Parashah 51: Nitzavim (Standing)

Parashah 51: Deuteronomy 29:9-30:20

(In a regular year, read with Parashah 52;  in a leap year read separately.)

“Today you are standing, all of you, before Adonai your God — your heads, your tribes, your leaders and your officers — all the men of Isra’el, along with your little ones, your wives and your foreigners here with you in your camp, from the one who chops your wood to the one who draws your water” (Deuteronomy 29:9-10).

Nitzavim is the Hebrew word for ‘ones standing’ as the Israelites prepare to enter the Promised Land.  They are the ‘ones left standing’ after the previous generation could not ‘stand’ due to their faithlessness. 

As the Israelites stand before Yahweh from the least of them to the greatest, the leaders along with children, and those who chop wood and draw water, they are reminded why they are in the presence of Elohim: to enter into a covenant, the covenant of a nation promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

“But I am not making this covenant and this oath with you.  Rather, I am making it both with him who is standing here with us today before Adonai our God and also with him who is not here with us today” (Deuteronomy 29:14-15).

The covenant that Elohim made with the nation of Isra’el was not just for those standing in His presence, but for those in the future who were children of promise to Abraham and would join with Isra’el through adoption or ingrafting.

“Be assured, then, that it is those who live by trusting and being faithful who are really children of Avraham” (Galatians 3:7).

“And the foreigners who join themselves to Adonai to serve him, to love the name of Adonai, and to be his workers, all who keep Shabbat and do not profane it, and hold fast to my covenant, I will bring them to my holy mountain and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all peoples” (Isaiah 56:6-7).

Wormwood

“So let there not be among you a man, woman, family or tribe whose heart turns away today from Adonai our God to go and serve the gods of those nations. Let there not be among you a root bearing such bitter poison and wormwood. If there is such a person, when he hears the words of this curse, he will bless himself secretly, saying to himself, ‘I will be all right, even though I will stubbornly keep doing whatever I feel like doing; so that I, although “dry,” [sinful,] will be added to the “watered” [righteous].’ But Adonai will not forgive him. Rather, the anger and jealousy of Adonai will blaze up against that person. Every curse written in this book will be upon him. Adonai will blot out his name from under heaven” (Deuteronomy 29:18-21).

There are three types of wormwood herbs. Artemesia herba-alba which smells like camphor and is extremely bitter.  Artemesia absinthium, a perennial herb with silky leaves that has small yellow flowers.  The oil from the herb is dark and bitter and is used to make absinthe.  Artemisia judaica is a bitter aromatic herb with clusters of small greenish yellow flowers and greenish gray leaves that grows in arid desert areas.   Wormwood is also used for medicinal purposes: as a tonic for stimulating sweating for a fever, liver disease, worms and gall bladder issues. Wormwood is also called ‘gall’ in Scripture as when Yeshua was given wine mixed with gall.  It was bitter and he refused to drink it (Matthew 27:34).

The danger of turning away from Elohim and serving other gods is the bitter poison of wormwood that results in self-deception.  As the person turns away from Elohim, they will secretly bless themselves believing that though they are sinning, they are still righteous.  The consequence of this deception will be Elohim’s jealousy and anger with their name being blotted out of His book.

“Don’t deceive yourselves by only hearing what the Word says, but do it!” (James 1:22) 

The Israelites are not the only ones guilty of the sin of self-deception. With numerous manmade traditions combined with pagan god worship infiltrating the church over the centuries, many who are presented with the ‘other gods’ found in their celebrations stubbornly keep doing what they have convinced themselves is right.   Though they willfully sin and are ‘dry’ against the commandments, they believe they are ‘watered’ or righteous because they put their faith in Yeshua.  When we allow self-deception to govern  our lives, we essentially blaspheme the Ruach HaKodesh.  There is no forgiveness for that sin as it is an eternal sin (Mark 3:28-30).

“The name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters turned bitter, and many people died from the waters that had become bitter” (Revelation 8:11, New International Version).

Expelled from the Land

Generations will follow this Israelite generation that comes into the Land and, along with the foreigners, ask why the land has become sick with plagues and is like Sodom and Gomorrah.  They will wonder why ‘I AM’ became so angry with the Isra’el.

“It’s because they abandoned the covenant of Adonai, the God of their fathers….  They went and served other gods, prostrating themselves before them, gods they had not known and which he had not assigned them.  For this reason, the anger of Adonai blazed up against this land and brought upon it every curse written in this book; and Adonai, in anger, fury and incensed with indignation, uprooted them from their land and threw them out into another land — as it is today” (Deuteronomy 29:25-27).

“As it is today,” Isra’el is returning to their Land from every nation in the world.   Though they are not living in obedience to Torah as they should, Elohim is gathering His people.  After 1700 years of allowing Christian theology to flourish, He is restoring the message of the first century church, the message of the Jewish Messiah to the Jewish people.  For nearly 80 years, Jews have been returning to their homeland or making aliyah.  Messianic Jews, a remnant who trust in Yeshua are also in the land shining his light of salvation.

“It’s the same way in the present age: there is a remnant, chosen by grace” (Romans 11:5).

“On that day the remnant of Isra’el, those of the house of Ya‘akov who escaped, will no longer rely on the man who struck them down, but will truly rely on Adonai, the Holy One of Isra’el. A remnant will return, the remnant of Ya’akov, to the mighty God. For, although your people, Isra’el, are like the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will return” (Isaiah 56:6-7)

On the Feast of Tabernacles, the fullness of the ingathering of Isra’el will soon occur.  When that day comes, many Jews will make teshuvah or return to the covenant of Elohim along with their children.  They will begin to obey Yahweh with all their hearts, minds and souls. In that day, the exile to the nations will end and Elohim will show them mercy.

“It is that stoniness, to a degree, has come upon Isra’el, until the Gentile world enters in its fullness; and that it is in this way that all Isra’el will be saved. As the Tanakh says, ‘Out of Tziyon will come the Redeemer; he will turn away ungodliness from Ya’akov and this will be my covenant with them, …when I take away their sins” (Romans 11:25-27).

The Hebrew word for ‘mercy’ in this verse is rachamim and means ‘compassion and tender mercies.’  It comes from the root rechem which means ‘womb.’  Mercy in this sense means to love as one does for an unborn child.  When Isra’el is ‘reborn’ and comes out of the ‘womb,’ Elohim will end the exile of His people.  This is what is happening with the nation of Isra’el in our day as Jewish individuals are being birthed from the spiritual womb and acknowledging Yeshua as their Messiah.

“When the time arrives … you will return to Adonai your God and pay attention to what he has said, which will be exactly what I am ordering you to do today – you and your children, with all your heart and all your being…. God will reverse your exile and show you mercy; he will return and gather you from all the peoples to which Adonai your God has scattered you. Adonai your God will bring you back into the land your ancestors possessed, and you will possess it; he will make you prosper there, and you will become even more numerous than your ancestors.  Then Adonai your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your children, so that you will love Adonai your God with all your heart and all your being, and thus you will live” (Deuteronomy 30:1-6).

Hebrew Word Pictures

Repentance or teshuvah – תשובהtav, shin, vav, bet, hey

sign of the glory binding the house, behold

Compassion or rachamimרחמים – resh, chet, mem, yod, mem

highest inner room (heart) mighty finished work mighty

Womb or rechem רחםresh, chet, mem

highest inner room (heart) of water

“For this mitzvah which I am giving you today is not too hard for you, it is not beyond your reach.  It isn’t in the sky, so that you need to ask, ‘Who will go up into the sky for us, bring it to us and make us hear it, so that we can obey it?’  Likewise, it isn’t beyond the sea, so that you need to ask, ‘Who will cross the sea for us, bring it to us and make us hear it, so that we can obey it?’  On the contrary, the word is very close to you — in your mouth, even in your heart; therefore, you can do it!” (Deuteronomy 30:11-14)

According to Elohim, obeying His commands is not difficult, even for those who do not have circumcised hearts.  His commands are not burdensome as some theologians would have us believe (1 John 5:3). His mitzvot are not far away in the heavens or beyond the seas that the Israelites need someone to bring His words to them.  They are with them, in their mouths and even in their hearts!

Part of the promised new covenant is “no longer will any of them teach his fellow community member or his brother, ‘Know Adonai’; for all will know me, from the least of them to the greatest…” (Jeremiah 31:34).  The knowledge and understanding of Yahweh and His instructions will be known by all because they will be in everyone from the least to the greatest. 

“I call on heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have presented you with life and death, the blessing and the curse. Therefore, choose life, so that you will live, you and your descendants, loving Adonai your God, paying attention to what he says and clinging to him – for that is the purpose of your life!” (Deuteronomy 30:19)

Elohim is full of favor and tender mercies.  Not only does He present the Israelites (and those who would believe in Him through them) with a choice between life and death, He tells them which to choose:  Life! Life! Life!  He doesn’t leave them in the dark continually wandering in the wilderness, He gives them directions for life in the Promised Land, for life in His eternal Kingdom.

“So Yeshua said to the Twelve, ‘Don’t you want to leave too?’ Shim‘on Kefa answered him, ‘Lord, to whom would we go? You have the word of eternal life. We have trusted, and we know that you are the Holy One of God’” (John 6:67-68).

The purpose for our life now and eternally is to love Yahweh, pay attention to His Words and cling to Him through every sorrow and joy, weakness and strength,  provision and loss, restoration and hope.  For everyone who asks, “Why are we here?”  This is the answer;  this should be the response. 

“Human being, you have already been told what is good, what Adonai demands of you — no more than to act justly, love grace and walk in purity with your God” (Micah 6:8).

“Here is the final conclusion, now that you have heard everything: fear God, and keep his mitzvot; this is what being human is all about” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).

Yeshua’s Prayer for His Talmidim

“Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, so that the Son may glorify you —  just as you gave him authority over all mankind, so that he might give eternal life to all those whom you have given him. And eternal life is this: to know you, the one true God, and him whom you sent, Yeshua the Messiah.”

“I glorified you on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. Now, Father, glorify me alongside yourself. Give me the same glory I had with you before the world existed.”

I made your name known to the people you gave me out of the world. They were yours, you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you,  because the words you gave me I have given to them, and they have received them. They have really come to know that I came from you, and they have come to trust that you sent me.”

“I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given to me, because they are yours.  Indeed, all I have is yours, and all you have is mine, and in them I have been glorified.  Now I am no longer in the world. They are in the world, but I am coming to you. Holy Father, guard them by the power of your name, which you have given to me, so that they may be one, just as we are.  When I was with them, I guarded them by the power of your name, which you have given to me; yes, I kept watch over them; and not one of them was destroyed (except the one meant for destruction, so that the Tanakh might be fulfilled). But now, I am coming to you; and I say these things while I am still in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves.”

“I have given them your word, and the world hated them, because they do not belong to the world — just as I myself do not belong to the world.  I don’t ask you to take them out of the world, but to protect them from the Evil One.  They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Set them apart for holiness by means of the truth — your word is truth. Just as you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.   On their behalf I am setting myself apart for holiness, so that they too may be set apart for holiness by means of the truth.”

I pray not only for these, but also for those who will trust in me because of their word, that they may all be one. Just as you, Father, are united with me and I with you, I pray that they may be united with us, so that the world may believe that you sent me.  The glory which you have given to me, I have given to them; so that they may be one, just as we are one —  I united with them and you with me, so that they may be completely one, and the world thus realize that you sent me, and that you have loved them just as you have loved me.”

“Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am; so that they may see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. Righteous Father, the world has not known you, but I have known you, and these people have known that you sent me.  I made your name known to them, and I will continue to make it known; so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I myself may be united with them.”

Haftarah (Readings of the Prophets)

Isaiah 61:10-63:9

B’rit Chadashah (New Testament Readings)

Romans 9:30-10:13

Hebrews 12:14-15

Midrash Nitzavim:  One New Man In Messiah

Yeshua prays for all who put their faith in him to be echad as he and his Father are echad. Discuss Ephesians 2:11-16 and the two different groups of people who are brought together as ‘one new man.’  Discuss the ‘dividing wall of hostility’ that has been destroyed

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