Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Parashah #44: D’varim (Words) Deuteronomy 1:1-3:22
Haftarah: Yesha’yahu (Isaiah) 1:1-27
B’rit Chadashah: Hebrews 3:7-4:11
The book of Deuteronomy may be the most significant book in the Old Testament from the perspective of G-d’s revelation to man. It is one of the books most frequently cited and referred to in the B’rit Chadashah, nearly two hundred times. This book represents the crux of what G-d revealed to Moshe to tell the people about how the people are to relate to G-d and their fellow man. You will not see anything about the Oral Torah to which many of our Jewish brethren hold as equal to or more important than G-d’s Torah. However, many maintain G-d gave the entire Oral Torah to Moshe at the same time the Commands were given. We must always compare what we are taught to the scriptures for accuracy.
Moshe summarizes to the new generation, all that G-d commands for their ultimate welfare as they enter the Land. This has direct application and importance to anyone who considers themselves a true believer in YHVH/Yahshua. There were not two sets of rules. The same rules and regulations, designated times and dietary laws applied to the Israelites and their fellow travelers then just as they do now, and will in the future, because our G-d is unchanging. The difference in this parashah is that this generation already had the Commands of G-d taught to them and it was now time to move ahead and become a nation of people rather than one of travelers in the desert.
The location of this first chapter is significant as the Israelites were on the verge of taking the land of promise. In Egypt the Israelites had worked as slaves under taskmasters. Now they were about to build a nation as free men with a hierarchy of leaders to administer justice for all the Israelites. This required that just men be chosen for the role for which they were chosen.
Deut. 1:6 reminds us that our mountain-top experiences are not to be permanent and will not be so until Yahshua returns. Moshe reminds the Israelites that Adonai told them: “You have lived long enough by the mountain. Turn, get moving and go to the hill- country of the Emori and all the places near there in the Aravah, the hill-country, the Sh’felah, the Negev and by the seashore- the land of the Kena’ani, and the L’vanon, as far as the great river, the Euphrates River.” G-d gives us these oases in the wilderness journeys of our lives to receive instruction, rest, and re-energize for the next obstacle in the “hill-country.” We should always thank G-d for these times of respite and pray for strength and wisdom as we prepare to follow Him to the next checkpoint. Our testings are opportunities for us to expand our knowledge and understanding of how G-d wants us to relate to Him and to man, and to ascend to a deeper relationship with Him. This reminds us of Jacob’s ladder. We are to learn to negotiate these intermittent obstacles, some of which are presented to us at what seems to be all at once, in order that we may glorify the One who brings us safely through. In His infinite mercy, G-d even brings us through when we make mistakes or are slow to catch on to the point of the testing. As our Father, He knows it takes time for even the most diligent student/child to learn what is expected and how to successfully negotiate new obstacles. Just as Moshe reminded the Israelites of their sins that were committed at each stopping place, if we examine ourselves closely, we can recall many of our mistakes and what we hopefully learned from them, not to repeat them. As we grow in our relationship to G-d, we are open to receive more of the Light and send it out into the world through our thoughts and deeds for G-d’s glory.
As Israel was about to leave the nomadic chapter of their journey through history, humanitarianism was introduced as a new aspect of the Mosaic law. This was in contrast to the conditions in Egypt experienced by the Israelites. This provision offered aid to those who might be oppressed or exploited. The attributes of justice and righteousness was to be internalized and the mechanism or motivation that drove the relationships between men. This alludes to applying the letter and spirit of the law in all we do today. Note the duality; justice and righteousness.
In D’varim 1:41-46 we see a truth that is uncomfortable and denied by many; that there is a time when G-d will not hear the cries of those who rebel and live by their own laws. The rebellious Israelites made an abortive attempt to enter Canaan. However, they were essentially “a day late and a dollar short.” Moshe warned them at G-d’s instruction that G-d would not be with them and that the enemies would defeat them. The people went anyway and were badly defeated. Then they cried to Adonai, but He did not listen or give them any attention. Their attempt to take on the Canaanites under their own strength made them aware of the reality of divine judgement. Again, the attribute of G-d’s judgment did not suddenly evaporate when Yahshua arrived to teach man how to apply the written laws; His laws. He is a loving and just G-d who never changes. For that generation there was no escape from death in the desert during the next 38 years. Similarly, those who choose to rebel against G-d and His Torah will not escape the second death either (Matt.25; 1 Tim 4:1; Heb. 6:4-6; Rev. 2:4-5; Heb. 3:12-19; 2 Pet. 2:20-22; Matt. 24:10-13;Rom. 11;19-22; 1 Cor. 9:27;2 Pet. 1:5-10;Heb. 10:26-31;Heb.10:39;2 pet. 3:17; John 6:66; 2 Cor. 13:5;2 Cor. 11:13-15; Rev. 3:1-3; Heb. 10:26-27). There are more verses that are not included here but the point is to show that the Old Testament and the B’rit Chadashah (Renewed refreshed Covenant) called the “New” Testament by Christians, are consistent. We cannot omit or ignore the Old Testament any more than we can omit or ignore the first half of the alphabet or the first half of any book. Even fairy tails start with “Once upon a time…” that lays the groundwork for the rest of the story.
Haftarah: Yesha’yahu (Isaiah) 1:1-27
This is the third and last of the “prophecies of destruction,” that 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 of the first and second Temples were destroyed. This is the most fitting haftarah for the occasion. Isaiah’s vision clearly illustrated what was and is expected of B’nai Israel, and the low level to which they had fallen. In order to save the nation from itself, both the Temple and the state were destroyed of necessity. The haftarah concludes by giving us the formula for deliverance: “Zion will be redeemed by justice… (1:27).
B’rit Chadashah: Yochanan (John) 15:1-11; Messianic Jews (Hebrews) 3:7-4:11
John 15:1-2 reads “I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.” Notice the reference to “fruit” and “pruning.” Fruit is that which grows naturally out of a plant or situation. In this context it refers to character qualities given to believers. The Greek word prune literally means “cleans.” Accordingly, in the aforementioned verse, it means to cleanse from sin. Previously we learned that G-d chastises those He loves, and this process is necessary to produce perseverance and more trust unto salvation. Some will receive salvation, and some will not. These who do not are “cut off.” In verse 2 we read this term of being “cut off” in the context that if we do not bear fruit we shall be “cut off.” Daniel who wrote of the Messiah being “cut off” meaning executed may also help to explain “cut off.” So it is with people who G-d determined are not going to make it, not because He predestined it, but because they chose their destiny through their behavior. These passages further define what “cut-off” means in the sense that an unfruitful person will be “cast into the fire and burned” (a reference to Hell elsewhere in Scripture). This verse and many others support the fact that there is no such thing as eternal security in the context of what is taught in Christianity. It also begs the question: Who shall be saved? Someone who merely professes or one who professes and is fruitful? How do we determine what “fruitful” is in G-d’s eyes? The rest of the passage in this section answers these questions. In verse 3 Yahshua unequivocally states “you are clean through the word I have spoken to you.” Does this mean by believing some portion of what He spoke we are automatically saved? If this were true it would contradict His warning of being fruitful and the result of being cut off if we do not repent and seek to bear fruit. And of what word is He speaking? Yahshua taught, upheld, and lived the Torah of G-d, His Father. He is the eternal, living, manifest Word of G-d. Unfortunately, many people take this statement out of context and apply it through eisegesis to their own brand of understanding, originating from their own desires instead of properly interpreting Scripture. Yahshua further emphasizes in this passage that He obeyed the Father (YHVH-Torah) and He admonishes us in verse 10 to obey His commands if we are to remain in His love. Our salvation depends on us remaining in His love. To be outside that love is to be lost. What we can understand from this portion of scripture? If we correctly focus our minds and pray for understanding through the Ruach, we can understand how we mature as believers, learning to advance the verbal profession and belief in Yahshua to action demonstrated through Torah obedience, and the doing of “good works.” This concept is not only staunchly taught by Yahshua’s brother James, but is supported and reinforced by Paul, contrary to what many Christians are taught. Trust and obedience necessarily lead to ‘good works’
In this second passage of the B’rit Chadashah we see another example of the consistency of G-d’s Torah. In this case it is the inextricable way in which obedience is tied to salvation. There can be no salvation in the absence of obedience to YHVH’s teaching/instruction/Torah). First our trust in the Living Torah Yahshua, followed by obedience to the written Torah of YHVH Elohim. In Christian typology the “Promised Land” is a type of Heaven where believers will fine ultimate rest. Think about this as the above passages tell us; YHVH did not allow the first generation of Israelites who rebelled against His Torah to enter the “Promised Land.” Israel. Rather, He assigned them to death in the desert. How could this generation who witnessed the miracles, signs and wonders; provision of manna and water that YHVH provided. Yet, with all the belief that could not be denied through the physical manifestations of G-d’s provision and protection, and the profession of that belief, they were condemned to death, falling short of reaching the “Promised Land.” Why? disobedience of G-d’s Torah.
Another point of interest in this passage is found in verse 12: “Watch out brothers, so that there will not be in any one of you an evil heart lacking trust, which could lead you to apostatize from the living G-d.” The Greek word used is “apostenai” from which we get the English word “apostatize.” Here it is translated “unbelieving; to fall away.” We must ask ourselves if it is possible for “true believers” to apostatize (to go away, desert, stand apart, become apostate)? Can a person fall away permanently or just be ‘back- slidden’? Or do you choose to define this doctrine in a Calvinistic way where “believer” is defined as “tautologically” in such a way that no one so defined ever falls away? This issue should catalyze us into serious investigation of YHVH/Yahshua’s definition of a true believer that can be found in the seven-fold witness in the book of Revelation. If you have questions about what the seven-fold witness is and where the specific verses are located, they can be found at http://www.rabdavis.org or you can e-mail me at email@example.com. Once you identify them, they should be highlighted in some way for continued reference and review. The destination of the soul depends on our understanding and obedience out of love for G-d’s Torah that includes this definition.
Rabbi Tamah Davis-Hart