Parashat D’varim - Deuteronomy 1:1 - 3:22 Isaiah 1:1-27; John 15:1-17
The name “Deuteronomy comes from the Greek (Septuagint), and means “second law”. It is not actually a “second torah” but a repetition and expansion of commentary on the first four books of Torah. Therefore it is also called the Mishneh Torah, “repetition of the Torah” which clarifies and explains the first four books (Deut17:18). The first four books of the Torah were dictated to the prophet Moshe, letter by letter, and written down with precision. Thus they became the foundation for the fifth book. These five books, that are called the Torah of Moshe, are in turn, the foundation for the rest of the Scriptures. The prophetic books that were later added, beginning with Joshua), doesn’t change anything in the foundation, as it is written in Deuteronomy 4:2, “You shall not add to the word which I command you, neither shall you diminish from it”. The Torah of Moshe, therefore, has the highest level of authority among the inspired Scriptures. Not even the Messiah Yeshua himself came to change or add anything to that which Moshe wrote. His words changed nothing of that which was given by the Eternal through Moshe. Yeshua did not come to break, but to give the true meaning and the final explanation to that which his heavenly Father had in his heart when he gave us the commandments through Moshe, as it is written in Matthew 5:17-19
Deuteronomy is in essence, three sermons, one song, and one blessing! It can be divided into three sections, which correspond with the three books: Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers. These are:
- 1:1 - 5:5 Morals and Admonitions
- 5:6 - 27:8 Diverse Laws
- 27:9 - 34:12 Blessings and Curses
This section of the torah reading is a look back at what the Israelites have been through to get to the point they were at, entering the Promised Land. Moshe tells about all of the places they went through and the commands that Yahweh gave and they followed to get there. The rebellions of the people when first commanded, and the blessings when they followed the commands. It is largely for the benefit of the younger generation of Israelites who did not have a clear recollection of what went on in Egypt or in the wilderness either because they were too young or because they had not been born yet. It was a recitation or synopsis of the Torah commands to prepare the younger generation for entering the Promised Land. Moshe sets this out to make it as plain as possible and simple to understand. For this reason it has always been popular and quoted from eighty times in the apostles writings and used widely by the Qumran Essenes.
The Legacy of Moshe
“These are the words that Moshe spoke” (d’varim). ... ‘words’ - ‘d’var’ is one of the strongest roots in Hebrew and is linked to the words ‘desert’ and ‘plague’ which come from the same root. Here Moshe delivers a sermon containing strong words of rebuke against Israel. His words link the hardship of the desert to their failure to hear the ‘word’ of Yahweh, delivered through him. So before he departs he gives them this ‘sermon’ - the entire book of Devarim is a commentary which he expounded before his death as his last will and testament to them, an exhortation for them to remember and to keep them on the path of life, words to live by for every day of their lives. This was their memo from their leader and instruction manual for the new advent of their future life in the promised land.
The book is structured in the same manner as the ancient treaties between an overlord and his subjects of that era contracted a covenantal agreement. It is similar to others that have been found by archaeologists, from the Hittites and other Oriental peoples of the period 1500 - 1300 BCE. This always included a preamble of background and historical information to the setting up of the treaty - stipulations and conditions of the treaty - its blessings and curses dependant upon keeping the covenant - and the finalising recapitulation. However, contrary to ancient treaties, this was not a law-code but a true covenant between Yahweh and His people, and all of it is based upon His grace and mercy toward His redeemed people who live by faith and love in Him.
With this introduction Moshe begins his recap of the children of Israel’s long arduous journey to the promised land. He is speaking to those who have grown up in the wilderness who were either not personal witnesses of the manifestation at Sinai or else were under 20 years of age. As part of this exhortation, he goes back over their sins at the various places to serve as historical lessons and as a future warning. He does it tactfully to avoid overwhelming them with a sense of embarrassment and condemnation with their failures, but rather seeks to exhort them to believe His Word in future. As well as Moshe’s departure from them, the Cloud of His Presence will also leave them at the journey’s end, having overseen their flight from Egypt and guided and protected them through the long wilderness journey to the promised land. Moshe had done his job, he had accomplished the task Yahweh set out before him. He must have felt a certain sense of accomplishment with the mission completed.
Overcoming in the Wilderness
Horeb (i.e. Sinai) (means waste) to Kadesh Barnea (meaning set-apart fruitful fields) was but 11-days journey to the edge of the Promised Land (Kadesh Barnea) yet Israel wandered 40 years because of their unbelief. The statement that the journey from Mt. Sinai to Kadesh-Barnea takes only 11 days is a reminder of the price of sin. An entire generation missed the Promised Land because of their unbelief and bad conduct (disobedience to Yahweh’s commands, lack of trust and faith in Yahweh’s word evidenced by complaining, murmuring and even outright rebellion).
Being in the desert is never easy but our encouragement comes from the knowledge of who Messiah is and His Word to them was Deut.1:29 ....'Don’t be fearful, don’t be afraid of them, Yahweh your God, who is going ahead of you, will fight on your behalf, just as He accomplished all those things in Egypt before your eyes’.
We need to discern what is holding us back from going forward in our spiritual walk. What sin, what fear, what wrong beliefs or false religious concepts are we not letting go, that is a hindrance to going on? It is a time to be serious about serving Yahweh and to repent and go onward and upward in Yeshua!
Many times in our spiritual walk we are just at the point of spiritual breakthrough, but we receive an evil report about the giants of the land and our resolve to go forward melts. If we could just see what lies ahead of us how much easier it would be to go forward! Yet Yeshua said, Blessed are those who haven’t seen, yet still believe in Yahweh’s promises (John 20:29). We need to have what it takes to go on without being deterred by the world, the flesh and the devil. To go on without being able to see where one is going, takes faith and it gets down to personal and intimate relationship with your Heavenly Father, through Yeshua and being led by his Spirit. That involves a walk of constantly abiding in Him. John 15: 1-17
Edom (Esau, brother of Jacob) and Moab and Ammon (sons of Lot) were blood relatives of the Israelites - 2:2-9. Often those of our own family will stand in our way as we go in to possess our spiritual, God-given inheritance and spiritual destiny. What is the lesson from this passage of Scripture on how to deal with less than cooperative family members who fail to recognize the calling on your life? Are we to make war with them? Are we in anyway to be beholden to or dependent on them for our physical needs? If we became dependent upon them could this help or hinder our chances of entering our Promised Land? Yahweh desires our families to be saved (Acts 16:31; 2 Peter 3:9) How then can we be a light to our families if we are fighting and attempting to destroy those who would spiritually stand in our way?
On the other hand, Yahweh instructed the Israelites to make war with and to destroy some of the Canaanites who were not relatives of Israel. The Believer’s battle to enter into the Promised Land is a spiritual one (2 Cor. 10:3-5 and Eph. 6:10-18). Who and what are enemies with whom we must constantly do battle and by the power of the Ruach HaKodesh utterly destroy their influence in our lives? (See 1 John 2:15-17; 1 Peter 5:8; James. 5:7 to name a few.)
Yahweh gave victory to the Israelites over King Og and the 60 cities of his kingdom - 3:1-11. When Yahweh gives us a mandate to encounter the spiritual forces of this world and the devil, nothing must stand in our way. What are the weapons of our warfare? (1 John 5:4; Luke 9:1: 10:19) Israel fought with swords and spears to possess a physical kingdom. We are taking possession of a spiritual kingdom. The warfare is just as intense, but the weapons are spiritual. (Eph.6:10-18) Are you engaging the enemy, or are you in retreat? Those who are not moving forward spiritually will not encounter the enemy. At the very least, one should be overcoming the flesh. That is the greatest battle of all _ to put on the mind of Messiah and to be conformed into His image.
The Seven Main Sins of Israel In the Wilderness
In the opening verses there is a list of place names which various Rabbis take as code words for the main sins which Israel had committed during its time in the wilderness (See Artscroll Stone Edition Chumash, p. 939, notes on verse 1). “Beyond the Jordan…in the wilderness…in the Arabah…beside Suph…between Paran and Tophel…Laban and Hazeroth and Di-zahab” (1: 1) The Israelites had sinned (in wilderness, provoked him in the Arabah, murmured beside the Yam Suph [Sea of Reeds], spoke with contempt [tophel] about manna [which was white, laban], and in Hazeroth they angered him with a Calf made from gold [dizahab]. These are the seven most outstanding sins which resulted in Israel being condemned to wander the wilderness for 40 years.
We need to be reminded of our sins and challenged to grow and overcome them or else we will wander in a spiritual wilderness never entering into our spiritual inheritance. Let us not become like the Laodiceans of Revelation 3. We are told that they were rich and increased with goods, yet poor, blind, miserable, naked and lukewarm. We must be constantly overcoming and striving against sin. There is no place for complacency, apathy, lukewarmness or indifference. That is why many of us are searching out the Hebrew roots of our spiritual faith _ the status quo in the Church has not been acceptable. We are called to be overcomers and more than conquerors through Yeshua. There is nothing in Scripture to justify the position of “pew warmer” (see John 16:33; 1 John 5:4; Rev. 2:7, 11, 26; 3:5, 12).
1- Wilderness of Sin (meaning thorns located near Mt. Sinai): Here Israel complained about lack of food (Exod. 16:1-3) • No trust or faith in Yahweh. • Their perspective is skewed by their carnality. If Yahweh had wanted to kill them he could have easily done so at the Red Sea, but rather he miraculously preserved them there. They did not trust the consistency of the character of Yahweh. • They encountered their first spiritual pothole in the wilderness road and their faith melts. • They accused Moshe of planning to starve them. How often a faithless and carnal people turn the good intents of selfless and self-sacrificing leadership into evil and malicious intent against them? • They undervalued their deliverance and wished they had died in Egypt. Where would we be if Yahweh had not delivered us from our past? A praiseworthy and thankful heart-attitude will carry us safely through to the other side of many of life’s trials and adversities. Never take your eyes off of the goodness of Yahweh and focus them on the complaints of the flesh.
2- Arabah (meaning desert plain, wilderness); a steppe or narrow plain or valley near the southern tip of the Sea of Galilee extending to the Gulf of Aqaba and to the highlands of the east): Here Israel was seduced by Midianite women (Num. 36:13). • Spiritual and Physical Whoredoms. • Israel was enticed by the lusts and appetites of the flesh. Up to this point Israel had resisted many frontal military attacks and would have done so again had King Balak tried this means to overcome Israel. But the enemies of Israel attacked her (with help from Balaam, the false prophet) through subtlety and seduction. If the enemy can’t get us one way, he’ll try another! Lusts of the flesh can be a real snare, especially for men. To wit: Solomon and his wives or Adam with Eve.
3- Opposite the Red Sea: Here Israel complains that they’re going to die _ they manifest sarcasm and cynicism against Elohim in their statement against Moshe: “...because there were no graves in Egypt...?!” (Exod. 14:11) • Fear, Faithlessness, False Accusation and Malcontentment. • The straits of their physical circumstances propel them into fear and accusation (i.e. faithlessness) against God and Moshe. The comforts of slavery, servitude and bondage in Egypt seemed good to them now, though a short time earlier while suffering in Egypt they had cried out to God for deliverance from the very thing to which they now wanted to return. The fickleness and vicissitudes of human nature! The grass is always greener on the other side. Man is never content with his circumstances.
4- Between Paran (meaning beauty): The spy incident. (Num. 13-14) • Again, Walking By Sight and Not By Faith. • Though Moshe had charged them “to be of good courage,” they were not. Courage springs from strong faith which Caleb and Joshua alone possessed. They distrusted God’s power and promise. Unbelief overlooks the greatness, goodness and power of God and focuses on the human plane. Fear/faithlessness/unbelief magnifies every danger and difficulty and fills the heart with discouragement and hopelessness. We must resist that within ourselves.
5- Tophel (meaning calumny, a reference to the false charges or misrepresentation maliciously calculated to damage another’s reputation) and Laban (white, a reference to the color of manna [Ex. 16:34]): There are no places where Israel camped by these names. Rather, the rabbis teach that these names are references to Israel complaining twice about manna (Num. 10:12; 11:6). • Lust , Ungratefulness and False Accusation - There is no pleasing a lustful, carnal, faithless and ungrateful heart! • Manna, God’s supernatural answer to one of Israel’s first complaints itself becomes a source of complaint and contempt.
6- Hazeroth (meaning enclosures) _ Korah’s rebellion (Num. 12:1-16) • Rebellion Against God-Ordained Authority
7- Di-zahab (meaning gold) _ God blessed Israel with an abundance of gold when they left Egypt and they used his gifts to make the golden calf. • Riches Lead to Idolatry. • God’s overabundant blessings can become a snare. We become “rich and increased with goods having need of nothing” including God, as was the case with the Laodicean church in Revelation 3.
One of the main purposes of Torah community (the local assembly) is to provoke one another to good works (Hebrews 10:24-25). The purpose of Torah needs to be reiterated again and again!
The scripture says, “Beware brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘today’, lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we become partakers of Messiah, IF we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end,” Hebrews 3:12-14
Passing the Baton
As Moshe prepared to speak to the children of Israel one last time on the first day of the month, he would have understood the significance of this new moon day. Certainly it was symbolic of an ending of one chapter in Israel’s history and the beginning of a new era. Moshe had been through his time of testing and in the end he had completed the task God had laid out for him. After taking the nation through 40 years of trial, testing, and purifying in what should have been an eleven day journey, Moshe stood with the prize before him. Yet he couldn’t enter the land. One mistake had cost him the opportunity of a lifetime.
Moshe did everything Yahweh asked of him, he was a man of honor, courage, character, and obedience, yet during a brief episode of anger he disobeyed his Heavenly Father. Moshe stood in Yahweh’s stead on this earth and in that brief moment of losing control of his emotions and actions he brought great reproach upon Yahweh’s name and reputation. Moshe failed to sanctify Yahweh in the eyes of the people. It could appear God was being harsh because of Moshe’ disobedience in striking the rock instead of speaking to it. Moshe had become frustrated with the continuing complaining of the Children of Israel. In his anger at the people, Moshe allowed his frustration to get the better of him and in lashing out at the rock it would seem he was lashing out at God. Could it be Moshe’ old frustration in being called to lead Israel was surfacing and while he may have been tired with the attitude of Israel could it possibly be Moshe was really angry at God? How many times have we been in the same situation as Moshe and in our anger at some supposed situation, we are really expressing our frustration with God because we had expected something to go the way we planned and it did not turn out the way we had hoped. Any area of our flesh which we allow to remain undealt with, will someday cause us to stumble.
The time had come for Israel to move into the next phase of God’s plan for them and Moshe was not the one to lead them. He was part of Egypt and the many rebellions in the Wilderness. In his own way he had rebelled against God and was doomed to a similar fate of the generation who had come up out of Egypt. Though Joshua had come out of Egypt and had seen what Israel had done in the Wilderness he had his sights set on the goal and did not rebel against God. His faith had seen him through and he would finish the task Moshe had begun.
As a spiritual father Moshe sought to ensure that this new generation would overcome and enter into their inheritance, even though he had not done so himself. Only Joshua and Caleb of all that first generation had qualified and were going into the land.
Taking the Challenge
As Israel had refused to obey Yahweh’s command to fight their way into the land almost 40 years earlier, this new generation had already begun the battle by defeating the two Amorite kings, Sihon and Og. They were enthusiastic, ready to take what was rightfully theirs, they had embraced their inheritance in this land of promise.
Joshua as Moshe protege had qualified to the leadership and was prepared to take the baton and lead the new generation through. Joshua was the right hand man of Moshe. Moshe knew Joshua was worthy to undertake the task set before him, to take them into the land and he successfully fulfilled his commission and by his strong leadership, led Israel to conquer and inherit the land.
Caleb was a man of a different spirit and had wholly followed Yahweh the scriptures tells us (Numbers 14:24). He was the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite (one of the tribes of Canaan - probably one of the mixed multitude of slaves that came with them from Egypt) but showed more faith than those from a generational heritage of Israeli blood. Forty-five years later he comes to Joshua and claims the land promised him, “Now then, give me this hill country about which Yahweh spoke on that day, for you heard on that day that Anakim were there, with great fortified cities; perhaps Yahweh will be with me, and I will drive them out as Yahweh has spoken.’ So Joshua blessed him and gave Hebron to Caleb the son of Jephunneh for an inheritance. Joshua14:6-15).
Caleb received as an inheritance the land that contained the very caves of Machpelah where the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were buried with Sarah and Rebecca. What a remarkable testimony of a faithful son of Israel who had been adopted into the family, risen to a prestigious place as one of the princes of Judah, spied out the land, came back with a good report, and then faithfully waited some forty-five years for his inheritance.
Here on the brink of the promised land the two men who had been faithful and brought back a good report are to take the nation into the land and we see the prophetic significance of this, in that these two men representing the tribes of Judah and Ephraim, Ezekiel later prophesies will join together to bring about a united Israel in the events leading up to the establishment of the Kingdom in these last days. Ezekiel 37:15-28
Some of the areas mentioned by Moshe - commentators suggest that the term from the river Euphrates actually means from the western segment of the river in northern Syria. This area was conquered in David’s time and was under the dominion of Israel through Solomon’s reign and beyond. The Captorim are the Philistines who migrated from Crete in approx.1200 BC. and settled Gaza. The area in Ch.3:8 from Arnon to Hermon which belonged to the king of Bashan, is the modern day Golan Heights. This is more than Israel at present holds, and includes the disputed areas which confirms that Yahweh gave this territory to them.
Bringing Forth New Life
Even though the people did not follow what they were told and doubted, Yahweh is forgiving. We are all in the wilderness journeying to the Promised Land. Every one can look into their past and find times that they doubted or stumbled in some way or other. Once you get yourself back on the path, blessings continued to flow. We must trust that Yahweh will go before us, fight for us, and carry us through this wilderness as he did the Israelites. (1:30,31)
In John 15:1-10 Yeshua talks about how we are the vine and Yahweh is the Vine-dresser. He takes care of all of our needs but we need to produce fruits to justify our staying on the vine. As each person or branch of the vine grows, the whole vine flourishes and grows stronger, able to withstand the storms that come with this world. ‘I am the real vine and my Father is the gardener’; - ‘No greater love has a person who lays down his life for his friends’. (Vs.1,3)
When we are born again in Messiah, we become the branches of the vine. The vine dresser carefully lifts the branches and places them so that they may grow to his desire. Those branches that are delinquent or grow incorrectly are removed by the vine dresser. The process of pruning is painful and often the plant may go into shock. We need to rest in the fact the vine dresser knows best and that He is pruning us so that we may produce finer fruit. Yahweh is glorified by our fruit but only after the process of pruning. We need to stay fixed on Him, the source of life, if not the shock of pruning may end in the death of the plant. The basis of remaining in the vine is by obeying His commands (vs.9-10) Only then will be be partaking of the Tree of life, the sap of the Vine. The commands of which He speaks are those given to Israel - His Father’s commands.
Yeshua’s command to us was, “(v.12) This is my command: that you keep on loving each other just as I have loved you”. Sometimes the depth of our love for one another is stretched and tested but we have to remember we are commanded to love one another as He loved us. Love bears all things, believes all things, Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13
We are no longer slaves we are free men! By our exodus from slavery in Egypt and by our salvation by the blood of the Lamb from the law of sin that was at work in us, we are free. This liberation allows us to obey His Word - we are no longer under bondage to sin that we should serve it, but are now ‘servants’ of righteousness. Romans 6:15-23
We each have a choice everyday of our lives as to whether we are going to be like a Caleb and press on to the mark and not let the giants of our world intimidate us. Or we can allow people to move us away from doing what the Scriptures obviously tell us and thereby put the Testimony of Yeshua and obedience to the Torah, off into a future time.
Sometimes our greatest enemies are those like Moab and Edom - of the same heritage, but living outside the promises and indulging in fleshly lusts and idolatrous worship. These things must be overcome before we can gain an entrance into our inheritance, whether they are within ourselves or coming from without - they are positioned before the entrance to the inheritance and will seek to bring us under their dominion either by subtlety as with Moab or by outright contest as with Edom.
It is each of our choice, whether we receive a “well done good and faithful servant” at the end of the journey or whether He will say “I never knew you”. The deciding factor will be our relationship - being in the Vine through an observance of His commands. We need to get to know Him Who is life eternal, for He is the Way the Truth and the Life and no one comes to the Father except through Him. Only in an ongoing relationship of knowing Him are we ‘branches’ for the flow of His divine life.