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D'varim/Deuteronomy 4:41 Then Moshe separated three cities on the bank of the Yarden, to the rising of the sun
The root , here in the hiphil stem, means "to separate", "to make a division", "to distinguish" or "to select". Moshe is designating the first three of the cities of refuge, those to be located on the east of the Yarden, in the territory of R'uveyn, Gad and Manashe. But the verb is in prefix form, usually translated using the English future tense, but often denoting an incomplete action. This attractsRashi's attention, since as the main part of the Land, west of the Yarden, is not yet occupied, the cities of refuge cannot be in operation as the Levites have not been dispersed to those cities. Since the prefix form sometimes describes an intention to do something in the future, Rashi suggests that Moshe "set in his heart, to be determined about the matter, that he should set them aside." The Sages of the Talmud put these words in Moshe's mouth: "If there is a commandment to fulfill, I shall fulfill it" (b. Makkot 10a).
In Luke's gospel we find the following piece of narrative: "As the time approached for Him to be taken up into heaven, He made His decision to set out for Jerusalem" (Luke 9:51, CJB). Other translations have chosen stronger words: "He resolutely set His face to go" (NASB), "He resolutely set out for" (NIV), "He moved steadily onward with an iron will" (Living_Bible). Despite David Bivin's persuasive arguments (see "Understanding the Difficult Words of Jesus", Bivin & Blizzard, Destiny Image) that this is a Hebrew idiom that has little more weight than "He set out for...", the majority of commentators take the position that this is a moment of specific and deliberate decision: knowing what was to come, Yeshua intentionally and purposefully chose to obey the will of the Father leading inexorably to His execution on the stake. William Hendrikson (New Testament Commentary, Luke, Banner of Truth) says, "Though the contemplation of the indescribable bitterness that lay ahead meant nameless agony for Him (12:50), He was fully determined to accomplish 'the work which the Father had given Him to do' (John 17:4)".
Decisions and actions are linked; we usually do what we have decided to do. However, we often put off making decisions, particularly ones we don't like or seem to involve discomfort or inconvenience. This means that when we actually arrive at the point of action, when further delay is impossible, we end up making an unsatisfactory decision. Moshe went ahead at the earliest opportunity to fulfill the command thatAdonai had given him, to set apart the cities of refuge even if only in name. When Y'hoshua came to actually put that into practice, there were no surprises - everyone knew what was going to happen and why. Similarly, at a certain point in His earthly ministry, Yeshua knew that the time had come to enter the final phase that would inevitably lead to the cross. Even though no-one else could see it, He took the decision and started briefing the disciples so that they would know what to expect when it happened.
Further Study: Isaiah 50:5-9; Acts 4:18-20
Application: How good are you at taking decisions and then following through on them? Now would be a good time to review the decisions that you have coming up in the near future and to prepare the options that you could take so that when the time comes, you already know what you must do and can calmly take and act out those choices.
© Jonathan Allen, 2006
Comment - 30Jul06 11:51 Jonathan: Subtle difference, Y'shua had presient faculty and so was faultless in His decisions and pre-planning. Moshe was simply human, and prone to error (hence not crossing over into the promised land). Who can really know the depth of these things. We prophesy in part and know in part...
Comment - 1Aug06 14:02 Richard: They are good thoughts in my opinion. I think it could have been helpful if you encouraged believers to make their decisions with thoughtful reflection on the word of God and prayer, since Moses choices were based on God's word to him. This could have linked the application in better with the text. Thankyou for the encouragement!
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