alternate textThe Torah reading this week comes from Devarim (Deuteronomy) 32, the chapter that contains the well known song of Mosheh and stands out as one of the most beautiful descriptions in all books of Scriptures of Yahweh’s care and faithfulness towards his people. What is the background of this particular chapter? Why did Mosheh come up with this song? To find the answer to this question, one needs to look at the chapter before – Devarim 31. In this chapter it is revealed that Mosheh has come to the end of his life and that Yahushua was the one who should take over from him. Then we hear these words in verse 19: “And now write down this song for yourselves, and teach it to the children of Yisraél. Put it in their mouths, so that this song is to Me for a witness against the children of Yisraél.” So also verse 21: “And it shall be, when many evils and distresses come upon them, that this song shall answer before them as a witness. For it is not to be forgotten in the mouths of their seed, for I know their thoughts which they are forming today, even before I bring them to the land of which I swore to give them.” And again in verse 28: “Assemble unto me all the elders of your tribes, and your officers, so that I speak these words in their hearing and call the heavens and the earth to witness against them.”

The fact that heaven and earth are called as witnesses is repeated in the first verse of chapter 32: “Give ear, O heavens, and let me speak; and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth.” Yahweh knew the rebellious nature of the people He had chosen for Himself. He knew their stiff necks, their wandering eyes, their short memories and their inclination towards foreign mighty ones. Therefore heaven and earth were called as witnesses, and this song was written, so that there would be no doubt, whatsoever, with regards to what He had done for his people – no doubt about his mighty works, his faithfulness, his compassion and his righteousness. Should all kinds of evils and distresses come upon the people of Yisrael, sometime in future, they would then not be in a position to blame it on Yahweh and hold Him responsible for what had happened to them. Right at the beginning He called upon heaven and earth as witnesses. Not only witnesses of the fact that they were warned that disobedience to his words would lead to destruction, but also witnesses of the fact that He had done mighty works in their midst and had shown Himself time and again as a faithful and compassionate Elohim.

One of the most prominent things about Yahweh that is stated repeatedly in this chapter, is that He is the Rock (the word for “rock” appears no less than 9 times in this chapter). He proved Himself over and over again as a Rock for his people. He never falters. He never changes. He can always be trusted. He is an El of truth and without a trace of unrighteousness. His faithfulness is perfect and complete – those who know Him will never find any reason to distrust Him or have the slightest doubt about his fairness and good intentions. In this world where people and standards and priorities change constantly, it is priceless to know the One who is the Rock. We should never stop reminding ourselves of this fact. We should listen carefully to the testimony of heaven and earth (and, if possible, go and have a good look at a rock, close by) and ask ourselves if the same can be said about us. Do our faithfulness and trustworthiness and steadfastness resemble the faithfulness and trustworthiness and steadfastness of the Rock from whom we have benefited so much in the past? “He made him (Yaákov) to draw honey from the rock, and oil from the flinty rock … (verse 13).”

Nowhere in Scriptures do we find a more touching description of the Almighty’s love for his people, than in verses 10 to 13 of this chapter: “He found him in a wilderness, And in a wasted, howling desert. He encompassed him, He made him understand, He watched over him as the apple of His eye. As an eagle stirs up its nest, flutters over its young, spreading out its wings, taking them up, bearing them on its wings. Yahweh alone led him, and there was no strange mighty one with him. He made him ride in the heights of the earth …” Have we not found ourselves in a wilderness, in a wasted, howling desert, before Yahweh found us and drew us towards Him? Is it not He who encompassed us and made us understand and discern and think for ourselves? How many times in the past have we marvelled at the fact that of all the people of the world, Yahweh had included us in his plan of salvation and his set-apart inheritance? Do you still remember the times when you, too, felt like the apple of Yahweh’s eye? Like a favourite child, like someone chosen by name and hand-picked by someone of importance? How can we forget those special moments when we felt so safe and so secure because we knew that Yahweh was spreading out his wings over us like an eagle over his little ones? And especially those times when He picked us up from situations of danger and distress and carried us on his wings and made us ride in the heights of the earth? If we have forgotten those moments and those days, it is time for us to consult the two witnesses – the heaven and the earth – that were called upon long ago to remind us of these things.

When one thinks of the ways and the works of the Almighty and listens to the testimony of the heaven and the earth, it is extremely difficult to imagine that the very ones who have experienced these things, could turn around and do the things described in Devarim 32. Growing fat and kicking at the One who nurtured them (15). Deliberately provoking the Almighty with abominations and demonic activities (16 and 17). Forsaking and neglecting and forgetting the One who created them and painstakingly cared for them (15 and 18). Forgetting what it means to trust and spending all their time in perverse activities and worthless matters (20 and 21). Rejecting the hand of Yahweh and trusting in their own hand, their own counsel, their own wisdom and their own understanding (27, 28 and 29).

There is a very real connection between Devarim 32 and the feasts of the seventh month – especially Yom Teruah and Yom Kippur. Yom Teruah is the Day of clamour, the Day of shouting and, more specifically, the Day of Trumpets or the blowing of the shofars. Why do we need a separate day upon which the shofars are blown? Shofars were blown for many reasons, one of which is to remind the people of something of extreme importance. The blowing of the shofars on the Day of Teruah is, among others, a reminder of the words and the faithfulness of Yahweh. In a sense, the sound of the shofar on this day is a witness, like the witness of the heaven and the earth, to remind us of the things Yahweh has said and done in the past. It is a wake-up call for those who are prepared to listen, to take a good look at our own hearts and to turn our hearts back to Yahweh and his words.

Yom Kippur could almost be seen as the climax of the process that was set off on Yom Teruah. If Yom Teruah is Yahweh’s introduction of a wake-up call, Yom Kippur is our ultimate response to this wake-up call. Now that the shofars have sounded, now that the witnesses – even the witnesses of heaven and earth – have been called in, what will we do about it? Will we sit back and relax and continue in our ways and allow another opportunity go by? Will we blame others, or even worse, blame the Almighty for the bad things that have happened to us over the past year or longer? Or will we take notice of the sound of the shofars and let them be like the sound of Yahweh’s own words? Don’t you think it is time to take seriously the reminder of the two rock-solid witnesses that Yahweh has set into place – the witness of the heaven and its signs (including the sign of the new moon introducing Yom Teruah) and the witness of the earth and its faithfulness in producing fruits and crops in its season. Yahweh’s new season is here, presenting each one of us with one more opportunity to humble ourselves before Him and before his Word, so that He can truly restore us. “See now that I, I am He, And there is no Elohim besides Me. I put to death and I make alive. I have wounded, and I heal. And from My hand no one takes away!” (Deut 32:39).

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