Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Taking on the Yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven | Parashat Vaetchanan | By His EVERY Word

Parashat Vaetchanan 
פרשת ואתחנן 
“And I Pleaded”

Shabbat | 20 August 2016 |  16th of Av 5776

Shabbat Nachamu

The Shabbat following Tisha B'Av ~ the Shabbat of Comfort.

"Comfort, O comfort My people,” says your God." Isaiah 40:1

Shabbat | 16th of Av, 5775 | 20 August 2016

Torah: Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11
Isaiah 40:1-26
B’rit Chadashah: 
Matthew 23:31-39

From the heights of Moab, east of the Jordan, Moses shall lift his eyes and behold the Promised Land. Constrained from entering the Land himself, he must prepare this august company to take and possess their inheritance. 

The generation who stood at the foot of Mt. Sinai, that heaved, thundered, and burned with the Divine Presence has passed ... therefore Moses will review the Decalogue, the Ten Words that form the bedrock of civilized society, lifting it out of the savagery of the ancient heathen world

In this parashah we also receive the Shema, the heartbeat and essence of faith of the Jewish People.

Israel will learn the revolutionary precepts of loving a singular God—the Creator and Sovereign of the universe—and His Creation. She will learn kindness, the sanctity of life, integrity, justice, and charity. And through Israel, the world will gain these lofty ideals. 
In the fullness of time, Yeshua (Jesus), the promised Messiah of Israel came. He laid bare men’s hearts, shining the light of revelation on our souls. Ever beckoning us higher, closer, Adonai admonished us, exposing that which was unseen. The Ten Words were to be engraved within, transforming the inward man—lest the inside of the vessel be filled with decay while the outer be camouflaged. 
God is after men’s hearts ... surrendered, selfless, abandoned—yearning to take upon themselves the yoke of the kingdom of heaven. 

Through such devotion, a world sinking in selfish, self-seeking, hopeless corruption, may see a genuine reflection of the love of God.
Join us now at the Father’s table as we keep the rhythm of Israel for more than two millennia, anticipating fresh manna from our God and King. As followers of Messiah we have added a corresponding New Covenant portion reflecting the fulfillment and crown of the Torah.

Deuteronomy 3:23-29 Behold the Promised Land
“Then I pleaded with the LORD at that time, saying: ‘...I pray, let me cross over and see the good land beyond the Jordan, those pleasant mountains, and Lebanon.’ But the LORD was angry with me on your account, and would not listen to me. So the LORD said to me: ‘Enough of that! Speak no more to Me of this matter.’” (vs. 23,25,26)
“...on your account” This is an unfortunate translation, intimating Moses is blaming Israel for Adonai’s anger. It is best understood as “for your sakes,” or “for your benefit.”

For the sake of the people, Moses’ transgression could not go unpunished.

Adonai instructs Moses to ascend Mount Pisgah, a high place which is east of the Jordan River, and northeast of the Dead Sea. From here, Moses shall lift his eyes and behold the Promised Land. Adonai further instructed Moses to: 
“But command Joshua, and encourage him and strengthen him; for he shall go over before this people, and he shall cause them to inherit the land which you will see.” (v. 28)
Deuteronomy 4:1-49 Obedience is Worship 
“Now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the judgments which I teach you to observe, that you may live, and go in and possess the land which the LORD God of your fathers is giving you.” (v. 1)
“...listen ... that you may live...”
In Hebrew, the word listen is shema (sha-mah)  שמע, which means more than to passively “hear.” It also means to “obey.” 

In this same sentence, we capture the essence of Torah. Adonai desires His people to hear and obey what He is teaching, that they will live under the shadow of His wings. “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice.” (I Samuel 15:22)
Obedience is worship—we bow our will to the Divine and Holy who gives life, or to the flesh and the deceiver, reaping only destruction.
You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.” (v. 2)
A. Dillman comments: “a warning against weakening the force of the Divine commandment by additions, omissions, or explanations that would dilute its original meaning, or make it more palatable to human selfishness and desire.” 
We have a problem with the difficult Words of God and thus exhibit the grand scope of human wisdom and reason in rationalizing paths around, bridges over, and loopholes through it. 

As “New Testament” believers, we are fairly confident that God approves of our rejection of Torah. Yet, this is a major stumbling block placed before the Jewish People, obscuring Yeshua as the promised Messiah

If Yeshua (Jesus) took away or added to the Torah (changing its essence), He is not the Messiah. 

Fear not, dear ones, Yeshua proclaimed that He did not come to abolish the Torah. In fact,
He kept and taught the Torah (correctly, revealing God's love and righteousness) and His "Great Commission" was to "make disciples of the nations (Gentiles)," and them to obey all that He commanded (Torah!). Matthew 28:16-20

And Paul’s words were scrupulously tested by the Jews in the Synagogue in Berea, to make certain they were consistent with the Hebrew Scriptures. As they were found to be so, many Jews as well as Greeks came to faith. (Acts 17:10-12) This is something that bears prayerful reconsideration.
“Surely I have taught you statutes and judgments, just as the LORD my God commanded me, that you should act according to them in the land which you go to possess. Therefore be careful to observe them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes, and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ For what great nation is there that has God so near to it, as the LORD our God is to us, for whatever reason we may call upon Him? And what great nation is there that has such statutes and righteous judgments as are in all this law which I set before you this day?” (vs.5-8)
Be careful exhorts the great deliverer ... be careful to keep the wisdom of Adonai ever before you when you come into your inheritance! For “prosperity sometimes acts like a narcotic, and sends the soul to sleep,” noted J.R. Dummelow.

Possessing the Land of Israel was not the end game. In the sight of all nations, from
this improbable remnant and obscure province, the light of the Divine was to emanate, heralding righteousness, redemption, and love to a savage and merciless world.

The People of YHVH were to look, live, and speak differently ... imparting grace,
integrity, love, kindness, justice, self-control, wisdom, charity, fidelity, and reverence for God. And this has not changed, has it?
“Israel’s religion is unique because of the nearness of man to his Maker that it teaches. It proclaims, No intermediary of any sort is required for the worshipper to approach his God in prayer. ‘The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon Him, to all that call upon Him in truth.’ (Psalm 145:18) is the teaching of the Psalmist.”  Dr. J.H. Hertz, PENTATEUCH AND HAFTORAHS, SONCINO PRESS, 1936
Let no one among you cause his child to pass through the fire
“Only take heed to yourself, and diligently keep yourself, lest you forget the things your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. And teach them to your children and your grandchildren...” (v. 9)
The warning, “lest you forget” and commandment to “teach them to your children and grandchildren,” lend inspiration and impetus to the yearly biblical observances. How better to keep alive the memory—from generation to generation—of the magnificence and faithfulness of God, than through the yearly rhythm of celebrations and observances? 

Israel’s identity depends upon her fidelity to her God and His Torah. If Israel assimilates into the nations and disappears, the Bible is nullified.
J.H Hertz notes, “This transcendent duty towards children and children’s children is repeated with the utmost emphasis throughout Deuteronomy.” (ibid)
A particularly abominable practice to Adonai was the worship of Molech. Children were burned alive in the arms of the idol to honor this pagan god. Sanctity of life was generally not innate to the ancient pagan cults.

To the God of Israel, however, children are precious. Israel was warned that she must never cause her children “to pass through the fire.” (Leviticus 18:21, Leviticus 20:2-5, II Kings 23:10, Jeremiah 32:35, Ezekiel 16:21)

Into the fabric of Israel, Adonai wove a thread that would fuse untold generations—from Joshua to this present day and beyond. Israel’s children are to be taught the Word of God ... that which produces life ... generation to generation. 
As believers in Yeshua, this is no less our mandate. To hallow the Almighty in the eyes of our children, modeling a life of love, reverence, and faithfulness for Adonai and His Word. Like the ancient priests of Israel, we are charged with the privilege of teaching the difference between the holy and the profane, the clean and the unclean.
Demeaning the Divine Name by compromising the Truth of His holiness, or by our own wonton lifestyle, is tantamount to putting our children in the arms of Molech. The ancient idol burned with temporal fire, but we risk our children’s and grandchildren’s eternal separation from God by obfuscating the life-giving message of hope.
“Take careful heed to yourselves, for you saw no form when the LORD spoke to you at
Horeb out of the midst of the fire, lest you act corruptly and make for yourselves a carved image in the form of any figure: the likeness of male or female, the likeness of any
animal that is on the earth or the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the air, the likeness of anything that creeps on the ground or the likeness of any fish that is in the water beneath the earth. And take heed, lest you lift your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun, the moon, and the stars, all the host of heaven, you feel driven to worship them and serve them, which the LORD your God has given to all the peoples under the whole heaven as a heritage. But the LORD has taken you and brought you out of the iron furnace, out of Egypt, to be His people, an inheritance, as you are this day. Take heed to yourselves, lest you forget the covenant of the LORD your God which He made with you, and make for yourselves a carved image in the form of anything which the LORD your God has forbidden you. For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God. (vs. 15-24)
With great emphasis, Moses once again warns Israel against the great blasphemy of idolatry—which will be ever prevalent in the nations with which they interact. YHVH abhors idolatrous worship—whether it is worshiping other gods, or creating images of the Divine. “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24)
out of the iron furnace, out of Egypt, to be His people, an inheritance”
Adonai brought Israel up out of Egypt—out of the pressure of bondage and suffering—out of a nation whose gods were godless men, beasts that crawled upon the earth, and terrifying elements of nature. Israel was chosen by the Creator to be His inheritance—a covenant that cannot be broken by Israel and is ratified by the Name of the Almighty. 
 “the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God”
The Hebrew translated “jealous God” here is El Kanna  אֵל קַנָּֽא, which means “zealous God.”  Adonai has Divine zeal for holiness, righteousness, and justice. He is deeply concerned with the matters of man—not allowing wickedness, idolatry, and iniquity to go unpunished. “Jealous God” is also an apt translation. “That may appear a startling description of God. It signifies that God claims the exclusive love of His children, their entire sincerity—and complete self-surrender. He will not allow the veneration and loyalty due to Him alone to be shared with other objects of worship: see Exodus 20:5. 
“This conception of a jealous God saved Israel from going under in the days of ancient heathendom, as well as in the days of Greece and Rome. ‘None of the founders of the great heathen religions had any inkling of this idea of a jealous God, a God who would have “none other gods,” a God of terrible Truth who would not tolerate any lurking belief in witchcraft, or any sacrificing to the god-king, or any trifling with the stern unity of things.’ (H.G. Wells). 
“And the blessed doctrine of ‘jealous God’ is of vital importance for the Jew’s attitude towards the neo-paganism of today and tomorrow. “Judaism’s mission is just as much to teach the world that there are false gods and false ideals, as it is to bring it nearer to the true One (Schechter).’”  (ibid)
Destroyed ... But Not Forsaken

I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that you will soon utterly perish from the land which you cross over the Jordan to possess; you will not prolong your days in it, but will be utterly destroyed. And the LORD will scatter you among the peoples, and you will be left few in number among the nations where the LORD will drive you. And there you will serve gods, the work of men's hands, wood and stone, which neither see nor hear nor eat nor smell. But from there you will seek the LORD your God, and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul. When you are in distress, and all these things come upon you in the latter days, when you turn to the LORD your God and obey His voice for the LORD your God is a merciful God, He will not forsake you nor destroy you, nor forget the covenant of your fathers which He swore to them (vs. 26-31).
The consequence of idolatry and infidelity would be (and history testified it was) exile from the Land of Israel. In the eyes of the nations, Israel represented the Almighty. For what great nation is there that has God so near to it, as the LORD ... And what great nation is there that has such statutes and righteous judgments as are in all this law...” (vs. 7-8) Adonai could not allow Israel to remain in the Land, proclaiming a false message to the nations, representing Him as a God who abides idolatry and wickedness. He is Light in which there is no darkness.
But from there you will seek the LORD your God, and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul.”

To the wicked and rebellious, the Almighty is a consuming fire, but to the sincerely repentant, He is merciful and gracious“His hand is outstretched to receive the sinner returning unto Him.” (J.H. Hertz) Hear the voice of the prophet: “And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13) 
It has been a tumultuous marriage between Israel and Adonai. She has cried out and repented, and then played the harlot, breaking faith with her Beloved, time and again. She has done this because she is humankind, the son of Adam. She exemplifies the least and the noblest among the children of men, her story preserved for you and me, who also bear Adam’s ancient burden. Shall we learn from Israel’s story, the holiness, magnificence, justice, and mercy of Adonai? Will we shine forth His Light and glory to the perishing? Or shall we, too, mock His gift of redemption, and live before all the world in darkness?
He will not forsake you nor destroy you, nor forget the covenant of your fathers...”
The word covenant, b’rit ברית in Hebrew, is a contract, treaty, or constitution. In the case of Israel, the Divine Covenant with Abraham and his descendants through Isaac was everlasting and one-sided. YHVH alone held the covenant by authority of His Name. (Genesis 15:17, 18, 17:4, 7, 19, 21, Ezekiel 36:22) 
Deuteronomy 5:1-33 Foundations of the Covenant
The Decalogue, the Ten Words, form the foundation for the civilized society and man’s relationship with the Almighty. Before this new generation takes possession of the Land, Moses recounts the tenets of this vital covenant, also viewed as the marriage contract between Israel and Adonai. 
“The LORD talked with you face to face on the mountain from the midst of the fire. I stood between the LORD and you at that time, to declare to you the word of the LORD; for you were afraid because of the fire, and you did not go up the mountain. He said...” (vs. 4-5)

1. The First Commandment
“I am the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.” (v. 6)

It is the great “I AM,” YHVH יהוה, the omnipresent and Eternal One, Who redeemed Israel. The Divine Name, YHVH, Creator of the Universe, Whose very breath gave life to man, the crown of His creation, must be recognized as Magnificent, singularly Worthy, Almighty, and Holy, Holy, Holy!

2. The Second Commandment

You shall have no other gods before Me.”

“You shall not make for yourself a carved image--any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that [is] in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments” (vs. 7-10).
“Thou,” not only Israel, but all who worship YHVH, shall not have any gods before Him—literally, shall not have other gods in My face (Hebrew: paniym פנים).
The production of the likeness of any Divine image, or an image for the purpose of worship, is clearly idolatry—an abomination before Adonai. This has long been a confounding aspect of Christianity for Jews. 
Catholicism in particular places an emphasis on the worship of “sacred” images, which is clearly forbidden in the Bible. Although Protestants do not worship images per se, images of Jesus, who is proclaimed as God, would also be seen as forbidden.
3. The Third Commandment

You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.” (v. 11)

In Hebrew, we find this commandment actually says: “You shall not CARRY, LIFT UP, or BEAR the Divine Name—YHVH—in a manner that by our conduct renders it as worthless, false, or emptyunworthy of or inconsistent with His holy Name. 
The word “take” in Hebrew is nasa נשא, which is used primarily throughout the Tenakh as lift up, bear, or carry. The word “vain” is shav  שוא, and speaks of worthless conduct, emptiness and lying speech, vanity and falsehood. 
It is clear that the Almighty, Who is jealous over His Name (YHVH), will not abide those who bear His Name to bring it reproach by their speech or behavior. 
Should we not carry the Name of our God and King worthily before a world that needs to know Him?
4. The Fourth Commandment

Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your ox, nor your donkey, nor any of your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.” (vs. 12-15)

This is the day the LORD has made, will we not rejoice and be glad in it? For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it,” Exodus 20:11 expounded.  
The seventh day Sabbath (Shabbat  שבת) is repeatedly spoken of in the Bible—often called by God, “My Sabbath.” And often it is expressed how it grieves the heart of God to see His Sabbaths polluted or ignored

A blessing given to mankind, hearkening the completion of the wonder of creation, a mandated day of rest was unheard of in an ancient world that drove its slaves and animals relentlessly. What a testimony of transcendent love and beneficent care toward all within the gates of Israel—Jew, Gentile, bond, free, cattle or donkey!

From whence came the resentful attitude toward our God and King, causing us to thumb our noses and proclaim, “We are not under the law! We don’t have to observe your Sabbath!” as if it were a curse rather than a blessing? 

Where is our respect for God’s authority ... due our Heavenly Father as His children?

And why do we take up the battle to keep the Ten Commandments in public buildings, when we have changed them to the Nine Commandments? 

Is God on our side when we place ourselves above the authority of His Word? There is also a “Revised Gay and Lesbian Ten Commandments” to meet their sensibilities. Where does it end?

5. The Fifth Commandment

Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may be well with you in the land which the LORD your God is giving you.” (v. 16)

J.H. Hertz noted that: “a sound national life can only result from a sound family life within the state.” As we see so clearly today, rebellion to parents is a sign of a crumbling society 
The Bible lists rebellion to parents as a sign of the last days as well: “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.” (II Timothy 3:1-4)
Sounds a little too much like today, doesn’t it?! This is an age that exalts rebellion and defiance. 
Like Ephraim in Hosea’s time, “Their drink is rebellion, they commit harlotry continually. Her rulers dearly love dishonor.” (Hosea 4:18) 
This generation glories in debauchery, tattoos boasting death and iniquity, and tearing down all standards. Judgment, however, is inevitable. 
Where are the parents of this generation? Where are the teachers of righteousness?  
The Arm of the LORD is not too short to save. He waits.

“Seek the LORD while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, And the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the LORD, And He will have mercy on him; And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon.” (Isaiah 55:6-7)
6. The Sixth Commandment

You shall not murder.” (v. 17)

The commandment not to murder has created a crisis of conscience among a number of Bible believers. Some have questioned the morality of serving in the armed forces. Others have felt strongly enough to obtain exemption from military duty under conscientious objector status for religious purposes. 
However, the Hebrew word ratsach  רצח, specifically applies to murder—premeditated or accidental, killing or slaying in personal or civil matters. Duty to the state, in peacetime or war, is the responsibility of all godly citizens. 
When Yeshua came, He laid bare men’s hearts, shining the light of revelation on our souls. Ever beckoning us higher, closer, Adonai admonished us, exposing that which was unseen. In our hearts, we harbor murder against our brother in the form of hate—and He sees the lust, which is adultery—both which make the child of God worthy of hell fire. (Matthew 5)

7. The Seventh Commandment

You shall not commit adultery/” (v. 18)

The sin of adultery is ruinous and deplorable in the realm of the spiritual as well as the natural. Adonai uses adultery as a metaphor for idolatry—committing fornication with other gods. (Jeremiah 3:8) The wickedness of the heart, defiance of God, and ruination of the soul grieves and angers Adonai. 
“This is the way of an adulterous woman: She eats and wipes her mouth, And says, ‘I have done no wickedness.’” (Proverbs 30:20) 
“Whoever commits adultery with a woman lacks understanding; He who does so destroys his own soul.” (Proverbs 6:32) 
“‘And I will come near you for judgment; I will be a swift witness Against sorcerers, Against adulterers, Against perjurers, Against those who exploit wage earners and widows and orphans, And against those who turn away an alien—Because they do not fear Me,’ Says the LORD of hosts.” (Malachi 3:5) 
This is a sin, that like ripples on water, reverberates ever outward, touching many lives—more often than not, affecting generations.  
At the heart of adultery is SELF. SELFishness. SELF-satisfaction. SELF-gratification. 
This is the polar opposite of that to which Adonai has called us to. This is the way of the world, the unregenerate man, and that serpent of old who spoke to the woman in the Garden of God’s Delight.  
We say we believe the Bible is the Word of God, but many of our lives speak otherwise. Divorce, adultery, and fornication rates in “the church” are not much different than in the general population.  
Yet, Adonai created the union between a man and a woman to be a sacred thing—for something unique and extremely significant happens. 
We are not animals as the humanists believe, but exquisitely designed beings in the image of God. Brute beasts may copulate with any number of mates in the wild, but our LORD has forbidden us this base behavior.  
Perhaps one reason is this: “ you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For ‘the two,’ He says, ‘shall become one flesh.’” (I Corinthians 6:16)
Adonai created marriage—that mystery wherein man and woman “are no longer two, but one flesh.” (Mark 10:8) 

The marriage covenant is sacred and binding for life because of what God has done. And He says that man has no authority, therefore, to separate (a new living organism created for His glory) what He has joined! (Matthew 19:6, Mark 10:9) We really haven't grasped this.
Sociologist and Historian Dr. Carle Zimmerman, in his book, Family and Civilization (1947), noted eight specific patterns of domestic behavior that have signaled the downward spiral and fall of every great nation, empire, and civilization, leading to its imminent demise. Among those warning signs:
  • Marriage lost its sacredness; divorce grew in frequency
  • Traditional meaning of the marriage ceremony was lost, and alternate forms, definitions, vows, and contracts replaced the sacred
  • Desire for and acceptance of adultery increased
  • Increased tolerance for sexual promiscuity and perversions of all kinds
Do we not hear the broken heart of God over these very things that have taken hold in America, after less than 250 years—a country dedicated to the LORD 
“How shall I pardon you for this? Your children have forsaken Me And sworn by those that are not gods. When I had fed them to the full, Then they committed adultery And assembled themselves by troops in the harlots' houses. They were like well-fed lusty stallions; Every one neighed after his neighbor's wife. Shall I not punish [them] for these things?" says the LORD. "And shall I not avenge Myself on such a nation as this? An astonishing and horrible thing Has been committed in the land: The prophets prophesy falsely, And the priests rule by their own power; And My people love to have it so. But what will you do in the end?” (Jeremiah 5:7, 8, 30, 31)
8. The Eighth Commandment

You shall not steal.” (v. 19)

This seems so basic. We may say, “Every child knows that.” Yet, it is inherent in our nature as a toddler to reach out and grab from another. The child grows older and feels guilt because his conscience does know it is wrong. However, in the ancient world, “might” made “right.” If one was strong enough to get away with stealing from his neighbor, too bad for the weakling! This is not the way of civilized society. Adonai set new standards. Not only was Israel NOT to steal from her neighbor, but she was to CARE for her neighbor! She was to leave the corners of her fields unharvested for the poor as well. These were revolutionary concepts! 
American ideals were based on biblical ideals, which allowed this country to prosper greatly and quickly. Today however, corporate fraud (coined white-collar crime) abuse costs more than $500 billion annually, devastating families, wiping out life savings, depressing the economy, closing mega-corporations, etc., according to 2010 statistics
9. The Ninth Commandment

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” (v. 20)

This commandment refers to perjury. Again, this is a building block of personal integrity necessary for a successful, civilized society—a God-fearing, civilized society. The law of love dictates that one would not act or speak unjustly against one’s neighbor or brother, who is created in the image of God. Words are powerful. With them we can teach, enlighten, and heal. Used carelessly or for evil, we can wound, deceive, or destroy a man’s life.  
“...the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God.” (James 3:5,6,8,9) 
10. The Tenth Commandment

You shall not covet your neighbor's wife; and you shall not desire your neighbor's house, his field, his male servant, his female servant, his ox, his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor's.” (v. 21)
This is interesting, for in the Hebrew, it is constructed in the opposite: “You shall not DESIRE (chamad חמד) your neighbor’s wife, neither shall you COVET (avah אוה) your neighbor’s house, etc...”

The Hebrew word chamad means “to desire, take pleasure in, delight in, to covet, to delight greatly, or desire greatly.” Is this not similar to Yeshua’s admonition against lusting in one’s heart for another woman? 

The previous commandments address things you are to do or not do. Why would Adonai now move into the realm of the soul with “desire” and “covet?” 

Perhaps part of the answer is found in Mark 4:19. What is it that chokes out the fruitfulness of the word? “...the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things.”

We find another key in I Timothy 6:6-11, where Paul exhorted Timothy regarding the snare of greed and dissatisfaction:

Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness.”
Oh, that they had such a heart in them that they would fear Me and always keep all My commandments, that it might be well with them and with their children forever! ...Therefore you shall be careful to do as the LORD your God has commanded you; you shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. ...You shall walk in all the ways which the LORD your God has commanded you, that you may live and [that it may be] well with you, and that you may prolong your days in the land which you shall possess.” (Deut 5: 29,32,33)

Deuteronomy 6:1-25 Taking on the Yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven

Moses now imparts the Shema, the heartbeat of the Jewish People and confession of faith throughout the ages, declaring the unity of YHVH. Verse 4:

"Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! 
Shema Yisrael, Adonai Eloheynu, Adonai, Echad!"
שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ יְהוָה אֶחָֽד

Here then is the sublime utterance ... the profession of the ages. 

The LORD YHVH of Israel is the incomparable, matchless, unequalled God, and there is no other!
It is recorded throughout history, that many Jews, unwilling to give up their faith, went to their deaths with this Scripture on their lips—including those in the gas chambers of Nazi Europe.

Not a dead tradition of vain words, but words of life, ultimately dear to the heart of all who revere the One who gave them. Even this past week, an Orthodox Jewish man was arrested for reciting these precious words on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem on Tisha B'Av. Although the Muslims do not allow Jewish or Christian prayers on this site where the Temple once stood (that they have been granted use of), the man believed the God of Israel would help him.

The culmination of the portion declares the fundamental duty of unbridled devotion to Israel’s Divine One—to love Him with heart, soul, and might, and to obey Him as worship, passing on this precious legacy to the next generation. 

You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (vs. 5-9)

You shall love the LORD your God...”
This is the first instance in human history that the love of God was demanded in any religion. The love of God is the distinctive mark of His true worshippers. The worshipper, as he declares the Unity of God, thereby lovingly and unconditionally surrenders his mind and heart to God’s holy will. Such spiritual surrender is called, ‘taking upon oneself the yoke of the kingdom of heaven.’

The noblest spiritual surrender and love of God, is to live and act toward our fellowmen as to make God and His Torah beloved in their eyes.

The meaning of the love of God is that a man should be longing and yearning after the nearness of God, blessed be He, and striving to reach His holiness, in the same manner as he would pursue any object for which he feels a strong passion. He should feel that bliss and delight in mentioning His Name, in uttering His praises and in occupying himself with the words of the Torah, which a lover feels towards the wife of his youth, or the father towards his only son. The earlier saints attained to such a love of God; as King David said in Psalm 27:2: “As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after Thee, O God.” (Moses Chayim Luzzatto)

“‘When the soul sinks in the depths of awe, the spark of the love of God breaks out in flames, and the inward joy increases. Such lovers of God desire only to accomplish His holy will, and lead others unto righteousness.’” (Eleazar of Wurms) Dr. J.H. Hertz, PENTATEUCH AND HAFTORAHS, SONCINO PRESS, 1936

Deuteronomy 7:1-11 The Way of Holiness

No Mercy to the “ites” and NO INTERMARRIAGE!
“When the LORD your God brings you into the land which you go to possess, and has cast out many nations before you, the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than you, and when the LORD your God delivers them over to you, you shall conquer them and utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them nor show mercy to them. Nor shall you make marriages with them. You shall not give your daughter to their son, nor take their daughter for your son.” (vs. 1-3)

Yeesh, this sounds pretty harsh! Yet, we cannot judge ancient biblical realities through our modern, cultural lens. Adonai was doing something magnificent and unique through this scant people on this minuscule piece of land. 

The Land and the People Israel must be sanctified—set apart for His Divine Presence and purposes. The “ites” were barbaric and savage idolators who sacrificed their young, polluted the Land with their idols and depraved worship, murdering and raping without remorse. Shortening their lives also short-circuited the suffering they would have brought to others.
Human nature is such that intermarriage more often than not brings a compromise of principles. Thus Moses explains:

“For they will turn your sons away from following Me, to serve other gods; so the anger of the LORD will be aroused against you and destroy you suddenly. But thus you shall deal with them: you shall destroy their altars, and break down their sacred pillars, and cut down their wooden images, and burn their carved images with fire. 

Israel has been sovereignly chosen by YHVH—not because they are special, great in number or strength (they were actually the least), but because he loves them! 

They are His “treasure,” am segulah עַם סְגֻלָּה in Hebrew—a valued people and peculiar treasure

They are a holy people—set aparttherefore they will have different standards, more exacting standards than the nations

This is the way of holiness 
“For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth. The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples.(vs. 4-7)

Adonai set His love on Israel. That word love is chashakh חשק in Hebrew, which is unusual. It is a blind, irrational, romantic type of love.

“Therefore know that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments ... Therefore you shall keep the commandment, the statutes, and the judgments which I command you today, to observe them.” (vs. 9,11)
The Israelites would bring the knowledge of Adonai to a pagan world by their love shown through obedience to their loving God.
And didn't Yeshua remind us:
"If you love Me, keep My commandments." (John 14:15)

So today, a dark and lost world needs to see our faith(fulness), purity of life, and loving obedience to the entire Word of our God and King…
That is OUR march into the land…
That is OUR banner of hope for others to follow.

            Finally, brethren, “Pursue peace with all people, 
and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.
(Hebrews 12:14) 

Grace be with you, amen!

Haftarah Va'etchanan 

Isaiah 40:1-26

Each of the last two weeks the Haftarah texts have registered a negative note as they spoke of the impending destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. This time around though we are given a breath of fresh air. Instead of viewing again the coming calamity, our attention is turned to future restoration. Thus Isaiah 40:1-26 starts off with: 
“‘Comfort, O comfort My people,’ says your God.” (v.1)

Literally this reads, “Be comforted, be comforted, My people.” The Jewish sages say of this that it is the first of the Seven Haftarots of consolation spoken to the Jewish people by the Lord.  Rashi points out that this chapter looks to the Messianic future of Israel, to a time when the exiles and punishments of the Jewish people are all over. But first a bit of background.

Chapter 40 begins the second half of the book and is commonly known as Isaiah’s Book of Consolation. Leading up to this point Isaiah has in the immediate previous chapters  dealt with King Hezekiah’s reign as it is winding down. We were told of the divine deliverance of Jerusalem from the army of Sennacherib in 701BC. Isaiah had also recounted the story of the visiting Babylonian envoys and Hezekiah’s mistake in showing them so much of the kingdom’s wealth. The conclusion to this story comes from Adonai’s mouth,

“‘Behold, the days are coming when all that is in your house

and all that your fathers have laid up in store to this day

 will be carried to Babylon; 

nothing will be left,’ says the LORD.

 ‘And some of your sons who will issue from you,

 whom you will beget, will be taken away,

 and they will become officials in the palace of the king of Babylon.’”

Isaiah 39:6-7

The impending invasion, destruction, and deportation of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar had been determined, but now Isaiah looks ahead, centuries upon centuries ahead, and says a double portion of comfort is to be given to both Israel and Judah. This comfort for the one Hebrew people comes as an equal portion to the trouble God has poured out and still intends to pour out on the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.   

“‘Comfort, O comfort My people,’ says your God.

Speak kindly to Jerusalem; and call out to her,

 that her warfare has ended, that her iniquity has been removed,

 that she has received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.”

Isaiah 40:1-2

This double portion of comfort is to be given yet in the future because it is Israel’s lot to receive more at least, if not in fact double that given to others, of the tribulation that is still to come. During that coming Tribulation—that seven year period following the taking away of the Church—Israel will suffer more than any other people group on this earth.

Jeremiah 30:4-7 gives us some interesting insight:
“Now these are the words which the LORD spoke concerning Israel and concerning Judah: ‘For thus says the LORD, ' I have heard a sound of terror, of dread, and there is no peace. Ask now, and see if a male can give birth. Why do I see every man with his hands on his loins, as a woman in childbirth? And why have all faces turned pale? Alas! for that day is great, there is none like it; and it is the time of Jacob's distress, But he will be saved from it.’”
Jacob’s Distress, also known as Jacob’s Trouble, is another name for the Tribulation period. It is during this period that the Jewish people will suffer great persecution for their past sin, perhaps double that of others who are to live through this time. Note what Jeremiah has to say about this:
“Behold, I am going to send for many fishermen,’ declares the LORD, ‘and they will fish for them; and afterwards I will send for many hunters, and they will hunt them from every mountain and every hill and from the clefts of the rocks. For My eyes are on all their ways; they are not hidden from My face, nor is their iniquity concealed from My eyes. I will first doubly repay their iniquity and their sin, because they have polluted My land; they have filled My inheritance with the carcasses of their detestable idols and with their abominations.’”  (Jeremiah 16:16-18)
Jacob’s seed has suffered greatly for its past sin of spiritual adultery while possessing the Land YHVH, the great I AM, had given them. It continued as a result of their rejection of Messiah’s first offer of the Kingdom leading to His crucifixion. Suffering has followed them in one form or another throughout their history and will accompany them into the Tribulation period, that time of Jacob’s Trouble. But... BUT...BUT... there will be an end to it. This end is what Isaiah has in mind when he declares, “‘Be comforted, be comforted My people,’ says your God.”

After this double punishment and at the end of the seven years of the Tribulation the Messiah of Israel will come and establish His Millennial Kingdom. It will be announced.
“A voice is calling, ‘Clear the way for the Lord in the wilderness; 
make smooth in the desert a highway for our God. 
Let every valley be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; 
and let the rough ground become a plain, 
and the rugged terrain a broad valley.’”
 (Isaiah 40:3-4)
His glory as He comes to establish the Millennial Kingdom will be seen by all who have survived to the end of the Tribulation, Jew and Gentile alike.
“Then the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all flesh will see it together; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” (Isaiah 40:5)
And this coming will be with might, with reward, and with recompense.
“Behold, the Lord God will come with might, with His arm ruling for Him. Behold, His reward is with Him and His recompense before Him.” (Isaiah 40:10)

Israel, the people of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are no strangers to suffering. They have suffered, are suffering, and will suffer greatly for the sin of unfaithfulness to His covenant and all of its attending consequences. But our Almighty God yet promises comfort to His people. It is a comfort of double proportion, and can best be characterized as a comfort given by a shepherd to his beloved flock.

“Like a shepherd He will tend His flock,
 In His arm He will gather the lambs
and carry them in His bosom;
 He will gently lead the nursing ewes.”
—Isaiah 40:11

To Israel was given the knowledge of God as it was never given to any other people. The Law, the statutes, the ordinances were theirs to guard and to live by, and thus demonstrate to the rest of the Gentile world the reality of the Almighty. But they so thoroughly rejected this gift of responsibility, that God rejected them—but only for a time—to graft in another. (Romans 11:11-24) 

The rejection of this gift of responsibility by the Jewish nation has always met with chastisement, even a double portion for them. So it is that Adonai’s final act of forgiveness will be accompanied by a double portion of comfort. 

How great is our God.
How unsearchable His ways.
May His mercy, grace,
 and even His comfort extend to us as well.

Isaiah concludes the 40th chapter with a view to the greatness of God. Read these verses and marvel at the vastness, the power, and yet the infinite comfort of the only true and living God. His is a comfort that extends to each of us, even today...

Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable. 

“He gives strength to the weary,
 and to him who lacks might He increases power.
 Though youths grow weary and tired, 
and vigorous young men stumble badly, 
yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; 
they will mount up with wings like eagles, 
they will run and not get tired, 
they will walk and not become weary.”
Isaiah 40:28-31

B’rit Chadashah Va'etchanan

Matthew 23:31-39

The closing words of Matthew 23:31-39 are the final words of the Messiah’s public ministry. For the brief few days left for Him before being hung on the tree, the Savior of the world will speak only privately to smaller audiences. 

However, in these closing words (23:1-39) spoken publicly, He denounces the leaders of Israelnow little more than corrupt politicians pandering to the the heavy arm of Roman rule. He lays special emphasis on the responsibility the Jewish leaders bear by leading the nation in their rejection of the Messiahship of Yeshua.
“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.” (v.13)
Yeshua further indicts this leadership class by predicting their actions after He has been crucified. 
“You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell? Therefore, behold, I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city.” (vs.33-34)
There is to be no good end for this religious elite. They have not only turned the nation’s eye from the true Messiah, but they will endeavor to do so even after His resurrection. Chapter after chapter of Acts surely proves the fulfillment of these words as we read of the suffering of the early church at the hands of this group of “hypocrites.” (v.29)

After this condemnation there is still one subject yet to be addressed though. It is the Lord’s beloved city of Jerusalem. 
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. Behold, your house is being left to you desolate!” (vs. 37-38)
The common unbelieving Jewish mind and more so the Gentile—even regenerated Gentile—mind has little to no concept of what the city of Jerusalem really means to Almighty God. Look at what great eminence Adonai gives it. 
“But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is THE CITY OF THE GREAT KING.” (Matthew 5:34-35)
This city, unlike any other city, is His city. God has designated it as the center of the world. “Thus says the Lord GOD, ‘This is Jerusalem; I have set her at the center of the nations, with lands around her.’” (Ezekiel 5:5) In Ezekiel 38:12 the prophet tells us that the nation in which Jerusalem is located, Israel, is considered by God to be literally, “the navel of the earth.”

This city is the city that was the capitol of His nation, Israel. This city is where His Temple was built. And the Temple in this city is where Adonai manifested Himself and from which He led His people. It is where worship of Him did take place. 

This city always was and will once again be the center of all things Jewish

This is the city that Messiah, the Savior of the world, will return to and in which He will establish His Millennial throne. It is the city from which all the promises made to the seed of Abraham will come to pass

No wonder this IS the CENTER OF THE WORLD.

How appropriate then that Jesus’ last public words should be about this city, His city. And what is it He says to the people of this city? Well, these are words not just for those within His hearing so long ago. No, they are primarily for the offspring of these people, generation after generation still to come. These will be Jews, perhaps from our perspective today, yet to be born. They will live in that period known as the Tribulation or Jacob’s Trouble. And they will have survived through those seven years of calamity, a human persecution and a natural devastation of a degree as yet unknown to mankind. To Him, their Messiah, they will cry out...

“BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD.” Look at the last words of the last public address given by the Messiah—rejected then, but coming again to establish His Millennial reign from HIS city, Jerusalem. To this Jerusalem that has killed God’s prophets, stoned His messengers, was unwilling to be gathered to their God, and whose house is now being left desolate, the Messiah says,

“For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, ‘BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!’” (v.39) And this they WILL SAY at the end of that seven years of tribulation. And it is then and only then that YHVH will say to them,

“Be comforted, be comforted My people, says your God.
 Speak kindly to Jerusalem; and call out to her,
 that her warfare has ended,
 that her iniquity has been removed,
 that she has received of the Lord’s hand
 double for all her sins.” 
Isaiah 40:1-2

How great is our God. His mercy is such that what is deserved is not given
His grace is such that what is not deserved is given

Out of this will come...Adonai’s comfort for His people

To Him alone be the glory, amen!

Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem. 
(Psalm 122)

Wishing you Shabbat Shalom!
In Messiah’s Love,
His EVERY Word Ministries

NOTE: The graphic heading contains a photo of a mosaic map of 6th century Jerusalem found under the floor of St George's Church in Madaba, Jordan. The map depicts some famous Old City structures such as the Damascus Gate, St Steven's Gate, the Golden Gate, the gate leading to Mount Zion, the Citadel (Tower of David), the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, and the Cardo Maximus. Wikimedia Commons