Parashah VaYelach 2018 (And he went) Deuteronomy 31

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God informs Moses that he is about to die and has him bring Joshua before all Israel to the tent of Meeting. God appears in a cloud and Moses tells Joshua (and the people) that even though he is now going to die, God will still be with them and Joshua will lead them over the Jordan into the Promised Land. God will be with them just as he has been in the past, to defeat those peoples that are now in the land, so Joshua and all the people should not be afraid but have courage because although Moses won’t be with them, God always will be.

God also tells Moses that in the future the people will disown God and break his covenant, and he will then hide his face from them. They will be ravaged by the surrounding peoples and the country will be taken over. God tells Moses to write down a song (which I believe means that God dictated this song) so that when this happens, the song will testify on God’s behalf that it was the people who caused this Tsouris to come upon themselves. 

You may ask why God, knowing all that is to happen and the terrible things that his people will have to suffer through, would allow that to come about.  After all, isn’t God all-powerful? All-knowing? Couldn’t he easily make sure the people don’t turn against him and suffer? Doesn’t he love them? 

Yes, he does love them, but he is God. He knows that loving means to allow freedom of choice. He gives us Free Will so that we can choose to love him, which is the only real way to love- by choice. He never uses his punishment for disobedience as a means to force us to love him, but rather as a means to get us to return to his protection. We are protected by God when we are in his will, which means living in obedience to his commandments. God is all about love, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t about justice, fair judgment and following the rules he establishes. 

God is as subject to his commandments as we are- when he says we must do something, if we reject his words and ignore him, he must judge us as we deserve. He told us that the commandments he gave us are to be obeyed “throughout your generations”, which means forever. Fortunately for us, God’s judgments are filtered with mercy. Still and all, they are terrible when we have forsaken him. The worst thing is that he just lets us “do our own thing”, which means we are then left to defend ourselves against the world with no divine help. That is a no-win situation. 

If you find yourself in the midst of trouble, you can blame the Enemy for attacking you. But unless you are doing something that is very godly, that probably isn’t the real reason. The devil doesn’t care about you unless you are doing something that furthers God’s kingdom. So, back to you are having troubles: what you should NOT do is look to God or to the Devil until after you have first looked in the mirror. I think that in the majority of cases when we find ourselves in a teapot full of Tsouris, the real reason is something we have done or failed to do.

God will always judge those who disobey him and do so with the intent to bring them back to his protective love and divine intervention in their life.  God judges us constantly throughout our life in order to get us to change our ways when we walk away from him. He is patient and always will try to get us to protect ourselves by obeying his Torah. However, when we come before him at the Final Judgment it will be too late to change. So make sure you get your head on straight before that time comes, which may be at any moment during your life. None of us knows how or when we are going to die, so we better be prepared to meet our Maker every moment of every day. That starts with doing Teshuvah, accepting Yeshua as your Messiah and asking forgiveness of your sins through his name. From that point on, you must try to live in accordance with the Torah God gave to all people, through the Jews to the Nations.  Jewish, Christian, Buddhist, whatever- God is the only God and we are to worship him as he said we should. 

God has no religion- he gave us his laws and commandments and statutes so that everyone would know what he expects of them. And he will judge you not according to what a clerical leader has told you to do, but what HE has told you to do!

Red Light; Green Light

It’s zero-dark-thirty in the morning and you are on a major road going home. You are stuck at a red light: there isn’t a car in sight in any direction. Do you just go through the light or do you wait for it to turn green?

I confess I might go through it. I have been in that situation more than once, and usually I do wait (no, I am not a major party animal. As an IT guy sometimes I have had to stay really late to get upgrades completed after hours. No…really!)

They say that honesty is doing what you know you’re supposed to do, even when you’re positive that no one will ever find out. For those of us who know and worship the Lord, we understand that while no person may ever find out, nothing is hidden from God. So, do we not go through the red light because we know that is the right thing to do, or do we not go through because there could be someone watching that we don’t see?

In other words, do we obey because we want to obey, or do we obey because we are afraid of the consequences when we don’t?

I bet you can see where this is going….Yeshua said if we love Him we will do what He says, and we are also commanded to love God and love each other. In the very same breath we are also told that if we disobey we will be cursed. Obedience brings blessings and disobedience brings suffering, so do we really have a choice?

It doesn’t seem so, does it? Yet, God gives us free will, and even those that not just ignore Him, but outright reject that He even exists, are often “blessed” with riches and fame.

Or are they? Just because someone has all they could want doesn’t mean it comes from God. There is another power that has control over the worldly things that people crave. And his retirement plan is very different from the one God offers.

Should we obey from love or from the fear of retribution and punishment?

We are told that God was sickened and disgusted with the sacrifices offered to Him by the Judeans when these sacrifices were done along side sacrifices to Ba’al, Asherah, Molech, and the other Semitic gods that they worshipped before they were taken into captivity. They obeyed His commands, but he didn’t want their sacrifices because there was no love or true worship behind them. How often are we told in the Book of Nevi’im (Prophets), again and again, that the blood of bulls and sheep means less to God than obedience. Here it is clear that God wants obedience from the heart, not just going through the motions. Does that mean that if we go through the motions they won’t be accepted? Remember Cain? Cain went through the motions and his offerings weren’t accepted, were they?

I think the answer is that God wants us to love Him as He loves us, and to show that love by loving each other as we would want them to love us.

WOW!! Steve!! What a revelation! You’ve changed my life, Man!!

Yeah, yeah….I know. I am stating the obvious (did you catch the cynicism there?) but as obvious as that is, can you tell me why we still don’t do it? I think the answer is just as obvious: people that regularly do not obey the Lord are people that don’t love Him. And that includes professed “Believers.” As such, those who regularly disobey because their heart tells them to disobey (although that may not be how they see it) are doomed people. God tells us, more than once, that we should choose life and not death- He lays it out simply: if we do as He says, we live in His presence and if we don’t do as He says (in other words, we reject Him), then He will reject us.

The good news is that love is absolutely unstable and untrustworthy: that which we hate today we can love tomorrow, and vice-versa. People who hate the Lord have turned to Him and become strong and fruitful followers, and those raised with God who always thought they loved Him can turn against Him as soon as they hit real strife, such as loss of a loved one. So we need to be aware that our love for God is as fragile as the human spirit, and only God’s spirit is strong enough to get us through the horrors of living. Therefore, rely on God and don’t trust yourself.

The answer, for me, is that we obey God because we love Him and from fear of the consequences of disobedience. I think that is OK because we are, in our very nature, sinful sinners and sin is always crouching at our door. The more we love the Lord the easier it is to obey, but it certainly helps overcome the weakness of the flesh when we realize that disobedience carries consequences we don’t want.

Yeshua told the parable about the good son, remember? Even though he refused to do as his father asked initially, for whatever reason he changed his mind later and did as asked, and for that he was recognized as a better son than the one who happily and immediately said he would do as the father asked, but never got around to it. I think one lesson here is that our heart may initially reject what God asks of us because we love ourselves more than Him, but that can be overcome. Maybe not at first, maybe not right away, but it can be overcome, eventually. And let me add this: when we have the Ruach HaKodesh, the Holy Spirit, living within us and when we listen to that spirit talking to us, we can more easily overcome the flesh because we want to.

There is the letter of the law and the spirit of the law.  When we stop at the red light, even though we can go through, we are obeying the spirit of the law. To obey the spirit of the law of God, we need His spirit guiding us. If we only want to obey the letter of the law, that is what Shaul (Paul) called being “under the law”, i.e. trying to gain salvation by doing what we are supposed to do, whether we want to or not. Maybe it’s a blessing in disguise that it is impossible for us to do that, because God really wants us to obey the spirit of the law. That is a heartfelt obedience, that is doing what He wants because doing so will please Him. That is obedience from love.

Next time you come to a red light, and there is absolutely no one around, what do you think you will do? Now ask yourself, “Why?”