Nitzavim / You Are Standing
HafTorah Portion Isaiah 61:10-63:9
Brit Chadasha Romans 7:7-12
This parsha opens with Moses renewing the covenant; ‘All of you stand today before the Lord your God: your leaders and your tribes and your elders and your officers, all the men of Israel, 11 your little ones and your wives—also the stranger who is in your camp, from the one who cuts your wood to the one who draws your water— 12 that you may enter into covenant with the Lord your God, and into His oath, which the Lord your God makes with you today, 13 that He may establish you today as a people for Himself, and that He may be God to you, just as He has spoken to you, and just as He has sworn to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. 14 “I make this covenant and this oath, not with you alone, 15 but with him who stands here with us today before the Lord our God…’ Deuteronomy 29:10-15.
This was the first time that the covenant was renewed, but not the last. It happened again at the end of Joshua’s life in Joshua 24 when the Covenant was renewed at Shechem, and later in the days of Jehoiada in 2 Kings 11:17, Hezekiah in 2 Chronicles 29 and Josiah in 1 Kings 23:1-3. During the Babylonian exile, Ezra and Nehemiah called for a national gathering to renew the covenant in Nehemiah 8. And of course, the Brit Chadasha. But it happened first in Nitzavim / You Are Standing.
Why did Moses do this? Because he realized the seriousness of change that was about to come to the Israelites. The history of the Israelites was about to change from Divine Initiative to now human initiative. This is what Moses was preparing the Israelites for in the last month of his life. It is as if he had said: Until now God has led – in a pillar of cloud and fire – and you have followed. Now God is handing over the responsibility to you – do not forget. From here on, you must lead. If your hearts are with Him, He will be with you. This is why the command: “Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes which I command you today…” Deuteronomy 8:11.
When we veer away from God’s instructions, we slowly forget. It’s absolutely true. We will start to forget the Friday night candle lighting, a small thing, but a Divine reminder to our flesh that the Shabbat begins at sundown. We will forget the Torah of Kashrut, and slip back into eating pork as we take a bite of the bacon wrapped jalapeno popper at the office party. The fall High Holy Days will come and go, as we are busy with fall. Soon, Pesach is but a distant memory. We will slowly but surely slip away.
That was what Moses was trying to convey during the last month of his life, in that long series of instructions that make up the book of Devarim.
How important is a covenant? In Deuteronomy 29:12 there is a Hebrew word, v’alah brit v‘alah or more literally a covenant guarded by imprecations.’ The word alah can be translated as curse, oath or imprecation. This alludes to curses in Deuteronomy chapter 28. ‘That you may enter into covenant and into His oath….’ This absolutely does not translate or refer to those that are in covenant with Elohim are cursed. Teshuva El, return to God and v’shavta ad means to turn around and towards that which we left.
Curse is the consequence of our choice of transgressions of ignoring God’s covenant. 1 Kings 2:3 states: ‘That you may prosper in all that you do and whenever you turn.’ When we walk in His ways and abide in His covenants, we are turning toward Him and we are blessed through Him. Living in His Covenant is a choice, of course.
However, we are commanded to choose life, even though the choice is ultimately ours, we are commanded in Deuteronomy 30:19-20: ‘ I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; 20 that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.”
This command is prefaced with: ‘…that the command is not too mysterious, it is not floating in the heavens nor is it beyond the sea….’ (Deuteronomy 30:11). So rather God has set before them/us life and good, death and evil, so keep His commandments that we may live.
Deuteronomy 30:14 states that His Word is near to us. If something is near to us, then wouldn’t we, shouldn’t we realize that it must have been important to Him to keep us near to Him.
In Deuteronomy 31:8 God states: “And the Lord, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed.”
There is a tie between His Covenant and His promise:
Psalm 103:17-18 ‘But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear Him,
and His righteousness with their children’s children—with those who keep His covenant and remember to obey His precepts.’
Isaiah 54:10 ‘Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet My unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor My covenant of peace be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you.’
Psalm 105:11 ‘He has remembered His covenant forever, the word which He commanded to a thousand generations, The covenant which He made with Abraham, and His oath to Isaac. Then He confirmed it to Jacob for a statute, to Israel as an everlasting covenant…’
1 Kings 8:23 ‘He said, “O Lord, the God of Israel, there is no God like You in heaven above or on earth beneath, keeping covenant and showing lovingkindness to Your servants who walk before You with all their heart…’
Judges 2:1 ‘Now the angel of the Lord came up from Gilgal to Bochim. And he said, “I brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land which I have sworn to your fathers; and I said, ‘I will never break My covenant with you…’
Psalm 89:34 ‘My covenant I will not violate, nor will I alter the utterance of My lips.’
The covenant that God made with His people represents life. We start the walk and progress further into His Ways.
1 Corinthians 15:58 ‘Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.’
Philippians 1:9 ‘And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment.’
2 Timothy 1:7 ‘For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
1 Thessalonians 3:12 ‘And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you…’
Psalm 90:12 ‘So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.’
James 1:22 ‘But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.’
So, are you in covenant with The Creator of the Universe? Are you walking in His Ways? Have you chosen life?
Nitzavim/ You Are Standing
VaYeilech / And He Went
Victory in Adonai…
This week there is a double parsha, Nitzavim/You are Standing and VaYeilech/And He Went.
The first parsha, connects standing with keeping the Words of Adonai: ‘Therefore keep the words of this covenant, and do them, that you may prosper in all that you do. “All of you stand today before the Lord your God: your leaders and your tribes and your elders and your officers, all the men of Israel, 11 your little ones and your wives—also the stranger who is in your camp, from the one who cuts your wood to the one who draws your water— 12 that you may enter into covenant with the Lord your God, and into His oath, which the Lord your God makes with you today, 13 that He may establish you today as a people for Himself, and that He may be God to you, just as He has spoken to you, and just as He has sworn to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.’
The words that penetrate are; therefore, keep and do them. What does it mean to stand before God? What does this parsha relate to?
His statutes stand firm, Psalm 93:5.
His word is eternal and stands firm, Psalm 119:89-91
We must stand firm, Philippians 4:1-2.
The dead, small and great stand firm, Revelation 20:11-12.
One of the most profound verses regarding standing is when Elijah proclaims, ‘As the LORD God of Israel lives, before whom I stand.’ 1 Kings 15:1.
Standing before God is a humbling way to live. Each day, we stand before Him, each day we stand on His Word, His truth. How can we say we stand for God if we deny His Covenants and His Torah?
In the second Torah portion for this week, VaYeilech, a great comforting prophesy is said in Deuteronomy 31:3-6 ‘The Lord your God Himself crosses over before you; He will destroy these nations from before you, and you shall dispossess them. Joshua himself crosses over before you, just as the Lord has said. 4 And the Lord will do to them as He did to Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites and their land, when He destroyed them. 5 The Lord will give them over to you, that you may do to them according to every commandment which I have commanded you. 6 Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.”
God will set the stage for victory, and it is His role that is the decisive factor in the conquering of the land -IF they go with God in faith and obedience. Verse 6 states to be strong and of good courage. It does not state to ‘be weak and afraid’.
In Deuteronomy 20:4 we read, ‘For the Lord your God is He who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies, to give you the victory.’
1 Corinthians 15:57 ‘But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Yeshua.’
Romans 8:37 ‘No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.’
2 Corinthians 2:14 ‘But thanks be to God, who in Yeshua always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of Him everywhere.’
VaYeilech Chapter 31 continues with preparation for the song of Moses, ‘Now therefore, write down this song for yourselves, and teach it to the children of Israel; put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for Me against the children of Israel. 20 When I have brought them to the land flowing with milk and honey, of which I swore to their fathers, and they have eaten and filled themselves and grown fat, then they will turn to other gods and serve them; and they will provoke Me and break My covenant. 21 Then it shall be, when many evils and troubles have come upon them, that this song will testify against them as a witness; for it will not be forgotten in the mouths of their descendants, for I know the inclination of their behavior today, even before I have brought them to the land of which I swore to give them 22 Therefore Moses wrote this song the same day, and taught it to the children of Israel. 23 Then He inaugurated Joshua the son of Nun, and said, “Be strong and of good courage; for you shall bring the children of Israel into the land of which I swore to them, and I will be with you.” Deuteronomy 31:19-33.
Chapter 32 then continues with the song. It is as if to be understood, Moses’ final message to the Israelites was: “It is not enough that you have received the Torah from me. You must make it new again in every generation.” The covenant was not to grow old. It had to be periodically renewed.
Victory in Yeshua is often misinterpreted as the Torah is done away with. However, the victory that we receive from Yeshua is the victory over the law of sin and death. We are no longer slaves to sin, or slaves to death. Does this mean that we never sin? Absolutely not. But it does bring us to an understanding that we do not have to let sin master over us for the Torah is the life line that explains sin. Without observing the Torah, we are living in sin as 1 John 3:4 so clearly states: ‘Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness and sin is lawlessness.’
If the Torah is abolished, then the Messiah is too, for He is The Word and the Living Torah. We cannot separate the two, as some have separated the Scriptures.
There is a great metaphor of standing still as God gives the Israelites victory. This is in Joshua 3 as the Israelites were to cross the Jordan River and God, in His infinite mercy will not only drive out the enemies, but cause His people to cross the river without fail.
‘Then Joshua rose early in the morning; and they set out from Acacia Grove and came to the Jordan, he and all the children of Israel, and lodged there before they crossed over. 2 So it was, after three days, that the officers went through the camp; 3 and they commanded the people, saying, “When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the priests, the Levites, bearing it, then you shall set out from your place and go after it. 4 Yet there shall be a space between you and it, about two thousand cubits by measure. Do not come near it, that you may know the way by which you must go, for you have not passed this way before.” 5 And Joshua said to the people, “Sanctify yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.” 6 Then Joshua spoke to the priests, saying, “Take up the Ark of the covenant and cross over before the people.”So they took up the ark of the covenant and went before the people.7 And the Lord said to Joshua, “This day I will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. 8 You shall command the priests who bear the ark of the covenant, saying, ‘When you have come to the edge of the water of the Jordan, you shall stand in the Jordan.’ 9 So Joshua said to the children of Israel, “Come here, and hear the words of the Lord your God.” 10 And Joshua said, “By this you shall know that the living God is among you, and that He will without fail drive out from before you the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Hivites and the Perizzites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Jebusites: 11 Behold, the Ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth is crossing over before you into the Jordan. 12 Now therefore, take for yourselves twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one man from every tribe. 13 And it shall come to pass, as soon as the soles of the feet of the priests who bear the ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of the Jordan, that the waters of the Jordan shall be cut off, the waters that come down from upstream, and they shall stand as a heap.” 14 So it was, when the people set out from their camp to cross over the Jordan, with the priests bearing the ark of the covenant before the people, 15 and as those who bore the ark came to the Jordan, and the feet of the priests who bore the ark dipped in the edge of the water (for the Jordan overflows all its banks during the whole time of harvest), 16 that the waters which came down from upstream stood still, and rose in a heap very far away at Adam, the city that is beside Zaretan. So the waters that went down into the Sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, failed, and were cut off; and the people crossed over opposite Jericho. 17 Then the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firm on dry ground in the midst of the Jordan; and all Israel crossed over on dry ground, until all the people had crossed completely over the Jordan.’
When we stand on the very Word of The LORD, we stand with victory!
Nitzavim / You Are Standing
Deuteronomy 29:18-21 ‘… so that there may not be among you man or woman or family or tribe, whose heart turns away today from the Lord our God, to go and serve the gods of these nations, and that there may not be among you a root bearing bitterness or wormwood; and so it may not happen, when he hears the words of this curse, that he blesses himself in his heart, saying, ‘I shall have peace, even though I follow the dictates of my heart’—as though the drunkard could be included with the sober. The Lord would not spare him; for then the anger of the Lord and His jealousy would burn against that man, and every curse that is written in this book would settle on him, and the Lord would blot out his name from under heaven. And the Lord would separate him from all the tribes of Israel for adversity, according to all the curses of the covenant that are written in this Book of the Torah…’
There are some very stark words used in this paragraph: ‘heart turns away’… ‘serve gods of the nations’… ‘root bearing bitterness’… ‘he hears and then he blesses himself’… ‘I will follow my heart’…
Being very forthright, have we not allowed our hearts to speak to us and turn us away from God? Have we not served other gods in the nations? Are we not bitter? Do we not bless ourselves even after we hear the words of God and turn away from them? Don’t we follow our heart allowing our heart to control us?
Observing anything of the nations, such as Sunday, Easter, Christmas would be the very example to this paragraph in Nitzavim.
Chapter 30 continues with a blessing if we return: ‘Now it shall come to pass, when all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse which I have set before you, and you call them to mind among all the nations where the Lord your God drives you, and you return to the Lord your God and obey His voice, according to all that I command you today, you and your children, with all your heart and with all your soul, that the Lord your God will bring you back from captivity, and have compassion on you, and gather you again from all the nations where the Lord your God has scattered you.’
Again, there are some very strong words, and notice that both the blessings and the curses will come upon us. The words to adhere to are: ‘We return’… ‘to obey His voice’… ‘He brings us back from captivity and has compassion on us’.
We have the choice of life or death: “For this commandment which I command you today is not too mysterious for you, nor is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend into heaven for us and bring it to us that we may hear it and do it?’ Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us that we may hear it and do it?’ But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it. “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil, in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgments, that you may live and multiply; and the Lord your God will bless you in the land which you go to possess. But if your heart turns away so that you do not hear, and are drawn away, and worship other gods and serve them, I announce to you today that you shall surely perish; you shall not prolong your days in the land which you cross over the Jordan to go in and possess. I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days…’ Deuteronomy 30:11-20.
This does not include anything that veers away from the teachings and instructions of God – anything – unclean foods, unclean places, Sunday worship, forsaking of Shabbat and the high holy days, and the practicing Christmas or Easter.
God is quite clear – choose life!
May you be blessed as you speak to your heart to follow God instead of allowing your heart to speak to you…
Rabbi Jay Howard