“Va’etchanan” (And I Pleaded). Deuteronomy 3:23–7:11; Isaiah 40:1–26; John 10:1–42

Shalom All, Welcome to this week’s Torah / Bible study.  “Then I pleaded [va’etchanan] with Yahweh at that time, saying:  ‘O Yahweh God, You have begun to show Your servant Your greatness and Your mighty hand, for what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do anything like Your works and Your mighty deeds?”  (Deuteronomy 3:23–24)

In last week’s study section “Devarim”, the Israelites stood poised at the edge of the Promised Land, on the east side of the Jordan, ready to cross over and possess the Land.  Before they crossed, Moses summarizes for the people their 40-year history of wandering in the wilderness. Included in this week’s section are several of the best known and fundamental passages of Scripture in the entire Tanakh (Old Testament), including what is termed the Ten Commandments and the Shema (Listen! or Hear and Do!) a call in Deuteronomy 6:4–9 to love the one true God with all our being.  This passage also exhorts us to pass on our faith to the next generation by faithfully teaching the Torah (Instructions of Yahweh God) to our children.  

Deut 6:4-5  [Hear, Isra’el! Yahweh our God, is one master]; and you are to love Yahweh your God with all your heart, all your soul and all your strength.”  This is the first prayer spoken in the morning and the last said in the evening before sleep.  It is often the final prayer on the lips of a Jewish person on their deathbed, and it has been uttered by many Jewish martyrs as they gave up their spirits to Yahweh. 

These verses of Scriptures are so central to Judaism (and should be for all believers in Yahweh and Yahshua) that they are written on a parchment and placed in a small box worn on the forehead called tefillin (phylacteries) and also in small, decorated boxes called mezuzot (plural of mezuzah) on the doorposts of Jewish homes.  This is done in literal fulfilment of commands found in this week’s study: “Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:8–9).

In  Mark 12:29-30 Yahshua recited Deut 6:8-9 stating they were the most important of commandments.  This is reinforced by the epistle of 1st John For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome (1 John 5:3).  If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen (1 John 4:20).

Yahshua demonstrated His love for the Father by living a life of total obedience to Him. He is loved by the Father, and He returned that love in the form of perfect submission. God demonstrated His love for us by sending us His Son, whom He loved. We demonstrate our love for the Father by receiving His Son and following His Son’s example of love for Him. 

In the daily recitation of the Shema lies a promise of the new covenant. Deuteronomy 6:6 speaks in the future tense when it says, “These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart” (Deuteronomy 6:6).  This means that we are to endeavour to keep the commandments (see Ex 24:7) by placing them on our hearts, but it could also be read to imply an assurance of the future. Jeremiah 31:33 promises that in the new covenant, God will write his Torah upon the hearts of His people (Judah and Israel whom others can join). He says, “Jer 31:33  But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my Torah in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. Jer 31:34  And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD:

Paul speaks of this transformation as “the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5).  In another passage, Paul says, “Therefore if anyone is in Messiah, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).  Paul points to the lives of believers as evidence of the new covenant when he says, “You are a letter of Messiah, cared for by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts” (2 Corinthians 3:3).  All of this happens to believers as a fulfilment of the promise of the new covenant.  With the aid of the Holy Spirit, we can have the commandments of God upon our hearts: Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances (Ezekiel 36:26–27).  Note the purpose of the new spirit is for us to walk in YHWH God’s statutes. 

Moses warned the children of Israel that if they strayed from the Torah (Yahweh’s instructions) and worshipped idols, God would exile them from the land of Israel and scatter them among the nations. Nevertheless, He would not abandon them. Moses says that a person only needs to repent and seek Yahweh. "You will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul" (Deuteronomy 4:29).  Similarly, Yahshua teaches, "He who seeks, finds" (Luke 11:10).  If we earnestly seek God and reach out for Him, He will not hide Himself from us.  We should never congratulate ourselves as if we have already attained the goal.  A person should always regard himself as a seeker of God. "Seek Yahweh and His strength; seek His face continually" (Psalm 105:4).  The prophet Amos tells us, "Seek Yahweh that you may live" (5:6).  Moses was a man after God’s own heart (Act 13:22  And when he had removed him, he raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also he gave testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will). 

Even if we have found the way to God through the person of His Son, Yahshua, this is only the beginning of the quest, not the end.  The real life of faith is an ongoing pursuit of Yahweh.  The contrite heart continues to seek God each day and continually cries out:  I shall seek You earnestly; my soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.  As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God.  My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; when shall I come and appear before God? (Psalm 63:1; 42:1-2).

Seeking God is the pursuit of righteousness. "Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness, who seek Yahweh" (Isaiah 51:1), the prophet says. In another passage he clearly states that seeking Yahweh entails repentance:  Seek Yahweh while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to Yahweh, and He will have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon (Isaiah 55:6-7).  One often sees children brought up in religious families who seem to nurture a bored disinterest toward God and the things of the kingdom of heaven. Their faith is an inherited faith that has never taken root. They have no desire to seek God for themselves, and they quickly fall away from faith. There are also the lost in the world who do not have enough knowledge of God to know to seek Him. As believers, we need to encourage everyone to seek the LORD.  So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened (Luke 11:9-10). 

Preparing the Next Generation: 

This week’s Torah / bible section begins with Moses reminding the people of how he pleaded with God for the privilege of entering the Promised Land; but God refused to grant his request.  Moses would not enter the Promised Land because he disobediently struck the rock twice in the wilderness of Zin, instead of speaking to it as God commanded  (Numbers 20) .  This happened when the nation’s water well dried up after his sister Miriam died.  Moses and Aaron prayed about the situation, and God told Moses to give the people water by speaking to the rock; but Moses, who was angry with the people for their whining, called the people rebels and implied that it was he and Aaron who were providing for them. Some have suggested that speaking to the rock might have symbolized speaking God’s Word (as given to Moses) and striking the rock may have represented Moses’ effort. 

Though Moses and Aaron were called to lead the Israelites, performing many signs and wonders, it was God who was providing for them, miraculously supplying life-giving water when necessary.  [Peter knew this in Act 3:12  And when Peter saw it, he answered unto the people, Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye at this? or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk?].  As a result, God told Moses and Aaron, " Num 20:12  And Yahweh spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them.  

Note the mere fact they disobeyed was the criteria.  The pressure they were under from the constantly rebellious people, the good work they had done before or their ignorance did not save or excuse the consequence  (Eze 33:18  When the righteous turneth from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, he shall even die thereby).  

Moses tells the people how he asked God, “‘Let me go over and see the good land beyond the Jordan, that fine hill country and Lebanon.’  But because of you Yahweh was angry with me and would not listen to me.  ‘That is enough,’ Yahweh said.  ‘Do not speak to Me anymore about this matter’” (Deuteronomy 3:25–26).  God said, “No.” 

Although Moses would get a glimpse of the Land of Promise, he would be among those of his generation who would die in the wilderness because of their sins.  His successor, Joshua, would cross over the Jordan with the new generation of Israelites to conquer the Land.  “But commission Joshua, and encourage and strengthen him, for he will lead this people across and will cause them to inherit the land that you will see”  (Deuteronomy 3:28) .

Joshua, whose Hebrew name is said to mean Yahoshua (Yahweh is Salvation), takes the people into the Promised Land, where they should take hold of all that God had promised.  He is said to be a type of the Messiah, Yahshua (which is a form of the name Yahoshua), will take His people into the true Promised Land called Heaven where hopefully some of us will not perish but inherit eternal life.  

We can learn a lesson from Moses remaining on the other side of the Jordan.  There are times when, despite our earnest begging and pleading, God in His perfect wisdom, justice, and mercy simply says "no," and that is the end of the matter.  God may even ask us to encourage someone in the next generation who will carry the torch further than we have and we need to accept this decision with a grace born of humility. 

El Kanah: The Jealous God 

Before Moses surrenders the leadership of Israel to Joshua, he exhorts the people to keep God’s Torah and to live in obedience to God’s ways so that they may take possession of the Land.  He tells them: “Now, Israel, listen to the laws and rulings I am teaching you, in order to follow them, so that you will live; then you will go in and take possession of the land that Yahweh the God of your fathers, is giving you.  Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of Yahweh your God which I command you” (Deuteronomy 4:1-2).  Sadly many group bible studies I have visited are filled with cut and paste commentaries from internet sites rather than adhering to the text of the scriptures.  The same with sermons.  One or two verses are taken and an hour’s story with added words of the preacher is told around them! 

Deu 4:4-8  “But you that did cleave unto Yahweh your God are alive every one of you this day.  Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as Yahweh my God commanded me, that ye should do so in the land whither ye go to possess it. Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.

For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as Yahweh our God is in all things that we call upon him for? And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day”?  Yet preachers teach and sheep follow a belief that righteousness was nailed to the cross or ended when the Messiah came or died!!! 

Deu 4:19  “And lest thou lift up thine eyes unto heaven, and when thou seest the sun, and the moon, and the stars, even all the host of heaven, shouldest be driven to worship them, and serve them, which Yahweh thy God hath divided unto all nations under the whole heaven”.  The same thing believers are warned not to do, they have succumb to doing in the belief it is to Yahweh God.  What He has made holy is no longer special.  All days or any day one chooses to make holy can so be kept!  They forget it is not how they see it; but how God does and instructed, similar to Moses and the rock.  

Deu 4:20  But Yahweh hath taken you, and brought you forth out of the iron furnace, even out of Egypt, to be unto him a people of inheritance, as ye are this day. Exo 19:5  Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: Deu 9:29  Yet they are thy people and thine inheritance, which thou broughtest out by thy mighty power and by thy stretched out arm. Deu 32:9  For Yahweh’s portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance. [so if you want the inheritance as repeated in the New Testament, follow the condition given at its source.] 

Deu 4:30  When thou art in tribulation, and all these things are come upon thee, even in the latter days, if thou turn to Yahweh thy God, and shalt be obedient unto his voice; Deu 4:31  (For Yahweh thy God is a merciful God;) he will not forsake thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers which he sware unto them. [Note the mercy comes with repentance.  Returning to obeying God.  Exo 20:6 & Deut 5:10 And showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments

Deu 5:22  These words Yahweh spake unto all your assembly (church as in Act 7:38  This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us.  The assembly included non Israelite descendants i.e. called strangers) in the mount out of the midst of the fire, of the cloud, and of the thick darkness, with a great voice: and he added no more. And he wrote them in two tables of stone, and delivered them unto me. 

Deu 5:29  O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever! [the heart was always an element in Yahweh’s requirements.  See also Deut 6:5-5.  It did not spring up in the New Testament to replace physical obedience as many belief]. 

Deu 6:1  Now these are the commandments, the statutes, and the judgments, which Yahweh your God commanded to teach you,..  Here are three different parts of the TORAH which we today call law.  There are also ordinances.  So when scripture speaks of the law, we ought to know which individual instruction in the “law” is being discussed.  The Day of Atonement, as in parts of Hebrews or circumcision as it most of Paul’s contentious writings. 

Moses reminds the children of Israel how they stood at the foot of Mount Sinai and received the commandments. He warns them not to forget the Torah of God, and to diligently teach God’s commandments to their children and grandchildren.  In telling them this, he reminds them three times that God spoke from the fire at Sinai in which He did not have a form.  Therefore, because they saw no image of God, they are not to carve for themselves images of God, which is detrimental to faith, nor of other gods, which is idolatry.  This extends to photos or computer images of Him or His son today. 

This prohibition of the making of carved images is accompanied by the warning that God is a consuming fire: “Watch out for yourselves, so that you won’t forget the covenant of Yahweh your God, which He made with you, and make yourself a carved image, a representation of anything forbidden to you by Yahweh your God.  For Yahweh your God is a consuming fire, a Jealous God [El Kanah]” (Deuteronomy 4:23–24).  The description (not name) of God used in this verse is El Kanah (Jealous God).  This characteristic is also mentioned elsewhere in this study section in Deuteronomy 5:9, 6:15 and in Exodus 34:14 (see also 1 Kings 19:10, 14 in which kanah is often translated as zealous.)   These characteristics of God declare to the world who He is.  They also answer our deepest questions regarding our relationship to God. 

El Kanah reveals that God is protective of His people and His relationship with them.  In the same way the relationship between a husband and a wife is sacred, He will not share our praise and devotion with other gods. 

In fact, the covenant God made with Israel at Mount Sinai is likened to a marriage ceremony, complete with the cloud covering symbolizing the chuppah (marriage canopy) and the ketubah (marriage contract), outlining the responsibilities and privileges of both bride and bridegroom and the agreed upon vows.   God is, therefore, asking His people to be faithful unto Him, forsaking all other gods.  All forms of idolatry and worship of false gods is “spiritual adultery,” and can be likened to an unfaithful spouse who commits adultery.  Yahweh lovingly and faithfully watches over His Bride, and jealously guards her, like a passionate husband protecting His bride. 

Unfaithfulness and Exile. 

“Yahweh will scatter you among the peoples; and among the nations to which Yahweh will lead you away, you will be left few in number” (Deuteronomy 4:27).  Because they were scattered throughout the gentile nations, on the coming of the messiah Yahshua, someone had to go to them in the various nations to inform them.  That is where Paul came in.  So when Paul said he would go to the gentiles, the meaning is nations, other countries (see Apostles Doctrine study). 

In this study section (Parasha), Moses prophesies the tragic consequence of Israel straying from their devotion to God and turning to idols: they would be sent into exile (galut) and scattered to the four corners of the earth.  This is exactly what happened when Assyria scattered Israel, the Babylonians and the Romans destroyed the Holy Temple and Jerusalem.  However, God is merciful; He promised that if the people would repent and turn back to Him with all of their heart and soul, then He would relent and bring them back to the Land.   Indeed, in fulfilment of a great number of prophecies, including those of Moses, Yahweh did bring His people home from Babylon.  In these last days, through the spreading of the gospel (good news of the coming of the expected messiah) He is once again bringing His people home. 

“In your distress, when all these things have come upon you, in the last days [acharit-hayamim], you will return to Yahweh your God and obey what He says; for Yahweh your God is a merciful God.  He will not fail you, destroy you, or forget the covenant with your ancestors which He swore to them”  (Deuteronomy 4:30–31). 

This prophecy is in progress today.  Jewish people are returning to the Land of their forefathers from the north, south, east and west.  Not because of their righteousness that they are returning, but because of the covenant God made with their ancestors. 

Deu 7:8-11  But because Yahweh loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath Yahweh brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Deu 7:9  Know therefore that Yahweh thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations;   Deu 7:11  Thou shalt therefore keep the commandments, and the statutes, and the judgments, which I command thee this day, to do them

Honour Parents for a Successful Life.

The Torah tells us to honour our parents. Jewish tradition teaches that, at the very least, this means making sure that our parents are provided for in their old age. The spirit of the law, however, asks us to treat our parents with profound respect: Honour your father and your mother, as YHWH your God has commanded you, that your days may be prolonged and that it may go well with you on the land which YHWH your God gives you. (Deuteronomy 5:16). 

In the modern world, youth counter-cultures have learned to find their own identity by defining themselves in antithesis to the previous generation. Whole generations of human beings are raised to believe that disrespect for parents and disdain for their expectations is the normal and healthy path to individuality and adulthood.  It is not uncommon to hear young people today speak back to their parents, argue with them publicly or reply to them with sarcasm or open exasperation.  For believers, this is not acceptable.  Public impertinence toward parents is a grievous sin.  Popular culture portrays it as cool for children and teens to appear autonomous and on a peer level with their parents. Secular teens hate being seen in public with their parents, and accepting parental authority hampers the perception of their coolness.  The Bible would call "coolness" pride and haughtiness.  Parents also have a responsibility around this commandment.  They need to be careful not to raise disrespectful children who will find it difficult to keep the commandment of honouring them.  A parent should not grant any allowance for disrespect.

However, a father cannot teach his child to honour him only by demanding honour. Neither can a mother teach her child to honour her only by demanding to be honoured.  Instead, we teach our children to honour us by honouring our own parents and by honouring.  A parent must never take sides with a child against the other parent.  Do not contradict your spouse in front of the children. Disagreements with a spouse should never be spoken in the hearing of the children.  When your child treats your spouse with disrespect, it is your job to rebuke the child on behalf of your spouse: "Do not speak to your father that way." "Never speak to your mother like that."  When a child observes his mother honour his father and vice versa, the child learns the art of honouring father and mother.  Only the mother can properly teach a child to honour the father. Only the father can properly teach a child to honour the mother.  

Prophetic section; Va’etchanan: Comfort My People 

Isaiah 40 opens with a word of comfort to those who are in exile in Babylon and to the destroyed city of Jerusalem: 

“Comfort, comfort My people, says your God.  Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from Yahweh’s hand double for all her sins”  (Isaiah 40:1–2).  This week’s Divine consolation to the people of Israel declares reconciliation, restoration, national renewal and hope: 

A voice cries: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of Yahweh; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.  Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain.  And the glory of Yahweh shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Yahweh has spoken’”  (Isaiah 40:3–5). 

This prophecy of Isaiah would likely have been understood by the Israelites as an allusion to the ancient practice of eastern monarchs sending harbingers before them to prepare the way, levelling roads and removing impediments for the king.  Just as these monarchs prepared the way before themselves, God prepared the way before the Jewish slaves in Egypt, leading them to their Promised Land.  He would prepare the way again before the Jewish exiles in Babylon, leading them home  and He has prepared the way again, leading the Jews scattered throughout the nations (the Diaspora) back to a restored Land of Israel.  This passage also speaks of the future manifestation of the Lord before the world, in which people would be led out of bondage to sin and into the Kingdom of Heaven.  God confirms the trustworthiness of this promise, stating that while all flesh is like grass, God’s Word stands firm forever.  God is watching over His Word to perform it and His promise to restore and save Israel is reliable and can be trusted by all.  Only God’s Word can restore what seems un-restorable, reconcile what seems irreconcilable, and comfort those who are without comfort.  

John 10:1-42

Joh 10:4  And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. Joh 10:5  And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.  The son came to show the way back to Yahweh His father.  The son is the way not the destination.  He speaks the same words as His father spoke; keep the commandments.  Those who hear the Father’s and son’s voice would not follow men who say not to keep all the commandments or make excuses they cannot be kept because if you break one you break them all.  Neither follow those who teach you can be saved without keeping them (transgressing them) i.e. committing sin (1John 3:4), i2Co 11:13  For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. 2Co 11:14  And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. 2Co 11:15  Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness;

Those of you who play games like cards, dominoes, pool, cricket etc know that all items are required to play the game.  If one is damaged or missing the whole game is broken.  If a king of diamonds is missing, one cannot play many card games until it is replaced.  Made whole.  Same for a domino.  Black ball in pool.  Ball in cricket. Having the bats, wricked and players is useless.  When we sin, even one, we have broken the commandments because they are a plural set.  However, once we truly repent and receive forgiveness, there is no longer a break.  All is made new.  If we break a leg on one chair of a dining table set, we have broken the set until that chair leg is restored! 

Joh 10:16  And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.  Joh 10:27  My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:   Act 15:14  Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name.  Rev 18:4  And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues. 

Note the instructions given to God’s taken out people from His own mouth.  If you hear them obey.  If you do not hear, maybe because you hear traditional sermons repeating in your mind, consider you may be suffering from the same as some people before you.  Mar_8:18  Having eyes, see ye not? and having ears, hear ye not? and do ye not remember?  Act_28:27  For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. Rom_11:8  (According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day. 

 Exo 19:5  Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: Deu 14:2  For thou art an holy people unto Yahweh thy God, and Yahweh hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth. Deu 26:18  And Yahweh hath avouched thee this day to be his peculiar people, as he hath promised thee, and that thou should keep all his commandments;

Shalom.

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