February 15 is an important date in the House of Aaron, and we usually try to commemorate it in someway each year. This year on Sabbath we pulled out the catskin, marble tablet, and copper boxes as some of the young people had never seen them (or remember seeing them) and Doug Childs told a little bit of the history about them.
The House of Aaron participated in the Snake Valley Multi-Church Christmas Celebration this year. There were special numbers, a few speakers, and it was a great time of fellowship!
Ruminations on Numbers 35.
On the set of the western movie “Rust” on Thursday, October 21, Alec Baldwin was practicing removing his gun from the holster and pointing it at the camera in preparation for a scene in the movie. Suddenly the gun discharged, killing the director of photography, Halyna Hutchins, and wounding the director Joel Souza who was directly behind her. The gun had been certified as “cold” i.e. not containing real ammunition before being given to Mr. Baldwin. Horrifying, apparently accidental, but a wife and mother lost her life.
In the Torah in B’midbar (Numbers) 35 God gave explicit instructions on how Israel was to respond to accidental killing. The Levites were allotted 48 cities spread throughout the land of Israel with some in each tribe as they were not given a tribal territory of their own. Six of these Levitical cities were specially designated as cities of refuge. Three of these were on the west side of the Jordan and three were on the east. This was to allow easy access for anyone who might need to flee to their protection.
When a person killed someone they had to flee to a city of refuge where the congregation would be called to determine if the killing were intentional thus murder or accidental in what we might term manslaughter. If the congregation found the killer guilty of murder—intentional, planned and malicious—he was turned over to the avenger of blood who would kill him. If he was found innocent of intentional malfeasance he was sent back to the city of refuge where he would be safe. The killer was required to live in the city of refuge until the death of the High Priest. If he ever ventured outside the city the avenger of blood could slay him with no repercussions. The killer could not pay a ransom to shorten his stay—for safety he had to live in the city of refuge until the death of the High Priest.
The killer, if designated a murderer, had to die, there was no recourse nor forgiveness. 35: 33 ‘So you shall not pollute the land in which you are; for blood pollutes the land and no expiation can be made for the land for the blood that is shed on it, except by the blood of him who shed it.’ The only justice for murder is the slaying of the one who committed murder. We find this idea also in Genesis 9: 6 Whoever sheds man’s blood, By man his blood shall be shed, For in the image of God He made man.
God makes plain in the text that this is a perpetual obligation. Numbers 35: 29 These things shall be for a statutory ordinance to you throughout your generations in all your dwellings.
Today, if the killing of Halyna Hutchins had taken place in ancient Israel Mr Baldwin would have been compelled to flee to a city of refuge. If found innocent of intentional harm he would then live in the city of refuge until the death of the high priest.
It is pretty easy to read this passage and pass it off as irrelevant. For at least two reasons: 1- most Christians don’t believe Yeshua (Jesus) when he said he didn’t come to destroy the law or the prophets 2- none of us would ever kill anyone and if we did accidentally, our culture assures us we did nothing wrong and deserve no punishment.
The Bible does not hold to the view that intent determines guilt. Halyna Hutchins is dead regardless of Alec Baldwin’s intent. She is made in the image of her creator and her death carries vast importance with that creator.
For those who follow Yeshua (Jesus) and accept him as their Redeemer and Savior this passage carries great weight. One of the things Yeshua did (any in many ways the ancient sages agree with him) was dig deep into the intent of the law (Torah) and how our behavior relates to it. In Matthew 5 he reminds his listeners that the Torah tells us that those who murder are subject to judgment. But, he goes on to say, that anyone who is angry with his brother is subject to judgment. Those who call their brother a fool are in danger of the fires of hell. In other words, Yeshua is linking anger, slander and hatred to murder. In 1 John 3:15 the apostle corroborates Yeshua’s point by affirming that whoever hates his brother is a murderer. In rabbinical tradition one who indulges in lashon hara (evil speech) murders three people—himself, his listener and the one being spoken of.
We probably have all said something inadvertently that really injured someone. Off-the-cuff criticism, snide insults, angry retaliation often lead to angry words and damaged feelings that in Yeshua’s description render us subject to judgment.
How do we run to the city of refuge? What does that mean today? Psalm 91 One who dwells in the shelter of the Most High Will lodge in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, My God in whom I trust!” Yeshua promises in John 6:37 “whoever comes to me I will never cast out!”
So we come to the shelter of the “Most High” and surrender to his provision and enter His city. Hebrews 12: 22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, 23 to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Yeshua, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel.
We discover two powerful truths as we enter our “city of refuge.” First our high priest has died. By coming to the city and accepting his sacrifice and atoning death we are set free to return home. Second the sprinkled blood does speak better than the blood of Abel. Abel’s blood cried out for justice. Justice can only come for Abel with the shedding of the blood of Cain, his murderer. The sprinkled blood of Yeshua satisfies our bloodguiltiness before the law. By shedding his blood he meets the demand of the law for the shedding of blood of the guilty party. When we accept his sacrifice in our behalf his blood purchases our freedom as expiation for the land has been made “by the blood of him who shed it.” Isaiah 53: 5 But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed.
Thus we find that for the person who comes to the Lord with a truly repentant heart, provision has been made for the unintentional damage we do to each other and forgiveness when the hurt is intentional and malicious. Psalm 46: 4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, The holy dwelling places of the Most High.
May we all find our way to the city of refuge.
We have started livestreaming the Shiloah Valley branch Sabbath morning worship on Facebook. So check out the House of Aaron on Facebook to catch those.
The Torah Portion is the same as usual, livestreamed on Facebook, but also uploaded to YouTube (and on the House of Aaron website).
Rosh Hoshana - September 7
Rosh Chodesh - September 8
Yom Teruah - September 9
Yom Kippur - September 16
Sukkot - September 20-27
Our Sukkot weekend celebration - September 24-26
I have been struggling with insomnia the last while. This means I get up a little earlier. This morning when I left the house for a run it was before 5 am. It was dark and marvelously clear. Omnipresent smoke has suffocated our valley from California, Oregon and northern Utah fires. The sun sets as a flaming red ball resembling what one sees in smog shrouded cities. Our little valley which is world famous for its air quality now features a smoky atmosphere that burns your eyes and chokes your throat.
But this morning I could see the stars. The waning moon was beautiful but not so bright as to drown out the sparkling lights filling the heavens. As I ran past the trees in the windbreak I startled a couple of owls (I think) and they launched themselves into flight with considerable noise and fanfare. Two days ago when I ran, a surprised coyote shot across the road in front of me. All the nocturnal activity reminds me that just because I can't see it doesn't mean nothing is happening.
Due east, Orion shone brilliantly as if reclining on his side. I couldn't see the Big Dipper at first. So I went backwards. I found Polaris and then tracked my way to the Big Dipper. It was in the northeastern sky and the end of the handle just concealed below the horizon.
Often when I run I listen to music. A favorite group of mine is Casting Crowns. Two days ago I was listening and they sang a song titled "Wedding Day." It begins "There's a stirring in the throne room And all creation holds it's breath Waiting now to see the bride groom Wondering how the bride will dress And she wears white."
The words almost stopped me. Knowing how screwed up I can be and also, all of mankind, I was curiously affected knowing the purity and righteousness of the bride depends on Him. The song goes on to say "When someone wins your heart And says you're beautiful
When you don't know you are." It was a potent reminder that a true measure of spirituality is the ability to see people as they can be and not as they are.
Today the lyrics "caught between the God we want and the God who is" captured my attention. One of the 10 commands is to have "no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath." One of the greatest temptations of humans is to form God into their own image or, at least, make Him someone they can make peace with or accept.
We even find good Christians trying to bend reality to fit their concept of the Bible. In essence they work extremely hard to shove God into their box trumpeting this is how God has to be because that is how they perceive Him. I have found a great deal of peace by realizing that I will never discover a "truth" that disagrees with who God is. Yeshua (Jesus) said "I am the way, the truth and the life" and also "everyone on the side of truth listens to me."
This is why I will never see a chasm between the revelation of God and science. Paul says in Romans 1:20 "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, being understood by what has been made, so that they are without excuse." Oddly Paul doesn't say here that we will see "His eternal power and divine nature" from a book--he says we will see it in what he has made.
This means you can relax. As Paul also says "we can do nothing against the truth." A natural example would be a group getting together and voting that they are no longer under the laws of gravity. When they step off a cliff they will quickly discover that we truly can do nothing against the truth. It is important to remember that collisions with the truth can be painful.
This got rather long. But it has been percolating inside of me for some time. I know I take myself way too seriously at times. Remember that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion. I hope you find something to watch, read, listen to, and share that brings you joy.
Sunday Morning Service
0:00 Baba Yetu - Community Orchestra
3:21 Eliyahu - Community Orchestra
5:20 Shaker Variants - Community Orchestra
10:01 Amazing Grace - Clara piano solo
10:48 Ella flute solo
13:34 Spend a Little Time With Jesus - Brass Quartet
15:26 In the Sweet By and By - Britton piano
17:24 In the Sweet By and By - Britton trumpet
19:39 Overshadowed - John trombone
23:11 Ella piano
24:37 Come Thou Fount - Aidan piano
28:08 Let Your Kingdom Come - Sharon vocal
32:26 And So I Sing - Douglas piano
35:15 How Beautiful - Lois violin
41:36 Danielle piano
43:59 Dallas piano
51:43 Thy Word - Community Choir
56:11 Message - John Conrad
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