Thought for the week

images/thoughtofweek.JPG

‘Parsha Shoftim’ – Behold, The Redeemer Of Zion

The ‘parsha’ (‘Torah’ portion) this week is ‘Shoftim’ (‘Judges’) – found in Deuteronomy 16:18 – 21:9; the corresponding ‘haftorah’ (reading of the prophets) is found in Isaiah 51:12 – 52:12.
‘Parsha Shoftim’ is the 48th weekly ‘Torah’ portion in the annual Jewish cycle of ‘Torah’ reading, and the fifth in the book of Deuteronomy.

‘Parsha Shoftim’ opens with the command for Israel to appoint judges and law enforcement officials for themselves in all the cities that G-d was giving to them.
Moses then gave them direction on how the judges were to judge; righteously, not showing favouritism and not taking a bribe.

Moses told the people to pursue justice so that they possess and live in the land that G-d was giving them.
This is followed by prohibitions against idolatrous trees and monuments, and offering a blemished animal to G-d. Idolatry was to be punished by death; however, as with all crimes, a conviction was to be brought only by the testimony of at least two witnesses.
The courts and judges were also given authority to interpret and decide all matters of ‘Torah’ law.

If, after the Israelites had settled in the land, they decided to set a king over them, they were to be free to do so - taking an Israelite chosen by G-d. The king was to have the priests write two copies of the ‘Torah’ scroll. One copy of the ‘Torah’ was to remain with him, which had to be read all his life, so that he might learn to revere G-d and observe the laws faithfully. This would ensure that he would not act haughtily toward his people nor deviate from the law. If the king was obedient to this, he and his descendants would enjoy a long reign.

Moses reiterated some of the Israelites' duties toward the ‘Kohanim’ (Priests) and the Levi’im (Levites): The prohibitions against the various forms of sorcery and superstitions; the duty to obey the prophets; and the setting aside of ‘Cities of Refuge’ for someone who killed another person unintentionally.
The stealing of land by surreptitiously moving back the boundary marker was strictly forbidden, and false witnesses were subjected to the punishment they would have had inflicted on those who they themselves accused.

Before the Israelites went into battle, the priest was to tell the troops not to fear, for G-d would accompany them into battle against their enemy.
The officials were then to ask the soldiers whether anyone had built a new house but not dedicated it; planted a vineyard but never harvested it; paid the bride-price for a wife but not yet married her; or had become afraid and disheartened. All these were to be sent back to their homes.

When the Israelites approached a town to attack it, they were to offer it terms of peace; if the town surrendered, then all the people of the town were to serve the Israelites as forced labour. However, if the town did not surrender, then the Israelites were to lay siege to the town and when G-d gave the Israelites the victory, they were to kill all its men and take the women, children, livestock and everything else in the town as booty; these were the rules for towns that were far from Israel.
However, for the towns of the nations that were in the land, the Israelites were to kill everyone, so that they would not lead the Israelites into doing all the abhorrent things they had done for their gods.
When the Israelites besieged a city for a long period of time, they could eat the fruit of the city’s trees, but they were not to cut down any trees that could yield food.
If in the land, someone slain was found lying in the open and the slayer could not be determined, then the elders and magistrates were to measure the distances from the corpse to the nearby towns. The elders of the town nearest to the corpse were to take a heifer that had never been worked down to a flowing wadi and break its neck. The priests were to come forward, all the elders were to wash their hands over the heifer whose neck had been broken; the elders were then to declare that their hands did not shed the blood and that they did not see the deed being done. The elders were to ask G-d to absolve the Israelites, and not let guilt for the blood of the innocent remain among them; thus they would be absolved of all guilt.
‘Haftorah Shoftim’ found in Isaiah 51:12 – 52:12 is the fourth of a series of seven ‘haftarot of Consolation’. These seven ‘haftarot’ commence on the ‘Shabbat’ following ‘Tisha b'Av’ and continue until ‘Rosh Hashanah’ (the Jewish New Year).

The ‘haftorot’ of the past two weeks open with Israel's complaint that they have been abandoned by G-d. Israel was not content with consolations offered by the prophets; instead they demanded that G-d alone comfort them.
In response, this week's ‘haftorah’ begins with G-d’s response: “I, indeed I, will comfort you.”
After briefly reprimanding Israel for forgetting their Creator for fear of man, the prophet Isaiah described the suffering and tribulations which Israel had endured; however, the time had arrived for the suffering to end. The time had come for Israel's oppressors to drink the “cup of suffering” which they had, till then, forced Israel to drink.
Isaiah then extols the beauty of the messenger who will announce the good tidings of Redemption – Isaiah 52:7: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, Who proclaims peace, Who brings glad tidings of good things, Who proclaims salvation, Who says to Zion, “Your God reigns!””

‘Haftorah Shoftim’ ends by highlighting the difference between the Egyptian Exodus, when the Israelites hurried out of their exile and bondage, and the future Redemption - Isaiah 52:13: “Behold, My Servant shall deal prudently; He shall be exalted and extolled and be very high.”

This week’s ‘parsha’ and ‘haftorah’ are amazing in that they both make reference to the coming Redeemer – Yeshua.
Deuteronomy 18:17-18: “And the LORD said to me: ‘What they have spoken is good. I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him.’”
Isaiah 52:13-15: “Behold, My Servant shall deal prudently; He shall be exalted and extolled and be very high. Just as many were astonished at you, so His visage was marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men”.

One of the most well-known passages of scripture revealing Yeshua is Isaiah 53; however, this revealing of Yeshua actually begins in Isaiah 52 from verse 13.
Often when one reads these scriptures to Jewish people, they counter that it refers to the Land of Israel.
This is not so! Clearly this refers to a man NOT a land!

As I write this, I have before me my ‘Tenach’ (Old Testament bible), which was presented to me on the occasion of my ‘Barmitzvah’ in 1966. My ‘Tenach’ is an authentic Orthodox ‘Tenach’.
As I read Deuteronomy 18:17-18: “And the LORD said to me: ‘What they have spoken is good. I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him.’”, the word “Prophet” is written with a capital ‘P’ – IN MY ‘TENACH’.
This is not referring to Joshua, who is never referred to as a prophet, or any of the prophets. This refers to Yeshua.
Isaiah 52:13-15 which reads: “Behold, My Servant shall deal prudently; He shall be exalted and extolled and be very high. Just as many were astonished at you, so His visage was marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men” is a Messianic prophecy clearly describing Yeshua.

Let’s look at this more closely: Isaiah speaks of G-d’s Servant who would be exalted, extolled and be “very high”; His features and outward appearance would be disfigured “more than any man”.
One only has to think of the torture and agony Yeshua went through – beaten; his beard plucked out; so badly whipped that pieces of His flesh were ripped off His body; a crown of thorns (each thorn being over an inch long) pressed onto his head; nailed through His wrists and feet to two rough pieces of wood forming a cross.
Perhaps those of you who saw the movie ‘Passion of the Christ’ will have vivid images of what I am writing about.

Why? Why did Yeshua allow Himself to go through all this agony? So that, in His love, He could redeem Zion - the Jewish people - and all of mankind.

The Redeemer of Zion? Absolutely!
It was no accident that the sign nailed to the cross read: “Iesus Nazarenus, Rex Iudaeorum”, which translated to English reads: “Jesus the Nazarite, King of the Jews”.
Yeshua, who is Jewish, is the ‘King of the Jews’; and He is the Redeemer of all peoples – both Jews and Gentiles.
   
Leviticus 17:11 tells us that the only way to the forgiveness of sin and eternal life in heaven is through the sacrificial system and the shedding of blood - “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.”
However, there is no temple; therefore there is no sacrificial system. Because there is no sacrificial system, there is no shedding of blood; how, then, do Jewish people (and all people) make atonement for their soul?
Scripture records that Yeshua became the perfect sacrifice when He died on the cross, shedding every last drop of His blood thus taking our sins upon Himself; guaranteeing all who believe in His death and resurrection and who invite Him to become L-rd of their lives, eternal life in heaven.

Isaiah 52:7 declares: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who proclaims peace, who brings glad tidings of good things, who proclaims salvation, who says to Zion (Jewish people), “Your God reigns!””
Every Christian should be ‘bringing glad tidings of good things’ and ‘proclaiming salvation, to Zion’ – and to all people. You see, this is beautiful to G-d.
You have no excuse. Yeshua Himself gives the command to ‘bring glad tidings of good things’ to unsaved people through the ‘Great Commission’ – found in Matthew, Mark, Luke and Acts; no Believer is exempt from this.

In light of this, I would like to bring glad tidings of good things and proclaim salvation to Zion, my people of the flesh, as well as to all reading this ‘Thought for the week’.
Hashem has, through His Son Yeshua, been faithful to forgive your sins through the work of the cross. He is also faithful to grant you eternal life in heaven, through the death and resurrection of Yeshua.
All you need do is believe in the death and resurrection of Yeshua; confess your sins and repent of them; receive His forgiveness and invite Yeshua to be your L-rd and Saviour.
To do this, please pray the prayer of salvation found at the end of this article.
 
I end with this: ‘Behold, the Redeemer of Zion and of all mankind - Yeshua!’
We love you.
Shalom.
Scriptures of the week:
Deuteronomy 18:15-18: ““The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear, according to all you desired of the LORD your God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, nor let me see this great fire anymore, lest I die.’ And the LORD said to me: ‘What they have spoken is good. I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him.’ ”

Isaiah 52:13-15: “Behold, My Servant shall deal prudently; He shall be exalted and extolled and be very high. Just as many were astonished at you, so His visage was marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men; so shall He sprinkle many nations. Kings shall shut their mouths at Him; for what had not been told them they shall see, and what they had not heard they shall consider.”


SALVATION PRAYER

Thank you Yeshua for Your love for me.
Thank you for giving up Your life on the cross for me and for taking my sins upon Yourself.
I confess that I have sinned.
I repent of my sins and I turn from everything I know to be wrong.
I invite You to come into my life as my Messiah, my Saviour.
By Your grace I will serve You all the remaining years of my life.