Messianic Education Trust
    Nitzavim/Vayelekh  
(Deut 29:9(10) - 31:30)

D'varim/Deuteronomy 30:15   See! I have laid out before you today life and good, death and evil


The first thing to notice about this verse is the way it starts: , See! or possibly Look! This verb is in the imperative form and Moshe is clearly close to the climax of his long speech to our people on the plains of Moab. "See!", he says, "get your minds around this, you have to understand; grasp it firmly make no mistake." For the past 30 chapters Moshe has been laying out the history of the journey through the wilderness, the years of wandering, and then presenting a restatement and amplification of the Torah that was given at Mt. Sinai. This is what our people believe to this day: that the Torah came down from the mouth of G-d, by the hand of Moshe, at Mt. Sinai; delivered once to our people and faithfully preserved ever since for we are the appointed guardians of the Scriptures as Rav Sha'ul writes: "What advantage has the Jew? First of all that they were entrusted with the oracles of G-d" (Romans 3:1-2, NASB).

Who Is ...

Rashi: Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (1040-1105 CE), French rabbi who wrote commentaries on the Torah, the Prophets and the Talmud, lived in Troyes where he founded a yeshiva in 1067; focuses on the plain meaning (p'shat) of the text, although sometimes quite cryptic in his brevity
Rashi comments, "Life and good - this depends on that: if you will do good, see now, you have life; and if you will do evil, see now, you have death." Rashi sees the choice here in terms of behaviour and consequences: if we choose one type of behaviour, then it has its consequent reward - life - and so likewise if we choose the other type of behaviour, it too has its reward - death. This is the plain meaning of the text and the following verses, but Rashi wants to make sure that we realise that the options are two connected pairs, not four discrete options that might be chosen.

The Who Is ...

Sforno: Rabbi Ovadiah Sforno (1470-1550 CE), Italian rabbi, philosopher and physician; born in Cesena, he went to Rome to study medicine; left in 1525 and after some years of travel, settled in Bologna where he founded a yeshiva which he conducted until his death
Sforno has more of a focus on the eternal. His commentary says, "Life - forever; and good - the sweetness of this transitory world; death - forever; and evil - suffering in this transitory world." The Sforno feels that Moshe is trying to distinguish between the transitory and the permanent, this world and the world to come. While "life and good" are still paired, there is now another pairing: "life and death", the eternal, set against "good and evil", man's condition in this world. Still a choice to be made, but the Sforno sees that the behaviour choices that we make in this world affect our eternal destiny in the world to come.

Both comments here make it clear that there is a choice to be made, a real choice with real consequences both for our lives now and for eternity. This is perhaps one of the areas where Jewish life differs most sharply from Christian thought: to the Jewish mind there is no concept of 'salvation' being handed out on a plate and once intellectual assent has been given then it is simply a matter of waiting to be whisked away home. Let there be no mistake, Judaism is acutely aware of the covenant, of G-d's gracious calling and choosing of our people to be His witness to the nations (D'varim 7:6-8, 4:6-7) and that our relationship with G-d to this day - through the centuries of blessing and curse, exile and regathering - is a result of His faithfulness to that covenant that He keeps even though our people have been faithless. That said, Judaism walks in the words of Rav Sha'ul to the community at Philippi: "Work out your salvation with fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12, NASB) that follow the words of the prophet Ezekiel: "When the righteous turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, then he shall die in it. But when the wicked turns from his wickedness and practices justice and righteousness, he will live by them" (Ezekiel 33:18-19, NASB).

There is a real choice to be made here, whether we are Jews and so part by birth of the covenant that G-d made with our ancestors, Avraham, Yitz'chak and Ya'akov, or Gentiles and so grafted in to the covenant by faith in Messiah Yeshua (Romans 11:17, Ephesians 2:13). Scripture is clear: "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of G-d" (Romans 3:23, NASB); Jew and Gentile alike have sinned against G-d's law whether we were taught it explicitly or observed it in the world around us (Acts 14:17, Romans 2:14-15) and "the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23a, NASB) echoes Ezekiel's message. But G-d provides a choice: "the free gift of G-d is eternal life in Messiah Yeshua" (Romans 6:23b, NASB), if we will but choose it. He is our atonement, our sacrifice, our way back to G-d, our means of re-establishing covenant with G-d. So every day we have a choice to make - will we choose life and good or death and evil, will we seek G-d and walk in His ways or will we ignore Him and walk in accordance with our own understanding?

Further Study: Isaiah 66:3-4; Matthew 16:25-26

Application: Do you see the choice before you today? Pray that G-d would open your eyes to see and understand that He has given you that choice today, the freedom to walk before Him in faith and obedience to His word. Then, as Moshe urged the Israelites: "choose life that you may live!" (D'varim 30:19)

© Jonathan Allen, 2007

03Sep07 02:25 Michael: Adequate treatment for a short drash, but far short of the depth necessary given the importance of such a question. Especially needed is more on how the concept of choosing good which yields life is connected to the grace proposition in Messiah Yeshua. "Saved unto good works." (see Titus 2:7,14 & 3:8,14) The idea that works and grace are in opposition to each other is not of G-d. It is all about our approach to G-d. We cannot work our way into his good graces. In other words, we can only relate to G-d based on His perfection, not on our own because no matter how good we are, we will never be perfect whereas G-d is always perfect.

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