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B'Midbar/Numbers 4:21 "Take a census of the sons of Gershom, them as well ..." (Artscroll)
Curiously, the command 'take a census' literally means 'lift the head', so that the phrase could be translated: lift the head of the sons of Gershom, also them. The same word combination is also used for several other meanings, for example, to cheer someone up. When people are sad, their heads are cast down and by relieving their distress, by cheering them up, you lift their heads and enable them to be happy again. Similarly, apart from the sadness of slavery, someone who is a slave or even a servant is expected to carry themselves in a respectful way, not holding their head up as a free man would but with their head down to indicate their submission - when they are given their freedom, then their heads are lifted as they once more join the ranks of those who are not beholden to others. We see another two meanings in the word-play of Yosef interpreting dreams in prison in Mitzrayim: in B'resheet 40:13, the cup-bearer is told that Pharaoh will lift up his head and restore him to his place of honour, whereas in verse 19 the baker is told that Pharaoh will lift his head right off him - having him executed.
David the King said, "But You, Adonai, are a shield for me; You are my glory, You lift my head high" (Psalm 3:4, CJB), or as the older versions have it, "You are my glory and the lifter of my head" (KJV). He wrote this at the time when he had been forced to flee from Jerusalem by his own son, Avshalom. Feeling for his life, David recognised that is was G-d who gave him not only his joy and his freedom, but also his dignity and position as king over Israel. In acknowledging that, he is set free in his spirit and his face is lifted to and by G-d. In another of David's psalms he says, "Lift up you heads, O gates, and be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of Glory may come in" (Psalm 24:7, NASB); that even the gates and doors of the Temple, of the world, may form a guard of honour and stand to attention as the King comes through.
Yeshua used the image of freedom when He speaks of His return in glory, "When these things start to happen, stand up and hold your heads high, because you are about to be liberated" (Luke 21:28, CJB). The signs in the sky, the behaviour of the nations, the shaking of the powers in the heavens all tell us that Yeshua is about to return, and we are to lift our heads because He is coming to set us free!
When our faces are downcast, we cannot see what is going on around us, others cannot see our faces and we project an image of slavery, sadness and depression. G-d wants to lift our heads so that we can cheer up in Him, being secure in His love for us, so that we may know His truth and be set free, so that we may conduct ourselves as children of the King.
Further Study: Psalm 121:1-8; John 12:32
Application: Have you become weary with the pressure of every day life and allowed your head to become downcast? Today is a good day to know the exhilaration of G-d's love and promises for you - let Him lift your head and see your face.
© Jonathan Allen, 2004
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