Devarim — “Words”

Portion for the week leading up to July 29, 2017

Times of Refreshment

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Before the people of Israel are to cross the Jordan River and enter the promised land, Moses recounts to the people all of their past journeys and instructs them according to God's word. We see throughout Scripture that right before God fulfills His promises, there are often times of waiting and resting. These are not times to be ignored or squandered, but they are for our benefit and for us to understand our purpose in moving forward.

Still in the land of Moab, on the east of the Jordan River, Moses begins to speak to the children of Israel. The previous generation has passed away after about forty years in the wilderness, except for Moses, Joshua, and Caleb. The words which Moses speaks are recorded here as an explanation of the Torah: "Across the Jordan in the land of Moab, Moses undertook to expound this law, saying..." (Deuteronomy 1:5). He begins by recounting the various sins and wanderings, but also the victories, which their fathers and they have gone through over the past forty years in the wilderness. The purpose of all of this was to instruct the people and build them up in preparation for entering the land. If they were to remain in the land, they would need to trust God to make the way before them, and they would need to know the Torah of God so that they would obey it in love in order that they may stay in the land.

We see this idea of God stopping progress right before a big event in order that He may use this time for rejuvenation and instruction. In 1 Kings, we see Elijah fleeing from Jezebel. He is on his way to the mountain of God, and he stops to rest under a tree. An angel wakes him from his rest two times and encourages him to eat and drink: "The angel of the LORD came again a second time and touched him and said, 'Arise, eat, because the journey is too great for you.' So he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mountain of God" (1 Kings 19:7-8). Elijah was on his way to meet God and plead his case before Him. In order for him to make the journey, God knows that Elijah needs to keep up his strength, so He sends an angel to sustain him. Surely God could have met Elijah Himself instead of letting him come to Him, but the journey was necessary for Elijah to go through.

Yeshua (Jesus) also, before He ascends into heaven, instructs His disciples that they must wait in Jerusalem until they are given the Holy Spirit: "'And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high'... And they, after worshiping Him, returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple praising God" (Luke 24:49, 52-53). Instead of supplying them with the Holy Spirit then and there, He instructs the disciples to wait. They spend this time in the temple worshiping God, knowing that soon He will fulfill His promise. Doubtless they used this time to prepare their hearts, knowing that soon their lives would be changed in a great way once again.

In our own lives, we experience times of great activity and times of rest and instruction. When we are going through a time when it doesn't seem like there is much going on, we ought to take note of this and wait patiently for God to do whatever it is He is doing at that moment. This waiting is not passive, however, for there are lessons and actions which must take place during this waiting. If there was no reason for the wait, then God would not make us go through it. He will use these times to reorient our path and prepare our hearts and minds so that we will not only be able to continue on our path, but to succeed and thrive. As we see with the children of Israel about to enter the promised land, they did not allow their time of instruction on the east side of the Jordan to make an effective change in their life, but they lost focus once the time required them to act, and they fell into sin. We do ourselves a great disservice when we follow their example in this regard.

This is true not only in our personal lives, but on the scale of humanity this also illustrates our present condition. It seems as if we have been on the cusp of Yeshua's return for the past two-thousand years. This time is not being wasted, but is meant for the gospel to be preached to every nation on earth and that all may find rest in repentance: "Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; and that He may send Yeshua, the Messiah appointed for you, whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time" (Acts 3:19-21). In our own lives, as we expectantly wait for Yeshua to return, we ought to use our time effectively, lest when the time for action is upon us we fall short of our calling.

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