These days, a Creator Who made the heavens, Earth, plants, creatures and people is scoffed at by many, including ever more in the Body of Messiah. But this week’s Torah portion, בְּרֵאשִׁית B’reisheet (“In the beginning,” Genesis 1:1-6:8), reminds us why Yeshua (Jesus) taught that this is important real history undergirding our faith.
“This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” (Hebrews 6:19–20 NASB)
Some teach that the Day of Atonement (יוֹם הַכִּפֻּרִים Yom haKippurim, “Day of Coverings”) is a day when the people of God plead their case that their good will outweigh their bad on Heaven’s scale. Rather, God’s word teaches that we can have sober, humble, repentant confidence in what God’s Mashiakh (Christ) has done to cover and remove ours mistakes, disobedience and treason.
One of the key themes of the Bible book of Leviticus is the Tabernacle as Heaven’s way to bring those “far off” from God’s presence near by the spilled life of the substitute, the sin offering. This also is the key theme of the book of Hebrews, but it takes the message further in showing Who always has been doing the real work of reconciliation, with and without an earthly Tabernacle or Temple.
“If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us. My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.” (1John 1:10–2:2 NASB)
Being “Torah-observant” is not a “holier than thou” pursuit of perfection. Rather, it’s about listening to the Creator, observing where our lifestyles diverge from Heaven’s instructions and seeking return to the LORD’s ways. That restoration is possible by the perfect Atonement Offering, the Mashiakh (Christ). That’s the lesson of the Torah reading הַאֲזִינוּ Ha’azinu (“listen”) and a good preview of Yom haKippurim (Day of Atonement).
Yom Teruah (Day of Blowing [Trumpets]) has a number of nicknames, such as Rosh haShanah (New Year). Regardless of what you call it, Yom Teruah has a special purpose in God’s calendar. It’s a day of remembrance, a day of gathering, a day of awakening and a day of offerings. But mostly, it’s the Judgment Day. It’s a day when the wicked are judged and the righteous are vindicated by the Mashiakh (Messiah).
Apostles Paul and Yokhanan wrote a lot about this day, as did the prophets. May your Judgment Day end on a sweet note!
A common misconception about God’s Law is that it’s all about perfection, that it’s unrealistic in a fallen world. Rather, the capstone passage of the Torah — reading הַאֲזִינוּ Ha’azinu (“listen,” Deuteronomy 32) — recounts Israel’s screwups past, present and future as well as the LORD’s mercy and plan for redemption.
It should be no surprise, then, that the final acts of God’s redemption give the “song of Moses” (Deuteronomy 32) double-billing with the “song of the Lamb” (Revelation 15:3).
We don’t have to go to Heaven ourselves to learn God’s Law; we don’t have to die to keep it. God’s Law is so close to us, we can taste it. That’s a key lesson in the dual Torah reading נִצָּבִים Nitzavim (“standing,” Deuteronomy 29:9–30:20) and וַיֵּלֶךְ Vayelech (“he went,” Deuteronomy 31:1–30). God’s words are to be “right at the tip of our tongue,” so when we it in our “mouths,” we can “swallow” it and incorporate it into our everyday lives.
As with other parts of life, we have to cross-check our thoughts and actions with Scripture. This is why the book of Deuteronomy has been given us. We know that Messiah Yeshua followed Torah to the letter, and we can look at His perfect example to follow it ourselves.
The book of Deuteronomy applies to us, regardless of where we come from, whether we are born Israelites or grafted into Israel (Romans 11). It is addressed to everyone from the lowest servant to the highest leader, all those who believe in God.
In the previous Torah reading, כי תבוא Ki Tavo, we learned the importance of having character that survives stressors big and small. The first part of this week’s double reading, נִצָּבִים Nitzavim (“standing,” Deut. 29:9–30:20), underscores the building blocks of that character: loving the LORD with all our heart, soul, strength and mind. We learn that the “New Covenant,” or “New Testament” really isn’t so new, but choosing a lifestyle that leads to life and not death does require us to leave our old “dead works” behind.
“Be strong and courageous.” Imagine getting that advice as you’re being sent out to accomplish something you feel totally unprepared for. Those were some of the last words Moshe (Moses) left as Israel was about to enter the Promised Land. What counts is how much trust you have in the one in charge. That baton was passing, but the people had to remember the One ultimately leading and fighting for them. The second part of this week’s reading, וַיֵּלֶךְ Vayelech (“he went,” Deut. 31:1–30), introduces what’s really the second verse of the “song of Moses,” mentioned in Rev. 15:3.