Shabbat, August 26, 2000

PARASHAH: Re'eh (See)
 D'varim (Deuteronomy) 11:26-16:17
Torah Teacher Ariel ben-Lyman HaNaviy

(Note: all quotations are taken from the Complete Jewish Bible, translation by David H. Stern, 
Jewish New Testament Publications, Inc., unless otherwise noted)

Let’s begin with the opening blessing for the Torah:

Baruch atah YHVH, Eloheynu, Melech ha-‘Olam,

asher bachar banu m’kol ha-amim,

v’natan lanu eht Torah-to.

Baruch atah YHVH, noteyn ha-Torah.

Ameyn."

(Blessed are you, O’ LORD, our God, King of the Universe,

you have selected us from among all the peoples,

and has given us your Torah.

Blessed are you, LORD, giver of the Torah.

Ameyn.)

This is Parashat Re'eh (say "reh-eh"). The Hebrew word "re'eh" means to "see" or to "plainly behold". It is not an emphatic use of the word "behold", for if it were, another Hebrew word "hineh" might have been use instead. No, this word has a very practical approach in mind. The opening dialogue is a practical, heart-felt plea (from the part of Moshe) to see plainly (or behold) that HaShem is setting before the people a choice: to obey and consequently enjoy the blessings, or to disobey and reap the consequences of disobedience. His opening word "re'eh" is a call to understand the choice which is set before you.
 

"'See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse—the blessing, if you listen to the mitzvot of ADONAI your God that I am giving you today; and the curse, if you don’t listen to the mitzvot of ADONAI your God, but turn aside from the way I am ordering you today and follow other gods that you have not known.’" (D’varim 11:26-28)


I want to make a similar posit to those of you reading this teaching. I want to speak, not so much from a theological standpoint this time, but rather from a practical standpoint.

Most of you who read my weekly commentaries are for the most part rooted in your salvation, which is why I don’t spend volumes writing about evangelism. Oh sure, I have been approached from time to time about why my teachings are "Torah-centric" as opposed to "Christo-centric". Well, at some point in our walk with God, we should become as mature believers and not find it necessary to continue to return to the initial, foundational teaching lessons of the Word (Hebrews 6:1-3). Do we abandon salvation, by grace, through faith, in favor of understanding the meat of the Word? Of course not. We establish our basis of righteousness, rooted in the finished work of Messiah. It is only after these initial lessons that we can properly move on into deeper Biblical principles.

This week, like Moshe, I want to take a practical look at the Word of God. The Bible clearly offers a righteous standing with God, and it is this stance which draws all men towards the Light. For within the heart of every man there lies a "God-shaped" hole. An empty space. The Creator of all men can only fill this void. And rightly so! For this is the nature and design of the Master Designer!

So how do we fill this gap?

Firstly the Torah teaches that we must recognize our need of repair. The Biblical examples give us ample opportunity to find ourselves within the matrix of a God-centric universe, a universe where we are either for God or (by default) opposed to God. This is the recognition of sin in our lives before we come to know who God is and what his plans are all about. The Word(s) of God, whether personally read, or heard (at the mouth of those who are his) cause our heart to begin to yield to the leading of the Ruach HaKodesh (the Holy Spirit). To be sure, the Torah teaches that all are sinners and that no one properly seeks after God (Romans 3:9-20). Only the call of the Ruach can lead a man to finding God; no man has found God of his own accord.

Allow me to illustrate this by first explaining the role of the Torah in a sinner's life. The fine folks over at First Fruits of Zion have written a wonderful set of books on the functions of the Torah in the lives of believers. 'Torah Rediscovered' and 'Take Hold' are some of the finest examples of explaining our relationship to the Word of God that I have ever researched. As such, I highly recommend both books (see FFOZ link above for details). Quoting a few paragraphs from those works, I want to share with you the practicality of the Word of God, as it applies to both believers and non-believers, in helping to bring them into the plans and purposes of HaShem.

Authors Ariel and D'vorah Berkowitz write:

"Torah helps man recognize his own sinfulness (Romans 7:7-12). This function of the Torah primarily concerns those who are not yet redeemed. Torah helps to bring about HaShem’s wrath (Romans 4:15). The teaching here in Romans stresses that if anyone tries to use Torah to achieve justification before HaShem, the attempt will backfire! He will only discover that he cannot obey it perfectly, thus achieving only condemnation!

"The Torah acts as a protector (Galatians 3:23-4:2). How?

"For the unredeemed: The Torah was intended to preserve the mental, moral and social safety of the environment into which an individual was born and raised. The person was protected "until the date set by the Father" (Galatians 4:2) when the Spirit of HaShem would lead them to the Teacher, the Messiah. The Torah does this by providing a safe environment in which they may live. The judgements, commandments, ordinances and other teachings of the Torah all help to create a safe community surrounded by the protective border of the Torah. Anyone who lives within the confines of that border will live in relative safety. This does not mean that the person living within the borders of the Torah is automatically safe spiritually, or "saved"; rather, living within the Torah community, his life is being preserved and protected as he awaits the time set by the Father, his moment of salvation."

Now this helps us to understand the role of the Torah in the life of an unbeliever. But what of the believer? They continue to explain:

" For the redeemed: Because the Torah tells us the truth—the difference between holy and unholy, clean and unclean, life and death—it is both a protection for us and a written revelation of the grace of HaShem. Every man, woman or child who chooses not to live within the teachings of HaShem, which produce life, is consigned to a place outside of the blessing and protection established by these teachings (Deuteronomy 30:19-20). We can also tie in the description of the Torah as the national covenant and constitution, in which the Great King promises to protect His subjects through the covenant. To protect them from what? From the kingdom outside of His kingdom: the kingdom of darkness. Remember that the chief characteristic of the kingdom of darkness is death, with all of its legal rights (Romans 6:23). The legal aspects of the Torah declare the truth that the kingdom of darkness has no jurisdiction inside the boundaries of HaShem’s kingdom—the Torah Community."

So now as we examine the words of Moshe in our current portion, we can see that he is exhorting a group of redeemed people to walk in the inheritance and blessing that has been prepared for them since HaShem began to make a covenant with their forefathers. The blessings are the result of an obedient heart that desires to conform to the ways and teachings of an all-loving Father. HaShem is indeed the Loving Abba! He desires to bless and prosper his children (the redeemed). But in order to experience the non-salvific blessings (those blessings with no immediate bearing on the salvation of an individual), the person needs to avail himself of God's instructions. Please don’t misunderstand me here. Genuine faith must precede genuine obedience. Moreover, genuine faith is the kind that naturally leads into genuine obedience (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14; John 14:15-21; 15:9-17; James 1:21-25; 2:14-26)!

What does the New Covenant teach us about God's commands? The book of 1 John tells us that they are not burdensome (1 John 1-5). Why does that surprise us as "New Testament" believers in Yeshua? I believe it has much primarily to do with the fact that we have been trained over the last 2000 or so years to believe that grace is diametrically opposed to obedience. Nothing could be further from the truth! Grace (given through his generous Spirit) is what enables us to properly obey in the first place! Were it not for God's grace, many of the saints of the TaNaKH period (Old Testament) would have surely perished under the "letter of the Law", based on their moral failure to uphold the many details that the Law spells out. Moreover, many of us today would also perish.

But grace steps in and allows us to try time and again to accomplish the good pleasure of our Father in Heaven. Grace says, "I know you’ve tried and you’ve failed. In fact, you will never reach perfection until my Son returns. But that is okay. I am not expecting perfection. You just do your best, and I will fill in the rest!" That is grace!

Moshe is giving 'Am Yisra'el a chance to experience the grace of God on an everyday level. They had already witnessed the supernatural hand of the Almighty as he delivered them from the bondage of Egypt, which by the way, forms a picture of deliverance from sin for us today. That was surely a monumental event! Yet, now HaShem is teaching his people that since they were free, they no longer need follow their old passions and ways of life. To be sure Moshe has told them on an earlier occasion to "circumcise their hearts" in order that they might genuinely be obedient to God!

Does this feature sound familiar? It should! For this is a "New Testament" feature as well! So we see that a circumcised heart is God's desire for his children. This heart is a heart which will say to the LORD, "All that you ask of me, I will do!" The passages that illustrate this throughout the unified Word of God are too numerous to point out in this study!

The message of the ages remains strikingly clear: "Love God with your whole heart, soul, and mind, and he will cause you to walk in his ways!" His ways include salvation, healing, financial blessing, relationship building, promise of healthy and plentiful offspring, as well as numerous things that I can’t name here! His blessings are reserved for those who would soften their heart to hear his voice! His blessings are reserved for those who will surrender their will into his hands and allow him to shape their lives into the pattern of that of his Only and Unique Son, Yeshua the Savior of the world!

Therefore, "see" or "behold"! The choice is yours! Do you want blessing? Or do you want the curse?

I choose the former…

The closing blessing is as follows:
 


Baruch atah YHVH, Eloheynu, Melech ha-‘Olam,

asher natan lanu Toraht-emet,

v’chay-yeh o’lam nata-b’tochenu.

Baruch atah YHVH, noteyn ha-Torah.

Ameyn."

(Blessed are you O’ LORD, our God, King of the Universe,

you have given us your Torah of truth,

and has planted everlasting life within our midst.

Blessed are you, LORD, giver of the Torah.

Ameyn.)

Shabbat Shalom!

Torah Teacher Ariel ben-Lyman HaNaviy