Torah Portion: Devarim (words) Devarim (Deut.) 1:1-3:22
HafTorah: Isaiah 1:1-27
NT John 15:1-11; Hebrews 3:7-4:11
Tonight we read the first Torah portion of the book of Devarim (Deut.). This entire book is somewhat a sermon from Moses to the people. In it we see him sharing and retelling the history of the last 40 years as well as a recounting of the Law from which we get the Greek word that became the common name for the book. We might wonder, why did he spend all this time going back over the Law. Rashi, a great Jewish writer and teacher says, “They (the words of Torah) should be new in your eyes everyday. So we go over the Torah each year and each year find things that speak to us that we never saw before.
Luke 24:45 tells us that Yeshua, after His resurrection, opened their minds to understand the scriptures. What scriptures? The Torah. These were people who had been with Him for three years. He was the Living Torah. Yet there was more to learn. So come, let us look at the words of Torah now.
In Devarim 1:1 we read that Moses spoke to all Israel across the Jordan in the wilderness. In B’Midbar 36:13 we get this location tied down as across from Jericho. One of my questions was, “What else happened here and what might be the connection?” First, think of Moses’ message here. He called them to a recommitment of their lives to G-d, to repent, and to do the will of G-d, before they passed through the river. Now, fast forward a couple of thousand years and what do we find? Someone named John calling Israel to come across the Jordan River and there repent before they entered the Jordan and then entered Israel. Yeshua, to show His devotion to G-d, was one of those who came to John and passed through the water before going back to Israel and the task before Him. John probably picked this place for its association with a similar call of Moses of repentance and a new beginning.
It was also the place where Elijah split the water with his cloak and crossed over before being taken to heaven. Yeshua used this connection to tell the people that John was Elijah who was to precede the Messiah. (Malachi 4:4-5)
Devarim 1:5, Moses expounded the Torah. He wanted to be clear about what G-d expected. Yeshua in His teaching, expounded on scripture by using parables and easy to understand words. We must always be able to talk to people about what we believe in words that they can understand, not being worried about impressing but rather being clear.
Now, I want to look at 1:7, where it talks about the Euphrates calling it the “great river.” Why did Moses call it the great river? It was not the biggest or most famous. Rabbis have struggled with this. Finally, at the time of putting the Talmud together, they came to the conclusion that it was great because it touched the land of Israel at its northern border. This is a common thought that holiness can be transferred from one thing to another by touch. Yeshua as Messiah, the Anointed One, makes us holy by touching us when we confess our sins and place our faith in Him and by that touch receive the Holy Spirit. By that touch, like the river, we became sons and daughters of the king. Pretty wonderful is it not?
Devarim 1:8 uses the word descendants. The Hebrew word used here is “zerah” usually means seed. This helps us to understand Gal. 3:16 where Yeshua as King of the Jews is the ruler over the Land of Israel and over His people. It is the heritage of the Jewish people forever because their King rules over it. Think of it, when we go to Israel, we walk on holy ground, the ground of the King.
Devarim 1:17 says to fear no man. The point here being, to not show favoritism to anyone, poor or rich, famous or not. We are all the same in the sight of G-d. James 2:9, Matt. 22:16
Devarim 1:26 says you rebelled against the command of the L-rd your G-d. Have we ever rebelled against something G-d has shown us? Many times it is easier to go down hill rather than draw closer to the Father. Like the children of Israel here we are not willing to go up, we stay on the ground rather than reaching for the heavens.
Lastly, Tisha B’Av: Why is Isaiah 1:1-27 read on the Sabbath before this day? What is the issue he brings out over and over in these few verses? Israel had fallen, because the people had forgotten who they were. Morals, honesty, caring for widows and orphans had ceased. Rather everyone was out for their own good no matter what they had to do, cheat, steal, depress the poor, whatever. Where did it lead? It led to Israel’s destruction. But G-d promises at the end to restore if they (we) repent and come back.