For the week of May 1, 2010 / 17 Iyar 5770
Torah: Vayikra / Leviticus 21:1 - 24:23
Haftarah: Ezekiel 44:15-31
Waiting for Clarity
Now an Israelite woman's son, whose father was an Egyptian, went out among the people of Israel. And the Israelite woman's son and a man of Israel fought in the camp, and the Israelite woman's son blasphemed the Name, and cursed. Then they brought him to Moses. His mother's name was Shelomith, the daughter of Dibri, of the tribe of Dan. And they put him in custody, till the will of the LORD should be clear to them. (Vayikra / Leviticus 24:10-12; ESV)
There are two important areas of life that this portion of the Torah speaks to: one specific, one general. The specific area of life has to do with establishing a godly justice system. In this instance the community knew that the blasphemer did something worthy of punishment, but was not clear about what it should be. Instead of thrashing out at him based on their assumptions, they put him in custody "till the will of the LORD should be clear to them." Once they received clear direction from God, they enacted justice. I don't know enough about the history of law to say that this is where Western Civilization got the idea of holding a suspect in custody before determining his guilt, but it is likely it did. This allows for protection of the suspect and a rational, clear-headed determination of guilt.
This is a specific application of a more general principle of life, which is when God's will is not clear, we need to patiently wait until it is, before we act. It is not only in justice situations that we know we need to do something, but are unclear as to exactly what that something is. Too often we assume we know what is best in a situation, when we haven't given enough time to seek God for clarification.
Joshua, Moses' successor, brought Israel into an ungodly alliance with another nation, because he didn't wait for clarification from God (see Joshua 9:1-27). When David attempted to bring the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem, a man died because they neglected to follow God's instructions regarding how to transport it (1 Divrei Hayyamim / Chronicles 13:1-14; 15:1,2). Relying on God in this way was one of the prime lessons that God wanted to teach the people of Israel in leading them through the wilderness (see Devarim / Deuteronomy 8:3). And the Messiah himself said, "But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you" (Matthew 6:33; ESV). Unless we consider God and his ways first in everything, we will find ourselves going about life the wrong way. This is what Solomon was referring to when he wrote, "Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths" (Mishlei / Proverbs 3:5,6; ESV).
I am concerned that many followers of the Messiah assume that they do this, but don't. Either we assume we know God's mind on things or we don't realize that he has something to say about it. We tend not to be aware of how we can be driven more by tradition, peer pressure, and personal desire than God's Word. This would explain why there often appears to be little distinction between those who profess to follow the Messiah and the general population.
In the incident we read about at the beginning, the people were faced with a situation where they had not yet received clear direction from God. So they waited on him for clarity. In that case they didn't know what to do, so they didn't take action until they knew. That's a great example for us to follow. It's best to wait on God when we don't have clarity. But what about when we realize that we have already done the wrong thing? That was the case with David and the Ark. Yet he and the people had the humility to accept what they had failed to do and adjusted their course of action for their second attempt, which was successful. Whether we failed to be attentive to God in the last minute or generations ago, it is not too late to seek clarity and to do things God's way.
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