For the week of August 26, 2006 / 2 Elul 5766
Torah: Devarim / Deuteronomy 16:18 - 21:9
Haftarah: Isaiah 51:12 - 52:12


Israel's Mandate

When you go to war against your enemies and see horses and chariots and an army greater than yours, do not be afraid of them, because the LORD your God, who brought you up out of Egypt, will be with you. (Devarim / Deuteronomy 20:1)

When God brought Israel out of Egypt under the leadership of Moses and his brother Aaron, and later Joshua, it was with the view of possessing what was then called the land of Canaan. Hundreds of years before, God had promised that land to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Before Moses died God began to prepare the people for the conquest of the Promised Land. Possessing the Land was to accomplish two things: the fulfilling of the promise to the forefathers and the judgment of the wicked peoples who had been living there up until that time.

Israel's mandate was clear: they were to wipe out the inhabitants of the land. They were to face this task with confidence in God. They were not to fear armies greater than theirs, because he promised to be with them.

Under Joshua the people of Israel did indeed take possession of the Land, but their continued presence there was contingent upon their faithfulness to God (See Devarim / Deuteronomy 4:25-27). Much of the writings of the prophets address this. Israel's confidence regarding the conquest of the land and later in standing against their enemies was based first and foremost on their having a right relationship with God. As the Scriptures clearly describe, it was Israel's disobedience that led to the nation's eventual demise and exile.

Since then Israel has returned to the Land twice. The first time under Ezra and Nehemiah, and the second time in the last century culminating in the establishment of the modern State of Israel.

Some may want to apply Moses' words of confidence to the armies of Israel today, assuming that God is with them in the same way as he was in Moses' and Joshua's day. But that would be as wrong as assuming that he was with them in that same way all through biblical history. While God has an ongoing special regard for the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and while there are still yet to be fulfilled prophecies regarding Israel's spiritual and national destiny, confidence in God's support of them militarily has never been consistent. It was always dependent on their spiritual state.

What God desired for the nation of Israel in Moses' day and following, was clearly spelled out in the Torah (the five books of Moses). There are many in the Jewish community that believe this is still God's primary mandate for us as a people even though we rejected it and were judged accordingly. It is important to note that what is understood as obeying the Torah today is far removed from its original intent, one reason being that the Temple was destroyed and the prescribed sacrificial rituals were ended. Post-temple (or modern) Judaism is only reminiscent of biblical Judaism. It does not represent God's will for the Jewish people in ancient times or now.

The purpose of the Torah and the rest of the Hebrew Scriptures was to prepare Israel for spiritual renewal through the Messiah. That he came not long before the destruction of the second temple was not just coincidence. He came to bring spiritual renewal first to his own people and then through them to all the nations of the world in fulfillment of God's promise to Abraham.

At that time Israel was about to again face destruction and was on the brink of an exile that would make the earlier one to Babylon seem like a vacation. Yeshua had come to prepare Israel for its new mandate. The time had come to bring the good news of God's salvation to the whole world. Israel, who had been living unto itself for centuries, was being prepared to go to the uttermost parts of the earth.

This was the mandate taken up by the early Jewish believers in their day and has continued to be the mandate of all who trust in Yeshua ever since. And this is still Israel's mandate today even though most Jewish people are not aware of it.

This lack of awareness has not only kept the Jewish people from fulfilling our mandate, but it is also the main cause of our ongoing insecurity as a people. One of the things that has not changed since Moses' day is that our national security is still based on our relationship to God. While some might think that our salvation lies in political and military solutions, it is actually the other way around.

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