Re’eh – “See”

This week’s parasha, entitled Re’eh, means “See”. It covers Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17. Re’eh is the very first word. “See, today I am giving you the choice between a blessing and a curse.” The Israelis are at the crossroads of their journey.

As they prepare to take possession of Canaan, Moses gives a stern warning. He warns that God is giving them a choice, to be blessed or cursed. They can choose to love God, obey, and serve Him, or reject Him and worship the gods of Canaan. He instructs them that when they take control of the land, they must proclaim the blessing at Mt Gerizim, which represents life, and a curse on Mt Ebal, which represents death. These mountains were symbolic reminders of future choices they would make. Moses further warns Israel, to be cautious to obey all of God’s commands once they occupy Canaan.

In chapter 12, Moses gives instructions about the proper worship of God. The Israelis must dismantle and obliterate all places of pagan worship; in mountains and hills, and under large trees. Adonai commanded His people not to practice the abomination of worshiping Him the way that the Canaanites worshiped their gods. They were to seek Him and honor His name only in the place and manner of His choosing. Tithes, special gifts, and all the choice possessions vowed to the Lord were to be brought before Him.

Celebration and joyful fellowship with family and friends were to take place in the presence of God. However, the slaughter of any animal that was considered a sacrifice to God was prohibited, as was drinking blood, because life is in the blood. They were also warned not to follow the detestable Canaanite practice of burning their children before strange gods. This angers God, and they would be destroyed. “Be careful to obey all these commands, add nothing, take nothing away.”

In chapter 13 the Israelis were commanded to put to death anyone in their community, who would entice them to engage in idolatry. Prophets who used signs, miracles, or predictions of the future, to entice them away from worshiping God, were to be eradicated immediately, because of their detestable, defiant acts. Deceptive prophets were a test of Israel’s loyalty to Adonai, who freed them from slavery in Egypt. Even a family member or friend who secretly enticed loved ones to worship other gods, were to be executed publicly, with the community taking part in the execution. This was a sign to everyone that there is no favoritism when God carries out judgement. It was done in public, so that everyone would take the seriousness of it to heart. As they settle other towns, if they allow charlatans of the town to entice others to worship idols, that town would be judged after careful examination of the facts. Every living thing was to be annihilated. The plunder was to be burned, as a burnt offering to Adonai. The town was to remain a waste land, and never to be rebuilt. As a result of their obedience, God would be merciful.

In chapter 14, Moses reminds the Israelis that they are God’s chosen people, separated from other nations, to serve and obey Him and not to imitate the ritual practices of pagans. They were also prohibited from eating any unclean animals, whether from land, sea or sky.

Each year, a tenth of all harvested produce, grain, wine, olive oil, and first-born males from their herds and flocks, were to be set aside, then brought before Adonai, at the place He’d chosen, to honor and worship Him. There they would eat and celebrate with their families before the Lord. Additionally, every third year a tenth of all the harvest from that year was to be saved for the Levites, who had no inheritance in the land. Widows, orphans, and foreigners were also included in this provision. God would bless His people as they demonstrated generosity and compassion to the poor.

In chapter 15, God’s economic system of seventh-year debt forgiveness benefitted Israelis; their debts could not extend beyond six years. This was God’s way of protecting the poor from exploitation, and allowed those who had fallen on difficult times an opportunity to rebuild their lives. They were also commanded to be generous to the poor, and to remember that they had been slaves in Egypt. Debtors who had to sell themselves into slavery were freed and given enough provision to start anew, unless they appreciated their master enough to choose to remain.

In chapters 16 and 17, the Israelis were commanded to come before Adonai in His chosen place three times per year. Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread were celebrated during early spring, in the month of Abib, as a reminder of God’s powerful hand, delivering them from slavery in Egypt. The Festival of Weeks, known as Shavuot, was a celebration of joy and thanksgiving to Adonai for His abundant blessing of wheat harvest. Freely they had been blessed, freely they should give back to Adonai.  During the Festival of Tabernacles, they were commanded to build and live in Booths decorated with vegetables, fruit, and leafy branches, seven days in remembrance of God’s miraculous provision during the forty-year travel through the wilderness.

In conclusion, God has always desired a loving relationship with His people, but they must worship Him only, and on His terms only. In fact, He would bless them abundantly, if they would simply obey His commands! Through many generations, God’s plan to redeem us was in motion. And at just the right time, He gave His sinless son, Yeshua, as the sacrificial Lamb, slaughtered to pay the price for our sins. He became sin for us that we might become righteous in Him. As Messiah’s community of believers, we must respond to His love, through obedience to His word, rejecting sin in our lives, committing our ways to Him and encouraging others to do the same.