Parshat Nitzavim-Vayelech

נצבים Standing / וילך And He Went

Deuteronomy 29:10 – 30:20 /Deuteronomy 31:1 – 30


The parashat for today is called Parashat Nitza-vim / Vaye-lech. It covers Deuteronomy chapters 29 through to 31. These two Hebrew words draw our attention to the importance of this last message from Moses. The first word, Nitza-vim is taken from chapter 29 verse10 and means standing, as the Israelites were standing and listening to this final discourse, one which was full of advice.

The second Hebrew word, Vayelech, is taken from chapter 31verse 1 and means, and he went, that Moses went and spoke these words to Israel.  

This parashat is loaded with emotions because this is it… Moses is about to leave his flock. After writing the 4 books of the Torah, after leading some 3 million Jews through the desert, he is now preparing to go home. And so, he gives his last concluding remarks and instructions. This work is a treasure of great counsel and teaching.

At this point in time, we can refer to Moses as the miracle man: not because of the many miracles he performed, nor because of his advanced age. In fact, at this time, he was 120 years old and had even exceeded man’s life expectancy. He was the one who said in Psalm 90:10 that, The days of our lives are seventy years; And if by reason of strength they are eighty years.  There he was, 40 years beyond that limit of time and was still full of vigor.

So where then is this great miracle? It could be seen in the role he attempted to fulfill. Here is a man who had perhaps one of the hardest tasks for anyone to perform. He was a mediator between man and God. He was mediating between man’s unending actions of disobedience and God’s high standard of righteousness. The irony in this mission is seen in how Moses highly succeeded. It was a success because he easily confessed failure to properly lead the people.

By doing that, he clearly pointed to the One to come, the Messiah, the only One  able to be the true Mediator through His death and resurrection. The Torah is filled with words, symbols, and other pointers to the Messiah. This is where we find Moses’ best guiding. He pointed his people to their need for a Redeemer, the Messiah.  This pointing still continues as we read our Scriptures today.

From the start of the 40 years of wandering, Moses often repeated that he was not able to bear this people. While this was true, he was nevertheless an exceptional person as the Torah itself testifies of him in the last chapter of Deuteronomy saying, Since that time no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face (34:10). So, if this man could not bear the people, the Lord, through the Word of God then points to the One who did carry and continues to carry the load as Isaiah speaks of Him in 53:4, Surely, He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.

And Moses did point to Him and prophesied of His coming in Deuteronomy 18:15 when he said, “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him”. This, in a nutshell summarizes Moses’ mission; look unto Yeshua for your salvation.

But what are Moses’ last words to the Israelites? First we see a Moses who is very affected by the prophecies he just spoke of in the preceding chapter and those at the beginning of chapter 29, concerning the nation of Israel. He saw how much Israel will suffer in the future, for he knew about the Diaspora and he himself predicted the many holocausts that would persecute them throughout their history. In his inability to comprehend such judgments, he said in Deut. 29:29, The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.

 This verse comes as a surprise as it interrupts the flow of the text. Here, I believe, God allowed the human writer, Moses, to express his deep feelings and his faith towards a very difficult revelation. It is here when Moses the pastor speaks his heart. It is here when he puts his arms down and in the midst of this harsh information, he turns to his Rock and says, “The secret things belong to the Lord.” And who better than God to turn to when we are faced with awe and confusion.

In his last advice to Israel and to us (for he includes not only the future generation of Jews but ourselves as well), he takes his message so much to heart that he says in Deut. 29:14-15,  “I make this covenant and this oath, not with you alone, but with him who stands here with us today before the LORD our God, as well as with him who is not here with us today”. This speaks of the timeless value of the application of His words. These words were penned 3500 years ago, and they still speak to us today, including all who read this portion of the Bible.

So then, what is Moses’ advice? It is the very same instruction we read from David, from Solomon, from the prophets and the writers of the New Testament. Stay close to the Word of God. We read in chapter 30:11-15, “For this commandment which I command you today is not too mysterious for you, nor is it far off. “It is not in heaven, that you should say, `Who will ascend into heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ “Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, `Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ “But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it.”

 This is an open invitation for all to come to the Bible and read it, for it is powerful. The Word of God is not too mysterious for you, God says. He wrote it for you. He inspired the words of our Bible so that He may speak to you. Do not be weighed down by those who say that only an elite group can understand it. Do not let yourself be stopped by those who pretend to have an in-depth knowledge of the Bible and act as if they understand things that you cannot. The Word is written in such a way that it has a message for every one of us.

These very words of Deut. 30 were cited by Paul in Romans 10. And with this last piece of advice, he adds one more coming from a shepherd’s heart. He says in Deuteronomy 31:6, “Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.”

These are some of the most encouraging words from our Scriptures. Here we find three important steps that will keep us protected under God’s shadow.

  1. Be strong and of
  2. Good courage,
  3. Do not fear, nor be afraid of them.

The first step is: Be strong  – חָזַק (ḥā∙zǎq). This word is dynamic and it doesn’t speak only of being strong and powerful but includes the idea of growing stronger and stronger. This is life of the one who walks with God.

The second step is: Be of good courage –  אָמֵץ (ʾā∙mēṣ). This Hebrew word connotes one who is able to deal face to face with danger. This is the outcome of being with God.

The third step is: Do be afraid, yareh יָרֵא. It means do not be terrified, do not dread. There is nothing to fear when we walk with God.

Now, how is this all possible? He concludes by saying:God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.” That is His promise for anyone who walks with Him. This then is the advice of an exceptional man who saw God, who spoke to Him as one speaks to a friend. At the end he testifies that we have a great Shepherd on our side.