3 Tishrei, 5778 / September
By Matthew Paul Gliebe
This Weeks Readings:
Torah: Deuteronomy 32:1-52
Haftarah: Hosea 14:2-10; Joel 2:15-18; Micah 7:18-20
Brit Chadasha: 2 Peter 3:8-13
Several years ago I received an interesting phone call. My caller realized that there was a problem with the celebration of Rosh Hashanah. The holiday, my caller believed, was designed to diminish the real Jewish New Year, which is in Nissan during Passover. My caller claimed that this was a plot from Satan to diminish the role of Messiah Yeshua and His redemption. I actually believe that my caller was on to a great point, yet there is more to it than this. The Jewish calendar celebrates four different new year’s (each year!). Let’s discuss just two of them: Pesach and Rosh Hashanah. Passover celebrates G-d’s redemption, His ransoming of us from our sin, from slavery in Egypt, and carrying us to the Promised Land. When Rosh Hashanah comes around each year, we are challenged to move forward and become accountable for our actions. We recognize how G-d has brought us this far, and now we are taking upon ourselves the responsibility to adhere to His instruction and to confess and turn away from our sin. We then work hard to live up to these expectations for the remainder of the year (for which we again recall how we are redeemed when Pesach rolls around again). This High Holiday season and the Portion for this week, Haazinu, really complement this interpretation.
The Torah Portion reminds us of both the story of our People upon coming out of Egypt as well as Moses’s prophetic narrative for the people of Israel and their future. G-d chose Israel; G-d chose us from among all nations despite ourselves. Moses knew that the people were going to fail, so he wished to declare these things before all of the people, but especially to the upcoming leadership. Even more than this, Moses declares that this is not just a “trivial” thing, but rather “this is your life!” If sin is death, why is it that we are so quick and eager to kill ourselves? The logic is clear; but we demonstrate our foolishness regularly when we do not live out G-d’s commandments.
In the Haftarah Portion, we see that this narrative is continued with the Minor Prophets Hosea, Joel, and Micah. The Book of Hosea explicitly describes how again G-d has weaned us, cared for us, raised us out of ashes, and we respond by throwing punches in His face with our sin. G-d’s wrath and judgment are sure; and we are absolutely incapable of measuring up to His standard. Nonetheless, we are required to live at His standard; He will accept nothing less. Yet, we can know that G-d is gracious, able and willing to forgive us our personal sins through Messiah Yeshua, as He already paid the price for those sins. We, now, just need to be willing to admit our sin, believe, and commit to changing. Just as Hosea goes out to bring his adulterous wife home, G-d is calling us back to Him; He still loves us and yearns for us despite ourselves. Now, we just need to answer that call. Otherwise, we are only breaking His heart and ultimately damning ourselves…and for what good is that?
Our small Brit Chadashah Portion talks about the true nature of G-d’s heart: G-d desires repentance. He wishes to see His Bride return to a state of adoration of Him. G-d is calling for the people of the United States to rise up and seek a relationship with Him as their Creator; to shut off the TVs, close the laptops, ditch the football games, social events, problems and busy-‘nesses’ of this world and to seek Him in His Word. G-d calls for Israel to actually trust Him more than the United States. G-d wishes for the Jewish People to break down their stubborn hearts and to see His real plan for them laid out in the Torah and Haftarah about Messiah Yeshua. G-d wishes for boys to become men and for them to help lead girls in becoming women, rather than deprive them of that growth and thereby deprive themselves. G-d wishes for the ecclesia to get out of their congregations and serve the broken communities around them: to bring His love to widows and orphans. That is why the world is the way it is – because G-d is calling and most of us are not answering.
Maybe you have a broken life. Perhaps you have broken finances, a broken social life, or a broken home. If that’s the case, G-d can transform it and He wants to. But you have to let Him; you need a relationship with G-d. You need to let Him rule your life. Maybe you have been blessed with a relationship with G-d already. You have made G-d lord over your life. Now, this holiday season, consider where you have fallen short. G-d has led you this far. So, how can you reevaluate your life so that you won’t make the same mistakes? If you were about to enter the Promised Land, would you have been ready to remain committed to G-d’s commandments, or would you have been the reason that the People went into Exile?