TorahScope: Ha’azinu

Ha’azinu

Hear

Deuteronomy 32:1–52
2 Samuel 22:1–22:51

“Mixed Emotions Poeticized”


by Mark Huey

Providentially, the Ha’azinu Torah portion is often read, studied, and contemplated during the season of the Fall high holidays of Yom Teruah/Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot. Any serious meditation upon the closing chapters of Deuteronomy, and in particular the song that Moses composed, will undoubtedly see passion arise from multiple sides of the emotional spectrum. In waxing poetically, for the primary purpose of assisting memorization by Israel, this esteemed chosen leader and deliverer—who at his advanced age was preparing to die—summarized not what he had experienced in the travails of the forty year sojourn, but he also looked forward to much of the judgment that was to come to Israel. Gratefully, his song does include the promise that God will render appropriate judgment on the enemies of His own, and will provide restitution and restoration for Israel. But as is apparent from Moses’ prophetic song, the journey to vindication would be strewn with the bones of a disobedient nation, which would chronically disappoint its God with idol worship and independent reliance upon mortal strength and abilities. Everyone who is considering Ha’azinu this week should humbly admit that these patterns of behavior are not just reserved for the Ancient Israelites—but are things that every generation of people seeking the will of the Holy One in times since, has had to struggle with.

However, without belaboring the obvious heart challenges discussed centuries later by the Apostle Paul (Romans 7), the ultimate solution to the sin problem rests in belief and trust in Yeshua the Messiah (Jesus Christ). We can detect Messianic references through the Tanakh, and even in Moses’ song in Ha’azinu, as we can read about the Rock and/or the Rock of salvation (cf. Deuteronomy 32:25; Psalm 18:2, 46; 62:2, 6, 7; 89:26; 95:1; Isaiah 17:10). Nevertheless, as Moses readily pointed out, despite direct knowledgeable access to God as the Rock—every crooked and perverse generation has been plagued with faithlessness, and the blatant obstreperous tendency to foolishly follow the inclinations of fallen, human flesh:

“Give ear, O heavens, and let me speak; and let the earth hear the words of my mouth. Let my teaching drop as the rain, my speech distill as the dew, as the droplets on the fresh grass and as the showers on the herb. For I proclaim the name of the LORD; Ascribe greatness to our God! The Rock! His work is perfect, for all His ways are just; A God of faithfulness and without injustice, righteous and upright is He. They have acted corruptly toward Him, they are not His children, because of their defect; but are a perverse and crooked generation. Do you thus repay the LORD, O foolish and unwise people? Is not He your Father who has bought you? He has made you and established you” (Deuteronomy 32:1-6).

In order to remind the Ancient Israelites of their inheritance, Moses recanted an historical perspective, detailing details many of the blessings that had been bestowed upon them. God chose Israel to be the unique nation, which can essentially be viewed as a barometric measuring rod on world history, with His eye constantly trained on them, despite any protestations from within or without:

“Remember the days of old, consider the years of all generations. Ask your father, and he will inform you, your elders, and they will tell you. When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance, when He separated the sons of man, He set the boundaries of the peoples according to the number of the sons of Israel. For the LORD’s portion is His people; Jacob is the allotment of His inheritance. He found him in a desert land, and in the howling waste of a wilderness; He encircled him, He cared for him, He guarded him as the pupil of His eye. Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that hovers over its young, He spread His wings and caught them, He carried them on His pinions. The LORD alone guided him, and there was no foreign god with him. He made him ride on the high places of the earth, and he ate the produce of the field; and He made him suck honey from the rock, and oil from the flinty rock, curds of cows, and milk of the flock, with fat of lambs, and rams, the breed of Bashan, and goats, with the finest of the wheat—and of the blood of grapes you drank wine” (Deuteronomy 32:7-14).

While the blessings are too many to count, the responsibility to represent the Almighty to the nations of the world comes with a high price, especially when material abundance has a tendency to lead to self-reliance. Moses foresaw that even as He referred to Israel with the loving, poetic, and almost romantic expression of Yeshurun, the people of Israel took their blessings for granted and scorned the Rock of salvation. Like a loving husband which recognizes that his wife is no longer totally faithful, but considering other lovers, God’s jealousy will result in an age-long attempt to woo back His chosen people, using whatever means necessary, so that His plans for humanity will ultimately be fulfilled:

“But Jeshurun grew fat and kicked—You are grown fat, thick, and sleek—then he forsook God who made him, and scorned the Rock of his salvation. They made Him jealous with strange gods; with abominations they provoked Him to anger. They sacrificed to demons who were not God, to gods whom they have not known, new gods who came lately, whom your fathers did not dread. You neglected the Rock who begot you, and forgot the God who gave you birth. The LORD saw this, and spurned them because of the provocation of His sons and daughters. Then He said, ‘I will hide My face from them, I will see what their end shall be; for they are a perverse generation, sons in whom is no faithfulness. They have made Me jealous with what is not God; they have provoked Me to anger with their idols. So I will make them jealous with those who are not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation, for a fire is kindled in My anger, and burns to the lowest part of Sheol, and consumes the earth with its yield, and sets on fire the foundations of the mountains. I will heap misfortunes on them; I will use My arrows on them. They will be wasted by famine, and consumed by plague and bitter destruction; and the teeth of beasts I will send upon them, with the venom of crawling things of the dust. Outside the sword will bereave, and inside terror—both young man and virgin, the nursling with the man of gray hair. I would have said, ‘I will cut them to pieces, I will remove the memory of them from men,’ had I not feared the provocation by the enemy, that their adversaries would misjudge, that they would say, ‘Our hand is triumphant, and the LORD has not done all this’” (Deuteronomy 32:15-27).

Jealousy is an incredibly strong emotion, and one of the many characteristics of the Holy One of Israel (Exodus 20:5). In fact, His jealous attribute is also one name that the Almighty referred to Himself years earlier, during the desert sojourn:

“Then God said, ‘Behold, I am going to make a covenant. Before all your people I will perform miracles which have not been produced in all the earth nor among any of the nations; and all the people among whom you live will see the working of the LORD, for it is a fearful thing that I am going to perform with you. Be sure to observe what I am commanding you this day: behold, I am going to drive out the Amorite before you, and the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite. Watch yourself that you make no covenant with the inhabitants of the land into which you are going, or it will become a snare in your midst. But rather, you are to tear down their altars and smash their sacred pillars and cut down their Asherim—for you shall not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God—otherwise you might make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land and they would play the harlot with their gods and sacrifice to their gods, and someone might invite you to eat of his sacrifice, and you might take some of his daughters for your sons, and his daughters might play the harlot with their gods and cause your sons also to play the harlot with their gods” (Exodus 34:10-16).

Being consistent with His revealed Word, the Lord is dutifully bound to punish the people of Israel, when they foolishly wander away from under His wings and worship false idols. When one considers the extreme measures the Lord employed to get the attention of His people—which would include other nations, misfortune, famine, plagues, teeth of beasts, venom of serpents, and swords—one can readily understand that self-oriented people naturally migrate toward faithlessness in the Holy One, until they realize the severity of their unbelief.

At this point, Moses reminded Israel that they had been given a gift of revelation from Him, with many promises that should warrant understanding and the ability to discern their future—especially since they had witnessed the many miracles and deliverances, already performed during their deliverance from Egypt. With the comparative analysis of the inadequacies of false gods versus what the Holy One had accomplished, one might think it would incite Israel to lean even more upon Him. But as the poem forcefully continues, Moses assured the Israelites that despite their reluctance to seek Him, the Almighty One would ultimately take vengeance upon even those He would use to chastise His people:

“For they are a nation lacking in counsel, and there is no understanding in them. Would that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would discern their future! How could one chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight, unless their Rock had sold them, and the LORD had given them up? Indeed their rock is not like our Rock, even our enemies themselves judge this. For their vine is from the vine of Sodom, and from the fields of Gomorrah; Their grapes are grapes of poison, their clusters, bitter. Their wine is the venom of serpents, and the deadly poison of cobras. Is it not laid up in store with Me, sealed up in My treasuries? Vengeance is Mine, and retribution, in due time their foot will slip; For the day of their calamity is near, and the impending things are hastening upon them. For the LORD will vindicate His people, and will have compassion on His servants, when He sees that their strength is gone, and there is none remaining, bond or free. And He will say, ‘Where are their gods, the rock in which they sought refuge? Who ate the fat of their sacrifices, and drank the wine of their drink offering? Let them rise up and help you, let them be your hiding place!’” (Deuteronomy 32:28-38).

Apparently, because of God’s jealous love for Israel, He would despise the worshippers of false gods even more, because they fail for whatever reasons to be called into an understanding that there is only One True God over creation. Why only some from the nations eventually come to Him for salvation has been perplexing humanity for eons, but without debating the merits of the arguments that lead many to believe that God does not even exist, the fact remains that according to these recorded words, the Holy One of Israel will mete out justice, render vengeance on His adversaries, and repay those who hate Him:

“See now that I, I am He, and there is no god besides Me; It is I who put to death and give life. I have wounded and it is I who heal, and there is no one who can deliver from My hand. Indeed, I lift up My hand to heaven, and say, as I live forever, if I sharpen My flashing sword, and My hand takes hold on justice, I will render vengeance on My adversaries, and I will repay those who hate Me. I will make My arrows drunk with blood, and My sword will devour flesh, with the blood of the slain and the captives, from the long-haired leaders of the enemy. Rejoice, O nations, with His people; For He will avenge the blood of His servants, and will render vengeance on His adversaries, and will atone for His land and His people. Then Moses came and spoke all the words of this song in the hearing of the people, he, with Joshua the son of Nun” (Deuteronomy 32:39-44).

Eventually, as history has proven, there will be nations on the Earth which literally rejoice over the workings of the Lord, recognizing that there is a sovereign plan for His Creation. Regardless of humanity’s meager attempts to thwart or subvert His will, all activities on Earth, whether for good or evil, are ultimately being allowed by Him for His purposes. This is why some verses related by the Apostle Paul become such a comfort to many Messiah followers, when unfathomable things which occur individually, or to others, or to nations, do not seem to make logical human sense:

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it. In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:18-28).

With the Spirit-led understanding that God is in control of the affairs of people—despite lives and events which seem out of control—ultimately the Almighty is going to sort things out. Because He is absolutely just, omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent, He will never disappoint those who are His. The age old challenge for all is to make sure that adoption as a child of the Most High is secured, so that reliance upon the innermost groans of the Holy Spirit will be met with dependence upon Him in all things.

Finally, before the details of Moses’ death are inserted, recollecting his personal lack of faith—Moses reminded the people of Israel then, and hence all reading this poem today, that all words of the instruction are to be carefully observed, because they are not idle sayings but literally words of life. If obedience to the words is accomplished, then the promises and blessings of God will be demonstrated:

“When Moses had finished speaking all these words to all Israel, he said to them, ‘Take to your heart all the words with which I am warning you today, which you shall command your sons to observe carefully, even all the words of this law. For it is not an idle word for you; indeed it is your life. And by this word you will prolong your days in the land, which you are about to cross the Jordan to possess.’ The LORD spoke to Moses that very same day, saying, ‘Go up to this mountain of the Abarim, Mount Nebo, which is in the land of Moab opposite Jericho, and look at the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the sons of Israel for a possession. Then die on the mountain where you ascend, and be gathered to your people, as Aaron your brother died on Mount Hor and was gathered to his people, because you broke faith with Me in the midst of the sons of Israel at the waters of Meribah-kadesh, in the wilderness of Zin, because you did not treat Me as holy in the midst of the sons of Israel. For you shall see the land at a distance, but you shall not go there, into the land which I am giving the sons of Israel” (Deuteronomy 32:43-52).

However, as noted by the final few verses of Ha’azinu, even someone as uniquely chosen as Moses, to lead Israel out of Egypt, did not get to enter into the Land of Promise because of the overwhelming weight of his good works. Due to his lack of faith at the waters of Meribah, Moses had to suffer the disappointment of not entering into Canaan with the people of Israel, despite his pleadings:

“I also pleaded with the LORD at that time, saying, ‘O Lord GOD, You have begun to show Your servant Your greatness and Your strong hand; for what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do such works and mighty acts as Yours? Let me, I pray, cross over and see the fair land that is beyond the Jordan, that good hill country and Lebanon.’ But the LORD was angry with me on your account, and would not listen to me; and the LORD said to me, ‘Enough! Speak to Me no more of this matter. Go up to the top of Pisgah and lift up your eyes to the west and north and south and east, and see it with your eyes, for you shall not cross over this Jordan’” (Deuteronomy 3:23-27).

Moses was able to gaze upon the Promised Land, and definitely knew it existed and that the Israelites were going to eventually take up occupancy, albeit with many challenges. But he was not permitted to enter, because he was simply reaping what he had sown in a fit of anger back at Meribah. This sad, final destiny for Moses, should be a sobering wake up call for all who call upon the Holy One of Israel, even with trust in the accomplished work of Messiah Yeshua. After all, one might have the assurance that he or she has been born from above by the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit, but this does not make one exempt from reaping what is sown during the course of life. Because the Almighty is absolutely just in all of His deliberations and judgments, everyone will be held accountable for not only what they do and say, but even the thoughts of every individual are recorded in the books written about in Revelation:

“And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:12-15).

If one considers that human civilization is approaching the point where so much can be stored digitally, imagine that the Creator has capably recorded everything that has ever been done down through the time, space, and matter compendium that He created—and that He has infinitesimal knowledge about every molecule that He personally formed. It is not a stretch to comprehend that everything a person has done is in their individual “file,” so to speak. Think about this for a minute. Are you ready to have your file opened and reviewed before the throne if your name is not written in the Book of Life? Now do you understand why Paul stated that Believers in Messiah Yeshua need to all work out their salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12)?

“So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Messiah I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain” (Philippians 2:12-16).

Did you notice in the context of what the Apostle was declaring to God’s people in the First Century—which was widely a crooked and perverse generation, very much like Moses’ cohort—that those who profess belief in God are to not grumble or dispute in order to properly represent Him? After all, it is the Holy One of Israel who is at work to accomplish His will for His good pleasure, despite any protestations that might be aroused from the circumstances of individual and corporate life.

While you contemplate Moses’ instructional poetic discourse this week in Ha’azinu, there might be many personal issues to reflect upon, and confess and repent of, during the soon approaching season of our joy for Sukkot. This is a time when our focus, as always, needs to remain fixed on Yeshua the Messiah, and how Believers can proclaim Him more accurately through good deeds and actions—rather than just hollow words—while advancing His Kingdom, until the restoration of all things…


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