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) 54:1-10
B’rit Chadashah: Matthew 3:1-17

In this parashah, Moshe describes the practical applications for life in Canaan. The Israelites will now settle throughout the land instead of being camped around the Tabernacle and their worship will be modified. Instead of being fed by G-d with manna, the people will be fed by G-d through their hard work and G-d’s blessing. There are about to be many problems as the Israelites are no longer isolated in the desert, protected from foreign cultures and religions. They will be up close and personal with the Canaanite paganism. Moshe reiterates the importance of remaining a separate people just as we are to be today as true believers are surrounded by pagan culture and religions. Justice and righteousness are to be the basis for interacting with one another. Idolatrous shrines are to be destroyed (12:2-3). The reason is that as the Israelites take up residence wherever these shrines are located, they may be tempted to use them. Pagan rites and ceremonies were and are not to be tolerated as they are expressly forbidden (14:1). The Israelites were only to worship at the “place which the L-rd your G-d shall choose” (12:5,10,18,21).

As they worshipped G-d in bringing their tithes, offerings, and sacrifices, the Israelites were to rejoice before the L-rd as they ate together (12:4-7) as this was a time for them and their children to acknowledge G-d’s blessing for their labors. The entire household shared in this spiritual blessing: sons, daughters, male and female slaves, and the Levites.
G-d tested the Israelites’ love for him by allowing them to encounter false profits (13:3). This will be more prominent as we continue through the end times as the Satan knows his time is short and he will try and destroy as many souls as he can before his end (Matthew 7:15-20; 1 John 4:1; Matthew 24:24; 2 Peter 2:1; 1 John 4:1-6; 2 Cor. 11:13-15; Matthew 24:11; 2 Tim. 4:3;Rom. 16:16; Jer. 23:16; Mark 13:22; Rev. 19:20; 20:10) to name a few. Because Christians are basically taught G-d’s commands, laws, and rulings are dead, let us examine a couple of the B’rit Chadashah (“New Testament”) readings. 1 John 4:1-6 reads “Dear friends, don’t trust every spirit. On the contrary, test the spirits to see whether they are from G-d; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. Here is how you recognize the Spirit of G-d; every spirit which acknowledges that Yahshua the Messiah came as a human being is from G-d, and every spirit which does not acknowledge Yahshua is not from G-d- in fact, this is the spirit of the Anti-Messiah. You have heard that he is coming. Well, he is here now, in the world already!
You, children, are from G-d and have overcome the false prophets, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore, they speak from the world’s viewpoint; and the world listens to them. We are from G-d. Whoever knows G-d listens to us; whoever is not from G-d doesn’t listen to us. This is how we distinguish the spirit of truth from the spirit of error.”

Matthew 7:15-20 reads: “Beware of the false prophets! They come to you wearing sheep’s clothing, but underneath they are hungry wolves! You will recognize them by their fruit. Can people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every healthy tree produces good fruit, but a poor tree produces bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit or a poor tree good fruit. Any tree that does not produce good fruit is cut down and thrown in the fire! So, you will recognize them by their fruit.”

Revelation 19:20 reads: “But the beast was taken captive, and with it the false prophet who, in its presence, had done the miracles which he had used to deceive those who had received the mark of the beast and those who had worshipped his image. The beast and the false prophet were both thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur. The rest were killed with the sword that goes out of the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh.” The reference to the rider on the horse is Yahshua described in Rev. 19:11-19. It is not difficult to understand that HaSatan is roaming the world and we need to be armed and ready for confrontation with false prophets. Our ammunition is G-d’s Torah, but it is of no use if we don’t spend time filling our hearts and minds with the “gun powder” of His Word. We will simply be “shooting blanks” at enemies that are well equipped with deception, distractions, and other methods of leading us away from our G-d.

We learn that the death penalty for false prophets included family members. Anyone in the family who secretly tempted people to worship idols was to be stoned to death (13:6-11). G-d does not tolerate idolatry. It may seem that He is ignoring or granting “amnesty: to those practicing this abomination today, but He is only waiting until the perfect time to execute His judgement. G-d is righteous and true and will not be mocked. Love for family or relatives must not take precedence over exclusive devotion to the G-d of Israel (Luke 14:26).

Chapter 17:14-20 describes one of the major contributing factors to what we are witnessing today with leaders around the world. G-d knew that man would want a tangible human king at some point which by default was a significant step down for society as a whole. G-d laid down specific criteria for choosing a king and requirements of the king. The king could not accumulate unnecessary wealth, wives, or horses. He was required to write a copy of G-d’s Torah for himself, read it every day, and keep it with him so that he would learn it and practice it; keeping himself humble before G-d, and not turn from the King’s highway. As history will testify, kings, prime ministers, and other leaders do not follow these instructions. Everyone is doing what seems right in his/her own eyes which we learned last week will not go on forever (12:8).

G-d added a promise that further alludes to Yahshua in 18:15-19. Moshe tells the people that “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 your 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.’” Notice that the person is singular (him) and does not apply to all of the prophets found in the Torah. Also, we are not accountable to any man; priest, rabbi, or otherwise. We are accountable only to YHVH/Yahshua. Yahshua discusses this concept in John 14. This scripture provides another example of the continuity of G-d’s Word, the commands, laws, and rulings which were not abrogated with Yahshua’s sacrifice.
Incidentally, some folks ask about the difference between Horev and Sinai. Horev is thought to mean “glowing heat.” According to Jewish tradition, Sinai derives from sin-ah meaning hatred, in reference to the other nations haring the Jews out of jealousy, due to the Jews being the ones to receive the word of G-d. Sinai also translates as “bush.” The place is the same mountain. Translating it as “bush” seems more consistent with G-d’s Torah as this was the place where Moshe encountered the burning bush that was not consumed. Therefore, using the name Horev also may refer to the burning bush which provided a glowing heat.

Haftarah: Yesha’yahu 51:12-52:12

This is the fourth of the “seven prophecies of comfort” read between the Fast of the ninth of Av and Rosh Hashanah. So very tenderly as a righteous groom who is about to forgive his idolatrous bride, HaShem says, “Anochi, Anochi hu m’nachemchem” (I, I am he who comforts you). Adonai assures us that although Israel was punished greatly for the sin of idolatry, He will redeem her, punish those who led her astray and return His people to Zion. He escorts the exiles, (Adonai will go ahead of you, and the G-d of Israel will also be behind you (Is. 52:12) in a slow methodical processional in sharp contrast to the hasty exodus from Egypt. This haftarah reiterates the truth of a progressive salvation versus an instantaneous, all- inclusive event taught by most Christian clergy. We are also reminded that G-d is not “all love and mercy.” His justice will prevail against those who led Israel astray and against those who choose to follow their own ways and gods. Although G-d’s mercy endures forever, He will return as the conquering King Yahshua with justice and righteousness (Psalm 119:137; Rev. 19:11).

B’rit Chadashah: Matthew 3:1-17

Yochanan proclaims repentance to prepare the way of the L-rd (Mt.3:4, 6). Proclamation begins at Bethany, house of poverty, a village outside of the Land, and east of the Jordan (Jn.1:28). Yochanan calls the people to repentance and holy living. G-d is present, going before and behind His people, as the grand, holy processional moves from exile to Jerusalem (Is. 52:9-12). These are reminiscent of the column of cloud and the column of fire during the Exodus. G-d sends His Son as the suffering servant (Is. 42:1). People arrive from all directions, including Jerusalem (Mt. 3:5, 13). Therefore, it should come as no surprise that Yahshua asks Yochanan to immerse him at the Jordan, the entry point into the Land. Yochanan is obedient and immediately the heavens open and the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) descends. A Voice from heaven announces the coming of G-d’s only begotten Son (Mt. 3:17). Contrary to Christian teaching, Yahshua was not sent to abrogate all the instructions and laws of YHVH. Rather, He was sent to show us how to live them as a tangible, living Being for a time. This is the meaning of Matthew 5:17. If we love Him, we will keep His commands (John chapter 14). The only way to understand what these commands encompass and how we can live them is to diligently and prayerfully study, internalize, and act upon the Word of G-d. Sh’ma Israel! (hear, internalize, act upon) G-d’s Torah/Instructions.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Tamah Davis-Hart