Bereans Online

Bereans Online parashah commentary is copyrighted, however you are free to distribute as you see fit.


Rumination #50: How can we judge the faith of others?

We can’t, and yet, we often do. We are tempted to “exercise righteous judgment” when we observe others. What we may not understand, is that there is a difference between judging deeds, and judging faith. While it is true that faith and deeds are inseparable, when it comes to others we are never instructed to judge their faith.

But we do. A lot. Sometimes we do it in the most egregious ways. We even do it in response to people in pain. We hear questions like, “Why is G-d doing this to me?” and immediately launch into lectures about the consequences of sin, or HaShem trying to get their attention. Or worse, we smugly answer the question in our minds as we look down our noses at their lack of faith. But such questions are not lacking in faith. In fact, they are founded upon the deepest faith of all – the belief that HaShem is working in this world, and the one in pain not understanding how HaShem’s plan is revealed in pain. The faithless do not ask such questions.

At other times, we listen to the people express their “faith” in unscriptural ways. They make theologies up out of whole cloth. Our response too often is to dismiss them and their misguided doctrine – considering them completely blind to G-d. Even though we do not see their hearts, and cannot know the questions and struggles that they face – and whether HaShem is watering seeds of faith that have yet to spring forth in visible fruit. We may have a list of “non-negotiable” doctrinal points (which may be correct), and use them to discount the power of the Almighty in the lives of others. In which case, who is the one lacking faith?

Should we judge our own deeds, and our neighbors? Yes, with HaShem’s righteous standard, the Torah. May we judge others “lack faith”? G-d forbid.

Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the L-rd is able to make him stand.
Romans 14:4

Parashat Ha'azinu - 'Give Ear' (Deuteronomy 32:1-52)

Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous: seven angels having the seven last plagues, for in them the wrath of G-d is complete. And I saw something like a sea of glass mingled with fire, and those who have the victory over the beast, over his image and over his mark and over the number of his name, standing on the sea of glass, having harps of G-d. They sing the song of Moses, the servant of G-d, and the song of the Lamb, saying: "Great and marvelous are Your works, HaShem G-d Almighty! Just and true are Your ways, O King of the holy ones! Who shall not fear You, O HaShem, and glorify Your Name? For You alone are holy. For all nations shall come and worship before You, for Your judgments have been manifested."
Revelation 15:1-4

What "Song of Moses" is given the high standing of being sung as the "Song of the Lamb"'? Well, there are two Songs of Moses. Exodus 15:1-18, and Deuteronomy 32:1-43 and both correctly called the "Song of Moses." Actually, their theme is very much the same - about G-d's care for and redemption of Israel, which is why they can be identified with the "Song of the Lamb." But as for which one specifically, I would have to say it is the one in this week's parasha. I believe that this is the Song of Moses that will be on the lips of the Seven Angels with the seven bowls of wrath.

The name of this week's portion comes from the first line:

Ha'azinu hashamayim va'adabera v'tishma ha-arets im'rei-fi
Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak; and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth.
Deuteronomy 32:1

While the first Song of Moses is largely focused upon the redemption of Israel from slavery in Egypt, the second Song of Moses focuses more upon a time yet future. The danger of reading this second Song of Moses is the same danger we have when reading prophetic books like Jeremiah, Hosea, and Isaiah - we sometimes don't read far enough. If we do that, we may be tempted to conclude like so many errant theologies, that the Seven Angels of Revelation 15 are being sent to pour out judgment on Israel. Nothing could be further from the truth, and sadly those who hold to such ignoble beliefs may discover too late how grave their error was. Their error was in assuming that G-d is finished with Israel.

We can read at the end of last week's portion why this "Song of Moses" was given to us. It says,

Take this Book of the Torah, and put it beside the Ark of the Covenant of HaShem your G-d, that it may be there as a witness against you; for I know your rebellion and your stiff neck. If today, while I am yet alive with you, you have been rebellious against HaShem, then how much more after my death? Gather to me all the elders of your tribes, and your officers, that I may speak these words in their hearing and call heaven and earth to witness against them. For I know that after my death you will become utterly corrupt, and turn aside from the way which I have commanded you. And evil will befall you in the latter days, because you will do evil in the sight of HaShem, to provoke Him to anger through the work of your hands. Then Moses spoke in the hearing of all the assembly of Israel the words of this song until they were ended...
Deuteronomy 31:26-30

Did you notice how the Torah and the "Song of Moses" are a witness? Let me boldly suggest that not only is the Torah and the "Song of Moses" a witness against Israel's disobedience - they serve as a witness against those who annul the Almighty's promises to Israel as well. They serve as a witness against those who annul the very commandments that they condemn Israel for not keeping.

The poetry of the Song of Moses is extremely complex. It is artful in its construction and powerful at its conclusion. Its unique nature is represented in Torah scrolls with off-setting columns going down the scroll. It is a masterpiece of literature. It is a masterpiece of prophecy.

It starts out with what appears to be a depressing account of Israel's future failure to obey G-d's Torah. It contrasts Israel's disobedience, to G-d's absolute faithfulness. It highlights the gracious choice of Israel over all the nations to be G-d's own possession - and Israel's future infidelity to Him. In Deuteronomy 32:20 the tone of the prophecy seems to change, albeit it only for a few verses. This shift is where the Apostle Paul draws from in his eloquent defense of unbelieving Israel. Yes, I said, "unbelieving Israel." Romans 11 is quite clear that we should not be arrogant against "unbelieving Israel" - because the gifts and calling of G-d are irrevocable. Our opponents on the issue of Messiah, are in fact our brothers - and all Israel will be saved.

For if you were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, who are natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree? For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written:

"The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; For this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins." Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers. For the gifts and the calling of G-d are irrevocable.
Romans 11:24-29

In Romans 11 Paul also draws from the theme of jealousy found in the Song of Moses. Moses predicts that Israel will make G-d jealous by chasing after other gods. In Romans 11:11 we read that the in-grafting of Gentiles will make Israel jealous. In what way? The reverse of how the Song of Moses sees jealousy - by joining themselves to the G-d of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (i.e. we share the same G-d, we are brothers). Here is what Paul is drawing from in the Song of Moses:

They have provoked Me to jealousy by what is not G-d; they have moved Me to anger by their foolish idols. But I will provoke them to jealousy by those who are not a nation; I will move them to anger by a foolish nation.
Deuteronomy 32:21

After this verse, the Song goes through another cycle of G-d dealing with Israel's disobedience. When it seems there is no one left to help Israel - then G-d reminds us:

Now see that I, even I, am He, and there is no G-d besides Me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; nor is there any who can deliver from My hand.
Deuteronomy 32:39

The climax and ultimate goal of the Song is found in the last line, in the last two words. It is to this point that we must always keep reading if we think that G-d is finished with Israel.

Rejoice, O Gentiles, with His people; for He will avenge the blood of His servants, and render vengeance to His adversaries; He will provide atonement for His land and His people.
Deuteronomy 32:43

It is here that we are reminded of Romans 11 again, and Revelation 15 with the Song of Moses and of the Lamb:

Who shall not fear You, O HaShem, and glorify Your Name? For You alone are holy. For all nations shall come and worship before You, for Your judgments have been manifested.
Revelation 15:4

It is all about Him restoring Israel. It is all about Israel fulfilling her purpose - to bring all nations to the Living G-d. Beloved, we await the prophetic conclusion to the Song of Moses and of the Lamb - and until then, pay attention: World events are all about restoring Israel to Him.

One final note of encouragement (which is lost on those who read these prophecies without reading the happy ending). It is found after Moses sings this song of his:

Moses finished speaking all these words to all Israel, and he said to them: "Set your hearts on all the words which I testify among you today, which you shall command your children to be careful to observe - all the words of this Torah. For it is not a futile thing for you, because it is your life, and by this word you shall prolong your days in the land which you cross over the Jordan to possess."
Deuteronomy 32:46-47

This is an encouragement to us all. G-d's Word does not return void. All of it is for us. Guarding and obeying G-d's Torah, is our life.

Haftarat Ha'azinu - 'Give ear!' (2Samuel 22:1-51)

This week's Torah reading contains Moses' Song. Appropriately, the reading from the Prophets is the Song of David from 2Samuel 22, which in many ways prophetically mirrors the Song of Moses.

This week is the last parasha and haftarah reading of the year. There is one more reading, however it is saved for when we "roll the scroll back" and begin again at the beginning. For the next three weeks we will be reading Yom Kippur and Sukkot readings - and then we will begin all over again...

Then David spoke to HaShem the words of this song, on the day when HaShem had delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul. And he said: "HaShem is my rock and my fortress and my Deliverer; the G-d of my strength, in whom I will trust; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge; my Savior, You save me from violence."
2Samuel 22:1-3

These are the words of song. These are the words of prayer. It is not surprising that synagogue liturgy borrows heavily from this Song of David.

Of course we know that whenever we read of David, we must ask if there is a Messianic connection. After all, David is HaShem's mashiach [anointed one]. Maybe that is one way of understanding the following:

HaShem rewarded me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he has recompensed me. For I have kept the ways of HaShem, and have not wickedly departed from my G-d. For all His judgments were before me; and as for His statutes, I did not depart from them. I was also blameless before Him, and I kept myself from my iniquity. Therefore HaShem has recompensed me according to my righteousness, according to my cleanness in His eyes.
2Samuel 22:21-25

How is it possible that this speaks of David? How can any man say "I was blameless..."? There are several possible explanations, which I won't go into, except to note that there is a teaching that twists Scripture to say that man can never live righteously. Beloved, as comfortable as that may sound to you... it is not biblical. It is true that our righteousness is as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). It is true that we have all sinned. But it is also true that throughout Scripture we read of righteous men and women. G-d Himself calls them "righteous." Did they ever sin? Of course. Were they known for their sin? Absolutely not. We are not speaking of imputed righteousness, where the righteousness of Messiah is applied to us forensically. No, we are speaking of living according to G-d's instructions. That is righteousness. It is as plain as the words in His Word:

And HaShem commanded us to observe all these statutes, to fear HaShem our G-d, for our good always, that He might preserve us alive, as it is this day. Then it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to observe all these commandments before HaShem our G-d, as He has commanded us.
Deuteronomy 6:24-25

The antinomian of course will turn and say, "See the words 'if you are careful to observe...'? It is impossible, or at least too difficult. G-d gave the commandments to prove that man could not keep them..." Beloved, that is a lie. Our G-d is not a bait-and-switch artist who gives impossible instructions. It was in last week's Torah portion that G-d tells us that He has not asked the impossible, or something too difficult - He has offered life:

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.
Deuteronomy 30:11-14

Paul quotes this passage and continues the point. Sadly, many put the Torah in opposition to Yeshua and hence completely reverse the meaning of Romans 10:

For they being ignorant of G-d's righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of G-d. For Messiah is the goal of the Torah for righteousness to everyone who believes. For Moses writes about the righteousness which is of the Torah, "The man who does those things shall live by them." And the righteousness of faith speaks in this way, "Do not say in your heart, 'Who will ascend into heaven?'" (that is, to bring Messiah down from above) or, "'Who will descend into the abyss?'" that is, to bring Messiah up from the dead). But what does it say? "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart" (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the L-rd Yeshua and believe in your heart that G-d has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
Romans 10:3-10

It is not our own righteousness we establish when we live by HaShem's instructions. It is His righteousness. And, when do those things, we will live by them! Do you see Paul's point? He is connecting the life of Torah with the life of Yeshua. A life of faith is a life of righteous living.

There is no faith if there are no righteous deeds to go with it.

For too long, those claiming to be followers of the Messiah have used pagan philosophies to understand Scripture. It was Plato, not G-d, who taught that faith is a "thought thing." Beloved, when you understand Scripture you will see that faith is "living in light of the truth." The very root of the Hebrew word "emunah" [faith] is the word "emet" [truth]. Faith is steadfastly acting upon the truth. The truth is, G-d has spoken. He has promised to give life to those who chose to live His way. Only a fool would replace the words of life with an empty "faith."

Our Master's beloved disciple, John, explains it this way:

Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, "I know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of G-d is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.
1John 2:3-6

Whoever abides in Him does not [continue in] sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him. Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous.
2John 3:6-7

David lived a righteous life. Although he was not sinless, his life was marked by his constant walk of obedience. David was righteous.

Yeshua lived a righteous life. Perfectly righteous. Yes, He was without sin, and His life was one of perfect obedience. The standard has not be lowered because we have been redeemed... it remains high. However, it is not impossible... it is within our mouth, that we may do it. It is not a burden... it is a blessing.

By this we know that we love the children of G-d, when we love G-d and keep His commandments. For this is the love of G-d, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.
1John 5:3

The Almighty has given us the words of life. Words to live by. Words that echo and foreshadow Messiah. He has promised blessings and life. Many have turned their eyes away and set their faces against the decrees of the Holy One. Some have attempted to measure the Torah out as if it were meager amount - giving only some commandments to some believers. Pay them no mind. Turn to HaShem. Live the life that Messiah lived. Obey the commandments of G-d - all of them. They are a Tree of Life to those who grasp hold of them...

Prayer Focus for Ha'azinu – 'Mi Chamocha' [Who is like You]

During the morning prayers, following the blessings of the Shema, the congregation stands and prays part of the other Song of Moses (the Song of the Sea).

Praises to the Supreme G-d, the blessed One Who is blessed, Moses and the children of Israel exclaimed a song to You with great joy and they all said, 'Who is like You among the heavenly powers, HaShem! Who is like You mighty in holiness, too awesome for praise, doing wonders.'

With a new son the redeemed ones praised Your Name at the seashore, all of them in unison gave thanks, acknowledged Your sovereignty and said,

"HaShem shall reign for all eternity."
-- ArtScroll Translation

Bereans Online eNews

Standing in Prayer with all Israel,

Rick Spurlock
Bereans Online