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D'varim/Deuteronomy 29:9 You are standing today, all of you, before Adonai your G-d
According toRashi, "Moshe gathered them before the Holy One, Blessed is He, on the day of his death, to bring them into the covenant." It was if he had called all the people of Israel, as the following verses tell us, from the greatest to the least in the nation, to a solemn assembly before G-d to confirm the covenant ceremony that had taken place at Mt. Sinai forty years before when "all the people answered as one, 'Everything that Adonai has said, we will do'" (Shemot 19:8, CJB) and then, "The people answered with one voice: 'We will obey every word Adonai has spoken'" (Shemot 24:3, CJB).
At the end of the book of Joshua we read that, "Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel at Shechem. He summoned the elders of Israel, its heads, judges and officers" (Joshua 24:1, Living Nach). Even though the Mishkan was located at Shiloh, Avraham's first altar had been built at Shechem (B'reisheet 12:6-10) and Shechem is close to Mt. Eval and Mt. Gerizim where the blessings and curses had been pronounced. There, just as Moshe had done, Joshua in turn admonishes and challenges the people in their walk with G-d. The Sages suggest that, like Moshe before him, Joshua assembled the people to signal a change of regime, in this case from his authority to that of the elders (Tanchuma Nitzavim 1).
After the Exile we find Ezra summoning the whole community of Israel to assemble in Jerusalem (Ezra 10:7ff) to address the issues of intermarriage and fraternising with the pagan peoples in the Land. Similarly, a few years later, the people assembled again on the twenty fourth day of the seventh month (Nehemiah 9:11ff) to fast and make a solemn covenant before the L-rd. Israel is a community - a people - before G-d, not a collection of individuals. Whenever revival occurs in Israel, all our people are involved. That is why Yeshua's words: "For I say to you, from now on you shall not see Me until you say, 'Baruch HaBa b'shem Adonai - Blessed is He who comes in the name of the L-rd'" (Matthew 23:39, NASB), have an important meaning: He will not return until the people of Israel cry out, not just individuals within our people.
Where does that leave us as we are preparing for the High Holy days this year: the Day of Trumpets, The Days of Awe and Yom HaKippurim, the Day of Atonements. Surely we too stand before G-d, all of us, whether natural or wild olive branches, and we have a covenant obligation to cry out to the L-rd as the prophet said, "- For Zion's sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem's sake I will not keep quiet, until her righteousness goes forth like brightness, and her salvation like a torch that is burning" (Isaiah 61:1, NASB).
Further Study: Isaiah 62:6-9; Ezekiel 3:17-21
Application: If you have always seen yourself as an individual, ask G-d to show you your place as a member of His people. Ask Him to help you lift your voice together with His watchmen to cry out for Zion and the people of Israel.
© Jonathan Allen, 2004
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