Re’eh / See
1 John 4:1-6
This week we study the Torah portion Re’eh/ To See. This parsha begins with a firm statement from God in Deuteronomy 11:26-28: ‘Behold, I set before you today a blessing and a curse: 27 the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you today; 28 and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn aside from the way which I command you today, to go after other gods which you have not known.’
If we diligently obey the voice of Adonai, He will have us avoid the path of curses and snares for He knows our weaknesses, just as He did for the Israelites when they traveled, leading them the long way lest they fear and return to Egypt, Exodus 13:17-18.
God commands us to possess the land as we observe and honor Him. For us today, we are to possess and guard the Torah, for it represents the land, the people, God’s covenants and God. Deuteronomy 11:31-32 ‘For you will cross over the Jordan and go in to possess the land which the Lord your God is giving you, and you will possess it and dwell in it. 32 And you shall be careful to observe all the statutes and judgments which I set before you today. ‘
When we don’t listen to hear and understand this command, we are in the state of Amos 8:11-12 speaks about: ‘Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord God, “That I will send a famine on the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord. 12 They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the Lord, but shall not find it.’
Deuteronomy 12 contains eight main points.
1. To utterly destroy all idols and names of false gods. Deuteronomy 12:1-4. (Micah 1:7, 2 Kings 23:24, Ezekiel 30:13, 1 Corinthians 10:7-14, 1 John 5:21).
2. To seek the place God chooses to worship Him, putting His Name above all, and we shall rejoice. Deuteronomy 12:5-7. (Psalm 148:13, Matthew 6:9, Philippians 2:9-11).
3. We shall not do what is right in our own eyes. Deuteronomy 12:8. (Proverbs 12:15, Proverbs 21:2, Judges 21:25, Isaiah 5:21).
4. To allow the clean and the unclean person may eat of the gift of food. Deuteronomy 12:15, 12:22. (John 6:57).
5. Do not consume the blood, for the blood is life. Deuteronomy 12:16, 12:23-25. (Genesis 4:8-11, Genesis 9:4-6, Leviticus 17:10-14, Ephesians 1:7, Hebrews 9:22, 1 John 1:7).
6. To observe His Word so that it goes well with our descendants. Deuteronomy 12:28. (Jeremiah 7:23, Job 36:11, Ephesians 6:1-4).
7. To beware of false gods. Deuteronomy 12:29-31. (Deuteronomy 13:1-11, Matthew 24:23-24, Isaiah 8:20, Colossians 2:8).
8. To not add or take away from His Word. Deuteronomy 12:32. (Revelation 22:18-19).
In Deuteronomy 13 we are warned against false prophets, dreamers of dreams and chasing after other gods. Deuteronomy 13:7 speaks of being enticed in secret. Scripture warns us of being enticed publicly to follow other gods, yet Solomon mentions the secret enticement in all of Proverbs 7 specifically Proverbs 7:9. It is important to recognize the world’s secret and crafty enticing of God’s people.
Deuteronomy 14 begins with improper mourning regarding cutting oneself for the dead. The act of cutting flesh as a mourning practice was prevalent in several Ancient Near-East cultures. History of Canaanite mourning rituals reveals one possible source for the practice. This was a practice that was used by ancient Ugarites and throughout Pagan culture. Similar rituals were found in Mesopotamian texts as well. There is a reference to the pagan practice in 1 Kings 18:27-28 and for the priests in Leviticus 21:1-5.
Also included in Re’eh are the principles regarding clean and unclean food, tithing, debts canceled and contributions to the poor, the firstborn of every animal and instructions concerning bond-servants.
Re’eh closes in chapter 16 with the Torah of the Three Pilgrimage Festivals, Shalosh Regalim שלוש רגלים. Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot. The first time that we see the three festivals as a unit is in Exodus. Shalosh Regalim is referred to as ‘The Three Legs’. Shalosh means three or rather, three of something and regalim is the plural of regal meaning foot. So literally, it means "three feet." Some translate these three festivals into ‘The Three Legs’.
As we study Re’eh we must draw attention to the verse in Deuteronomy 12:10 ‘But you will cross the Jordan and settle in the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance and He will give you rest from all your enemies around you so that you will live in safety.’
In the Tanakh, the Jordan River / Nehar haYarden, is mentioned about 175 times as a source of fertility for Israel. It is also the scene of many biblical battles, is mentioned approximately 15 times in the Brit Chadasha and is the place of Yeshua’s mikveh: Matthew 3:13
Jordan/Yarden translates as Descender. Most of its water originates 9,232 feet above sea level on Mount Hermon in the far north. The river then flows south into the Sea of Galilee continuing to exit at the southern tip of the Galilee descending south about 1,378 feet below sea level where it empties into the Dead Sea. A prophesy in Ezekiel describes a new river of life that will restore the Dead Sea which is fed by the Jordan. “When it empties into the sea, the salty water there becomes fresh. Swarms of living creatures will live wherever the river flows. …Fishermen will stand along the shore; from En Gedi to En Eglaim there will be places for spreading nets… Fruit trees of all kinds will grow on both banks of the river…Every month they will bear fruit, because the water from the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing.” Ezekiel 47:8-12.
Revelation 22:1-2 describes the Jordan as a new river of life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God. The people crossed over the Jordan in Joshua 3. Miraculously the river split open and the people crossed on dry riverbed. Elisha sent Naaman to bathe in the Jordan where he was healed of leprosy, 2 Kings 5:14. Elisha reclaimed a borrowed axe head that had sunk in the waters by causing it to float to the surface, 2 Kings 6:6.
But what is the significance of crossing over? Abram was called “Abram the Hebrew” in Genesis 14:13, which is the first time that the word is used in the Bible. Where did this term come from, and what does it mean? The word “Hebrew” in the Hebrew language is עברי (Ivrie). The root letters are used to mean cross over, or pass through. Abraham earned the name “Ivrie”, or “One that has traversed” to be referring to the fact that he came from the other side of the river. He and his family had traveled from close to the river Euphrates, crossed over into Haran, and then God called him back over the river again to the land which we now know to be Israel.
Joshua recounts this historic act in Joshua 24:2-15. At the end of the section, Joshua states what we are to do: ‘Now therefore fear the Lord and serve Him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
He seems to clarify that when one crosses over, we leave, or we should leave the pagan gods behind on the other side of the river, or we should. For Joshua the symbolism was clear: on one side of the river is idol worship, but we have left that life behind when we crossed over to the other side. Now we will serve the Lord. Joshua closes with a declaration that is to this day well known. As we cross over into God’s ways and the forgiveness that we have received, thanks to the blood of the Messiah, we have crossed over from death to life – from darkness to light. We have left our old life “beyond the river” and gone through the other side into a whole new life.
Re'eh / See
1 John 4:16
See the Light or Live in Darkness...
Throughout Deuteronomy, Moses seems to be saying to the people: “Don’t think our future will be solely determined by circumstances outside our control. God has indeed, surrounded the world by forces outside of our control, but what matters is what we choose. Everything else in our lives will follow from that. Choose the good, and good things will happen to you. Choose the bad, and eventually you will suffer. Choose life, and you will have life. Choose death, and death will surround you. Choose the light, and you will be illuminated. Choose the darkness, and you will live in bleak chaos.” When we assume that everything that happens to us happened outside of our control, we create the victim mentality: ‘this was done to me.’ When in fact it was the choice, we made.
‘Behold, I set before you today a blessing and a curse: 27 the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you today; 28 and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn aside from the way which I command you today, to go after other gods which you have not known.’ Deuteronomy 11:26-28.
If we don’t obey the Word of God, if we don’t obey Him in total oneness, then what is the point?
Years after Moses, Jeremiah kept warning the people to return to the ways of God and to watch out for themselves, since they were the ultimate enemy of themselves. Wasn’t Jeremiah really saying that God will not save us from our enemies until we save us from our ourselves? When the destruction of the Temple came, Jeremiah made one of the most important assertions in all history. He did not see the Babylonian conquest as the defeat of Israel and its God. He saw it as the defeat of Israel by its God. God didn’t change His Covenant; the people left the covenant. He was saying: ‘return to Him and He will return to you. Teshuva! Don’t define yourself as a victim of the Babylonians, but rather define yourself as one who makes choices – now make the right choice!’
There are real victims in this world, due to unforeseeable happenings, and we should never minimalize them or their circumstances. So often it is the case that we are the victims of ourselves and of our own choices. If one chooses to drink too much and then drive, the consequences might be a DUI, jail time, heavy fines, an accident or even death. Our choice would render the outcome. So too is it with the choice we make concerning our life with or without God and His Ways.
Deuteronomy 12:8 ‘You shall not at all do as we are doing here today—every man doing whatever is right in his own eyes…’
Proverbs 14:12 ‘There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.’
Proverbs 12:15 ‘The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.’
Proverbs 21:2 ‘Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the heart.’
Judges 21:25 ‘In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.’
Isaiah 5:21 ‘Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight!’
What is it to be right in our own eyes? It can funnel down from a very large scope to small entities. Understanding these verses are easy when we speak of people that are without or deny the very will of God or serve other gods. But what about smaller surroundings? If we attend a synagogue, we are assuming that we are under the authority of the Rabbi or Rabbis that lead the fellowship, thus we act according to that leadership, and that synagogue. If we disagree in teachings or other causes, we can always leave but never behave according to the warning of: Proverbs 6:16-19 ‘There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.’ It is the end part that often raises it’s ugly head when someone disagrees with leadership and stays to cause discord.
In Deuteronomy 12 there are verses that can be twisted to our own destruction, as Kefa (Peter) writes also about the letters from Rabbi Shaul (Paul) in 2 Peter 3:16.
Deuteronomy 12:15 ‘However, you may slaughter and eat meat within all your gates, whatever your heart desires, according to the blessing of the Lord your God which He has given you; the unclean and the clean may eat of it, of the gazelle and the deer alike.’
Deuteronomy 12:22 states the same: ‘Just as the gazelle and the deer are eaten, so you may eat them; the unclean and the clean alike may eat them.’
These verses are often quoted to show that unclean meats can be eaten. However, the sentence says: ‘the unclean and clean may eat of it, referring to people. The sages teach: “The unclean and the clean [may eat thereof] Since they formerly had holy status, about which it is stated: “And the flesh that touches any unclean thing shall not be eaten” (Leviticus 7:19), it is necessary to give explicit permission for both the unclean and clean person alike to eat [from the meat, even] from the same dish…” as of the deer and as of the gazelle of which no sacrifice is [ever] brought.”
Regarding Deuteronomy 12:22 the sages teach: “But as the deer [and the gazelle] are eaten, [so you may eat them]: You are not admonished to eat them in a state of ritual purity; if, however, [you will reason:] Just as the fat of the deer and the gazelle is permitted [as food], so too should the fat of non-consecrated animals be permitted. Therefore [to counter this] Scripture says, “but’ (אַךְ).”
Deuteronomy 12:23 confirms that the life, the soul is in the blood. ‘Only be sure that you do not eat the blood, for the blood is the life (soul); you may not eat the life with the meat.’ Leviticus 17:11, Genesis 4:8-11, Genesis 9:6 also stresses this point.
Deuteronomy 13 begins with strict instructions regarding other gods, ‘If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, 2 and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods’—which you have not known—‘and let us serve them,’ 3 you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the Lord your God is testing you to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. 4 You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice; you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him.’ Deuteronomy 13:1-4.
The warning of consequences continues in Deuteronomy 13:6 if we do not listen to the voice of God, but instead listen to anyone, be it prophet, brother, mother, or ‘friend who is as your own soul…’and turn to other gods.
Chapter 13 ends with the sentence that is found in the beginning of Re’eh, ‘… because you have listened to the voice of the Lord your God, to keep all His commandments which I command you today, to do what is right in the eyes of the Lord your God.’ Deuteronomy 13:18.
Deuteronomy chapter 14 continues with God’s instructions for our walk and Deuteronomy 14:3-21 clears up any confusion regarding chapter twelve regarding clean and unclean foods.
Re’eh ends with debts canceled every 7 years (our laws for bankruptcy), laws concerning bond servants, firstborn animals, and the three pilgrimage festivals, Shalosh HaRegalim; ‘Three times a year all your males shall appear before the Lord your God in the place which He chooses: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, at the Feast of Weeks, and at the Feast of Tabernacles; and they shall not appear before the Lord empty-handed. 17 Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the Lord your God which He has given you.’ Deuteronomy 16:16-17.