Moses and Divine Instruction
The Hebrew month of Shevat holds a significant connection between humanity and understanding the Torah, God’s instruction.
According to Deut 1:3-5 it was on the first day of Shevat, one month before Moses died, that he began his final explanation of all that God had given him as instruction for the Children of Israel.
3 Now it came to pass in the fortieth year, in the eleventh month, on the first day of the month, that Moses spoke to the children of Israel according to all that the Lord had given him as commandments to them, 4 after he had killed Sihon king of the Amorites, who dwelt in Heshbon, and Og king of Bashan, who dwelt at Ashtaroth in[a] Edrei.
5 On this side of the Jordan in the land of Moab, Moses began to explain this law, saying,
-Deut 1:3-5 (NKJV)
It was Israel’s 40th year of being in the desert and only a short time before the Children of Israel would enter the Promised Land without him.
Moses would pass away on the 7th of Adar (the month following Shevat) and on the 10th of Nisan (the month following Adar) the children of Israel would cross the Jordan.
This teaching, explanation, and impartation that began on the first of Shevat was the culmination of a 40 year journey and preparation for stepping into and taking possession of that which had been promised to Abraham.
You can imagine how important this moment was to Moses.
He had led the Israelites out of Egypt after the 10 plagues.
He had received and delivered the ten commandments.
He had led and loved this nation for 40 years.
The Promised Land was in sight for the Children of Israel but ultimately Heaven was in sight for Moses.
This moment must have felt like a culmination. His final opportunity to impart instruction.
According to the *Talmud Moses gave this final explanation in 70 languages to reach all the hearts of the nation that was now made up of over 600,000 men (Num 26:51). In my human mind I cannot understand how this is possible. Perhaps he used other men to help translate?
But what I do know is Moses wanted to make God’s instruction available to all without exception. He wanted everyone to be able to understand and embrace the best that God had for them.
Moses knew that in order to possess the Promised Land the Children of Israel needed to live in alignment with the covenant promises and instruction of God. They could not forget that which God had spoken in the wilderness.
*The Talmud is the central text of Rabbinic Judaism. It is often full of commentary and “saying the unsaid.” Although it is not inspired it remains a valuable historical document.
Highlights vs. the Middle
I think sometimes as Believers we focus on the highlights of stories and forget what it must have been like to live in the middle.
We celebrate Passover which is a tremendous celebration and victory but can you imagine being part of the families who escaped Egypt only to find a wilderness and total dependence on God to meet all the needs of your family? Passover in itself is a climatic moment but the days surrounding it were full of pressure that positioned the Israelites where God wanted them.
The same could be said of crossing the Jordan into the Promised Land after 40 years. Incredible. Miraculous. But it isn’t like the Israelites just walked into the land and were surrounded by peace. They had to dispossess the land before they could possess it. They had to fight to take hold of that which had been promised to them. Once again the Israelites were pressured into position.
“…you shall dispossess the inhabitants of the land and dwell in it, for I have given you the land to possess.” – Numbers 33:53-54
With all of this in mind I would encourage you to enter Shevat with a listening heart for Divine instruction; the wisdom that was given to the Children of Israel during Moses’ final days was a necessary reminder for how they needed to live in order to possess the land–in order to possess the promise. You may feel like you have been wandering in a desert for 40 years. You may be in the middle. You may have read the Word of God daily for the last 20 years but in Shevat we are listening with fresh ears and hearts positioned to receive because we know that we are preparing to cross over the Jordan and we must do so with God’s instruction imprinted on our hearts and minds.
We know something is about to change. We can sense the transition. But we also know the importance of staying rooted in our true identity that is not subject to our feelings or circumstances.
Letter: Tzaddik—Numerical Value: 90
The month of Shevat is connected to the Hebrew letter: Tzaddik.
The word Tzaddik represents the righteousness of our Creator and a person who is just and who emulates God’s righteousness by living in a pattern of integrity, truth, and justice. This pattern and discipline is something we must pursue throughout our life and even as our bodies decline with age our spirits continue to grow in our pursuit of righteousness.
In Matthew 6:33 we are instructed to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness…” I love what Curt Landry says about this principle in his book, Reclaiming Our Forgotten Heritage,:
…He [Yeshua or Jesus] was telling them [those who were at the Sermon on the Mount] to seek first the kingdom of God and His justice—His fairness—hence the Jewish tradition of giving tzedakah, which is the giving of financial alms or aid and assistance to the poor, the needy, or those who have been denied justice. It’s literally doing things that facilitate empowerment, equality, and freedom for all. Seeking his righteousness is an active action of promoting social justice on the earth, not just keeping rules and performing as Christians.” (page 133, emphasis added)
Isaiah 3:10 says:
“Say to the righteous that it shall be well with them, for they shall eat the fruit of their doings.”
In other words: say to those who choose to walk in the ways of the Lord…say to those who seek justice: you will reap what you sow.
Seeking first the Kingdom and God’s righteousness is a journey that leads us towards His heart. It is a lifestyle with daily choices and it is okay to recognize that it is not free of mistakes. Some days you are going to feel like you nailed it! And other days—not so much.
On the “not so much days” we repent and return.
God’s instruction is an opportunity for blessing and while there might be *613 instructions in the Torah they are all intertwined with one another and are tied into Loving God and Loving your neighbor (Matt 22:36-40). Each independent and yet in unity and all encapsulated within the 10 commandments.
The Tzadik is one of the 5 Hebrew letters that takes on a different form when placed at the end of the word. These letters are known as “sofit” letters or “final form” and represent the concept of redemption or culmination.
Redemption comes after a period of enslavement and the ultimate redemption given to us is by the Messiah and truly is the culmination of our faith.
“Also your people shall all be righteous;
They shall inherit the land forever,
The branch of My planting,
The work of My hands,
That I may be glorified.”
-Isa 60:21 (NKJV)
It was in Shevat that Moses began to prepare the Jewish people to enter the Holy Land, Eretz Yisrael. He began to prepare their hearts and their minds with instructions. And it wasn’t just rules—it was the guidelines and boundaries that God had set in place to keep His people in a place of covenant relationship with Him where they remained true to their identity. These instructions were designed to keep them close to His heart and not lose themselves in the cultures of the land they were meant to possess and transform.
I imagine in this moment it was as if God was saying through Moses: do not forget who you really are.
As this generation began to take possession it was a form of redemption for which the initial steps and preparation began during Shevat. Therefore, we see this month as a precursor of that which is to come.
*In Hebrew each letter has a corresponding numerical value. The numerical value of the Hebrew word tzitzit, the fringes on the corners of the tallit, is 600. When you add in the 5 knots and the 8 threads of the Tzitzit the total is 613 which is thought to be symbolic of the 613 instructions in the Torah. This is why we wrap the tzitzit around our fingers. It is symbolic of us fully embracing and being embraced by God’s Word.
Trees of Righteousness
“…for a man is [like] a tree of the field.” -Deut 20:19
In Judaism Shevat is the month where we celebrate the New Year for trees; this holiday is celebrated on the 15th and is called Tu BiShvat. This is the day the earliest trees begin waking up from their winter slumber and we see buds for spring and the promise of that which is to come.
Throughout scripture there are many connections between humanity and trees.
In Isa 61:3 those who mourn in Zion are called “trees of righteousness.”
Jesus, the Messiah, was called the Branch which was often a reference to the connection between Jesus and his physical descent as a son of David–a connection to His humanity (Isa 4:2, Isa 11:1).
Trees remain a central part of our faith journey when we consider the:
Tree of Life
Tree of Knowledge
And as One New Humanity being “Grafted Into the Olive Tree” (Rom 11:24-25) is a foundational pillar of our faith and our culture.
Shevat marks a fresh start and an opportunity for us to live as trees of righteousness and as men, women, and families who embrace the Tree of Life and live in light of the Cross– grafted into our true covenant identity. This month is an opportunity for us to embrace redemption and new life.
Oil and Water and the tribe of Asher
The month of Shevat is connected to the Tribe of Asher. When Jacob blessed Asher he said:
“Bread from Asher shall be rich,
And he shall yield royal dainties.” – Gen 49:20 (NKJV)
The rabbis teach that this blessing meant that the food that comes from Asher’s land will be very rich and an abundance of olives will grow in his territory where the oil will flow as if from a spring.
When Moses blessed Asher he said:
“Asher is most blessed of sons;
Let him be favored by his brothers,
And let him dip his foot in oil.
Your sandals shall be iron and bronze;
As your days, so shall your strength be.” -Deut 33:2, 25 (NKJV)
There is a story in the Talmud that records that Asher’s land was so full of olives that one member of the tribe was able to provide an astounding amount of oil to a gentile purchaser.
According to this story the people of Laodicea, the home of the lukewarm church, were in need of oil. They appointed a gentile messenger to go in search. He went to: Jerusalem, Tyre (a commercial city), and finally Gush Halav which is an area located within the portion given to Asher. It was here that he found an abundance of olive oil to meet all of his needs.
In Judaism olive oil is associated with wisdom and the Torah is referred to as water (necessary for life itself). Therefore, the tribe of Asher was blessed with an abundance of the commodity of oil representing wisdom.
Shevat is associated with both oil and water and the spiritual principles they represent. True application of God’s instruction involves the ability to mingle with the masses and yet maintain spiritual maturity.
During this month the children of Israel experienced the second giving of the law and therefore a fresh outpouring of God’s instruction, the ultimate form of wisdom. It is believed to be a time when instruction, understanding, and wisdom is presented from Heaven for the entire year ahead. But in order for us as Believers to serve as vessels of Divine instruction we must be able to understand its wisdom. We must possess both oil and water and emulate oil and water in that we are able to mix and mingle with the world but not be of the world and harmed by its influence.
We must remember our true identity as we walk into our own Promised Land in this next season. Do not forget the last 40 years in the wilderness. Do not forget the miracles. The instructions. The generations before you. Remember who and Whose you are as you cross the Jordan and enter into that which God has for you.
This month is a season to prepare your heart for transition.
Redemption of Weakness
The Father gave Moses the gift of being the one who spoke out His instruction to an entire generation so that he whom was “slow at speech” became the conduit for divine teaching. His weakness became his strength. He allowed God to use what he had and made himself available–imperfections and all.
Sometimes I think about the opportunities I may have missed when I only focus on that which I can do well instead of simply yielding what was in my hands and allowing God to transform it into a tool in His Kingdom.
We need divine inspiration to embrace, understand, and embrace the example that Moses left us and apply the teaching he presented.
“You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
-Deut 6:7-9 (NKJV)
During Shevat we are presented with an opportunity to embrace instruction and thereby use obedience to the Word of God to repair the destruction of disobedience brought on by the fall in the garden when the serpent enticed Adam and Eve to embrace knowledge over obedience. During Shevat we are to attempt to embody the Righteous One Who is the foundation of the universe and be vessels that host His holiness and presence even in the midst of our own imperfections. We continue to seek after, hunt after, pursue His justice.
There are many keys I think we can take from the month of Shevat but the thread that I see weaving throughout is: redemption.
God gave us His instruction to redeem us and we were redeemed for relationship.
The tree of life, the cross, and the olive tree that we are grafted into represents the redemption of humanity.
Embracing God’s wisdom is the true redemption of when Adam and Eve chose to lean on their own strength and understanding verses trusting God. When we daily embrace God’s wisdom and choose faith over knowledge we are breaking that pattern. We are embracing the best that God has for us.
Our prayer for you during the month of Shevat: may you hear and embrace God’s wisdom and instruction so that you can walk in the promises God has for you this year. May you know your true identity that is fully rooted in Him as one who has been redeemed and is a new creation–part of One New Humanity. May you seek justice and God’s righteousness in every decision you make and may you live like oil and water—mingling with the world to transform it but remaining pure and true to who you have been called to be in holiness. May you live as one who has been redeemed and seek the redemption of others.