Commentary on Parashat Ve Ethanan

The question that arises from this week’s Torah reading is a very serious and hard question to answer: What Moses a Happy man? The reading is from Deuteronomy 3:23 – 7:11. The Hebrew name is “Ve EtHanan.” “Ve EtHanan” is translated in the NKJV as “I pleaded”. “To plead” can also mean to “beg” and to “implore.” Moses is now making himself vulnerable both in front of the Lord and of course in front of the nation. The great leader who took the children of Israel out of Egypt, out of slavery, out of bondage and brought them to the edge of the Land that the Lord promised Abraham more than four hundred years earlier is now begging God for the a permission to cross the river Jordan and see the Land of Promise. Guess what his pleading and begging did not get a positive answer. God’s answer to Moses was a flat “NO!”

We all must realize that prayer is only a petition to the Almighty Creator of the Universe and not a demand or a command upon the Lord. Like Moses himself, we are children of God begging our Father in Heaven to grant us our requests. Like my father on earth – or rare occasions he said “Yes son!” Other times he said “not now” and sometimes he also said to me, “Son you don’t understand right now, but my answer is “NO” and there is not much you can do about it. On some occasions the answer that my father gave me is “Ask again in two weeks.” So, dear brothers and sisters, we keep asking and asking every week and hope that our Father in Heaven will hear our petitions and say “Yes, now I hear you!” Even if God answers our prayers with a flat “NO” He still loves us and knows what is best for us. In fact God’s answers are always what is best for us, even if we don’t think so at the time.

Let us look at what Paul said that is related to this subject: 2Cor. 12:1, “It is necessary to boast; nothing is to be gained by it, but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. 2 I know a person in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows. 3 And I know that such a person—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows— 4 was caught up into Paradise and heard things that are not to be told, that no mortal is permitted to repeat. 5 On behalf of such a one I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses. 6 But if I wish to boast, I will not be a fool, for I will be speaking the truth. But I refrain from it, so that no one may think better of me than what is seen in me or heard from me, 7 even considering the exceptional character of the revelations. Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated. 8 Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, 9 but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10 Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.”

What do we learn both from Moses and from Paul?

1. We learn that great men of God like Moses and like Paul, servants of God who stand in the Pantheon of biblical heroes and models of faith and obedience to the Almighty, sometimes received a negative answer to their requests and to their prayers.

2. We also learn from both Moses and Paul that their life was not always pleasant and that they suffered from people because of their faithfulness to God and His commands.

3. We also learn that in the long run their suffering and even begging God did not help them – and it was all for their good and the people’s good. Paul said: “Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.”

a. The reason that a “thorn in the flesh was given” to Paul was to keep him from being elated, or boasting.

b. To teach him to be satisfied with God’s grace.

So, Paul and Moses received a negative answer to their prayers and their pleading with God and it was all for their good and the people’s good. Even when we don’t see the good that can come out of some of our suffering and even if our prayer is not always answered the way we want it to be, God’s grace is always sufficient for us and His Power is and can be demonstrated in our weakness. In fact most of the time our weakness is a launching pad for God’s power to be demonstrated.

This article originally appeared as a part of the Jerusalem Prayer List by Netivyah Bible Instruction Ministry, August 18, 2016, and reposted with permission.