“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. This week’s Torah section, Vayelech (“he went,” Deut. 31:1-30), introduces what’s really the second verse of the “song of Moses,” mentioned in Rev. 15:3.
In the previous Torah section, Ki Tavo, we learned the importance of having character that survives stressors big and small. This week’s portion, 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.
“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, 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. A key point in this passage is entering and living in the “rest” God gives us, fully realized through the Messiah and the Spirit. Like Israel’s move from Mitsraim (Egypt) to the Land, our entering God’s “rest” (Hebrews 3–4) is all about a change of identity, purpose and character.
Murder, adultery, theft, honesty and lust for people and stuff: The Torah passage Ki Tetze (“when you go forth,” Deut. 21:10-25:19) explains what’s under the hood of the Sixth, Seventh, Eighth and Ninth commandments.
Shadows of the prophet status and crucifixion of the Messiah appear in the Torah passage Shoftim (“judges,” Deut. 16:18-21:9). In a section of the Bible focused on codes of justice still used in modern society, there also is hope for the greatest mercy the world has ever seen, in Yeshua haMashiakh (Jesus the Christ).
Common advice in this world is, “Follow your heart.” But in the Torah reading Re’eh (“see,” Deut. 11:26-16:17), we learn that God wants to transform our way of thinking, so our desires will take us in a wiser direction. This section explains the reborn heart approach to the Second, Third and Fourth commandments on blasphemy, idolatry and stopping what we’re doing to remember the rest God gives us.
Some have disregarded Israel at the time of Yeshua the Messiah (Jesus the Christ) ministry and in modern times as having anything to do with Bible prophecy, because of perceived failings of the people in trusting God. But as we see in this week’s Torah reading — עקב Ekev or Eikev (“consequence”), Deut. 7:12-11:25 — God is faithful to His promises. We should be grateful for God’s mercy and bigger plans for our lives.