And he went
Hosea 14:2-10; Micah 7:18-20; Joel 2:15-27
“The Strong and Courageous Never Forsaken”
by Mark Huey
As Moses, the prophet to Israel (Deuteronomy 18:15, 18; Acts 3:22; 7:37), comes to the completion of his exemplary life—he gave the people some sobering, prophetic realities to consider, along with some encouraging words to contend with their ultimate destiny, in this week’s Torah portion. After all, Moses knew that his pleadings to accompany the Israelites into the Promised Land had been denied by the Holy One, because of his presumptuous actions taken at the waters of Meribah (Numbers 20:6-13):
“I also pleaded with the LORD at that time, saying, ‘O Lord GOD, You have begun to show Your servant Your greatness and Your strong hand; for what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do such works and mighty acts as Yours? Let me, I pray, cross over and see the fair land that is beyond the Jordan, that good hill country and Lebanon.’ But the LORD was angry with me on your account, and would not listen to me; and the LORD said to me, ‘Enough! Speak to Me no more of this matter’” (Deuteronomy 3:23-26).
But as a prime example of a good shepherd understanding his sheep, and the future challenges Israel would face and endure, Moses wanted to encourage them to be strong and courageous as they conquered Canaan. Moses noted that because the Lord had sworn to give this territory to their ancestors, He would never categorically fail or forsake His chosen nation:
“So Moses went and spoke these words to all Israel. And he said to them, ‘I am a hundred and twenty years old today; I am no longer able to come and go, and the LORD has said to me, “You shall not cross this Jordan.” It is the LORD your God who will cross ahead of you; He will destroy these nations before you, and you shall dispossess them. Joshua is the one who will cross ahead of you, just as the LORD has spoken. The LORD will do to them just as He did to Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites, and to their land, when He destroyed them. The LORD will deliver them up before you, and you shall do to them according to all the commandments which I have commanded you. Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.’ Then Moses called to Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, ‘Be strong and courageous, for you shall go with this people into the land which the LORD has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall give it to them as an inheritance. The LORD is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed’” (Deuteronomy 31:1-8).
In this opening statement, Moses concluded with the admonition to not be fearful or dismayed, as the Israelites would contend with what must have appeared, to them, to be overwhelming odds given the whole host of people groups that had to be conquered and displaced. Instead of fearing these mortal enemies and what they could possibly do to them, there is the constant reminder that the Lord desired a consistent fear or reverence of Him and His ability and desire to accomplish His will for the ages. But even with a genuine fear of the Holy One (Leviticus 25:17-18, et. al.), perhaps leading to “self-righteous” behavior, it was ultimately not Israel’s status which was to result in the expulsion of the wicked inhabitants of Canaan. Rather, as stated earlier in Deuteronomy 9, God simply confirmed the oath He swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—noting how these descendants of theirs are inherently a stubborn people:
“Hear, O Israel! You are crossing over the Jordan today to go in to dispossess nations greater and mightier than you, great cities fortified to heaven, a people great and tall, the sons of the Anakim, whom you know and of whom you have heard it said, ‘Who can stand before the sons of Anak?’ Know therefore today that it is the LORD your God who is crossing over before you as a consuming fire. He will destroy them and He will subdue them before you, so that you may drive them out and destroy them quickly, just as the LORD has spoken to you. Do not say in your heart when the LORD your God has driven them out before you, ‘Because of my righteousness the LORD has brought me in to possess this land,’ but it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is dispossessing them before you. It is not for your righteousness or for the uprightness of your heart that you are going to possess their land, but it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD your God is driving them out before you, in order to confirm the oath which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Know, then, it is not because of your righteousness that the LORD your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stubborn people”(Deuteronomy 9:1-6).
Spiritual pride, that can originate from the thought that a man or woman is a part of God’s own, is something which is spoken against by Him in V’yeilekh—and with which all those who claim to follow Him since, is something that needs to be reckoned with.
In the narrative, Moses returns to some of the basic instructions given to Israel, in order to prevent “self-righteous” pride welling up in the hearts of Israel. Emphasis on the fact that Moses specifically wrote down this part of the Torah, entrusted its application to the Levites with the portage of the Ark of the Covenant, and the admonition that the Sabbath rest for the Promised Land and remission of debts be remembered during the Feast of Booths at the place He will choose—has great meaning today, as Sukkot or the Feast of Tabernacles is about to commence for us in a little over a week:
“So Moses wrote this law and gave it to the priests, the sons of Levi who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and to all the elders of Israel. Then Moses commanded them, saying, ‘At the end of every seven years, at the time of the year of remission of debts, at the Feast of Booths, when all Israel comes to appear before the LORD your God at the place which He will choose, you shall read this law in front of all Israel in their hearing. Assemble the people, the men and the women and children and the alien who is in your town, so that they may hear and learn and fear the LORD your God, and be careful to observe all the words of this law. Their children, who have not known, will hear and learn to fear the LORD your God, as long as you live on the land which you are about to cross the Jordan to possess” (Deuteronomy 31:9-13).
Notable, in these final instructions, is the direction that not only are the Israelite men required to hear the Torah read—but also the women, children, and the sojourner in the community. The fear of the Lord and observance of the words of His Law are intended for all of His people. That the same standard of instruction would generally apply, to all of God’s people, was likely as controversial an assertion in ancient times—as it is in noticeable sectors of today’s Messianic movement. There is a definite impetus for all in the broad community of Ancient Israel to be instructed from the Torah, that they might understand the will and purposes of the Heavenly Father.
At this point, Moses reluctantly acknowledged the reality of his impending death, and prepared to commission Joshua as his successor. However, there is the lamentable prophecy that Israel would play the harlot with strange gods, forsaking the Lord and breaking their covenant with Him. This would ultimately result in a period of time when the Lord would hide His face from Israel and allow them to be consumed with many evils and difficulties (cf. Deuteronomy chs. 28-29):
“Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Behold, the time for you to die is near; call Joshua, and present yourselves at the tent of meeting, that I may commission him.’ So Moses and Joshua went and presented themselves at the tent of meeting. The LORD appeared in the tent in a pillar of cloud, and the pillar of cloud stood at the doorway of the tent. The LORD said to Moses, ‘Behold, you are about to lie down with your fathers; and this people will arise and play the harlot with the strange gods of the land, into the midst of which they are going, and will forsake Me and break My covenant which I have made with them. Then My anger will be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them and hide My face from them, and they will be consumed, and many evils and troubles will come upon them; so that they will say in that day, “Is it not because our God is not among us that these evils have come upon us?” But I will surely hide My face in that day because of all the evil which they will do, for they will turn to other gods” (Deuteronomy 31:14-18).
For those seeking the face of the Maker today, these words should have significant meaning, because He is consistently watching over His Word to perform it (Jeremiah 1:12). Modern-day followers of Yeshua the Messiah, who have been purchased by His blood sacrifice, must be reminded that He will never forsake His beloved ones. Yet, there are a number of additional possible entrapments that each one of us needs to be mindful of, as detailed by the author of Hebrews:
“Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, ‘I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU’ [Deuteronomy 31:6], so that we confidently say, ‘THE LORD IS MY HELPER, I WILL NOT BE AFRAID. WHAT WILL MAN DO TO ME? [Psalm 118:6]’ Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith. Yeshua the Messiah is the same yesterday and today and forever. Do not be carried away by varied and strange teachings; for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, through which those who were so occupied were not benefited” (Hebrews 13:5-9).
In this contextually parallel passage, all should prayerfully consider not only the temptation to serve the perceived security of accumulated wealth, since no one can serve two masters (Matthew 6:24)—but the additional warning not to be carried away by varied and strange teachings. Today, with the proliferation of access to a plethora of teachings readily available on the Internet—and the fact that the Apostolic Writings are replete with cautions about false prophets, false teachers, and deceiving spirits (i.e., Matthew 7:15; Galatians 2:4; 2 Corinthians 11:13; 1 Timothy 4:1; 2 Timothy 2:16, 3:13; 2 Peter 2:1-3; Jude 1:4)—all Believers, both ancient and modern, have been admonished to test the spirits (1 John 4:11). We are to surely examine the spiritual fruit of teachers and their teachings (Matthew 12:30-33).
Moses left the people of Israel with a tried and true prescription for overcoming evils and temptations. Moses composed a song, which was to be taught, memorized, and recited by God’s people for all future generations. By recalling this—and by extension immersing one’s mind in the infallible Word of God—Messiah followers today are to have these precious words of life buried in their hearts, so that they may ring forth from their lips and be faithful and true witnesses to the efficacy of His Word. It is primarily due to the power of God’s Word, that when evils and troubles arrive—and they will for every generation—it is the recollection of His Word which restores confidence in God and His promises:
“‘Now therefore, write this song for yourselves, and teach it to the sons of Israel; put it on their lips, so that this song may be a witness for Me against the sons of Israel. For when I bring them into the land flowing with milk and honey, which I swore to their fathers, and they have eaten and are satisfied and become prosperous, then they will turn to other gods and serve them, and spurn Me and break My covenant. Then it shall come about, when many evils and troubles have come upon them, that this song will testify before them as a witness (for it shall not be forgotten from the lips of their descendants); for I know their intent which they are developing today, before I have brought them into the land which I swore.’ So Moses wrote this song the same day, and taught it to the sons of Israel” (Deuteronomy 31:19-22).
The commissioning of Joshua shortly took place before the assembling of all of the Israelites and the high priest Eleazar, so that they would all know beyond a shadow of doubt, that the Holy One through Moses was ordaining his successor (cf. Numbers 27:15-23):
“Then Moses spoke to the LORD, saying, ‘May the LORD, the God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation, who will go out and come in before them, and who will lead them out and bring them in, so that the congregation of the LORD will not be like sheep which have no shepherd.’ So the LORD said to Moses, ‘Take Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand on him; and have him stand before Eleazar the priest and before all the congregation, and commission him in their sight. You shall put some of your authority on him, in order that all the congregation of the sons of Israel may obey him. Moreover, he shall stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall inquire for him by the judgment of the Urim before the LORD. At his command they shall go out and at his command they shall come in, both he and the sons of Israel with him, even all the congregation.’ Moses did just as the LORD commanded him; and he took Joshua and set him before Eleazar the priest and before all the congregation. Then he laid his hands on him and commissioned him, just as the LORD had spoken through Moses” (Numbers 27:15-23).
Note that in this description of Moses extending his leadership authority to Joshua, the presence of an advisory judgment capacity via the priesthood. There is an arrangement of governmental/military/authority leadership, along with the related counsel of those dedicated to serving God in a full-time capacity. As recorded down through the history of Israel—and perhaps evident even today, when a country or people group disregards the Biblically balanced counsel delivered from various spiritual leaders to governmental authorities—problems ensue.
During the commissioning of Joshua, Moses exhorted Joshua to be strong and courageous in his new responsibilities to lead Israel. The Torah was to be placed beside the Ark of Covenant, as a written witness against the people, for their offenses committed. Due to Moses’ experience of leading the Israelites through forty years of sojourning in the desert, he detailed how they were a rebellious, stubborn, stiff-necked people expected to rebel even more after his death. Our Torah portion ends with a sure reminder that there is a song to come, which would be helpful in eventually overcoming the judgment of the last days, due to the evil actions that would provoke the anger of the Lord:
“Then He commissioned Joshua the son of Nun, and said, ‘Be strong and courageous, for you shall bring the sons of Israel into the land which I swore to them, and I will be with you.’ It came about, when Moses finished writing the words of this law in a book until they were complete, that Moses commanded the Levites who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD, saying, ‘Take this book of the law and place it beside the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, that it may remain there as a witness against you. For I know your rebellion and your stubbornness; behold, while I am still alive with you today, you have been rebellious against the LORD; how much more, then, after my death? Assemble to me all the elders of your tribes and your officers, that I may speak these words in their hearing and call the heavens and the earth to witness against them. For I know that after my death you will act corruptly and turn from the way which I have commanded you; and evil will befall you in the latter days, for you will do that which is evil in the sight of the LORD, provoking Him to anger with the work of your hands.’ Then Moses spoke in the hearing of all the assembly of Israel the words of this song, until they were complete:” (Deuteronomy 31:23-30).
Because one has to wait until next week’s reading to hear the words of Moses’ song, we will simply have to anticipate God’s revelation until then. But, it is perhaps providential this week (2012), that V’yeilekh falls between Yom Teruah/Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur—as people are preparing to afflict their souls, in order to reassess where they stand individually and corporately before the Lord. There is an ancient Jewish tradition, that after taking the thirty days of the month of Elul to examine one’s relationship with the Almighty, that during the ten days from the first to the tenth of Tishri, people seriously take the time to ask forgiveness and seek any reconciliation and/or restitution that is required with those who might have been offended in the previous year by inappropriate actions or words. It is highly recommended that every one truly seeking to please the Lord consider this approach, especially because it very much mirrors an admonition of Yeshua’s, as He directed His followers to seek restoration with others at all times:
“You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER’ [Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:17] and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell. Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering. Make friends quickly with your opponent at law while you are with him on the way, so that your opponent may not hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. Truly I say to you, you will not come out of there until you have paid up the last cent” (Matthew 5:21-26).
As many have experienced when dealing with different offenses which can erupt in various ways during human interactions, one must be humble and contrite, coupled with strength and courage—to muster what it takes to obey Yeshua’s critical command to seek reconciliation with those offended. After all, the fleshly thoughts of people have a propensity to justify offensive behavior, by being convinced that whatever was done (right or wrong) can be rationalized by an indignation to protect one’s presumed self-interest. This attitude contradicts the thought of the Apostle Paul, who indicated how it is the Messiah who lived in him:
“I have been crucified with Messiah; and it is no longer I who live, but Messiah lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Galatians 2:20).
Faithful followers of the Messiah should be dead to sin and instead slaves to righteousness (Romans 6:11-23)—and with this the willingness to seek restitution with others should prevail. Hence, we may find that the often-repeated expression, “two wrongs do not make a right,” is a clever reminder that people empowered by the Holy Spirit should, without hesitation, follow the commands of Yeshua to love one another. And we are also certainly told, “If possible, and to the extent that it depends on you, live in peace with all people” (Romans 12:18, CJB). After all, like the words of Moses given to Israel as important direction and instruction—so the words of Yeshua and His Apostles have also been preserved, so that every born again Believer seeking His good pleasure can receive His approval as good and faithful servants.
Just like the promises of the Almighty One to Moses to never forsake Israel—Yeshua will never leave or forsake the redeemed in Him. But, He will be disappointed and limit Himself from us, if we persist to ignore His basic instructions, because we convince ourselves that we know better. Guess what? Our struggling flesh does not know better, despite its justifications. The sooner we confess this reality and obey His basic instructions, the sooner those called by His Name will achieve all that He has destined them to accomplish!
In this week of reflection leading to restitution, humble yourself while being strengthened and encouraged by the Living Word. Strive to be more useful in advancing His Kingdom, until the restoration of all things…