D'varim/Deuteronomy 31:5 And the L-rd will give them before you, and you will do to them according to every commandment that I have commanded you.
The legal material, the admonitions and the exhortations now being complete, Moshe enters the last few days before his death, forHaShem has told him, "You shall not go across yonder Jordan" (31:2, JPS). Acutely aware - at a human level - that the people will miss him as their leader, Moshe is about to give a few last instructions to the priests and Levites, reinforce Joshua's position as the new and G-d-appointed leader. Before he does that, however, he directs the people to the true leader: HaShem. Hirsch puts these words in Moshe's mouth: "You will not miss me; it is G-d who is your leader, not I. He will lead you in the future that lies before you."
The following three verses all contain very definite statements of what HaShem is going to do: "The L-RD your G-d Himself will cross over before you; and He Himself shall wipe out these nations from your path" (v. 3, JPS), "The L-RD will do to them as He did to Sihon and Og" (v. 4, JPS) and our text above, "The L-RD will deliver them up to you" (v. 5, JPS). In all three instances, Moshe uses the tetragrammaton, HaShem's covenant name, to confirm that this is a matter of covenant - HaShem's covenant with the Israelites - and will be done by HaShem no matter who the human leader of the Israelites may happen to be on the day. In the last two statements, the verb form used is the affix with a vav-reversive, indicating a completed single action that will be done in the future - there is no doubt about it, no uncertainty, HaShem will do what He has promised to do.
No doubt, remembering the events of forty years before when the spies sent out from Kadesh Barnea to reconnoitre had returned with a report of giants in the Land and their fathers had balked at being able to defeat them so died - every last man and woman of that generation - in the wilderness, the group of people that Moshe was addressing had some concerns about what lay ahead. The oldest in the group, bar Moshe, Joshua and Caleb, were approaching sixty and could actually remember that day; the rest were younger, many born during the years of wandering in the wilderness. Even though they had recently seen the spectacular defeat of Sihon and Og, the Amorite kings east of the Jordan, the thought that Moshe - the leader who had brought them through all these years, the stories of whose self-sacrifice in pleading for the people were in common circulation around the camp - was himself about to die and would not lead them into the Land, probably brought many to the verge of panic.
Moshe is telling the people whom he is about to leave in Joshua's hands, "they - that is, your enemies, the giants in the land - are already defeated, because G-d has said He will defeat them before you! You will be able to carry out all His commands, exactly as He said!" Perhaps the people had been thinking that while they might be able to form a bridgehead, develop an enclave, or even take the hill-country (which is, in fact, exactly what they did initially do), taking and clearing the whole Land was simply never going to happen. "No," Moshe tells them, "if it depended on you that might be true, but G-d is going to do it, so you will be able to do everything that He has told you." G-d wasn't interested in setting the people up for failure - after all, He had watched them since He brought them out of Egypt and knew that failure was only too possible if He left it to them - He wanted them to succeed. He knew that they could succeed if they relied on Him and followed His instructions. The reputation that preceded them - see, for example, Rahab's comments to the spies Joshua sends into Jericho: "dread of you has fallen upon us, and all the inhabitants of the land are quaking before you. For we have heard how the L-RD dried up the waters of the Sea of Reeds for you when you left Egypt" (Joshua 2:9-10, JPS) - - show how G-d had prepared the ground for our people to take the Land. It was all over before we crossed the Jordan.
One day, shortly after John the Baptist had been killed by King Herod, although Yeshua and the disciples were trying to keep a low profile and slip off by themselves, things hadn't turned out quite as they had planned. The crowds followed them and, as so often happened, it turned into a full-on day of ministry. Yeshua spent the entire day "teaching them many things" (Mark 6:34) and "healing those who were sick" (Matthew 14:14) then, when evening came and there was no food for the crowds, He performed a miracle to feed over five thousand. Sending the disciples on ahead of Him to Bethsaida, across the lake by boat, He stayed to send the people home. Matthew, Mark and John all record that a storm blew up in the night and then Yeshua came walking across the lake to rescue the disciples and calm the storm. Only Matthew relates the remarkable story of Peter's little excursion.
Seeing Yeshua standing there on the water, Peter says, "L-rd, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water" (Matthew 14:28, ESV). What was that supposed to mean? Peter knew perfectly well who He was, because Yeshua had only just told the disciples to calm down and stop hyper-ventilating. Yeshua goes along with it though. "OK," He says, "come on then." So Peter is up and out of the boat before anyone could say "Ya'akov ben Robin" and walks - yes, he walks - on the water to Yeshua. When he gets there, he pauses and looks around. "OMG!" he pops, if you'll pardon the vernacular - but he was, after all, talking to Yeshua - "I'm walking on the water" and losing it, promptly starts to sink. Yeshua grabs him, reads him a little lecture on faith, and they get into the boat.
Let's go back to Peter's opening comment: why did he ask Yeshua to command him to come to Him? Well, Peter was a fisherman and he knew from many years' experience that fishermen can't walk on the water. Even in the Dead Sea, where you can float sitting down to read your newspaper, fishermen can't walk on the water. But Yeshua was walking on the water and Peter had seen Yeshua do enough miracles to know that when Yeshua told something to happen, it did. So He did and he did! This is exactly the same as the Children of Israel waiting on the Plains of Moab to cross the Jordan river and enter the Land. They had learned by then that when Moshe told them to attack this king, or take that city, then it worked, just as when Moshe told water to come out of the rock.
The New Covenant Scriptures seem to expect that these situations will apply to us as well, even in this modern world. First, Rav Sha'ul explains what believers in Messiah do. Although saved by faith, "we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which G-d prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:10, NASB); believers do good works. G-d has prepared them in advance for us to do, and then created us in Messiah Yeshua to do them. G-d isn't setting us up for failure - those good things need doing and He knows that we are capable of doing them so they are on our ticket. James confirms, "You see that a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone" (James 2:24, NASB).
Second, Yeshua said, "I tell you that whoever trusts in Me will also do the works I do! Indeed, he will do greater ones, because I am going to the Father" (John 14:12, CJB). What are these greater things? Yeshua again: "these signs will accompany those who do trust: in My name they will drive out demons, speak with new tongues, not be injured if they handle snakes or drink poison, and heal the sick by laying hands on them" (Mark 16:17-18, CJB). We're not being set up here either. Rav Sha'ul and the other apostles were able to perform a wide range of miracles - signs and wonders - and there is a steady trickle of reported miracles throughout history, with increasing frequency in modern times. Isaiah prophesied it: "to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the L-RD's favour" (Isaiah 61:1-2, ESV), Yeshua demonstrated it: "the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them" (Matthew 11:5, ESV); we are to do it: "Yes! I tell you, if you have trust and don't doubt, you will not only do what was done to this fig tree; but even if you say to this mountain, 'Go and throw yourself into the sea!' it will be done" (Matthew 21:21, CJB).
Further Study: Colossians 1:9-14; James 2:18-26
Are you prepared to take G-d at His word and do the things that He has
prepared for you to do? Then step up to the mark and let's get started
because there is more than enough for us to do today!
© Jonathan Allen, 2012
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© Jonathan Allen, 2012
Your turn - what do you think of the ideas in this drash ?Like most print and online magazines, we reserve the right to edit or publish only those comments we feel are edifying in tone and content.