Parsha post: Acharei

This week’s parsha is from Leviticus 16:1-18:30 and Amos 9:7-15.

The Leviticus section picks up after the deaths of Aaron’s two sons because they were not treating the tabernacle or God with proper respect. Now, Aaron is given instructions regarding the sacrifices for the Day of Atonement, or Yom Kippur. Explicit instructions are given for how, who, when, and where these sacrifices shall be carried out. People are forbidden from trying to secure their own atonement from foreign gods by sacrificing outside of there camp and people are again forbidden from eating meat with the blood still in it. There is an additional listing of ways that people could behave in a way that would cause them to become contaminated as well.

Holiness is a serious thing. We see that again and again in Leviticus. Our God is holy and we need a covering or atonement in order to be in relationship with him, in order for him to dwell in our midst. The sacrifices offered by Aaron are a temporary covering over of sin, they do not remove it. The atonement offered by Aaron as the high priest is a picture of a permanent sufficient for all act of redemption. When Yeshua ( Jesus) shed his blood on the cross it was the sacrifice of the ultimate perfect spotless lamb. That one sacrifice is sufficient for all who would believe.

Shabbat Shalom Camp Gilgal,

RedSox

Parsha Post: Metzora

This week’s parsha continues taking us through Leviticus and this week brings us to Leviticus 14-15:33. The Leviticus portion is another sure miss for a Bar Mitvah as it discusses purity for leprosy, home infestation, and discharges of many kinds. The Haftarah portion is one of my favorite stories and it comes from 2 Kings 7:3-20. This is an amazing story of how a bunch of desperate, hungry Israelite lepers decide to venture forward into the camp of the Aramean army, knowing that death is certain regardless of their actions. God uses these men as a way of bringing help and even deliverance to the whole Israelite camp. The Israelite camp that they have been exiled from because of their unclean state. God had caused the Aramean army to hear the sound of charging horses and chariots and so the enemy had fled–but the Israelites would never have known if it weren’t for these lepers finding good news and sharing their good fortune. They didn’t know what their reception would be when they visited the King, but they knew that they had to share the salvation they had found. They knew that they could not keep it to themselves. 2 Kings 7:9 “Then they said to each other, “What we’re doing is not right. This is a day of good news and we are keeping it to ourselves. If we wait until daylight, punishment will overtake us. Let’s go at once and report this to the royal palace.””

This sentiment of the lepers reminds me of Peter and John in Acts 4:19-20 when they are brought before the religious court for causing trouble and healing a man lame from birth. Like the lepers, Peter and John knew they could not be silent, regardless of the consequences. “But Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges!As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” What Peter and John had heard and seen was an even greater salvation than the temporary provision of food that the lepers encountered. What Peter and John had experienced was Yeshua (Jesus) coming to make the deaf hear, the blind see, the lame walk, lepers clean, and even the dead raised to life.

We too have stories to tell. We shouldn’t be able to stop talking about what we have seen and heard and experienced Yeshua do in our own lives. Let’s share it with our siblings, parents, extended relatives, and neighbors.

Shabbat Shalom Camp Gilgal,
RedSox

Parsha Post: Tazria

Tazria is this week’s parsha and it comes from Leviticus 12:1-13:59 and 2 Kings 4:42-5:19. This week’s parsha must be on the list of least popular bar mitzvah dates. Both the Torah and the Haftarah portions deal with skin diseases. Awesome, because blemishes are every pre-teen’s favorite topic of conversation!

Without going into too much detail for the more squeamish among us, the Leviticus portion is really amazing because the purity laws differentiate between the types of skin marks that are merely superficial imperfections and those that signal deeper contagion. God gives instructions for the priests to set up tests to distinguish between marks that were disease and marks that are disease. Moreover, it gives instructions for the people and for the priests to be able to regain ritual purity after a bout with one of these ailments. Exterior hygiene is important, but it is the inner condition of a person’s heart that will render them permanently clean or unclean.

This week’s Haftarah is from the prophetic career of Elisha in 2 Kings. Naaman is a military commander who becomes afflicted with leprosy. No one he knows can give him a cure or a referral for someone who might know more. At the suggestion of his wife’s unnamed Israelite servant girl, he travels to inquire after the prophet Elisha. Elisha doesn’t give this very important man very much attention, he just sends him to bathe in the Jordan River. The Jordan wasn’t a very dignified river and was sort of muddy and small. Naaman, even in his humiliated, leprous state, thought he was too good for Elisha’s cure. Naaman’s pride in the face of Elisha’s prescription almost gets in the way of him being healed. Thankfully, he is confronted by some of by his servants and companions who challenge him to follow Elisha’s instructions. They know that if Elisha had asked Naaman to do something complicated he would do it, but that because it is simple Naaman immediately has dismissed it.

How often are we guilty of the same thing? We are confronted with a problem and instead of turning to God and trusting him to meet our needs or provide for us we fret and worry. How often do we know that Yeshua has paid the penalty for our sins with his death on the cross, but still we act like we have the power or ability to win God’s favor for ourselves. This week, let us seek God’s help not just to be people who act right and look right, but to be people who pursue God and who ask him to lead us in his ways.

Shabbat Shalom Camp Gilgal,
RedSox

Parsha Post: Vaera

This week’s parsha comes from Exodus 6:2-9:35. It is always amazing to me in reading and rereading the exodus account how quickly everything happens. Last week Moses was born and this week we get through almost all of the plagues. But I am sure that nothing about the actual events felt fast. The children of Israel had been in slavery in Egypt for 400 years and though God had promised that they would not remain there as slaves beyond that point, I think that many of them had grown so generationally tired of waiting that they cried out to the Lord not expecting an answer.

I was reminded this week of the words of King David in Psalm 27:13-14 because it sounds like the total opposite of the mindset of the children of Israel in slavery. We’ll circle back to this idea at the end, but for now read these words:

I remain confident of this:

I will see the goodness of the LORD

in the land of the living.

Wait for the LORD;

be strong and take heart

and wait for the LORD.

Vaera means “I appeared” and it comes from God saying to Moses that he had appeared to the patriarchs in the past and established his covenant with them in the past. God’s relationship with the children of Israel has serious history and he has not forgotten them. He recounts to Moses that he has given them the land of Canaan to possess (and they will possess it) and that he has heard their cries for help and that he will free them.  He promises that he will take them as his own people and that he will be their God.

Exodus 6:9 says, “Moses reported this to the Israelites, but they did not listen to him because of their discouragement and cruel bondage.”

Can you believe that? God makes unbelievable promises to the children of Israel and their experience is so overwhelmed by their slavery and their generations of waiting for freedom that they can’t even hear the good news. Their discouragement doesn’t just stay with them–it infects Moses and discourages him in his next steps to obey God and tell Pharaoh to let the Israelites go. Moses is distracted with his own insufficiency and is unable to stand confidently knowing that if God is asking him to do something that God will go with him.  This distraction/preoccupation repeats. Moses keeps repeating that he has “faltering lips” and the repetition continues as he and Aaron approach Pharaoh. Each visit with Pharaoh in this parsha concludes with “yet Pharaoh’s heart was hard and he would not listen to them, just as the Lord had said.”

The Israelites see only their present situation. Even once they are out of slavery they can’t seem to let go of their position as slaves. Moses sees only his disability, even after God has called him for an amazing task and made him able. Pharaoh can’t let go of his right to deny the petition on behalf of the Israelites, even when keeping them seems to be against his best interest.

And so we come back to the title of this week’s Parsha–“I appeared.” To free the Israelites from bondage and to reveal himself to them God provides signs and wonders in the form of the plagues. Some of them the Israelites experience directly and some of them they view the effects of from afar, but God intervenes tangibly in their circumstances. They are not freed from slavery because the gate was loose and their slave drivers weren’t paying attention. They are freed from slavery because God time and time again (ten times in all) shows his power and his supremacy over Pharaoh and the things that Pharaoh holds as powerful, the things that Pharaoh puts his trust in. The waiting was worth it, God delivers on his promises to stand by the children of Israel and to lead them from slavery to freedom and to lead them into a land of their own and to make them his own people.

Part of why I really enjoy looking at the parsha each week is the regular reminder that God keeps his promises and that he is trustworthy. I really love the verses in Psalm 27 because they remind me of all that God has already done and all of the ways that he has already kept his word. King David isn’t confident in God because it sounds like a good idea or because it is easy. King David is able to stand confidently in who God is and what he has said, and even to wait on him because God has already demonstrated his character in history. The children of Israel in slavery in Egypt were struggling because they’d lost hope. But God appears in the midst of their groaning, provides a deliverer, exercises miracles, and promises to deliver them with his mighty hand and his outstretched arm.

I want to encourage you to read the parsha this week/weekend. There is a refrain I remember from the Passover seder growing up: then we were slaves, now we are free. This is true of physical slavery in Egypt but this is also true of our spiritual relationship with sin. In response to our groaning and after generations of waiting for God to provide salvation and redemption from spiritual bondage, Yeshua came and made his dwelling among us. I pray that this week we would all be able to stand more confidently in the Lord and that we would be able to stand firm and wait on him because he is faithful and he is true to his word.

 

Shabbat Shalom Camp Gilgal,

RedSox

 

 

 

Parsha Post: Vayechi and Shemot

Sorry for the double parsha post, we are still working on getting caught up. Hopefully next week we will be back to a regularly scheduled single parsha per week post. This week’s double parsha gives us the end of Genesis and the beginning of Exodus (Genesis 47:28-50:26 and Exodus 1:1-6:1). The end of Genesis has Joseph and his brothers blessed by their father and then Jacob dies. Jacob’s death raises two problems.

Problem #1- Egypt is not the promised land. It is the land where Jacob and his family have come to be reunited with Joseph and survive the famine but it is not their home, it is not the land that God has promised to them and to their fathers. So, Jacob needs to be taken back home to be buried.  This is solved easily enough as Pharaoh allows Joseph time off of work to honor and bury his father with his brothers. Pharaoh even sends servants  and dignitaries with him to help with the journey (Genesis 50:7).

Problem #2-The brothers don’t trust that Joseph has actually forgiven them. Genesis 50:15 “When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said “What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?” To deal with their problem of trust they concoct a story to tell Joseph about Jacob’s wishes concerning his forgiveness and throw themselves at Joseph’s feet and offer to be his slaves for life. But, the brothers needn’t worry. Joseph again expresses to them that he has peace that it was God who brought him to Egypt to save the lives of many (including his family) and that while the brothers were trying to harm him, God worked things out for everyone’s benefit.

After this interaction the next thing that happens in the story is that Joseph dies. Genesis 50:22-26 sort of functions like an epilogue to this story about the families of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It tells us that the whole family continues to live in Egypt and it ends with instructions from Joseph as to what to do with his body and a promise from God.

Then Joseph said to his brothers, ‘I am about to die. But God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.’ And Joseph made the sons of Israel swear an oath and said , ‘God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up from this place.’ So Joseph died at the age of a hundred and ten. And after they embalmed him, he was placed in a coffin in Egypt. (Genesis 50:24-26)

Which brings us to the Exodus portion of this post. Exodus begins by telling us that the sons of Jacob went to Egypt and that at that time they were 70 people in number.  Then the generation of Joseph and his brothers all died, but the children of Israel continued to prosper and were blessed in numbers by God. Genesis 50:7-8 tell  “but the Israelites were fruitful and multiplied greatly and became exceedingly numerous, so that the land was not filled with them. Then a new king, who did not know about Joseph, came to power in Egypt.”

This new Pharaoh who did not know Joseph looked at the Israelites and their numbers and was afraid of them. Instead of seeking relationship  Pharaoh decided that the more likely option was that the Israelites were going to join with the enemies of the Egyptians and go to war against Egypt.  This is a very different relationship than Joseph and Pharaoh had. This Pharaoh oppresses the Israelites and makes them slaves. The more he oppresses them the more God blesses them and their numbers increase. In the midst of this hardship we see glimpses of future deliverance. Moses is born and from the very beginning his parents identify that he is “no ordinary child,” he also spends time being trained and raised in Pharaoh’s house. Circumstances arise that have Moses on the run, finding a new family, getting married and living a quiet life.

Well, quiet until God radically enters Moses’ story. It doesn’t get more dramatic than a burning bush, does it? This section of Exodus has some of my favorite stories in the whole Bible. I would encourage you to take a look at this parsha with your family. Genesis closes with a promise that someday God will bring the children of Israel back out of Egypt and Exodus opens with the birth of the one who God  will raise up as deliverer for this time. The parsha closes this way:

Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh: because of my mighty hand he will let them go; because of my mighty hand he will drive them out of his country.

 

I love that our God is a God of deliverance. But the deliverance we see in these parshot happens unexpectedly. Joseph’s brothers are saved by God  redeeming their mistreatment of Joseph. The children of Israel are redeemed out of slavery because Pharaoh is so afraid of them that he sets circumstances into motion that cause Moses to be raised in his own house. Moses is confronted by the voice of God speaking to him from within a burning bush. Moses argues with God and God provides Aaron. God sends them to Pharaoh and things seemingly get more complicated and more difficult.  But, I am reminded of God’s promises to Abraham in Genesis 15:13. God tells Abraham, “know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated for four hundred years. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions.” God knows the whole story and keeps his promises. God promised to bless the whole world through Abraham’s descendants and I don’t know if anyone guessed that would look like Yeshua (Jesus) dying for our sins. But that is what God does, he unbelievably brings life and blessing out of things that look hopeless. Let’s rest this week knowing that God is at work even in sorrow and suffering and share the hope that we have because of Him.

 

Shabbat Shalom Camp Gilgal,

RedSox

Parsha post: Miketz and Vayigash

This week we’re looking at this week’s and last week’s parsha.These sections from the life of Joseph are great to read together and would be great to look at on your own or as a family over this holiday break. So we’re looking at Miketz and Vayigash and next week is the last parsha in Genesis. We’re still with Joseph and his brothers and their crazy story. This chunk in Genesis starts in Genesis 41 and ends in 47:27. When this section begins, Joseph is still in prison. He met the cup bearer and the baker in the parsha before, but once they get out of prison they forget about him for a little while. This section starts with Pharaoh retelling his dream and Joseph’s ability to interpret dreams is remembered. When Joseph is pulled out of prison to hear and interpret Pharaoh’s dream, he has bad news to deliver. Pharaoh’s dream says that there will be 7 profitable harvest years followed by 7 years of famine. God gives Joseph the interpretation of these dreams, but also give Joseph advice to transmit to Pharaoh on how the people of the area are to survive the years of famine to come. Pharaoh is so impressed by Joseph that he brings him out of prison permanently and puts Joseph in charge of food storage and rationing. Think about that for a second. You’re Joseph and when you wake up in the morning you are in prison and you’re not guilty of anything. At the end of the day you are out of prison and Pharaoh has given you pretty much the biggest job there is in the whole land of Egypt. And the biggest job puts him in charge of making sure that all of Egypt and the surrounding area survive the famine to come. Woah, that is pretty mind blowing!

The Bible tells us that during the years of plenty, Joseph’s life is also plentiful. He gets married and his wife has two sons named Ephraim and Manasseh and their names have pretty significant meanings. Manasseh means God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father’s household and Ephraim means God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.

…and then the famine begins. So Genesis 42 brings Jacob and the rest of Joseph’s brothers back into the story. The famine doesn’t just affect Egypt, it affects the surrounding areas as well. This part of the story with Joseph’s brothers in Egypt is pretty weird and also high drama. We have a scene where Joseph and all of his brothers (except for Benjamin) are in the same place at the same time, but the brothers don’t recognize Joseph. Joseph is in the power position in every way in this exchange and it takes awhile and several trips for Joseph to reveal his identity. Over the course of this time Joseph is testing his brothers which might seem kind of messed up until you remember that the last time he was dealing with them they were debating over whether they should kill him or just ruin his life and send him away. The details of how this all works are really interesting, but a little too complicated to go into in a blog post. The short version of it is, Joseph isn’t ready to entrust his identity to his brothers yet. The timing has to be right, but the text lets us know that seeing his brothers and being with them is emotional for Joseph. We see that at its fullest in the beginning of Vayigash. In Genesis 45:1-8 Joseph fills his brothers in and we get to hear in his own words how he feels about the years that have gone by.

Now Joseph could not restrain himself in the presence of all who stood before him, so he called out, “Remove everyone from before me!” Thus no one remained with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. He cried in a loud voice. Egypt heard and Pharaoh’s household heard. And Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph. Is my father still alive?” But his brothers could not answer him because they were let disconcerted before him. Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me, if you please,” and they came close. And he said, “I am Joseph your brother — it is me, whom you sold into Egypt. And now, be not distressed, nor reproach yourselves for having sold me here, for it was to be a provider that God sent me ahead of you. For this has been two of the hunger years in the midst of the land, and there are yet five years in which there shall be neither plowing nor harvest. Thus God has sent me ahead of you to insure your survival in the land and to sustain you for a momentous deliverance. And now: it was not you who sent me here, but God; He has made me father to Pharaoh, master of his entire household, and ruler throughout the entire land of Egypt.

In this holiday season which is often full of awkward social interactions and tense meet ups with family I am encouraged to know that nothing that happens over my holiday vacation will be this dramatic.  I am also encouraged that Joseph’s read on the situation was positive and spoke of God’s goodness and control in the situation, not the brother’s malice and sin. The brothers did pretty much everything they could to break up their family, but God restores it and in the process enables Joseph to be in a place where he is able to save countless lives.

I think that the Joseph narrative is a great place to be reading in the Bible this time of year as we are celebrating the miracle of the victory at Hanukkah and as we are celebrating the birth of Messiah. When people are in control we choose disobedience and we choose power for ourselves and we choose to hurt others. And God brings restoration, hope, and promise for the future into the messes that we create.

I want to close this week with verses from Isaiah 11:1-4, 9. Some of you might have come across these verses in the Advent season, but I think that they pair really well with the story of Joseph and God’s restoration. These verses are about promise of the Messiah who was to come (Jesus or Yeshua) and how he will change everything.

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him– the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord– and he will delight in the fear of the Lord. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.

They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.

“For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea!” What an amazing promise. What hope that gives me and I hope gives you. Joseph saw God’s hand at work even in the midst of his struggles and even in the midst of heartache inflicted on him by his loved ones. Yeshua came into the world to restore all things and during his time on earth was rejected and mistreated. But, we can look forward to a day when the whole earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord. I hope these reminders of God’s goodness and sovereignty are an encouragement to you and pray that you would see God’s hand at work in the midst of your current circumstances.

Happy Hanukkah. Merry Christmas. Shabbat Shalom Camp Gilgal!

RedSox

Parsha Post: Vayeshev

This week’s parsha is Vayeshev which means “and he lived.” The parsha begins this way and is talking about Jacob finally returning to the land of Canaan, to the land that his father had stayed.  Vayeshev covers Genesis 37:1-40:23 and brings us quickly from a Jacob focused story, to stories that deal with his sons. This week deals with Joseph especially. It might be a pretty familiar story, but it is one that is always worth a second look.

Genesis 37:2 says something really interesting that for me colors the way that this parsha unfolds. It says, “This is the account of Jacob’s family line. Joseph, a young man of seventeen, was tending the flocks with his brothers, the sons of Bilhah, and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives, and he brought their father a bad report about them.” I would expect that when the story begins “this is the account of Jacob’s family line” that what might follow would be about his oldest son, or about all of his sons. Instead, we are introduced to Joseph who is not Jacob’s oldest son, but is Jacob’s oldest son from his favorite wife Rachel. Favorite is an idea that comes up a lot in these parshot about Joseph and the rest of Jacob’s family. When we are told that Joseph is tending the flocks with his brothers, the text doesn’t list Leah who was Jacob’s first wife at all. We skip the ten sons born to Jacob from other women and go straight to Joseph, Rachel’s eldest son.

Jacob isn’t shy about his favoritism. I would guess that it was something that he talked about, but what we read in this section is that Jacob made an object to symbolize his preference for Joseph. In a time where all clothing was hand made and for the average shepherd family more for practical use than for fashion, Jacob giving Joseph an ornate robe is a big deal. Verse 4 says, ” When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.” Jacob’s preference of Joseph is not helpful to his relationship with his brothers. I am sure that this family had other issues, but we see a direct connection between Jacob’s favoritism, the brother’s feeling passed over, and the brothers hating Joseph. Just like Jacob acted on his favoritism, the brothers act on their hatred. Together they put together a plan that removes Joseph from their family. Not only are they acting against Joseph, they are acting in a way that will cause Jacob great pain and the brothers move forward anyway.

Once the brothers have succeeded in getting rid of “their Joseph problem” Joseph finds favor in Egypt.  Genesis 39:2-5 tells us about Joseph and his new boss. “The LORD was with Joseph so that he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master. When his master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD gave him success in everything he did, Joseph found favor in  his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned. From the time he put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned, the LORD blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph. The blessing of the LORD was on everything Potiphar had, both in the house and on the field. ” This sounds pretty good. The LORD is blessing Joseph and he becomes a powerful Egyptian’s favorite trusted servant. But, this is another good news bad news scenario because Joseph also finds favor (through no fault of his own) with his boss’s wife. Oops! This scenario plays out badly, even though Joseph doesn’t act wrongly. So, again Joseph is favored and Joseph is sent away.

In prison this gets repeated. Bad news: he is in prison. Good news: he is a model prisoner and is given responsibility. Good news: he is given an opportunity to help other prisoners. Bad news: he is still in prison. We’ve seen God bless Joseph and we’ve seen Joseph’s circumstances end up being pretty crummy. This parsha ends in a pretty depressing cliff-hanger for Joseph. In prison he helps someone powerful who then gets out of jail. The last verse of this parsha says, “the chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him.” In three chapters Joseph goes from favorite son to forgotten prisoner in a strange land.

Ok, sorry to bum you all out. This isn’t the end of Joseph’s story. I won’t give away how it all turns out for him and his family (you’ll have to tune in for the rest of December), but what I can tell you is that even though Joseph has been dropkicked out of home by his brothers, falsely imprisoned, and forgotten in jail he has not been forgotten by God. I am sure that there were moments where he felt forgotten or abandoned by God. I am sure that there were points where he second guessed his interactions with his brothers and maybe even regretted being favored by Jacob, but God had not abandoned him. And we know that Joseph hadn’t given up on God. He gives credit to God for his success (even as a servant) and he gives credit to God for his ability with dreams (even in jail).

Joseph is a really encouraging story for me and I hope that you will be encouraged in looking at in again this week and in the coming weeks. God was actively involved in what was going on with Joseph even when he couldn’t see it. God was actively involved in the situation working all things for good, even when Joseph’s brothers, and Potiphar’s wife, and the other prisoners in jail only wished him harm. This is true for us too. It isn’t easy to see when we are in the middle of the story, but I hope that this parsha will encourage and remind you to look to God and ask him to teach you to trust Him when you can’t understand your circumstances. God doesn’t leave or forsake his people. That includes Jacob, that includes Joseph, and that includes you.

Shabbat Shalom Camp Gilgal!

RedSox

Parsha Post: Matot

This week’s parsha is taken from Numbers 30:2-32:42 and is called Matot, giving. It takes place while the Jewish people are still wandering in the wilderness, but are getting closer to the end of those 40 years. They’ve defeated Sihon, king of the Amorites, and Og, king if Bashan, on the east side of the Jordan River. The tribe of Reuben, Gad and half-tribe of Manasseh make a request of Moses, which grieves Moses. They ask for that land. Moses thought their motive was sinful, wanting to separate themselves from the rest of God’s people, and so Moses asks them. When things come around, those three tribes make an agreement that they will still go and fight alongside their brothers when they cross the Jordan River. Moses seems at peace.

Fast forward to the opening of Joshua. The book opens by marking the death of Moses, and Joshua being the new leader of the people. God reminds Joshua how he has raised him up for this time and job – to lead the people into the Promised Land. God reminds him to keep the commands, keep God’s words close to him. God says to Joshua, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” This is our Camp Gilgal theme verse. This promise given to Joshua, extends to us.

Chapter 1 of Joshua closes with Joshua addressing these three tribes, asking them to make good on the promise they made with Moses. They affirm their commitment to fight alongside their brothers. It’s one of the first steps that God has Joshua do as the leader of the people. This commitment was important.

The Haftarah portion is taken from Jeremiah 1:1-2:3. It’s the call of the prophet. Jeremiah’s first response to God’s call was to identify his age as a barrier to being able to serve God. Our excuses to God always sound ridiculous when anyone else gets to hear them. Of course God knows our age, our flaws, our physical inabilities, our short-comings. And yet he still calls us, and asks us to be involved in the work that he is doing.

Each of these three passages show us how God is closely involved in our lives. What we do matters. It mattered that the three tribes fought alongside their brothers. It matters whether we stay close to God, or not. (Joshua’s reminder to not let the book of the Law depart from him). God knows us and loves us. Even though Jeremiah thought he was ill-equipped to be a prophet, God knew he was able.