Deuteronomy 1:1–3:22: Growing in grace by every word from God

The roller-coaster ride of ancient Israel through trust in the LORD, apathy and rebellion mirrors the turmoil that swirls around our daily lives.

This week’s Torah reading, דברים Devarim (“words,” Deut. 1:1–3:22), starts a “second telling” — deuteronomy in Greek — to the post-Exodus generation of why Israel exists and what its mission is. The parallel reading in Isaiah 1:1-27 and the Sermon on the Mount teach us how our interpretation of and living out the Ten Commandments and the rest of the Torah can go terribly wrong if we don’t learn the why behind the what of God’s instructions.

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Parashat Devarim (דברים): Deuteronomy 1:1–3:22

The roller-coaster ride of ancient Israel through trust in the LORD, apathy and rebellion mirrors our the turmoil that swirls around our daily lives. This week’s Torah reading, דברים Devarim (“words,” Deut. 1:1-3:22), starts a “second telling,” or deuteronomy, to the post-Exodus generation of why Israel exists and what its mission is.

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Numbers 30-36: We want Messiah to give us rest from our dumb oaths and vows

“’Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, ‘YOU SHALL NOT MAKE FALSE VOWS, BUT SHALL FULFILL YOUR VOWS TO THE LORD.’ But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is THE CITY OF THE GREAT KING. Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil.” (Matthew 5:33–37 NASB)

Yeshua the Messiah (Jesus the Christ) emphasized that vows and oaths are not to be taken lightly. Why then did the Holy One of Israel give instructions about vows and oaths? Part of it is our distance from the original language and meanings of these words. Another part is we aren’t seeing the lessons from Heaven in these instructions, namely, that just as the LORD promises to give a land of rest to Israel, so too, should those who make promises be as faithful to them.

The dual Torah reading מטות Matot (“tribes,” Numbers 30–32) and  מסעי Massei/Mase’y (“journeys of,” Numbers 33–36) take us to the end of the 40 years of wandering judgment against the rebellious first generation post-Mitzraim (Egypt).

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Parashot Matot/Massei (מטות/מסעי): Numbers 30–36

“As God is my witness, I will do that.” Such words can roll off our tongues easily, but we can forget that One is witnessing such a vow and watching to see whether we respect the Creator enough to follow through. That’s why Moshe (Moses), Yeshua haMashiakh (Jesus the Christ) and His apostle Ya’akob (James) warned us against dragging the LORD in to co-sign on our promises.

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Numbers 25:10-29:40: A ‘snake’ again becomes an icon of salvation

Serpents are quiet, cunning, quick to act when a threat is imminent. A serpent bought a curse on mankind (Genesis 3) and we now meet a “serpent” who boldly and decisively saved his people from those who would deceive them to destruction. Later, Eliyahu (Elijah) also learned that God’s preferred way to communicate with His people is not through thunder and lightning but a “still small voice.”

The Torah reading פינחס Pinchas (“Phinehas,” Numbers 25:10–29:40) starts with the culmination of the events in the prior portion (parashah). The culmination of Israel “playing the harlot” with idolatry ended when Pinchas (Phineas), Aaron’s grandson, speared a Shimonite chieftain and a Midianite chieftain’s daughter through with a spear. Both of them were mentioned by name so they were both people of reputation.

“While Israel remained at Shittim, the people began to play the harlot with the daughters of Moab.” (Numbers 25:1 NASB)

This event was so significant, it’s even spoken about in the book of Revelation (Jude 1:11; Revelation 2:14). We can miss the why if we don’t understand the why of the original event.

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Parashat Pinchas (פינחס): Numbers 25:10-30:1

Adultery is seen as no big deal in today’s society. Consider, though, how the hurt person in the relationship feels. That’s why Israel’s running after false gods and treating YHWH with contempt or apathy is compared to adultery many times in Scripture. This kind of unfaithfulness and rebuilding of the relationship between Creator and created is the subtext of this passage — פינחס Pinchas (“Phinehas”).

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Numbers 22:1-25:9: God sent emissaries to the Gentiles too

The prophet Bilam (Balaam) is not an isolated individual, an anomaly in Scripture. He was not the first or last emissary to the Gentiles. God did not leave them without guidance. Bilam is a foreshadowing of the ministry of Saul of Tarsus, aka the apostle Paul, whose experience on the road to Damascus echoes the account in the Torah reading בָּלָק Balak of Bilam’s experience with a “recalcitrant” she-donkey.

Continue reading Numbers 22:1-25:9: God sent emissaries to the Gentiles too