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Parsha Nitzavim Deuteronomy 29:9-30:20

Parsha Nitzavim Deuteronomy 29:9-30:20

This portion is the beginning of Moses giving his farewell to the nation he has led for more than 40 years. In this portion, he addresses the idea of following idols or choosing God, the choice between “life and death, blessing or cursing.”
God is making it evident to all Israel that everyone has the ability and responsibility to walk in the ways of Torah. As we read in Deuteronomy 30:14, “But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it.”
 
For this week’s “observation” I wanted to focus in on verses 19-20 of chapter 30, with a little flexibility for jumping around. First, let’s read verses 19-20.
“I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land…”
 
To start from the beginning, we need to ask the question, “Why does Moses call on heaven and earth as witnesses about the nation of Israel?” We see throughout scripture where stones, altars, or other objects were used as witnesses to an event. Why in this case are heaven and earth called upon as witnesses?
Heaven and Earth as witnesses
There are several reasons for this, of which I will try and explain. Obviously, there are a lot of concepts we could learn from the idea of heaven and earth being called as witnesses. What I want to do is only provoke thought for all of us to study God’s word more in-depth. I can’t fit everything into a short email! My goal is only to encourage people to keep studying!
 
The first reason we see Moses calling heaven and earth as witnesses, is because earlier in this portion we read of how the universe responds according to how Israel keeps Torah. For the one who does not keep Torah it says that the “land [will become] brimstone, salt, and burning; it is not sown, nor does it bear, nor does any grass grow…”But for the one who walks in God’s ways, it says that He “will make you abound in all the work of your hand, in the fruit of your body, in the increase of your livestock, and in the produce of your land for good.”
The land of Israel as well as the rain of heaven (See Deut. 28:12) responds when Israel walks in Torah or they choose to walk in rebellion. The first reason we see that heaven and earth are called as witnesses is that they keep Israel accountable to God’s Torah.
 
A greater reason is explained in the commentary Rabbeinu Bahya on Deuteronomy 30:19. It says, “the reason Moses chose heaven and earth as witnesses was because they endure forever and can always be called upon to testify.” Heaven and earth will always exist. They can be called upon at any time to testify in favor or against the people of Israel.
We read the first words of Genesis, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” The sages teach that when God created the universe, He used the Torah. As we read in Psalm 33, “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made…”The “Word of the Lord” equaling the “Torah of God.” God created an order in the world, from the heavens above to the earth beneath our feet. Everything runs as He set into motion. Heaven and earth run like clockwork. There is one thing in the universe that does not run like clockwork, and that would be, humanity. 
God is telling us in these chapters, “I have an order I want you to live by.” The heavens and the earth go in the order He created. He desires for us also, to go in the order He created for us. Why? Because it is our life! He knows what is best for us. His word is not a bunch of legalistic rulings; it is a handbook from God, telling us what He designed life to look like.
 
We are the caretakers of the world. Commissioned by God in the garden to “tend and keep it.” We are the carriers of God’s word to the earth. Instructed to be the “light of the world.”
If the heavens and the earth continue, just as God intended them to, they cast judgment on us, because, too often, we are not doing what God intended us to do. This is why Moses calls upon heaven and earth as witnesses.
 
All creation has a role in God’s set order of the world. Our role can be found in the next verse of chapter 30 (Verse 20), here is what it says. “…love the Lord your God…obey His voice, and…cling to Him.” This is how we “choose life.” By “choosing life” it means that we desire to walk in the way He has ordered for mankind to walk. He wants us to choose Him, to understand that “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above…”
 
In Revelation 21, we read in verse 1, “I saw a new heaven and a new earth” People often read this and 2 Peter 3 (About the world being consumed by fire) as this idea that the old world that we live on will be destroyed and God is going to bring a new world into existence. If I may humbly express a quick summary of my thoughts…why would God call us to be good stewards of a world that is going to burn? Why would He plant Israel back in their land, if it doesn’t really matter? Why would He destroy something He created to last forever?
Here is my idea. When we read about “New heavens and a new earth,” the Greek word for new could be read as “fresh.” When we read in 2 Peter about the world being consumed in fire, we could read this as the world being purified.
What if the heavens and the earth are not going to be destroyed? Instead, what if they are being made “fresh” and purified for the coming of the King to the earth? I think it encourages us to look at the world differently. The same earth and heavens that testify to the faithfulness or rebellion of Israel, are the same earth and sky that should convict us to “hear and do,” which is also the same universe that will, one day be the place God returns to, in His glory!

May it be that as we align ourselves with the order of the heavens and earth, and as we daily choose life, that it bring us closer to the return of the perfect Aligner, who is Yeshua the Messiah, our Master!
 
Shabbat Shalom,
Samuel

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