The Strife Filled Waters Of Obedience

The Torah reading of Hukat (Numbers 19:1 – 221:1)

has many levels of Torah knowledge that are relevant to our daily walk. One of the most significant understandings comes from the section of the portion that includes Numbers 19:17-20:7. It is in this section that HaShem defines His desire that Israel become a sanctified and set apart people. A lesson that is extremely important to this generation, when there are so many influences that demand our time and keep us from living a Holy lifestyle.

Living Holy is not just a desire of HaShem. It is a command. Numbers 19 clearly lays out HaShem’s desire for Israel to be pure. Here the Lord explains to Israel the remedy for becoming unclean for the dead. For instance, this passage from Numbers 19:16-17 clearly states that when anyone comes into contact with the dead they are rendered unclean.  “And whosoever toucheth one that is slain with a sword in the open fields, or a dead body, or a bone of a man, or a grave, shall be unclean seven days. And for an unclean person they shall take of the ashes of the burnt heifer of purification for sin, and running water shall be put thereto in a vessel.”

In this instance, the consequence of being unclean is that the offender was to be cut off from HaShem and from the rest of Israel. This was no small punishment. It meant permanent disassociation from family, friends, and HaShem. The repercussions of uncleanness for the dead reveal to us the importance of being Holy to the Lord. However, in His infinite mercy HaShem provided a remedy for this type of uncleanness. 

The only accepted remedy to reestablish Holiness was the sprinkling of water that contains the ashes of the red heifer. As stated in Numbers 19:20 those not sprinkled would be permanently cut off >“But the man that shall be unclean, and shall not purify himself, that soul shall be cut off from among the congregation, because he hath defiled the sanctuary of the LORD: the water of separation hath not been sprinkled upon him; he is unclean”. Though, as scripture verifies, what HaShem considers crucial mankind often neglects to see as important.

Interestingly enough, soon after HaShem provided the remedy for uncleanness for the dead there was a death. As scripture states, “Then came the children of Israel, even the whole congregation, into the desert of Zin in the first month: and the people abode in Kadesh; and Miriam died there, and was buried there.” (Numbers 20:1). Since Miriam was a crucial member of the congregation and a spiritual leader the whole assembly would have mourned her passing. In the process of mourning, many of the assembly would have touched her, would have been in her presence, and would have been with her when she died. Suddenly, on the event of this one death, the entire assembly of Israel is in danger of becoming unclean. The consequences for this would be permanent disassociation from God and Israel. However, in his wisdom HaShem had already provided the remedy.

The remedy for this type uncleanness, as scripture states, demanded Israel take running water and the ashes of the red heifer. And for an unclean person they shall take of the ashes of the burnt heifer of purification for sin, and running water shall be put thereto in a vessel.” However, in the desert of Zin, where Miriam died, there was no water for purification. Since no water could be found in the desert of Zin, according the Torah all Israel was in danger of being cut off. >“But the man that shall be unclean, and shall not purify himself, that soul shall be cut off from among the congregation, because he hath defiled the sanctuary of the LORD: the water of separation hath not been sprinkled upon him; he is unclean”. (Num 19:20) HaShem’s desire for Israel to be Holy would now be put to a crucial test. Like all humans they were about to be faced with the choice of self-gratification, or walking in Holiness. Following after the weakness of the flesh the children of Israel demanded water for drinking, instead of water for purification.

It is tragic that Israel would rather be physically satisfied than spiritually purified. Don’t we all have this tendency? Instead of seeking to be cleansed we are more worried about the immediate situation. This is one reason HaShem was so disturbed when Moses struck the rock rather than speaking to the rock.

HaShem is to be considered Holy in all circumstances. So He demands those that approach him to be Holy also.  Israel and Moses struggled with their own nature; this is why the place was named Meribah (Waters of Strife).

As followers of Yeshua, it is imperative that we constantly seek to overcome our nature and stir up a desire to reflect HaShem’s holiness to the world. When we reflect His holiness we can be transformed into the image of Yeshua. Just as the Torah and Brit Hadasha confirm “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (Genesis 17:1, Mt 5:48) The healing of the world depends on our demonstration of HaShem’s holiness.