This morning’s parasha will complete the annual cycle of Torah readings. It is entitled V’zot HaB’racha, translated, And this is the blessing, and covers Deuteronomy chapters 33 and 34. Moses will soon die – God has told him as much. Because of his disrespect toward Adonai at Meribah (Numbers 20), he will not enter the Promised Land of Canaan, but only see it at a distance, from atop Mt. Nebo in neighboring Moab.
But before that happens, there is important unfinished business. As chapter 33 opens, Moses pronounces a blessing over the twelve tribes – a reiteration of what Jacob prophesied over his twelve sons almost five centuries earlier. The two blessings are different from one another, and some of those differences are significant. For example, though Jacob pronounced judgment on some of his sons, there is only blessing here. Also, Shimon’s name doesn’t even show up here. His land allotment would eventually be incorporated into Judah. This is consistent with Jacob having prophesied that Shimon and Levi’s descendants would be scattered in Israel.
In verse 9, Moses praises Levi, “Who said of his father and his mother, ‘I did not consider them’; and he did not acknowledge his brothers, nor did he regard his own sons, for they (the tribe of Levi) observed Your word and kept Your covenant.’ If you didn’t know your Bible, you might think Moses was advocating for hating one’s own family. But, of course, this refers to Israel’s terrible, sinful debacle – the Golden Calf incident (Exodus 32). The Levites were the only ones faithful to God and to Moses that day, though it meant putting to death 3,000 men who led that rebellion. Some may have even been family or friends. So, how much has loyalty to Adonai and Messiah cost you personally? Probably not so much.
In both blessings, Yosef (Joseph) is referred to as “the one distinguished among his brothers.” Yeshua’s human ancestry may trace from the line of Judah, but His character: one of humility, wisdom, and the willingness to forgive His own who disowned Him, all are foreshadowed in Joseph, and so one of Messiah’s titles is Ben Yosef – the One who suffers, though innocent, and goes on to becomes the very Source of their salvation.
In chapter 34 Adonai summons Moses to the pinnacle of Mt. Nebo, allowing him a brief panoramic view of the Promised Land, and reminding him he won’t be going in, but will die atop the mountain. I wonder if Moses told the people he wouldn’t be returning. If so, can you imagine the sadness of such a send-off?
I find it fascinating that for the third and final time, God and Moses are alone together on a mountain at what is a pivotal time. It was atop a mountain that God had first commissioned Moses to return to Egypt and deliver Israel. It was atop a mountain that God gave Moses the tablets of the Law. And now, atop Mt. Nebo, God allows Moses to view the Promised Land. In fact, all of it. We read: And the Lord showed him all the land, Gilead as far as Dan, and all Naphtali and the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, and all the land of Judah as far as the Negev and the plain in the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees, as far as Zoar. It would be impossible for the unaided human eye to see from Mt. Nebo all the way to the northern Israeli regions of Gilead and Dan. In other words, God must have shown it to Moses supernaturally. And then he told Moses, “This is the land which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’”
There, atop Pisgah in Mt. Nebo, Moses dies. Scripture says that God buried him there, but that no man knows his burial place. Of course, Moses eventually did arrive in Israel, and again on a mountain, when he appeared with Elijah at Yeshua’s Transfiguration.
The signs and wonders God sent Moses to perform were, as of the time of the completing of the Torah, unparalleled in Israel. Yet, of everything that might be said in his honor, none is as significant, and as beautiful, as the statement that God knew Moses face-to-face.
But about those signs and wonders; the very last verses of the Torah are set apart as a reminder that what was promised in chapter 18 had not yet taken place. God had promised that one day He would raise up a singular, extraordinary prophet like Moses, and that this One would speak the words of God; and that Israel must give Him their unqualified obedience. Yet, the Torah concludes with these words: Since that time no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face-to-face, for all the signs and wonders which the Lord sent him to perform…
We’ve come to the end of the Torah, and we’re left still waiting for that One – that singular, extraordinary Prophet! In synagogues around the world our people have come to the end of this very same Torah, and are left waiting… and wanting. Yeshua, Jesus of Nazareth, announced the wait was over when He declared, “If you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote of Me”.
V’zot HaB’racha describes the conclusion of Moses’ earthly life. But if you’ll take his words, and those of the prophets, seriously, and give your allegiance to Yeshua the Messiah – the very One of whom he spoke, it will mark the beginning of your eternal life! Like Moses, God wants you to come to know Him, and to enjoy communing with Him. But to experience that, and to inherit eternal life, you must first agree to the terms of the New Covenant, by repenting of your unbelief, and transferring your love and loyalty to Messiah. My prayer is that you’ll do so… today!