Torah Reading for June 28-July 4, 2020
Jesus himself said, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you that everything written about me in the Law of Moses [Torah] and the prophets and the psalms must be fulfilled…” (Luke 24:44). With this in mind, let us look at this week’s Torah encoded reading, Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11. In the Hebrew language (God’s sacred tongue) from which our English Bible translation was taken, this week’s Torah encoded reading is called, “Va’etchanan,” translated” And I besought,” see Deuteronomy 3:23.
To understand this, one must first of all identify the double references in the text. On a simple linguistic level, which is what we refer to as the first layer of the text’s meaning, the reading focuses on the code “Va’etchanan” (And I besought the Lord in prayer).
Thus, in the opening part of the reading, we hear Moses recounting how he pleaded with, or sought God in prayerto allow him to enter the Land of Israel. But God refused, instructing him instead to ascend a mountain and see the Promised Land.
In the main part of the reading, Moses describes the Exodusfrom Egypt and the Giving of the Torah, declaring them unprecedented events in human history. “Has there ever occurred this great thing, or has the likes of it ever been heard? You were shown, to know, that the Lord is God.” Moses predicts that in future generations the people will turn away from God, worship idols, and be exiled from their land and scattered among the nations. Nevertheless, Moses predicts that the children of Israel will seek God, and return to obey his commandments. He also repeats the Ten Commandments.
The reading ends with Moses giving instruction about the Shemaprayer which declares the fundamentals of the Jewish faith: the unity of God and the commandmentto love God, study His Torah, and bind “these words” as a sign on their arms and heads, inscribing them in the frontlets affixed on the doorposts of their homes.
On a deeper theological level, this week’s Torah reading, “And I besought the Lord in prayer” has a profound message to us, the Church, the Body of Christ. This becomes increasingly clear when the reading is interpreted in the context of this fourth Sunday of the Personal Witness season. And that is, there is no time in the history of God’s people or the church has there been a greater demand or a desperate need for a dedicated leadership than today. The evidence that supports the truth of that statement is in everywhere you turn. It is in politics, in business, in schools, in our families, even in the church. It’s no wonder why on this fourth Sunday of the Personal Witness season God wants us to rededicate ourselves to the mission for which God has called us. And that is, to help transform this chaotic existence into a peaceful and harmonious world. How, then, will we be able to do that in this most challenging time? Through prayer. Prayer is not a commandment to be obeyed. Prayer is not a set of instructions to be followed. Prayer in its deepest Hebraic or Jewish sense is when the Divine inside of you gets to answer the call of the Divine that is outside of you. Remember the process that you go through when engaging in the act of prayer. When the Spirit of God comes upon you, and ignites the Divine spark of God that is inside you, then your mouth will open and your lips will start proclaiming the acts of God in your life. That is what David had in mind when he said, “Lord, open my mouth so that my lips will proclaim your mighty deeds.” Prayer, then, is the key that activates the power of the anointing of God’s Holy Spirit. Listen to what Moses said, “I besought the Lord in prayer at that time, saying, O Lord God, you have only begun to show your servant your greatness and your mighty hand; for what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do such works and mighty acts as yours.” (Deuteronomy 3:23-24). Jesus acknowledged that in Luke 4:16-21 where he quoted Isaiah 61:1-2, saying, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me because the Lord God has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the broken hearted; to proclaim liberty to the captives; and the opening of the prison to those who are bound, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,” (Isaiah 61:1-2). That is why David exclaims, saying, “Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory and the majesty for all that is in the heavens and the earth is yours…But who am I, and what is my people that we should be able thus to offer willingly?” (1 Chronicles 29:11, 14). Jesus, therefore, summarized it this way, saying, “Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it, that the Father may be glorified in the Son, if you ask anything in my name, I will do it,” (John 14: 13-14).
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