Pinchas - July 3, 2021

Torah Portion:
Pinchas - July 3, 2021

Torah: Numbers 25:10-30:1(29:40)
Haftarah: Jeremiah 1:1-2:3

Devotional by Matt Rosenberg:
Going Out and Coming In
“Then Adonai said to Moses, ‘Go up this mountain of the Abarim range and look at the land that I have given to Bnei-Yisrael. When you have seen it, you will be gathered to your people, just as Aaron your brother was gathered. For in the wilderness of Zin during the strife of the community, you both rebelled against My Word instead of honoring Me as holy at the waters before their eyes.’ (These were the waters of Meribah at Kadesh in the wilderness of Zin.)
Moses spoke to Adonai saying, ‘May Adonai, God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the community to go out and come in before them, who will lead them out and bring them out so that the people of Adonai will not be like sheep without a shepherd.’
Adonai said to Moses, ‘Take Joshua son of Nun, a man in whom is the Ruach, and lay your hand on him. You will have him stand before Eleazar the kohen and the entire assembly and commission him before their eyes. Give to him some of your authority so that the whole community of Bnei-Yisrael will obey him. He will stand before Eleazar the kohen, who will pray and obtain judgments for him by Urim and before Adonai. At his mouth, they will go out and at his mouth they will come in, he and all the community of Bnei-Yisrael with him.’
Moses did as Adonai commanded him. He took Joshua, stood him before Eleazar the kohen and all the entire assembly. Then he laid his hands on him and commissioned him just as Adonai had spoken, by Moses’ hand.” Numbers 27:12-23 (TLV)

What does it take to lead God’s people? According to this week’s Torah portion, Pinchas, you need to be a person “over the community to go out and come in before them, who will lead them out and bring them out so that the people of Adonai will not be like sheep without a shepherd.” But what does it mean to “go out and come in” or to “lead them out and bring them out?”

As Moses prepares to die, he asks the Lord to appoint Joshua as the leader over Israel. Joshua was known by the people of Israel as one who would “go out and come in” and who would “lead them out and bring them out” because they had seen him do it many times before! Exodus 33:11 says, “So Adonai spoke with Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend. Then he would return to the camp, but his servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, did not leave the Tent.” Joshua was the only one, as Moses’ assistant, to go into the tent of meeting with Moses. Even when Moses would leave the presence of the Lord, Joshua would stay. He would go in and stay in the presence of God. He would stay longer than Moses. This is why the Lord would tell Moses to lay his hands on Joshua and commission him as the leader of Israel. All while Moses prepared to “be gathered to your people.” When the Hebrew Scriptures speak of people gathered to their people, it is a reference to the faithful of Israel returning to the presence of God. So Moses prepares to be gathered to his final resting place while Joshua, who has learned from Moses what it means to go out and come in and lead people to go out and come in, assumes his new leadership role. It’s all connected to the tent of meeting. So many times, Israel saw Joshua follow Moses in and then come out after Moses. Now, as Moses prepares for his final “going out,” Joshua prepares to go out and come in without Moses, and the people receive him because it made perfect sense. Joshua was uniquely prepared to lead them like a shepherd leads his sheep.

In ancient Israel, the role of a shepherd was not to walk ahead of his sheep but to walk behind them. He carried two tools—a rod and a staff. The rod was a short stick with a ball at the end. The staff had a curve in it. The rod was used to correct with a whack and the staff to go around a sheep and turn it in another direction. It’s why Moses tells the Lord not to leave the people (sheep) without a shepherd. Leaders must be people who correct and help guide people back when they are walking in the wrong direction. One cannot use these two tools if you walk ahead of sheep. You have to walk behind them. You can see ahead but you walk behind to help steer them in the way they should go.

A shepherd can only lead sheep to go in and to come out of places they’ve already been. Worship leader Jason Upton says it this way in his song “Mountain to Valley”:

When I don't know what steps to take
When I don't know what moves to make
There's one thing I can't escape
Your love.
When I don't know what words to say
When I can't seem to find my way
There's one thing I can't escape
Your love.

You take me in
You lead me out
You take me in
You lead me out
You take me in
You lead me out
What a journey walking with You, God.

This is why our mission at Restoration is to lead people to become fully devoted followers of Yeshua. Yeshua is our Rabbi. We follow His teaching. We follow His instruction. We want to be like Him. Ultimately, He is the One that Moses spoke face to face with. He is the One that Joshua stays in the presence of in the tent of meeting. He is the One that faithful people are gathered to when we die. The presence of Yeshua is where the people of God are gathered, forever.

So, what does it take to lead God’s people? It starts with going out and coming into God’s presence regularly. Then taking someone else with you into His presence. It’s what Paul meant when he wrote, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Messiah.” We follow together as God takes us in and leads us out of His presence as we hope for the day that we will be gathered to our people.

For this reason, Moses says to Joshua, in Deuteronomy 31:7-8, “Be strong! Be courageous! For you are to go with this people into the land Adonai has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you are to enable them to inherit it. Adonai—He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you. He will not fail you or abandon you. Do not fear or be discouraged.”

Lord God,
Help us to be people that are often going in and out of Your presence and leading others in and out of Your presence. We need Your presence and we look forward to the day where we will be gathered there forever!
In Yeshua’s Name, amen.
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