Updated: Oct 11
[1-7 Sept 2024]
Theme of the Book of Deuteronomy:
Possessing the Promised Land
Meaning of "shoftim" = "judges"
This week's Torah portions:
Sunday: Deuteronomy 16:18-17:13
Monday: Deuteronomy 17:14-20
Tuesday: Deuteronomy 18:1-5
Wednesday: Deuteronomy 18:6-13
Thursday: Deuteronomy 18:14-19:13
Friday: Deuteronomy 19:14-20:9
Shabbat: Deuteronomy 20:10-21:9 & Isaiah 51:12-52:12
Daily Bread for Busy Moms portions:
1 Chronicles 25-29
2 Chronicles 1
2 Timothy 3-4
Welcome to the 5th portion of the book of Deuteronomy! I cannot believe that there has been 42 blog posts already since I started sharing these portions with you at the end of 2022. The Torah readings for some of you who might be new (or need a little refresher) - is the yearly reading of the first 5 books of the Bible. Fortunately, we don't only have the first 5 books of the Bible to read - we also have the other 61! And these passages are also broken into pieces on the Daily Bread for Busy Moms podcast which we listen to and refer to in all of our posts.
If you need a more in depth blog about the in's & outs of the Torah reading cycle; you can read this post.
The Hebrew word Shoftim means "judges." In this week's portion as well as last week's - we read about Moses's final days (period, not literal days) on earth before he passed. Moses knew that he was not going to enter into the Promised Land and Joshua was appointed as his successor - which we read about in an earlier portion. In this week's portion, Moses tells the nation of Israel what they must do when they enter the Promised Land.
Here we notice that the focus / perspective shifts. It's no longer about the journey through the desert, but the focus shifts to the point in time when they step into their destiny, into the promises which Abba had in store for them. Thus, when we read this week's portion, it's not about the letter of the words which pertained to the Israelites. It's about the spiritual principles which still apply to our lives today. We can learn from this portion what it is that we have to do when we step into the promises which Abba has in store for us as well.
In the first part of the book of Deuteronomy, we looked at the things which we had to do / get into place - in order for us to enter into our promised land. Now it takes a turn to what we have to do once we enter in. Moses told the people of Israel, that when they enter into the promised land – they had to appoint judges. The role of these judges were to ensure that the entire nation adhered to Abba’s instructions.
When we are in a season of preparation, preparing ourselves to enter the promises which Abba has called over us – it’s many times a very personal and individual thing. We have to put in the effort ourselves and most times the people around you won’t know the time and effort that you are truly putting in. However, when we get to the point where we actually enter in / start living in the promises – in most cases – it’s no longer an individual thing! It involves others!
When Moses addressed the Israelites, he placed emphasis on the fact that justice had to pursue at all times! We have to continuously pursue life and not only maintain it. For justice to pursue, the right thing must be done. What's important to realise is that justice is not simply a set of rules, it's not a legalistic system. The true concept for justice to be established is to take into consideration the circumstances which are involved in the situation. You must always ask yourself if there might be a reason why the person(s) acted outside of the "rules" / generalised agreement. For justice to prevail, we first have to determine what is the very thing which has happened, and the circumstances involved.
Whenever someone does something that's "wrong" - we always have to ask ourselves why it happened and what might have caused it. When we see situations in context of what it is, it almost always changes the outcome of it. The essence of justice is to never jump to conclusions based on a set of rules or preconceived idea.
The Bible says that there should always be two creditable sources / witnesses to any incident when justice has to be established. Now this is obviously not always possible, as some conversations / incidents only occur between two people with no witnesses. This is actually such a good example of justice. It's not about sticking to the "rule" that there must be at least two witnesses. But about considering the actual facts and circumstances of the relevant matter at hand.
What this concept simply means is that as far as possible / when it's in our hands - we should try to handle matters where there are witnesses.
When Moses addressed the nation of Israel, he reminded them that they had to keep this concept always in mind.
If the Bible was a book of rules, the story in the Bible would have been completely different. All throughout the Bible - and especially in the New Testament - we see how the people we read about have sinned and transgressed Abba's instructions. If the Bible was a book of rules, there would have been no mercy and grace, and everyone would live the full extent of their punishment. But when we read the Bible it's very clear that it's not the case! All throughout Scripture Abba continues to display His Justice! He always takes the situations into consideration. Yes, He will never change His instructions. However, He is gracious and just to forgive and reconcile us when we are willing to return to Him. God does not judge us - He gives us time to repent. If we do not repent - we will however be judged by Him with Yeshua's second coming.
There's a whole lot we can learn from Abba on how we should act. We must always look for a repentant heart in situations that's not according to the "rules."
King David in the Bible is a great example of someone with a repentant heart. From Scripture it's very evident how many mistakes and wrong choices he has made - I mean - he literally took someone else's wife and caused her husband to be killed in battle so that he could get this wife. David made many mistakes, but what set him apart regardless of his multiple mistakes - was his repentant heart. Whenever David had made a mistake, he was able to realise it; willing to repent and ask for forgiveness; and also, very important - he was willing to change. We see how Abba dealt with David Himself and forgave him.
Abba called David a man after His own heart. That does not mean that David was faultless, everything but. As mentioned above, David had a repentant heart and Abba loved him for that! David was willing to come clean and after he was set free, he didn't continue in his wrong ways.
This should be an inspiration to each one of us! Despite our wrong choices (big or small) and the mistakes which we have made - if we run to Abba in true repentance - He can justify our sins through the Blood of Yeshua.
If we allow Him to judge us now (through repentance) before His return, we will get to experience His gentle justice and we have the opportunity to be made righteous through His Blood. If we don't allow Him to judge us now, in other words - if we don't come to Him with true repentant hearts before Yeshua's second coming - we'll have to face His judgement on Judgement Day... and then it will be too late to apply His Blood. There will be no more time for repentance.
God's justice will pursue. We have a choice to either repent and be judged now or to continue in our ways and be judged one day.
We have to have willing hearts to learn and to change. If we don’t, we get stuck in our ways - which might be wrong and out of line with Abba's will. We then become set in our own ways and appoint ourselves as judges over others - because we then feel that when people don't act the way we want them to, then they are at fault. Which in most cases is the exact opposite of the situation!
There are always exceptions on the rule. Even in the Bible. Thus, it's important to know Abba's instructions - to keep ourselves as well as others accountable. But it's not about keeping it to a T in a legalistic matter. It's about knowing the instructions and principles taught but considering how the current situation / circumstances might have an effect.
The highest value of the Torah is about pursuing life! When we pursue life, it includes bringing life into our situations and circumstances. Therefore, we cannot simply apply rules and instructions by "the letter of the law" - then we might miss the mark.
Every one of us make mistakes. When we are in the wrong, we have to acknowledge it and repent for it. When others make mistakes, and they are willing to acknowledge it - we have to be willing to forgive them too. There's a massive difference between saying that you are sorry and actually being sorry. Some people are only sorry about the consequences of their actions but don't truly grasp the fact that it's their actions which have caused the consequences. That's not true repentance. True repentance requires more - like we see in the story of David.
We have to be:
Willing to acknowledge that our actions were wrong (regardless of the consequences).
Willing to sincerely repent - to God but also to those whom we have wronged - for our actions and not just the consequences.
Willing to change our ways going forward.
We have to be willing to ask for forgiveness when we were the ones who have wronged others and also to extend forgiveness to those who have wronged us.
From this portion we are reminded that justice must always pursue. We have to do our part in it all. Abba asks of us to consider the circumstances and extend grace and mercy like He does. We should create a safe space for people, where they would be comfortable enough to address uncomfortable situations with us - instead of just sweeping it under the rug.
In Deuteronomy 20:20 and Matthew 7:19 we read how trees have to be cut down if they don't bear any fruit. In this lies an important principle as well. The opposite also have to be considered. If a tree is actually producing fruit - it should not be cut down / uprooted. Which leads to the next nugget of truth! For a tree to produce an optimal harvest - it has to be pruned!
There are things, wacky branches if I can call it that, which inhibit our ability to produce good fruit. Unless the wacky branches are trimmed and pruned, we might continue to produce fruit - but it will never be the quality which Abba intended for us to produce.
Abba places people in our lives and us in the lives of others - to help one another grow. We should not cut life (overhanging theme of Torah) from others. Cutting life is about cutting off the roots or at the trunk - which will disable the tree from growing. We're not called to do that.
We are however called to keep one another accountable. With accountability comes pruning. The cutting down of the wacky branches won't kill the tree - even though it might be uncomfortable - it will actually help the tree to grow bigger and better and to produce more fruit!
This portion ends off with the instruction of how it should be handled when someone is killed by an unknown perpetrator. In the context of this portion - we are reminded that this concept of justice is not individual based, but a community thing. We all have an obligation and a equal role to play!
We have to extend grace and mercy, but at the same time we should also arrange things and order it according to Abba's instructions. The responsibility goes two ways. We always have to pursue justice and righteousness. And keep in mind that justice is not a set of rules which we have to adhere to but the consideration of the circumstances. We have to ask ourselves if we did our part to pursue justice in the situations we face.
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Portion 42: Shoftim (The blog you are reading now)