Parashat Shoftim (Judges)
D’varim (Deuteronomy) 16:18 -21:9
Haftarah: Isaiah 51:12-52:12
In this week’s Parashah, we read a well-known verse that clearly points to the fact that God will raise up someone who will be in the same position as Moses, to whom the people ought to listen:
The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen; to him you shall listen. This is in accordance with everything that you asked of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, saying, ‘Do not let me hear the voice of the LORD my God again, and do not let me see this great fire anymore, or I will die!’ And the LORD said to me, ‘They have spoken well. I will raise up for them a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them everything that I command him. And it shall come about that whoever does not listen to My words which he speaks in My name, I Myself will require it of him. But the prophet who speaks a word presumptuously in My name, a word which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.’ And if you say in your heart, ‘How will we recognize the word which the LORD has not spoken?’ When the prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, and the thing does not happen or come true, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you are not to be afraid of him.”
This section of verses is so important, in my opinion. Because we humans cannot comprehend God’s holiness and might, the people made a request that I believe is prophetic in its core. While Moses may have fulfilled it temporarily, it does point to someone who would be one of them (an Israelite), in whose mouth God would put His words. In other words, God would raise up someone who we would need to follow and obey, as Peter rightly referred to Yeshua in Acts 3:15-26.
Of particular interest are verses 20-22 from Deuteronomy 18, which I personally believe may be a warning for us today:
But the prophet who speaks a word presumptuously in My name, a word which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.’ And if you say in your heart, ‘How will we recognize the word which the LORD has not spoken?’ When the prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, and the thing does not happen or come true, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you are not to be afraid of him.
As I read these words, I thought about the account from Matthew 24, where the disciples wanted to have an “inside scoop” on when the end times will be. Yeshua’s answer, I believe, may have been taken from our Parashah:
And Yeshua answered and said to them, “See to it that no one misleads you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and they will mislead many people.”
and later in Matthew 24:11:
And many false prophets will rise up and mislead many people.”
We find an interesting connection in our Haftarah portion in the book of Isaiah. Let’s take a look at two specific verses; the first is Isaiah 51:17, where the prophet gives us stern wakeup call:
Wake up, wake up up, arise, Jerusalem! You who have drunk from the LORD’s hand the cup of His wrath and poison; the chalice of staggering you have drunk to the dregs.
And the second is Isaiah 52:1:
Awake, awake, clothe yourself in your strength, Zion; clothe yourself with your beautiful garments, Jerusalem, the holy city; for the uncircumcised and the unclean will no longer come into you.
While we can see the importance of "waking up" to the existence of God, repenting, and turning from our evil ways, I would like to suggest that this could also be a warning to those of us who follow Messiah Yeshua, against false prophets and teachers.
We live in a day and an age where many false prophets and teachers surround us. An interesting point that Yeshua Himself made is the fact that “many will come in His name”, and sadly we choose to ignore that if we let them, they will mislead us as well.
I believe our Parashah gives us a way to recognize false prophets in Deuteronomy 18:20-22; if they prophesy, and the words that they speak do not come to pass, they are false. According to this Scripture, we should consider them as dead so that they will not mislead us. I believe that a very similar principle applies to false teachers who pretend to teach God’s Word, but in essence what they teach misleads and confuses us, causing us to walk away from God.
I would like to close with some powerful words from Isaiah 52:1-12:
Awake, awake, clothe yourself in your strength, Zion; clothe yourself with your beautiful garments, Jerusalem, the holy city; for the uncircumcised and the unclean will no longer come into you. Shake yourself from the dust, rise up, captive Jerusalem; release yourself from the chains around your neck, captive daughter of Zion. For this is what the LORD says: “You were sold for nothing, and you will be redeemed without money.” For this is what the Lord GOD says: “My people went down to Egypt first to reside there; then the Assyrian oppressed them without reason. And now, what do I have here,” declares the LORD, “seeing that My people have been taken away without reason?” Again the LORD declares, “Those who rule over them howl, and My name is continually reviled all day long. Therefore, My people shall know My name; therefore on that day I am the one who is speaking, ‘Here I am.’”
How delightful on the mountains are the feet of one who brings good news, who announces peace and brings good, who announces salvation, and says to Zion, “Your God reigns!”
Listen! Your watchmen raise their voices, they shout joyfully together; for they will see with their own eyes when the Lord restores Zion. Be cheerful, shout joyfully together,
you ruins of Jerusalem; for the LORD has comforted His people, He has redeemed Jerusalem.
The LORD has bared His holy arm In the sight of all the nations, so that all the ends of the earth may see the salvation of our God.
Depart, depart, go out from there, do not touch what is unclean; go out of the midst of her, purify yourselves, you who carry the vessels of the LORD. But you will not go out in a hurry, nor will you go as fugitives; for the LORD will go before you, and the God of Israel will be your rear guard.”
God is purifying the Body of Messiah! He is preparing us for His return. Let us be awake and alert to those who would seek to lead us astray in these days. He alone is our Shepherd and we, His sheep, must know His voice.
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