped across from Jericho, along the Jordan River by the plains of Moab. This is a large camp that in last weeks portion totally destroyed two regional powerhouse governments. God had given the children of Israel victory over the King of Sihon and the King of Og, and they were occupying the land, and living in the spoils of their military victories which God had provided them. This news was spreading fast and the King of Moab, a smaller and less powerful kingdom, is eying this advancing army with fear and trepidation.
B. This portion is an interesting example in contrast. In this portion we are going to discuss the difference between someone who is jealous for the Lords vision and someone who uses the trappings of religion to get what they want. We are going to learn how to please God in a mighty and powerful way versus pleasing man and walking in fear. God has given us his Torah, as a standard operating procedural manual for the abundant life that God wants us to walk in. We are going to see what kind of spirit makes God happy and pleases Him, and what kind of spirit makes God angry and how we can choose to be more like Yeshua in this world.
C. Now lets look at Numbers chapter 22 beginning in verse 7:
“The elders of Moab and Midian left taking with them the fee for divination, when they came to Balaam; they told him what Balak had said. Spend the night here, Balaam told them and I will bring you back the answer the Lord gives me. So the Moabite princes stayed with him. God came to Balaam and asked who are these men with you? Balaam said to God, Balak, Son of Zippor, King of Moab sent me this message: A people that has come out of Egypt covers the face of the land. Now come and put a curse on them for me. Perhaps then I will be able to fight them and drive them away. But God said to Balaam, Do NOT go with them. You must NOT put a curse on these people, because they are blessed. The next morning Balaam got up and said to Balak’s princes; Go back to your own country, for the Lord has refused to let me go with you.”
2. You see that Balak was the king of Moab, and he sent to Aram–which is where Abraham and Sarah were from– to call on the services of a hired gun. Balak, was not a believer in the power of the living God, but he was accustomed to paying a fee for certain blessings and cursing to be done on his behalf. In reality what we are seeing is the early use of witchcraft by the people who were in possession of the land of Canaan that God was moving in judgment against, and redeeming for the national homeland of Israel.
A. Balaam was obviously a well noted prophet in this region. The reason that people became known as seers and prophets at this time is that in times past he had spoken many things which had come to pass. In these days if a prophet spoke anything in the name of the Lord and it DID NOT come to pass, that prophet was taken out and stoned to death. These people were both feared and revered by the people living outside of the camp of God. You will note that Balak, had asked Balaam to come and to put a curse on the children of Israel so that he could possibly have victory over them in battle.
B. Balak was a man accustomed to fear. He is a representation of the demonic spirits that seek to stop you from entering into the promised land of your own lives as God has called you and spoken as a guarantee over your life. You see Balak was operating in a half truth. He was operating under a spirit of fear. Fear is the opposite of faith and we are going to see what happens we operate in his spirit of fear.
C. Beloved, fear is the opposite anointing of faith. Faith is a motivator that makes us move out and go forward in the anointing and fear is something that makes us look back and causes us to walk under the constant threat of punishment. So many of us walk in a constant state of fear, and we never seem to move beyond the wilderness experiences of our lives. Fear is as motivating as faith is. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God, and fear comes by hearing as well, and hearing the voice of the Destroyer in our lives. Faith is based on what God can do, where as fear is based on what you think God cannot do.
D. Now many of us here today are not going to be willing to admit it, but there are issues of fear that have kept us from moving out under the anointing that God has called us to. God has made you promise after promise and given you the Torah as the instruction manual for living in the abundance that God wishes you to live in, yet so many of us never move forward to take possession of the promises that God has made. Fear is a demonic spirit at the root of all of this. When we are fully submitted to God and move out under his anointing then we see that God has already given us the victory. The Bible says, in Joshua 1:3:
“I will give you every place your foot will tread as I have promised Moses.”
3. You see beloved God is not a respecter of persons and He did not do something for the Israelite of old that He will not do for you. If you are in covenant with your God then the Spirit of the Living God dwells within you. When you go somewhere then it is because the God has ordered you to be there. In Proverbs the scripture states that Man makes his plans but God orders his steps. So if you are there and you are in covenant with the Living God through the blood of Yeshua, then you are there to bring deliverance on to the scene. You see it in this portion; for the last several weeks we have been looking at how the Israelites and the Gentiles that were with them were living. They have been rising up against their leaders, complaining against every blessing in their lives and whining about almost everything. They were not living as perfect people in the earth. So we see clearly that Gods promises are based in HIS grace and mercy and not in our absolute perfect obedience. In your flesh you cannot do anything good. In fact the Bible says that our righteousness is as of filthy rags to the Lord. You see beloved they were chosen, and they were walking under the blessings of being chosen–NOT on making right choices.
A. Yet so many of us step in to situation after situation and never even consider that God may be sending us there for a reason–to bring deliverance to the situation. What is that? It is the spirit of fear that wars in our flesh–it wars against our mind will and emotions, trying to get us to look at everything accept what God has said about our lives. There is a beautiful example of this in the book of Genesis. In Chapter 19 we see the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. In Chapter 19 and verse 17 the scripture says,
“As soon as they had brought them out, one of them said, ‘Flee for your lives and DON’T LOOK BACK and don’t stop anywhere in the plain! Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away.”
B. You see this was the command of the Angels of the Lord for they knew that God was about to reign down judgment on the land and people of this region for their sin. But look down in verse 26 which says “Lots wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt!”
C. Why in the world would she look back after she was specifically told that they would be saved, and not to look back?? God was leading them out by the hands of Angels and was saving them from this judgment, but she still looked back; why? Because a spirit of fear gripped her when she heard what was going on behind her. You see that Balak was controlled by fear. His fear drove him to divination–or witchcraft, and rebellion is the sin of witchcraft according to
1 Sam 15:23.
4. Yet so many of us live in rebellion to the commands of God and we end up looking back at the past things of our lives trying to find some bearing on what God is doing now. But Is 43:18 clearly indicates that we are not to live this way. It says,
“Forget the former things, do not dwell on the past. See I am doing a new thing; Now it springs up can you not perceive it?”
A. God has chosen you to be blessed from the foundation of the World. The Spirit of the living God lives in you and the tabernacle of God that once resided in the Mishkan–or “Tent of Meeting” lives in you. Do you not understand that you cannot make “enough” right choices?
The doctrine of “Right Choices” comes from modern day Psychology. Psychology is a Social Science, and as a science by its very nature, it seeks to prove that God does not exist. However, Science cannot prove anything, it is solely based on hypothesis…..a guess at best, and because science cannot support that God exists–they deny the possibility altogether–driven made by the alleged wisdom of the day. This is a lying spirit which tries to trap you with fear under the guise of science. The Hebrew word for “spirit” is the same word we derive the word “thought” and is the word RUACH. We somehow believe that we can make right choices, but Yeshua had to come and die because we were incapable of keeping the Torah in our flesh. In other words we could not just “choose” to live right. We needed Gods deliverance and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to allow us to apply the Torah to our lives so that we can now walk in victory. If you are crucified with Christ, then YOU stopped living and Yeshua lives in you. That means the Torah of the living God is on your insides and you are blessed because of it. The scripture says in Psalms 32:2
“Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him and in whose spirit there is no guile.”
B. So beloved, being blessed means that that you are walking in the same covenantal blessing that the children of Israel were walking in this portion. They were by no means perfect. But Gods promise is what was at the heart of the matter. You see God has called each of you to go forth and take possession of the promised land, but so many of us either fail to walk in it because of accepting the lies of a spirit of fear–or we invoke the Spirit of Balaam: which is the spirit of religion.
C. Balaam looked like a man of God, but was he really? Both Balaam and Balak shared one thing in common–a shared ancestry; both were descendants of Lot. Lot you will remember was a man who differed from his uncle Abraham the man of FAITH. Lot was a man of COMPROMISE. Yes he attempted to live like Abraham had shown him, but deep down the commitment was Abraham’s and not Lots–thus Lot always ended up among the cities of the nations. Just like our Jewish culture today. We have Abraham as our Father–but we refuse to do what Abraham did to be spiritually successful. We don’t want to give it all up–give up the movies–give up the dirty jokes–give up the covetousness __YET__we still want to see the fruits of Abraham’s relationship to God. You cannot have them both; a friend of the ways of the Nations is NO friend of God and a Friend of God is no associate of the pagans and their religious traditions. Abraham would take NOTHING from the nations–not even when his beloved Sarah died….but Lot and his Descendants could not get enough of the Nations and their ways. One way of life makes you sit down AMONG THE NATIONS and the other SEPARATES YOU FROM THE NATIONS where the MA TOVU blessing is ours in abundance –meaning “HOW LOVELY ARE TENTS OH JACOB–AND YOUR DWELLING PLACES OH ISRAEL. One results in descendants that are like Balak–and Balaam–the other leads us to Messiah in you–which is the hope of glory.
5. Now re-examining Balaam–If you will remember, God told Balaam not to go with the Princes of Moab, yet he still went. In fact he almost got killed on his way accept for the valiant efforts of his talking donkey–he would have surely died. Because religion kills, and the reason it kills is it is based in fear. The bible says that fear, comes from fear of being punished. What is it you are afraid of being punished for? God wants you to succeed! He wants you to take the land–so what are you in fear about? What makes you cling on to the ways of the pagans–and not to the ways of Israel?
A. We are allowing in the spirit of fear because we do not trust God and have faith in what He said he would do. So many of us stepped out in presumption at some point in our lives and we thought we were standing in the right place, when we were really just doing what Balaam is doing–stepping out in religion, and we fell right on our faces. This was not Gods fault; Gods word NEVER returns to Him void, and the gifts and callings of God are without repentance. So just like religious Balaam, we step out thinking we are moving in God and we find ourselves violating the word. God will not bless you if you are violating his commands! Yeshua said if you love me you will KEEP my commands–this means DO WHAT HE SAYS. It means stepping out of the boat and moving out in faith realizing that God has already won the war for your life–for your own personal exodus from Egypt and entrance into Israel.
B. You cannot be killed; and if you are being of NO reputation, making yourself a servant to all then you will not end up like unrighteous Balaam. You need to know that you are the righteousness of God in Messiah Yeshua. You are! You are the head and not the tail–the first and not the last, you are healed and delivered and God has you here to do something for Him; it is your destiny. God may have removed those people from your life because they were going to keep pulling you down. God did the pruning! They did not fit what He was doing with your life. God is working miracles on your behalf and bringing you into a land flowing with milk and honey. Honey represents the Holy Spirit–the “Ruach” HaKodesh–or Holiness of thought.
God did not give you a spirit of fear, but of power love and a sound mind in Messiah Yeshua as the word says in 2 Timothy 1:7.
C. Now in contrast to the “religious” spirit of Balaam and the spirit of fear exemplified by Balak; let us look at a spirit zealous for the Lord. In Numbers 25 we see that the Moabite women began entering into sexual relations with the Israelite men. This is why God did not want them around His chosen people. Have you ever wondered why though? WHY didn’t God want the Moabites around the Israelites? Because you see each adulterous–is a type and shadow of an area of compromise in our lives–a place where we “bed down” with an abomination to our God. Adultery is not solely based in physical attributes–but it ALWAYS produces the same end–Death. The greatest Presidents, Athletes, Explorers and Teachers–have all been laid waste by an adulterous Moabite. They are types and shadows of the movies we watch that we ought not to watch–or the music we listen to that we ought not to listen to–or the beer people drink -the drugs they use…..the lies the tell their bosses and spouses and alike. THESE ARE THE THINGS THAT STEAL YOUR BLESSING–the spiritual Moabites that ROB YOU OF YOUR POWER AND YOUR BLESSING. It was the same for the Israelites in this encounter with the Moabites.
D. The carnal lust got so bad that an Israelite man stood right in front of the Mishkan-Tent of Meeting where Gods Spirit was and took a Moabite woman to go have sex with her. In verse 6 the Torah says, “Then an Israelite man brought to his family a Moabite woman right before the eyes of Moses and the whole assembly of Israel while they were weeping at the entrance of the tent of meeting. When Phinehas son of Eleazar the Son of Aaron the priest saw this He left the assembly took the spear in his hand and followed the Israelite to his tent. He drove the spear through both of them–through the Israelite and into the woman’s body. Then the plague against Israel stopped; but those who died in the plague were 24000.” Now this makes us all cringe–and it should–but the Holy One–blessed be He–lives inside of you; thus is it not committing the same thing when we watch movies that have needless sexual sequences? Is it not the same when we covet, or lust, or compromise in some other way? It is indeed–the same horrible act.
6. You see Pinchus [Phineas] could have been afraid–he could have stood by hoping that someone else would have done something to stop this terrible sinning against God and stop this outbreak of plague. He could have cast a witchcraft spell through some religious spirit like that of Balaam; but he did not. God had already trained him and he knew that “without the shedding of blood there would be no forgiveness for sin.” He went and took the authority over the situation and stopped the plague of sin from spreading one bit farther.
A. God wants us to be like Pinchus [Phineas] in our Spirit–in our inner man or woman. He desires that we not be timid-fearful and always looking at the possible disasters waiting to happen. Spirits of fear will try to always make you look at the possibility of something bad happening so that you will act out of a religious spirit like Balaam and try to curse what God has blessed, or they will try to get you to into rebellion with your mouth against what God has said. Gods word is true and can be trusted. God is righteous and moving forward towards bringing to him a bride without spot or wrinkle.
B. What is it that God has called you to do–where has he sent you to stand? Is it here with us or is it South America? Has he called you to start a homeless ministry here–or a prison letter writing outreach here? Has He called you to STAND FIRM with those who are called and simply serve–which is the hardest of all the callings–What is it that he has anointed you to do? Stop listening to the Balak’s that are lying to you–the sprits of fear. Don’t rely on religious affiliation to take care of these things for you like Balaam. God did not call the Charismatic’s to do all the prison ministry and the Messianics’ to do all the street outreach and the Reform to do all the soup kitchens. NO God is calling you. He has anointed you and every where your foot shall tread belongs to you. Stop thinking you first have to make all the right choices. You are chosen and His calling is sure and certain. He who started a good work in you will complete it to day of salvation in Messiah Yeshua. God said that Love drives out ALL fear. There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out all fear; because fear has to do with punishment and the one who fears is not made perfect in love. Obedience is Loves proof text for the world to witness and testify of.
C. Love God with all you heart and all your soul and all your strength, and love your neighbor as yourself and you will be doing all the commands of Torah and love can be perfected in you. Repent of your sins that open the door to fear and be strong in the Lord and the power of His might. He has given you the land, it is time for you to get up and be active for the Gospel of Messiah! We haven’t been given a spirit of fear, but we have received the Holy Spirit which is the fullness of God. You can do what he has laid on your heart to do. Be encouraged and get out of the boat–Kepha [Peter] stepped out of the boat because he kept his eyes upon Yeshua–and did not sink until he looked around and became fearful. God has given you the land beloved, go forth and take it for our Messiah! Be willing to drive a stake into the heart of the SIN and COMPROMISE which so easily sets us aside–for then and only then will the plague stop that has broken out against us.
D. In the portion Balaam tries hard to curse what God has blessed and in so doing he ends up prophesying of the Messiah as a “Lion crouching down–a lioness who dares to rouse her. This is a prophecy of us-the reborn Jewish people-we are the Lion crouching down–and the lioness if we are roused. The Messiah King is coming to rule and reign from with each of us if we will only stop being a world lover like lot and his descendants and become a God pleaser like Abraham….only you know the condition of your own heart today? Shabbat Shalom.
©2010 Ariel Ehrmantrout — All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
This Weeks Haftarah: Micah 5:8 – 6: 8
Today’s Haftarah Message: “What Pleases GOD?”
Today’s reading Micah 6:6 – 8 “6 With what shall I come before the LORD and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? 7 Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? 8 He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
Have you ever asked the question – What pleases God? This is a question that every “believer” of every religion has asked themselves since the beginning. In this week’s Torah portion, even Balaam saw what pleased God when he was proclaiming the Blessings over the nation of Israel. I believe this week’s Haftarah reading clearly answers that question.
First, we act Justly. We do this by acting fairly or morally right – according to the TORAH. We do not show partiality, or deny justice to the poor.
Leviticus 19:15 says “Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.”
Exodus 23:6 says “Do not deny justice to your poor people in their lawsuits.”
Second, we love Mercy. God’s Mercy is new every morning, and so we should show mercy to others.
Zechariah 7:9 says ““This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. ”
Third, we Walk Humbly with GOD. There is only one way to walk with GOD – and that is walking according to HIS TORAH – the instruction manual for a successful life. This is true faithfulness – steadfast obedience to the TORAH.
Deuteronomy 8:6 says “Observe the commands of the LORD your God, walking in his ways and revering him.”
Rabbi Y’Shua recounted this section in speaking to his colleagues in Matthew.
Matthew 23:23 says ““Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.”
GOD himself says, in Micah and in Matthew, that the important matters of the TORAH are Justice, Mercy, and Faithfulness – or Walking in GOD’s WAYS. GOD does not change. We need to ask ourselves – Do we act JUSTLY? Do we show MERCY? Do we walk HUMBLY WITH GOD in HIS WAYS – HIS TORAH?
Rabbi Shaun Sailor
[5th Year Torah Student and Student Rabbi Shaun S. Sailor appears the courtesy of Temple Ahavah Torah Training Center. If you enjoy Reb Sailor’s Haftarah commentary each week, take a moment and jot him and encouraging note at email@example.com ]