Ha’azinu

Ha’azinu

Hear

Deuteronomy 32:1–52
2 Samuel 22:1–22:51

“The Rock of Salvation”


by Mark Huey

This week we are in the midst of the Fall festivals of the Lord. The Ten Days of Awe are ending, and Yom Kippur is about to take place. The annual Torah cycle is nearing completion. Final preparations for the Feast of Tabernacles or Sukkot are being made. The time to contemplate some of the final words of Moshe Rabbeinu, Moses our Teacher, could not be better, as the message of Sukkot is that the Lord desires to take up residence with His people, “tabernacle” with them if you will, during the Millennial reign of Messiah Yeshua—and beyond into the Eternal State.

Before Ha’azinu begins, we witness how Moses’ time as the leader of the Ancient Israelites is coming to a quick conclusion. Yet, there is a definite message that God wants to give the people of Israel, in the form of a song that speaks of the destiny that is to befall them.[1] Before Moses dies, he was specifically asked to record this song that will detail the future history of Israel. What was recited is not very good, as God’s people would prostitute themselves with other gods and break the covenant that they have made with Him. As a result, God will be angry and temporarily turn His face away from Israel, who would then be consumed by many evils and troubles. The scene opens with the following,

“Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Behold, the time for you to die is near; call Joshua, and present yourselves at the tent of meeting, that I may commission him.’ So Moses and Joshua went and presented themselves at the tent of meeting. The LORD appeared in the tent in a pillar of cloud, and the pillar of cloud stood at the doorway of the tent. The LORD, ‘Behold, you are about to lie down with your fathers; and this people will arise and play the harlot with the strange gods of the land, into the midst of which they are going, and will forsake Me and break My covenant which I have made with them. Then My anger will be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them and hide My face from them, and they will be consumed, and many evils and troubles will come upon them; so that they will say in that day, “Is it not because our God is not among us that these evils have come upon us?” But I will surely hide My face in that day because of all the evil which they will do, for they will turn to other gods. Now therefore, write this song for yourselves, and teach it to the sons of Israel; put it on their lips, so that this song may be a witness for Me against the sons of Israel. For when I bring them into the land flowing with milk and honey, which I swore to their fathers, and they have eaten and are satisfied and become prosperous, then they will turn to other gods and serve them, and spurn Me and break My covenant. Then it shall come about, when many evils and troubles have come upon them, that this song will testify before them as a witness (for it shall not be forgotten from the lips of their descendants); for I know their intent which they are developing today, before I have brought them into the land which I swore.’ So Moses wrote this song the same day, and taught it to the sons of Israel” (Deuteronomy 31:14-22).

The Lord had some very specific reasons about why Moses was to write a song. The Almighty appeared in a pillar of cloud and gave Moses a word that would be a witness to the rebellious behavior to be anticipated in the future. Moses was instructed to teach this song to the people of Israel, who will fall into sin after his death:

“Assemble to me all the elders of your tribes and your officers, that I may speak these words in their hearing and call the heavens and the earth to witness against them. For I know that after my death you will act corruptly and turn from the way which I have commanded you; and evil will befall you in the latter days, for you will do that which is evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking Him to anger with the work of your hands.’ Then Moses spoke in the hearing of all the assembly of Israel the words of this song, until they were complete” (Deuteronomy 31:28-30).

The song Moses was to compose would become a witness against Israel, not only for the time period after Moses’ death, but also b’acharit ha’yamim or “in the days to come” (RSV), the Last Days or the end-times. When you read or contemplate this song or poem, it has multiple meanings that surely transcend time, and speak into the common problems associated with people in general rejecting God. Surely implied, within the song of Deuteronomy 32:1-43, is the need for all who hear to turn back to the Lord in repentance and obedience to His Instruction:

“Give ear, O heavens, and let me speak; and let the earth hear the words of my mouth. Let my teaching drop as the rain, My speech distill as the dew, as the droplets on the fresh grass and as the showers on the herb. For I proclaim the name of the LORD; ascribe greatness to our God! The Rock! His work is perfect, for all His ways are just; a God of faithfulness and without injustice, righteous and upright is He. They have acted corruptly toward Him, they are not His children, because of their defect; but are a perverse and crooked generation. Do you thus repay the LORD, O foolish and unwise people? Is not He your Father who has bought you? He has made you and established you. Remember the days of old, consider the years of all generations. Ask your father, and he will inform you, your elders, and they will tell you. When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance, when He separated the sons of man, He set the boundaries of the peoples according to the number of the sons of Israel. For the LORD’s portion is His people; Jacob is the allotment of His inheritance. He found him in a desert land, and in the howling waste of a wilderness; He encircled him, He cared for him, He guarded him as the pupil of His eye. Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that hovers over its young, He spread His wings and caught them, He carried them on His pinions. The LORD alone guided him, and there was no foreign god with him. He made him ride on the high places of the earth, and he ate the produce of the field; and He made him suck honey from the rock, and oil from the flinty rock, curds of cows, and milk of the flock, with fat of lambs, and rams, the breed of Bashan, and goats, with the finest of the wheat—and of the blood of grapes you drank wine. But Jeshurun grew fat and kicked—you are grown fat, thick, and sleek—then he forsook God who made him, and scorned the Rock of his salvation. They made Him jealous with strange gods; with abominations they provoked Him to anger. They sacrificed to demons who were not God, to gods whom they have not known, new gods who came lately, whom your fathers did not dread. You neglected the Rock who begot you, and forgot the God who gave you birth. The LORD saw this, and spurned them because of the provocation of His sons and daughters. Then He said, ‘I will hide My face from them, I will see what their end shall be; for they are a perverse generation, sons in whom is no faithfulness. They have made Me jealous with what is not God; they have provoked Me to anger with their idols. So I will make them jealous with those who are not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation, for a fire is kindled in My anger, and burns to the lowest part of Sheol, and consumes the earth with its yield, and sets on fire the foundations of the mountains. I will heap misfortunes on them; I will use My arrows on them. They will be wasted by famine, and consumed by plague and bitter destruction; and the teeth of beasts I will send upon them, with the venom of crawling things of the dust. Outside the sword will bereave, and inside terror—both young man and virgin, the nursling with the man of gray hair. I would have said, “I will cut them to pieces, I will remove the memory of them from men,” had I not feared the provocation by the enemy, that their adversaries would misjudge, that they would say, “Our hand is triumphant, and the LORD has not done all this.”’ For they are a nation lacking in counsel, and there is no understanding in them. Would that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would discern their future! How could one chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight, unless their Rock had sold them, and the LORD had given them up? Indeed their rock is not like our Rock, even our enemies themselves judge this. For their vine is from the vine of Sodom, and from the fields of Gomorrah; their grapes are grapes of poison, their clusters, bitter. Their wine is the venom of serpents, and the deadly poison of cobras. Is it not laid up in store with Me, sealed up in My treasuries? Vengeance is Mine, and retribution, in due time their foot will slip; for the day of their calamity is near, and the impending things are hastening upon them. For the LORD will vindicate His people, and will have compassion on His servants, when He sees that their strength is gone, and there is none remaining, bond or free. And He will say, ‘Where are their gods, the rock in which they sought refuge? Who ate the fat of their sacrifices, and drank the wine of their drink offering? Let them rise up and help you, let them be your hiding place! See now that I, I am He, and there is no god besides Me; it is I who put to death and give life. I have wounded and it is I who heal, and there is no one who can deliver from My hand. Indeed, I lift up My hand to heaven, and say, as I live forever, if I sharpen My flashing sword, and My hand takes hold on justice, I will render vengeance on My adversaries, and I will repay those who hate Me. I will make My arrows drunk with blood, and My sword will devour flesh, with the blood of the slain and the captives, from the long-haired leaders of the enemy.’ Rejoice, O nations, with His people; for He will avenge the blood of His servants, and will render vengeance on His adversaries, and will atone for His land and His people” (Deuteronomy 32:1-43).

The song of Deuteronomy 32:1-43 is not exactly something to be read, recited, or even sung without a strong degree of sobriety—recognizing that it is largely a rebuke of the sins of Israel. Immediately following, we see how Moses and Joshua went before the camp of Ancient Israel, and the people were admonished to observe God’s Torah, as it is to serve as their living body of instruction for entering into the Promised Land. In spite of the sin that is anticipated to come, there will still be a wide degree of faithfulness and obedience to the Lord:

“Then Moses came and spoke all the words of this song in the hearing of the people, he, with Joshua the son of Nun. When Moses had finished speaking all these words to all Israel, he said to them, ‘Take to your heart all the words with which I am warning you today, which you shall command your sons to observe carefully, even all the words of this law. For it is not an idle word for you; indeed it is your life. And by this word you will prolong your days in the land, which you are about to cross the Jordan to possess’” (Deuteronomy 32:44-47).

While contemplating the song of Deuteronomy 32:1-43 during this season of repentance, two important statements kept coming into my mind—because they contrast the consistency of our God, with the frailty of our human condition before Him. The first passage concerns how the Hebrew term tzur or “rock” is mentioned, as the Lord is the One who has been consistently just with the people of Israel:

“The Rock! His work is perfect, for all His ways are just; a God of faithfulness and without injustice, righteous and upright is He. They have acted corruptly toward Him, they are not His children, because of their defect; but are a perverse and crooked generation” (Deuteronomy 32:4-5).

Moses asserted that God, as the Rock of His people, never changes. This is one thing that all of us who follow Him today can surely rely upon! Moses went on to state how loving God has been toward Israel, and how He has taken care of them:

“For the LORD’s portion is His people; Jacob is the allotment of His inheritance. He found him in a desert land, and in the howling waste of a wilderness; He encircled him, He cared for him, He guarded him as the pupil of His eye. Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that hovers over its young, He spread His wings and caught them, He carried them on His pinions. The LORD alone guided him, and there was no foreign god with him” (Deuteronomy 32:9-12).

After describing this loving relationship with Israel in poetic terms, the contrast is made between the Rock and “Jeshurun,” a term of endearment for the nation of Israel:

“But Jeshurun grew fat and kicked—you are grown fat, thick, and sleek—then he forsook God who made him, and scorned the Rock of his salvation. They made Him jealous with strange gods; with abominations they provoked Him to anger. They sacrificed to demons who were not God, to gods whom they have not known, new gods who came lately, whom your fathers did not dread. You neglected the Rock who begot you, and forgot the God who gave you birth. The LORD saw this, and spurned them because of the provocation of His sons and daughters. Then He said, ‘I will hide My face from them, I will see what their end shall be; for they are a perverse generation, sons in whom is no faithfulness’” (Deuteronomy 32:15-20).

In this second passage of interest, Yeshurun is a name that means “upright one,” and is a “poetic name of Israel, designating it under its ideal character” (BDB).[2] But as we learn in this song, the beloved Israel will scorn the Rock of its salvation, and neglect the Rock who gave birth to it. Israel will forsake God, and as a result He will hide Himself from them. Sadly, this pattern will repeat itself for generation after generation. However, as the instruction of Ha’azinu continues, describing the consequences of neglecting and turning away from the Rock—there will come a definite future time when the vengeance of the Lord will come to deal with the enemies of Israel:

“Indeed their rock is not like our Rock, even our enemies themselves judge this. For their vine is from the vine of Sodom, and from the fields of Gomorrah; their grapes are grapes of poison, their clusters, bitter. Their wine is the venom of serpents, and the deadly poison of cobras. Is it not laid up in store with Me, sealed up in My treasuries? Vengeance is Mine, and retribution, in due time their foot will slip; for the day of their calamity is near, and the impending things are hastening upon them. For the LORD will vindicate His people, and will have compassion on His servants, when He sees that their strength is gone, and there is none remaining, bond or free. And He will say, ‘Where are their gods, the rock in which they sought refuge? Who ate the fat of their sacrifices, and drank the wine of their drink offering? Let them rise up and help you, let them be your hiding place! See now that I, I am He, and there is no god besides Me; it is I who put to death and give life. I have wounded and it is I who heal, and there is no one who can deliver from My hand’” (Deuteronomy 32:31-39).

Moses reminded the Ancient Israelites in his message to the people, that there is no other rock like the Rock, the LORD God. Moses’ message in Ha’azinu concluded with a word of hope, in that God will avenge His people from the attacks of their enemies:

“Indeed, I lift up My hand to heaven, and say, as I live forever, if I sharpen My flashing sword, and My hand takes hold on justice, I will render vengeance on My adversaries, and I will repay those who hate Me. I will make My arrows drunk with blood, And My sword will devour flesh, with the blood of the slain and the captives, from the long-haired leaders of the enemy. Rejoice, O nations, with His people; for He will avenge the blood of His servants, and will render vengeance on His adversaries, and will atone for His land and His people” (Deuteronomy 32:40-43).

This is a guarantee from some of Moses’ final words that the Holy One of Israel will be the Rock, which in the end will fully avenge the blood of His servants and restore Israel to its fullness. Down through the history of Israel, we can detect how the themes of Ha’azinu would have surely given tremendous courage and strength to those who diligently followed God, in the midst of turmoil, and even in the midst of many others rejecting Him. The Prophet Isaiah seems to have used the words present in our Torah portion, to encourage his own generation to pursue the Lord in righteousness:

“But now listen, O Jacob, My servant, and Israel, whom I have chosen: Thus says the LORD who made you and formed you from the womb, who will help you, ‘Do not fear, O Jacob My servant; and you Jeshurun whom I have chosen. For I will pour out water on the thirsty land and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out My Spirit on your offspring and My blessing on your descendants; and they will spring up among the grass Like poplars by streams of water. This one will say, “I am the LORD’s”; and that one will call on the name of Jacob; and another will write on his hand, “Belonging to the LORD,” and will name Israel’s name with honor.’ Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: ‘I am the first and I am the last, and there is no God besides Me. Who is like Me? Let him proclaim and declare it; yes, let him recount it to Me in order, from the time that I established the ancient nation. And let them declare to them the things that are coming and the events that are going to take place. Do not tremble and do not be afraid; have I not long since announced it to you and declared it? And you are My witnesses. Is there any God besides Me, or is there any other Rock? I know of none (Isaiah 44:1-8).

It can be very easy to read through the song of Deuteronomy 32:1-34 and get a little depressed and upset. While this song surely lauds the great power of God and His supremacy, it is also a strong rebuke of those who are rebellious toward Him and who seek after other objects of worship. How are we to understand and apply its message? We need to each make sure we understand how the Lord “will atone for His land and His people” (Deuteronomy 32:43). The atonement (Heb. verb kafar) to be issued is notably not one that the descendants of Israel themselves are to alone benefit from, but also the nations at large (cf. Romans 15:10). As you contemplate the Rock of your salvation, Yeshua the Messiah (Jesus Christ), whoever you are make sure that you have His shed blood for your sins covering your life! Have the confidence of knowing that a resolution to the problems of sin and rebellion to the Holy One has been provided in the Son of God.


NOTES

[1] Please note that the Song of Moses referred to in Revelation 15:3 is most probably the Song of the Sea of Exodus 15, something employed in the daily liturgy of the Jewish siddur.

For a further discussion, consult the article “The Song of Moses and God’s Mission for His People” by J.K. McKee.

[2] BDB, 449.

Nitzavim-V’yeilekh

Nitzavim

Standing

 Deuteronomy 29:9[10]-30:20
Isaiah 61:10-63:9

V’yeilekh

And he went

Deuteronomy 31:1-30
Hosea 14:2-10; Micah 7:18-20; Joel 2:15-27

“Choose Life”


by Mark Huey

The annual Torah cycle has begun to wind down. On typical years, this Shabbat is known as Shabbat Shuvah or the Sabbath of Repentance (or Return), and it usually falls between Yom Teruah/Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. During what is intended to be a season of repentance, the Ten Days of Awe from 01-10 Tishri, provide followers of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob an annual opportunity to reflect upon their relationship with Him and their required return to Him and to His ways.

The Holy One of Israel desires to have a meaningful relationship with His people. As followers of the Lord, we have each been called out of the world to be a treasured possession unto Him. This is what Moses declared in Deuteronomy 26:18-19:

“The LORD has today declared you to be His people, a treasured possession [l’am segullah], as He promised you, and that you should keep all His commandments; and that He will set you high above all nations which He has made, for praise, fame, and honor; and that you shall be a consecrated people [am-qadosh] to the LORD your God, as He has spoken” (Deuteronomy 26:18-19).

Please note that being a “treasured possession” of the Almighty has some incumbent responsibilities—notably that His people obey Him. The results of obedience to God are praise, fame, honor, and ultimately composing a holy nation which can be used to proclaim His goodness to a sinful world:

“‘Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel” (Exodus 19:5-6).

If you consider yourself to be a follower of the Most High, and recognize that you are His “treasured possession,” then I would urge you to consider the great responsibility He has truly given to you. As we all compose “a kingdom of priests” (cf. 1 Peter 2:5, 9), we have the job of interceding for the lost of Planet Earth. I believe that this season is an excellent time to review your relationship with the Almighty. As you turn to Him in confession and prayer, recognize that He willingly accepts a broken spirit and contrite heart. Turn to Him for forgiveness of sin and iniquity, so that you can be fully restored to Him and be able to serve Him more effectively:

“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise” (Psalm 51:17).

The Apostle John tells us as Believers in Yeshua, that we have the additional assurance that through heartfelt confession, our transgressions are forgiven:

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

For Shabbat Shuvah, I pray that all who read this commentary will take some time to go before our Heavenly Father and confess sins of commission or omission. I also pray that we will all be reconciled one to another, as we allow the Holy Spirit to enact a special work on our hearts and minds.

As we turn to this week’s Torah reading, we find that Moses is now 120 years old, and ready to pass on the mantle of leadership to Joshua, before his death:

“And he said to them, ‘I am a hundred and twenty years old today; I am no longer able to come and go, and the LORD has said to me, “You shall not cross this Jordan.” It is the LORD your God who will cross ahead of you; He will destroy these nations before you, and you shall dispossess them. Joshua is the one who will cross ahead of you, just as the LORD has spoken’” (Deuteronomy 31:2-3).

Joshua has been the faithful servant of Moses for nearly forty years. His service goes back to his youth:

“Then Joshua the son of Nun, the attendant of Moses from his youth, said, ‘Moses, my lord, restrain them’” (Numbers 11:28).

He led the Israelites in the battle against Amalek after departing Egypt:

“So Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword” (Exodus 17:13).

Joshua accompanied Moses to the mountain to receive the Ten Commandments from God:

“Now the LORD said to Moses, ‘Come up to Me on the mountain and remain there, and I will give you the stone tablets with the law and the commandment which I have written for their instruction.’ So Moses arose with Joshua his servant, and Moses went up to the mountain of God” (Exodus 24:12-13).

Joshua, along with Caleb, came back from Canaan with a good report:

“But Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh remained alive out of those men who went to spy out the land” (Numbers 14:38).

God instructed Moses to lay his hands on Joshua in front of the Israelites, to indicate that he will follow in Moses’ position and lead the people into the Promised Land:

“Moses did just as the LORD commanded him; and he took Joshua and set him before Eleazar the priest and before all the congregation. Then he laid his hands on him and commissioned him, just as the LORD had spoken through Moses….Joshua the son of Nun, who stands before you, he shall enter there; encourage him, for he will cause Israel to inherit it” (Numbers 27:22-23; Deuteronomy 1:38).

Now as our Torah reading begins, Moses realized that Joshua was ready to inherit the leadership responsibilities for Israel. It is at this point that Moses exhorted the people to “be strong and courageous,” prior to entering the Promised Land:

“‘Be strong and courageous [chizqu v’imtzu][1], do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.’ Then Moses called to Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, ‘Be strong and courageous [chazaq v’ematz], for you shall go with this people into the land which the LORD has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall give it to them as an inheritance. The LORD is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed” (Deuteronomy 31:6-8).

In a comforting word, Moses said that God will not fail Israel or forsake Israel. In order to reaffirm Joshua’s position, Moses turned to Joshua and repeated the words of encouragement to “be strong and courageous.” Joshua had been a firsthand witness of God’s guidance and deliverance of Israel for nearly forty years. Observing and serving Moses had prepared him for leadership for some time. But still, Moses was led to encourage him directly. In fact, at the end of this statement Moses added the words, “Do not fear or be dismayed.” Moses had told the same thing to the Israelites earlier, when recounting the mission of the twelve spies to venture into Canaan:

“See, the LORD your God has placed the land before you; go up, take possession, as the LORD, the God of your fathers, has spoken to you. Do not fear or be dismayed” (Deuteronomy 1:21).

We need to remember that God’s people, in spite of the written record of Scripture and testimony of Biblical witnesses, do have the tendency to become fearful and dismayed. Moses, more than anyone else, knew this from his personal observations over the previous forty years. Moses was very concerned about the destiny of Israel. At the end of this parashah, Moses reiterated these same words to Joshua. This time Moses also added the request to put the scroll of the Torah next to the Ark of the Covenant so that it will remain a witness against Israel:

“Then He commissioned Joshua the son of Nun, and said, ‘Be strong and courageous, for you shall bring the sons of Israel into the land which I swore to them, and I will be with you.’ It came about, when Moses finished writing the words of this law in a book until they were complete, that Moses commanded the Levites who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD, saying, ‘Take this book of the law and place it beside the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, that it may remain there as a witness against you. For I know your rebellion and your stubbornness; behold, while I am still alive with you today, you have been rebellious against the LORD; how much more, then, after my death? Assemble to me all the elders of your tribes and your officers, that I may speak these words in their hearing and call the heavens and the earth to witness against them. For I know that after my death you will act corruptly and turn from the way which I have commanded you; and evil will befall you in the latter days, for you will do that which is evil in the sight of the LORD, provoking Him to anger with the work of your hands” (Deuteronomy 31:23-29).

Remember that Moses has already prophesied what would happen to Israel if and when they acted corruptly. Here, he once again called upon Heaven and Earth to be witnesses against the people. If you will recall, these are the same two witnesses that Moses called upon when he gave Israel the choice of life and death:

“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants” (Deuteronomy 30:19).

Heaven and Earth still testify against God’s people, and the choices of life or death—blessing or curse, favor or penalty—still remain to those of us who live in this generation. God’s Word can stand against us as a third witness of what will happen when we choose to obey, or disobey, Him. Much like Ancient Israel would face neighbors who tried to lead them astray from God, so do we face obstacles and temptations that can likewise take us away from Him.

Before Deuteronomy 31 concludes, Moses added a prophetic statement based on his observations of Ancient Israel for the previous forty years:

“For I know that after my death you will act corruptly and turn from the way which I have commanded you; and evil will befall you in the latter days, for you will do that which is evil in the sight of the LORD, provoking Him to anger with the work of your hands” (Deuteronomy 31:29).

As the shepherd of Israel since the Exodus from Egypt, Moses knows how the people will react after his death, even with the anointed leadership of Joshua. Moses was able to look to the future and make a reference to the evil that will come upon them in the Last Days. Certainly today, we are seeing much of what Moses foresaw coming to pass, when many are doing evil in the sight of the Lord. But let us not forget that God’s people have always been given a choice.

Today, we can choose to follow and obey the Lord, or choose disobedience and suffer the consequences. This is one of the huge reasons that a season of returning to the Lord is so vitally important to us. This is a time for individual and corporate confession and repentance. We can be spiritually strengthened and resolve ourselves to another year of service and devotion unto Him.

In spite of the propensity to wander, the promises of God to restore His people are replete throughout the Bible. Interestingly enough, when you consider the Haftarah selection for this week, you find that the Hebrew term shuvah, used for the designation Shabbat Shuvah, comes from the first word in Hosea 14:

“Return, O Israel [shuvah Yisrael], to the LORD your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity. Take words with you and return to the LORD. Say to Him, ‘Take away all iniquity and receive us graciously, that we may present the fruit of our lips.’ Assyria will not save us, we will not ride on horses; nor will we say again, ‘Our god,’ to the work of our hands; for in You the orphan finds mercy. I will heal their apostasy, I will love them freely, for My anger has turned away from them. I will be like the dew to Israel; he will blossom like the lily, and he will take root like the cedars of Lebanon. His shoots will sprout, and his beauty will be like the olive tree and his fragrance like the cedars of Lebanon. Those who live in his shadow will again raise grain, and they will blossom like the vine. His renown will be like the wine of Lebanon. O Ephraim, what more have I to do with idols? It is I who answer and look after you. I am like a luxuriant cypress; from Me comes your fruit. Whoever is wise, let him understand these things; whoever is discerning, let him know them. For the ways of the LORD are right, and the righteous will walk in them, but transgressors will stumble in them” (Hosea 14:1-9).

In this oracle concerning the Northern Kingdom of Israel, the prophecy of Moses about evil is echoed. The Northern Kingdom departed from the Torah, pursued evil, and suffered the consequences of disobedience toward God. This included the punishment brought upon them by the Assyrians, as they were largely exiled, scattered, and assimilated. Hosea pleaded with these people to return to the Lord! Hosea exhorted them to ask God for forgiveness while confessing their sins. Hosea reminded them not to rely on the work of their hands or their own strength. Hosea invoked the reality that as orphans, they would find their pity only in the Holy One.

God will respond to these pleas by declaring that He will heal the affliction of the people and take them back in love. As His anger will turn away from their disobedience, He will cover them like dew and the boughs of a cypress tree. Returning to God will result in blessings of new grain, new wine, and abundant fruit. Hosea confirms that confession and repentance have great rewards to all who return to Him. Hosea’s final admonition is that the wise will consider his words and the discerning and righteous will walk in His ways, while sinners will stumble.

These are encouraging admonitions to consider in association with Shabbat Shuvah. However, just reading or hearing these words will not benefit anyone unless he or she acts upon them. But in order to act, one must have faith in the testimony of Moses. And, one must be strong and courageous to overcome any of the thoughts or doubts that prevent a person from exercising his or her will to confess, repent, and return to God.

It is my prayer that God would give each of us the strength and courage to be honest with Him in this season of repentance. I pray that the confession of our lips will touch His heart, and that He will restore us into His loving arms. The author of Hebrews specifically tells us that Yeshua is the same yesterday, today, and forever—not only speaking of His timelessness—but also in His ever-present compassion and mercy:

“For He Himself has said, ‘I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU [Deuteronomy 31:6],’ so that we confidently say, ‘THE LORD IS MY HELPER, I WILL NOT BE AFRAID. WHAT WILL MAN DO TO ME? [Psalm 118:6]’ Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith. Messiah Yeshua is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:5b-8).

May we entreat and receive the Lord’s mercy always!


NOTES

[1] Or, “Be strong and resolute” (NJPS).

Ki-Teitzei

Ki-Teitzei

When you go out

Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19
Isaiah 54:1-10 (or finish at 52:13)

“Love Thy Neighbor”


by Mark Huey

Ki-Teitzei is traditionally considered during the month of Elul, as one is preparing his or her heart for the Fall high holidays. It is during this forty-day season of repentance or teshuvah, which lasts from 01 Elul through the Ten Days of Awe (01-09 Tishri) preceding Yom Kippur (10 Tishri), that many of our Jewish brethren turn, or in some cases return, to the God of Israel, and review their personal relationship with Him. For a Messianic community which studies the Torah portions on a weekly basis, this is a good example to follow. In some respects, this forty-day period is almost like an annual inspection of one’s soul to determine where a person stands in his or her relationship not only with the Almighty, but with one’s fellow human beings.

The Book of Deuteronomy is an important review of the Torah—and a great tool for instruction—as hearts are being prepared for not only the Day of Atonement, but also the season of joy that envelops the Feast of Tabernacles or Sukkot. While Believers in Yeshua do not necessarily approach the Fall high holidays in the same way as non-believing Jews, the fact remains that meditating upon God’s Word is of great personal benefit. The Psalms are replete with statements to this regard:

  • “But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:2).
  • “I will meditate on Your precepts and regard Your ways” (Psalm 119:15).
  • “And I shall lift up my hands to Your commandments, which I love; and I will meditate on Your statutes” (Psalm 119:48).

Last week in Shoftim (Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9), the text dealt with the theme of justice in national civil matters, as instruction for judges, kings, priests, and prophets was described. This week, Ki-Teitzei deals primarily with matters that pertain to individuals, their families, and their neighbors on a more personal level.

As you read through these chapters of Deuteronomy in Ki-Teitzei (Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19), you are confronted with a wide array of instructions, including but not limited to: family laws,[1] laws of kindness,[2] laws about the holiness of the camp,[3] how to handle fugitive slaves,[4] laws prohibiting prostitution,[5] interest on money lent,[6] vows,[7] gleaning in neighbors’ fields,[8] divorce,[9] pledges,[10] treatment of workers,[11] individual responsibility,[12] avoiding injustice to the stranger,[13] instructions relating to orphans and widows,[14] judgments short of capital punishment,[15] kindness to animals,[16] the laws of levirate marriage (for a deceased brother),[17] flagrant immodesty,[18] honest weights and measures,[19] and finally remembering Amalek.[20]

This is a wide breadth of topics to consider. I would encourage you to take the time to read and consider these passages, because these commandments have helped to inform and guide many of the civil codes and social structures founded in the Judeo-Christian world. While there is a diversity of instructions witnessed in Ki-Teitzei, the overall theme we witness focuses on how one should handle affairs between people from all walks of life, namely, one’s family and neighbors. Where the emphasis appears on how to love God, these commandments give us a clearer understanding about how we are to love our neighbors.

Consider the question of the lawyer or Torah teacher to Yeshua, asking for His opinion about the greatest commandment:

“One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, ‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ And He said to him, “‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND’ [Deuteronomy 6:5]. This is the great and foremost commandment. ‘The second is like it, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF” [Leviticus 19:18].’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:35-40).

Here, the greatest commandments tell us that we are to love God unconditionally, and then we are to love our neighbors unconditionally. Yeshua responds to the lawyer by first quoting from the Shema:

“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deuteronomy 6:5).

Yeshua then amplifies His answer by stating that the second commandment is the application of the first. As one begins to love the Lord with all his heart, soul, and might, it will manifest itself tangibly by evidence of loving one’s neighbor. If you turn to where loving one’s neighbor is first detailed in Leviticus 19:9-20, you will notice that many of the actions that are described in this passage are also a part of this week’s Torah portion. Just listen to how some of this week’s themes come forth in Leviticus 19:9-20:

“Now when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very corners of your field, nor shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest. Nor shall you glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the needy and for the stranger. I am the LORD your God. You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another. You shall not swear falsely by My name, so as to profane the name of your God; I am the LORD. You shall not oppress your neighbor, nor rob him. The wages of a hired man are not to remain with you all night until morning. You shall not curse a deaf man, nor place a stumbling block before the blind, but you shall revere your God; I am the LORD. You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor nor defer to the great, but you are to judge your neighbor fairly. You shall not go about as a slanderer among your people, and you are not to act against the life of your neighbor; I am the LORD. You shall not hate your fellow countryman in your heart; you may surely reprove your neighbor, but shall not incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD. You are to keep My statutes. You shall not breed together two kinds of your cattle; you shall not sow your field with two kinds of seed, nor wear a garment upon you of two kinds of material mixed together. Now if a man lies carnally with a woman who is a slave acquired for another man, but who has in no way been redeemed nor given her freedom, there shall be punishment; they shall not, however, be put to death, because she was not free” (Leviticus 19:9-20).

Do you hear some of these same themes further articulated in Ki-Teitzei? Proper gleaning of crops, payment of wages, how to sow crops, and dealings with virgins and others, are just a few of the topics considered in this passage from Leviticus. Ultimately, the overwhelming theme of Leviticus ch. 19 is the concept of loving your neighbor as yourself. By demonstrating fairness and love when dealing with your neighbor—or even your enemy—on a wide variety of personal issues, you demonstrate obedience to this commandment. Consider how this week’s Torah reading lists some commandments with how to help one’s neighbor with a lost animal:

“You shall not see your countryman’s ox or his sheep straying away, and pay no attention to them; you shall certainly bring them back to your countryman. If your countryman is not near you, or if you do not know him, then you shall bring it home to your house, and it shall remain with you until your countryman looks for it; then you shall restore it to him. Thus you shall do with his donkey, and you shall do the same with his garment, and you shall do likewise with anything lost by your countryman, which he has lost and you have found. You are not allowed to neglect them. You shall not see your countryman’s donkey or his ox fallen down on the way, and pay no attention to them; you shall certainly help him to raise them up” (Deuteronomy 22:1-4).

Putting others’ needs before your own is definitely an indication that one loves his or her neighbor.

Another example comes from the concept of equal weights and measures. The essence of honesty is expressed as God extends a reward for equality, but regards inequality as an abomination:

“You shall not have in your bag differing weights, a large and a small. You shall not have in your house differing measures, a large and a small. You shall have a full and just weight; you shall have a full and just measure, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you. For everyone who does these things, everyone who acts unjustly is an abomination to the LORD your God” (Deuteronomy 25:13-16).

Consider this: Do you truly love your neighbor if you have unequal weights and measures? Yeshua’s saying, commonly called “the Golden Rule,” essentially summarizes the command to love one’s neighbor. The concept of doing to others as you would have them do to you is a major theme of Yeshua’s teaching in His Sermon on the Mount:

“Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces. Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him! In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets’” (Matthew 7:1-12).

Here in this passage, Yeshua brings great understanding to His listeners about some of the critical components of loving one’s neighbor. The parallel account in Luke’s Gospel offers us some different dimensions of what it means to love one’s neighbor that must be considered:

“But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either. Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back. Treat others the same way you want them to treat you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:27-36).

Earlier, I discussed how meditating upon the Torah is beneficial to the soul. But what about meditating upon the words of Yeshua—the Word of God made flesh? After all, many times throughout Gospels, Yeshua helps clarify what is meant by what Moses originally directed in the Torah. The question asked of the Lord in Matthew 22:35-40 cited earlier, where Yeshua made His declarations about the greatest commandments, was preceded by another question about one of the passages from this week’s Torah portion. Here, the Sadducees question Yeshua about remarriage in light of Deuteronomy 25:5:

“When brothers live together and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the deceased shall not be married outside the family to a strange man. Her husband’s brother shall go in to her and take her to himself as wife and perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her. It shall be that the firstborn whom she bears shall assume the name of his dead brother, so that his name will not be blotted out from Israel. But if the man does not desire to take his brother’s wife, then his brother’s wife shall go up to the gate to the elders and say, ‘My husband’s brother refuses to establish a name for his brother in Israel; he is not willing to perform the duty of a husband’s brother to me.’ Then the elders of his city shall summon him and speak to him. And if he persists and says, ‘I do not desire to take her,’ then his brother’s wife shall come to him in the sight of the elders, and pull his sandal off his foot and spit in his face; and she shall declare, ‘Thus it is done to the man who does not build up his brother’s house.’ In Israel his name shall be called, ‘The house of him whose sandal is removed’” (Deuteronomy 25:5-10).

This is how Yeshua deals with them asking about this:

“On that day some Sadducees (who say there is no resurrection) came to Yeshua and questioned Him, asking, ‘Teacher, Moses said, “IF A MAN DIES HAVING NO CHILDREN, HIS BROTHER AS NEXT OF KIN SHALL MARRY HIS WIFE, AND RAISE UP CHILDREN FOR HIS BROTHER” [Deuteronomy 25:5]. Now there were seven brothers with us; and the first married and died, and having no children left his wife to his brother; so also the second, and the third, down to the seventh. Last of all, the woman died. In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife of the seven will she be? For they all had married her.’ But Yeshua answered and said to them, ‘You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. But regarding the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God: “I AM THE GOD OF ABRAHAM, AND THE GOD OF ISAAC, AND THE GOD OF JACOB” [Exodus 3:6, 15, 16]? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.’ When the crowds heard this, they were astonished at His teaching. But when the Pharisees heard that Yeshua had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered themselves together. One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, ‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ And He said to him, ‘“YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND” [Deuteronomy 6:5]. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF” [Leviticus 19:18]. On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets’” (Matthew 22:23-40).

The Sadducees, who denied anything supernatural such as the resurrection (Acts 23:8), asked the Lord about a hypothetical case where a widow ends up marrying seven brothers. They were actually trying to trick Yeshua into saying something that would discredit Him. The Sadducees’ shock comes when Yeshua admonishes His questioners with the succinct statement that “He is not the God of the dead but of the living.” This profound statement was meant to shock the Sadducees into reconsidering their perverse thinking, as the Patriarchs were still to be considered as “living,” presumably in some kind of disembodied temporary state until the resurrection.

Yeshua taught that what matters the most is evidenced in our heart attitude toward God and toward one another. It is critical that such love is evidenced by us. If one is unable to demonstrate love toward a human being who can be seen—then how can we truly love a God whom we cannot see? This is why I would like to close with some thoughts on love from the Apostle Paul. Here in 1 Corinthians 13, sometimes regarded to be the famous “love chapter,” Paul describes the essence of agapē love. Each of us needs to consider whether our love for our neighbor is evidenced by this type of love:

“If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing. Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:1-13).

If we cannot say that we love our neighbor by these standards, is it possible that we cannot love others as we would have them love us? This is something for each of us to think about as we evaluate our relationship with God in this season of repentance. I pray that we would be continually conformed to the loving image of His Son, who not only loved His neighbors—but died for everyone so we all could live!


NOTES

[1] Deuteronomy 22:13-23:1-6.

[2] Deuteronomy 23:7-9.

[3] Deuteronomy 23:10-14.

[4] Deuteronomy 23:15-16.

[5] Deuteronomy 23:17-18.

[6] Deuteronomy 23:19-20.

[7] Deuteronomy 23:21-23.

[8] Deuteronomy 23:24-25.

[9] Deuteronomy 24:1-5.

[10] Deuteronomy 24:6-13.

[11] Deuteronomy 24:14-15.

[12] Deuteronomy 24:16.

[13] Deuteronomy 24:17-18.

[14] Deuteronomy 24:20-21.

[15] Deuteronomy 25:1-3.

[16] Deuteronomy 25:4.

[17] Deuteronomy 25:5-10.

Consult the FAQ on the Messianic Apologetics website, “Levirate Marriage.”

[18] Deuteronomy 25:11-12.

[19] Deuteronomy 25:13-16.

[20] Deuteronomy 25:17-19.

Shoftim

Shoftim

Judges

Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9
Isaiah 51:12-52:12 (or finish at 53:12)

“Required Words”


by Mark Huey
mark@outreachisrael.net

Shoftim concentrates on justice and what God required of the Ancient Israelites, as they enter into the Promised Land. Our absolutely righteous and just Creator was very concerned that His chosen people maintain justice, as they established a governing system in Canaan. For without righteous justice, God knows that any society will fail, due to the human proclivity toward evil inherited in the fallen nature.

Here in this parashah, Moses touches upon a wide variety of ordinances to help insure proper balance in Israel. These include the requirements for a judicial system,[1] specific guidelines for a government led by a king or regent,[2] inheritance for the priesthood,[3] prohibitions against various forms of false worship,[4] how to deal with true or false prophets,[5] the establishment of cities of refuge,[6] laws regarding boundaries,[7] regulations for military warfare,[8] and how to handle the discovery of a slain person in any tribal territory.[9] God is very specific about these different areas of concern, because He recognized that conflict is inevitable and that people need rules in order to resolve it. By detailing these ordinances from God, Moses has given Israel some foundational guidelines for handling the different issues that will arise in the life of the nation.

We must be mindful that Ancient Israel did not get a pass on the inherent human nature that gravitates toward selfishness and corruption. This is one of the reasons that the Torah was communicated to Israel. Undoubtedly, down through the ages, many judicial codes or customs that have been established among many other societies, can trace their roots to some of these very texts. It is through adherence to many of these specific ordinances that have been incorporated into different national civil codes, through which different cultures and ethnic groups have been able to maintain various degrees of civility.

As the people of Israel prepared to enter into the Promised Land, Moses will no longer be the person to turn to for resolution of conflict as he did in the wilderness. As the different tribes inherit their specific territories, it will be incumbent upon each tribe to appoint judges to handle the levels of conflict that are inevitable in human affairs. As the teaching seen in Shoftim begins, Moses lists a number of commands and criteria for the people who are to be appointed by the various tribes to function as judges and officers to handle disputes between people. In this reading, Moses describes the criteria and attributes for a judicial system and the appointment of judges:

“You shall appoint for yourself judges and officers in all your towns which the LORD your God is giving you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with righteous judgment. You shall not distort justice; you shall not be partial, and you shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and perverts the words of the righteous. Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue, that you may live and possess the land which the LORD your God is giving you” (Deuteronomy 16:18-20).

The first requirement is that the people select from among themselves judges and officers or magistrates, who do not distort or “pervert” (NIV, ATS) justice. Distorting justice perverts God’s intention for His people to be holy and prosper.

Years earlier, while in the desert sojourn, Moses was advised by his father-in-law, Jethro, to appoint judges to help with the workload of mediating disputes between the Israelites. In the following passage, some basic criteria are established for those who are chosen to be judges:

“It came about the next day that Moses sat to judge the people, and the people stood about Moses from the morning until the evening. Now when Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, ‘What is this thing that you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge and all the people stand about you from morning until evening?’ Moses said to his father-in-law, ‘Because the people come to me to inquire of God. When they have a dispute, it comes to me, and I judge between a man and his neighbor and make known the statutes of God and His laws.’ Moses’ father-in-law said to him, ‘The thing that you are doing is not good. You will surely wear out, both yourself and these people who are with you, for the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone. Now listen to me: I will give you counsel, and God be with you. You be the people’s representative before God, and you bring the disputes to God, then teach them the statutes and the laws, and make known to them the way in which they are to walk and the work they are to do. Furthermore, you shall select out of all the people able men who fear God, men of truth, those who hate dishonest gain; and you shall place these over them as leaders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens. Let them judge the people at all times; and let it be that every major dispute they will bring to you, but every minor dispute they themselves will judge. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. If you do this thing and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all these people also will go to their place in peace.’ So Moses listened to his father-in-law and did all that he had said” (Exodus 18:13-24).

The three basic criteria that Jethro counseled Moses to discern in a judge are that these are: (1) to be individuals who fear God, (2) they are committed to truth, and (3) they are those who hate dishonest gain. In many respects, these are similar character traits that Moses now gives to the people of Israel in Shoftim, as they were to find judges who would preside over conflict in each of the cities that would be established in the new tribal territories.

The first attribute that a judge must have is a healthy fear of the Lord. In selecting judges, one must understand how “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10). Fear generates wisdom, which in turn gives one knowledge and understanding about who God is. Without fear of the Lord, one can become a kind of god unto himself, or at least some kind of potentate who can make rulings and decisions entirely unchecked. By fearing the Creator, one recognizes that His justice is absolutely perfect in all of its ways. The goal is then to attempt to emulate His perfect justice. By fearing the Lord, one will not distort justice or be partial toward the wealthy or the poor. This is told to us earlier in Exodus, because various temptations can have a tendency to pervert justice:

“You shall not bear a false report; do not join your hand with a wicked man to be a malicious witness. You shall not follow the masses in doing evil, nor shall you testify in a dispute so as to turn aside after a multitude in order to pervert justice; nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his dispute. If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey wandering away, you shall surely return it to him. If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying helpless under its load, you shall refrain from leaving it to him, you shall surely release it with him. You shall not pervert the justice due to your needy brother in his dispute. Keep far from a false charge, and do not kill the innocent or the righteous, for I will not acquit the guilty. You shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the clear-sighted and subverts the cause of the just. You shall not oppress a stranger, since you yourselves know the feelings of a stranger, for you also were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 23:1-9).

In order for these things to be accomplished, the second attribute that a judge must have is to be a person of truth, and recognize that truth comes from the Word of God. By studying and applying the established principles of God’s Word, a judge will not rely upon his own standards, but rather the standards of the Holy One. The Psalmist describes it this way:

“He leads the humble in justice, and He teaches the humble His way. All the paths of the LORD are lovingkindness and truth, to those who keep His covenant and His testimonies” (Psalm 25:9-10).

In order to administer justice, one must know the truth that is embodied in the testimonies of the Almighty.

The third attribute that is required of a judge is that he hates dishonest gain. Moses elaborated, “and you shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and perverts the words of the righteous” (Deuteronomy 16:18). In this statement Moses indicated that even the wise and righteous will be blinded if they are bribed. The need to hate dishonest gain is of paramount importance.

The bottom line that we see in these Scriptures is that God requires His judges to exercise, to the best of their human ability, a justice that is a reflection of His perfect justice. By placing these criteria upon the judges selected for the different cities, Israel, or any subsequent society, has the best chance of administering justice in a fair and equitable manner.

As I reflected on these matters of justice and how the Lord desires His judges to not pervert justice, there is a passage that comes to mind in this week’s Torah reading which speaks to the ultimate justice that all people must contend with in their lifetime. This is the reality that eventually the Lord would send a future prophet whose words must be heeded. The Scripture declares,

“It shall come about that whoever will not listen to My words which he shall speak in My name, I Myself will require it of him” (Deuteronomy 18:19).

The words of the passage are of utmost importance to all who are seeking a relationship with the God of Israel. Consider them in their entirety:

“The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him. This is according to all that you asked of the LORD your God in Horeb on the day of the assembly, saying, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, let me not see this great fire anymore, or I will die.’ The LORD said to me, ‘They have spoken well. I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. It shall come about that whoever will not listen to My words which he shall speak in My name, I Myself will require it of him’” (Deuteronomy 18:15-19).

In this passage, Moses declared that God will send a prophet like him from among the people of Israel, whose words must be followed. It is from this passage that the ultimate justice for humanity is embodied. Moses says that a future prophet will make declarations that must be believed.

As Moses described this future prophet, it is categorically clear that the “Anyone who does not heed the words that the prophet shall speak in my name, I myself will hold accountable” (Deuteronomy 18:19, NRSV). This future prophet will speak words from God, in His name, that must be complied with—or else God Himself will issue judgment.

The Apostles understood the significance of the future Prophet whose words must be heeded, or they would not be saved. After Shavuot or the day of Pentecost, the Apostle Peter explained to those gathered that Yeshua the Messiah was the Prophet who Moses testified about:

“But the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Messiah would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; and that He may send Yeshua, the Messiah appointed for you, whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time. Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brethren; to Him you shall give heed [Deuteronomy 18:19; Leviticus 23:29] to everything He says to you. And it will be that every soul that does not heed that prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.’ And likewise, all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and his successors onward, also announced these days. ‘It is you who are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, “And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed” [Genesis 22:18; 26:4]. For you first, God raised up His Servant and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways’” (Acts 3:18-26).

Peter declared that Yeshua is indeed the future Prophet whom Moses refers to in this week’s Torah portion. His words must be heeded! If they are not, then the Almighty will require it of all those who hear. What this means is specified by the words of Peter, as he stated, “everyone who does not listen to that prophet will be utterly rooted out of the people” (NRSV). Peter makes it clear that failure to believe in the words of Yeshua will bring eternal damnation, and banishment from God’s presence. This is far more serious than what a human judge might decree. This has eternal significance.

When you take this to heart, and read and consider the words of Yeshua—recognizing that He is the future Prophet that Moses speaks of in Shoftim—you realize that the Messiah’s words must be believed or you will face eternal separation from the Holy One. Statements like the following must be believed:

“Yeshua said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him.’ Philip said to Him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.’ Yeshua said to him, ‘Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, “Show us the Father”? Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves. Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it. If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also. In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him’” (John 14:6-21).

Yeshua alone is the way, the truth, and the life. The only way to the Father is through belief and faith in the shed blood of the Messiah. Other truthful words indicate that the Messiah via the Holy Spirit will take up residence in the hearts of His followers. We also see that Yeshua is in the Father and that He is in His followers. Those who truly know Him and love Him will embrace words like this.

According to the statements of Moses, the Lord will require His children to believe the words of this future Prophet. Do you believe Yeshua’s words? These are actually the required words of more than a prophet, but indeed, are the words of the very Son of God!

How seriously do you take the words of Moses? I suspect that if you are a committed Messianic Believer, probably reading through the Torah portions every week, that you take Moses’ Teaching very seriously. While many of you read the Torah portions so that you can have a foundation established in your heart and mind for understanding the remainder of Scripture, other Messianics read the Torah portions as the only part of the Bible that they think is important. Is this a problem? Other than the fact that there are key Biblical doctrines that are elaborated on elsewhere than the Pentateuch—it is a serious problem when it comes to understanding Yeshua. Only encountering the Torah, without encountering Yeshua, leaves one devoid of the reality of eternal life.

If one does not understand the work of Moses, one cannot understand the work of the Messiah. If one believes Moses, a further step must be taken to absolutely believe the Messiah. The Messiah’s words are the words that all people will be required to heed. As our Lord clearly declared,

“For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?’” (John 5:46-47).

For those without faith, it is impossible to believe His words. Yet, God requires belief in them. In all of this, God’s justice is perfected. May we all cling to the words of the Messiah, but most importantly, we must cling to Him, for in Him and Him alone we have eternal life!


NOTES

[1] Deuteronomy 17:1-13.

[2] Deuteronomy 17:14-20.

[3] Deuteronomy 18:1-8.

[4] Deuteronomy 18:9-14.

[5] Deuteronomy 18:15-22.

[6] Deuteronomy 19:1-13.

[7] Deuteronomy 19:14-21.

[8] Deuteronomy 20:1-20.

[9] Deuteronomy 21:1-9.

Re’eih

Re’eih

See

Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17
Isaiah 54:11-55:5

“Tests from Within and Without”


by Mark Huey
mark@outreachisrael.net

This week, Re’eih continues Moses’ admonitions to the people of Israel by listing a number of commandments that when obeyed will result in God’s blessings, but when disobeyed will result in God’s curses. The opening verses spell out the dire warnings and establish this theme for the balance of our Torah portion:

“See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you listen to the commandments of the LORD your God, which I am commanding you today; and the curse, if you do not listen to the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn aside from the way which I am commanding you today, by following other gods which you have not known” (Deuteronomy 11:26-28).

Moses continually reemphasizes the necessity to obey the commandments, statutes, and ordinances of the Lord. Without a doubt, Moses was most concerned about the propensity for the Ancient Israelites to follow after strange gods. In the months just prior to when these words were issued, Moses witnessed how readily the men of Israel succumbed to the temptations of the Midianite and Moabite women, as they had enticed them into the sexual sins of Baal-Peor. The judgment of God on those who succumbed to these vile enticements was devastating. Between execution by sword of the flagrant violators and the plague that erupted, many Israelites died and were buried on the plains of Moab (Numbers ch. 25).

In contrast, Moses was also able to witness a miraculous victory over the Midianites, when the people obeyed God and slaughtered their enemies without losing a single combatant (Numbers 31:48-49).

This vivid contrast, of the curses of disobedience and the blessings of obedience, was undoubtedly fresh in the mind of Moses as he continued to plead with the people. But now that the time had arrived for Israel to cross over the Jordan River and into the Promised Land, Moses expanded upon the types of temptations that will meet the Israelites upon their entry into their inheritance. While the influence of idol worshipping nations and their obvious debauchery is readily apparent, it is in this section of the Torah that Moses introduced Israel to even more insidious temptations that will be used by God to test them. Moses specifically warned about the eventuality of various individuals arising in their midst, who will be either adding to or taking away from his teachings:

“Whatever I command you, you shall be careful to do; you shall not add to nor take away from it” (Deuteronomy 12:32).

Moses stated in absolute terms that the commands he had relayed to Israel come from the Lord (cf. Exodus 33:11; Numbers 12:8). Moses foresaw the inevitability of different people radically altering the meaning of his words—especially those which were imperative for the Israelites to avoid idolatry and sexual immorality—and this was most troubling to him. He followed this warning with a list of some of the different types of people who will be sent to test the hearts of Israel, describing how they will alter God’s commands:

“If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods (whom you have not known) and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the LORD your God is testing you to find out if you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall follow the LORD your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him. But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has counseled rebellion against the LORD your God who brought you from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery, to seduce you from the way in which the LORD your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from among you. If your brother, your mother’s son, or your son or daughter, or the wife you cherish, or your friend who is as your own soul, entice you secretly, saying, ‘Let us go and serve other gods’ (whom neither you nor your fathers have known, of the gods of the peoples who are around you, near you or far from you, from one end of the earth to the other end), you shall not yield to him or listen to him; and your eye shall not pity him, nor shall you spare or conceal him. But you shall surely kill him; your hand shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people. So you shall stone him to death because he has sought to seduce you from the LORD your God who brought you out from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. Then all Israel will hear and be afraid, and will never again do such a wicked thing among you” (Deuteronomy 13:1-11).

The first group of people, that Moses warned about, are false prophets and dreamers who will arise. Apparently, God is going to send these individuals into the midst of His people, throughout the ages, in order to test their hearts. What each of us needs to be conscious of is the fact that these deceived individuals will largely come from within the ranks of the faithful. There will be some commonality between the deceivers and those who will be deceived, making the deceivers various individuals who at times one might least expect to be agents of evil.

This is a very difficult subject for anyone to consider. Have you ever encountered people who sincerely think that they are speaking for God—but are in actuality quite deceived? Many, at times, may not even know that they have been deceived, but truly believe that they speak for God. They might have “heard a voice” or “had a vision” or “received a call,” which they will swear is definitely from the Most High. Such self-deceived prophets can be some of the most difficult to encounter, because they speak their words with great personal conviction and authority. If you have ever been exposed to people like this, you can probably understand how convincing they are to the naïve and spiritually immature. But this does not excuse any of us from blindly following words, which may take us away from the Instruction of God—and most especially the salvation of Messiah Yeshua.

To make things even more difficult, some of the false prophets and dreamers will actually be known for various “signs and wonders,” that accompany their messages. Once someone has personally witnessed a so-called sign or wonder, the perceived credibility of the prophet or dreamer is elevated in the eyes of the witness. People then naturally have a tendency to let their spiritual and mental defenses down, and they begin to believe the words of the false prophet. Critical thinking skills and healthy skepticism then get jettisoned.

Once a degree of credibility for a false prophet or dreamer is attained, insidious teaching is introduced. This can be very confusing to many (supposed) Believers, because visible signs and wonders are difficult to refute. But the evidence that God is moving, should not be in signs and wonders. The evidence is found in whether or not people are being drawn to God—or to a human being. Is this not what Yeshua Himself warned His Disciples about?

“For false messiahs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24:24).

False signs and wonders are just a part of God’s testing program for the saints. But did you notice that Yeshua said that even His chosen ones can be susceptible to false signs and wonders? This is a dire warning to any of us who are truly seeking God, as we all must constantly be on guard and alert. Interestingly, as a way to combat these temptations, Moses repeats aspects of an admonition that we saw in Ekev last week:

“You shall fear the LORD your God; you shall serve Him and cling to Him, and you shall swear by His name” (Deuteronomy 10:20).

Moses repeats elements of this command once again, when challenged by the words of false prophets, who will knowingly or unknowingly direct people away from the true worship and service of the Holy One:

“You shall follow the LORD your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him” (Deuteronomy 13:4).

It appears that by following the Lord, fearing Him, keeping His commandments, listening to His voice, serving Him, and clinging to Him—that one should be able to avoid most of the pitfalls of the deception that will inevitably come to every generation of those who follow Him. While the Torah says that false prophets and dreamers will be dealt with by just retribution, there is another group of tempters who will come, and hit much closer to home. These are one’s immediate relatives, who are once again sent to test our allegiance to God:

“If your brother, your mother’s son, or your son or daughter, or the wife you cherish, or your friend who is as your own soul, entice you secretly, saying, ‘Let us go and serve other gods’ (whom neither you nor your fathers have known, of the gods of the peoples who are around you, near you or far from you, from one end of the earth to the other end), you shall not yield to him or listen to him; and your eye shall not pity him, nor shall you spare or conceal him. But you shall surely kill him; your hand shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people” (Deuteronomy 13:8-11).

These admonitions are very severe. Moses describes that the temptations to deviate from God’s Instruction may come from people like your blood brother, your natural son, your natural daughter, your cherished wife, or your best friend. They might not exhibit the same dedication that you have to the Lord, and may therefore tempt you to follow after other gods or objects for your spiritual affection. The requirement to deal with such temptation is unbelievably personal in nature. Not only are you not to yield to the temptations issued or listen to them, but you are also not to spare or conceal the attempts of the tempter to steer you toward idols. The original instruction in the Torah is that those deceived were to be the ones who first put the tempters to death. This exemplifies, at least, how serious deception can be.

God is absolutely concerned about the subtle ability of loved ones to turn people away from loving Him. Remember that He is a jealous God (Exodus 20:5; 34:14; Deuteronomy 4:24; 5:9; 6:15). God expects us to love Him more than we do our own family members.

For many, this admonition is difficult to swallow. After all, our parents, spouses, children, and siblings are the closest tangible living beings who warrant much of our attention and love. The concept of actually initiating punishment upon them, if and when they take us away from the wholesale love of the Creator, does not make logical sense. In fact, in the balance of the Scriptures, we do not have one recorded event where capital punishment is executed upon a loved one, because their influence enticed someone away from the worship of God. Is killing one’s son or best friend what Moses is actually saying—or is he using this as an hyperbole, to make a point that absolute love and commitment toward God is what is required? Even the idea of entering into a form of self-imposed exile or banishment away from one’s loved ones, who are deceivers, is tough to think about.

If we examine our own hearts honestly enough, we may also see that we tend to personally choose to love ourselves more than we love God. Do we ever punish ourselves for not loving God as much as we should?

How should we understand some of the difficult words that we see in our Torah portion? As I thought about these words, I could not imagine that our Heavenly Father truly wants us to put to death, those in our immediate family who have somehow been used to (temporarily) draw us away from Him. Certainly as Believers in Yeshua, who have been redeemed from our sins and recognize that He has absorbed the required capital penalty upon Himself in our stead (cf. Colossians 2:14), there has to be an important lesson that we can learn here.

Since my initial salvation experience in 1978, I have been investing a great deal of time in prayer for those in my family who do not know the Lord. In my commitment to Yeshua, I have hoped and prayed that my testimony of change would encourage my loved ones to consider who He is. Somehow I think, these instructions of Moses must be understood in the light of what the Messiah clarifies in His ministry and sacrifice for fallen humanity. Certainly since stoning my loved ones is not an option, perhaps Yeshua’s words can bring clarity to what Moses instructed Ancient Israel.

Consider Yeshua’s statements about His mother and brothers, while ministering to those in desperate need of deliverance from evil spirits:

“While He was still speaking to the crowds, behold, His mother and brothers were standing outside, seeking to speak to Him. Someone said to Him, ‘Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside seeking to speak to You.’ But Yeshua answered the one who was telling Him and said, ‘Who is My mother and who are My brothers?’ And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, ‘Behold My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother’” (Matthew 12:46-50).

Yeshua knew that Mary and His half-brothers were trying to speak with Him. And yet, here He stated that the true “mother and brothers” are those who do the will of His Heavenly Father. Those who do the will of the Heavenly Father will actually be more closely “related,” as it were, to the Messiah than blood relatives. Yeshua expanded the breadth of God’s family to those who seek to perform His will.

Perhaps you can understand this principle when you consider some of the relationships you have with others who you are spiritually connected with. Lamentably, I can think of many Believers whom I feel closer to in the Messiah, than some of my own blood relatives. This does not give us an excuse for “stoning” our relatives with our words of unfair condemnation or rebuke, but instead should be a greater incentive for us to pray and intercede for their salvation. We need to remember that our patient God of love desires that no one should perish, but rather come to the knowledge of the truth through repentance:

“The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

As I ponder these words, I am personally convicted that my time in prayer for my loved ones has waned in recent years. Perhaps by looking at these passages from the Torah, the Holy One is prompting me to increase with fervency my petitions for their repentance?

Most of us can identify with the challenges of praying for loved ones, especially if the fruit of our prayers is lacking. Let me encourage you to spend some more time in prayer for their redemption. Furthermore, consider what it truly takes for you to be considered Yeshua’s disciple:

“But He said to him, ‘A man was giving a big dinner, and he invited many; and at the dinner hour he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, “Come; for everything is ready now.” But they all alike began to make excuses. The first one said to him, “I have bought a piece of land and I need to go out and look at it; please consider me excused.” Another one said, “I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please consider me excused.” Another one said, “I have married a wife, and for that reason I cannot come.” And the slave came back and reported this to his master. Then the head of the household became angry and said to his slave, “Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the city and bring in here the poor and crippled and blind and lame.” And the slave said, “Master, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.” And the master said to the slave, “Go out into the highways and along the hedges, and compel them to come in, so that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste of my dinner.” Now large crowds were going along with Him; and He turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, “This man began to build and was not able to finish.” Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and consider whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions. Therefore, salt is good; but if even salt has become tasteless, with what will it be seasoned? It is useless either for the soil or for the manure pile; it is thrown out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear’” (Luke 14:16-35).

Yeshua used a parable to describe the complete surrender that is required by the faithful, to become a disciple of His and enter into His Kingdom. There are some important parallels between this and what we see in this week’s Torah portion.

In this parable, the master who prepares a large banquet is like our Heavenly Father, who is calling all who will listen, to come and partake. In many respects, this is an invitation for all who would hear, to become a part of His Kingdom. Note that this host sends out his servants to invite all who would hear, that they are to attend the meal. This could be compared to the Lord using various servants like Moses, and also the Prophets, to make declarations about what is required to maintain a proper relationship with the Creator God. Or to personalize this parable and make it applicable to our own walks of faith, this can mean that each one of us is called out to invite others into God’s Kingdom. Are we not all called to be witnesses of the hope that is within us (cf. 1 Peter 3:15)?

In this parable, the results of inviting different people to the banquet are explained. As is noted, many have excuses for not attending. Some are caught up in the business affairs of the world. Others have recently married, and are more concerned about their honeymoon and relationship building with their new spouse. If you have ever shared the good news of the Messiah, you know many of the excuses that people use to avoid what is required to come to a true salvation experience.

The host tells his servants to take the invitation to the people on the highways and byways of the world. We see from this how if those who are near and dear to you do not respond to the invitation, then the Heavenly Father will extend His invitation to those who are lame, blind, and crippled. The less fortunate ones, those who are down and out—who know that they are in desperate need—are those who will definitely respond to the invitation. Generally speaking, this has been the history of the gospel as it has been proclaimed since the time of the Apostles.

Then Yeshua brings another difficult word to His listeners, which in some respects is reminiscent of what Moses speaks about in this week’s parashah, about how to deal with close family members. However, Yeshua’s words are not only about the temptations that come from loved ones who might turn you away from the Father, but even your own personal proclivity to wander away from placing Him first in your life. It is in the context of inviting people into the banquet, or by extension into the Kingdom of God, that Yeshua makes it perfectly clear what is required to become His disciple. It is on this point that too many people balk:

“If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:26-27).

But what is this just supposed to mean? Just like Moses says that family members or close friends who take us away from God were to be stoned—could Yeshua likewise be using shock language? He probably is, as “hatred” for people is not a personality trait of the Holy One. Yet, the truth of the matter is that the presence of any human being in our lives—a spouse, a child, a sibling, or a parent—can impede our relationship with the Lord. What Yeshua says is that a person must place his or her love and allegiance to Him as Messiah, above his or her love for one’s family members—or even one’s very own life.

Of course, this does not occur until you realize that before a holy and righteous God, you are totally bankrupt in your trespasses and sins. Remember that there is no one who is righteous:

“What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; as it is written, ‘There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one’” (Romans 3:9-12; cf. Psalm 14, 53).

We do not have the human ability to perfectly follow the commandments of God—and this is why we all need a Savior. Paul did not mince words when he included “both Jews and Greeks” as those who were “under sin.”

Being honest with yourself is critical no matter what your heritage is. For those who think that they might be righteous of themselves, because they “follow the commandments,” the clarifying words of Yeshua to the people gathered around the adulterous woman need to be recalled: “He who is without sin cast the first stone” (John 8:7). Obviously, if you realize your sinful nature, you will not even consider picking up a stone to unwarrantedly condemn another.

Thankfully, our example for living is found in Yeshua the Messiah. He endured the same human difficulties that we all face, but was able to overcome them because He lacked the fallen nature that we have inherited in fallen Adam:

“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Yeshua the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:14-16).

When we consider what Yeshua had to go through for us, enduring great trial, we likewise need to be reminded about the need to count the cost of discipleship:

“Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and consider whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions. Therefore, salt is good; but if even salt has become tasteless, with what will it be seasoned? It is useless either for the soil or for the manure pile; it is thrown out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Luke 14:27-35).

Here, Yeshua essentially says that it may cost you all that you have in order to follow Him. It will certainly cost you your entire life, your various habits, your creature comforts, and how you relate to others—if you are going to be a true disciple of the Messiah of Israel. Understanding what Moses has to say this week in Re’eih, and what Yeshua declared to His listeners, can be summarized by the Messiah’s last statement: “Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand!” (NLT). Thankfully, as Believers filled with the Holy Spirit who is to be instructing us, while challenging us, following the Lord should not be as difficult as we think.

The Apostle Paul makes it abundantly clear that when we come to the end of ourselves and take on the life of the Messiah, that we have, in essence, exchanged our life for His:

“For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Messiah; and it is no longer I who live, but Messiah lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Galatians 2:19-20).

Notice that it is through the knowledge of the Torah that one is to die to the Law. It is not God’s Instruction that becomes nullified in the life of a person, but it is violation of the Torah that affects one’s spiritual death. Paul clarifies this reality, stating:

“I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died; and this commandment, which was to result in life, proved to result in death for me…Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Messiah Yeshua” (Romans 7:9-10; 8:1).

Thankfully, each one of us has been released from the condemnation of the Torah through the atoning work of Yeshua. On its own, all the Torah can do is show us how sinful we are before God, and condemn us. When we die to the Law, we do not die to its standard of holiness and proper conduct, but to its penalties pronounced against us as unrepentant sinners. This comes through the regenerative work of Yeshua, which reconciles us to the Father, and now enables us to obey the Lord through the power of the Holy Spirit.

We must identify with the sacrifice of the Messiah, and trust in His work to cover our sins. By faith in the blood atonement provided by the Son of God, each one of us can become a servant of the Most High, and allow the Holy Spirit to walk out Yeshua’s life through us. This is a great mystery, of course, but it is clearly what the whole counsel of God’s Word communicates.

To connect this with what I opened up with from Deuteronomy, we must recognize that the Apostles were fully aware that lawlessness was at work in their generation. They constantly battled with false teachers and false prophets, who deceived the early Messianic Believers. Paul specifically warned the Thessalonicans about the ultimate man of lawlessness, the antimessiah/antichrist, and the strong delusion that God Himself would send to see if His people would at all be loyal to Him:

“For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way. Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness. But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth” (2 Thessalonians 2:7-13).

We are once again reminded that at some future point in time, a man of lawlessness will be empowered by Satan himself to deceive the world. But note that people will not necessarily be deceived by his signs, exclusively. These people will be deceived because they did not wish to believe in the truth of salvation. The salvation experience that requires one to be fully humbled before a holy and righteous God, never took place in the lives of these people.

This is a frightening prospect, because there are many professing Believers today who claim to be followers of Yeshua the Messiah (Jesus Christ), but who may not have the fruit of God’s Holy Spirit present in their lives to actually substantiate it. (Thankfully, it is not our job to determine their salvation—but only God’s.) Those who are led astray in the final days, however, are actually going to be sent a “strong delusion” (2 Thessalonians 2:11, KJV) by God Himself. We need to be brought to our knees to pray for anyone who might be led astray by this—or any deception. Even if the antimessiah/antichrist does not arrive on the scene for quite some time, there is undoubtedly a deception opposed to the Messiah Yeshua—growing in today’s world—which will eventually culminate in the arrival of the beast system. For as the Apostle John reminds us, “many antimessiahs have appeared” (1 John 2:18).

Let me conclude with this admonition as you ponder these words: Check to see that you are in the faith! Remember how the Apostle Paul steadily reminded his fellow followers of the Messiah with these words:

“Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Messiah Yeshua is in you—unless indeed you fail the test? But I trust that you will realize that we ourselves do not fail the test” (2 Corinthians 13:5-6).

For all of our lives, we are each going to be tested from within and without. My prayer is that no one who reads or hears these words will fail the test!

Ekev

Ekev

Because

Deuteronomy 7:12-11:25
Isaiah 49:14-51:3

“What God Ultimately Requires: Faith”


by Mark Huey
mark@outreachisrael.net

Ekev falls on the heels of the last exhortation seen in last week’s Torah portion, V’et’chanan (Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11), where Moses commands the people of Israel to faithfully observe the instructions, statutes, and judgments that he has delivered to them from God (Deuteronomy 6:25-7:11). Deuteronomy 7:12 begins with the statement, “Then it shall come about…,” ekev tishme’un, employing the word ekev, which is a conjunction meaning “to the end,” or “result, reward” (CHALOT).[1] Sometimes it can be rendered as “if” (NJPS) or “because” (ESV). Its usage indicates the results of obedience to the list of instructions given.

The opening verses of our parashah this week describe many of the blessings that are to come from listening to and performing the commandments of God:

“Then it shall come about, because you listen to these judgments and keep and do them, that the LORD your God will keep with you His covenant and His lovingkindness which He swore to your forefathers. He will love you and bless you and multiply you; He will also bless the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground, your grain and your new wine and your oil, the increase of your herd and the young of your flock, in the land which He swore to your forefathers to give you. You shall be blessed above all peoples; there will be no male or female barren among you or among your cattle. The LORD will remove from you all sickness; and He will not put on you any of the harmful diseases of Egypt which you have known, but He will lay them on all who hate you. You shall consume all the peoples whom the LORD your God will deliver to you; your eye shall not pity them, nor shall you serve their gods, for that would be a snare to you. If you should say in your heart, ‘These nations are greater than I; how can I dispossess them?’ you shall not be afraid of them; you shall well remember what the LORD your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt: the great trials which your eyes saw and the signs and the wonders and the mighty hand and the outstretched arm by which the LORD your God brought you out. So shall the LORD your God do to all the peoples of whom you are afraid. Moreover, the LORD your God will send the hornet against them, until those who are left and hide themselves from you perish. You shall not dread them, for the LORD your God is in your midst, a great and awesome God. The LORD your God will clear away these nations before you little by little; you will not be able to put an end to them quickly, for the wild beasts would grow too numerous for you. But the LORD your God will deliver them before you, and will throw them into great confusion until they are destroyed. He will deliver their kings into your hand so that you will make their name perish from under heaven; no man will be able to stand before you until you have destroyed them” (Deuteronomy 7:12-24).

As you read this opening section from Ekev, you should marvel about what a great and awesome God Ancient Israel truly had, as its Provider, Protector, and Champion against all other gods and principalities. But while rejoicing in all of the wonderful things that the Holy One promises to do for His people, there is one nagging caveat or requirement that should really gain the attention of someone who has read these words. It appears from a straightforward reading of these verses that the God of Israel requires His people to keep His commandments in order for His blessings to be manifested toward them. Does this require obedience to the Torah, so that God’s people might receive His blessings? Let us read it again to see if this is what it says, and consider the implications for our lives today:

If you pay attention to these laws and are careful to follow them, then the LORD your God will keep his covenant of love with you, as he swore to your forefathers” (Deuteronomy 7:12, NIV).

God told Israel that if the people adhered to His Law then He would remember them. He specifically said that He “will keep with you the covenant and the steadfast love which he swore to your fathers to keep” (RSV). Can you detect the conditional nature of these blessings, based on Israel’s obedience to His commandments? Is the God of love requiring obedience for Him to pour out His blessings? Or, is He telling Israel what the formula is for avoiding the penalties and curses of disobedience?

If you are a parent, then you should understand that our loving Father is absolutely concerned about the welfare of His children, just as you would be toward your own children. Just as you would institute rules for the well being and care of your family, so has the Lord likewise instituted rules for the well being of His people. God’s admonitions are designed to emphasize the importance of obedience to His Instruction. Moses served as God’s mouthpiece, as he was used to affirm how He gave Ancient Israel the Law, because He wants the very best for His chosen. In a way, just as older children in the family sometimes have to institute a parent’s rules, so does Moses institute the rules for his fellow Israelites.

After forty years of intimacy with the Creator, Moses surely knew the Lord and His ways. But he also knew the nature of the Israelites, as he had guided them through the wilderness sojourn. Moses had seen an entire generation perish in the desert because of rebellion and unbelief, in spite of the visible presence of the Most High in their midst. Even with the daily provision of manna for bread, quail for meat, water from various rocks, protection and victory over enemies, and a myriad of other miracles during the desert journey—Moses had witnessed the unbelief and the consequences of disobedience. Moses grieved over the fact that he would not be able to make the crossing of the Jordan into the Promised Land.

Moses’ concern for Israel’s obedience is heightened by his knowing about a future scattering of Israel due to future disobedience. Just a few chapters earlier in Deuteronomy, we can read a statement that describes what Moses has already perceived:

“The LORD will scatter you among the peoples, and you will be left few in number among the nations where the LORD drives you” (Deuteronomy 4:27).

When you combine this realization with the fact that Moses also knew that his days were coming to an end, the urgency of his appeal is better understood. With some of his last activities on Earth, he continued to exhort Israel to obey God’s commandments in order to receive His blessings. The heart of a shepherd over his flock is evident. Almost to his last breath, Moses continued to repeat the words of instruction that lead to the promises of blessing and happiness.[2]

As the narrative continues, Moses recalled the horrific incident of the worship of the golden calf.[3] This tragic event resulted in Moses breaking the tablets that contained the Ten Commandments. One can only imagine how terrible this display of disobedience was indelibly etched in Moses’ mind. But without breaking stride, Moses went to describe how a loving God, by His own finger, etched the Ten Commandments on two new tablets.[4] By recalling this seminal event in the early history of the wilderness journey, Moses was appealing to the Israelites to take note of God’s forgiving love for His people.

It is at this point that Moses issued a rhetorical question to the people, and then answered it. This is a question which has been probing my spirit throughout the week:

And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God demand of you? Only this: to revere the LORD your God, to walk only in His paths, to love Him, and to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and soul, keeping the LORD’s commandments and laws, which I enjoin upon you today, for your good” (Deuteronomy 10:12-13, NJPS).

The Hebrew verb sha’al, appearing the Qal stem (simple action, active voice), can notably mean “to make a request for something specific, to claim, demand” and “to beg for, demand, wish” (HALOT).[5] It is these admonitions that summarize not only what God requires of His people, but also how they can do certain things to fulfill these requirements. If we consider the wider scope of what God asks of us, it is actually not that difficult—especially if we are Believers empowered by the Holy Spirit:

“Now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require from you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the LORD’s commandments and His statutes which I am commanding you today for your good? Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the highest heavens, the earth and all that is in it. Yet on your fathers did the LORD set His affection to love them, and He chose their descendants after them, even you above all peoples, as it is this day. So circumcise your heart, and stiffen your neck no longer. For the LORD your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God who does not show partiality nor take a bribe. He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing. So show your love for the alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt. You shall fear the LORD your God; you shall serve Him and cling to Him, and you shall swear by His name. He is your praise and He is your God, who has done these great and awesome things for you which your eyes have seen. Your fathers went down to Egypt seventy persons in all, and now the LORD your God has made you as numerous as the stars of heaven” (Deuteronomy 10:12-22).

One of the encouraging things about reading and studying the Bible is when God’s Word takes you to your knees. When you identify with Ancient Israel in this historical setting on the plains of Moab, statements like these, when taken to heart and meditated upon, can have a profound impact on your walk with the Messiah Yeshua. Questions like these might erupt in your heart, spirit, soul, and mind:

  • Do I fear the Lord?
  • Do I walk in His ways?
  • Do I love the Lord?
  • Do I serve the Lord with all my heart and soul?
  • Do I keep the Lord’s commandments and statutes?

Are these requirements applicable to you today? If they are, what are you to do?

If you are totally honest with yourself, you probably realize that you fall short of these things—in some capacity—on a regular basis. Certainly, there are times when you might be able to say “Yes and Amen” to these expectations, but can you honestly say you achieve each one of these things consistently?

What happens when your fear of God is minimized? What happens when you do not necessarily walk in His ways, but instead decide to do your own thing? What happens when you place your own selfish interests ahead of His, indicating that you love yourself more than you love God? Do you serve God out of guilt or condemnation, or because your heart and soul are tuned exclusively into serving Him? What happens when you deliberately disobey some of God’s commandments and statutes?

No one, no matter how hard he or she tries, is humanly able to keep all these things. And yet, these requirements are necessary if we are to receive the blessings of God. Some wonder if God is trying to play some kind of trick, or worse, think that He has singled out Israel as the one group of people which is destined to fail according to these requirements.

When you analyze what God asks us to do, you have to come to the logical conclusion that you are either humanly incapable, or in some cases, not fully willing, to comply with the Lord’s demands. Once you realize that His requirements are beyond your ability to achieve, you can either turn to Him for answers and ask for mercy and His Divine empowerment, or disregard God and live in a life of obstinance and rebellion against Him.

I urge every one of you to turn to the Lord! You can turn to Him in prayer, and through the confession of your sins, admit that you fail in complying with His Instruction. I believe that our Heavenly Father delights when we are honest with ourselves. With a broken spirit and a broken and contrite heart, we can turn to His Word, and discover that this is just what the Lord is looking for in His people. King David, a man after God’s own heart, stated it quite eloquently in Psalm 51—after he had been confronted with his own sins of adultery and murder:

“For the choir director. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba. Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; according to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against You, You only, I have sinned and done what is evil in Your sight, so that You are justified when You speak and blameless when You judge. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me. Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, and in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom. Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me to hear joy and gladness, let the bones which You have broken rejoice. Hide Your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation And sustain me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners will be converted to You. Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, the God of my salvation; then my tongue will joyfully sing of Your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, that my mouth may declare Your praise. For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise. By Your favor do good to Zion; build the walls of Jerusalem. Then You will delight in righteous sacrifices, in burnt offering and whole burnt offering; then young bulls will be offered on Your altar” (Psalm 51:1-19).

While our sins may not be on the level of adultery and murder, the fact still remains that when we are honest with ourselves, we are people who largely do not comply with the simple things that God asks us to do. Sometimes, we may think we are right with God because we are obeying Him in part, and that this constitutes us having a holy and righteous heart. This is especially true today in a Messianic community that largely emphasizes outward observances, but may be lacking in emphasizing ethics and heart attitude. Perhaps some more thoughts from the heart of God, as given by the Prophet Jeremiah, will give us a fuller picture:

“The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it? I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give to each man according to his ways, according to the results of his deeds” (Jeremiah 17:9-10).

If the heart is so deceitful, what is one to do? I believe that Moses gives us a part of the answer in his narration by indicating a number of key things that Israel should have been doing as they recognized the hardness of their hearts. Moses knew that the Ancient Israelites were going to fail the test, and would eventually be scattered to the nations—but hope is not lost. In Deuteronomy 10:12-22, Moses gave some important advice to the people, in spite of the fact that they will be punished.

First, Moses told the people of Israel to circumcise their hearts (Deuteronomy 10:16). God is aware of the hardness of people’s hearts and that they must be circumcised—or torn in two—to have a heart of flesh that can serve Him. This is a difficult command to visualize because it is more than just tearing an outer garment as a sign of grief. What it requires is an honest personal assessment of just how hard one’s heart is toward God and others. By tearing away the calloused places of the hardened heart, we become more sensitive to the ways of our Creator.

If we do this, then we can do the second thing that Moses commanded, which indicates that a heart is being softened (Deuteronomy 10:20). We can begin to loosen our necks to the ways of the Lord. A hardened heart is one that is full of pride, and a stiff neck is one that will not bow to the will of God. This is a despicable combination, but sadly one that has prevailed throughout the centuries among many who have claimed to serve the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

The third thing that Moses declared, that the people of Israel should have been doing, was to show love for the alien who resides in the Promised Land, because they had once been aliens themselves in Egypt (Deuteronomy 10:19). God knew that Israel should be able to identify with an alien people who lived among them. By loving and empathizing with these people, it would have a softening effect on those uncircumcised hearts. How do any of us identify with the strangers in our communities today, i.e., the downtrodden, the oppressed, and those in despair? Do we show any level of concern for their circumstances?

While these first three remedies might be accomplished to some visible degree, as softened hearts and pliable necks seek to love and welcome the sojourner within the community, Moses went back and restated, in so many words, some of the original expectations as more requirements are issued (Deuteronomy 10:20-21). Once again, Moses told the people of Israel that they are to fear the Lord. This requirement never goes away. Almost like a broken record, the refrain to fear God is incessantly declared for all to hear. Israel is to revere God and recognize His sustaining power and awesome display of love that continues down through the ages. This is why Proverbs tells us,

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Proverbs 9:10).

Clearly from this statement, we can conclude that fearing the Lord and recognizing His existence is the beginning of wisdom. Without our reverence and appreciation for Him as the Supreme Being, and for all that He has done and that He is doing, our knowledge is minimal. Certainly, without fearing the Holy One, our ability to understand Him and His ways is greatly impaired.

Moses also reminds us today about the requirement of service to God (Deuteronomy 11:1). By serving God you display a willingness to let Him use you in the circumstances of life in which you find yourself. Through your service to the Lord, in whatever capacity, you put His interests ahead of your own, and you learn to be sensitive to what His wishes are for your usefulness in the work of the Kingdom. Additionally, you are to cling to Him for all that you are worth. In reality, you do not have anywhere else to turn but to Him for all things in life. By clinging to Him for your life, health, provision, and daily bread—you learn to be solely dependent upon Him for all that life requires. The Psalmist gives us a brief explanation of some of the benefits of clinging to the testimonies of the Lord:

“I have chosen the faithful way; I have placed Your ordinances before me. I cling to Your testimonies; O LORD, do not put me to shame! I shall run the way of Your commandments, for You will enlarge my heart” (Psalm 119:30-32).

When you read these words and the statement that God will enlarge one’s heart—as we cling to His testimonies and follow the way of His commandments—the benefits of obeying Him become apparent.

If these actions appear similar to the other requirements listed earlier, you are hearing correctly. For the most part they are the commands to fear God, serve God, cling to God, and swear by Him. There is no doubt that one can never get away from the commandments that God has issued to His children.

Thankfully, Moses’ exhortation is only part of the answer. If absolute obedience is required for communion with God, then no person can ever commune with Him since no one has ever been humanly able to obey perfectly. The Apostle Paul candidly tells us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). We all fall short of compliance to God’s commandments in some regard, no matter how many sacrifices we make. In reality, we will never be able to remember all of our transgressions and iniquities that separate us from a holy and righteous God.

What are we to do? This is an age-old dilemma that followers of the God of Israel have struggled with since the days the Torah was formally given via Moses. How are we going to honestly comply with its direction, recognizing that there are times when we have disobeyed them?

Thankfully, the Lord knew what He was doing when He directed Moses to deliver His Instruction to Israel. God knew that not one human being, stained by Adam’s transgression, would be able to totally satisfy His requirements.

Why did God do this? Is it because He knew that a part of his plan was to bring forth the Messiah, who in time would be able to perfectly fulfill His requirements? Keep in mind that Adam and Eve were promised a Redeemer who would crush the head of the serpent (Genesis 3:15), the first reference to the Messiah in the Bible. Even prior to the time of Moses, faithful followers of God were anticipating a Redeemer to come. Our Heavenly Father, in His mercy to humanity, has consistently been speaking to various people so that they might know that an Anointed One was going to arrive and defeat the works of Satan. Consider that Moses tells us in Ekev that what proceeds forth from God’s mouth is what we need for life:

“All the commandments that I am commanding you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land which the LORD swore to give to your forefathers. You shall remember all the way which the LORD your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD” (Deuteronomy 8:1-3).

Yeshua Himself quoted these verses in His refutation of Satan in the wilderness (Matthew 4:4; Luke 4:4). Yeshua did this because He knew and was able to perform His Father’s will. He was humble and able to be completely obedient to Him, in spite of His extreme hunger. He did not command stones to become bread, but submitted to His Father.

Do you understand that God is constantly in the process of humbling and testing His children, in order to determine what is in their hearts? In this simple illustration, Moses reminded the people of Israel that God was intentionally letting them go hungry so that He could demonstrate His provision through the miracle of the manna in the wilderness. But then, He dropped the ultimate in brain twisters. God told Israel the spiritual fact that people are not to live by bread alone, but more importantly, by everything that proceeds from His mouth. We know from the Messiah’s own words that what ushers forth from the mouth is indicative of what is in the heart:

“The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart” (Luke 6:45).

Certainly down through the ages, a loving God has brought forth words which exemplify His loving concern for His own. And yet, in so many words, God’s mouthpiece Moses declares words that to the natural mind do not often add up. First, God requires impossible obedience. Secondly, God requires additional impossible obedience to overcome the disobedience. All along the way, Moses joins his statements with declarations that Israel will not be able to comply with these words, and will be scattered to the nations. Just what is God trying to do? Is He trying to confuse His people?

I do not believe that God is trying to confuse His people, but that He repeats His intentions over and over again because too many are hard of hearing. He is trying over and over again to demonstrate, from the Instruction delivered by Moses to the admonitions of the Prophets, that the only way to fully commune with Him will be through a Redeemer sent by Him. Something else has to be factored in if we are to properly obey Him and receive His blessings, because we are humanly incapable of obeying Him perfectly.

This is a difficult word for fallen humanity to stomach, let alone believe. After all, it takes a great deal of faith to believe that someone else can pay the debt for all of the sins you have committed. And yet, this is the very pattern that was established by faithful ones down through the ages. Remember that it was by faith that Abraham was considered righteous:

“Then he believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:6).

This is the same thing that the Prophet Habakkuk states:

“Behold, as for the proud one, his soul is not right within him; but the righteous will live by his faith” (Habakkuk 2:4).

The pattern for becoming righteous by our faith has been established and confirmed by the Prophets. In the Epistle to the Hebrews, we see that faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen:

“And what is faith? Faith gives substance to our hopes, and makes us certain of realities that we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1, NEB).

Faith is something that has nothing necessarily tangible to hold on to, in order to activate it. It is a belief in something that is hoped for, such as the Promised Redeemer. It is a conviction in something that cannot be seen or touched. There is probably no adequate way to describe faith, unless you have faith in something larger than yourself. When it comes to communion—and ultimate reunion with the Creator in eternity—you must have confidence that you have faith in the right thing. Certainly, if you are honest with yourself, you do not want to have faith solely in the human works you have done to seemingly gain approval with God.

One of the most important examples of faith comes from the Patriarch Abraham, when he willingly offered up his son Isaac as a sacrifice, at the simple request of God. Abraham had so much faith in God, believing that God could raise people from the dead, that he was willing to offer up his promised child as a sacrifice. The author of Hebrews attests to the great degree of faith that Abraham had:

“By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son; it was he to whom it was said, ‘IN ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS SHALL BE CALLED’ [Genesis 21:12]. He considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead, from which he also received him back as a type” (Hebrews 11:17-19).

As you can see, this week’s Torah reading has taken me through a diverse range of Scriptures, as I have dealt with the teaching of Moses and the requirements that he declared to Ancient Israel at this point in the Book of Deuteronomy. I believe this has been a good exercise in returning to the basics of faith that we have received, not only in the Torah and the Prophets, but also in the Apostolic Writings. In these texts we see Torah obedient followers of Yeshua the Messiah, who were filled with the Ruach HaKodesh or Holy Spirit, and were empowered to not only obey God more fully—but also expand His Kingdom through the spread of the good news.

Through the atoning sacrifice of Yeshua at Golgotha (Calvary), the Apostles were able to see that their faith in Yeshua’s work is what made them finally acceptable before a holy and righteous God. This did not, however, keep any of them from stopping the Torah obedient life in which they had been reared prior to His arrival. In a like manner, as many of us in the Twenty-First Century return to our Hebraic Roots, it is critical for us to understand that we likewise need to be following the Torah with all of our hearts, minds, souls, and strength. This is not to be an obedience that precedes faith in God—but comes as a result of us believing in God and being empowered by His Spirit, accomplishing the good works He desires of us (cf. Ephesians 2:8-10) via the promise of the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:25-27; cf. Hebrews 8:7-13; 10:14-18). With the Comforter and Teacher indwelling a heart that has been circumcised by the Lord, we should understand more clearly what Moses says when we read this section of Deuteronomy.

Through the comforting promptings of the Spirit, we can each appreciate what truly fearing and revering the Lord is all about, as we pursue Him in prayer and supplication. We should desire to walk in His ways so that we can please Him, as we are being conformed to the image of the great example we have in Yeshua. We can learn to love Him more, as we understand the greater depths of His love for us. We can seek to serve Him with all of our hearts, minds, souls, and strength. Finally, we can each seek to obey His commandments so that He can bless us according to His Word, recognizing that in Yeshua, our sins are forgiven as we confess and repent from our misdeeds.

Those of us who follow the Torah today as Messianic Believers cannot forget Yeshua. Not surprisingly, the issues that the Messianic community faces largely surface among those who tend to deemphasize Yeshua’s place in a person’s life. A fervent belief in Yeshua is absolutely imperative for a person who wants to study and understand the Torah properly. If we lose sight of the goal of the Torah being Yeshua (Romans 10:4), then we will be unable to correctly fear the Lord, walk with Him, love Him, serve Him, and obey Him properly. If we do not have a steadfast belief in Yeshua and in His accomplished work, then our good works will all be performed in vain.

As this Torah portion so eloquently explains, people do not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. Do you feast on His Word to fulfill you every day? Do you “feast” on Yeshua, allowing the Lord to empower you to perform His work here on Earth? I pray that you do so. Enjoy your feast of His Word on this Shabbat, remembering that our God requires faith in His Word to please Him!


NOTES

[1] CHALOT, 281.

[2] Deuteronomy 8:1-20.

[3] Deuteronomy 9:1-29.

[4] Deuteronomy 10:1-22.

[5] HALOT, 2:1372, 1373.

V’et’chanan

V’et’chanan

I pleaded

Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11
Isaiah 40:1-26

“Call Upon Him!”


by Mark Huey
mark@outreachisrael.net

V’et’channan is one of the most compelling Torah portions in the entire annual cycle. With a reiteration of the Decalogue[1] and the Shema[2] being just two of the many words that are declared, the commentaries written about this critical juncture in the sojourn of Ancient Israel are voluminous. One could spend days dissecting the grand significance of the Decalogue and the Shema, as these two critical pieces from the Bible have doubtlessly molded the thoughts and views of countless followers of the Creator God since. While these studies are definitely beneficial and recommended for the ardent student of the Torah, the aspect of this week’s reading, that seemed to settle in my spirit, is the comment that Moses made regarding the opportunity that God’s people have to call upon Him:

“For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as is the Lord our God whenever we call on Him?” (Deuteronomy 4:7).

There should be no doubt that this week I am being influenced by the distressing affairs that are currently going on in our world. These are troubling times for many who follow the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. From my limited perspective, if there were ever a time to call upon Him, this is such a time. The fact that these particular Scriptures just happen to be studied this week is not by chance, because our Sovereign God is intimately aware of the circumstances of His Creation. The question that keeps coming to my mind is just how we should all be calling on our God as we each deal with the various challenges of this hour.

As born again Believers, each of us should already know that since we have a personal relationship with our Heavenly Father, via the work of the Risen Savior Yeshua, with us being granted the indwelling presence of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit)—that we can have the confidence to approach the Lord with our requests (Hebrews 4:16). These following words from David, who knew the Lord and is often referred to as one after God’s own heart, should have much more meaning to you as you experience the presence of the Spirit of God in a redeemed heart of flesh by your faith in the Messiah:

“The LORD is righteous in all His ways and kind in all His deeds. The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth. He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him; He will also hear their cry and will save them. The LORD keeps all who love Him, but all the wicked He will destroy. My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD, and all flesh will bless His holy name forever and ever” (Psalm 145:17-21).

One can definitely see a connection between how Deuteronomy 4:7 speaks of those who “call on Him,” and Psalm 145:18, those “who call upon Him in truth.” The noticeable difference, between these two phrases, is how Psalm 145:18 adds the requirement that God’s people call upon Him b’emet or “in truth,” also rendered as “in integrity” (HCSB). Surely, with a knowledge of God’s truth, and a comprehension of His holiness and awesome power, we will be able to properly issue our requests—and most especially our pleas for His mercy and intervention—to Him.

Personally, I have been praying for many different situations this week. Messianic Believers always have the current events present in the Land of Israel, and the proverbial “mess” in the Middle East to pray about. This past week (for 12 August, 2011), though, there has been the growing “mess” in the global economy, and specifically the U.S., to pray about. Uncertainty about the future is running rampant, especially as the value of homes, property, one’s investment portfolio, and confidence in government(s) plummet “down the tubes.” Many people want direction regarding these, and other challenges.

I am reminded that it is often in the broken moments of life, that God finally has the opportunity to reveal Himself. It is when questions seem to go unanswered, that people can come to the end of relying on themselves, and turn to their Creator for mercy, comfort, and even redemption. There is something truly wonderful about seeing that you are nothing without the Lord. When you can honestly confess that you need to totally trust in Him, and recognize that what He is doing or allowing is for your ultimate good—it is then that the understanding witnessed in the Shema can be realized:

“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deuteronomy 6:5).

To love the Lord your God with all of oneself, means that you totally accept what He is doing in you and your environment. While you might not completely like what is going on, and you might want it to change, the fact remains that He as Supreme Creator is still in charge. He knows the beginning from the end. He is not confounded by the horrific circumstances that have caused turmoil for someone’s financial holdings or stocks this week.

In V’et’chanan, we see a prophecy of how in the Last Days, those who are scattered of Israel will return to the Lord, and be gathered back to the Promised Land. Within this word are ever-critical admonitions about how His people are to turn to Him with all their beings, and how He is astutely faithful to His covenant:

“The LORD will scatter you among the peoples, and you will be left few in number among the nations where the LORD drives you. There you will serve gods, the work of man’s hands, wood and stone, which neither see nor hear nor eat nor smell. But from there you will seek the LORD your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul. When you are in distress and all these things have come upon you, in the latter days you will return to the LORD your God and listen to His voice. For the LORD your God is a compassionate God; He will not fail you nor destroy you nor forget the covenant with your fathers which He swore to them” (Deuteronomy 4:27-31).

As you can read, our compassionate God will remember His promises to the ancients. This is one promise we can all rely upon, something which faithful followers have always turned to throughout the remainder of Holy Writ:

“Now therefore, our God, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who keeps covenant and lovingkindness, do not let all the hardship seem insignificant before You, which has come upon us, our kings, our princes, our priests, our prophets, our fathers and on all Your people, from the days of the kings of Assyria to this day” (Nehemiah 9:32).

“Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Yeshua our Lord, equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Yeshua the Messiah, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen” (Hebrews 13:20-21).

I would urge you to please take the time to regularly cry out for all of those who truly need Him. Are you one of those people? We live in a world today, where circumstances appear to be getting worse and worse, and are completely out of our control. This is when the Lord can move. Please take the time to call upon the Lord. Pray for all of those being affected by what is happening today, because He is the only One who can bring true shalom, true peace and tranquility, to those whose lives are being turned upside down and into chaos. May we be among those who know that we can call on Him in this time of need!


NOTES

[1] Deuteronomy 5:1-21.

[2] Deuteronomy 6:1-12.

Devarim

Devarim

Words

Deuteronomy 1:1-3:22
Isaiah 1:1-27

“Rehearsing the Truths”


by Mark Huey
mark@outreachisrael.net

The Book of Deuteronomy is a repetition and an amplification by Moses, of many of the commands of the Lord given in the Torah, so that the Ancient Israelites would not disobey Him, as they prepared themselves to enter into the Promised Land. In the opening chapters of Devarim, the reinforcement of an historical perspective is recorded, as Moses recalled many of the places where he probably had to admonish the people to obey the Lord:

“These are the words which Moses spoke to all Israel across the Jordan in the wilderness, in the Arabah opposite Suph, between Paran and Tophel and Laban and Hazeroth and Dizahab” (Deuteronomy 1:1).

Moses then defined the boundaries of what has been described as “the Greater Israel” that was promised to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob:

“The LORD our God spoke to us at Horeb, saying, ‘You have stayed long enough at this mountain. Turn and set your journey, and go to the hill country of the Amorites, and to all their neighbors in the Arabah, in the hill country and in the lowland and in the Negev and by the seacoast, the land of the Canaanites, and Lebanon, as far as the great river, the river Euphrates. See, I have placed the land before you; go in and possess the land which the LORD swore to give to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to them and their descendants after them’” (Deuteronomy 1:8-11).

When one plots out these boundaries, it is abundantly clear that in modern times, the State of Israel has never come close to securing for itself all of what was originally promised. It has not been since the days of Kings David and Solomon that this promise was actually fulfilled. But that was over 2,500 years ago, and in the interim, Israel has not been able to secure all of these territories and have control over these promised regions in the Middle East. We know that according to prophecy, when Israel is restored in the Last Days, that somehow Israel will occupy these borders. However, when or how this will specifically take place is anyone’s guess at this point in time.

The key with seeing Israel restored, more than anything else, is that all must corporately acknowledge Yeshua the Messiah as its king. Most of the Jewish people on Earth today have rejected Yeshua as the Messiah, and most in Christianity fail to recognize who He was as a First Century Jewish Rabbi. This has begun to significantly change in the past thirty to fifty years through the growth of Messianic Judaism and the Hebraic Roots movement. Many Jews have turned to faith in Messiah Yeshua, and many non-Jewish Believers have recognized the importance of their Hebraic Roots. Without one’s personal recognition that apart from Yeshua dwelling inside of us, unredeemed human beings can do nothing of eternal significance:

“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned” (John 15:4-6).

Many of our Jewish brethren who are not Believers have sought redemption through a refined system of following the Torah, that—without the Holy Spirit—could be at best good human works. How many of these works are offered by rote without the right intentions? (The same could be said of any Christian “good works” offered by rote as well.) We know that the Lord is not impressed with our sacrifices and attempts to please Him with works of the flesh. Just consider some of the statements made in this week’s Haftarah selection from Isaiah:

“‘What are your multiplied sacrifices to Me?’ Says the LORD. I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed cattle; and I take no pleasure in the blood of bulls, lambs or goats. When you come to appear before Me, who requires of you this trampling of My courts? Bring your worthless offerings no longer, incense is an abomination to Me. New moon and sabbath, the calling of assemblies—I cannot endure iniquity and the solemn assembly. I hate your new moon festivals and your appointed feasts, they have become a burden to Me; I am weary of bearing them. So when you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you; yes, even though you multiply prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are covered with blood. Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from My sight. Cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, reprove the ruthless, defend the orphan, plead for the widow. Come now, and let us reason together,’ Says the LORD, ‘Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool’” (Isaiah 1:11-18).

These statements were obviously given against an historical backdrop of ancient people presenting empty offerings before God, and going through religious motions. While on one level they were loyal to the Father, on another they were disloyal by failing to obey key statutes and commandments that would enact His justice.

Can you imagine what religious Jews contemplate when they review these, and other similar verses? What do they think is being said by Isaiah while they fight terror and Muslim extremists? Do you think that some see how God greatly desires His people to have a broken spirit and broken and contrite heart—which completely loves Him and is devoted to Him?

“For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise” (Psalm 51:16-17).

This is the sacrifice that pleases Him alone.

On the other hand, many of those, who have been truly born again down through the centuries, have concluded that following the Torah is not really necessary in order to demonstrate good works. What many did not take into account is the fact that the curse of the Law and its capital penalties, have indeed been atoned for via the sacrifice of the Messiah, being nailed to the cross (Colossians 2:14). Yet, while our salvation is by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9), we have each been created to walk in good works (Ephesians 2:10). The promise of the New Covenant, quite contrary to somehow abolishing the Torah—actually includes the stipulation that the Holy Spirit will write the Torah onto the hearts and minds of the redeemed (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:25-27; Hebrews 8:8-12; 10:16-17). Disobedience to God’s Instruction, surely impedes the oneness that the Lord desires to have with us!

This age-old dilemma persists to this very day. But, things have indeed started to change with the arrival of today’s emerging Messianic movement. Jewish and non-Jewish Believers are coming together in unity like never before—and they are learning to truly appreciate the value of Moses’ Teaching. The Book of Revelation says that two common denominators will define the end-time saints: there will be a group of people who have a testimony of Yeshua, knowing that He is the Savior, and they will obey the commandments of the Torah of God (Revelation 12:17; 14:12). This group is beginning to steadily emerge throughout the world. With this understanding comes a great responsibility to become a true disciple of the Messiah Yeshua and walk as He walked. It most especially involves a responsibility of understanding the imperative value of being able to love God and neighbor, the foremost of the Torah’s commandments.[1]

As our ministry has observed over the years, a wide number of non-Jewish Believers are embracing a life of Torah observance, which previous generations have surely missed out on. Yet, for many this is being done with increasing urgency—as they are convinced that the days of Jacob’s Trouble are rapidly approaching. While we should be able to appreciate that many have tried to stay in tune with what is happening in our world, and in Israel in particular—understanding the importance of the Messianic lifestyle, with a skewed sense of timing for the Last Days, has been most debilitating for our faith community. If one believes that the trauma of the Great Tribulation is getting ready to begin this year or next year, there is a tendency to be unbalanced in relation to the wider breadth of Scripture. One’s presumed growth in the Lord can be extremely unbalanced and unstable.

Since 1996, I have personally witnessed many voices across the Messianic spectrum who have proclaimed that the Great Tribulation was about to begin. By looking at world circumstances, these people have forced Scripture texts to fit with current events, or vice versa, and have created a great amount of angst and fear among those sincerely seeking the Lord. While some of their theories have indeed “jumpstarted” many into taking the Scriptures more seriously, far too many have fallen away when prognostications do not materialize. This has done some considerable damage to the Body of the Messiah and has not helped the growth and stability of the Messianic movement. Credibility is challenged in all regards when the so-called “urgency of the hour” is the compelling word, and predictions fail to come true.

Even today, as the conflict with Hezbollah and Hamas rage throughout Israel, we are hearing a chorus of statements by some who are anxiously communicating that the world is on the verge of Armageddon. Time and experience are the best teachers. Since I have worked my way through multiple scenarios over the past decade and longer, I can sincerely relate one major breakthrough that has tempered our ministry’s balanced approach to teaching the Word of God.

Several years ago, our family came to the conclusion that the return of the Messiah was not at all incumbent on running numbers and calculating years for the Second Coming.[2] Too many presuppositions that have gone into the different numbering and chronological schemes can be easily challenged. Recalculating recalculations of recalculations has been a less-than-constructive activity for today’s Messianics. The Apostle Peter says instead how we “ought…to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God” (2 Peter 3:11-12). He employs the present active participle speudontas—“hastening”—to describe this action. The righteous behavior of Believers affects “the coming of the day of God,” not any human being’s mistaken calculation of it. What we do as the Lord’s people will affect when the Messiah returns. What we do regarding our godly behavior, in obedience to the Lord, will “work to hasten its coming” (CJB), “speed its coming” (NIV), or be “hurrying it along” (NLT). This is a very Hebraic principle that is paralleled by what the Jewish Sages tell us:

“Said R. Yohanan in the name of R. Simeon b. Yohai, ‘If the Israelites keep two successive Sabbaths in a proper manner, they will be saved immediately’” (b.Shabbat 118b).[3]

(Obviously, if the Rabbinic principle of keeping two Sabbaths is correct, then it would be keen for us to understand that remembering Shabbat is far more than just abstaining from our labors. Shabbat is to teach us important things about eternity [cf. Hebrews 4:1], undoubtedly to be known by those who observe it properly.)

While some might argue with our conclusions, this one determination has been directly responsible for us to maintain a long-term, steady approach to the work and responsibilities of Messianic ministry. Rather than be like the sprinter who tires after a short distance, we instead approach the work of discipling others like a marathon runner. While we recognize that the race has an ultimate end—namely the restoration of God’s Kingdom—it is through patience, perseverance, and steadfast endurance that we will complete the race of faith. While this method may not be as exciting or stimulating as others, it has allowed us to maintain a balance and fair-mindedness, that we believe will help us complete our call to reach out and leave a sound legacy to those who will follow after us.[4]

One of the basic elements of this long-distance approach should be seen in a consistent, weekly study of the Torah. We all must face the fact that human nature has a tendency to become lackadaisical with repetition. But is it not repetition and practice which ultimately allow the greatest musicians or athletes—or any professional—to excel at their chosen profession? Is it not through repetition and practice that we inculcate our minds with almost automatic responses in given situations?

What about the study of God’s Word? How is one going to be able to respond in a godly manner, unless he or she has devoted the time to study the Bible? The battle in the mind is where most of the conflict of fallen human nature and the indwelling Spirit occurs. It is only through a diligent and consistent study and application of the Word of God that we can overcome the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the Devil.

Moses understood that God’s people needed repetition of His Instruction, and thankfully down through the ages, the Jewish Sages and Rabbis also realized this aspect of our humanity. Consequently, the Torah cycle as we now know it was developed to have the Jewish people rehearse the truths that it communicates. Sadly, many contemporary Christians, who have had a real life encounter with the Messiah of Israel, are under the illusion that the New Testament has replaced the Torah—not recognizing that the Torah, Prophets, Writings, and Apostolic Scriptures are all integral parts of God’s written Word.

The introduction of a consistent and practical Torah study for many people has greatly enhanced their faith and understanding of the life of Yeshua and the Apostles. If one does not read and reflect on the teachings of Moses, it is difficult to know when you are committing a sin of commission or omission. I have discovered that each year, as I have faithfully reviewed the Torah portions every week, that the Holy Spirit will bring certain areas in your life to your attention that need to be changed. This does not occur in a single year. On the contrary, if we are maturing in our faith—applying Scripture properly takes a lifetime!

With all of this being said, we can each turn to the patterns established by Moses and joyfully study his words and admonitions. We can each ask the Holy Spirit to illuminate areas of our walk that need positive change as we are being conformed to the image of the Messiah Yeshua. May we each relish the opportunity to rehearse the truths and be changed from glory to glory as His sanctifying work continues in our lives!

We do not know all that God is doing today with His people, because we simply cannot see time and space and the universe from His perspective, but we do know that when one part of the Body of Messiah suffers, the whole body suffers along with it. This not only concerns our Jewish brothers and sisters suffering from terrorism today—but all members of the community of faith all over the world, who today might not even know that a Messianic movement exists. As the Apostle Paul reminds us,

But now there are many members, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’; or again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it” (1 Corinthians 12:20-26).

If this is a time of great affliction for the Jews living in the Land of Israel, then perhaps the Holy One will use our prayers of intercession to reveal Himself. Likewise, we must pray for any Believer suffering from personal or corporate traumas. We must also pray for the enemies of Israel, as Yeshua the Messiah alone is the only answer for the members of Hezbollah or Hamas. We must pray that in this time, the Lord reveals Himself in a unique way to all members of the human family. Our prayers are described in Revelation like incense unto God, being gathered in His throne room in golden bowls:

“When He had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints” (Revelation 5:8).

Perhaps, as we each rehearse whatever truths He brings to mind as we intercede this weekend, our Heavenly Father will be pleased with our petitions and return those prayers to those who in a like manner are crying out for His salvation and hand to move. Remember that God’s Kingdom can only be restored first by the restoration of individuals unto Him. May we fervently pray to this end!


NOTES

[1] Deuteronomy 6:5; Leviticus 19:18; cf. Matthew 19:19; 22:39; Mark 12:31; Luke 10:27; Romans 13:9; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8.

[2] Consult the blog editorial “The Hastening of Righteousness” by J.K. McKee.

[3] The Babylonian Talmud: A Translation and Commentary.

[4] Consult the author’s article “The Messianic Marathon: A History Lesson,” appearing in the September 2008 issue of Outreach Israel News.

Mattot-Mas’ei

Mattot

Tribes

Numbers 30:2[1]-32:42
Jeremiah 1:1-2:3

Mas’ei

Stages

Numbers 33:1-36:13
Jeremiah 2:4-28; 3:4 (A); 2:4-28; 4:1-2 (S)

“Final Instructions”


by Mark Huey
mark@outreachisrael.net

This week’s double selection, Mattot and Mas’ei, concentrates on the final instructions that are given to the Ancient Israelites as they were preparing to enter into the Promised Land. The forty years of wandering in the wilderness were coming to a close. God has some additional commandments that will assist the people as they enter into their inheritance.

As you read these instructions, you will note that they cover a wide variety of topics. They deal with issues concerning oath-taking by daughters and wives,[1] the astounding military victory over the Midianites,[2] the details about the spoils of war and how to divide them,[3] and the request by the Reubenites and Gadites to settle on the east side of the Jordan.[4] We also see a roadmap summary of Israel’s entire journey through the wilderness,[5] and a description of the proposed borders for the land they will receive,[6] including delineation of the tribal leaders[7] and the establishment of cities for the Levites to occupy.[8] Details concerning cities of refuge[9] and how the justice system was to operate are given,[10] as are details on how inheritance for daughters was to be handled.[11] This wide array of material seems to wander all over the board. As you read and meditate upon these final instructions, you might wonder if there is any rhyme or reason for how broad they are. If there is one thing for certain: there are many background studies that can be launched from Mattot-Mas’ei, for better understanding of how these laws were to be followed in an Ancient Near Eastern context.

One hint that there was a sense of urgency, to get these last instructions communicated, comes at the opening of Numbers ch. 31, as the Lord told Moses to prepare the Israelites for the battle against the Midianites:

“Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Take full vengeance for the sons of Israel on the Midianites; afterward you will be gathered to your people’” (Numbers 31:1-2).

If you will recall from last week in Pinchas (Numbers 25:10-30:1[29:40]), Moses had just reiterated the details about the daily offerings and the appointed times (Numbers 28-29), and how important it was for Israel to remember these commemorations in a very specific manner. Just prior to this, Moses had laid his hands upon his successor Joshua, who, with the high priest Eleazer, was preparing to replace the duo of Moses and Aaron (Numbers 27:15-23). Moses knew his days on Earth were winding down. Just after the census was taken to determine who had died in the plague resulting from the idolatry and licentiousness induced by Balaam’s advice to Balak (Numbers 26), Moses knew that the Promised Land would be apportioned out to the Israelites, but he was also mindful that the Levites were not to receive a physical inheritance because they were to be in full time service to minister. Moses was also confronted with the issues about inheritance for these ancient families, particularly those who only had daughters and no sons. In Numbers 27, he relayed God’s thoughts on the rightful means for handling the process of passing property on to the future generations. After he did this, the Lord told Moses that once he saw the Promised Land he would die:

“Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Go up to this mountain of Abarim, and see the land which I have given to the sons of Israel. When you have seen it, you too will be gathered to your people, as Aaron your brother was; for in the wilderness of Zin, during the strife of the congregation, you rebelled against My command to treat Me as holy before their eyes at the water.’ (These are the waters of Meribah of Kadesh in the wilderness of Zin.) Then Moses spoke to the LORD, saying, ‘May the LORD, the God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation, who will go out and come in before them, and who will lead them out and bring them in, so that the congregation of the LORD will not be like sheep which have no shepherd’” (Numbers 27:12-17).

At this point in the narrative, it appears that Moses was finally resigned to his impending death, and like any good shepherd, his concern was for the sheep of his fold. Interestingly, Moses did not suggest Joshua, but instead asked the Holy One to only appoint someone over the people. He was not presumptuous about whom he might have chosen, but instead was still depending on God’s voice to make the selection. In MattotMas’ei we realize that the defeat of the Midianites will trigger his death, and so Moses was rapidly explaining to Joshua and Eleazer some last minute details about how to handle the issues I previously listed.

Moses had to be very pleased with what he was witnessing in his final days of life. Even though his life was a very unique adventure from the bulrushes of the Nile to now overlooking the Jordan, he witnessed an astounding victory over the Midianites that must have been comforting, considering all of the errors that Israel committed along the way. It is recorded for us that after companies and squads were selected for the army from each of the twelve tribes, the cohesiveness of the people of Israel was finally on display:

“Moses spoke to the people, saying, ‘Arm men from among you for the war, that they may go against Midian to execute the LORD’s vengeance on Midian. A thousand from each tribe of all the tribes of Israel you shall send to the war. So there were furnished from the thousands of Israel, a thousand from each tribe, twelve thousand armed for war. Moses sent them, a thousand from each tribe, to the war, and Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest, to the war with them, and the holy vessels and the trumpets for the alarm in his hand” (Numbers 31:3-6).

It appears from the reading that the Israelites were finally “getting their act together.” Not only were they prepared to induce God’s vengeance upon the Midianites for the sin of Baal Peor, but the victory was blessed incredibly by Him, as not a single Israelite died in the ensuing battles:

“Then the officers who were over the thousands of the army, the captains of thousands and the captains of hundreds, approached Moses, and they said to Moses, ‘Your servants have taken a census of men of war who are in our charge, and no man of us is missing’” (Numbers 31:48-49).

Can you imagine how proud Moses must have been when he got this report? Not one of the soldiers sent into battle was missing. This is an incredible testimony to show that when Israel worked together in harmony, victory was achievable. When you read the account of how the Levites performed their functions via the guidance of Phinehas, and that all of the kings, including Baalam, were slain, that all of the cities were captured and burned, all of the booty was taken, and all of the people and livestock were captured (Numbers 31)—you see a vivid picture of absolute victory.

In spite of Moses’ aged condition, Moses still had the faculties to give some final details to the Israelites about how to handle the captured people and the booty. This is particularly poignant, so that the men of Israel did not fall back into temptation over possible sexual favors. Moses also wanted the people to avoid becoming unclean by contacting corpses, garments, and various vessels confiscated in the war:

“Moses and Eleazar the priest and all the leaders of the congregation went out to meet them outside the camp. Moses was angry with the officers of the army, the captains of thousands and the captains of hundreds, who had come from service in the war. And Moses said to them, ‘Have you spared all the women? Behold, these caused the sons of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to trespass against the LORD in the matter of Peor, so the plague was among the congregation of the LORD. Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known man intimately. But all the girls who have not known man intimately, spare for yourselves. And you, camp outside the camp seven days; whoever has killed any person and whoever has touched any slain, purify yourselves, you and your captives, on the third day and on the seventh day. You shall purify for yourselves every garment and every article of leather and all the work of goats’ hair, and all articles of wood’” (Numbers 31:13-20).

At this juncture, we are reminded that Balaam had actually counseled Balak to have the Israelites bring curses upon themselves (Numbers 31:17). While Israel as a nation cannot be cursed by outsiders, it can curse itself by falling into the sin of fornication or being contaminated by the spoils of war. Moses knew his people well, and he also knew the sinful inclinations of the human heart. To the very end of his life, he warned and continually instructed the people of Israel.

As you contemplate this, this is probably the way we should all depart this Earth. For those of you who have children and grandchildren, imagine wanting to continue to give instructions to your beloved all the way to your last breath. For someone like Moses, who had such a huge spiritual responsibility, the urge, to continue correcting and fine-tuning his protégées to the very end, is what one would expect. Now that the victory over the Midianites was complete, echoing in the back of his mind had to be the comment from God about being “gathered to your people” (Numbers 27:13). Over the course of nearly forty years, Moses had witnessed the Exodus generation die off. In these remaining chapters of Numbers, he spoke out instructions that would aid the new generation, which would take inheritance of Canaan.

As you read each of the different vignettes of Mattot-Mas’ei, the final instructions from Moses were earnest attempts to communicate about issues that he knew would be addressed in the years, if not millennia, after his departure. Since Moses had the spiritual authority over such an unruly group of people, and understood the human propensity for individuals to “do their own thing,” he faithfully communicated what God wanted, so order could be present as the Israelites entered into the Promised Land.

How should these instructions from Moses affect us today, as we seek to obey God’s Torah and incorporate its principles into our lives?

We need to recognize that the problems with humanity are not that unique, as they often repeat themselves over the generations in different places and times. What we see today are patterns firmly imbedded in the human psyche. But for Believers in Yeshua today, things should be different. With those of us who have the Holy Spirit to guide us, we should be moving closer to desiring order and direction in our lives. As we grow and mature in faith, we are to become more and more like our Lord and Savior, Yeshua, every day. Today, however, far too many who claim belief in the Messiah have moved not only away from words of Moses’ Teaching, but His own teachings as well!

The question we have to ask ourselves, as we come to the close of Numbers, is whether we will be willing to study and inculcate the Torah’s instruction into our hearts and minds, so that the Ruach HaKodesh can bring them forth in an orderly manner. Are we willing to submit our wills to the will of the Holy Spirit who resides inside of us, and who desperately wants to use us to perform God’s work? Are we willing to pass our knowledge and wisdom onto the succeeding generations? Where will you be in your relationship with God when you are preparing to die? Are you committed to fully serving the Lord?

Consider the words of Paul imprisoned in Rome, as he reflected back on his life, and perhaps thought that he would die soon:

“Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Messiah Yeshua. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Messiah Yeshua. Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you; however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained. Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us” (Philippians 3:12-17).[12]

Paul, just like Moses, had a vision for his life and understood that he was called to the service of the Holy One. Both understood order and the pattern of life that they were called to walk in order to glorify the Almighty. But what about your life? Have you discovered what God has called you to do in today’s emerging Messianic movement?

If you have not discovered what you should be doing, I would recommend that you read and listen again to the final instructions that have come down through the ages, from the many servants of God who have preceded us. Most importantly, look at the ministry example of Messiah Yeshua, and understand that you are being conformed to His likeness. You will be amazed at just how profoundly you are empowered to perform God’s tasks in the Earth when you take His Word seriously!

My friends, these final instructions are important for all of us to consider. In the coming weeks, we will be examining even more final words from Moses as we approach the end of the Torah cycle and read through Deuteronomy. Of course, in Deuteronomy we will witness Moses reiterate many of his earlier teachings—but who among us does not need to continually rehearse the truths of who we are and know who our spiritual forbearers were? We need to understand and emulate their triumphs, and likewise hopefully avoid their mistakes. If we can do these things, we will be able to have victory over the battles that we face through the power of Yeshua!


NOTES

[1] Numbers 30:1-16.

Be sure to consult the previous teaching on this subject, offered in TorahScope, Volume I.

[2] Numbers 31:1-24.

[3] Numbers 31:25-54.

[4] Numbers 32:1-42.

[5] Numbers 33:1-49.

[6] Numbers 34:1-15.

[7] Numbers 34:16-29.

[8] Numbers 35:1-5.

[9] Numbers 35:6-15.

[10] Numbers 35:16-34.

[11] Numbers 36:1-13.

[12] Many scholars are agreed that Paul was released from the imprisonment described here, but that he eventually was arrested again. The Epistle of 2 Timothy may actually be considered Paul’s farewell address.

Pinchas

Pinchas

Phinehas

Numbers 25:10-30:1[29:40]
1 Kings 18:46-19:21

“Wise Choices”


by Mark Huey
mark@outreachisrael.net

This week as we turn to the study of the Torah in Pinchas, we find that the beginning verses are actually an extension of what was mentioned at the end of Balak (Numbers 22:2-25:9) last week. The attempts of Balak to utilize the prophet for hire Balaam to curse the Israelites have failed. Instead of cursing Israel, Balaam actually blessed Israel, much to the displeasure of his benefactor Balak. We do find later on, that although Balaam was never allowed to verbally curse Israel, he did advise Balak about how to make it possible for the Israelites to actually curse themselves:

“Behold, these caused the sons of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam [b’davar Bil’am], to trespass against the LORD in the matter of Peor, so the plague was among the congregation of the LORD” (Numbers 31:16).

Apparently, while Balaam was not permitted to curse the Israelites, he did have the understanding that people can actually curse themselves by their own freewill choices. While still encamped upon the plains of Moab near Abel Shittim, Balaam advised Balak to have the women of Moab and Midian enter into the camp of Israel and sexually entice the men, that they might worship Baal of Peor:

“While Israel remained at Shittim, the people began to play the harlot with the daughters of Moab. For they invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. So Israel joined themselves to Baal of Peor, and the LORD was angry against Israel” (Numbers 25:1-3).

It is difficult to imagine that some of the men behaved in this abominable fashion as they encamped in the presence of God’s Tabernacle, with the pillar of fire at night and the cloud during the day. Considering the impressive and orderly encampment of Israel’s twelve tribes—that Balak and Balaam surveyed from the surrounding mountain tops—makes it even more perplexing. But obviously, being in the shadow of the cloud, illuminated by the pillar of fire, or seeing the orderliness of Israel—did not necessarily deter or cover up what was in the hearts of some men in the camp. We read that some men, despite these tangible realities, chose to enter into promiscuity with the Moabite women and worship Baal. This resulted in fatal consequences (Numbers 25:4-9).

Are there any lessons we can learn from these tragic circumstances? How was it possible for these Israelites to choose sinful actions while in such proximity to the presence of God? How does the power of fleshly inclinations, or biology, overcome the fear of the Lord and the consequences of sin? How can this be applied to men and women who claim to be children of God today?

As I pondered these, and many other questions, my mind seemed to settle on a rather controversial issue that has baffled Protestant theologians since the Reformation. This issue is the concept of “eternal security,” and many of the misconceptions that have been taught by well-meaning teachers of God’s Word.

First, allow me to say that when I was initially saved I was subject to the teaching of a Bible church that was highly influenced by Calvinistic theology. Terms such as election, predestination, and the sovereignty of God were concepts that I heard quite frequently. As far as soteriology or the study of salvation was concerned, I heard lectures and sermons on the great divide between the teachings of John Calvin and Jacob Arminius. Apparently, while their doctrines were agreed on many points, the issue of eternal security was not among them. Without going into any great detail, let me just say that from some of Calvin’s teachings, is derived the modern concept of “once saved, always saved” taught in many churches. On the other hand, one primary distinction, where Arminian theology differs, is the concept that one can lose his or her salvation. Needless to say, I was for years a convinced Calvinist who believed that it was impossible to lose your salvation, if you were truly saved.

I then fell in love and eventually married my wife Margaret, who was raised a Methodist and whose theology was Wesleyan. John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, was an Arminian. During our premarital spiritual and theological discussions, we decided that we would not rehash the debates about our two different viewpoints. Early on, I learned that I would not convince her of Calvinism, as she was not going to convince me of Arminianism. We concluded that it was best to just leave these subjects alone, recognizing that the debate would probably never be settled in our lifetimes.

After we married, our spiritual journey was definitely influenced by our agreement to avoid this debate. We decided not to attend a Bible church or a Methodist church. Instead, the Lord led us on a sojourn with a relatively brief period in the charismatic movement. In 1994 we went on a tour to Israel that led us to attend a Messianic Jewish congregation in Dallas, Texas in just over one year. Since 1995, we have been pursuing a Messianic lifestyle, and along the way, the consistent study of the Torah has definitely fine tuned our understanding of the Holy One and His revealed Word.

In our family’s pursuit of the Lord, He has used the study of the Torah in remarkable ways to deepen our understanding of His Word. In many ways, it has taken us beyond the teachings of Calvin or Wesley, into a fuller understanding of how Yeshua and the Apostles actually lived.[1] Consider this familiar passage from the Gospel of John, which in my pre-Messianic walk would have been used as a “proof text” for the concept of “once saved, always saved”:

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one” (John 10:27-30).

In this description of how Yeshua’s sheep or followers receive eternal life from Him, the reality that they will never perish is stated. His words are that “no one will snatch them out of My hand.” For years, I found great comfort in these statements. In fact, I would often use these verses when getting into discussions with Margaret about the Calvinistic doctrine of eternal security.

However, as I have read and reread our Torah portion this week, and reconsidered some of the previous words from Balak that are linked to the opening verses of Pinchas, another perspective came to light. Let us consider the fact that as Ancient Israel stood on the plains of Moab, the people had the protection of God or His “security.” No doubt, Balaam understood this as he was told the following directly by God:

“God said to Balaam, ‘Do not go with them; you shall not curse the people, for they are blessed’” (Numbers 22:12).

Balaam had to remind Balak that the people of Israel could not be cursed or denounced, because they were blessed by God:

“How shall I curse whom God has not cursed? And how can I denounce whom the LORD has not denounced?” (Numbers 23:8; cf. 23:20).

The Scripture tells us that those whom God has blessed, no one can curse, as God protects His children from the curses of their enemies. If you move ahead to the statements of Yeshua regarding His sheep, what He says could be taken as a reiteration of this: “no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand” (John 10:29). This is a comforting fact to consider, similar to how God will not let anyone curse those who have been blessed, just like He did not let Balaam curse Israel.

However, there is something I want you to consider as you ponder these verses and think about what transpired on the plains of Moab millennia ago. The blessed Israelites were not able to be cursed by the prophet for hire Balaam. Balaam clearly understood that those whom God had blessed cannot be cursed by mortal beings. However, Balaam also knew that every person has the capacity to bring curses upon themselves by making freewill choices. Consequently, Balaam advised Balak to have the young women of Moab enter in the encampment of Israel, in order to entice the men of Israel into sexual sins that would lead to the worship of Baal of Peor.

It is not a matter of someone else cursing the Israelites, but people making volitional choices to follow their fleshly desires into abominable sin, by which the men of Israel cursed themselves. By so doing, the curses of God that are articulated throughout the Torah for sexual immorality and idol worship now come into force. In this specific case, many Israelites died from the plague that ensued. Just how many of these were idol worshippers or sexually promiscuous is not stated, but the consequences were devastating for the whole community. The only way the plague stops is by Phinehas performing his zealous act in front of Moses and all the congregation:

“Then behold, one of the sons of Israel came and brought to his relatives a Midianite woman, in the sight of Moses and in the sight of all the congregation of the sons of Israel, while they were weeping at the doorway of the tent of meeting. When Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he arose from the midst of the congregation and took a spear in his hand, and he went after the man of Israel into the tent and pierced both of them through, the man of Israel and the woman, through the body. So the plague on the sons of Israel was checked. Those who died by the plague were 24,000” (Numbers 25:6-9).

As I contemplated this reality in light of the concept of “eternal security,” I came to the conclusion that our protection from the Lord comes as a result of our fidelity and loyalty to Him. Just because Ancient Israel was a blessed people, did not overcome the possibility that some will willfully choose wickedness and subsequently relinquish the blessings. In this vivid example played out on the plains of Moab, we witness the inability of Balaam to verbally curse Israel. However, in an ironic twist, we witness the men of Israel, by their freewill choices, engage in sexual immorality and idol worship. The consequence of their poor choices is recorded for posterity, so that we will not make their mistakes (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:8).

Considering these passages was very sobering, when I see that even modern-day Believers in the Messiah still have the ability to make freewill choices. God has not made us into robots or automatons, but instead has continued to let each one of us make choices on a multitude of levels. I believe God truly wants to know if we really love Him with all of our hearts, minds, souls, and strength. Do we really appreciate what He has done for us by the sacrifice of His Son Yeshua? Does the fact that we have been brought into His family with commensurate blessings prompt in us a desire to please Him through our obedience?

Of course, for the truly born again Believer, who has the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, submitting to the promptings and leading of the Spirit should not be that difficult. But be reminded that according to the Apostle Paul, even Believers have the ability to quench or grieve the Holy Spirit:

“Do not quench the Spirit…Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (1 Thessalonians 5:19; Ephesians 4:30).

Our human will, even in those filled with the Holy Spirit, can cause us to choose to do bad things rather than good things—incurring negative consequences for what is done. Perhaps you can remember a time when you did not follow the promptings of the Spirit, and instead chose to exert your will. I believe that if we are truly honest with ourselves, we can admit to times when we did things as Believers we should not have done. Consider all the times when you have been attacked by someone for your beliefs or actions resulting from your beliefs. After all, according to Yeshua, there are people who will curse those who are His followers:

“But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:27-28).

When this happened to you, how did you respond? Did you respond in anger, or did you ask God to bless your enemies in your prayers? Were you able to forgive them for their actions? Did you at least leave the people alone for the Lord to deal with?

If you think about it, responding according to the commands of Yeshua requires a volitional choice. We have to relinquish our wills, which have a tendency to strike back and enact a degree of harsh vindication—and instead submit to the will of the Spirit by praying for those who curse us and forgiving them for their actions. Let us never forget that according to Yeshua, forgiveness is one of the highest priorities we have in our roles as His followers. It is absolutely clear from the Lord’s Prayer that one must forgive in order to receive forgiveness:

“For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions” (Matthew 6:14-15).

Yeshua also teaches us that when someone does not forgive another person, that he or she will be tormented. In fact, people who cannot forgive will be turned over to the tormentors:

“And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers [tormentors, KJV] until he should repay all that was owed him. My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart” (Matthew 18:34-35).

I have also come to the conclusion that while no one can remove us from the Father’s hand, by our own volitional choices we can remove ourselves from His blessings. Do these blessings include eternal life in His presence? The author of Hebrews puts it this way, regarding those who choose to sin willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth:

“For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and THE FURY OF A FIRE WHICH WILL CONSUME THE ADVERSARIES [Isaiah 26:11]. Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, ‘VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY.’ And again, ‘THE LORD WILL JUDGE HIS PEOPLE’ [Deuteronomy 32:35, 36]. It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:26-31).

Is it possible that someone can come to the saving knowledge of the sacrificial work of the Messiah, and then set it aside as meaningless and worthless? This is a huge theological debate, on which there will be no consensus opinion until He returns. But we should never be in the position where we ever forget the Lord’s atoning work for us, or His continual work for us in Heaven. If we decide that we want nothing to do with Yeshua (Jesus) and His work, the result is that “it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame” (Hebrews 6:6).

Many of the Ancient Israelites saw the glory of God surround the Tabernacle, and still they sinned. Sometimes God’s awesomeness is not enough when we do not consider the consequences of rejecting Him. I urge each and every one of you to seriously consider the words that Paul writes the Philippians. He instructs them to consider the exalted state of Yeshua, and to work out their salvation with fear and trembling. This is a scene even more awesome and significant than what the Israelites saw in the wilderness:

“For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Yeshua EVERY KNEE WILL BOW [Isaiah 45:23], of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Yeshua the Messiah is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:9-13).

Just like the Ancient Israelites who were blessed on the plains of Moab—who were still given the opportunity to choose—so also are Believers in Yeshua today given a choice. We can choose to follow the Lord, submit our wills to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, or we can choose to do our own will. Whether this results in choosing to follow the temptations of the flesh, idol worship, choosing not to forgive someone, or even choosing to trample on the blood of the Messiah—the fact remains that we are each given choices. What are you going to choose?

We must each follow the advice given to us by the Prophet Micah, as he summarized what our Creator expects from each human being:

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:5-8).

Certainly, we all have choices. I pray that we all choose wisely.


NOTES

[1] For some further thoughts on this issue, consult the FAQ entry on the Messianic Apologetics website “Calvinist-Arminian Controversy.”