Deut. 7:12 – Deut. 11:25
In this week’s Parasha we read the following verses, Deuteronomy 8.2-3: “You shall remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments, or not. And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know; that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but that man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord.”
From this we learn that the giving of the manna (Exo 16) was not just God’s supernatural provision for Israel in the wilderness; it was also intended by God to be a test of their faithfulness to his commandments. When the Messiah, the perfect son of Israel, was tested in the wilderness, he quoted from this passage as he rejected the temptation of Satan:
“Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan, and was led by the Spirit for forty days in the wilderness, tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing in those days; and when they were ended, he was hungry. The devil said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.’ And Jesus answered him, ‘It is written, “Man shall not live by bread alone.”’” (Luke 4.1-4)
While Israel in the wilderness had not passed the test of the manna, even complaining about it, the Messiah went through all of God’s tests without complaining and without sin. Because he has been through the tests, he is able to come to the aid of his followers when they are tested. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Heb. 4.15-16). “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13). [RP]
God chose the people of Israel and appointed them to be “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” The departure from Egypt through supernatural power, the revelation of God given at Sinai, the nation’s life in the wilderness for forty years, all these were intended to train and to qualify Israel for this high position: “You shall remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments, or not. And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know; that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but that man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord.” (Deut 8.2-3). This means that man is not to live by the craving of the palate, but that the love of God should be the guiding principle in his life; not matter, but spirit is the true foundation of the life of faith.
True, God chose Israel, but divine election did not mean that Israel was to remain a passive instrument in God’s hand and that Israel’s destiny would automatically find its fulfillment. There was the need of response on the part of the nation, the need of cooperation.
In chapter seven of Deuteronomy, which is part of Moses’ parting speech, the great leader of Israel emphasizes this particular aspect: “And because you hearken to these ordinances, and keep and do them, the Lord your God will keep with you the covenant and the steadfast love which he swore to your fathers to keep; he will love you, bless you, and multiply you; he will also bless the fruit of your body and the fruit of your ground, your grain and your wine and your oil, the increase of your cattle and the young of your flock, in the land which he swore to your fathers to give you. You shall be blessed above all peoples.” (Deut 7.12-14).
The plan of God is based on a strong foundation, and no power in this world can abolish or invalidate it. God is first and last; he knows the end (of a thing) from the beginning, and nothing can surprise him. Therefore, he chose within the framework of the Jewish nation outstanding men, who were prepared to sacrifice all they had and were on the altar of the God-appointed destiny, the truth of God. Thus we read in the haftarah: “The Lord God has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him that is weary. Morning by morning he wakens, he wakens my ear to hear as those who are taught. The Lord God has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious, I turned not backward. I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I hid not my face from shame and spitting.” (Isa 50.4-6).
Such is the path of the true prophet. He hears the voice of God, and this voice is like a fire burning in his heart. He goes out to uncover the sin of the people, to reprove, to restore the lost to God, to encourage and strengthen the tired, the one who is longing for peace with God, to comfort the mourning; but because of this, he finds himself persecuted, beaten, an object for spitting and shame.
There are two kinds of suffering in the world: one kind is in the nature of punishment from God for disobedience and departure from the way of truth; the other comes as a result of superb faithfulness to God in a society that has departed from the way of truth and cannot stand the voice of righteousness and truth. Such people do not hesitate to silence the voice of truth by means of persecution and even murder. The tragedy is that such persecution in the course of ancient history came from the chosen people itself. Election does not work automatically. In the time of Moses and in our own time, Israel—apart from a few divinely enlightened ones—did not understand the essence of God’s election, and the hand that was to carry out the plan of universal peace remains as it were a paralyzed hand to this day.
The words of the haftarah, cited above, have particular reference to that great sufferer, the Messiah, who is the revelation of God; he brought all that God had to give us. But Israel rejected him, and thus rejected his own destiny, rejected the peace he so much longed for, peace with God, peace with his neighbor.
Haftarah: Isaiah 49:14 – Isaiah 51:3
Shabbat Shalom![Ostrovsky, Moses on the Witness Stand, 132-134, quoted by permission of Messianic Publishing Co, a division of Messianic Literature Outreach]