“Parasha” Synagogue Reading for This Week
Goodbyes are always hard and especially if you are a man like Moses. Deliverer, judge, prophet, legislator, intercessor, and a national orator (even with an undisclosed speech impediment), Moses served God during Israel’s most extraordinary period. He labored and travailed over the dramatic birth pangs of the nation of Israel, and in this week’s “Parasha” (the weekly Torah reading), Moses sees the end in sight and is beginning to say goodbye. True to his passionate and intense personality, he leaves the young nation with a sobering “Reality Check” together with a few final commandments. In fact, we find in this week’s “Parasha,” Deuteronomy 31, subjects that are very fitting for the “Ten Days of Awe” season we are presently in.
Transition. Starting with possibly the most uncomfortable subject of all, Moses tells the people straight on that he will NOT cross the Jordan River into the Promised Land together with them. (Deuteronomy 31:2). They all knew why. While God’s forgiveness is endless for the repentant soul, there are consequences to our actions and choices, and Moses’ life story is an example of that. The good news, he assured them, is that capable Joshua will lead the young nation forward, and God Himself will go before them to vanquish the inhabitants of Canaan. Transition and change are unavoidable in life, and we must learn to embrace them with faith and courage, knowing that the God who promised is also faithful to fulfill His word. The question always is: Do you know what God’s promises are for your life? Knowing His promises, we can then take faith and align our lives with His plan in order to receive what was promised as we transition from one phase of life to the next.
Revelation. Next, Moses writes the entire Law, from Genesis to his present words, and hands the scroll in its entirety to the priests for safekeeping in the Ark of the Covenant. (Deuteronomy 31:9, 26). This is important, as the word of God confirms the indisputable fact that the full record of God’s creation, the stories of the Patriarchs, and His instructions (Torah) to shape and build the nation of Israel were all INSCRIBED and HANDED DOWN in WRITTEN FORM for future generations. Our Bible, still at the top of the “best seller list,” is the only authentic record of God’s own words. Neither Jewish traditions of “Oral Law” nor any other literary or verbal declarations claiming “Extra Biblical Revelation” can change that fact.
We respect our elders’ traditions and scholarly commentaries, and we esteem the spiritual gifts mentioned in the New Testament, BUT we are satisfied and confident that God’s original witness for humankind has been written down, inscribed and preserved in our Bible throughout the generations for those who love Him and follow in His ways. The Bible is sufficient in itself.
David was so confident of these truths that he wrote “The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul; The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold… Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb…” (Psalm 19:8-9).
Knowing that we will be tempted to “adjust” and “improve” God’s original revelation in favor of the shifting winds of popular culture, the closing words of the book of Revelation give us a stern warning. “For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life…” (Revelation 22:18-19). Some things are changeable. Other things will never change. Wisdom is to know the difference and choose accordingly.
Instruction. Next, Moses leaves a clear commandment that the entire nation should audibly read the entire Law of God every seven years during the Feast of Sukkot (Tabernacles) on each Sabbatical year. The commandment is all-inclusive, leaving no one out, calling all men, women, children and even the “strangers” (foreigners) who are in the land to assemble in one place for a public reading of the Word of God. The commandment is given for the purpose 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 31:12-13). We all need instruction in order to succeed and prosper in life. Education is a key for transformation and growth, and the most important instruction of all is that which came down from heaven.
The Hidden Face of God. A time will come, Moses continued, when the Israelites will abandon their One True God, forsake His ways, and stray after pagan powers and influences. This is one of the first times that the Bible reveals the painful truth that our offences against a Holy God will cause Him to “hide His countenance from them” (Deuteronomy 31:17), speaking of the painful “MAHS-TER PANEEM” principle, “The Hidden Face of God.” This principle appears throughout the Scriptures repeatedly because, try as we may, humanity’s fallen condition created a “veil” over our eyes that keeps us from seeing God in the full light of His grace and truth. Consequently, the Bible says, all humanity stumbles in partial blindness.
Isaiah lamented this historic and tragic veil when he received his cryptic “job description” from God. In Isaiah chapter six, the Lord commanded the prophet to “Go, and tell this people: Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive. Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and return and be healed.” (Isaiah 6:9-10). No wonder Isaiah questioned this heart-breaking mission as we read further, but, together with him, we too must embrace the explanation given.
The hard truth that Moses introduced is that our Heavenly Father will remain veiled and hidden from human eyes until the issue of sin is settled, once and for all. This painful divide between God and His prime creation, humankind, will remain until the offense is permanently and utterly removed. When will that happen? How?
The New Testament sheds light on this subject, saying, “We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to prevent the Israelites from seeing the end of what was passing away. But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains… because only in Messiah is it taken away… whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.” (2-Corinthians 3:13-16). Only God’s appointed Messiah is able to settle the score, pay the debt we could not pay, and reconnect us to our Great Heavenly Father.
The Song. Israel is heading into a world of trouble, Moses predicted, and they will be tempted to blame God for it. Therefore, to guard the truth and offer a cure for the inevitable denial, Moses composed a song that he will teach the children of Israel during next week’s “Parasha” reading. God said, “Write for yourselves this song, and teach it to the Children of Israel. Place it into their mouths, in order that this song will be for Me as a witness against the children of Israel.” (Deuteronomy 31:19). This epic and dramatic poem, stretching across 43 heartbreaking verses, will be the culmination of God’s witness against Israel, and the ultimate assurance of His eventual redemption and blessing.
Moses’ final act in this week’s reading is to gather Israel’s leaders to teach them this astonishing song. We know that they have learned that song very well as we find parts of it quoted throughout the entire Bible by different scribes, apostles and prophets for centuries to come. What was lost is the melody, but that too will be restored in time.
How do we know that? Because the last time we find the Song of Moses mentioned in the Scriptures is at the very end of the New Testament, in the book of Revelation. Chapter 15 tells us that the multitude of the “redeemed” in heaven will “sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb (Jesus), saying: ‘Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty! Just and true are Your ways, O King of the saints!’” (Revelation 15:3). The melody will be recreated and the Song of Moses will be sang again as part of the final victory celebration of God’s people. Anyone missing this clear Hebraic orientation and strong reference to Israel’s restoration in the New Testament’s final chapters is sadly proving Paul’s warning to the Church when he admonished them to not be arrogant or ignorant concerning God’s purposes for Israel. (see Romans 11:25-26).
With these themes fitting the “Ten Days of Awe” that we are now passing through, and as Israel is preparing for the coming Day of Atonement, we wish you God’s genuine and honest “Reality Check” as you move forward in your own life’s calling and purpose. We greet you with peace, shalom, from Jerusalem, hoping to see you here before long.