Weekly D'rash and Parsha Nitzavim-Vayelech


Everything I know about the Messiah I learned in Deuteronomy and Isaiah. That may be a bit of an exaggeration, but I think we get the point! This portion of Deuteronomy describes the state of the Jewish people and the coming of the Messiah. This section influenced Paul tremendously. It is clear from the New Covenant Scriptures that he understood the coming of Yeshua as the beginning of the return of the remnant of Israel to God and the circumcision of the heart. However, it is also clear that he understood that we are not quite there yet and that there are sufferings and challenges as we continue to move toward the consummation. The Haftarah portion in Isaiah describes the final reconciliation of the nation and the judgment of Edom. But the end of the Haftarah portion brings us back to the present time in the form of a prayer. In other words, both the Torah and the Haftarah portion point us forward to the end, but at the same time recognize the present reality of continuing to live in this fallen world as new creations in Messiah. To live well in Messiah Yeshua, we need a healthy appreciation of what the Messiah has already done and what he is going to do in the future. He has provided the atonement for our sins through his death, and new life via the resurrection. We look forward to his reappearing when we will have the complete redemption. In this week's Haftarah portion, the last few verses are the beginnings of a prayer in light of the promise of final victory: “I shall make mention of the lovingkindnesses of the LORD, the praises of the LORD, according to all that the LORD has granted us, And the great goodness toward the house of Israel, Which He has granted them according to His compassion and according to the abundance of His lovingkindnesses. For He said, ‘Surely, they are My people, Sons who will not deal falsely’. So, he became their Savior. In all their affliction He was afflicted, And the angel of His presence saved them; In His love and in His mercy, He redeemed them, And He lifted them and carried them all the days of old. But they rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit; Therefore, He turned Himself to become their enemy, He fought against them (Isa 63:7–10). This section is the beginning of a prayer that cries out to God for help. Often in the Book of Isaiah, great promises of deliverance are followed by passages that remind us that we are not quite there yet. In this brief section there is a reminder of the loyal neverending love of God toward Israel. The passage describes the extreme empathy that God has toward his people when he says, “in all their afflictions he was afflicted” (Isa 63:9). God experiences the sufferings of his people. This is an amazing statement! God is not off somewhere dispassionate about the plight of his people. He weeps with us and in a unique way shares our experiences. When Yeshua came, this was clearly manifested for us in his sufferings and in his death. He demonstrated his loyal neverending love toward us when he saw us in our sins and delivered us through his sufferings. In our afflictions he was afflicted! The passage also says in Isa 63:10 that when the people rebelled, the Holy Spirit was grieved (who says that the Holy Spirit or the tri-unity of God is not in the Tanakh?)! When we rebel, he is “grieved”. This is a word that is very close in meaning to “afflicted”. The Hebrew word for grieve is ‘atzav’ meaning to be hurt, in pain, or outraged. Even today, as Messiah followers, when we continue to sin, may I suggest that the Messiah still in a sense suffers via the grieving of the Holy Spirit. Let us remember this as we are preparing for the High Holy Days. May we be driven to seek his face and live in his presence and find rest for our souls. He wants us to repent and forsake our sinful ways so that he may find joy in us and enjoy his relationship with us! In the New Covenant Scriptures, we read: “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Messiah also has forgiven you. Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Messiah also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering, and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma” (Eph 4:30–5:2). Messiah has forgiven you through his death and resurrection. He is coming again to put an end to the tyranny of sin in this world. May we live in such a way that we are not grieving the Holy Spirit but rather being a pleasing aroma to God. May we have the same desire as the psalmist in Psalm 27 when he wrote, “One thing I have asked from the LORD, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD And to meditate in His temple” (Psalm 27:4). Shabbat Shalom! Rabbi Howard


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