1.Deut 13:2-5 talks about a problem that I expect we all face at sometimes, false prophets, evil people who seem to prosper. Why does G-d allow people like this to sometimes appear so insightful and successful? Why does He seem to let bad people prosper?

This passage challenges us to not be led astray by a prophet or dreamer of dreams who will lead us away from G-d. The Torah answers that G-d is testing us. Will we choose blessing or curse? If G-d made it obvious to us, warning us, there would be no test. When we face those things that seem askew it becomes more of a challenge to make the G-d centered decision. G-d tests us to measure the depth of our love. Do you love Me? Do you trust me? Now G-d already knows us so this test is not for Him but for us. It is for us to know Him more and to know ourselves. When we remain firm in our belief, despite the physical evidence that might show success lies outside of G-d, we grow closer to Him. We choose the blessing and not the curse. We don’t go looking for tests but when they come we should see them as a chance to grow closer to the Lover of our souls.

Are miracles and signs enough to verify someone who claims to be a prophet? Is success or wealth enough to “kosher” a prophet or anyone who comes into our worship or to which we might go? What is the determining factor? This person must walk after G-d. They must fear G-d.  If they teach something that goes against what G-d word says we must not be deceived. Easy? No, but we must always be on guard. Matthew 24:24 says that even the elect will be deceived. Torah gives us guidelines to guard our worship. Anything that does not move us toward G-d we must avoid.              

2. In Deut. 11:29 we read where Moses tells the people, when they enter the land half of the people are to go to Mt. Gerizim and recite the blessings of G-d. The other half would go to Mt. Ebal and recite the curses found in the Torah for obedience to G-d. Where do we see Mt. Gerizim mentioned again in scripture?

Later in history Mt. Gerizim was looked at by the Samaritan sect as G-d’s holy mountain and their temple there as the place to worship. In the time of Yeshua their temple was in ruins but sacrifices were still brought there. The Jewish people held them to be heretics and made a point of not having any contact with them. Which brings us to my question. Where do we see this physical setting in the Messianic scriptures and whom did Yeshua meet there? Of course we all know her as the Samaritan woman at the well. She, perceiving that Yeshua was a Jewish prophet, presented Him with a question about the main point of conflict between Jews and Samaritans on where they should worship. (John 4:20) In His answer Yeshua firmly comes down on the side of Israel (John 4:22) but goes on to say the time is coming when people will also not be able to pray in Jerusalem. John 4:21 and John 4:23.

Joshua 8:30-32 Joshua built an altar on Mt Ebal to the L-rd G-d as Moses had commanded.

3.Deut. 12:2 is where G-d tells Israel what to do with places of idol worship when they enter the land. Why did G-d tell the people to seek the place where He would choose as His dwelling place? Why could they not worship Him under any tree or place convenient to them? 

What strikes me is how common these places were, under any tree, on any mountain or hill. Idolatry seems like an easy path to follow in that any time you need a fix, any hill or mountain might do. It was and is an instant salve or instant gratification. What are some examples of how we as believers quickly move to instant gratification instead of the more difficult search for G-d’s solution to our problems?  Now contrast this with Jerusalem (Psalms 125:2) Jerusalem is surrounded by mountains. It took work to get there. There were hills and valleys that required effort. Even today the road is winding filled with curves.

So unlike idolatry, which gives instant gratification, G-d’s people, in order to live a straight life, are required to make the effort. It does not come easy. It is more than just knowing the words. It is more than even understanding them. It is putting them into practice. It is climbing onward and upward. If not, we find ourselves relatively unchanged as far as our day to day life is concerned. We go to meetings, we know the liturgy but then we go back to our lives once it is over. G-d has to have an effect on our lives daily. Kindness and the love of G-d must be a daily part of who we are. Only when we climb the mountain to Jerusalem can we begin to see with G-d’s eyes. As G-d penetrates our lives we begin to see clearly. In Psalms 125, a song of ascent, we read of G-d’s goodness to those who are good and are straight in their hearts. For this reason I send questions each week so each of us can see and grow and climb, to become truly the people of G-d

4.Deuteronomy 15:7 says, “you shall not harden your heart or recoil your hand.” What does it mean if we harden our heart?  Can you find Biblical examples of a harden heart? Also what does it mean, “do not recoil your hand?”

Matthew 13:15 NLT  For the hearts of these people are hardened, and their ears cannot hear, and they have closed their eyes— so their eyes cannot see, and their ears cannot hear, and their hearts cannot understand, and they cannot turn to me and let me heal them. (other translations say calloused hearts)

Romans 2:5 Because of your hardened and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgment is revealed.

A good example of a hardened heart was Pharaoh. We read that during the plagues he hardened his heart over and over. How did he do this? He was unfeeling and immune to what was going on around him. He was not moved by the suffering of his own people. He was not impacted by what he heard and saw until it touched him directly. What can we learn in order to not harden our hearts? We must guard against allowing ourselves to become cold and unsympathetic to the plight of those around us. If we can convince ourselves that the people we see who are hurting, hungry and sick are in that condition because they somehow deserve it, or unlike us, they just haven’t tried hard enough, then we can feel ok about just going on our way, hardening our hearts to their condition. As believers this is not an option. Yeshua calls us to “See” and do for those without being concerned how or why they got to where they are.

“Do not recoil your hand.” What does this mean? It means, do something. It may mean help with money like you do with this monthly offering we send to Israel. It can also mean to put out your hand to share an encouraging word.  We can all do something. Someone might need help in their walk with the Father. You might be the one with the answer. We should all be involved in bringing light to the darkness and love to those who need it.  

5.This Torah portion talks a lot about where and how to worship G-d. You may remember we have discussed this word worship before but I would like to talk about it again. In Hebrew the word for worship and work has the same root. What could they have in common? What is true worship?

Worship is not something that we sit back and let someone do for us. We must be active participants. It requires effort from us and it must be acceptable.

Worship must be sacrificial. We are reminded here that sacrifices were to be brought. From past studies what was one of the things common to most sacrifices? Joy. Deut 12:12 says that you should rejoice before the L-rd. Remember the picture painted by the Shalom offering –  a big meal. Everybody sat around with the priest and ate and rejoiced before G-d. 

Our lives must  also be that living sacrifice that Romans 12:1 talks about, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.”

As stated in Deut. 13:2-6 our worship also must be guarded. They were told to guard against idol worship. We must guard against worshipping anything else but G-d. There are things that will take us away from true worship unless we are on guard.