“Why should our father’s name disappear from his clan because he had no son?” vs. 4
There is a story I read on the internet some time back about a little girl. In the course of the day, her friend lost her favorite doll which she’d brought over to play with. She was heartbroken, and sat on the steps and began to cry. When the first little girl’s mother came outside to check on the girls, she found them both sitting on the step sobbing. When she asked what was wrong, she was told through the tears that the little friend, Suzie had lost her favorite doll. The mother looked puzzled for a bit, then asked her daughter, “did you lose your doll too?” “No”, the daughter sobbed. “Then what’s wrong with you?” “Nothing” she sobbed. “I’m just helping Suzie cry.” That is empathy: when our heart breaks for another.
Read Passage – Numbers 27:1-11
1 The daughters of Zelophehad son of Hepher, the son of Gilead, the son of Makir, the son of Manasseh, belonged to the clans of Manasseh son of Joseph. The names of the daughters were Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milkah and Tirzah. They came forward 2 and stood before Moses, Eleazar the priest, the leaders and the whole assembly at the entrance to the tent of meeting and said, 3 “Our father died in the wilderness. He was not among Korah’s followers, who banded together against the LORD, but he died for his own sin and left no sons. 4 Why should our father’s name disappear from his clan because he had no son? Give us property among our father’s relatives.” 5 So Moses brought their case before the LORD, 6 and the LORD said to him, 7 “What Zelophehad’s daughters are saying is right. You must certainly give them property as an inheritance among their father’s relatives and give their father’s inheritance to them. 8 “Say to the Israelites, ‘If a man dies and leaves no son, give his inheritance to his daughter. 9 If he has no daughter, give his inheritance to his brothers. 10 If he has no brothers, give his inheritance to his father’s brothers. 11If his father had no brothers, give his inheritance to the nearest relative in his clan, that he may possess it. This is to have the force of law for the Israelites, as the LORD commanded Moses.’
Who Is The Leader?
If you go back to Chapter 16 there is a rebellion taking place among the Israelite community. There were a group of people rebelling against Moses being the leader. There are three main leaders of this rebellion; Korah, Dathan and Abiram. They didn’t want Moses leading them and their main focus was on taking over the leadership themselves. The question is “Who is the leader?” They thought it was Moses because they forgo the real leader, and the one who appointed Moses, was God. They confront Moses and he calls for this big meeting the next day. (Cool thing is that he doesn’t sem to panic). He tells them all to carry these censer’s and God will choose who is the leader. Moses has not forgotten God is the leader. They gather the next day in front of the Tent of Meeting before the Lord. God tells Moses to tell the people to all back away from these guys. So these men and their families are all standing together and God causes the ground to open up and swallow Korah, Dathan and Abiram and all their families. It’s like something right out of a movie. And then the earth closes back up and it’s just this flat ground like nothing was ever there. Wow
Zelophehad’s daughters were feeling abandon by their community and their people. They were 5 daughter’s of one man and the passage tells us that they had no brother. Many people in Israel had just died. Our text makes the distinction; Zelophehad was not one of those opposing Moses. Verse 3:
“Our father died in the wilderness. He was not among Korah’s followers, who banded together against the LORD…” vs. 3
These women confront Moses in front of this same tent that all those rebellious people did and were swallowed up. Their father is gone and in their community women were not given the same status as men and, in fact, once the male figure of the family was gone they were abandoned unless there was a Kinsman Redeemer to take them under his wings and care for them. It would appear there is not Kinsman Redeemer in this situation.
They don’t want to appear to be challenging Moses based on what happened in chapter 16 but they are now alone. They have no one. We can only imagine how they must have felt; alone, abandoned, on the verge of homelessness and poverty, and uncared for. The really cool thing is these women take the higher ground. They could go around complaining, grumbling, and mayber even stirring up negativity but they don’t. They take some action, they do something
The Bold Request
The action they take is to speak up, to ask Moses; they make a bold request to him, vs. 4
“Why should our father’s name disappear from his clan because he had no son? Give us property among our father’s relatives.” vs. 4
They had no man to speak up for them so they make a bold move. In a situation where they seem to have no power they just put out there what they want and need to survive.
This month is February and it a month that reminds us to look at our relationships. So this month I want to focus in relationships. We learn a lot from these women. Today I want to look at the concept that everyone matters and as God’s people, as Christians, how we treat people says a lot to them about how they see God.
Divine Empathy Involves…
This morning, let’s look at what God is telling us about our relationships and how we view others. Today we are going to look at that from the aspect of divine empathy.
Empathy – the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another
Sympathy – the act or capacity of entering into or sharing the feelings or interests of another. It’s more of the idea of feeling sorry for someone.
We want to focus on empathy, divine empathy, the idea that God works in and through us to help others. God was working through these women and through Moses.
- A Listening Ear
The first thing that we see happening in the passage is that Moses has a listening ear. Verse 5:
“They came forward and stood before Moses, Eleazar the priest, the leaders and the whole assembly at the entrance to the tent of meeting and said…” vs. 2
Notice all the people that are there:
Moses – The man who was acting as judge for the people in all their disputes
Eleazar – The Priest
The leaders – The political aspect
The whole assembly – their peers
Everyone is in on this and watching what is going to happen.
There are two concerns they bring up:
- Their family name will be lost – family names hugely important
- They will lose their land – their only means of existence
We are reminded in James 1:19:
“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak…” James 1:19
It is some important to be heard. Sometimes it is just enough ot know that someone hears us. In this case, everyone heard Zelophehad’s daughters.
- Getting It (Understanding/Feeling/Caring/Relating)
The second thing that divine empathy involves is getting it; understanding, feeling caring, and relating.
(Notice in your outline is says that. You might want to write “Getting it”) Verse 5:
““So Moses brought their case before the LORD…” vs. 5
Moses could have easily dismissed their case. They were woman and really didn’t have rights. But he hears them and empathizes with them and wants to do the right thing. He takes it to the one person he knows will understand; God. God understands, cares, feels, and relates. He knows because of all that Christ went through. Hebrews 4:1:
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are…” Hebrews 4:1
Because Jesus went through all that we go through, he can relate and he relates it to God for us. This is how much God gets it. When Moses goes to writing down all the laws in Deut., he makes provision for this. It changed the outcome from that point on.
ASIDE: There is a great story in the laws of Moses from Deut. 25:5-10 where it talks about the brother of the dead man claiming the property and if he won’t the man’s widow is to take off her sandal and spit in his face and say to him “That’s what happens to a man who will not carry on his brother’s name.” It’s a crack up. Isn’t that cool!
Finally, the third aspect of divine empathy is taking action. Verse 7:
“What Zelophehad’s daughters are saying is right. You must certainly give them property as an inheritance among their father’s relatives” vs. 7\
God instructs Moses to act on these woman’s request. We are called to hear, to empathize, but it only comes to fruition when we act on it.
Ex. Segment on Primetime on T.V. Friday night: What Would You Do. They place a man (who appears to be blind and begging for money) near a catering snack truck (roach coach). They have a plant at the truck ordering coffee but not having enough money so they go over and take a dollar out of the blind man’s hat to pay for their coffee. The set up is intended to see if people will really stand up for this bland guy. Luckily most do.
It reminds me of the passage in James 2:18:
“Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.” James 2:18
Our faith is made complete when we act on it.
British statesman and financier Cecil Rhodes, whose fortune was used to endow the world-famous Rhodes Scholarships, was a stickler for correct dress—but apparently not at the expense of someone else’s feelings. A young man invited to dine with Rhodes arrived by train and had to go directly to Rhodes’s home in his travel-stained clothes.
Once there he was appalled to find the other guests already assembled, wearing full evening dress. After what seemed a long time Rhodes appeared, in a shabby old blue suit. Later the young man learned that his host had been dressed in evening clothes, but put on the old suit when he heard of his young guest’s dilemma.
Today in the Word, February, 1991, p. 10