Parashat Ha’azinu (האזינו): Deuteronomy 32

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).

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Deuteronomy 29:9–31:30: Hungry to get close to God?

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.

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Parashot Nitzavim (נצבים)/Vayelech (וילך): Deuteronomy 29:9–31:20

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.

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Deuteronomy 26:1–29:8: Coveting thankfulness for the LORD’s blessings

There’s more to “you shall not covet” (Exodus 20:17) than lusting after other people’s stuff. That’s the lesson of Torah reading תבוא Ki Tavo (“when you come in,” Deuteronomy 26:1–29:8), which wraps an elaboration of the Ten Commandments that spans most of the book.

Under the hood of the instructions about the thanksgiving ceremony for first fruits of the Land’s crops and the third-year tithe is this message: We also are to be grateful for what the LORD has placed in our hands and use it to produce a “bumper crop” for the Kingdom.

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Parashat Ki Tavo (כי תבוא): Deuteronomy 26:1–29:8

“Correcting” an aggressive driver on the road. “Losing it” with a screaming child in the store. We may think we’re far removed from the horror show described in this week’s Torah reading, כי תבוא Ki Tavo (“when you come in,” Deut. 26:1–29:8), but each of us encounters stress that pushes off any mask over our true characters.

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Parashat Ki Tetze (כי תצא): Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19

Murder, adultery, theft, honesty and lust for people and stuff: The Torah passage כי תצא Ki Tetze or Ki Teitzei (“when you go forth,” Deut. 21:10-25:19) explains what’s under the hood of the Sixth, Seventh, Eighth and Ninth commandments (Ex. 20:13–17).

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Deuteronomy 16:18–21:9: Learn to judge life & death righteously & mercifully

There are shadows of the Messiah in the Torah passage שֹׁפְטִים Shoftim (“judges,” Deuteronomy 16:18–21:9), even down to the ceremony when a community is unable to bring a murderer to justice. There are levels of investigation and a careful pursuit of justice and a balance between the rights of the “avenger” and the rights of the accused.

In Shoftim, Moshe (Moses) elaborates on practical application of the Fifth and Sixth commandments. One lesson is that if you do not have respect for your parents, you lose respect for all kinds of authority, from the babysitters to teachers, employers, police officers, judges, prophets and priests. That disrespect will go all the way up the chain of authority to God Himself.

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