The Ones Standing | Nitzavim – WEEK 50
By Matt Rosenberg
This week’s Torah portion is found in Deuteronomy 29:9-30:20. The name of every Torah portion is typically taken from one of the words, in Hebrew, from the first sentence of the portion. In this case it’s the first word of verse 9, and it literally means “the ones standing.”
At this point in the story of the Jewish people, we had just walked in circles for forty years in the wilderness because of a judgment that God put on the people for not going into the land He promised us and for being afraid of the inhabitants. So, God made us circle for forty years.
If the children of Israel had gone into the promised land when God had first told them to, we would not have the books of Numbers and Deuteronomy. In Hebrew, Numbers is called “Bamidbar” which means “wilderness,” and Deuteronomy is called “Devarim” which means “words.” So, because we were disobedient, we got Bamidbar (wilderness), and after the wilderness we needed more Devarim (words).
Like a parent with his children after they have served their sentence, God has some “words” with us. Again. This is why the Greek name of the book, Deuteronomy, literally means “second law.” It’s like a do-over, a holy “try again.” This is the nature of God: He makes promises, we can’t keep them, He tries again. He is not just the God of second chances; He is the God of “continuing to give chances we don’t deserve.” Why? Because He loves us and wants to bless us.
So, we come near the end of the “second law.” The laws have been given and now God explains: if you keep my commandments, you will be blessed; and if you don’t keep my commandments, you will be cursed. People get stuck on the specifics of what we should or shouldn’t do, but it’s more heart than formula. The heart is found at the end of this week’s portion in Deuteronomy 30:19-20:
“I call the heavens and the earth to witness about you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Therefore choose life so that you and your descendants may live, by loving Adonai your God, listening to His voice, and clinging to Him. For He is your life and the length of your days, that you may dwell on the land that Adonai swore to your fathers—to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob—to give them.”
Choose life! That’s God’s hope for the Jewish people, for people from every nation (Gentiles), and more specifically, you! How can you choose life? Glad you asked: love God, listen to Him, and cling to Him. Why? Verse 20 says, “For He is your life.” It reminds me of my life verse in Proverbs 9:10, “The fear of Adonai is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” Not only does wisdom come from the one who created wisdom, but life itself comes from Him. If you want life, then choose God. Choose to know Him, to listen to Him, to cling to Him, so that you will be blessed. The point of blessing is not you. The point of blessing that comes from God is so that you can be a blessing. It’s the design going back to the covenant God made with Abraham.
Here in Nitzavim, God is giving the people of Israel a choice as they finally go into the land that He promised our fathers. If you want to stay in the land, “know me, listen to me, and cling to me.” Today, He gives us the same choice.
A few verses prior Moses says, “Adonai your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants—to love Adonai your God with all your heart and with all your soul, in order that you may live” (Deuteronomy 30:6). This has always been the key—our hearts have to be in it. You can’t receive blessing in order to pass blessing on if your heart is not in it. Physical circumcision is important for Jewish people because it is a symbol of the covenant God made with our fathers. But, one can be circumcised physically without ever putting one’s heart into it. That’s why Moses is so specific here in that you can’t circumcise your own heart. Only God can circumcise your heart. He is willing and able to do it, for Jews and Gentiles alike, so that we can “love Adonai your God with all your heart and with all your soul, in order that you may live.” Live your best life; just don’t try to do it without God. Life is best lived by honoring the one who gave you life in the first place. You want blessing? Love God. You want honor? Listen to God. You want more in your life? Cling to God. It’s not a formula that doesn’t involve any pain, but when you cling to God, you know He is with you in the pain. Pain is a part of life, but so is blessing.
The very existence of Jewish people like me proves God’s faithfulness. If God made the promises of Nitzavim and then didn’t keep them, then that God wouldn’t be worth following. But not only did God make these promises, He also keeps them, and my Jewish people prove it. So, choose life! In the death and resurrection of our Messiah Yeshua. all of these promises are extended to any Gentile who calls on the name of Yeshua. God is willing to circumcise your heart so that you know Him, listen to Him, and cling to Him. He wants to pour out His blessing on your life so that you can share the blessing with everyone—Jew and Gentile, male and female, everyone.
In this Torah portion, the children of Israel stood before the Lord and He gave them a choice—“life and death, the blessing and the curse”—and you have the same choice. Choose life, and the life you live will have a greater impact than you could ever imagine because you stand in the presence of God!
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About the Author
Matt is the Chief Officer of Awesome (COA) and Rabbi of Restoration (ShalomSeattle.com) in Seattle, WA. He received a B.A. in Religion from Nyack College. He is passionate about sharing the message of Yeshua with his Jewish people and the nations all over the world beginning in Seattle. He is a thinker, reader, dreamer, and leader among his generation in the Messianic movement. Matt was raised in a Messianic home and is a second generation Messianic Rabbi. He is ordained by and sits on the steering committee of the IAMCS (iamcs.org) and serves as a board member of Jewish Voice Ministries International (jvmi.org). Matt and his wife Laura have three children and live in Seattle.
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