Parashat Nitzavim (Standing)
D’varim (Deuteronomy) 29:9–30:20
I would really encourage you to first read this week's Scripture portion from Deuteronomy 29:9–30:20. Once again, I marvel at the depth and richness of this portion, and believe that you will greatly benefit from reading it yourself. While this portion speaks specifically to the Children of Israel, and warns of the consequences of disobedience (namely, exile from the Land), I believe it holds amazing prophetic elements for us followers, and all people today.
We all know that Israel disobeyed God and therefore was sent into exile. Yet, as we know and see today, God gathered (and continues to gather) His children back to the Land of Promise; this is one of the most profound and amazing proofs of His existence and of the truth of His Word!
With that in mind, I'd like to share some of the prophetic elements that I see in this parasha, which are important for us to understand:
- Each of us will have to stand before God.
Our reading starts with these verses:
You stand today, all of you, before the LORD your God: your chiefs, your tribes, your elders and your officers, even all the men of Israel, your little ones, your wives, and the alien who is within your camps, from the one who chops your wood to the one who draws your water, that you may enter into the covenant with the LORD your God, and into His oath which the LORD your God is making with you today, in order that He may establish you today as His people and that He may be your God, just as He spoke to you and as He swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Now not with you alone am I making this covenant and this oath, but both with those who stand here with us today in the presence of the LORD our God and with those who are not with us here today.
Deuteronomy 29:9–14 (10–15 in the English translations)
Note the way these verses are clear that everyone - from the leaders to the workers, from the young to old, men and women, Israel and Gentiles - will stand before the LORD in covenant. One interesting point here is that even those who were not present were also held responsible. This reminds me of Romans 14:12, where Paul writes,
So then each one of us shall give account of himself to God.
- Don’t take God’s grace in vain!
…for you know how we lived in the land of Egypt, and how we came through the midst of the nations through which you passed. Moreover, you have seen their abominations and their idols of wood, stone, silver, and gold, which they had with them); lest there shall be among you a man or woman, or family or tribe, whose heart turns away today from the LORD our God, to go and serve the gods of those nations; lest there shall be among you a root bearing poisonous fruit and wormwood. And it shall be when he hears the words of this curse, that he will boast, saying, ‘I have peace though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart in order to destroy the watered land with the dry.’ The LORD shall never be willing to forgive him, but rather the anger of the LORD and His jealousy will burn against that man, and every curse which is written in this book will rest on him, and the LORD will blot out his name from under heaven.
Deuteronomy 29:15 -19 (16-20 in the English translations)
The verses above mention the exodus from Egypt, which is a reminder of God’s miraculous redemption and the way He continued to protect Israel. However, He warned Israel to not grow arrogant as a result of His protection. How easy is it for us to let pride take root in our hearts, which will cause us to turn away from Him and worship idols. This is not to be taken lightly! It can cause us to be written out of the book…
The verses above also speak of a “root bearing poisonous fruit and wormwood", which reminds me of the “root of bitterness” that is referred to in Hebrews 12:14–27:
See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled; that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal. For you know that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears.
- True repentance and returning to God can only happen through the circumcision of the heart.
Deuteronomy 30:1–8 speaks of the fact that once we truly repent and return to God with all of our hearts, God will circumcise our hearts in order for us to love Him.
So it shall be when all of these things have come upon you, the blessing and the curse which I have set before you, and you call them to mind in all nations where the LORD your God has banished you, and you return to the LORD your God and obey Him with all your heart and soul according to all that I command you today, you and your sons, then the LORD your God will restore you from captivity, and have compassion on you, and will gather you again from all the peoples where the LORD your God has scattered you. If your outcasts are at the ends of the earth, from there the LORD your God will gather you, and from there He will bring you back. And the LORD your God will bring you into the land which your fathers possessed, and you shall possess it; and He will prosper you and multiply you more than your fathers. “Moreover the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, in order that you may live. And the LORD your God will inflict all these curses on your enemies and on those who hate you, who persecuted you. And you shall again obey the LORD, and observe all His commandments which I command you today.
The only way to return to the Father is through a total heart commitment to His Son who said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one can come to the Father but through Me.” (John 14:6) and He also showed us that the principle of showing love to God is by obeying His commands (John 14:15).
- The most important choice in life!
I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the LORD your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days, that you may live in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.
From the days of old until today the most important choice one can make is between life (God’s way) or death (the “I” way), and this choice is not just a temporary one but rather an eternal one.
In closing, during the upcoming days of self reflection and decision making, I hope each of us will choose life, and as I said before, life can only come through Yeshua Himself!
Shabbat Shalom and Shanah Tova,