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B'Midbar/Numbers 28:2 My offerings, My food for My fires, the aroma of My satisfaction, you shall keep watch to offer to Me in its appointed time
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The word - Qal, prefix, 2mp from the root , whose meanings range from "guard, protect, watch" to "observe" - is here translated "you shall keep watch" following the general rule that the prefix form denotes incomplete action, often translated in the future tense.Rashi comments: "the kohanim, Levites and Israelites should be standing over it. From here they learned and instituted , groups of watchers." Other commentators confirm that because the Torah says "you shall keep watch to offer" rather than just "you shall keep offer", the offering must be physically watched while it is prepared and offered; a representative group from all three sections of the Israelite community must be present to ensure that it is done at the right time, that it is done properly, and even that it is done at all. Milgrom points out that is was common to the religions of the surrounding nations that a sacrifice had to be offered at the right time and that the gods would punish people who brought offerings at the wrong time.
The Sages of the Talmud collected together (b. Ta'anit 27a) the biblical references that showed this understanding being put into practice. The record in 1 Chronicles tells us first that the Israelites, Levites and priests were "enrolled by genealogy in their villages, whom David and Samuel the seer appointed in their office of trust" (9:22, NASB), then that the Levites were organised into watches or shifts: "their position - , place of standing - is at the side of the sons of Aharon" (23:28) and "to keep watch - - over the Tent of Meeting, the holy place and their kinsmen the sons of Aharon" (23:32). In the next chapter David established the divisions of the priests: "there were their offices for their ministry when they came in to the house of the L-rd according to the ordinance given to them through Aharon their father" (24:15, NASB). Lastly, the people are also included as David set Levites over the tribes on the west and east of the Jordan, "concerning all the labour ofAdonai and for the service of the king" (26:32) so that alongside their civil responsibilities, the Israelites would also have their place in the service at the Temple.
We know from the gospel accounts that Yeshua's crucifixion on the stake was a very public affair, just outside the gates of the city of Jerusalem; so designed by the Roman authorities as a deterrent to others who might be tempted to disobey the Roman rule. No-one entering or leaving the city could avoid seeing the sight and the Romans took care to ensure that everyone knew what was going on by having an inscription above Yeshua's head: "Therefore this inscription many of the Jews read, for the place where Yeshua was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Latin and in Greek" (John 19:20, NASB). The crucifixion was witnessed by the crowds: "And when all the crowd that had gathered to watch the spectacle saw the things that had occurred, they returned home beating their breasts" (Luke 23:48, CJB), by the women: "Nearby Yeshua's execution stake stood His mother, His mother's sister Miryam the wife of K'lofar, and Miryam from Magdala" (John 19:25, CJB), the priests: "Likewise the head Cohanim jeered at Him, along with the Torah-teachers and elders" (Matthew 27:41, CJB), and at least one of the disciples: "When Yeshua saw His mother and the talmid whom He loved standing there ..." (John 19:26, CJB). Just as the Temple sacrifices were watched by all those concerned - Cohanim, Levites and Israel - so Yeshua's execution was watched by all those affected including, perhaps unwittingly in their case, the Romans as representatives of the Gentiles now to be brought near through this supreme sacrifice. Not only did the Romans serve in the role normally carried out by the priests for animal sacrifices in the Temple, by carrying out His execution, the centurion was also to be a personal witness: "When the Roman officer saw what had happened, he began to praise G-d and said, 'Surely this man was innocent!'" (Luke 23:47, CJB).
The Scriptures are also at pains to tell us that the timing of Yeshua's death was neither wrong nor by accident. Speaking to the crowds on the morning ofShavuot, Peter explained that Yeshua was "delivered up according to the deliberate plan and foreknowledge of G-d" (Acts 2:23, ESV). Just a few days later, Peter added, "what G-d foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Messiah would suffer, He thus fulfilled" (Acts 3:18, ESV). Rav Sha'ul is even more explicit: "For while we were still helpless, at the right time, the Messiah dies on behalf of ungodly people" (Romans 5:6, CJB). So in every respect, Yeshua's sacrifice was kosher: it was in the right place, at the right time and watched by the representatives of all those responsible for and affected by it.
Are we similarly kosher in our witness and work for Yeshua and the kingdom of G-d? Certainly there are some actions that are to be private affairs - such as prayer and charity - but there is no indication that the twelve and the other first disciples hid their lights under bushels or night-stands! The lame man at the Temple gate was very publicly healed in broad daylight, in front of a large crowd, so that the Temple authorities had to confess: "Why, anyone in Yerushalayim can see that a remarkable miracle has come about through them - we can't possibly deny that" (Acts 4:16, CJB). The text goes on, "With great power the emissaries continued testifying to the resurrection of the L-rd Yeshua, and they were all held in high regard" (4:33, CJB) so that "day after day the L-rd kept adding to them those who were being saved" (2:47, CJB). Rav Sha'ul worked in the same way: "A man in Lystra could not use his feet ... Sha'ul said with a loud voice, 'Stand up on your feet!' He jumped up and began to walk. When the crowd saw what Sha'ul had done, they began to shout ... 'The gods have come down to us'" (Acts 14:8-11, CJB). Has the time come for our generation of believers to become a lot bolder and more public? Perhaps we need less time hidden away in our buildings and more time in public, proclaiming the kingdom of G-d and inviting people to join!
Further Study: Matthew 24:45-46; Galatians 4:4
Application: Do you long to see an outpouring of G-d's power and people flocking to enter the kingdom of G-d in your life and congregation? Speak to your pastor or rabbi today to see what you can do and to share your vision with him to push back the forces of darkness and see the kingdom of G-d advancing as the Scriptures say.
© Jonathan Allen, 2008
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