Category Archives: Torah

Deuteronomy 4:20-49: Love v. knowledge

“So watch yourselves, that you do not forget the covenant of the LORD your God which He made with you, and make for yourselves a graven image in the form of anything against which the LORD your God has commanded you.” (Deuteronomy 4:23 NASB)

God is referring to the 10 commandments in this verse. The entire book of Deuteronomy is about the 10 commandments. 

God made a covenant with Abraham, Issac and Jacob about the inheritance of the Promised Land, which he is in the process of fulfilling. He made a separate covenant with the generation Moses is addressing in Deuteronomy. 

Deuteronomy reveals the mind of the Eternal. This book shows us how God sees us and sees the world. Want to know how to be holy? Read Deuteronomy. 

God didn’t tell the prophets everything, He speaks to them in visions and dreams. This is not the case with Moses. Moses was unique in all the world since the Almighty told Moses everything plainly and clearly. 

God continues to hammer the point that He doesn’t want us to make any “graven image” to represent Him. Humans do have a tendency to need something to touch and associate with emotionally. This is true across many different religion expressions. 

The most powerful thing that comes out of our mouths are our words. When our words are hateful, they are powerful. Words can destroy a child, a friend or our own lives. Words can also lift up a child, a friend and ourselves. 

Our society is very secular and evolutionary in its process. We are taught that humanity are becoming better with each passing generation. Yet, when someone is depressed or has some other problem, we give them a drug to try to re-wire their brain. Often, those drugs do more harm than good. Rather than going to the Source to resolve our depression, our first inclination is to take a drug. 

“When you become the father of children and children’s children and have remained long in the land, and act corruptly, and make an idol in the form of anything, and do that which is evil in the sight of the LORD your God so as to provoke Him to anger,” (Deuteronomy 4:25 NASB)

When Jacob reached old age, he said his days were “long and evil” yet he carried on. I’ve had ups and downs in my life but I can’t say that my life has been “long and evil.” Jacob never gave up. He was a very brave man. He lived a life of turmoil. 

God might put you in a situation where He gives you a lot of material blessing and then He will take it away, not as a punishment, but to test you out, to find out what you really are inside. He holds back to test our hearts to see if we will do what is just, right and holy when times are rough. 

There’s a direct correlation between the increase in knowledge and a decrease in our love and fear of God. Proverbs says that the knowledge and fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. The increase of knowledge is a decrease in fear of the Lord. The more God blessed the children of Israel while they were in the land, the more complacent they became and the more they desired to go after idols and false gods. The more civilized society got, the more corrupt it got. 

The Apostle Paul warned that knowledge can puff up and look down on people who live up to the word of God as we know it. The fear of God is knowing God. When you aren’t in awe of God anymore and think you can know God from archaeology or linguistic studies, this is a dangerous slope. 

If you don’t love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, the knowledge you received will become a weapon to use against people or even against God. Satan was very smart and good-looking, yet his knowledge destroyed him. 

A wise person is a person who knows how to apply knowledge properly. When you receive knowledge from God, use it for His glory, not your glory. He gives you wisdom through trials. Knowledge leads to wisdom. 

You can tell who the trial is actually for by who is troubled the most by the trial. If you pay attention to other people’s trials, learn from their trials, God won’t have to give that trial to you. 

If you give your life over to idols, whether they are physical or spiritual, God will scatter you. Have you ever felt scattered or sent away? Have you ever had to leave a comfortable place? A scattered person has lost something and becomes an alien. 

We complain about the “aliens” from the South but if God were to evict you from America and send you to another country, you will become a foreigner somewhere else and will not be liked. You will not be in the majority, but a minority and vulnerable. 

That is what happened to the Jews, they were scattered in small pockets into many nations. How would you feel if you lived in a country in which you were a minority and did not have the same rights as the majority? 

If you live in God’s house and refuse to live by His rules, He has no choice but to evict you. He wants us to live with Him but if we despise Him and treat Him with contempt, He can’t allow us to live with Him and has no choice but to kick us out. 

It takes work to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. Loving God is not just about emotion but more about action. 

God will have to send them away to countries where they don’t know God or love God. The people will have no choice but to reach out to God or be assimilated. But God doesn’t want His people to assimilate into the pagan cultures around them. 

The reason the children of Israel will return to God is found in Deut. 4:28. 

“There you will serve gods, the work of man’s hands, wood and stone, which neither see nor hear nor eat nor smell.” (Deuteronomy 4:28 NASB)

The children of Israel ended up serving gods who didn’t care about them at all. They served gods who didn’t love them, or even appreciate them. The “principalities of the air” aren’t trying to draw men and women to worship them because they love them. They want power, submission and control over people, they have no interest in mankind’s well being at all. 

The “principalities of the air” won’t give their only begotten son to die for us and to give us eternal life. There is only one God who has that kind of love. 

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8 NASB)

God offers love while the “principalities of the air” offer enlightenment and knowledge. That is what the Serpent offered Eve. 

“But from there you will seek the LORD your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul. “When you are in distress and all these things have come upon you, in the latter days you will return to the LORD your God and listen to His voice. “For the LORD your God is a compassionate God; He will not fail you nor destroy you nor forget the covenant with your fathers which He swore to them.” (Deuteronomy 4:29–31 NASB)

God will reestablish the 10 commandments. He will establish the covenant that He never forgot. 

“Know therefore today, and take it to your heart, that the LORD, He is God in heaven above and on the earth below; there is no other.” (Deuteronomy 4:39 NASB)

God does not have an equal. God is the only one who gave His Son for us. God is the only one who wants a relationship with people and gives more to people than He takes. God wants us to be holy, clean and be like Him. 

God has shown us exactly how He wants us to walk. There’s no mystery there. That’s what the 10 commandments are all about. 

We need to read what God says, not what interpreters say God says. 

“Now this is the law which Moses set before the sons of Israel; these are the testimonies and the statutes and the ordinances which Moses spoke to the sons of Israel, when they came out from Egypt, across the Jordan, in the valley opposite Beth-peor, in the land of Sihon king of the Amorites who lived at Heshbon, whom Moses and the sons of Israel defeated when they came out from Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 4:44–46 NASB)

Why was it important for Moses to repeat God’s law at this particular point and location? This is immediately before they are going to enter the Promised Land. 

Think back to when you were baptized? Why did you want to be baptized? Fear of our past? Acceptance? Obedience? Salvation? 

Why did God want you to be baptized before crossing over? God is bringing them into His world, into His land and He wants them to know what rules they needed to follow to continue to live in the Promised Land. 

God made a covenant with the children of Israel. He fulfilled His end by bringing them out of Egypt. They were to fulfill their end by following his commandments. On the other side of the Jordan was the Promised Land. God cares so much that He killed His Son. That was the price paid so we can cross over. 

We are to count the cost and keep counting the cost to make sure the count is still there. 

Deuteronomy 4:12-20: You saw no form (of God) on the Mountain

Moses reminds the children of Israel in Deu. 4:15 that they are to “…Watch yourselves carefully, since you did not see any form on the day the LORD spoke to you at Horeb from the midst of the fire.” This is repeated several times to emphasize God’s admonition against idolatry but Moses also prophesies they will ignore this warning and God will have to rebuke them harshly for their idolatry.

Thought Questions

  • What subject matter starts Deut. 4?
    • What is the common perceptions of Moses in movies?
    • How does Deuteronomy change that picture of him?
    • Does it give a clue as to what is meant by the saying “a prophet after Moses”?
  • How does this book describe an interaction between Moshe and God that is similar to the ineteractions and relationship between Yeshua and the Father?
  • What do you think of as attributes of “the kingdom of God”?
    • What does God wan us to do in his Kingdom as described in Deut. 4?
  • How can we have love flowing from our hearts from the 10 Words, the 10 commandments?
  • Why did God give the 10 words as described in the “First Word”, aka the “Jewish version” of the First commandment?
  • Which one of the Words is aimed at government?
  • What did Moshe say about the importance of the 10 words in Deut. 4:9?
  • What’s the difference between saying “I believe God” and “I believe in God”?
  • WHy does Moshe say “you saw no form” (Deut. 4:15) again and again?
    • How is this connected with the temptation of idolatry?
    • How does depicting God limit your belief?
    • How is this similar to the reaction of Yeshua’s neigbors in Nazareth to his Minstry?
    • What is dangerous about dwelling on the passage “God is love” or saying “God is this or that”?
  • How is this connected to the challenge in obeying the commandment to “honor your mother and father”?
  • Should we make images of fish, doves, stars of David?
    • What are God’s symbols?
    • Are they images of God?
  • Are there any other spiritual beings who have brought human beings to themselves for the benefit of their followers?
    • Which “prinicipalities of the air” really loves you?
  • What was the purpose of the 40 years in the wilderness for Israel?
    • How is this similar to Messiah’s saying that He can make sons of Abraham out of stones?
  • Does God love you with all His heart, with all His soul, and all His strength?
    • What are we looking into through the book of Deuteronomy?

 

Deuteronomy 4:1–11: Keep your soul diligently

Scripture tells us that man’s heart is “deceitful above all things.” This chapter gives us some guidelines on how a believer is to train his/her heart so it is inclined towards God rather than towards the cares of this world. Deut. 4 teaches us to follow God’s statutes, judgements and commands. We are also called to understand that giving our heart to God is not a one time decision but as it says in Deut. 4:9, “Only give heed to yourself and keep your soul diligently, so that you do not forget the things which your eyes have seen and they do not depart from your heart all the days of your life…”

Thought questions Continue reading Deuteronomy 4:1–11: Keep your soul diligently

Deuteronomy 2–3: Conquering foes old and new

As the second generation of Israel post-Mitsraim (Egypt) prepared to enter the Promised Land after 40 years of banishment, the people must face foes that wouldn’t quit and had long histories with Israel. Trust in Israel’s Savior gave the people courage to conquer those enemies. Likewise, our trust in God can bring us through even the most seemingly unwinnable struggle.

Thought questions

  • Was YHWH’s (the LORD) action to make Sihon king of Heshbon “stubborn” and “obstinate” (Deuteronomy 2:30) similar to the “hardening” of Pharoah’s heart during the 10 plagues before the exodus of Israel from Egypt (Exodus 7–14)?
  • What does it mean when God said He “hated” Esau and “loved” Ya’akov (Jacob) in Malachi 1?
    • If God hated Esau, why would he not allow Israel to conquer the land of Esau’s descendants, Edom?
  • Some translations of the Bible have passages in parentheses, like Deuteronomy 2:10–12. Why is that?
    • Who was Amalek, as first mentioned in Exodus 17?
      • How was Amalek related to Israel?
    • When did Israel actually conquer Seir and regions east of the Yarden (Jordan) River, which forms Israel’s eastern border?
    • Why is the other name for the book of Deuteronomy Devarim, Hebrew for “words”?
  • Where in the Land of Israel is the Zered Valley?
    • What was so significant about the people and cities of the two kings that Israel had to displace?
  • What does the Hebrew word for “courage” communicate?
    • How is “courage” related to faith in God?
      • How did Israel have faith — courage — in God in entering the Promised Land?
    • Why did Moshe fall face-down before God when the people challenged his authority (Numbers 16:3–5)?
      • How, then, do we face challenges in our lives?
      • What does God do with our boasting in our strength?

Deuteronomy 1: Charter for born-again Israel

There are times we just want a do-over on our lives, to hit the reset button. Ancient Israel needed such a new beginning after repeated rebellions against the LORD, the Savior from bondage in Mitsraim (Egypt), led to the nation’s judgment to remain outside the Promised Land for 40 years, until the first generation died out.

Thus begins the “second telling,” or deuteronomy, of who Israel was, where the nation was going and why. It’s also lesson for the “new creation” we become in the eyes of Heaven because of Yeshua haMashiakh (Jesus the Christ).

Thought questions

  • Why does it say “Mt. Sinai” and “Mt. Horeb” when referring to the same mountain?
    • What writer wrote Deuteronomy?
    • How are the three different authors found in the Torah compare to the three synoptic gospels?
    • How do critics use the book of Deuteronomy to dispute the route Israel took from Egypt to the Promised Land, i.e. the Land of Israel?
  • Why did Moshe (Moses) go through this history in this chapter?
    • Why is that history so important to our spiritual lives?
  • Where is Mt. Seir, and how do we know whether it was on what is now called the Sinai Peninsula?
  • Where is the desert of Paran in relation to the Promised Land?
  • What does suph mean in Hebrew, commonly translated as “reed,” as in the “Sea of Reeds”?
    • How language does suph actually come from, rather than from Hebrew?
    • What is the Hebrew meaning of Edom, the nation descended from Yitzkhak’s (Isaac) son Esau that occupied the area southeast of the Dead Sea south to the northeastern shore of what is now called the Gulf of Aqabah?
    • How does that meaning of Edom point to where the Red Sea really is?
  • How does this account give us a deeper perspective of the events of the exodus of Israel from slavery in Egypt and the wanderings of Israel in the wilderness?
  • What was the difference between how Moshe related to God and how other prophets related to Him?
    • What did YHWH (the LORD) mean when He told Moshe that He would “raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him” (Deuteronomy 18:15)?
    • Why is it important to “hear Moshe” first then “hear the Lamb,” or the Messiah, as suggested in Revelation 15:13?
    • What was the purpose of the “New Testament,” according to Jeremiah 31?
    • If we can enter the kingdom of God without “listening to Moshe,” i.e. just focusing on the Apostolic Scriptures, is it really necessary to “listen,” to read the Torah and the Prophetic Writings (a.k.a. Old Testament)?
    • What does Messiah’s Parable of the 10 Virgins (Matthew 25) say to this question?
    • Is that parable teaching that God isn’t working in the lives of those who don’t have God’s oil, His Word, in their minds?
  • Why did Moshe go to the mountain a second time?
    • How does it relate to Moshe’s relationship with God?
    • Why did God have Moshe cut the two stone tablets out to have God write on them?
    • How does it relate to Jeremiah 31?
    • Where were the second set of tablets put versus being broken?

Numbers 34–36: Big vision for Israel’s borders in Messianic age

The borders of the modern state of Israel are a fraction of the territory the LORD granted the long ago. The promises for a much larger area from Genesis to Revelation speak to the wider vision of many nations in the Kingdom of Heaven and how our vision for our own potential may be too narrow.

Thought questions

Numbers 34

  • Why is it important to know the borders of the Promised Land God brought Israel into?
    • Which location did God start from in delineating Israel’s borders?
    • What are the meanings of the names of these places?
    • What’s the connection of the location of the southern border and where the spies entered?
    • Where is Mt. Hor on the northern border?
  • When looking at modern Israel, how does it compare to the land God established?
    • What about the writings in the prophets about Israel being cast out of the land?
    • Upon Messiah’s return, will the inheritance go to the original owners (Ezek. 47:13-20)?

Numbers 35

  • What is the significance of the names of people?
    • What do the names mean, such as Ephraim and Manasseh?
  • How many cities did the Levites inherit in the land and where were those cities located?
  • How does God view murder and capital punishment?
    • Is the ransoming of a murderer what we call a “plea bargain”?
      • Does God see different degrees of murder, like we do today?
      • How does this compare with the passage, “Vengeance is mine, says the LORD, I will repay” (Deut. 32:35)?
    • Is the rite about the “blood avenger” advocating lynching?
      • How do the refuge cities factor into this?
    • Modern case law and pundits say that capital punishment makes society no better than the murderer. Does this mean that God is “mean,” “barbaric” or “archaic”?
      • How does the account of the Flood and God’s reaction to having to send it answer this question?
      • What does this chapter say about the attitude of the blood avenger in carrying out the execution?
    • How does bloodshed pollute the land?
    • What is the lesson of capital punishment and the sacrifices?
      • What is the connection between the Messiah and the blood avenger?

Numbers 32–33: Reuben and Gad linger east of Jordan; remembering the Exodus

We may be tempted to give up when the end of our jobs, our relationships or lives are looming. Yet Moshe embodies apostle Paul’s encouragement to “fight the good fight” and “run the race” with all we have until we reach our goal or it’s time to pass the baton to the next person. Moshe encouraged the tribes of Reuben and Gad to pitch in to the hard settlement of Canaan, even when their new home was secured.

Thought questions

  • What are the “high places”?
  • How many campsites were there between Egypt to the entry into Canaan?
    • What’s the significance of the number of sites?
  • What is the setting of the book of Deuteronomy?
  • Why did Reuben and Gad want to stay on the east side of the Jordan?
    • What was involved in conquering that?
    • What geography is east of that area?
    • What was Moses’ response to their request?
    • What would be the consequence if they weren’t part of the conquest of Canaan?
    • How did God deal with the first generation that rebelled against God?
      • How did God impress this upon the second generation?
    • How would Reuben’s and Gad’s reticence affect the rest of the tribes?
    • How was the message that God got across during the 40 years in the desert related to their relationship to each other and to God?
    • How did Gad and Reuben respond?
      • Did all the people of those two tribes go over the Jordan with the other tribes?
  • Who were the leaders of the people and did most of the leadership?
    • Moshe (Moses)?
    • Aharon (Aaron)?
    • Eleazar?
    • How’s that form of government similar to our form of government?
  • Num. 32:28-30 is one of the first times Moshe makes provision for how things will work after he is no longer around. How long did Moshe have to conquer the east side of Jordan?
    • How was that timeframe connected to Moshe’s  coming death?
    • What does that diligence say about Moshe’s character?
    • What did he realize about the importance of what God has been building in the people of Israel after the Exodus?
  • How is the division of the territory of Manasseh important to keeping the tribes together?
    • What was the significance of the half-tribe that was on the east side of the Jordan?
    • What did Gad andf Reuben do with the cities they conquered? How did the east half of Manasseh do it?
    • How much did Moshe know about Israel’s future?
      • How did that play into the division of the territory of Manasseh?
      • What does that say?
  • Most of the meanings of the of place names in Moses’ list  of camps has been lost. What’s the signifcance in the number of generations to Messiah and the number of campsites from Moshe’s leaving Egypt to Joshua’s entering Canaan?
    • What’s the significance of the multiples of 6 and 7?
    • Some ideas have surfaced about the meaning of the 42 camp sites:
      1. Could they be 42 steps to achieve godliness?
      2. Could the place names be symbolic of the generations connected in the previously mentioned time spans?
        • Ramses to Sukkot
        • Abram to when Abram was called out
  • What were the five requirements for Israel in conquering the land?
    1. Expel people.
    2. Destroy carved images.
    3. Demolish high places.
    4. Divide the land by lots.
    5. Live in the land.
  • How successful was Israel in these five?
    • How do the sages interpret “barbs” and “thorns” in the curse for nonobedience?
    • How did God follow through with this promise to “to to you what I plan to do to them”?