God leaves no job half-finished

The weekly Torah portion (Hebrew: פָּרָשַׁת הַשָּׁבוּעַ Parashat ha-Shavua, popularly just parasha) is a section of the Torah read publicly and aloud in weekly Jewish prayer services, usually in full during the Shabbat (Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath). Each week, the ECI Young Adults are providing us with a commentary on the week’s parasha.

Weekly Parasha: D’varim ~ Deuteronomy 1:1 – 3:22

Key verse

Deuteronomy 1:30 “The Lord your God is going ahead of you. He will fight for you, just as you saw him do in Egypt”

Summary

This week’s Parasha marks the beginning of Moses’ final words of instruction to the nation of Israel. Moses starts off by recounting the meandering journey of 40 years through the desert right up to the verge of the Promised Land (1:1-21). He reminds the people of the negative reports the spies delivered after their sneak-peak of the Promised Land, and how the reassuring words of God helped to restore the faith of the people again. Moreover, Joshua is presented as the new leader – Moses’ successor— who will lead the nation of Israel into the Promised Land (1:22-46). Moses reminds the people that they are about to conquer the Promised Land and that the tribes may take possession of their allocated portions of the land (2:1-3:11).

A new beginning

A recurring theme in the book of Deuteronomy is the promise of a new beginning, a second chance. This promise is fulfilled in the Deuteronomic covenant and demonstrated in the allowance of Caleb, Joshua and the second generation to enter into the Promised Land.

Moses also was a flawed man who made some serious mistakes. Nevertheless, he lived out God’s commandments and died with integrity. His life teaches us that making mistakes should not hinder us from living with integrity and godly commitment. In addition, the journey of the nation of Israel shows us that it is characteristic of human behaviour to become doubtful in the light of challenging circumstances. It is our responsibility to be attentive and to act when God provides the opportunity to act. However, in case we miss God’s direction, He is gracious enough to grant us another chance.

Just imagine, the Israelites spent 40 years wandering through the desert, while it could have lasted 11 days! The original plan of God was much shorter than wandering through the wilderness for 40 years. It was not the distance that slowed the people down, but their rebellious hearts. The purpose of God for His people was not to bring them from point A to point B; but to transform them during the journey. The journey was painful but necessary to prepare their hearts to receive His promises. In the process, the people were given a covenant and a law to help them understand the nature and character of God. He was using the nation of Israel as an example for the nations of His goodness towards those He calls His own.

Fulfilment of promises

God never leaves a job half-finished. As Moses recounts the journey of Israel, he keeps repeating one phrase: ‘God was with you’. This is not just a trip down memory lane for old time’s sake. This was a powerful moment of encouragement and motivation. Every single time God has promised to be with them: He was with them. When He would have said that He would not have been with them, He would not. Moses was urging the nation to ingrain it deeply in their identities that God keeps His word. God had promised that Israel would occupy all the land allotted to them and so they could go forward into the Promised Land not as a people of fear but as a people of faith. God had said it, so they did not need to entertain the thought of being abandoned half way through. God would never hang us out to dry, His promises will always be fulfilled even if it takes 40 years of rerouting our mistakes to get us there.

What is God teaching us in this week’s Parasha?

The story of the scouting mission into the Promised Land teaches us not to be discouraged when faced with situations that seem too difficult for us to bear. We should not focus on the difficulties but on God’s direction and promises for us. Whenever we are confronted with important decisions in life, we should follow God, and move out in faith. If God has promised victory (see Rom 8:37) then the only way to lose is to give up before we get it. Israel’s fear was understandable, but not justified; God never justifies fear but He never fails to justify faith. If there is any proof of it, it is the nation of Israel, every battle put in God’s Hand was won. It took them many centuries to understand this but I believe that one of the most significant lessons we can learn from our Jewish brothers and sisters is endurance during times of intense suffering and hardship and faith in order to hold on to the promises until we are victorious.

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