*All Scripture References from The Orthodox Jewish Bible- Referred to as OJB- unless otherwise noted
Joe Snipes (Torah Teacher) Gates To Zion Ministries
Our parasha this week comes from the sefer/book Devarim. This is the last sefer/book in the five seferim/books of the Torah proper. *(Because of the redemptive work of our blessed Master Yeshua, the Kethuvim HaNotzrim/The Writings of the Nazarenes/the seferim/books of the Messianic Writings (Matthew through Revelation), which testify to the final ReNewal of the Covenant originally made between YHWH and Yisrael at Mt. Sinai, are also considered to be a part of the Whole Counsel of YHWH. The Chumash or Five Books of the Torah proper are the root of all Scripture. Everything beyond the Torah proper answers back to its root. Therefore, there is NO conflict between the Torah and all other Scripture, especially that of the Messianic Writings. They form ONE echad/multi-faceted WHOLE unit.) We find that Am Yisrael is poised just east of the Land of Cana’an at the Yarden/Jordan River. The same place the previous generation was, when they failed in unbelief. Subsequently, they rebelled against YHWH, and refused to go in to The Land. The evil report of unbelief given by ten of the twelve nesi’im/leaders appointed by Moshe to tour The Land prior to their actually crossing over, corrupted the hearts of Am Yisrael. In turn, that unbelief manifested by their saying, ‘they could not go in and possess The Land’. YHWH let their own words be their judgment! It was forty years total that Am Yisrael wandered in the midbar/wilderness until that First Generation died. Only Yahushua/Joshua and Kaleb/Caleb were exempt from that judgment because they remained faithful to YHWH.
Devarim, in Hebrew means Words. It was words that kept Yisrael from entering and possessing their inheritance forty years previous. Now, Moshe is about to again bring the words of YHWH before this Second Generation in order that they might keep the trusting faithfulness necessary to obey YHWH’s command to go do what their avot/fathers didn’t…POSSESS THE LAND!
The more familiar title of this sefer/book is Deuteronomy. It comes from the Greek transliteration of the Torah known as the Septuagint. It means Second Torah. This is a very poor definition, because this sefer/book of Devarim is not a second Torah at all. The rabbis instead use the title Mishneh HaTorah meaning, a Repetition of the Torah. Yet even in this there is a need to define what it is exactly that is being repeated. If you are expecting the sefer/book Devarim to be a repeat of the whole of Torah then you will be sadly disappointed. There is hardly anything at all repeated within this sefer/book from any of the previous seferim/books. In fact there are many additional mitzvot/commands given in this sefer/book that are recorded nowhere else in the Torah! If by repetition you mean a repetition of those important words that Am Yisrael will need in order to successfully enter The Land, and possess their inheritance, then you would be correct.
Moshe knows that he has little time to make his words count. He is well aware of Am Yisrael’s nature and history. As a true father, he wants them to hear, and continue hearing, the words that they NEED to hear. Even if it means that some of those words are hard to accept. So he does what a real father would do, he opens his discourse with a call to teshuvah/repentance.
The Great Need Of True Biblical Repentance
As a former Christian pastor, I preached repentance. I believed in repentance. I exhorted people to repent. The only problem was I didn’t tell them where to go. For the most part repentance in religious understanding simply means, a change of direction. Oh I knew people needed to stop sinning. I knew they needed to move away from their previous lifestyles as unbelievers. I told them to start living godly lives. Obey the Lord I said, but exactly what does that mean? Well, through the grace and mercy of YHWH I know exactly what that means today. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS TRUE BIBLICAL REPENTANCE THAT DOES NOT RESULT IN A RETURN TO THE TORAH OF YHWH!
The word Torah comes from the Hebrew word yarah. It means to throw, shoot, cast. It is an archery term, and is used in the sense of hitting a target. The word Torah in Hebrew literally means teaching or instruction. So what the Torah teaches and instructs you to do is, hit the target that YHWH has set up in order for your life to be what He intends for it to be…FOR HIS GLORY! When we leave the Torah is when we start heading for trouble. The simplest definition of sin is torahlessness. It’s what most English translations call iniquity.
“Everyone practicing chet [sin] also does averah [transgression], and chet [sin] is averah [transgression] al HaTorah [of The Torah/Instruction- referred to derogatorily as Law by the theology of Christendom].” (Yochanon Alef/1 John 3:4 OJB- definitions mine)
All of Yisrael’s troubles, throughout the Scriptural record, can always be found when they departed from YHWH’s Torah. The true prophetic call is one that always demands a heartfelt return to the derech/way or path of the Torah. It is the Torah that instructs us as to the way of righteousness. We learn how to discern the holy from the profane. We are taught the status meaning of the terms clean and unclean. Most importantly we are instructed in how to recognize the realms of life and death. It is from the latter, that the Torah instructs us on how to choose life. The abundant life is a life lived in harmony with YHWH’s Torah/Instructions. When the church of Christendom chose to reject the Torah, it unwittingly threw away YHWH’s blueprint to living the abundant life!
We need to make a clear distinction. Torah is NOT about eternal salvation. It is about sanctification. No one can save themselves by keeping commandments. The Torah never was meant to be about eternal salvation. That’s why YHWH’s covenant with Abraham comes first. The same way he obtained his righteousness, is the same way we obtain our righteousness…by trusting faithfulness. (B’resheet/Genesis 15) We must not get the cart before the horse. Master Yeshua, and His redemptive work on the physical execution stake, is the ONLY way into the door that leads to eternal salvation. It is our trusting faithfulness in His death, burial and resurrection that alone brings us first to redemption, and then, at His return, to the fullness of our eternal salvation. (Ivrim/Hebrews 9:28) That’s what gets us INTO YHWH’s house. However, learning the rules of HOW His house is run, is what KEEPS us IN the house! There are some important benefits of living under the final ReNewal of YHWH’s Covenant [wrongly termed in Christian theology as the new covenant or testament]. This final ReNewal of YHWH’s covenant was ratified by the redemptive work of our Mashiach Yeshua. It provides for the FULL redemption of all who believe upon that redemptive work, delivering them from the penalty of sin, and also from the power of sin. However, it goes even further than all the previous renewals did. YHWH not only continues to instruct us as to what His commandments are, He provides the POWER for us to KEEP those commandments! He gives us Himself, as the Ruach HaKodesh/The Spirit of Holiness to bring to us the manifestation of our blessed Mashiach Yeshua. It is He (Mashiach ‘in us’) who will KEEP YHWH’s Torah IN us as we yield to Him! This learning to YIELD to His leading is from within our reborn human spirit. The Torah is no longer written on tablets of stone. It is being written on the fleshly tablets of our heart. (Yirmeyahu/Jeremiah 31:33) Whenever we turn away from YHWH’s Torah is when we start missing the mark. We sin, and the only way to stop that process is to return to the place we left. When we return/teshuvah to YHWH’s Torah then He will return to us.
Moshe Speaks In Code To Yisrael
Moshe starts out his instruction by reminding Am Yisrael of where they have come from. Here is the opening verse of our parasha.
“These are the devarim (words) which Moshe spoke unto kol Yisroel [all Yisrael] on the far side of the Yarden [Jordan] in the midbar [wilderness], in the Aravah [plain] opposite Suf [Red Sea] between Paran, and Tophel [smear/libel], and Lavan [white], and Chatzerot [courts/settlements], and Di-Zahav [enough/too much gold] .” (Devarim/Deuteronomy 1:1 OJB- definitions mine)
These words that Moshe is using are not just random places or locations. They are according to the sages of Yisrael a kind of shorthand. They are like code words that are meant to jog the memory. These locations are the places where Yisrael committed their greatest sins. Moshe is making an indelible point at the very outset of his message.
1) The wilderness- the place where Yisrael complained because there was no water to drink. They accused Moshe of bringing them up from Mitzrayim/Egypt to die there
2) Aravah- the plain where Yisrael sinned with the daughters of Moab by joining themselves to Ba’al Peor
3) Suf/The Red Sea- this is where Yisrael cried out against Moshe because of Pharaoh’s army that was coming to destroy them
4) Paran- where Yisrael sinned the great sin by believing the evil report of the ten nesi’im/leaders, and saying they could not go in and possess The Land
5) Tophel and Lavan- this is where Yisrael accused YHWH, scorned Him for the whitish bread called Manna, and lusted after meat
6) Chatzerot- the place of Korach’s/Korah’s rebellion
7) Di-Zahav- the place where Yisrael sinned with the golden calf
Moshe follows this with these words,
“(There is eleven days’ journey from Chorev [Horeb/Mt. Sinai] unto Kadesh-Barnea by way of Mount Seir.)” (Devarim/Deuteronomy 1:2 OJB- definitions mine)
Can you imagine how those words must have stung? Moshe is pulling no punches here. He has spent forty years with these Yisraelites, he knows, and remembers all too well how stiff necked, and stubborn they can be. He wants them to remember it too. Why? Because he doesn’t want them to make the same mistakes again. Beloved, teshuvah/repentance is not just a one-time thing, it must become a lifestyle. YHWH is after the heart. We must not forget from whence we have come. We can, and should forget the condemnation of our sin, but we must not forget what was done. A broken and contrite heart, a broken and contrite spirit, is a great prize when it comes to our walking in the ways of YHWH. (Tehillim/Psalms 51:17) Moshe knows he will not be with them much longer, so he starts the repetition method of instructing Yisrael through the Torah.
Teshuvah/Repentance is at the heart of the Torah. 1400 years later at this very same location there is another mighty navi/prophet of YHWH crying out to Yisrael. His Message? Teshuvah/Repent.
“Now in those days Yochanan [John] of the tevilah of teshuva [immersion of repentance] appears, preaching, crying out as a maggid (preacher) [for the Moshiach] in the midbar (wilderness) of Yehudah [Judah], saying, Make teshuva [repentance], for the Malchut HaShomayim [the Kingdom of the Heavens] has come near.” (Mattityahu/Matthew 3:1 OJB- definitions mine)
Beloved, the Torah is unyielding when it comes to sin. It defines for us exactly what sin is. The reason that sin is so rampant in this day among most of the church of Christendom is that there is no Torah. Everything is relative. I decide what’s right or wrong for me. There are no absolutes. Nothing to the left of Matthew really matters, because we live in the so-called New Covenant land of grace. ‘Don’t put me under the Law’ is the anthem that is proclaimed. All the while those who make that proclamation are blinded to the reality that it is just that kind of flawed theology that actually puts you there! To keep YHWH’s Law, His Torah/Instruction, KEEPS you from being placed UNDER the JUDGMENT that comes from breaking His commandments! Let us remember the words of our blessed Master Yeshua,
“If you have ahavah [love] for me, you will be shomer mitzvot [guard/keep] regarding my commandments.” (Yochanon/John 14:15 OJB- definitions mine)
The Torah is all about love. I challenge you to read our present sefer/book of Devarim and see how many times the word love is used. The Torah is not a ball and chain. It is the means of great freedom for those who understand it. The Torah was given on the day of the Feast of Shavuot/Pentecost. This was exactly 50 days after the Feast of HaBikurrim/First Fruits during the celebration of the Feast of Pesach/Passover. Fifty is the number of Yovel or Jubilee. The Yovel/Jubilee is a time of great freedom and release. Debts are cancelled. The captives are set free. It is true that the Torah had a perceived weakness. (Romans 8:3a) It could point sin out, but it could not give the power to overcome it. That’s where our Master Yeshua stepped up. He came to us in the likeness of sinful flesh in order that He might condemn sin in the flesh. (Romans 8:3b) What the written Torah couldn’t do, He, The Living Torah did! The animal korbanot/offerings of Torah, instituted under the first original covenant between YHWH and Yisrael, could only atone/cover sin. Yeshua HaMashiach gave His life, and His blood. That perfect blood TOOK AWAY sin! When He comes the second time, the entire process of salvation will be finally realized. It is then, that sin will not only be TAKEN AWAY (meaning its ability to condemn us for what we have done), it will be OBLITERATED! Forever removed from existence! (Yirmeyahu/Jeremiah 31:34; Ivrim/Hebrews 10:17) Now, we get to keep the Torah without condemnation. (Romans 8:1) The Torah Keeper (Mashiach Yeshua) lives in us through the indwelling of YHWH as His Ruach HaKodesh/The Spirit of Holiness. This is how THE POWER of YHWH is able to MANIFEST THROUGH US, so that we can DO ALL OF YHWH’S WORDS! (Colossians 1:27; Philippians 4:13) All we have to do is YIELD to Him, as He moves within our spirit in power.
Understanding How The Sefer/Book Of Devarim Is Broken Down
The book of Devarim is, in actuality, a speech that Moshe is giving to Yisrael before His death. It is easier to keep up with what Moshe is doing if we can identify the different sections of this speech.
First off, we need to realize that the parts of this speech are not marked in any way. Therefore in order to identify what is happening you must pay attention to who is doing the talking, and what the subject is. For the most part, the Torah is written in the 3rd person as a narrative. However, in the sefer/book of Devarim/Deuteronomy it is different. From the opening of chapter’s one through thirty the writing is in the 1st person/direct quote format. There are four sections to this speech. They are:
- The Introduction- Chapters 1-4
- The Main Body- Chapters 5-26
- The Covenant- Chapters 27-28
- The Call To Repentance- Chapters 29-30
It is at this point that the rest of the sefer/book returns to the 3rd person narrative form that is most common to the Torah.
A Couple Of Points In Closing
There are a couple of important points I would like to highlight as we get ready to close our parasha. First, in keeping with the theme of repentance, it should be noted that this parasha always comes just before the 9th of Av. This of course has been a day of infamy, and much sorrow, because of the many tragic historical events that have befallen the house of Jewish Yisrael on this date. The period preceding the 9th of Av on the Hebrew calendar is known in traditional Judaism as ‘Bein HaMetzarim/Between the Straits’ or ‘The Three Weeks of Mourning’. It is a time of intense teshuvah/repentance that prepares the way for the coming fall Feasts. It begins on the 17th of the Hebrew month of Tammuz. This is historically the day that Moshe came down from Mt. Sinai to find Am Yisrael worshipping the Golden Calf. In his anger at their debauchery, he threw the original tablets containing the Ten Words down and they were broken. Later in history, the destruction of the first Temple occurred when YHWH brought judgment upon Jewish Yisrael in 587 B.C.E through King Nevuchadnetzar/Nebuchadnezzar for their sin of not honoring the Shabbat.
Now you may ask what this has got to do with those of us who are not Jewish. Through the restoration of the Whole House of Yisrael we have come to learn that being a Yisraelite is not merely a Jewish reality. The nation of Yisrael was divided, by YHWH’s judgment, into two distinct, separate houses shortly after the death of Shlomo/Solomon. The southern house, made up of two tribes, became known as Yahudah/Judah, from which we get the term Jewish. The northern house, made up of ten tribes, retained the name Yisrael, but was also known as the house of Yosef-Ephraim. As a result, the nation of Yisrael has both Jewish and non-Jewish descendants. Those of us who are not Jewish, but have had our partial blindness removed, have come to know our true Hebraic identity as part of the scattered, outcast northern house of Yosef-Ephraim-Yisrael. YHWH has revealed this so that we may understand the reality, that we too are Yisraelites. As a result, there is indeed a connection between us, and our brother Yahudah/Judah. We are all Yisrael. Part of YHWH’s eternal and redemptive purposes includes the reunion of these two houses. One Mighty One…YHWH. One Nation…One House…One King. There is a Hebraic idiom that states,Kol Yisrael areivim zeh lazeh…
All of Yisrael is responsible for each other
Therefore we support our elder brother Yahudah/Judah in whatever ways we can. This means that during this Three Weeks we join with him in teshuvah/repentance. After all, Yahudah/Judah is not the only one who has sinned and suffered YHWH’s judgment. We, from the northern, non-Jewish house of Yisrael, Yosef-Ephraim, have also suffered greatly for our own sins of paganism, worship of false idols, and sexual immorality. 2700 years ago we lost our identity due to that sinfulness. Our avot/fathers were taken captive by Assyria, and subsequently assimilated into their culture, and, in time, scattered among the nations. It’s only been since the mid 1990’s that this judgment has been lifted, and we have been able to recover our lost Hebraic identity as a part of the Whole House of Yisrael. *[Please follow the link below to our study on the Restoration of the Whole House of Yisrael. It will be a great help in your being able to understand, and grasp what YHWH is doing in this hour for the restoration of the Whole House of Yisrael, and how it may affect you- http://gatestozion.net/fundamental-principles-of-the-restoration-of-the-whole-house-of-yisrael]
Yes, we indeed have things to repent for even as the house of Jewish Yisrael does. The whole book of Devarim/Deuteronomy is about Am Yisrael, the Second Generation, being readied to enter The Land, and possess their inheritance. We too, as the returning house of Yosef-Ephraim-Yisrael, are awaiting our opportunity to return to the physical portion of our inheritance…The Land of Yisrael. Our elder brother, Yahudah/Judah, has already been given that opportunity. This process for them began in 1948 when Yisrael became a recognized nation again. We are not merely trying to study about the Hebraic roots of our faith. We are about being repatriated in every way to be WHO we really are…Yisrael! It’s why the Torah has been returned to us. Our King, Yeshua HaMashiach, is returning to reign over a restored, unified house of Yisrael. The Malchut HaShomayim/Kingdom of the Heavens is close at hand. Only the Torah can prepare us for His return, and the dark days of tribulation that will come before. Only the Torah, applied by the Ruach HaKodesh/Spirit of Holiness can prepare us, both houses, to return to The Land. There needs to be a deep sense of teshuvah/repentance on our part along with our brother Yahudah/Judah. We should take these Three Weeks to join with our brother in his teshuvah/repentance, and turn with him from the sinful behavior of our own generations that brought us to this judgment.
Lastly, let me give a word of warning, and encouragement as we progress in this last sefer/book of Torah. We are going to look at something toward the end of this sefer/book that literally has the potential of being a paradigm shift of immense proportions. It will challenge the traditional sense of the theological premise all of us who have come through the church of Christendom have been taught to believe and accept. Yet, we must always remember to hold as our unyielding compass of Hebraic Truth…Torah is the root. All Scripture must answer back to it. Let me quote a verse from Devarim/Deuteronomy 29. This verse is pivotal. A true understanding of this verse, and its potential impact has the ability to change our perception from that of fragmentation, to that of oneness, and solidarity. This oneness in understanding, is the basis through which the unity by which YHWH is working to make us echad/one again with Himself will be realized. Read and meditate.
“These are the devarei HaBrit [words of The Covenant], which Hashem [YHWH] commanded Moshe to cut with the Bnei Yisroel [the children of Yisrael/the Second Generation] in Eretz [Land of] Moav, BESIDES the Brit [Covenant] which He cut with them [the children of Yisrael/the First Generation] in Chorev [Horeb/Mt. Sinai].” (Devarim/Deuteronomy 29:1 OJB- emphasis/definitions mine)
The words contained in chapters two and three of our parasha cover the past history of Am Yisrael following their deliverance from Mitzrayim/Egypt, and their journeys through the midbar/wilderness. It also includes their most recent history preceding their being poised at the river Yarden/Jordan in our present parasha. I am not going to take the time here to cover that at this point. We have just finished doing so in our most recent Torah parasha, Massei, at the end of the sefer/book of Bamidbar/Numbers.
May YHWH prepare our hearts as we hear, and see what He did for Yisrael of old. He is certainly preparing us today, the Whole House of Yisrael, in restoration. We too are about to cross over into the fullness of our inheritance. This is both in the spirit, and in the natural. Amein
We say the following blessing as we continue each week’s study of Torah:
Strength and Blessings