Parashah 48: Shof'tim (Judges)
Deuteronomy 16:18 through 21:9

Parashah 48: Shof'tim (Judges); Deuteronomy 16:18 through 21:9.

Haftarah reading: Isaiah 51:12 through 53:12.

B'rit Hadasha suggested reading: Matthew 5:38-42; 18:15-20; Acts 3:13-26; 7:35-53; 1 Corinthians 5:9-13; 1 Timothy 5:17-22; Hebrews 10:28-31.

(Tanach Scriptures are from Stern's Complete Jewish Bible; B'rit Chadash Scriptures from the AENT.)

Welcome "newbies" and "oldies!" As you all know, Torah was written by Moshe (Moses) and consists of the first five Books of the Bible which contain God's original Divine Instructions in Righteousness. Since this is a Netzarim (Nazarene/Messianic) website, we refer to God by His proper Name: Yud-Hey-Vav-Hey, transliterated into English as YHWH, and most likely pronounced "Yah-way" (see Exodus 3:13-15). His Son's Name is Y'shua (most likely pronounced "Ye-shoo-ah"). Enjoy this week's Torah portion!

Remember folks, this was Moses' "last will and testament." This was what he said the day he departed from the Israelites as they were making their Exodus through the desert.

In this parashah we see YHWH handing down further instructions to His people that still apply to us today, yet are - unfortunately - ignored by most. (Remember, ALL who believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are HIS people!) Please read the following very carefully:

Deuteronomy 16: 18 "You are to appoint judges and officers for all your gates [in the cities] ADONAI your God is giving you, tribe by tribe; and they are to judge the people with righteous judgment. 19 You are not to distort justice or show favoritism, and you are not to accept a bribe, for a gift blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of even the upright. 20 Justice, only justice, you must pursue; so that you will live and inherit the land ADONAI your God is giving you.

It's a sad commentary on our society to see our current judicial system ignoring this! We've thrown God out and are judging by man's laws today....

"You are not to distort justice or show favoritism" .... Whose justice - man's or God's? " are not to accept a bribe...." How many of our "worldly" judges and leaders are guilty of this? How many votes have been "bought" by our political leaders, and how many people have bribed their favorite candidates with money? "The land" YHWH promised His people was, of course, Israel at that time. But the thing is, "Israel" consists of all believers in YHWH who are all supposed to obey HIS commands for all time - and "their land" must be free of all "other gods" and idols and pagan ways....How much of America (or the world, for that matter) is free of pagan ways and "other gods"?

Before we delve too deeply into this week's Torah study, let's take a look at some wise insights from Bill Bullock (an attorney from Texas who produces some awesome Torah studies each week via "The Rabbi's Son"), who reveals something very interesting concerning YHWH's Divine Instructions to His people:

Are the Words of the Holy One “Commandments” – or Prophetic Empowerments?

By Bill Bullock

The words which Moshe will speak in this second speech are usually described in English as “commandments” and “ordinances” and “laws”. But those terms do not describe them accurately at all. Alas, the translation of the Holy One’s declaration at Sinai into English and other Western language as ‘commandments’, ‘ordinances’ and ‘laws’ lies at the root of the most critical errors into which both Christianity and Judaism have wandered.

By and large organized Christianity has erred in rejecting Torah’s “commandments, ordinances, and laws” as “unspiritual” – indeed considered to border on being demonic. Most of Christianity has thus over the centuries devolved into a King-less, Constitution-less, Kingdom-less, Love-less, Law-less blob of prudish, angry religious people who try to process glorious spiritual mysteries through the filter of fleshly, carnal minds, who spread hate-filled opinions instead of truth, who expose people to dull, repetitive sermons instead of flowing in vibrant words of life, who pass off cute marquee one-liners as revelation, and who promote models of church growth and bean-counting instead of any real, substantive message that could lead to freedom, destiny, and purpose. Organized Christianity today thus has virtually nothing of value to offer either the world or its own adherents, and both groups are rejecting it in droves.

Many modern forms of organized Judaism on the other hand have committed the exact opposite error, focusing almost all their attention on the letter of Torah’s instructions, drawing all the wrong lessons from the Holocaust and therefore instilling in upcoming generations the paranoia that everyone who is not Jewish is anti-Semitic, dangerous, and inferior. Indeed since the Holocaust the mantra of organized Judaism seems to have unofficially changed from Sh’ma Yisrael! to ‘Never Again’! As a result mind-numbing sets of extra-Biblical rules designed to keep people away have been promoted in the guise of ‘building a fence around the Torah’. There is indeed now a fence around the Torah in many forms of Judaism – and that fence is so high, is laced with so much razor wire, and is strewn with so many IEDs that the beauty of Torah – if not of the Holy One Himself -- has become hidden behind the carnage. Father Avraham would weep. Moshe would be appalled. David would hang his harp in the willows. Sh’lomo would scratch his head in bewilderment. Eliyahu would rend his mantle in twain and start thrashing.

Fragments of the Messianic Judaism are alas falling into the same traps as organized Christianity and Judaism. Labels such as ‘Sacred Namers’, ‘Two-Housers’, ‘Lunar Sabbatarians’, and ‘Sabbatical Year Followers’ have become modern ‘Shibboleths’. Swords are drawn and waving, ready to strike off the ear, cut out the tongue, or lop of the head, of anyone and everyone who fails to adopt the specific phraseology the ears of those bearing one’s chosen label itch to hear.

Brethren, these things should not be so. What in Heaven’s Name are we doing? How can we continue to misrepresent the Holy One’s character so horribly?

The Sinaitic covenant is not “law” - at least in any sense that term is used today. Nor are the mitzvot, mishpatim, and chukim “commandments” or “ordinances”.

They are Divine Energy.

They are a sweet fountain of life, health and peace.

They are substantive words of Divine empowerment and activation.

They are loving instructions, given in the context of an abiding covenant relationship, prophetically and creatively reshaping the soul and spirit of the recipient, transforming her from a redeemed slave into the Betrothed Bride-to-be of the Holy One.

Moving on with this week's Torah study:

Deuteronomy 17: 1 "You are not to sacrifice to ADONAI your God a cow or sheep that has a defect or anything wrong with it; that would be an abomination to ADONAI your God...."

While some might think that this has no relevance today since we don't sacrifice animals anymore, it does show how adamant YHWH is about purity, and that He expects nothing less than perfection. We are NOT to come to Him as "corrupt and rebellious" beings; we cannot go before God as "carnal" humans and expect Him to accept us with open arms! (Leviticus 11:45 "Therefore you are to be holy, because I am holy.") He gave us Yeshua to cleanse us from our sins; but at the same time, this in no way removed the need to obey His "forever" commands (Seventh Day Sabbath, Biblical Feasts, and eating kosher foods).

We cannot be considered "clean" if we ignore His commanded holy days and, instead, force the paganistic man-made "holidays" of Christmas and Easter down His throat every year; nor can we be considered "clean" if we present ourselves to Him after dining on swine or shellfish....Yeshua removed our past SINS; He did not die so that we could purposely disobey His Father's commands and decide we can eat whatever we want. If we belong to YHWH, we MUST obey!

Deuteronomy 17: 2 "If there is found among you, within any of your gates [in any city] that ADONAI your God gives you, a man or woman who does what ADONAI your God sees as wicked, transgressing his covenant 3 by going and serving other gods and worshipping them, the sun, the moon, or anything in the sky - something I have forbidden - 4 and it is told to you, or you hear about it; then you are to investigate the matter diligently. If it is true, if it is confirmed that such detestable things are being done in Isra'el; 5 then you are to bring the man or woman who has done this wicked thing to your city gates, and stone that man or woman to death. 6 The death sentence is to be carried out only if there was testimony from two or three witnesses; he may not be sentenced to death on the testimony of only one witness. 7 The witnesses are to be the first to stone him to death; afterwards, all the people are to stone him. Thus you will put an end to this wickedness among you.

Wow! In view of the above, what makes people today believe we have the authority to add ANY kind of paganism before the Lord?

Many attempt to refer to verses such as these and argue that "the Old Testament God was mean." But the bottom line is, it reveals once again how adamant YHWH was about His people refraining from straying from His Path by mingling or in any way associating with pagans - those who worshiped idols and other gods (and who ate "unclean" foods). YHWH is the Creator; nobody else! Man has known that since the beginning, in the Garden of Eden, and you can be sure that Adam and Eve passed that reality on to their children.

Somehow, when mankind grew and spread around the world, knowledge of YHWH began to fade and, in the end, only the Jews remained loyal, maintaining a set-apart identity for YHWH and guarding His Torah. His Word became twisted when Catholicism and later Christianity entered the picture and "all things Jewish" were removed from our worship including the identity of YHWH's Son Yeshua, who was a Torah observant, tallit-wearing, Seventh Day Sabbath and Biblical Feast-keeping, kosher Jew....

We can see throughout the Torah YHWH's relentless insistence for His people to remain a pure and clean, a Set Apart People for Him. This command wasn't just for physical Israel, but all those who are grafted in to the Olive Tree (Israel) through Yeshua Mashiyach (Messiah).

YHWH has again and again reiterated the fact that HIS people are to keep themselves pure and free from any type of paganism - to the point where, in Biblical times, He commanded them to KILL those who were pushing "other gods" or idols or paganism....

Today, of course (thanks to the atoning sacrifice of Yeshua haMashiyach) judgment against the wicked will be meted out, not by immediately stoning or putting to death those who have chosen "other gods"; but rather, their punishment will come on Judgment Day by Y'shua Himself(read Revelation 20 and 21; also see Isaiah 11:3-4, Mark 14:62. John 5:25-30 and Acts 17:31).

Revelation 20: 7. And when these thousand years will be completed, Satan will be released from his prison; 8. and will go forth to seduce the nations that are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog; and to assemble them for battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea. 9. And they went up on the breadth of the earth and encompassed the camp of the Set Apart believers and the beloved city. And fire came down from Elohim out of heaven and consumed them. 10. And the Accuser who seduced them, was cast into the lake of fire and sulfur, where also were the beast of prey and the false prophet: and they will be tormented, day and night, forever and ever.

11. And I saw a great white throne and Him who sits upon it; from whose presence the earth and heaven fled away, and this their place was not found. 12. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne; and the books were opened; and another book was opened, which is (the book) of life. And the dead were judged from the things written in the books, according to their deeds. 13. And the sea gave up the dead in it; and death and Sheol gave up the dead in them. And they were judged, each one according to his deeds. 14. And death and Sheol were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death, (namely,) this lake of fire. 15. And if any one was not found enrolled in the book of life, he was cast into this lake of fire.

Returning to the Torah portion:

Check out Deuteronomy 17:8-13 which shows what YHWH wants His people to do concerning bloodshed, civil suit, personal injury or any other controversial issue....

Deuteronomy 16: 8 "If a case comes before you at your city gate which is too difficult for you to judge, concerning bloodshed, civil suit, personal injury or any other controversial issue; you are to get up, go to the place which ADONAI your God will choose, 9 and appear before the cohanim, who are L'vi'im, and the judge in office at the time. Seek their opinion, and they will render a verdict for you. 10 You will then act according to what they have told you there in that place which ADONAI will choose; you are to take care to act according to all their instructions. 11 In accordance with the Torah they teach you, you are to carry out the judgment they render, not turning aside to the right or the left from the verdict they declare to you. 12 Anyone presumptuous enough not to pay attention to the cohen appointed there to serve ADONAI your God or to the judge - that person must die. Thus you will exterminate such wickedness from Isra'el - 13 all the people will hear about it and be afraid to continue acting presumptuously.

What judges do you know of today who follow YHWH's laws and rulings which are according to His Torah? If you know of someone, please forward his or her name to me so I can write to thank them! The bottom line is: YHWH appointed the Levi'im cohens as the ultimate authority for judging! Man's thoughts do not matter, whatsoever!

It is sad, however, that modern man has turned his collective back on YHWH so much, that we refuse to even discipline our own children - who have become what? Presumptuous! Entitled! Insisting their parents "owe" them something - whatever their hearts desire....

Here's something very important:

Deuteronomy 17: 15 In that event, you must appoint as king the one whom ADONAI your God will choose. He must be one of your kinsmen, this king you appoint over you - you are forbidden to appoint a foreigner over you who is not your kinsman.

While we don't appoint KINGS today, we do appoint leaders. Over the last decade or so, we have begun to seriously violate the above, as we are NOT appointing leaders who are among our kinsmen. In the beginning, the United States was a Christian nation - which, although Torah-less, at least 'believed' in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. But, alas, today, most of our leadership consists, at best, of "pretend" Christians - those who are seen running to church on Sundays, but who are, in reality, complete hypocrites.

And look at this:

Deuteronomy 17: 18 "When he has come to occupy the throne of his kingdom, he is to write a copy of this Torah for himself in a scroll, from the one the cohanim and L'vi'im use. 19 It is to remain with him, and he is to read in it every day, as long as he lives; so that he will learn to fear ADONAI his God and keep all the words of this Torah and these laws and obey them; 20 so that he will not think he is better than his kinsmen; and so that he will not turn aside either to the right or to the left from the mitzvah. In this way he will prolong his own reign and that of his children in Isra'el.

Do you know of any of today's leaders who have written a copy of the Torah for themselves? Our leaders are to be godly kinsman (of our country)! While our leaders today are usually not called "kings" they ALL have easy access to Torah and the rest of the Bible, and the above command to learn to fear ADONAI his God and keep all the words of this Torah and these laws and obey them applies to ALL leaders everywhere! There is no place in the Bible where the above is ever negated!

Unfortunately, we are not a Torah observant nation, which is amply reflected in the condition of our nation where one unbelieving judge can overturn the will of millions of people who are against the sin of homosexuality! It is amply reflected by the fact that people who exhibit childish and decadent behavior in our society are lauded as "folk heroes (i.e., the "barefoot bandit" who broke into people's houses and even stole airplanes, and a flight attended who lost his temper and used the intercom system to cuss out a passenger and then grabbed some beer and deployed an emergency exit to leave the plane....

Here's a challenge for you: Find a copy of the U.S. Constitution and tell us where in the 1st Amendment it provides for a "constitutional separation of church and state." The 1st Amendment was not designed to protect the government from religion - YHWH's Word; it was designed to protect spiritual people from the government! (For more, please watch our 12 minute YouTube video #18, Challenging the Freedom From Religion Foundation.)

Skipping down to Deuteronomy 18: 15 "ADONAI will raise up for you a prophet like me from among yourselves, from your own kinsmen. You are to pay attention to him, 16 just as when you were assembled at Horev and requested ADONAI your God, 'Don't let me hear the voice of ADONAI my God any more, or let me see this great fire ever again; if I do, I will die!' 17 On that occasion ADONAI said to me, 'They are right in what they are saying. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their kinsmen. I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I order him.

19 Whoever doesn't listen to my words, which he will speak in my name, will have to account for himself to me. 20 "'But if a prophet presumptuously speaks a word in my name which I didn't order him to say, or if he speaks in the name of other gods, then that prophet must die.' 21 You may be wondering, 'How are we to know if a word has not been spoken by ADONAI?' 22 When a prophet speaks in the name of ADONAI, and the prediction does not come true -that is, the word is not fulfilled -then ADONAI did not speak that word. The prophet who said it spoke presumptuously; you have nothing to fear from him.

Here we have a Messianic prophecy that foreshadows Yeshua, but it is evidence that Yeshua did not provide anything new; that everything that came from His mouth was straight from YHWH! Christians never mention YHWH; they act as if "Jesus" is a new god with new rules who replaced His Father, and that we are to worship and concentrate only on "Jesus." While Yeshua had a divine qnoma (nature), He also had a human body that was born and died. GOD cannot be born OR die! This is proof that Yeshua, as He Himself said, came to proclaim the Kingdom of YHWH (Luke 4:43), not to change or usurp His Father's powers or rules.

Now, please take a look at verse 22. Myriads today follow all manner of "false prophets" and even DEFEND them when their "prophecies" don't come true. "Well, they're just human and can make mistakes." NO! It's irrelevant that they're human! If people proclaim to be speaking for YHWH, they'd BEST KNOW FOR SURE that the message is from Him, or else they will be dead meat!

The bottom line is, once someone has proven him or herself to be a false prophet, we MUST shun them! NOTHING they say should be ever again be believed once they've given false prophecies! Yet these types are over and over again forgiven by those who don't know Scripture....

Deuteronomy 20: 1 "When you go out to fight your enemies and see horses, chariots and a force larger than yours, you are not to be afraid of them; because ADONAI your God, who brought you up from the land of Egypt, is with you. 2 When you are about to go into battle, the cohen is to come forward and address the people. 3 He should tell them, 'Listen, Isra'el! You are about to do battle against your enemies. Don't be fainthearted or afraid; don't be alarmed or frightened by them; 4 because ADONAI your God is going with you to fight on your behalf against your enemies and give you victory.'

It is important to note that the verses above do NOT suggest YHWH's people won't die when they go into battle. Many believers today are under the false impression that they will somehow be protected from harm, trials or death because they are believers. But the above verses above and those below that you are about to read show that "when YHWH is with you" it means we are His and will have eternal life because He is WITH us, no matter what happens....

Deuteronomy 20: 5 "Then the officials will speak to the soldiers. They are to say, 'Is there a man here who has built a new house, but hasn't dedicated it yet? He should go back home now; otherwise he may die fighting, and another man will dedicate it. 6 "'Is there a man here who has planted a vineyard, but hasn't yet made use of its fruit? He should go back home; otherwise he may die fighting, and another man will use it. 7 "'Is there a man here who is engaged to a woman, but hasn't married her yet? He should go back home; otherwise he may die fighting, and another man will marry her.' 8 "The officials will then add to what they have said to the soldiers: 'Is there a man here who is afraid and fainthearted? He should go back home; otherwise his fear may demoralize his comrades as well.' 9 When the officials have finished speaking with the soldiers, commanders are to be appointed to lead the army.

One has to wonder whether verse 5 above wasn't the origin of "conscientious objection"....

Deuteronomy 20: 10 "When you advance on a town to attack it, first offer it terms for peace. 11 If it accepts the terms for peace and opens its gates to you, then all the people there are to be put to forced labor and work for you. 12 However, if they refuse to make peace with you but prefer to make war against you, you are to put it under siege. 13 When ADONAI your God hands it over to you, you are to put every male to the sword. 14 However, you are to take as booty for yourself the women, the little ones, the livestock, and everything in the city - all its spoil. Yes, you will feed on your enemies' spoil, which ADONAI your God has given you. 15 This is what you are to do to all the towns which are at a great distance from you, which are not the towns of these nations.

Deuteronomy 20: 16 "As for the towns of these peoples, which ADONAI your God is giving you as your inheritance, you are not to allow anything that breathes to live. 17 Rather you must destroy them completely - the Hitti, the Emori, the Kena'ani, the P'rizi, the Hivi and the Y'vusi - as ADONAI your God has ordered you; 18 so that they won't teach you to follow their abominable practices, which they do for their gods, thus causing you to sin against ADONAI your God.

Important to realize while we are discussing what Israel is to inherit, is that, while the site to be chosen will be Jerusalem, all of the Land of Israel is to be the "inheritance." Also noteworthy, is that it was the tribe of Benjamin that actually inherited Jerusalem:

Joshua 18: 28 Tzela, Elef, Y'vusi (that is, Yerushalayim), Giv'at and Kiryat - fourteen cities, together with their villages. This is the inheritance of the descendants of Binyamin according to their families.

In Deuteronomy 16-18 we see YHWH once again warning His people to not even allow a hint of paganism in their midsts, lest they become infected by pagan ways. Just think of all the paganism that has crept into our worship of YHWH today! "The church" reeks with it! The entire Land of Israel - which is YHWH's "Holy Land" - reeks with the paganism of several "religions" and with "tolerance" of everything and anything that is anti-Torah....

Deuteronomy 20: 16 "As for the towns of these peoples, which ADONAI your God is giving you as your inheritance, you are not to allow anything that breathes to live. 17 Rather you must destroy them completely - the Hitti, the Emori, the Kena'ani, the P'rizi, the Hivi and the Y'vusi - as ADONAI your God has ordered you; 18 so that they won't teach you to follow their abominable practices, which they do for their gods, thus causing you to sin against ADONAI your God.

While YHWH spoke the above to the Hebrews in the desert, they apply to us today! Back then, He wanted His people to KILL those who practiced paganism and went against Him and His Torah. This was to prevent His people from becoming infected with paganism. But just take a look at what has happened over the millennia as the whole world became increasingly removed from Torah! In the United States alone, EVERYTHING that God considers "bad" is now considered "good"; and everything He considers "good" is mocked...

Brit Chadasha reading:

Moving on to some of the "New Testament" scriptures in today's lesson:

Matthew 5: 38. You have heard that it has been said that an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. 39. But I say to you that you should not stand against evil, but who hits you upon your right cheek, turn also to him the other. 40. And he that desires to go to court with you and take your coat, leave to him also your cloak. 41. He that compels you to go one mile, go two with him. 42. He that asks you to give to him and he desires to borrow from you, you should not deny him. 43. You have heard that it has been said to love your neighbor and hate your enemy. 44. But I say to you to love your enemies and bless those that curse you and do that which is pleasing to those who hate you. And pray for those that take you by force and persecute you.

It is important to note that, whenever Yeshua said, "You have heard it said...." He was referring to the "Oral Law" - the midrash/discussions of the rabbis (whose discussions ultimately became consolidated into what's known as the Talmud). He never negated what Torah said! (Remember, only the rabbis and the very elite were able to read in biblical times, and so the general population clung to their every word.)

The below from the Brit Chadasha reading, which clearly reveals how to properly settle disagreements between brothers and sisters, is often overlooked by many people.

Matthew 18:15. And if your brother with you is at fault, go rebuke him, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won your brother. 16. And if he does not listen to you, take with you one or two others, because of the mouth of two or three witnesses, every word is established. 17. And if he will also not listen to them, tell the congregation. And if he will also not listen to the congregation, let him be to you like a tax collector and like a heathen. 18. And truly I say to you, that any thing that you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. 19. Again I say to you that if two of you should agree on earth concerning every desire they might ask, they will have it from the presence of my Father who is in heaven. 20. Wherefore two or three are assembled in my name, there I am also among them.

The next Parashah reading will be:

Parashah 49: Ki Tetze (When you go out) - Deuteronomy 21:10 through 25:19.

Haftarah reading: Isaiah 52:13 through 54:10.

B'rit Hadasha suggested reading: Matthew 5:31-32, 19:3-12, 22:23-32; Mark 10:2-12, 12:18-27; Luke 20:27-38; 1 Corinthians 9:4-18; Galatians 3:9-14; 1 Timothy 5:17-18.

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