The Punishment of Abundance

Prosperity and success are great, but sometimes too much can be too much. The disciple of Yeshua asks only for his daily allotment.

Photo by Meik Schneider on Unsplash


Regular Shabbat Readings

Read / Listen to these Portions

  • Beha'alotcha (בהעלותך | When you set up)
  • Torah: Numbers 8:1-12:15
  • Haftarah: Zechariah 2:14-4:7
  • Gospel: Matthew 14:14-21

Note: The regular readings are often interrupted with special readings on Jewish holidays, special Sabbaths, and Rosh Chodesh. Refer to the annual Torah Portion schedule for these special portions.

Portion Outline

  • Torah
    • Numbers 8:1 | The Seven Lamps
    • Numbers 8:5 | Consecration and Service of the Levites
    • Numbers 9:1 | The Passover at Sinai
    • Numbers 9:15 | The Cloud and the Fire
    • Numbers 10:1 | The Silver Trumpets
    • Numbers 10:11 | Departure from Sinai
    • Numbers 11:1 | Complaining in the Desert
    • Numbers 11:16 | The Seventy Elders
    • Numbers 11:31 | The Quails
    • Numbers 12:1 | Aaron and Miriam Jealous of Moses
  • Prophets
    • Zec 2:6 Interlude: | An Appeal to the Exiles
    • Zec 3:1 Fourth Vision: | Joshua and Satan
    • Zec 4:1 Fifth Vision: | The Lampstand and Olive Trees

Portion Summary

The third reading from the book of Numbers and the thirty-sixth reading from the Torah is called Beha'alotcha (בהעלותך), a word that literally means "When you ascend." It comes from the first verse of the portion, which could literally be translated as "When you ascend the lamps" (Numbers 8:2), a reference to the fact that the priest had to step up to clean and light the lamps of the menorah. This portion is jam-packed, telling the story of the consecration of the Levites, the first Passover in the wilderness, the silver trumpets, the cloud of glory, the departure from Sinai, the grumbling in the wilderness, the first Sanhedrin and the punishment of Miriam.

A common proverb that says, "Be careful what you ask for; you might get it." The people of Israel were tired of manna; they cried out for meat. The LORD punished their malcontent nature by answering their prayer and sending an abundance of meat. He withheld the manna and gave the the people a month's supply of quail.

"You shall eat, not one day, nor two days, nor five days, nor ten days, nor twenty days, but a whole month, until it comes out of your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you; because you have rejected the LORD." (Numbers 11:19-20)

Without any preservatives or refrigeration, a month's supply of quail turned rancid quickly. Sickness and plague followed. After a few days of quail, the Israelites were longing for the manna they had rejected.

In our lives we often experience the same dynamic. We find ourselves punished with abundance. Abundance is not always a blessing. Avarice and greed are quick to follow. A culture with too much food eats too much and becomes overweight and insensitive. A family with too much income begins to spend foolishly and finds it increasingly difficult to give the same proportion to the work of the Kingdom. It is far easier to labor for the kingdom when things are lean. "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." (Matthew 19:24)

The daily provision of the manna reminds us to be dependent upon God day by day. If a man could store up manna, hoarding it like money, he could be confident of his sustenance for many days to come. But the manna could not be hoarded. It required a daily dependence upon God.

The Master tells us that instead of seeking to store up treasure on earth (which inevitably steals our hearts away from God), we are to merely ask for our daily bread. That is to say, we should be asking that the LORD will provide for us according to His measure and good purpose, even as He provided daily bread for Israel while they traveled in the wilderness.

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