Parashat Shoftim – Like Unto Moses

Posted by on Aug 25, 2017 in Teachings
Parashat Shoftim – Like Unto Moses

This week’s Parashat, Shoftim contains some very famous verses and incredible Messianic prophesies. We will also use this week’s Torah portion to springboard into Yeshua’s favourite sermon topic.

[Deut. 16:18-22, 18:15-22]

“Justice, justice you must pursue!”[1] Whenever a word or phrase is repeated in Hebrew, it is done deliberately and is highlighting something that is extremely important. Here we are commanded to have “‘that which is altogether just’, or ‘justice, and only justice…. The duplication of the word ‘justice’ brings out with the greatest possible emphasis the supreme duty of even-handed justice to all….A Chassidic rabbi explained this insistence … to imply ‘Do not use unjust means to secure the victory of justice’”[2]  This passage forms the basis for ALL the legislation of the Torah. The Hebrew concept of justice is very different from the Greek idea as recorded in Plato’s Republic. The Greek form of justice emphasizes the different status of individuals, whereas the Hebrew concept of justice emphasizes the equality of all people, men or women, Jew or Gentile. The Biblical concept that “mankind is created in the image of G-d,” and as such all people are sacred and hold an inherent infinite value. This is different from all other religious-societal world views. For this reason people cannot be considered as property (chattel). All people are therefore to be treated as a personality and possessor the “possessor of the right to life, honour, and the fruits of his labour.”[3] In Greek the idea of justice is similar to that of harmony, but in the Hebrew world view is it closer to holiness. In Scripture, those who trample upon the weak such as the orphan and widow are considered the enemies of both God and man. “The final disappearance of injustice and oppression is represented in the New Year Amidah as the goal of human history, and as synonymous with the realization of God’s Kingdom on earth.”

The second passage we read speaks clearly of another Prophet like Moses. This passage is quoted by both Peter (Acts 3:22-23) and Stephen (Acts 7:37) in their defence of Yeshua as “The Prophet.” Yeshua acknowledged himself that, as a Prophet he was being rejected by his own family (Matt. 13:57, Mk. 6:4). And from Matt. 21:46 & Luke 24:19 we know that the people regarded Yeshua as a prophet. But probably the most explicit declaration of the people is in [John 6:13-15], and repeated in (John 7:40-41). What do we see the people trying to do to Yeshua? Are they trying to make him a prophet? No, rather they want him to rule as their king!

This leads directly into Yeshua’s favourite topic, but also one that has been “greatly misunderstood”[4], The Kingdom of God. To start with The “Kingdom of Heaven” is exactly the same thing as the “Kingdom of God”, because, just as we choose to say “Hashem” or “Adonai” instead of Yud-Hay-Vav-Hay because of the special sanctity for God’s name, so also in the 1st century, “Heaven” was synonymous with “God”. The next point that must be made is that, “today, many Christians wrongly view the Kingdom as meaning either “heaven” or a future monarchy that God will establish.”[5] There is a good parable from the Makilta, which describes the Jewish thought of Yeshua’s day and forms the backdrop for His teaching on the Kingdom.

They told a parable: To what may the matter be compared? To one who came to a province. He said to the people, “May I reign over you?” They said to him, “You have done nothing good for us that we should accept your reign!” What did he do? Ge built them a wall. He brought them water. He fought battles for them. Then he said to them, “May I reign over you?” The responded, “Yes! Yes!” Thus it was with the Omnipresent. He redeemed Israel from Egypt. He parted the sea for them. He brought them quail. He fought the battle of Amalek for them. He said to them, “May I reign over you?” They replied, “Yes! Yes!” Rabbi said, “This shows the merit of Israel. When they stood before Mt. Sinai to receive Torah, they all determined in their hearts to accept the Kingdom of heaven with joy.”[6]

The three things that this parable illustrates are: the deliverance from Egypt, the acceptance of God’s authority and the theme of the Kingdom of Heaven. And just as Israel accepted the rule of Adonai at Sinai, Yeshua says in the Beatitudes (Matt 5:3) that the “Poor in spirit” who were the talmidim (disciples) of Yeshua, make up the Kingdom of Heaven. We, who are disciples of Yeshua, are citizens of His kingdom, because we have acknowledged His rule and authority in our lives. Therefore we are actively a part of Yeshua’s Kingdom movement. In the Lord’s Prayer, the phrase “Your kingdom come, your will be done,” can be best understood as “May you continue establishing your Kingdom, and may your will be done.”[7]

Remember that the Torah portion talked about the judges that Israel was to establish? Well that links in with Matt. 23:3, where Yeshua talks of those who “sit on the seat of Moses.” To understand this passage we need to understand the context in which it is spoken, and just prior, Yeshua gives some great parables of The Kingdom of God.

[Matt. 21:33-22:14]

Parables are used to convey one primary message, and should not be taken allegorically. These two parables describe some very important principles about the Kingdom of Heaven. In verse 43, Yeshua give the key definitions for understanding this parable: the master is Adonai, the vineyard is the Kingdom of God, and the wicked tenants are the ruling kohenim and Pharisees. With these keys, can we figure out who the servants are? (The prophets who were sent to Israel) Who is the vineyard? (The Jewish people who trusted Yeshua as their King) How about the son? What about the new tenants? Yeshua explicitly states that the Kingdom of God will be taken away from the religious-societal rulers of that day and will be given to new leaders. The new leaders were His own Talmidim who would bring in a harvest of souls/people back to Adonai!

The next parable describes the Kingdom of Heaven through referring to the marriage supper of the Son. In this parable, those that refused to come were the Jews of Yeshua’s day that refused to acknowledge Yeshua as King Messiah. In this case, Yeshua predicts the destruction of Jerusalem, as a judgement from Adonai upon that generation who rejected the Son. He then talks of how the Kingdom will be filled with everyone on the highways and the byways, and yet there will still be a sorting at the end. Those who choose not to wear the provided wedding garments will not be accepted. This parable goes right along with the heart cry of Yeshua in [Matt. 23:37-39]. Yeshua saw the painful future of Jerusalem, which would eventuate in only 40 years’ time. Dr. Michael Brown writes the following:

The fate of these religious leaders was sealed when they failed to acknowledge Yeshua as Messiah, some even being complicit in his heath. This was the clear emphasis of the parable of the vineyard owner and his tenants. . . . Similarly, in the parable of the king’s wedding banquet for his son, those who scorned the invitation – even killed the king’s messengers – would be treated harshly. . . . The application of this parable to the destruction of Jerusalem forty years later is inescapable. So then, the Messiah’s death and resurrection marked the beginning of the transfer of spiritual authority to a new set of leaders, Yeshua’s appointed shlichim (apostles); and the destruction of Jerusalem one generation later marked the outward demonstration of that process. Since that time, the rift has been sharp and clear, with Jews who rejected Yeshua as Messiah looking to the rabbis for leadership and with Jews (and Gentiles) who recognized Yeshua as Messiah looking to the spiritual leaders he has appointed in each generation.[8]

To close, I am going to partially quote my wife, Eleanor, when she wrote a paper called, “Sharing in the Healing Ministry of Jesus”. The whole paper can be found online.

We live in the tension between the Now and the Not Yet.”

The question is then, “Why not yet?”  Yeshua answered this question in Matt 23:39, “For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” which is confirmed by Zech. 12:10  “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son.” There is an interesting parallel between Yeshua and King David in 2 Sam 19:11-12, “King David sent this message to Zadok and Abiathar, the priests: “Ask the elders of Judah, ‘Why should you be the last to bring the king back to his palace, since what is being said throughout Israel has reached the king at his quarters?  You are my relatives, my own flesh and blood. So why should you be the last to bring back the king?’”

Yeshua could have restored the Kingdom to Israel after his resurrection, but the Jewish leaders still rejected him, as he said they would in Luke 16:31, “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.” Here is the consequence of free will – no kingdom yet and Satan is free to continue enslaving people.  The good news is that Israel’s rejection enabled the gentiles to be grafted into his kingdom, but their rejection is not final, as ALL of Israel WILL be saved, (see Romans 11). Those who accept him now get to experience his kingship now, but not fully until He returns.”

 

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are taken from the Tree Of Life Version (TLV), 2014.

[2] Hertz, J.H., The Pentateuch and Haftorahs, 2nd Ed., Soncino Press, London, 1978, Pg. 820.

[3] Ibid. Pg. 821

[4] Young, B., The Jewish Background to the Lord’s Prayer, Gospel Research Foundation, Tulsa, OK, 2001, Pg. 10 – 17.

[5] Ibid. Pg.10

[6] The Mekilta Derabbi Ishmael, Yitro Debachodesh, Chap 5 (Exodus 20:2); Horovitz, p. 219; Lauterback, Vol. II, p. 229

[7] Young, Lord’s Prayer, p. 17

[8] Brown, M.L., Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus – Traditional Jewish Objections, Vol. 5, Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI, 2007, p. 257 -258

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