Friday, 11 June 2021
"'Separate yourselves from the midst of this assembly and I will consume them instantly!' But they fell on their faces." (B'Midbar/Numbers 17:10)
What an extraordinary response! HaShem commands Moshe and Aharon to get away from the people so that He can destroy them, but not only do they not move away, instead they lie down where they are, right in the line of fire.
What were Moshe and Aharon doing on their faces? Were they simply keeping a low profile to stay out of the way of the bullets? In the third instance, they appeal to HaShem's sense of justice to dissuade Him from destroying the people, "O G-d, Source of the breath of all flesh! When one man sins, will You be wrathful with the whole community?" (B'Midbar 16:22, NJPS). This sounds very like Avraham's pleas on behalf of the people of Sodom: "Far be it from You to do such a thing - to kill the righteous along with the wicked, so that the righteous and the wicked are treated alike! Far be it from You! Shouldn't the Judge of all the earth do what is just?" (B'resheet 18:25, CJB). From there, most of the commentators imply that the same applies on this occasions. On the Jewish side of the house, Targum Onkelos translates the text literally, but Targum Jonathan adds to it: "they fell on their faces in prayer"; Ibn Ezra says, "they fell on their faces to pray"; the Bekhor Shor that "they fell on their faces - to pray for them." The Christian commentators agree - Gordon Wenham writes that "Aharon and Moshe fall on their face in intercessory prayer." Dennis Cole is a little more long-winded: "As before, Moshe instead fell on his face in subservience and prayer before the L-rd, always a true servant of the people. By this action he was also putting himself at risk of judgement, but G-d is continually mindful and willing to respond to the submissive hearts of His faithful servants."
Famously, Yeshua makes intercession for His disciples. He tells Peter, "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers" (Luke 22:31-32, ESV). He not only tells Peter that He has prayed for him, but tells him - When you have turned ... - that His prayers will succeed. The good news for us is that Yeshua is still praying for us: "He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to G-d through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them" (Hebrews 7:25, ESV). His prayers will always be heard by the Father, as are those of the Holy Spirit who also helps and guides our prayers: "Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And He who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of G-d" (Romans 8:26-27, ESV). When we let Him pray for us and through us, we are guaranteed not only a hearing but an answer as it is already His will! Let's commit ourselves to prayer for our loved ones, for our communities and leaders, and for the kingdom of G-d in these days, asking the Spirit to guide us so that we too will see miracles and the hand of G-d at work as He was for Moshe, for the prophets and for Yeshua.
This is an excerpt from the drash this week.