Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Parashah 51-52: Nitzavim (Standing) and Vayelekh (He went)
D’varim (Deuteronomy) 29:9-30:20; 31:1-30
Haftarah: From Nitzavim: Yesha’yahu (Isaiah) 61:10-63:9
B’rit Chadashah: Vayelekh: Hebrews: 13:5-8
Since this is a regular year versus a leap year, we are to read and explore these two parashot together. Therefore, I chose one concept from each for today’s teaching.
One very important point we learn from the first paragraph of Nitzavim is that G-d makes it very clear that all the children of Israel are ordered to be present to enter into the covenant of Adonai and into his oath so that all the children, those already living and those yet to be born are included as a people set apart for G-d (Deut. 29:9-17). Everyone who considers themselves G-d’s people are responsible for obedience to G-d’s commands, laws, statutes, and rules. He makes the point that the people will experience both blessings and curses and what they have done will be recalled to them as they find themselves among the nations to which G-d has driven them. This answers the question about whether true believers will be completely spared the adverse reactions of collective or national sin. Because they are able to reflect back on their sins and how G-d warned them of the curses that would befall them as a result of their disobedience, only then will some repent and turn back to G-d and follow His ways (Deut. 30:1-2). Only after the people repent will Adonai remove their exile; not only from the nations to which he has driven them, but from exile in relationship to Him. Those who were exiled, many of them then and many of us now who are unaware that we are Israelites in exile, will be gathered. Two of the most beautiful verses regarding this is found in Deut. 30:4-5 “If one of yours was scattered to the far end of the sky, Adonai your G-d will gather you even from there; he will go there and get you. Adonai your G-d will bring you back into the land your ancestors possessed, and you will possess it; he will make you prosper there, and you will become even more numerous than your ancestors.” No true believer will be left out or forgotten.
G-d also introduces the fact that high-handed sin will not be forgiven much to the chagrin of many Christian clergy who teach to the contrary. We read in Deut. 29:18-20: “Let there not be among you a root bearing such bitter poison and wormwood (bitterness). If there is such a person, when he hears the words of this curse, he will bless himself secretly, saying to himself, ‘I will be all right, even though I will stubbornly keep doing whatever I feel like doing; so that I, although “dry” [sinful] will be added to the “watered” [righteous].’ But Adonai will not forgive him. Rather, the anger and jealousy of Adonai will blaze up against that person. Every curse written in this book will be upon him. Adonai will blot out his name from under heaven. Adonai will single him out from all the tribes of Israel to experience what is bad in all the curses of the covenant written in the book of this Torah.”
We need only examine Mark 3:29 and Matthew 12:31 to refute those who mistakenly believe this vow of G-d was done away with when Yahshua came and the B’rit Chadashah was written (New Testament). Mark 3:29 reads: “someone who blasphemes against the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) never has forgiveness but is guilty of an eternal sin.” Matthew 12:31 reads: “Because of this, I tell you that people will be forgiven any sin and blasphemy, but blasphemy against the Ruach HaKodesh will never be forgiven, neither in the present world or the world to come.” So we must ask ourselves what blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Ruach HaKodesh means. We need to clearly understand the meaning of this scripture lest we commit this sin. Therefore, I ask your patience as I present the linguistic explanation of the word and concept of blasphemy.
The parallel seems to define “blaspheme” as “speaking against.”
This is supported linguistically:
According to Strong’s blasphemeo (987) means “to blaspheme, insult, slander, curse.” that cross references with phemi which means “to say, declare, affirm.” We are left then to discern the meaning of blas, which Strong’s does not provide us information on. However, Noah Webster, in his 1828 dictionary offers the following insight:
BLASPHE’ME, v.t. [Gr. The first syllable is the same as in blame, blasme, denoting injury; L. loedo, loesus; The last syllable is the Gr., to speak.]
1. To speak of the Supreme Being in terms of impious irreverence; to revile or speak reproachfully of G-d, or the Holy Spirit. 1 Kings 21. Mark 3.
2. To speak evil of; to utter abuse or calumny against; to speak reproachfully of. BLASPHE’ME, v.i. To utter blasphemy.
He that shall blaspheme against the Holy Spirit shall not be forgiven. Mark 3. 1. To arrogate the prerogatives of G-d. This man blasphemeth. Who can forgive sins but G-d? Math.9.
In regard to blaspheming the Father, due consideration must be given to the law concerning those who blasphemed the name of YHVH–Lev. 24:16:
“And whoever blasphemes the name of the L-RD shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall certainly stone him, the stranger as well as him who is born in the land. When he blasphemes the name of the L-RD, he shall be put to death.”
Another critical piece of information needed to clarify Yahshua’s statement is the definition of blasphemy. Wayne Jackson wrote: “Blasphemy is an anglicized form of the Greek term blasphemia, which scholars believe probably derives from two roots, blapto, to injure, and pheme, to speak. The word would thus suggest injurious speech” (2000). Bernard Franklin, in his article concerning blasphemy against the Spirit, suggested:
The word “blasphemy” in its various forms (as verb, noun, adjective, etc.) appears some fifty-nine times in the New Testament. It has a variety of renderings, such as, “blasphemy,” “reviled,” “railed,” “evil spoken of,” “to speak evil of,” etc. Examples of these various renderings are: “They that passed by reviled him” (Matthew 27:39). “He that shall blaspheme” (Mark 3:29). “They that passed by railed on him” (Mark 15:29). “The way of truth shall be evil spoken of” (2 Peter 2:2). “These speak evil of those things” (Jude 10). It is evident from these passages that blasphemy is a sin of the mouth, a “tongue-sin.” All New Testament writers except the author of Hebrews use the word (1936, pp. 224-225).
Furthermore, Yahshua defined the term when, after referring to blasphemy, He used the phrase “speaks a word against” in Matthew 12:32. In the context of the Pharisees, Yahshua was referring to their calling him an evil spirit or indwelt with an evil spirit.
G-d tells us that following his instructions is NOT impossible. Many Christian clergy mistakenly misconstrue Paul’s teaching that there is no one that is righteous to mean that keeping G-d’s Torah is impossible. Another related misconception is that Paul teaches the Law/Instruction of G-d is dead. Paul is actually talking about the laws of men; traditional regulations and laws of men; rabbinical law. He is NOT talking about G-d’s laws. To believe that Yahshua came to abrogate his Father’s instructions, laws, regulations, commands, and statutes as outdated and no longer effective in ushering humans along the road of salvation is completely illogical and absurd.
Deuteronomy 30:10-14 is a continuation of the previous paragraph where G-d delineates all the blessings that He will rain on people who follow His commands:
“However, this will happen only if you pay attention to what Adonai your G-d says, so that you obey his commands and regulations which are written in this book of the Torah, if you turn to Adonai your G-d with all your heart and all your being. For this command that I am giving you today is not too hard for you, it is not beyond your reach. It isn’t in the sky, so that you need to ask, ‘Who will go up into the sky for us, bring it to us and make us hear it, so that we can obey it? Likewise, it isn’t beyond the sea, so that you need to ask, ‘Who will cross the sea for us, bring it to us and make us hear it, so that we can obey it?’ On the contrary, the word is very close to you-in your mouth, even in your heart: therefore, you can do it!” The word for heart is the same as the word for mind in Hebrew (lev). The previous statement implies that our souls/minds are programmed with the ability to overcome human nature and ascend in a relationship with G-d. However, we must train hard every day during this training period on earth. We must pray as we study the Bible that the Holy Spirit will assist us in learning the truth of G-d’s Word and develop the strength to obey it in a society that is increasingly anti-G-d. What assurance do we have that G-d will help us accomplish his will in our lives? The answer is found in the next parashah in Deut. 31:6: “Be strong, be bold, don’t be afraid or frightened of them [the enemy], for Adonai your G-d is going with you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.” Again, for those who are not convinced this promise applies to every scenario in our lives, we read in the New Testament (B’rit Chadashah; renewed, refreshed covenant) in Hebrews 13:5-6 “I will never fail you or abandon you.” He is not talking to everyone. He is speaking to those who are in him. How can we know for sure we are included in the body of true believers? Besides the seven-fold witness in the book of Revelation and John Chapter 14, we read in John 2:3: “The way we can be sure we know him is if we are obeying his commands. Anyone who says, “I know him,” but doesn’t obey his commands is a liar and the truth is not in him. But is someone does what he says, then truly love for G-d has been brought to its goal in hi. This is how we are sure that we are united with him. A person who claims to be continuing in union with him ought to conduct his life the way he did.” This passage tells us two things. First, G-d’s laws are NOT dead. Second, the last sentence confirms that our life journey is a journey of PROGRESSIVE salvation. The word continuing in no way implies once we are reconciled to Yahshua that we have a free pass to heaven.
The above scriptures clearly verify the truth of G-d’s Torah and its unchanging validity and reliability through comparison of the Old and “New” Testament parallel verses. Anyone who reasons what is written in both Testaments with an open mind and prayerful heart cannot miss the truth of G-d’s Torah. G-d spent much time dictating and explaining his commands and what is expected of those who seek a close relationship with him. G-d, Yahshua, and the Ruach HaKodesh are One, not a Trinity. This complex unity cannot be split into contradictory “parts’ any more than and apple can be split and become part apple, part orange, or part kiwi. G-d admonishes us in Philippians 2:12 “…keep working out your deliverance with fear and trembling.”
Haftarah: Isaiah 61:10-63-9
This week’s haftarah is the seventh and final installment of a series of seven “Haftarot of Consolation.” These seven haftarot commence on the Shabbat following Tisha b’Av and continue until Rosh Hashanah.
Isaiah begins on a high note, describing the great joy that we will experience with the Final Redemption, comparing it to the joy of a newly married couple.
Isaiah then declares his refusal to passively await the Redemption with one of my favorite verses and chants: “For Zion’s sake I will not remain silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be still, until her righteousness emerges like shining light…” He implores the stones of Jerusalem not to be silent, day or night, until G‑d restores Jerusalem and establishes it in glory.
The haftarah then recounts G-d’s oath to eventually redeem Zion, when the Jews will praise G-d in Jerusalem. The haftarah also contains a description of the punishment G‑d will mete out to Edom and the enemies of Israel.
Isaiah concludes with the famous statement:
“In all [Israel’s] afflictions, He, too, is afflicted, and the angel of His presence redeemed them…”
Like a loving father who shares the pain of his child, G-d, too, shares the pain of His people, and awaits the redemption along with them. May it happen soon and in our lifetimes.
Since I covered the relevant passages in the B’rit Chadashah in the body of the lesson, I will not cover them in a separate section as the B’rit Chadashah. I encourage you to read the entire 13th chapter of Hebrews for a more comprehensive understanding of the context of the selected verses addressed today.
Rabbi Tamah Davis-Hart