Parashah Vayyelach 2019 (and he went) Deuteronomy 31

Moses has come to the end of his road and the Lord tells him that he is to charge Joshua with taking the people across the Jordan into the land God promised to give them. Moses repeatedly tells all the people not to be afraid and tells Joshua in front of all the people, not to be afraid to go into the land or of the people there because God will go before them and destroy the people there, as he did with Og and Sihon.

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God tells Moses of the future, how the people will rebel against God and that he will have to punish them, which Moses relates to all the leaders. God also dictates to Moses a song which he is to write down and teach to the people so that when they fail to obey God and his instructions the song will be a witness for God that he warned them of what is happening.

As I was reading this parashah, I came to verse 4, where Moses says:

And the Lord will do unto them as he did to Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites, and unto their land; whom he destroyed.

and I thought to myself, “Surely there must have been someone who partook in those battles and was thinking, ‘I killed those men, myself. God didn’t kill them, I did!'” and at that moment I realized what I need to talk about today.

People, as a rule, are self-centered and usually don’t like to give credit for something they have done to anyone or anything else. Here we have a perfect example: the Israelites were the ones who fought a hand-to-hand battle against the Amorites, yet Moses is saying that it was God who destroyed them. How can that be if people were against people?

Now, with the Egyptians and the Sea of Suf (Red Sea), it was clearly God who split the waters and caused them to fall in on the Egyptians, and it was clearly God who caused the plagues, but when Israel fought against the people of Og and Sihon, it was man against man. How can Moses say God destroyed them?

The reason Moses said God destroyed the Amorites (and, for the record, he was right in saying it that way) is that more often than not God works through people.

The Bible is rife with examples of God’s plan coming to fruition through the actions of people. We have the case where the first king of Israel, Saul, had to be taken out of the way to allow David to become king. God struck him down by forcing him to commit suicide)because the Philistines were about to capture him on Mt. Gilboa (1 Samuel 28:4); when the house of Ahab was to be punished for all it’s evil, especially Jezebel, it was done through Yehu; the Northern Kingdom of Israel was punished by the Assyrians; and the Southern Kingdom of Judah was punished for their sins, especially the sins of King Manasseh, by the Babylonians.

Not all things God does through people are bad. He arranged for the timing to be perfect for Joseph to be freed from jail; he made sure that Samson’s strength returned to him in his last moments; he touched the heart of King Koresh of Persia and allowed the exiles in Babylon (under Ezra) to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple and the wall.

If we are doing our best to honor God in all we say and do and to follow the instructions he gave to us regarding worshiping him and treating each other, then he will bless us. He promises this to us in Deuteronomy, Chapter 28. He also promises that when we rebel and reject him and his instructions, we will be cursed. The difference between God blessing us and cursing us is that the blessings are actively given by God, and the curses come upon us when God no longer protects us, so they are passively allowed.

Blessings are given, curses are the result of not being under God’s protection.

And when wonderful things happen, even when we have worked hard to achieve them, it is still because God has worked it out for us by working it out through us.

If you are an artist and paint or sculpt a masterpiece, you may have been the one doing the actually work, but it was God who gave you the talent and the inspiration that allowed you to complete your task. If you are a teacher and you receive accolades for your work, it is because God has given you that talent and provided the proper students for you to make the best use of that talent.

Here is something that we all have to remember and be grateful for: God is behind it all, and when we do what is good we must first give the credit to God for making it possible. When I write or say something that is edifying and useful to spiritual growth, it is because God has given me the insight and the ability to do so.

It is as I always say: when I do something good, it is God working through me, and when I totally screw up, then I can take all the credit.

Always be grateful to God for all the good that happens in your life; not just for your successes, but also for your failures which he sometimes will orchestrate so you can learn a valuable lesson. When we are for God, he will be for us.

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Until next time, Shabbat Shalom and Baruch HaShem!

Can God Save Someone Who Doesn’t Want to be Saved?

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We are all familiar with the passage that says anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. But what about those we pray for who are not saved, and who really don’t even care about it?

Maybe they don’t believe in God, maybe they don’t care, or maybe they think they are already saved because people have taught them the popular lie that many Christians have been taught, which is the “Once saved, always saved” theology.

How often have you prayed for someone who is sinning and likes it? Have you prayed that famous prayer, “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do?”   Will that work? Personally, I doubt it.  I have read the Bible many times and have experienced God’s blessings and also know what it is like to live outside of his Kippah (covering), which was for the first 40 years or so of my life. 

In my opinion, God can do whatever he wants to do, but he doesn’t want to make us love him or to defy the free will he has given each one of us.  That means if we pray for someone who doesn’t want to be saved, even when we invoke the name of Yeshua ha Maschiach, God will not force someone to be saved if they don’t want to be saved. 

Another way to look at it is to ask, “Will God forgive an unrepentant sinner?” I think we can all agree that although God, in his mercy and compassion may give blessings to one who rejects him (Matthew 5:45 says, “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”), when it comes to forgiveness we must first do T’Shuvah (repent) in our hearts, then ask for forgiveness. When we do that, God will forgive. But if we do not repent, then he will not forgive.

I pray for my children and even for their mother (we divorced many years ago) because my children have been brought up by her to be ungodly (they’re not evil and horrid creatures, just like the rest of the world- ungodly) and I don’t know anyone who needs the love of the Lord more than that woman.  So I pray, in Yeshua’s name, over and over, nearly every day, and I trust that God is doing something. But I also know that it is, ultimately, up to them to turn to God.

He may strike them down, humble them, and give them some real Tsouris to make them realize they are not really in control and force them to look up to him. But he will not change their minds or use his awesome power to force them to worship him. He will influence their lives, but not to the point where they are made to love or worship him. Not even to the point where they have to admit he really exists.

I am not saying God will never make a miraculous appearance; he has done things like this in the past- Abraham, Jonah, Gideon, the parents of Samson, and Shaul on the road to Damascus, just to name a few. But overall, I trust that God will do exactly what needs to be done to convince someone to trust in him, but only to the point where anything more would be effectively taking away their right to choose. 

Where that fine line is drawn no one can tell, except God, and I trust him totally to do everything up to that point. If my children never turn to God or reconcile with me (my two constant prayers) then it isn’t God who I will blame, but them. They are old enough (more than old enough) to make up their own minds and even though their mother has been a constant bad influence on them, it is their own fault for rejecting God. And when I write this, believe that it hurts me to write it, and I believe it hurts God even more because he loves my children (who are also his) more than I ever could.

Does this mean we should stop praying for those that reject God? Heavens no!! We should continue to pray for those that need to be shown the path to salvation. If we do not pray for them then who will? God will intervene in their life to help them come to know and accept him, and we also should do so by showing them a good example of what it means to worship God and demonstrate to them God’s blessings in our life for obeying him.

Through our prayers and our example people can be convinced to choose God, which is to choose life. God won’t force them to choose him, but he can be very, VERY convincing. 

So, continue to pray for those that reject God and be an example of a godly person. Pray especially for those that think they are godly people because they have been taught that the Torah is only for Jews and they don’t need to obey any laws or commandments. They have been taught that they don’t need to obey anything in the Torah because are under the blood of Christ and saved by Grace. That is not true: by being told they don’t need to obey God or ask forgiveness because they are already saved, they are being taught to be unrepentant.

Be an example of an obedient, godly person, one who obeys from love and trust but not as a means of trying to earn salvation, and continue to pray for those that reject God. 

Our prayers are powerful and useful to everyone, godly or ungodly