Parasha Vayelech (And He Went)
Deuteronomy 31:1–30; Hosea 14:1–9; Joel 2:11–27; Micah 7:18–20; Isaiah 55–56:3; Romans 10:14–18
“Then Moses went out [vayelech] and spoke these words to all Israel: “I am now a hundred and twenty years old and I am no longer able to lead you.” (Deuteronomy 31:1–2)
Last week’s study of Parasha Nitzavim described both the just and the merciful nature of God.
In His righteous and necessary judgment of sin, God said He would cast out the Jewish People from their Land for following their own ways. But He also promised that if the people will turn back to Him, He will bless and prosper them.
Nitzavim ended with a choice being set before us: Life and death or blessing and cursing.
God’s desire is for us to choose life and blessing through our obedience and fidelity to Him.
This week’s portion of Scripture, Parasha Vayelech, begins with Moses addressing the nation of Israel. He was 120-years-old and had reached the end of his earthly life.
When God’s Timing Doesn’t Line Up with Your Plan
“The LORD has said to me, ‘You shall not cross the Jordan.’” (Deuteronomy 31:2)
Moses did not die weak and feeble, but strong and healthy; nevertheless, God took him home.
The time had come for him to pass on the mantle of his leadership and authority to his successor, Yehoshua (Joshua).
Moses had not accomplished all the desires of his heart before his death. He deeply yearned to enter the Promised Land. Still, God did not allow him to enter it; he was only allowed to see it from a distance. In humility, and perhaps with great disappointment, he accepted God’s will in the matter.
Though the Bible does say that there is a time for every purpose, we often struggle with God’s timing and purposes. Sometimes they do not line up with our expectations.
“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die….” (Ecclesiastes 3:1–2)
Finding Courage to Move Forward When We Are Called
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)
In this Parasha, the nation of Israel is at a critical transition.
They are on the verge of seeing the realization of God’s promise by entering the Promised Land, but they must move forward without Moses.
Moses wants them to understand that they are not being deserted and encourages the Israelites to be strong and courageous as they are led by God and Joshua across the Jordan into the Promised Land.
Furthermore, God is not only going with them, but He is profoundly committed to them.
Like the Israelites, many of us are at critical junctures in our lives, as well.
When we are in transitions and on the verge of entering a new thing, we are blessed when we have godly leadership and authority in our lives that will encourage us to remember that God will never leave or forsake us.
Knowing that even leaders need to be reminded to receive the mantle of authority with courage, both Moses and God encouraged Joshua.
Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the presence of all Israel, ‘Be strong and courageous, for you must go with this people into the land that the Lord swore to their forefathers to give them, and you must divide it among them as their inheritance. The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. (Deuteronomy 31:7–8)
The Lord gave this command to Joshua son of Nun: ‘Be strong and courageous, for you will bring the Israelites into the land I promised them on oath, and I myself will be with you.’ (Deuteronomy 31:23)
Each one of us should be courageous to enter the promise knowing that we never fly solo. Adonai (the Lord) is always with us.
Hearing Torah During Sukkot
“Take this Book of the Law and place it beside the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God. There it will remain as a witness against you.” (Deuteronomy 31:26, see also verse 9)
In Parasha Vayelech, Moses finishes scribing the Torah in a special scroll which he gives to the Levites to keep safely in the Ark of the Covenant.
Is it any wonder that there is a determined ongoing search for this elusive Ark of the Covenant that contains such a precious treasure as the original Torah scroll that Moses wrote with his own hand?
After he finished writing down the law, Moses commanded that all the people were to gather to hear the words of the Torah at the end of every seven year cycle in the shemitah year (year of release from debt) that occurs during Sukkot (the Feast of Tabernacles).
Men, women, children, and even the gerim (foreigners who have joined us) were to gather to hear the law at Sukkot, which begins this year at sunset on September 30.
We can understand from this that we were never meant to live our lives in isolation as islands unto ourselves, but as a community of Believers.
“Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:25)
Foreseeing Israel’s Rebellion
“You are going to rest with your fathers, and these people will soon prostitute themselves to the foreign gods of the land they are entering. They will forsake me and break the covenant I made with them.” (Deuteronomy 31:16)
This Parasha, which is very short—only 30 verses, reveals that God, who knows the end from the beginning, foreknew that Israel would turn away to foreign gods.
“I know what they are disposed to do, even before I bring them into the land I promised them on oath.” (Deuteronomy 31:21)
It is not, however, only the ancient Israelites who suffer from the ‘malady of a sin nature.’ All humankind was infected with the venom of the serpent in the Garden.
God knows the human tendency to be stiff-necked and rebellious, and so even before the Israelites stood on the banks of the Jordan ready to cross over, God already had a plan in place to redeem, deliver, and save Israel from their sins. But not Israel alone.
That plan was manifested in the flesh in Yeshua HaMashiach (the Messiah) who took all our sins upon Himself on the execution stake. Halleluyah!
“For just as through the disobedience of one man [Adam] the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the One Man [Yeshua] the many will be made righteous.” (Romans 5:19)
Shabbat Shuvah: Shabbat of Return
“Return, Israel, to the LORD your God. Your sins have been your downfall!” (Hosea 14:1)
This week’s Shabbat occurs during a very special 10-day period between Rosh HaShanah (Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) called both Yamim Nora’im (Days of Awe) and Aseret Y’may Teshuvah (Ten Days of Repentance).
The Days of Awe is traditionally the period to get right with God and our fellow man through repentance and asking forgiveness.
This Shabbat, therefore, which falls between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, is the first of the Jewish new year.
It’s called Shabbat Shuvah or Sabbath of Return since the Haftarah reading begins with the exhortation “Shuvah Yisrael—Return O Israel.”
It is also called Shabbat Teshuvah (Shabbath of Repentance) because it’s one of the 10 Days of Repentance. Teshuvah is derived from the Hebrew verb shuv which means to return or to turn back.
Hosea urges the people to trust in God and not in any other force whether powerful nations, war-horses or idols.
Hosea promises that when Israel returns to God and confesses his sin, God will turn away from His anger and bring healing and restoration to Israel.
“I will heal their way wardness and love them freely, for my anger has turned away from them. I will be like the dew to Israel; he will blossom like a lily.” (Hosea 14:4–5)
God is waiting for each one of us to return to Him in teshuvah (repentance). When we do turn to Him, we find Him waiting with open arms to pour out His love, healing and restoration freely upon us. What are you waiting for?
Tashlikh and Finding Mercy
“You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.” (Micah 7:19)
A well-known promise of forgiveness is also read on Shabbat Teshuvah from a brief portion in the book of Micah.
Earlier this week, on Rosh HaShanah, this scripture was also recited when the Jewish people practiced the longstanding custom of Tashlikh (casting off).
That is the tradition in which the Jewish people go to a river or live body of water and cast bread crumbs into the water to symbolically cast off sin. While doing this, they recite the following verses:
“Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.”
“You will be true to Jacob, and show mercy to Abraham, as you pledged on oath to our fathers in days long ago.” (Micah 7:18–20)
We cannot appeal to God’s mercy based on our own righteousness, but on the basis of Covenant.
The Jewish People understand this and know that God is faithful to the Covenant He swore to our Fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Each follower of Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus the Messiah) also stands before God on the merit of Yeshua’s blood covenant (Matthew 26:28; Luke 22:20; Hebrews 9:20; Hebrews 10:29).
Furthermore, Believers are members of the commonwealth of Israel and partaker in the eternal everlasting covenant of mercy and peace with God (Ephesians 2:12, 19; Isaiah 14:1; Ezekiel 47:22).
And since today’s portion of the Brit Chadashah (New Testament) reminds us to bring the Gospel to Israel and the nations, may we be strong and courageous in sharing the good news of forgiveness in Yeshua HaMashiach:
“How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” (Romans 10:14)