A DEFINING MOMENT
Life has its defining moments, those happenings which change everything. They are the kind of moments which demarcate and often change the direction of your life from that instance onward. There is everything that led up to that moment and everything after that moment. The moment itself can be one of great joy or great sorrow. That moment came for me when my fiancé died. In a blink, a twinkling of time everything pertaining in my life shifted and has never returned to what it was prior. Being a life altering critical juncture these turning points are the hinge upon which our lives shift in a flash. Life possesses a multitude of intersections. Yet some of these intersections are wrought with accidents and mishaps, catastrophes and upheavals. Sometimes one event can be unavoidably life changing. Nothing I know of is more life impacting than the death of a loved one. Bereavement is a phenomenon which alters our course in some manner.
In these sudden and unexpected apexes not only does our life change direction but how we will our life is also directly impacted. There’s a moment in every good story when the action is going in a specific direction then suddenly out of nowhere one sudden event changes everything. Sometimes that event is at the onset of the action and sets the course for the remainder of the film. Then there are the moments that occur later on after the action and tension has had a chance to build then there is a defining moment when a character makes a decision that changes everything. The direction in which the action will go is dependent upon that one seemingly minute detail.
When we meet someone and fall in love it changes us. Our whole lives are affected and driven in a whole new direction based on that one moment. You had every day until then and every day since. But that one day was defining. It was a critical juncture. How you respond to the situation defines what life will involve going forward. Some walk away from those moments. Others rise to the occasion and step into the moment, for good or for bad. For some it might be meeting the love of their life. For others it might be stealing a car or robbing a bank. These moments have consequences, sometimes grave ones, even if we don’t realize it at the time. Life is full of these moments. Most of the time they are small and relatively insignificant moments such as, what I decide I will have for dinner. Then there are the big moments; what career path will I chose, who will I marry or not.
Critical juncture can often take us unaware and hurl us into a situation we didn’t anticipate and aren’t prepared for. For instance, I was working for a company part time after I finished college. I needed a bit of a break, so I took an easy job with very little stress to unwind after the heavy mental demands of school. However, after a few months on that job my boss came to me and offered me a full-time position. Someone in our department spontaneously and without notice walked out. It was spontaneous and unexpected. I wasn’t looking for a full-time position just yet. I didn’t think I was ready for it. But when it was offered I literally had to make the decision on the spot. They needed an immediate fill for the position. If I paused they would have no choice but to find someone else. Without much thought I accepted the position. I went home that night wondering if I had done the right thing. This intersection showed up in the midst of the mundane. It was a defining moment. That one decision changed the course of my career. I wasn’t planning on working in that particular field. It had absolutely nothing to do with the degree I had worked so hard to achieve. Yet, it catapulted me into something I never expected. It set me on a course I didn’t plan for but ended up being one of the best jobs I’ve ever had.
That might not seem like a small thing for you but for me it was huge. I waited to go to college. I didn’t have the opportunity when I got out of high school. I had to go to work. Later I got married and had children. I found myself divorced and on my own to support my family. I went back to school to make myself marketable. I needed to earn enough to support my family. I couldn’t do that without some college. It was the 1990’s and I sought a degree in graphic design. I discovered afterward that I was considered too old to begin a career in that field. I needed to make more money than what I could earn at entry level. I couldn’t get a job in my field that would pay enough to support my family. When I took that part time job I was burned out and discouraged. I had given up on finding a job in my field and didn’t know where to look. I took the part time job out of desperation. I didn’t expect to land in an unexpected career. I expected to make a few bucks so I could feed my kids.
I continued to look for other jobs, but they just weren’t to be found. I wasn’t qualified. I was overeducated and under experienced. I fell in the cracks. And when that day came, and I was offered the new job I had a hunch that this might be what I was praying for. Again, I wasn’t expecting a career path. I was expecting a job that would pay the bills. It was a pleasant enough place to work. I liked my coworkers. It wasn’t the career I set out for, but it was what I needed. I remained in that position for the next five years. My salary was doubled, and I went on from there to be an executive administrative assistant and office manager making more than I could have if I had insisted on finding a job in my field of study. That one simple intersection in my life changed my course and set me in an entirely new direction. My example might seem somewhat unsophisticated and dull. It doesn’t end with me becoming a CEO. It did whoever turn on the hinge of one decision.
One of these such moments occurs in the Hebrew Scriptures. I believe it aptly defines the kind of moment of which I speak. It is found in a what some Jewish scholars refer to as the middle of words. The term is one of several in which there are repeated or double Hebrew words. Darosh darash and is found in Leviticus 10:16. Some refer to this as the center of the Torah (Pentateuch) . Other examples of these instances of double words in the Torah scroll are “Abraham, Abraham” (Genesis 25:19) and “Noah, Noah” (Genesis 6:9). Of the 77 uncommon cases darosh, darashis the 39th, the middle one. While it is not the exact middle of Scripture it is the middle of all the unusual double words found in the Torah scroll. FROM: http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/1883118/jewish/What-Is-the-Midpoint-of-the-Torah.htm#footnote6a1883118
This apex moment in scripture sets the trajectory for the rest of the story. Everything accomplished up until this moment had been going in a specific direction. Everything afterward will be determined by that one singular act. I see Leviticus 10:16 as a linchpin.
And Moses diligently sought (darosh darash) the goat of the sin offering, and, behold, it was burnt: and he was angry with Eleazar and Ithamar, the sons of Aaron which were left alive…,
Some might not agree with me. However, as I dig into the background details and do a little investigating of my own, I see something much weightier than what is on the surface. I believe Moses was in grief over the sudden loss of his nephews. In context Moses’ nephews, Nadab and Abihu had just been spontaneously cremated when they brought strange fire into the holy place to offer up to the Lord. Knowing first-hand the potential of grief to have strange and powerful effects I believe Moses’ love for his remaining family may have prompted a bit of a panic at the thought of a repeat performance. I’m sure he didn’t want to lose his two remaining nephews to the same fate, not to mention his brother Aaron. He was being extra cautious in making sure everything pertaining to the Tabernacle was done with the strictest of accuracy and proper protocol. It might explain his unnerved reaction within the circumstances.
While the Hebrew word darash means to investigate, or to make careful search in its root form it means to beat a path. In other words you have the path that led up to that moment and the path after that moment. This middle of words, Darosh darash, indicates an intersection. If it was your job to bring incense before the Lord and the two guys who went in ahead of you just got burnt to a crisp you would consider carefully how you took your next step. But that only defines what is on the surface of the moment. There is much more underneath. I believe darosh darash not only tells us that Moses made a thorough and careful investigation. I believe that darosh darash tells us much more. It describes the intersection but it also gives us a place to dig for more information. The Word darash means to frequent, to visit, to seek, to search, to ask for, to demand back, to interpret, to expound. It also has the meaning of requiring the blood of anyone. However, in its most base sense it means to tread as in to tread a path.
Hippos spend their days primarily in the water. They do however come out of the water to feed. When they feed, they typically frequent the same places. They beat a path each day to the same feeding grounds. They know where the succulent grass is and they go there to feed. Every day visiting the same place by taking the same path compresses the ground and makes a pathway. Other animals use this trodden track to find food as well. That is the basic concept behind darash. It’s the path I plan to take throughout this investigation.
“to seek, inquire, consult, ask, require, frequent.” This word is a common Semitic word, being found in Ugaritic and Syriac as well as in Hebrew in its various periods. It is commonly used in modern Hebrew in its verbal form for “to interpret, expound” and then in its derived noun forms for “sermon, preacher.” Occurring more than 160 times in the Old Testament, darash is first used in Gen 9:5: “And surely your blood of your lives will I require….” It often has the idea of avenging an offense against God or the shedding of blood (see Ezek 33:6).
One of the most frequent uses of this word is in the expression “to inquire of God,” which sometimes indicates a private seeking of God in prayer for direction Gen 25:22, and often it refers to the contacting of a prophet who would be the instrument of God’s revelation 1 Sam 9:9; 1 Kings 22:8. At other times this expression is found in connection with the use of the Urim and Thummim by the high priest as he sought to discover the will of God by the throwing of these sacred stones Num 27:21. Just what was involved is not clear, but it may be presumed that only yes-or-no questions could be answered by the manner in which these stones fell…
This word is often used to describe the “seeking of” the Lord in the sense of entering into covenantal relationship with Him. The prophets often used darash as they called on the people to make an about-face in living and instead “seek ye the Lord while he may be found…” Isa 55:6. (from Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, Copyright © 1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers.)
More on Darash
Daresh is the third level of studying scripture according to the Hebrew method of interpretation known as Pardes. Pardes which means paradise, garden or orchard is an acronym for the four levels of investigation used in the interpretation of scripture; pashat, remez, daresh, and sod, pronounced sōd. There are certain rules that apply to PaRDeS.
Pashat refers to the first level of investigation which is the literal interpretation of the verse. It is the literal translation of the verse and includes any literary style, historic or cultural setting and context that would have been understood by the writer or the audience at the time. Pashat is the keystone understanding scripture. Everything we do afterward rests upon the pashat. If we dispense with the pashat of a verse we throw away any real chance of accurately understanding the verse or objectively deriving its meaning.
The investigation of the scripture continues like the peeling of an onion; the second layer being remes. Remes means to hint. This refers to what is being implied in the verse. It is what is being alluded to that might reveal a deeper meaning. It is the meaning that goes beyond the literal meaning. This is the implied but not always obvious. Jesus used remes when He spoke in parables. He gave implied meanings that were not on the surface such as the reference in the parable of the soils and seeds in Mark 4. Jesus speaks of the seed that falls by the wayside, among the rocks, among the thorns and that which fell on good soil. He spoke in pashat but what was underneath was what was being implied. That is what is intended with remes. Remes is the hint that there is something deeper. Jesus sometimes explained the parables hinted meaning to the disciples. That is the main idea behind remes.
The layer under the remes is daresh. Daresh is an even deeper investigation. The imagery might be likened to an archeological excavation. There are two basic rules that apply to daresh:
1 daresh cannot be used to do away with the pashat
2 let scripture interpret scripture (look for other scriptures that define the meaning)
Daresh pulls from other sources of knowledge and information but primarily from the scriptures themselves. Like the hippo that returns to the rich feeding ground we return to the resources we know to be trusted resources. At this depth of digging for treasure we might search through commentaries, and other scholarly works on our subject. When doing so we always keep in mind that one scholar’s insight might come from a particular viewpoint and another from an entirely different perspective. Neither are absolutely correct nor entirely incorrect. Different perspectives facilitate uncovering a fuller understanding. Darash is the root word for the Hebrew word midrash which means a commentary or exposition. When conducting a midrash all the views of those in attendance and engaged in the study are listened to. They are all valid unless it is found that the view somehow violates the pashat. These sound views are to be considered acceptable and are compiled, as it were, in the investigation. A conclusion is not drawn from one person’s individual interpretation but the collective agreement of the combined input. Someone can draw a conclusion that the others may not have thought of. In that case they discuss their conclusion and it is tested by the group to see if it holds up under the scrutiny of the full body of the scriptures.
Sod (sōd) is the fourth layer of investigation which involves what is referred to as the hidden, secret, spiritual or mystical discovery. Sod is typically conducted through a method of deciphering the symbolic representation of the Hebrew letters that make up each word. There are fully accepted, and long-standing meanings contained within the Hebrew alphabet. While there may be those who are skeptical of this approach it is a well-established recognized method of interpretation among the Jewish community.
THAT CRITIC MOMENT IN THE TABERNACLE
I would have defined the event of coming out of Egypt as a turning point. From my perspective it was a defining moment. It appears however that it wasn’t necessarily so from God’s perspective. What defined that moment as a point of crisis was an act of worship. It appears that from God’s perspective what was on the line concerning Nadab and Abihu’s false fire was of far greater significance than mere protocol. Initially what would rest in the actions of the priests was the atonement of the nation and ultimately that of the whole world. There was a lot at stake. This wasn’t about constructing a pretty building for God or making sure they did everything according to a certain protocol. At the moment of Moses’ investigation of the offering in question everything is hanging in the balances as to whether everything they have done up until this point has been in vain. This thing hadn’t been taken on the road yet. This was a whole new thing God had established. And those two sons of Aaron may very well have defiled the Mishkan (Tabernacle). Was everything they had done up until now all for naught?
The importance of eating the purification [sin] offering. The purification offering was believed to absorb the impurities that it was presented to remedy. This concept of ritual absorption is common in the ancient Near East. When a great amount is absorbed (as on the Day of Atonement), the entire offering is burned so as to dispose of the impurity. But on most occasions the priest’s eating of the prescribed parts plays a role in the purification process. Milgrom suggests that it symbolized holiness swallowing up impurity. If this is so, Milgrom is right in understanding Aaron’s explanation to Moses here as reflecting his fearful caution. The presence of his sons’ corpses in the sanctuary area may have greatly increased the amount of impurity absorbed by the purification offering, making it lethal to the priest.
(from IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament, Copyright © 2000 by John H. Walton, Victor H. Matthews and Mark W. Chavalas. Published by InterVarsity Press. All rights reserved.)
Just like the Tabernacle in Moses’ day we are the Mishkan, the meeting place, the tabernacle not made with human hands, the earthly version of the heavenly abode. We live daily in this place of great tension. We must learn that God will never leave us or forsake us. We must learn that His grace is sufficient. You see even Moses didn’t know that God had not abandoned them. He just couldn’t be sure. So much rested upon his shoulders and the anxiety of getting it right was overwhelming.
With God there are times when getting it right, absolutely right, are of major importance. Nadab and Abihu found that out when they came into the presence of God with unprescribed and unauthorized material. Getting it right in that moment would have spared their lives. I’m sure Moses was pretty distraught over losing his nephews. I’m sure he didn’t want to see the entire priesthood wiped out. They couldn’t afford to make too many of these costly mistakes.
Everything about the tabernacle is important. However, when we understand the significance of the Altar of Incense, we can more fully grasp the implications of this one defining moment. A hairs breath from the Holy of holies, stepping up to the Altar of Incense is the most dangerous location on earth. It’s like coming to the foot of the cross for the very first time. It’s like that day, that instance in time when we come face to face with our own sin. The conviction of the Holy Spirit is weighty. It is powerful. Encountering God can be a terrifying experience. Something inside tells us that everything about our lives is going to end right here. Even the atmosphere around us seems to press on our consciousness. There are supernatural forces at work here.
This is a critical juncture. It’s the moment when you come to the foot of the cross of Christ. What are you going to do? Are you going to run? Are you going to try to get out as quickly as you can? Or are you going to acknowledge that you are here now, and you have to face your life of sin. This is the place to bring it. This is the place where offerings to God are made. Are we ready to let go of the life we have known? Once we emerge from this place we are never going to be the same. Meeting Jesus for the first time we don’t always know in that moment if we will receive judgment or somehow find mercy. There is a great exchange that takes place when we come to Christ. Our life of sin and shame is eradicated. A life in Christ One is introduced. One life goes up in smoke. A new life begins. The old man disintegrates, and a new man goes on from here. We are never the same for having gone through the experience.
When Aaron explains to Moses why the sin (purification) offering was completely burned up Moses was satisfied. I see a remes level in this. It hints at a possible allegorical understanding. I see this encounter as the old nature being completely consumed by God. Nothing remains. We can’t go forward in the same condition we arrived at this point. As we go forward it is with the cognitive awareness that this comes at a cost.
The defining moment is when God decides it is. Is everything still on track after there has been a major infraction such as strange fire upon the sacred altar? That question is answered by only one action; the manifestation of the presence of God. Without the presence everything has been for nothing. Without the presence of God all we are left with is religious ritual. Religious order with only the imposition of law is not only meaningless but harsh without the presence of God. After all the whole purpose for this place is the presence of God. Why was Moses so steamed up? Because he had no idea if everything they had done had been in vain. He didn’t know if the work done in erecting the tabernacle was for all for naught. Would they have to start over again? Did they blow their change? This was a moment of great tension as they were suspended between the probability of having lost God’s presence and the relief that God was still with them.
IMPORTANCE OF THE TABERNACLE
Most of us in Christendom don’t give much attention to the Tabernacle. We see it as ancient history that is completely irrelevant this side of the cross. Most of us think that. We’ve been taught to think that way for centuries. The problem however is that this thought couldn’t be further from the truth. Not only is the Tabernacle applicable and relevant it is the key player in the story of redemption and centerpiece to our salvation. It doesn’t take away from the cross. If anything, it defines it. Without the Tabernacle we wouldn’t have the cross. Without an understanding of the Tabernacle our understanding of the cross is incomplete.
Because of our own common misunderstandings coupled with how our well-meaning predecessors have addressed this issue we breeze over these verses with little attention. We tend to either skim over these sections or try to understand them through the Gentile grid work of our modern Greco-Roman thinking. Most of us have a hard time once you get out of the book of Genesis. And at times we have to admit we don’t grasp that much either. It’s the reason most of Christians don’t bother with the Old Testament. We see it as immaterial. However our lack of understanding causes us to miss the crux of the real story. Most of us will agree that we don’t understand. A few will try to understand more by searching through commentaries. But the answers we are looking for won’t come from Gentiles who don’t have any comprehension of the God of the Hebrews.
The Torah was written by and for the Hebrew people. It was written in their language with their idioms by Hebrew authors who were Hebrew through and through. They thought like Hebrews. They lived like Hebrews and everything they experienced was through a Hebrew lens. I am not referring to Rabbinic Judaism and adhering to Old Testament Law. I don’t encourage or support that in the slightest. What I am suggesting is that unless we look at the Scriptures through the lens of the Hebrew language it is like trying to read with the wrong glasses. We might make out some of the images, but we won’t see clearly unless we put on the right glasses. I am a strong advocate of studying the Hebrew Scriptures in their original language. We might think that to be impossible for someone without a formal education in Hebrew. We would be wrong. I was taught a method that facilitates a study of the Hebrew Scriptures without having to go to seminary. More on that later, but for now know that it is not impossible.
My point is that in order to comprehend the God of the Hebrews it is imperative to modify our approach to the Scriptures. One of the ways we can do that is by looking at them through the Hebrew script. What is revealed through the Hebrew gives a depth that is missed in most English translations. English simply cannot always convey the whole idea. Most of us know, on some level, that the Temple was the central point of the ancient Jewish culture. What we may not comprehend fully is why. There are those in the body of Christ today who have been studying the Temple and the Tabernacle. Many have even looked at how it applies to Christ and how Christ fulfilled the ministry of the Tabernacle. I have typically seen it taught in the context of its historic significance but not its present importance. I’m not suggesting a rebuilding of the physical temple. I’m also not insinuating that I have a unique approach. All I am saying is that I see something in the Tabernacle itself which is applies to our spiritual lives as believers in Yeshua.
This particular scripture is a great example of why darosh darash (a careful inquiry) is so important when it comes to approaching the scriptures. Moses and Aaron both had valid responses to the events of the day. The process not only took Moses’ investigation but also understanding Aaron’s insight and perspective to complete the picture. I see this as the perfect example for approaching the scriptures. We can’t be left completely on our own to draw our own conclusions. Sometimes it isn’t the guy in charge (Moses) who has the whole picture. It’s balance. It takes work. But in the end it’s worth the effort.