A Leader’s Final Great Challenge

he Torah portion, Vayelech, is from Deuteronomy 31:1-30. This is a short Torah portion, in it there is the announcement that Moses is going to present a “song”. The song itself is actually a court case from God against Israel. It will be next Shabbat’s reading. From the prophets the reading this Shabbat will be from Isaiah 55:6-56:8, and from the New Testament we will be reading from Matthew 21:9-17.

The Torah reading this Shabbat has some important things that I need to bring up to my Christian leaders as a point of important wisdom that ought to be at the top of the agenda of every church and synagogue leader, from the day that he stands the first time as an appointed preacher in front of the pulpit. Here is the first verse of our Torah Portion, “Vayelech”:

“Then Moses went and spoke these words to all Israel. And he said to them: ‘I am one hundred and twenty years old today. I can no longer go out and come in. Also the Lord has said to me, “You shall not cross over this Jordan.” The Lord your God Himself crosses over before you; He will destroy these nations from before you, and you shall dispossess them. Joshua himself crosses over before you, just as the Lord has said.’” — Deuteronomy 31:1-3 [NKJV]

I am now in the same place that Moses was standing, on the shore of the Jordan River, on the east bank, and saying that he is retiring and giving Joshua the space to take the helm of leadership over the nation of Israel and lead them into the Land promised by God to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and their descendants, as an everlasting inheritance.

Moses actually says that Joshua is going to lead the nation of Israel across the Jordan, “just as the Lord has said!”

“And the Lord said to Moses: ‘Take Joshua the son of Nun with you, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand on him; set him before Eleazar the priest and before all the congregation, and inaugurate him in their sight. And you shall give some of your authority to him, that all the congregation of the children of Israel may be obedient.’” — Numbers 27:18-20 [NKJV]

These words of the Lord to Moses were many years before the children of Israel have come so close to the Land of Canaan. The Lord told Moses to appoint Joshua the son of Nun, “a man in whom is the Spirit.” Joshua was to come before the Priest and before all the congregation and it was announced to all that he, Joshua the son of Nun, will be the one who will inherit the place of Moses as the leader of Israel that will take the nation into the promised land!

I remember, 20 years ago, a dear Japanese brother, who was already old, sat in my office in Netivyah and said to me, “Joseph I have a word from the Lord for you Appoint Yehuda Bachana as the one who will take your place when you are too old to lead!”

At first I was surprised. Second, I took brother Takeo Muraoka’s words seriously and immediately started first to pray, and second, to put Yehuda Bachana to work with the youth group of our congregation. Today several of the Netivyah staff are men who were born from day one in their lives in Netivyah and the Ro’eh Israel Congregation in Jerusalem.

Some were not born but raised in the context of Netivyah in Jerusalem and in the Galilee congregation that we had in Zippori. Some of our staff are also the grandchildren of immigrants from Russia and Ukraine to whom I and others from Netivyah ministered near Ramat Gan in the late 1970’s.

God instructed Moses years earlier to appoint Joshua the son of Nun as his successor. There is nothing more important and nothing more wrong in all the different churches that I have visited in the last 50 years in the United States and around the world.

Most “pastors” and “preachers” are so jealous for their seat and job that they seldom, if ever, think of what is going to happen to their ministry after they are no longer there or able to continue their work in God’s vineyard. There is not only wisdom but command in this Torah portion for Moses to appoint Joshua, years early, to be his successor.

The second and most important teaching from this Torah portion is the following:

“So Moses wrote this law and delivered it to the priests, the sons of Levi, who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and to all the elders of Israel. And Moses commanded them, saying: ‘At the end of every seven years, at the appointed time in the year of release, at the Feast of Tabernacles, when all Israel comes to appear before the Lord your God in the place which He chooses, you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing. Gather the people together, men and women and little ones, and the stranger who is within your gates, that they may hear and that they may learn to fear the Lord your God and carefully observe all the words of this law…’” — Deuteronomy 31:9-12 [NKJV]

One of the main issues that I have with the churches, denominational or non-denominational, is that the salesman is more important than the product. The pastor and the teachers are the salesmen!

The pastors and the teachers of God’s word are not the product, and the product is the Word of God. That is what the church and the people of the churches need!

The power is in the Word of God, and there is precious little reading, and therefore precious little knowledge, and therefore precious little understanding, of God’s word for the person seated every Sunday, and sometimes also on Wednesday evenings.

The situation in most of the churches around the world that I have visited is devastating for the good people who are the members and those who attend the church. Because they become dependent on the pastor to break for them the word of life! They are given fish and chips but never instructed or encouraged or equipped to look and learn and hear the Word of God for themselves!

Yes, I can understand some of the pastors and leaders of the churches. It is dangerous for the person in the church, sitting on the bench, to know too much of God’s word and to understand it. He might catch the pastor making mistakes or teaching things out of context in order to make a pitch for some church project that needs funds!

Dear brothers and sisters, here is the picture that I see in Gospel of Luke and in the book of Acts in respect of reading the Word of God:

“So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read.” — Luke 4:16

“Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him.” — Luke 4:20

“So all those in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath…” — Luke 4:28

“Now in the synagogue there was a man who had a spirit of an unclean demon. And he cried out with a loud voice…” — Luke 4:33

“Now He arose from the synagogue and entered Simon’s house. But Simon’s wife’s mother was sick with a high fever, and they made request of Him concerning her.” — Luke 4:38

“Now it happened on another Sabbath, also, that He entered the synagogue and taught. And a man was there whose right hand was withered.” — Luke 6:6

“…for he loves our nation, and has built us a synagogue.” — Luke 7:5

“And behold, there came a man named Jairus, and he was a ruler of the synagogue. And he fell down at Jesus’ feet and begged Him to come to his house…” — Luke 8:41

“But the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath; and he said to the crowd, ‘There are six days on which men ought to work; therefore come and be healed on them, and not on the Sabbath day.’” — Luke 13:14

“But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day and sat down. And after the reading of the Law and the Prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent to them, saying, ‘Men and brethren, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, say on.’” — Acts 13:14,15

“So when the Jews went out of the synagogue, the Gentiles begged that these words might be preached to them the next Sabbath.” — Acts 13:42

“Now it happened in Iconium that they went together to the synagogue of the Jews, and so spoke that a great multitude both of the Jews and of the Greeks believed.” — Acts 14:1

“Therefore I judge that we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God, but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood. For Moses has had throughout many generations those who preach him in every city, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath.” — Acts 15:19-21

(Notice the context of this text. The apostles and elders of the church send the gentile disciples of Yeshua to the synagogue of the Jews to hear the scriptures being read!)

“Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. Then Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures…” — Acts 17:1

“Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. Therefore many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men.” — Acts 17:10-12

“Therefore he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with the Gentile worshipers, and in the marketplace daily with those who happened to be there.” — Acts 17:17

“And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded both Jews and Greeks.” — Acts 18:4

“And he departed from there and entered the house of a certain man named Justus, one who worshiped God, whose house was next door to the synagogue. Then Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his household. And many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized.” — Acts 18:7,8

“Then all the Greeks took Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue, and beat him before the judgment seat. But Gallio took no notice of these things.” — Acts 18:17

(Notice that immediately after brother Sosthenes was beaten Paul didn’t stop going to the synagogue.)

“And he came to Ephesus, and left them there; but he himself entered the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews.” — Acts 18:19

“So he began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.” — Acts 18:26

“And he went into the synagogue and spoke boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading concerning the things of the kingdom of God.” — Acts 19:8

“So I said, ‘Lord, they know that in every synagogue I imprisoned and beat those who believe on You.’” — Acts 22:19

“And I punished them often in every synagogue and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly enraged against them, I persecuted them even to foreign cities.” — Acts 26:11

Paul continued to go to the synagogue and to the Temple in Jerusalem and worship, and even offer sacrifices, after he returned to Jerusalem from his last missionary journey (see Acts 24:17).

What do you think that these texts teach us? Do you think that the early church had a relationship with the Jewish community? I am not talking of pogroms, inquisitions, and gas chambers. I am talking about brotherhood, gratitude, and love for the Bible that Jews have given us, and God’s grace and interest and fellowship!

People who believe and preach and proclaim that they want to see the church restored and be like the First Century New Testament church need to reread the Bible and the New Testament. I call my brothers and sisters around the world to read and read again every year the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, from the beginning to the end. Drink water from the wells of salvation, as Isaiah the prophet said, and get away from the polluted sources of the water of the Tiber River and the Bosporus of Istanbul-Constantinople.

Those who are committed to the restoration of the New Testament church, and don’t want to be Catholic, Protestants, Coptic, or Armenian, but just want to be simple and true disciples of Yeshua (Christ), and be prepared for the return of our Lord to Zion, and serve the King of Kings on His eternal throne forever and ever with all the saints, better start reading the Word of God for themselves. And when you have questions, ask your pastors and teachers.

And if they don’t know, they can always ask Mr. Google — he knows everything. But you have to sift the stuff from Google with a very fine sieve before you drink from it.

God bless you, dear brothers and sisters, and enjoy the love of God and His grace in Yeshua our Lord, and be anxious about nothing except your own salvation!

This article originally appeared on Netivyah and is reposted with permission.