Matot/Massei - מטות/מסעי - "Tribes/Journeys"
But if he pushed him suddenly without enmity, or hurled anything on him without lying in wait or used a stone that could cause death, and without seeing him dropped it on him, so that he died, though he was not his enemy and did not seek his harm, then the congregation shall judge between the manslayer and the avenger of blood, in accordance with these rules. And the congregation shall rescue the manslayer from the hand of the avenger of blood, and the congregation shall restore him to his city of refuge to which he had fled, and he shall live in it until the death of the high priest who was anointed with the holy oil. (Numbers 35:22-25)
In this week’s Torah portion we get a chance to get a better understanding of the type of government that God had in mind for Israel. Torah is the constitution of Israel given by God. The Levites were in charge of administering Torah and all spiritual matters to the people. The Levites are also responsible for ministering to God directly. Each tribe has a leader; the leaders handled smaller matters between the people in their respective tribes and also played the role of mediator between the people and the high Priest by relaying messages or taking action as needed. When certain serious matters came up within the community, the people were to judge among themselves. God was not interested in a dictatorship and He was not looking to set up a monarchy. God was establishing a theocracy where every member of Israel, both native and stranger, would seek Him on an individual and corporate level with all their hearts, souls and strength.
As believers working together, we are supposed to run as a well oiled machine. As long as we are focused on God with all we’ve got the machine will continue to run smoothly; however, we are not always focused on God despite our best efforts. There are times when we lose sight of God and focus on ourselves or other things, it is at those points where monkey wrenches are thrown into the machine and things begin to get undone. One of the biggest monkey wrenches we can throw into the machine is pride.
Nobody likes the idea of being judged. In the world, we are independent individuals but when we leave the world and enter into God’s kingdom we are expected to govern one another as equals. If we are accountable to one another there will be times when we will be judged by one another. This is something that is very important to understand! The act of governing one another is one of the methods God uses to help keep sin out of the body, without it we become nothing more than another social group and unfortunately we see this in many congregations today.
In Numbers 35:24, the Hebrew word for judge is שָׁפַט (shaphat - shä·fat) and it means to judge, govern. It can also mean to “condemn wicked and justifying righteousness.”
In the B'rit Hadashah (New Testament) part of the scriptures the Greek word for judge is κρίνω (krinō - krē'-nō), it also can mean to judge, govern.
Both the Hebrew and Greek words have broad meanings that are about the same with the exception of the “justifying righteousness” definition which is not in the definition of the Greek word krinō.
When we examine the definitions of the Hebrew word shaphat and the Greek word krinō they both have negative meanings as well, for example; shaphat can mean “condemning and punishing” in the sense of looking down on or being above others.
Krinō can mean “to be of opinion, deem, and think” in the sense that your judgment may not be based on facts but on personal preferences and emotions.
Many people believe they should not be judged based on Yeshua’s words.
Do not judge so that you will not be judged. (Matthew 7:1)
People love to use this verse to defend themselves from judgment by another fellow believer, but we must consider what kind of judgment is Yeshua talking about? Let us look at the whole thought.
Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:1-5)
In the above verse it is clear that Yeshua is talking about a hypocritical type of Judgment. I once worked at a homeless shelter and one day I was speaking to one of the residents and he told me, “I’m better than the other homeless people because I shower every day no matter what.” This is the type of judgment that Yeshua was talking about in Matthew 7. Just because this guy showered every day he thought he was better than other homeless people, but he was still homeless.
Every verse that tells us not to judge each other are all verses that address critical or unrighteous judgment; In the Messianic community today these types of judgments can be things like; do you pray to God first thing in the morning or on the drive to work? Do you play video games or watch movies on Shabbat? Should one wear their tzitzit (tassels or Fringes, see Num 15:37-41, Deut 22:12) on their belt loops or should they buy a Tallit Katan (a special garment worn mainly by those who practice Orthodox Judaism)? Is it okay to buy tzitzits or do you make them yourself? Do we recite certain prayers every Shabbat? Do we take communion every Shabbat? The list can go on.
Critical judgment is a sin; however, according to this week’s Torah portion, judgment based on the standards of Torah is a requirement; even in the B'rit Hadashah.
It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father’s wife. 2 You have become arrogant and have not mourned instead, so that the one who had done this deed would be removed from your midst. 3 For I, on my part, though absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged him who has so committed this, as though I were present. 4 In the name of our Yeshua Messiah, when you are assembled, and I with you in spirit, with the power of our Yeshua Messiah, 5 I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Yeshua Messiah. (1 Corinthians 5:1-5)
I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves. (1 Corinthians 5:9-13)
In order for us to govern one another we must judge based on God’s word. If we all are reading the Bible we should all have the same understanding of what righteousness is (despite the different Bible versions) because Torah is our definition of all things righteous. Torah is the standard given to use not by man, but by God Himself and it is all of our responsibility to make sure that it is what governs all of our lives (talking about believers). In order to successfully govern one another we must be more involved in one another’s lives. Unfortunately we often sabotage the ability to hold each other accountable by keeping each other at a certain distance; this is a worldly defense mechanism that has no place in the Body of Messiah.
This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you. This I command you, that you love one another. (John 15:12-17)
As stated before, if we review the definition of love found in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, we cannot love each other if we are not involved in one another's lives. According to James 5:16, we should confess our sins to one another so that we can be healed but how often is that actually done? How often do we sin and don’t tell anyone? We are so afraid of being judged by others that we often try to fight sin on our own and it should not be that way.
People in the world want to present themselves better than they actually are, but this is not who we are as believers and we should not bring this practice into the body of Messiah. Whether you commit sin in public or in private, sin is still sin and it always comes with divine consequences for both the individual and the body. Yes, God does want us to pray to Him about our sins and only He can forgive us of our sins, but He also expects us to get help from one another.
I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom You have given Me; for they are Yours; and all things that are Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine; and I have been glorified in them. I am no longer in the world; and yet they themselves are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are. While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name which You have given Me; and I guarded them and not one of them perished but the son of perdition, so that the Scripture would be fulfilled. (John 17:9-12)
We can spend years debating on what it means to be one with one another as Yeshua is one with the Father, but there are some things that the scriptures make very clear; we are suppose to be close to one another. In doing so we can successfully judge one another in love, live open lives with one another and help each other overcome sins. This is the direction we all should be going towards as we fix our eyes on the ultimate prize. Together we can remove sin from within the congregation, all it takes is humility and trusting in one another. If there is no sin within the congregation, just imagine what the praise and worship would be like. I have no doubt that when we succeed in doing this, we will see more of the power of God working powerfully within ourselves as individuals and within the congregation.