Never give up!
D’Varim (Deut.) 1:1-3:22
Haftorah Reading: Isaiah 1:1-27
Messianic Scripture Hebrews 3:7-4:11
Today I would like to mention a few things concerning the Fast day of Tisha B’Av that begins this evening as Shabbat ends. In English this is the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av. This is one of the most solemn days of the year. What gives it this name? On this day over 2,500 years ago the Babylonians destroyed the first temple in Jerusalem. Exactly five hundred years later the Romans destroyed the second temple. On that same day, in 1492 Queen Isabella decreed that all Jews in Spain must convert to Christianity or be expelled from Spain. During Tisha B’Av we are encouraged to read the book of Lamentations. This book lays out a very vivid picture of the lamenting and mourning that took place over the destruction of the city of G-d.
Now to my thoughts for today. First, I want us to think about where Moshe was in his life as he began this book of D’Varim. He was 119 years old. He knew his last days were quickly approaching. Think of what he had experienced as the leader of these people during the last forty years. He had been told by G-d he would not enter the land, the land he had been moving toward all these years. He had been constantly criticized by the people he was leading. His brother and sister, who shared the pressure of leadership had both died. Neither of his children, Gershom or Eliezer would succeed him. His life seemed to be coming to a tragic end, a destination unreached, his dreams seemingly unfulfilled. What would you do in his place?
The temptation would be to sink into despair. He did not do that. In fact, he accepted a new role, one that God revealed to him. For the last month of his life he brought the people together on the far side of the Jordan across from Jericho. There he taught them the book of D’Varim. He became their teacher and guide for the days, months and years ahead.
As I thought about this over the last week, I came to understand we can never give up and just sit on the couch and watch TV. We should strive to see our life as G-d sees it. There is no retirement in G-d’s plan. We finish our work when we breathe our last breath. Every day G-d has something that only we can do. Never lose hope. Never accept that your life has lost meaning. We all are useful in His kingdom. Remember Moshe’s example.
Now, on to an example of listening to G-d as we go through life. In Deut. 1:42 Moshe was retelling the story of the bad report the spies gave. In Numbers 14:42 we read almost the same wording in the recounting of the event that happened years before except here in our verse there is one small difference. In Hebrew, the first word in our verse today is “lo.” It can be translated something like don’t do it. It is always used as a command when related to some act about to be undertaken. In Numbers the word, ”Al” is used. This word can be used as a command or a request. A small but important difference. Moshe used the word that can only be used for a command. Here in Deut. it is as if Moshe wanted to make sure the people grasped the point of what had been G-d’s will those forty years earlier. It reflected a serious problem the people had. It is a problem we sometimes experience ourselves. Moshe was making the point that from the beginning G-d’s will was for them not to go up to take the land because they had already rejected His word. However, we know that they ignored Moshe and proceeded to go up in their own strength. The outcome was their defeat and forty years of wandering in the desert.
The people paid little attention to what G-d said. They thought they could succeed because surely G-d, in the end, would deliver them. They rushed ahead in their own strength and failed. They thought that surely G-d who go with them. After all, they were the chosen people. He would not allow them to be defeated. When we read these verses we see the result of their false belief that G-d was with them. The only criteria for their success and for ours is for G-d to be with us. We must be moving in His direction not our own. We don’t choose a direction and then presume G-d will bless it.
We see this clearly in the words of Psalms 127:1. “Unless G-d builds the house, its builders work in vain, unless G-d guards the city, the guard keeps watch in vain.” All this seems to show us there is a positive correlation between our obedience to G-d and the presence of G-d in our lives. In Luke 6:47-49 we read the same principle given by Yeshua. This does not mean we will not go through difficulties in our lives. However, it does mean that when those times come G-d will be with us and will give us strength to carry on with His presence around us.
This is where Moshe found himself in our Torah portion today. He was able to carry on and even reinvent himself as a teacher even though he would not cross over the Jordan. I pray this speaks to each of you today. To be solidly in the will of G-d will give us the strength to carry on no matter what happens in our life.