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: Mattityahu (Matthew) 5:38-42; 18:15-20
The timing for discussing this parashah could not be more appropriate as we reflect on current events related to our government in America. The crux of this parashah is “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).” Students of G-d’s Torah can easily see how prophecy is being fulfilled before their eyes and a glimpse of the retribution G-d will meter out for disobedience and rebellion against His Word.
The concept of justice was not limited to the king or the priests. Every individual is responsible to behave justly in all facets of life. Where the answers to specific situations were not clear, there was a definitive chain of command by which the people were to follow with the ultimate authority being G-d. The subsequent designation judges and other officials did not change or diminish G-d’s final authority because every Israelite was to eradicate injustice or idolatry when and wherever it was encountered. Two-to three witnesses provided a check and balance system before offenders were stoned. This sentence originally mandated by G-d could be done under the jurisdiction of local leaders 917:2-7).
The administration of justice where specifics were not written in G-d’s Torah evolved through the oral Torah. Our rabbinical Jewish brethren maintain that the entire Oral Torah was given to Moshe at Sinai, but this is not possible. As situations evolve, decisions on how to interpret G-d’s written Torah had to be made by interpretations of the prophets, the judges, and priests. This area of judging and making decisions on courses of action became and remains an area in which great care must be taken. For example, a decision by one individual given the authority such as what constitutes “work” may reflect that individual’s biases known or unknown to the individual. Traditions are often built on some of these decisions not specifically described in G-d’s Torah and eventually become Jewish law or halacha. One example is the lighting of the Chanukkah candles. The traditional blessing includes a sentence “ Blessed are you our G-d King of the Universe who makes us holy through Your commandments and commands us to light the Chanukkah lights.” There is no such command in G-d’s Torah, yet this statement goes unquestioned by most well-meaning Jews who celebrate Chanukkah. There is also no credible documentation even in the writings of Josephus, that one crus of oil that lasted eight days is the focus of the festival. If we seek justice and legitimacy in every facet of our lives, we will investigate why we believe what we believe and value and compare it to G-d’s Torah, just as those who were given authority to render lawful decisions were to seek G-d’s answers as they deliberated the issues with a humble heart and prayer. The priests also had “access” to G-d through the Urim and Thummim by which they received revelation as needed for making decisions. Just as we learned last week that the Israelites were doing things that seemed right to them before entering the land (Deut. 12:8), many politicians and others who have some degree of authority over the people not only make decisions to promote a secular agenda, but also choose not to even acknowledge the authority and in some cases, even the existence of the G-d of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
As we read through this parashah, it is easy to recognize how far our society and world have fallen from favor with G-d according to G-d’s standard. It is arrogant to believe that simply by ignoring, manipulating, or rephrasing obedience and love for G-d’s Torah as “indoctrination, radical fundamentalism, hate language, or intolerance. Such arrogance will not be tolerated or “forgotten” by G-d in this age just as it was not tolerated or “erased” when G-d’s Torah was written. Out of G-d’s profound love for mankind, He sent Yahshua to become the only acceptable sacrifice for sin that man “might” be saved. It is His will that we choose to become reconciled to G-d through Yahshua’s sacrifice for our past sins and a change of behavior toward His Torah. But G-d has given us free choice and not all men will choose the narrow way that leads to eternal life ( Matt. 7:13-14). This scripture indicates that instead many will enter the wide gate and the broad road to destruction. This should serve as a humble reminder that we cannot sit back and expect to profess the Name of G-d and expect that in G-d’s system of justice that we will be given a “free card” to eternal life. No, we must realign our lives, our hearts and minds and follow the instructions G-d so lovingly provided to those who have an ear to hear. Just as G-d commands that we integrate and employ justice in our daily lives, He is just in all His ways as states in Revelation 15:3, “ And they sang the song of Moses the servant of G-d and the song of the Lamb, saying Great and marvelous are thy works, L-rd G-d almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of the Saints…”
Another prophetic statement is made in this Parashah whereby Yahshua is alluded to, and G-d’s instructions are very clear that “ 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.”
This statement does not make Yahshua (G-d saves) any less than the role He exhibits as G-d the Father. This does not imply a Trinity as this concept is not taught in the Bible. Rather, Yahshua as G-d in the role of Messiah subjected himself to a human manifestation and accepted the cup given him to offer himself as the only acceptable sacrifice for mans sin. This role as Emmanuel becomes cleared in John chapters 14-16 and I encourage the reader to compare the prophecy in our parashah to these chapters. Again, we cannot hope to gain an optimal understanding of G-d’s Torah without studying and embracing as truth the Old Testament and the Refreshed, renewed Covenant mistakenly labeled the ‘New” Testament. Remember, G-d provided the written Torah first which equates to the Song of Moshe (the commands of G-d first given in the Old Testament) and the Song of the Lamb which is reconciliation to G-d through Yahshua’s sacrifice. Clinging to both is required if we are to be counted as one of G-d’s people. Even the angels acknowledge this truth (Rev. 15:3).
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 the verse in 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.
Rabbi Tamah Davis-Hart