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D'varim/Deuteronomy 27:1 And Moshe and the elders of Israel commanded the people
How many people are involved in this? Moshe and the elders of Israel - that must be at least a dozen people or more - yet the verb is singular! This is a common Hebrew technique used to indicate the unity of a group of people in performing some action, usually a leader and a set of followers or fellow leaders. In this case, it is Moshe and the elders of Israel who, as a united group, command the people concerning the "large stones" that are to be set up on Mt. Eval, inscribed with the words of Torah. A few verses later, we find exactly the same device used: "And Moshe and the priests, the Levites, spoke to all Israel" (v. 9); clearly if all the priests and Levites are included, this is a significant number of people, yet the Torah again chooses a singular verb to indicate the unity with which Moshe and the priests spoke - all together - to the people.
TheSforno tells us that "Moshe included the elders with him, because they would be present when they (Israel) crossed the Jordan river." The elders, as leaders of the people, would be directly involved in setting up the stones, in arranging for them to be plastered and for the words of the Torah to be inscribed upon them. Similarly, at verse 9, Sforno tells us that "Moshe included the priests with him ... being that the responsibility to teach Torah to the people rested on the priests and Levites" as Moshe is later to say when he blesses each of the tribes: "Of Levi he said ... they shall teach Your ordinances to Jacob and Your Torah to Israel" (Dvarim 33:8, 10). In other words, the people who are responsible for performing and carrying out each of these tasks - the erecting of the stones, the teaching of Torah - are included in the command process to show the people that they too both endorse the command that Moshe is giving and recognise their responsibility in the presence of the people to make sure that it happens.
Messiah Yeshua wanted to make sure that His talmidim "bought in" to that collective vision when He told them, "You are My friends, if you do what I command you. I no longer call you slaves, because a slave doesn't know what his master is about; but I have called you friends, because everything I have heard from My Father I have made known to you" (John 15:14-15, CJB). He emphasises that the disciples are working alongside G-d, as a part of the management team rather than simply as hired workers or slaves. Rav Sha'ul says the same thing to the believers in Corinth: "For we are G-d's fellow workers; you are G-d's field, G-d's building" (1 Corinthians 3:9, NASB); those who are working in the vineyard are G-d's co-workers, His partners in the business of the kingdom. Mark's gospel confirms that, as it describes the activities of the believers: "And they went out and proclaimed everywhere, the L-rd working with them and confirming the message by the accompanying signs" (Mark 16:20, CJB).
A little later on, once fellowships and congregations were being established, Rav Sha'ul confirms the essential common nature of the believers as one body when he says, "if anyone wants to argue about it, the fact remains that we have no such custom, nor do the Messianic communities of G-d" (1 Corinthians 11:16, CJB), or "G-d is not a G-d of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints" (1 Corinthians 14:33, NASB). The communities of believers all stood together and - despite their different compositions, characters and even nuances - worked within a common framework of truth, custom and practice; a common community, together carrying out the commands of the L-rd and accepting a collective responsibility for not only "doing" but teaching the next generation to "do" in turn.
Further Study: 1 Thessalonians 3:1-2; Matthew 9:36-38
Application: Are you walking alongside G-d today, taking your place next to His other co-workers to extend the kingdom? The Scriptures paint a compelling picture of unity and collective responsibility in which we are all called to play our part and take our place. Where are you?
© Jonathan Allen, 2007
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