Torah Portion Va’etchanan (I Pleaded) D’Varim (Deut.) 3:23-7:11
Haftorah Reading: Yesha’yahu (Isaiah) 40:1-26
Tonight in our Torah reading we cover two major statements that should speak to us. In the first one we read of Moshe going over the Ten Commandments again. I think he did this, at least partially, for the people who had not been there when G-d first spoke these words back in the book of Shemot/Exodus. He also delivered the Shema in D’Varim/Deut. 6:4-9. These verses teach us that G-d should be present in our conversations, thoughts and actions thru out the day, while we are home with our families and when we are out in the work world.
In D’Varim/Deut. 3;23-28 Moshe goes over his plea with G-d to enter the Land, physically walk over the Jordan, and go into Israel, to see the goodly mountains. When we read these verses we read G-d’s response to Moshe’s request. Not only does G-d say no but he tells him not to ask again. That sounds like a pretty hard response to Moshe. It does bring up a point that needs some discussion. In our own lives, when we make a request, how do we handle “No” from the Father? Do we accept His answer or do we go ahead and do whatever we want in our own strength?
G-d’s response to Moshe was based on Moshe’s sin of striking the rock rather than speaking to it as G-d had told him to do. Our life as believers is not a game. Our actions have consequences as Moshe learned here. Even someone like Moshe, who had spoken with G-d face to face, was not exempt from the effect of his sin. For sure G-d forgave him but there were still consequences for what he did. I think that was the message he was trying to get across to the people who were about to enter the Land. Their actions, their disobedience to the Father’s word would result in their expulsion from the Land. In fact, Moshe summed up this thought for the people in chapter 4:1 and following. He reminded them in chapter 4 that they were alive at that time because they held fast to the L-rd their G-d.
My point in this for our life is the same. G-d’s plan is for His people to follow Him and His word. He expects us to live a life that reflects Him. His plan may include us hearing “no” from Him sometimes. We have to understand that He knows more than we do. He knows the path He has for us and what is best for us. So when we pray about something and He answers, “No” we must be able to accept that and trust Him. This is not easy for us. We don’t like to hear “No” to some request we might make. In fact, that may be by plan to struggle with a negative answer from G-d. Our task is to follow the Father, to choose Him over our own desires. We will have challenges, obstacles will arise before us and when we pray G-d answers, sometimes giving us a positive answer when our choice furthers His plan. However, sometimes He answers with a negative response to our prayer. We may not understand or know why for years to come. Our task is to trust Him and grow through whatever He has for us. So here when we read of this negative response to Moshe we do not see him arguing with G-d or sulking or taking his disappointment out on Joshua who would replace him and lead the children of Israel into the Land. Instead he proceeded with G-d’s request to prepare Joshua to take over.
This speaks to another issue that humans face. We see it around us everyday. It has almost become a rule to live by for our society. The idea is commitment. Commitment is not in vogue in our world today. People want to be free from restraints, nothing to tie them down. People don’t want to bind themselves to someone or something. It is better to be free. Freedom is understood as freedom fromor the absence of restraints. Maybe a better way to define freedom is to see it as freedom to… The freedom to take on a task or commitment and see it through. Say you wanted to have the freedom to play the piano. How can that happen? It takes commitment to practice, to stay with it even when other things tempt you to just let it go. Think of it as falling in love with someone. First we are giddy, everything is wonderful but as time goes on things change. Problems arise, arguments happen and commitment wanes. What can be done? Even faith can be like this. We come to the L-rd, it is such a feeling of joy and acceptance. Salvation is wonderful. The joy of it goes through our minds as we go through our day and even before we go to sleep at night. We relish our new life. However, sometimes after the initial romance, the joy fades and we face life each day thinking less and less about that salvation experience. Things happen. Our prayers become less frequent and before long we find ourselves back into our old patterns. What can we do? How do we keep the love alive? Here in the book of D’Varim/Deut. we get an idea of what can keep the love alive. The word love or its Hebrew root is used 23 times in this book. We read of G-d’s love toward His people and their love toward Him. D’Varim/Deut 7:7-8, 10:14-15 and 23:5. It seems to me, here G-d expresses His love for His people and gives them a framework to keep their love and commitment toward Him alive. G-d, through Moshe, gives the people His Commandments and these Commandments cover every part of their lives. So as they go through their day they are constantly reminded of that commitment and love of G-d toward them. This framework is something we all need in our lives. As believers what have we been given to build a structure in our lives that keeps us connected even in difficult times? It has to be more than an occasional prayer or song or quickly reading an interesting thought. Our faith should impact our lives everyday. It should dictate how we as G-d’s people are to act – always, not just when we feel like it. Our faith must impact our thoughts and our time.
If not we will grow cold in our faith and love, or that connection with the Father. Psalms 63:1 expresses it beautifully. We seek Him, we thirst after Him, our whole being longs for Him. This will keep us going in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water. This is how we are to live as His people.