“Seeing is Believing”
by Mark Huey
As the reiteration of the words received and the tests, trials, and tribulations experienced during the desert sojourn of the Israelites to the Promised Land continues, this week’s Torah portion, entitled Re’eih (see, look, or behold), focuses in on a number of visible signs that the people were expected to do after crossing the Jordan River. Interestingly, when many readers think about the instructions given to Israel over the years by the Holy One, the watchword that often comes to mind is the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). The emphasis is on the auditory sense and the command to listen intently to His voice, with both ears and the promptings of the Spirit, in order to do all that the Creator commands. However, as our parashah commences, the exclamation to see, look, or behold directs our attention away from hearing the voice of the Lord or His Spirit’s promptings, to what not only the eyes see—but how the visible testimony of Israel to the world by its physical actions will be a witness that it is indeed a nation chosen for a unique role among the nations of the world (Exodus 19:6).
After all, hearing sounds provides warnings even in the dark of the night, and can certainly be used to specifically clarify instructions as the inner thoughts of a person seek out answers to the questions brought to mind by the voice of God, either spoken or written. However, with the innate understanding that “the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor is the ear filled with hearing” (Ecclesiastes 1:8), the speed of light enables the eye gates to absorb an incredible amount of information simultaneously, while maintaining vision both near and far. So, our Torah reading may be said to address many of the visible signs that Israel was commanded to perform, in order to be a testimony to others, so that the other nations of the world would see the magnificence of God’s chosen people, and be drawn to emulate them and revere their God.
It is recorded that during the time period which describes the Creation, that God spoke the created order into being with the proclamation, “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3). Then, after speaking into existence the various aspects of the universe, it was actually Him seeing the results of His formations that ultimately prompted Him to declare the goodness of what was formed. He was even extremely pleased with the crown of His Creation, the human being, who He made to have dominion over the Earth:
“God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’ Then God said, ‘Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food’; and it was so. God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day” (Genesis 1:27-31).
Seeing is one of the primary physical senses that our Maker has—and continues to use—to get the attention of all who have not only eyes to see, but ears to hear. So, let us truly see what our Torah reading focuses on this week.
By placing yourself back in the time of the crossing, you should understand that the way people communicated in the Ancient Near East was significantly different than it is today (especially with all of the modern technological communication devices and conveniences). Being able to visibly observe great distances from the top of mountains and other high places, with merely the human eye, was why watchers and sentinels were placed on walls or peaks, for communicating warnings and/or helping to pass on information between towns and communities.
Because Israel was on the verge of entering into hostile territory that had a variety of Canaanites worshipping other gods, God once again reminded His people about their choice of either blessings or curses from Him. In order to visibly and physically demonstrate what He was telling them, the Lord would require a literal demonstration of blessing on Mount Gerizim and cursing on Mount Ebal, as will be further described in Deuteronomy 27. These actions were not only for the benefit of the Israelites, but also for all the distant observers who were monitoring the progress of Israel as they came into Canaan (on a similar ancient path taken by Abraham on his initial journey, and also repeated by Jacob and his sons when returning from Padan Haran to the territory near the oaks of Moreh, overlooking ancient Shechem):
“See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you listen to the commandments of the LORD your God, which I am commanding you today; and the curse, if you do not listen to the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn aside from the way which I am commanding you today, by following other gods which you have not known. It shall come about, when the LORD your God brings you into the land where you are entering to possess it, that you shall place the blessing on Mount Gerizim and the curse on Mount Ebal. Are they not across the Jordan, west of the way toward the sunset, in the land of the Canaanites who live in the Arabah, opposite Gilgal, beside the oaks of Moreh? For you are about to cross the Jordan to go in to possess the land which the LORD your God is giving you, and you shall possess it and live in it, and you shall be careful to do all the statutes and the judgments which I am setting before you today” (Deuteronomy 11:26-32).
Of course, settling initially near Moreh, in order to pronounce the blessings and curses on the designated mountains, was likely a subtle reminder of the sins committed by the sons of Jacob/Israel led by Simeon and Levi, when they slaughtered the men of Shechem after the Shechemites had agreed to the Abrahamic stipulation requiring the rite of circumcision (Genesis 34). In modern times today, Palestinian Nablus is an Arab stronghold that houses a desecrated synagogue, which is considered to be the burial site of Jacob’s favored son Joseph. Whether you are a Messianic Jewish Believer who may be considering aliyah to the Promised Land, or a non-Jewish Believer who looks at these messages typologically—the point to be taken is that past events do reverberate when the people of God prepare to move into what He has intended for them!
After the rituals associated with Mounts Gerizim and Ebal were completed, the Israelites were reminded about the requirement to observe God’s statutes and judgments, while utterly destroying the worship places of the pagan nations. But it is also stated that the Almighty was going to establish a specific place on Earth to dwell among one of the tribes, by placing His authoritative Name over what would eventually become Jerusalem—intended to be a sign to the nations forever:
“These are the statutes and the judgments which you shall carefully observe in the land which the LORD, the God of your fathers, has given you to possess as long as you live on the earth. You shall utterly destroy all the places where the nations whom you shall dispossess serve their gods, on the high mountains and on the hills and under every green tree. You shall tear down their altars and smash their sacred pillars and burn their Asherim with fire, and you shall cut down the engraved images of their gods and obliterate their name from that place. You shall not act like this toward the LORD your God. But you shall seek the LORD at the place which the LORD your God will choose from all your tribes, to establish His name there for His dwelling, and there you shall come” (Deuteronomy 12:1-5).
It was critical that Israel did not pick up some of the customs, traditions, and even habits of the indigenous populations, and perhaps because of this the definite prohibition against consuming blood is proclaimed. There is something very holy about the blood of animals, because in this statement it is declared that the life-force of the animal is in the blood itself, and that it would be doing wrong in the sight of the Lord to consume blood. But it was not just the prohibition against eating the blood of animals which was to be avoided—but most especially the even more abominable practice of sacrificing children to Molech, and offering infants as sacrifices to be consumed by fire:
“Only be sure not to eat the blood, for the blood is the life, and you shall not eat the life with the flesh. You shall not eat it; you shall pour it out on the ground like water. You shall not eat it, so that it may be well with you and your sons after you, for you will be doing what is right in the sight of the LORD. Only your holy things which you may have and your votive offerings, you shall take and go to the place which the LORD chooses. And you shall offer your burnt offerings, the flesh and the blood, on the altar of the LORD your God; and the blood of your sacrifices shall be poured out on the altar of the LORD your God, and you shall eat the flesh. Be careful to listen to all these words which I command you, so that it may be well with you and your sons after you forever, for you will be doing what is good and right in the sight of the LORD your God. When the LORD your God cuts off before you the nations which you are going in to dispossess, and you dispossess them and dwell in their land, beware that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, ‘How do these nations serve their gods, that I also may do likewise?’ You shall not behave thus toward the LORD your God, for every abominable act which the LORD hates they have done for their gods; for they even burn their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods. Whatever I command you, you shall be careful to do; you shall not add to nor take away from it” (Deuteronomy 12:23-32).
Of course, one of the primary problems that the Israelites were going to have to address upon occupying the Promised Land—beyond the eradication of the existing cultures—is summed up in Deuteronomy ch. 13 not by something as blatantly obvious as child sacrifice. Instead, a great warning is issued against some false teaching and guidance, coming from within the community of Israel, by false prophets or dreamers, who would actually be permitted to perform signs and wonders. What we learn is that the Lord would use these different people, who are doubtlessly carried away with their own thoughts or perhaps influenced by the Adversary, to test His people and to determine whether or not they love Him with all their hearts and soul:
“If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods (whom you have not known) and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the LORD your God is testing you to find out if you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall follow the LORD your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him. But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has counseled rebellion against the LORD your God who brought you from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery, to seduce you from the way in which the LORD your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from among you. If your brother, your mother’s son, or your son or daughter, or the wife you cherish, or your friend who is as your own soul, entice you secretly, saying, ‘Let us go and serve other gods’ (whom neither you nor your fathers have known, of the gods of the peoples who are around you, near you or far from you, from one end of the earth to the other end), you shall not yield to him or listen to him; and your eye shall not pity him, nor shall you spare or conceal him. But you shall surely kill him; your hand shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people. So you shall stone him to death because he has sought to seduce you from the LORD your God who brought you out from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. Then all Israel will hear and be afraid, and will never again do such a wicked thing among you” (Deuteronomy 13:1-11).
If the Israelites were able to pass the tests and discern the intentions of the false teachers—who may have even been their close relatives—the punishment was swift and severe and a definite sign to the pagan nations watching, that Israel was not to be swayed from their mission received from their God. But most especially among the Israelites, everyone would most assuredly understand that capital punishment, for a justifiable cause, does create a stir among people, and would hopefully generate some genuine fear in their hearts.
Without going into much detail from what can be seen in Deuteronomy ch. 14, regarding the clean and unclean meats determined by the Creator—suffice it to say, there is every reason to obey these instructions not only for good health, but most critically to obey and follow the Lord. For, as He says, “You shall not eat any detestable thing” (Deuteronomy 14:3).
Obviously, the sign, of maintaining a kosher diet, would be something to set Israel apart not only in ancient times, but for those who follow the Torah today. For non-Jewish Believers who have entered into the Messianic movement and have embraced a lifestyle of Torah obedience, the issue of kosher eating has no doubt raised eyebrows, if not derisive comments coming from family, friends, or acquaintances about what are thought to be eating peculiarities. But beyond a shadow of a doubt, the Biblical diet is definitely a visible sign to others, and in many cases, even affords an opportunity to teach on the ways of God from His Word. It might be hard to consider this, but there are people today who do not think that God has the right to actually tell them what they can and cannot ingest with their bodies.
Another sign witnessed in Re’eih, particularly to the heathen and/or pagan nations contemporary to Ancient Israel, is the concept of tithing a portion from the produce of the ground or the flock’s multiplication. This widely goes back in time to the place where Abraham actually tithed a portion of the booty recovered from the battles associated with the rescue of Lot from the kings which had abducted him, many of his possessions, and others:
“He brought back all the goods, and also brought back his relative Lot with his possessions, and also the women, and the people. Then after his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley). And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; now he was a priest of God Most High. He blessed him and said, ‘Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand.’ He gave him a tenth of all. The king of Sodom said to Abram, ‘Give the people to me and take the goods for yourself.’ Abram said to the king of Sodom, ‘I have sworn to the LORD God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth, that I will not take a thread or a sandal thong or anything that is yours, for fear you would say, “I have made Abram rich.” I will take nothing except what the young men have eaten, and the share of the men who went with me, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their share’” (Genesis 14:16-24).
Note the example of tithing to those performing the function of priesthood, and also the pattern established when it is understood that Melchizedek (whose name means “king of righteousness”) was actually the high priest over Salem, the forerunning community that eventually became Jebus (Judges 19:10), and then Jerusalem:
“You shall surely tithe all the produce from what you sow, which comes out of the field every year. You shall eat in the presence of the LORD your God, at the place where He chooses to establish His name, the tithe of your grain, your new wine, your oil, and the firstborn of your herd and your flock, so that you may learn to fear the LORD your God always. If the distance is so great for you that you are not able to bring the tithe, since the place where the LORD your God chooses to set His name is too far away from you when the LORD your God blesses you, then you shall exchange it for money, and bind the money in your hand and go to the place which the LORD your God chooses. You may spend the money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen, or sheep, or wine, or strong drink, or whatever your heart desires; and there you shall eat in the presence of the LORD your God and rejoice, you and your household. Also you shall not neglect the Levite who is in your town, for he has no portion or inheritance among you. At the end of every third year you shall bring out all the tithe of your produce in that year, and shall deposit it in your town. The Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance among you, and the alien, the orphan and the widow who are in your town, shall come and eat and be satisfied, in order that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do” (Deuteronomy 14:22-29).
A connection is established between tithing and doing so at the place of the Lord’s choosing, but also understand that part of the responsibility of Israel was to take care of the widows, orphans, and aliens in their midst. By physically taking care of those with different challenges, the visible and recognizable testimony to other nations could definitely be used by God to demonstrate that His chosen people were given wise and beneficial instructions!
Another sign, the sabbatical year, was also intended to set Israel apart. The Ancient Israelites were given an economic plan which was designed to keep people out of debt, and inculcate the principle that it was important to not borrow, but to instead depend upon the Lord for His provision, as a result of working in some capacity. Generosity to those within the community was also required:
“At the end of every seven years you shall grant a remission of debts. This is the manner of remission: every creditor shall release what he has loaned to his neighbor; he shall not exact it of his neighbor and his brother, because the LORD’s remission has been proclaimed. From a foreigner you may exact it, but your hand shall release whatever of yours is with your brother. However, there will be no poor among you, since the LORD will surely bless you in the land which the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance to possess, if only you listen obediently to the voice of the LORD your God, to observe carefully all this commandment which I am commanding you today. For the LORD your God will bless you as He has promised you, and you will lend to many nations, but you will not borrow; and you will rule over many nations, but they will not rule over you. If there is a poor man with you, one of your brothers, in any of your towns in your land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart, nor close your hand from your poor brother; but you shall freely open your hand to him, and shall generously lend him sufficient for his need in whatever he lacks” (Deuteronomy 15:1-8).
This classic display of charity was not only intended to be a hallmark for the Ancient Israelites, but continues down to today, among the generous saints who not only faithfully tithe to those who serve them spiritually—but also keep some money available for emergencies to help out those in need.
Finally, as our Torah portion comes to a close, the appointed times of the Lord (mainly stated in Leviticus 23) are restated. These were to be definite signs, visible to the surrounding nations watching the Israelites enter into the Land promised to them by God:
“Observe the month of Abib and celebrate the Passover to the LORD your God, for in the month of Abib the LORD your God brought you out of Egypt by night. You shall sacrifice the Passover to the LORD your God from the flock and the herd, in the place where the LORD chooses to establish His name. You shall not eat leavened bread with it; seven days you shall eat with it unleavened bread, the bread of affliction (for you came out of the land of Egypt in haste), so that you may remember all the days of your life the day when you came out of the land of Egypt. For seven days no leaven shall be seen with you in all your territory, and none of the flesh which you sacrifice on the evening of the first day shall remain overnight until morning. You are not allowed to sacrifice the Passover in any of your towns which the LORD your God is giving you; but at the place where the LORD your God chooses to establish His name, you shall sacrifice the Passover in the evening at sunset, at the time that you came out of Egypt. You shall cook and eat it in the place which the LORD your God chooses. In the morning you are to return to your tents. Six days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a solemn assembly to the LORD your God; you shall do no work on it. You shall count seven weeks for yourself; you shall begin to count seven weeks from the time you begin to put the sickle to the standing grain. Then you shall celebrate the Feast of Weeks to the LORD your God with a tribute of a freewill offering of your hand, which you shall give just as the LORD your God blesses you; and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God, you and your son and your daughter and your male and female servants and the Levite who is in your town, and the stranger and the orphan and the widow who are in your midst, in the place where the LORD your God chooses to establish His name. You shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt, and you shall be careful to observe these statutes. You shall celebrate the Feast of Booths seven days after you have gathered in from your threshing floor and your wine vat; and you shall rejoice in your feast, you and your son and your daughter and your male and female servants and the Levite and the stranger and the orphan and the widow who are in your towns. Seven days you shall celebrate a feast to the LORD your God in the place which the LORD chooses, because the LORD your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, so that you will be altogether joyful. Three times in a year all your males shall appear before the LORD your God in the place which He chooses, at the Feast of Unleavened Bread and at the Feast of Weeks and at the Feast of Booths, and they shall not appear before the LORD empty-handed. Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD your God which He has given you” (Deuteronomy 16:1-17).
As we each contemplate this week’s Torah reading, and note all of the visible signs that the Holy One required of Israel—not only for its own good, but as a witness to the nations they would displace—may we reflect on just how we are personally or corporately maintaining our walk with Him, so that we might point others to the goodness and mercy of God!
In His teachings, Yeshua the Messiah certainly required His followers to demonstrate the love and goodness of the Father—as they were to be regarded as both the salt of the Earth, and the light of the world:
“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:13-16).
As the expression goes: seeing is believing. But, rather than just being a distant observer of what others are doing, perhaps you should personally reflect on just how “salty” you are, and whether the light you cast is truly reflecting the love of the Messiah (or something other than Him.) A personal assessment of where you stand individually with the Holy One of Israel is good for the soul! Spending time daily, seeking Him with all of your heart, mind, soul, and strength—in order to hear His voice or see His hand move in different ways around us—is a blessing that should result in a more intimate communion with Him.
May the Lord give each of us the eyes to see and the ears to hear what He is doing in this hour, as His plan for His people and for the world continues to move forward. To Him be all the glory! May our seeing not only result in belief, but by faith may we ably serve Him in all that we think, say, and do!