Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Parashah #44: D’varim (Words) D’varim 1:1-3:22
Haftarah: Yesha’yahu (Isaiah) 1:1-27
B’rit Chadashah: Yochanan (John) 15:1-11: Hebrews 3:7-4:11
Last week we spoke of the importance of remembering the past; the good and the bad. The good includes all of the things G-d has done for us as our Creator, Provider, and Saviour, broad categories with infinite subheadings. The bad must be remembered at times so that we do not repeat our sins. An important point to remember when remembering the “bad” is not to dwell on it; not to live in the past but continue running toward the prize of an eternity with our G-d.
This is exactly what D’varim (Words) is about. It is written in the form of a treaty between a king and his servants typical of the second millennium BCE. It calls on Israel to remember all G-d has done and who He is. Because of their lack of faith, the old generation wandered in the desert for 40 years on a journey that should have lasted on ly 11 days. Moshe then prepares the next generation for their arrival and possession of the promised land and reiterated G-d’s covenant and expectations of His people.
The message is clear as it was for them and is for us. Because of what G-d has done to bring us to where we are, we should have hope that will not fade and follow Him. Because of what He expects, we are to listen and obey. Because of who He is, we should learn to love him completely, above all else.
The long 40 -year journey from Egypt to the land was not a distance issue. It was a heart issue. G-d’s purpose for His people then and now is more than simply moving people from one location to another. He prepares us to become obedient through our love and fearsome awe for Him so that we might live with Him forever. Our life’s journey is meant to teach us who G-d is; our Leader, King, High Priest, sacrificial Lamb, and Savior; the Lion of Judah. But it also teaches us who we are; a sinful, fallen people, prone to rebellion and doubt. He provided us with the Law; His Law/Torah/Instructions to help us understand what is expected of us; how we are to relate to G-d and other people. Although it may seem that we are going through hell as we go through our trials, G-d keeps us and teaches us so that that our final destination is just the opposite!
The wilderness experience ends in Deuteronomy. The events in this book only cover a week or two of the 11th month of year 40. The people spend the final month mourning the loss of Moshe.
When G-d provided the covenant for His people at Mt. Sinai, the knowledge of right and wrong, what was and is expected was repeated many times, and responsibility to obey G-d’s laws became mandatory. Although the people agreed to do as G-d said, they had to know how to do what he required. He provided all the guidelines in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers so there was and is no excuse that we do not know what to do or how to do it when it comes to followings G-d’s Torah.
Moshe realized that he needed the help of G-dly men to manage the growing population and complexity of the nation. It is quite interesting that the qualities he describes as those of a good leader differ so significantly from many who are chosen to lead in our secular society and even in the religious realm. It is not easy to find an individual who has knowledge, wisdom, and understanding along with experience. Today we find individuals chosen for wealth, good looks, ambition, and a willingness to do anything to make money. I recently read in the Epoch Times that the Methodist Church is charging churches within the organization as much as one million dollars to leave the organization mainly because of the organization’s current position on homosexuality! This is just one of many examples of how far our world has fallen from G-d’s standards. However, we are in the End Times so this should not come as a surprise to anyone who follows G-d’s Torah.
In Chapter 2 G-d tells Moshe that He would make the enemy nations terrified of Israel. The Israeli army was not intimidating, but they had and have G-d on their side. G-d goes before us in our daily battles and prepares the way for us to overcome the obstacles ahead. We only need to follow Him, pray for His deliverance from the Adversary daily which may come in the form of unpleasant clients, potential road rage, a nagging spouse or even fatigue. In Chapter 3 we read of the seemingly insurmountable obstacle of the army of Bashan under King Og. The Israelites would not have had a chance, but G-d was on their side just as He is with Israel today. We need to remember Who is in charge. Although the Adversary is roaming the earth today devouring who he may, nothing is happening outside G-d’s control of the universe. So many people ask how a loving G-d could allow such atrocities as we are witnessing today? It is the consequences of OUR SINS that are producing these horrific events. We are still a rebellious, stiff-necked people who have turned away from G-d and loathe His Torah to the point of open defiance. All we need do is read what G-d says will happen when we insist on living “our way,” ignoring all of G-d’s instructions. Although the crux of this issue will be discussed in a future parashah, I invite you to preview Deuteronomy 28:15-68. Our G-d does not lie and means what He says. His commands are written in stone.
Haftarah: Yesha’yahu (Isaiah) 1:1-27
This is the third and last of the “prophecies of destruction,” which are read during the three weeks between the Fast of the Seventeenth of Tammuz and the Fast of the Ninth of AV. This Haftarah is read the Shabbat before the Ninth of Av, the day the first and second Temples were destroyed. This is the most fitting Haftarah for the occasion. The vision Yesha’yahu had clearly shows what was expected of B’nai Yisrael, and to what level they had sunk. In order to save the nation from itself both the Temple and the State were destroyed of necessity. The Haftarah ends by giving us the formula for deliverance: “Zion will be redeemed by justice…” (1:27). I invite the reader to look up “justice” and apply it to this scripture. For starters, note that it does not say Zion will be redeemed by love. This should provide the catalyst needed for your inquiry. ?
7 So, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you hear his voice,
8 do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the desert,
9 where your fathers tested and tried me and for forty years saw what I did.
10 That is why I was angry with that generation, and I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.’
11 So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.'”
12 See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living Elohim.
13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.
14 We have come to share in Messiah if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first.
15 As has just been said: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.”
16 Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt?
17 And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the desert?
18 And to whom did YHVH swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed?
19 So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.
4:1 Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it.
2 For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith.
3 Now we who have believed enter that rest, just as YHVH has said, “So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.'” And yet his work has been finished since the creation of the world.
4 For somewhere he has spoken about the seventh day in these words: “And on the seventh day YHVH Elohim rested from all his work.”
5 And again in the passage above he says, “They shall never enter my rest.”
6 It still remains that some will enter that rest, and those who formerly had the gospel preached to them did not go in, because of their disobedience.
7 Therefore YHVH again set a certain day, calling it Today, when a long time later he spoke through David, as was said before: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.”
8 For if Joshua had given them rest, YHVH would not have spoken later about another day.
9 There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of YHVH.
10 for anyone who enters YHVH’s rest also rests from his own work, just as YHVH did from his.
11 Let us; therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience. (NIV)
Again, we see in this portion that obedience is tied to salvation in an inextricable way. There can be no salvation absent of obedience to YHVH’s teaching/instruction Torah. First, our trust in the Living Torah, Yahshua, walk in obedience to the Written Torah of YHVH Elohim. In Christian typology the “Promised Land” is a type of heaven where believers will find rest. Think about this as the above passages tell us, YHVH did not allow those of Israel who continually rebelled to enter into the “Promised Land” Israel but assigned them to death in the desert. Think of all the miracles they had witnessed and the provision of YHVH throughout the journey. What awesome sights they had witnessed to build their faith and trust. Yet, with all that “BELIEF” and profession of belief, they were condemned to not enter into the “Promised Land because of disobedience of YHVH’s Torah.
Other interesting notes to this portion are in verse 12. The Greek word used here is “apostenai” from which we get the English word “apostatize” Here it is translated “unbelieving.” Ask yourself then if it is possible for “true believer’s” to apostatize (to go away, to desert, stand apart, become apostate)? Can a person fall away permanently into condemnation, or only a status of being “backslidden?” Or do you define this doctrine in such a way as does Calvinism, where “believer” is defined “tautologically” in such a way that no one so defined ever falls away, which then presents a problem. For with this mindset, no one will ever know if he is a “believer” until his life ends. If you don’t know, it might be the most important question you’ll ever address, and your future depends upon an answer. We need to clarify in our hearts and minds YHVH/Yahshua’s definition of a “true believer” and set a course toward that destination (John Chapter 14; Romans 1-3; the Seven- Fold Witness in the Book of Revelation[ see these verses in Revelation described in an article by the same name at rabdavis.org]).
Rabbi Tamah Davis-Hart