Devarim ~ The Words
HafTorah Portion ~ Isaiah 1:1-27
Brit Chadasha~ Acts 9:1-21
Last Shabbat we finished B’midbar/Numbers with vows and oaths, words we speak. This Shabbat we are starting D’varim / Words. D’varim comes from the Hebrew in the opening verse: “Eleh ha d’varim…”, “these are the words.” - that Moses spoke to all Israel beyond the Jordan in the wilderness…” Deuteronomy 1:1.
D’varim reveals much about the attributes of God. It is directly quoted over 40 times in the Brit Chadasha (exceeded only by Psalms and Isaiah). Deuteronomy reveals that the Lord is the Only One God and that He is jealous, faithful, loving, merciful, and true yet will not tolerate sin.
The sages originally called D’varim Mishneh Torah, a “second law”. Hence the Latin name Deuteronomy. But in what sense is D’varim a second law? Moses repeats the history of the Israelites, reinstating the covenant because there is a major change of circumstance about to happen. They are about to change from a group of nomads – wonderers in the wilderness of Sinai to dwellers.
They had the tabernacle of God with them right in the center of the camp. God dwelled with them, the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. They will now spread to a much larger territory and the Tabernacle will be stationary.
The words that God speaks are His Divine words of covenant. These are the words of life. Words we speak and words we hear have great influence in and over our lives. If we change His words, we change the imparting of blessings.
Hebrews 4:12 ‘For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Matthew 4:4 ‘But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
Psalm 119:105 ‘Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.’
John 1:1 ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.’
2 Timothy 3:16-17 ‘All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.’
Matthew 24:35 ‘Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.’
Luke 11:28 ‘But He said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”
John 17:17 ‘Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.’
Isaiah 40:8 ‘The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.’
John 6:63 ‘It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.’
Proverbs 30:5 ‘Every word of God proves true; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him.’
James 1:22 ‘But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.’
Psalm 119:11 ‘I have stored up Your word in my heart, that I might not sin against You.’
These are powerful verses and only a few in regards to the Word of Elohim. His word keeps us pure, His word is true, His word will never fade, His word is a light, a lamp, a path. His word is living and sharper than a two edge sword. We are also instructed to not add or take away from the Word of God.
Psalm 119:130 ‘The unfolding of Your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple.’
Matthew 7:24 ‘“Everyone then who hears these words of Mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.’
Psalm 119:9 ‘How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to Your word.’
Proverbs 30:5-6 ‘Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar.’
There is a beginning to the altering of God’s Word and how easy it was for the Protestant religions to sway under the Catholic Church.
The Roman emperor Constantine, a sun-worshiper, professed conversion to Christianity, though his subsequent actions suggest the “conversion” was more of a political move than a genuine heart change. Constantine named himself Bishop of the Catholic Church and enacted the first civil law regarding Sunday observance in A.D. 321.
“On the venerable day of the sun let the magistrate and people residing in cities rest, and let all workshops be closed. In the country however, persons engaged in agricultural work may freely and lawfully continue their pursuits; because it often happens that another day is not so suitable for grain growing or for vine planting; lest by neglecting the proper moment for such operations the bounty of heaven should be lost.” —Schaff’s History of the Christian Church, vol. III, chap. 75.
Four years later, in A.D. 325, Pope Sylvester officially named Sunday “the Lord’s Day,” and in A.D. 338, Eusebius, the court bishop of Constantine, wrote, “All things whatsoever that it was the duty to do on the Sabbath (the seventh day of the week) we (Constantine, Eusebius, and other bishops) have transferred to the Lord’s Day (the first day of the week) as more appropriately belonging to it.”
In the Convert’s Catechism of Catholic Doctrine, we read:
Q. Which is the Sabbath day?
A. Saturday is the Sabbath day.
Q. Why do we observe Sunday instead of Saturday?
A. We observe Sunday instead of Saturday because the Catholic Church, in the Council of Laodicea, (AD 336) transferred the solemnity from Saturday to Sunday….
Q. By what authority did the Church substitute Sunday for Saturday?
A. The Church substituted Sunday for Saturday by the plenitude of that divine power which Jesus Christ bestowed upon her!
—Rev. Peter Geiermann, C.SS.R., (1946), p. 50.
Deuteronomy 4:2 ‘You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.’
Deuteronomy 12:32 ‘Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it.’
Revelation 22:18 ‘For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book…’
Devarim / Words
This Shabbat we begin the book of Deuteronomy, Devarim meaning Words. This title comes from the first sentence, ‘Eleh ha devarim’ – these are the words… This is the fifth and final book of the Torah and is also referred to as ‘The Book of the Covenant’. In other words, apart from Moses’ song and blessing of the tribes, with which the book and Moses’ life come to an end, the entire book of Devarim is a covenant on a huge scale.
This covenant is not made between man and man, but God and man; a statement that should cause us to humbly come before Him and His Words – as one of the parties is God Himself! The idea that God would bind Himself to human beings, linking their destiny to His Divine Words, making them party to His Covenant is something hard to totally understand. Second, the other party to the covenant is not, as it was in the ancient world, the king or ruler of the relevant nation, but the people as a whole. Every Israelite, as we saw in Exodus 19 and 24, and throughout Deuteronomy, is party to the covenant, given a choice to choose life, His very words.
In Devarim, Moshe recounts the journeys of the Israelites, rebuking them for their rebellion and reminding them of their eternal heritage. The Book of Devarim takes place just about a month before Moshe’s passing.
We have read, discussed and learned about the journeys, the words we speak or don’t speak and our rebellion. This first sentence in this parsha is a reminder of The Words that He speaks. They are Divine Words, not originated by man, and they represent a Divine conversation which brings us into a Divine Covenant.
How can we, mere mortals go through life knowing there is a God, yet rationalizing His Words, changing His Words, or doing away with His Words? This is cause and effect – we move away from His Divine Covenant and enter into the desert, alone to wander.
The author of Hebrews brings such clarity to the Word of God, Hebrews 4:12: ‘The Word of God is quick and powerful, sharper than any two edge sword.’
Revelation 2:12 speaks of ‘He’ Yeshua, who is the Living Word, ‘“And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write, ‘These things says He who has the sharp two-edged sword…’ Notice that this verse tells us that He/Yeshua has the two-edged sword…He has…the very Word of God.
A double edge sword would have dual purposes. Isaiah 55:11 tells us that God always fulfills His purpose: ‘So shall My Word by that goes out from My mouth; it shall not return to Me empty but it shall accomplish that which I purpose and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.’
God’s Word has a purpose – a Divine purpose for Him. We can choose to live in His Words or live in our own words, yet do our words have a purpose? Do we speak life or do we utter death? Do we uplift people? Or do we flippantly without even realizing it, cut people down, tell untruths and spread gossip?
Joshua 1:8 gives us such profound instruction: ‘This Book of the Torah shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.’
This Torah portion ends in chapter 3 with Moshe recounting the events with Joshua and how he will succeed; ‘And I commanded Joshua at that time, saying, ‘Your eyes have seen all that the Lord your God has done to these two kings; so will the Lord do to all the kingdoms through which you pass. You must not fear them, for the Lord your God Himself fights for you.’ Deuteronomy 3:21-22.
2 Chronicles 20:15 reiterates this: ‘And he said, “Listen, all you of Judah and you inhabitants of Jerusalem, and you, King Jehoshaphat! Thus says the Lord to you: ‘Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God’s.’
Exodus 14:13-14 ‘And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.”
For God to fight the battles, for us to go into battle with Him, we need the armor of God, which is a representation of His Divine Word.
Ephesians 6:10-18 ‘Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; 18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints…’
Ephesians tells us to put on the whole armor of God, not just part, but the complete. This is His total Word, His Divine intervention, His Divine conversation and covenant.
These are the Words…