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D'varim/Deuteronomy 2:3 Enough for you, going around this mountain; set your face to the north!
Nechama Leibowitz points out that this is the second time that these words are used at the start of this last book of the Torah. The first occasion is: "The L-rd our G-d spoke to us at Horeb, saying, 'You have stayed long enough at this mountain. Turn and set your journey, and go to the hill country of the Amorites ...'" (D'varim 1:6-7, NASB); our text is from the second: "And the L-rd spoke to me, saying, 'You have circled this mountain long enough. Now turn north, and command the people ...' (D'varim 2:2-4, NASB). Moshe is now speaking to the people of Israel as they are assembled on the plains of Moab, on the east side of the Jordan, opposite Jericho, waiting to go into the Land under the leadership of Joshua and Elazar. Both usages of these words are historical narrative, relating things that have happened in the past. They are, however, separated by nearly forty years! The first time HaShem instructed the people in these words was when the generation that had left Egypt, crossed the Sea of Reeds and received the Torah at Sinai, were to move on from there to start the conquest of the Land from the South West, starting at Kadesh Barnea. After the affair of the spies sent to reconnoitre the Land and the people's refusal to believe HaShem and enter the Land, we spent thirty eight years out in the wilderness until the whole generation that had been a part of that refusal - except Joshua and Caleb - had died. The second time HaShem issues these instructions is at the end of the thirty eight years, when the new generation are told to leave the desert and resume the conquest of the Land at which their parents had balked. To those listening as Moshe spoke, the words were familiar; the older people would remember the first occasion from when they were children, the second was only a matter of weeks, or at most months, ago and very fresh in the people's minds - G-d had given them a second bite at the cherry and it was time to move on!
Our lives tend to be cyclical in nature: periods of activity and progress mixed with times of being in a holding pattern, times of learning and times of of consolidation. We go through seasons of growth and expansion, when we are climbing and moving uphill, followed by seasons when we seem to be in a plateau - either putting into practice the things learnt during the last climb or simply responding to life. During the level periods, we often lose the momentum and sometimes even the desire for further climbing; we become settled and complacent; we quite like the view from here and don't really have the time or energy for more climbing. It is at times like these that G-d will speak to us in the same way as He spoke to our people in the desert.
The text starts with the two words - enough for you. The first word comes from the root - to be or become many, numerous. Used as an adjective, it can mean "much, many, numerous, great, vast, mighty, powerful"; it is used as a title of respect: Rav Tevye - Great Tevye. Used as an adverb, more likely here, Davidson suggests "much, abundantly, enough". All these meanings tell us that the Israelites had made significant progress, they had accomplished much; at the same time, the colloquial translation, "enough already" tells us that G-d knew that it was time to move on, that there was nothing more to be gained by staying at the current state. This is confirmed by the following words, "going around this mountain": they were already on the mountain, not down at sea level; they had spent time getting used to the altitude and training in those conditions, but their fitness was now ready for another level and they weren't going to get there by repeating the same exercises over and over again. So G-d tells them - set/turn your faces to the north. The next stage in their journey was not going to happen by accident, it would require positive action and determination to break the thirty-eight year habit and re-engage with the challenge of the Land and its current occupants, We find the same phrase used of Yeshua in the gospels: "When the days were approaching for Him to go up, that He resolutely set His face to go to Jerusalem" (Luke 9:51, NASB) or "He made His decision to set out for Yerushalayim" (CJB); the time had come to move into the next phase of His ministry and Yeshua turned or set His face towards Jerusalem as a considered, steady and deliberate action.
So it is with us; there are times in our lives when we know that it is time to move on, to take the next step, to step out in faith, to follow G-d's leading into the next part of the adventure. This may be a new job, answering G-d's call into a ministry or leadership position in our congregation, going to Bible college or the mission field, getting married or having children, right through to moving into a retirement home - all these are times of change when the Spirit of G-d nudges us to take a deliberate decision and move on, to push ahead and follow His leading into the next stage of our journey. We should expect this to happen many times throughout our lives as we each move through the steps and stages of live.
So it is too with the Body of Messiah and the Messianic Jewish movement in particular. Throughout history, men like Luther, Finney, Spurgeon, Zinzendorf, Wesley, Moody and others have heard G-d's voice saying: Enough already, turn your face and move on. Now, in this day, G-d is clearly speaking to Jews who believe in Yeshua - today's remnant by faith among the people of Israel - to stand up and reclaim our traditions and our heritage as Jews, to claim our rightful place among the Jewish people while fearlessly proclaiming Yeshua as the Messiah of Israel. Many are responding to that call as G-d stirs the hearts of Jewish people in the Land and around the world. As the song by Twila Paris says: "Now is the Time!"
Further Study: Isaiah 50:5-7; Luke 9:62
Application: Have you heard G-d speaking to you that it is time to move on in your spiritual life? Don't fail to respond to His call, for the most exciting moment in your life is about to happen as you step out with Him. If you haven't heard yet, seek G-d anyway and ask Him what comes next so that you may be ready and listening when the time is right, as it most certainly will be!
© Jonathan Allen, 2008
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