This week’s parasha is entitled Nitzavim, meaning “Those taking a stand”. This is a different word than the usual verb meaning to stand up. It conveys the idea of taking a moral stand – openly or publicly. This parasha covers Deuteronomy 29:9-30:20.
Moses’ death was fast approaching. He was busy carrying out his final duties of preparing the Israelis to enter into the Promised Land. Here Moses gives his third and final discourse to the Jewish people.
He reminds the nation of the covenant they made with the Lord in Horeb at Mount Sinai. Now it was time to reaffirm that covenant. In fact, Moses’ dominant theme was always for Israel to stand in perfect obedience to Adonai with their whole heart, soul and strength.
Moses said to them, “This day all of you are standing here before the Lord your God. Your leaders, your officials, your elders, even all the men of Israel are here; your wives and children as well as the foreigners living among you, the people who cut your wood and bring your water; that you may enter into this Covenant with the Lord your God. No one was absent that day.
In this covenant renewal the chosen people so committed themselves to obeying Adonai, that He was able to confirm them as His people, and Himself as their God.
This was important because He had promised in a previous covenant with the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, that He would give their descendants the land that was watered by Heaven and flowing with milk and honey.
This covenant Moses mediated was to apply, not only to those who were living then but to their descendants also. In fact, it was the precursor to a covenant that would bring blessings to all the nations.
Moses reminded the people that they were not to be naive concerning idolatry. They had seen it in Egypt and they themselves had fallen into idolatry on the way to the Promised Land. They had seen for themselves the detestable idols of the pagan nations surrounding them. They knew how one compromising man, woman, clan, or tribe could defile many with the bitter poison of idolatry. A little leaven… leavens the whole batch.
The Israelis understood that judgment would fall, and not only on the one who introduced the idolatry, but also on the whole nation because they allowed themselves to be enticed and then swept away by the false worship. This future judgment would be so severe that it was compared to the judgment that fell on Sodom and Gomorrah. The land would be reduced to salt, sulfur and complete barrenness.
This devastation would be so complete that other nations would wonder and ask why Israel’s God had become so angry and let this happen. The answer would be that Israel had abandoned the Mosaic Covenant by committing idolatry.
Even their false worship would prove the truth of God’s Word, because the curses in this Book would come upon them just as God had promised. Adonai would then in His anger uproot them and send His chosen nation into exile. There they would have to serve their captors.
Israel was warned to be extremely vigilant when they entered the land of Canaan they were to avoid idolatry at all cost.
Some things are known only to God, but He does reveal to man what we need to know to live obediently before Him. Israel was being told plainly what the nation needed know about breaking the covenant, about going into idolatry.
Mankind often becomes concerned about things he doesn’t need to know and ignores what God has plainly revealed to him.
As an example, we don’t need to know where Cain got his wife but we certainly can learn from the lessons of Cain’s rebellion to God.
In chapter 30, Moses set the blessings and the curses before the nation in order to motivate them to serve the Lord. Yet Moses knew this fickle and stubborn people well enough to realize that apostasy was all most inevitable, and that the promised curses would come upon them –invasion, exile and dispersion among the nations.
However, even in the midst of these prophesied curses, Moses foresaw God’s mercy and future blessings. If Israel repented, Adonai would restore them. If the Chosen People would turn their hearts back to the Three-In-One God, He promised He would remove all the curses and restore their land.
Repentance was the pre-condition of this promised restoration. The first step on the road to repentance is self-examination. Consideration is the first step toward conversion.
The Israeli was to humbly acknowledge in his or her heart their transgressions and to consider the happiness they lost through sin, and the misery they had brought to themselves. If they understood that through repentance they could escape that misery and rediscover true happiness, they would quickly return to the Lord.
In Yeshua’s parable, the prodigal son considered in his heart the blessings and the curses, he considered his present poverty – the result of his own foolish choices and the abundance of bread in his father’s house. The prodigal came to himself first, and then to his father.
Adonai promised to gather Israel out of all the nations of the earth from where He had scattered them and to bring them back into the land promised to their fathers, to do good for the nation, to multiply them and to bless them above all other nations.
Moses said to Israel, today I am giving you a choice of two ways. I ask heaven and earth to be witnesses of your choice. You can choose life or death. The first choice will bring a blessing; the other choice will bring a curse. So choose life!
Then you and your children will live. You must love Adonai your God, obey Him and never leave Him; because the Lord is your life.
A choice every bit as monumental is set before us today, it is also a matter of life and death. Furthermore as with the Sinai covenant there is no option to remain neutral.
Believers today are called to affirm the New Covenant, to acknowledge that Yeshua, Jesus of Nazareth, is the promised Messiah and Redeemer; the One of whom the prophets spoke of thousands of years ago. All who are joined by faith to Adonai’s Holy Community collectively affirm this fact but each one of us must be able to affirm it individually.
We who are husbands and fathers should take the lead in our families, guiding our wives and children to deep and abiding faith in God and in Messiah, so that we can declare along with Joshua, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
Ultimately, each of us is called to take a stand; and to openly declare loyalty to Messiah Yeshua who is the anointed Word of God.
To do so will cost you something. It may cost you friends, family, a job, even one day perhaps your life. But it is totally worth it! Because of His promise to us of eternal life. Now the question is, are you prepared, with God’s help, to take that stand? Heaven and earth, are listening.