Parashah #48: Shof’tim (Judges) D’varim (Deuteronomy) 16:18-21:9

Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue

Parashah #48: Shof’tim (Judges) D’varim (Deuteronomy) 16:18-21:9
Haftarah: Yesha’yahu (Isaiah) 51:12-53:12
B’rit Chadashah: 1 Timothy 5:17-22

In the beginning of this parashah, the chain of command for judging and leadership is set up according to G-d’s instructions. Note the continuity. All of those chosen to be within this chain are to be righteous men, all following the same G-d with no personal agendas. This is just one of the problems today with those chosen as leaders in contemporary society. Let’s look at some of the most stark contrasts.
There are four levels of government. There were judges, king, priests and prophets. The king was chosen by G-d and appointed by aprophet and not the people. Again, these men were to obey the same laws of G-d and not modify them for the sake of “political correctness” or “inclusion.” “Justice, only justice, you must pursue; so that you will live and inherit the land Adonai your G-d is giving you” (Deut. 16:20).
Instructions were provided for the judges addressing issues that were too difficult for them to decide including bloodshed, civil suits, personal injury, or other controversial issues so they did not have to make a ruling on something outside their comfort level. They were to take the issue, go before the Cohanim, who were Levites, and the judge in office at the time. They would give an opinion that was to be followed because they also followed and taught G-d’s Torah. The judge was not to turn to the right or left from the verdict given for them to execute, lest they die!
Today we are made acutely aware of corruption among leaders, even between them in a chain of command. Bribes are taken, people subordinate to them may be assaulted or verbally abused, and favoritism is not uncommon. In the religious realm there are numerous well-documented accounts of priests sexually abusing altar boys, lesbianism, homosexuality, and transgender behaviors and lifestyles being allowed and even encouraged among leaders of religious institutions. This extends so far as being ordained as leaders of the congregation (see Reform Judaism beliefs and practices). Humanistic Judaism does not include G-d in their doctrine; all in the name of inclusion and tolerance, which is reality perversion of G-d’s Torah and an abomination according to Scripture. True believers are not to assimilate with pagan idolatry which includes acceptance of such degradation. In this week’s parashah we read of some of the forbidden acts and behaviors (Deut. 17:1-7; 18:9-14).
The kingship is also a limited monarchy, setting him as first among equals. The king is specifically instructed not to acquire many horses, wives, silver, or gold, lest his heart turn away[from G-d]. The earthly ruler as king was required to be subject to G-d and the law, unlike leaders over nations today who often execute executive privilege and overrule advisors. Judicial supremacy belonged to G-d. Each king had to write a copy of G-d’s Torah for himself and read it daily. By writing a copy of the Torah, the king would have been perfectly aware of G-d’s laws, all of which he was expected to keep like any other citizen.
Unfortunately, there are well documented narratives of kings who disobeyed G-d and paid dearly, including Solomon, considered the wisest man at the time. He permitted numerous wives to bring their gods into Jerusalem and he even offered sacrifices to them. As a result, this evoked direct warning from G-d and prophecies that the kingdom would be split (1 Kings 11:43). The rest is history.
Deuteronomy 18:15-19 describes the coming of Yahshua as a prophet [during his earthly ministry]. This narrative is not understood by congregations in several Jewish sects or Christians. Let’s read it: “ Adonai will raise up for you a prophet like me from among yourselves, from your own kinsmen. You are to pay attention to him, just as when you were assembled at Horev and requested Adonai you G-d. ‘Don’t let me hear the voice of Adonai my G-d anymore or let me see this great fire ever again; if I do, I will die!’ On that occasion Adonai said to me, ‘They are right in what they are saying. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their kinsmen. I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I order him. Whoever doesn’t listen to my words, which he will speak in my name, will have to account for himself to me.”
Orthodox, Conservative, and in some cases Reform Jews maintain that Moshe was the greatest prophet ever, disregarding any notion that Yahshua is the one being spoken of in the narrative. Some Christians may understand Yahshua is spoken of as the Prophet to come, but they do not listen to or obey His words (G-d’s Torah/Instructions). Examples? Worshipping on Sunday celebrating Christmas and Easter; Not following the commanded festivals of G-d; eating whatever they like. The reader who takes exception to these statements is encouraged to contact me through the website for beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue for further discussion or questions. It is crucial to our hopeful salvation to understand who’s in control and how we are to address questions and concerns about life, even how to interpret Scripture.
For those who ignore the Old Testament, erroneously believing the “New” (actually Renewed, refreshed covenant) Testament is a replacement for and abrogation of G-d’s laws, let us compare what Yahshua says referring to the above scripture as he talks to Philip and the other disciples at the Pesach meal “ Whoever has seen me has seen the Father; so how can you say,‘ Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am united with the Father, and the Father united with me? What I am telling you, I am not saying on my own initiative; the Father living in me is doing his own works. Trust me, that I am united with the Father, and the Father united with me. But if you can’t, then trust because of the works themselves. Yes, indeed! I tell you that whoever trusts in me will also do the works I do! “ Moving to 14:15 we read: “ If you love me, you will keep my commands; “ and verses 21-22: “ Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me, and the one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him. Y’hudah (not the one from K’riot) said to him,” What has happened L-rd, that you are about to reveal yourself to us and not to the world?’ Yahshua answered him, “ If someone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Someone who doesn’t love me doesn’t keep my words- and the word you are hearing is not my own but that of the Father who sent me.”
There are many false teachers and prophets in our society that would have the unwary believe them to be valid prophets of G-d or excellent biblical teachers. Yet, if what they say “in the Name of G-d” or as often said in Christianity (“In Jesus name) and the prediction does not come true or otherwise conflict with G-d’s Torah, then we are not to have anything to do with them. Unfortunately, there are many who make this claim and are making a fortune off the scripturally naïve. Just as our parashah warns, those who do not keep the words of the prophet from Judah who came after Moshe, “ they will have to account for himself to me” (Deut. 18:19).
Haftarah: Yesha’yahu (Isaiah) 51:12-53:12
This haftarah could is speaking to believers to day just as when it was written for the future of believers and Jerusalem. G-d admonishes all believers who pursue justice mentioned in our parashah to consider who G-d is and is power and miracles. We are to pay attention as he continues to send out His Torah through His people. We are to raise our eyes toward the skies and “look at the earth below. The skies will vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like clothing. Those living on it will die like flies; but my salvation will be forever, and my justice will never end. Listen to me, you who know justice, you people who have my Torah in your heart; don’t be afraid of people’s taunts, don’t be upset by their insults. For the moth will eat them up like clothing, the worm will eat them like wool: but my justice will be forever, and my salvation for all generations.”
G-d reminds us that He is the One who comforts us and gives us strength; that we have forgotten him and as a result, we fear man and many of the events we are witnessing.
How humbling and reassuring it is to read what G-d says in verses 15-16 of chapter 51: “ For I am Adonai your G-d, who stirs up the sea, who makes its waves roar- Adonai-Tzva’ot is my name. I have put my words in your mouth and covered you with the shadow of my hand, in order to plant the skies[anew], lay the foundations of the earth [anew] and say to Tzion, ‘You are my people.”
Dear brethren, may it be so and in our lifetime.”
B’rit Chadashah: 1 Timothy 5:17-22
This narrative admonishes the people to take care of their leaders and that they should be considered worthy of double honor, especially those working hard at communicating the Word and at teaching.” They are not to fall prey to gossip concerning their leaders without two or three witnesses. If the questionable behavior is validated by two or three witnesses, the leader is to be rebuked in public to as a warning to others. Those who find themselves in positions of leadership have an awesome responsibility as they are generally observed closely. There guidance and actions may affect many lives and must be executed with the greatest observance and love of G-d’s Torah. To whom much is given, much is required. A leadership position adds another level of responsibility to G-d and His people that must be taken very seriously.
Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Tamah Davis-Hart