Summary: As Israel conquered Canaan, God set up physical boundaries for the tribes. At Sinai He gave them moral boundaries. The Word of God still defines boundaries. We are commanded not to move the boundary markers.
20180317 Parsha 124 Boundaries
Today’s Torah portion is one of those passages that we tend to skip over or speed read through as we put our brain on pause. There are names we can’t pronounce and places we can’t locate on Google earth. And what difference does it make anyway. It certainly doesn’t look like international borders today. So why study it?
Well there are some important lessons about the character of God that can be learned from dividing up the land. Here are a few.
Order, not Chaos
I’ve said many times that God is not the author or confusion. He does not sew discontent. In this chapter we see evidence of that again. Israel is about to go into the promised land and drive out the inhabitants and divide it among the various tribes. God is taking an active role in the process. He actually told Moses who he wanted on the steering committee. He names each individual. Then he gives them some guidelines. The leadership was not left to chance or arguments. No confusion as to who was chosen. God said it, that was the end of it.
Fair and equitable
Israel had already taken a census in order to determine how many people were in each tribe. So now they were to partition the land and portion it out according to the size of each tribe. The larger tribes received more land while the smaller tribes received less. So we see that on a per capita basis, every person or family received an equal share.
Peter recognized this characteristic of God in the home of the Roman Centurion, Cornelius.
Acts 10:34-35 Then Peter opened his mouth and said, “I truly understand that God is not one to show favoritism, (35) but in every nation the one who fears Him and does what is right is acceptable to Him.
Our creator does not love the Billy Grahams and Mother Theresas of this world any more than he does the vilest sinner. He loves us all. He proved it by sending his son to die for our sins. You know the famous verse John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Yeshua truly made everyone equal. He elevated the status of women. Paul put it this way.
Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female—for you are all one in Messiah Yeshua.
Today we hear a lot of noise about discrimination. You are all familiar with the buzz words, black lives matter, blue lives matter, white privilege, cultural appropriation, illegal immigration. The list goes on. Seems like you can’t take a breath without offending someone. But rest assured. With God we are all equal. And no one is more equal than anyone else. Because we all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. No one gets a free pass. We all come to salvation only through the shed blood of Yeshua HaMashiach.
God Set Boundaries
Boundaries are very important to our very existence. Without boundaries society would devolve into chaos and anarchy. All civilizations whether primitive or modern have had some kind of boundaries under which they functioned and carried out their daily lives. It may have been something as simple as making sure the chief gets the best cut of meat after the hunt. It was still a rule that helped the group function.
Of course, today we have evolved and I use that term guardedly, we have evolved into a very complex society wit mountains of rules and regulations. Just look at the tax code to get an idea of the absurd manner in which we live today.
Hashem had a different take on rules. If we look at what He gave us at Mount Sinai, we see 613 rules. These instructions covered civil, moral and ceremonial aspects of their society. It was God’s standard of holiness. The Torah has been condensed into what we call the Ten Commandments. Those Ten Commandments are as appropriate today as they were 3500 years ago. There is not one of those commandments that we can point to and say “oh that’s outdated and no longer applies”. Some people try to do that, but they are only deluding themselves.
So God gave the Israelites physical boundaries that we see in today’s reading and he gave them societal boundaries in the 613 laws of Torah. There were some further instructions regarding boundaries.
Don’t Move the Boundary Markers
Deuteronomy 19:14 “You must not move your neighbor’s boundary marker that the first generations marked out, in the inheritance you will receive in the land Adonai your God is giving you to possess.