From the Desk of Loren Abraham
“I’ve Been to the Mountaintop and I’ve Seen the Promised Land!”
Why is it that great leaders and visionaries are often able to see the 'promised land' and yet are not permitted to 'cross over to the other side' of history?
In my blog last week, I connected the Prophetic Vision of Moses, John the Immerser, and Isaiah (1st Chapter) to that infamous day in history, the 9th of Av (Heb: Tisha b'Av), and to our present moment In History, pointing to a vision of the future Temple for believers in Yeshua the Messiah. If you didn’t read it you may want to go back and read it here
This week the topic of Prophetic Vision is still very much alive in our Torah portion Va'etchanan, from Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11, where Moses tells the Israelites how he pleaded with God to allow him to cross over the Jordan with the people and enter the promised land. By tradition this was the 515th time that he had prayed this request, but God refused and told Moses not to bring it up again. Perhaps the reason this tradition started is that the gamatria value (sum of the numerical values of the Hebrew letters) of ואֶתְחַנַּ֖ן, Va'etchanan is 515. The same tradition holds that had Moses prayed just one more time, the 516th time, God would have been compelled to change His mind and allow Moses to enter the land. Whether or not this is true, we do not know, but we do know that God then instructed Moses to climb to the top of nearby Mount Pisgah where he would be able to see the Promised Land with his eyes. God in fact instructs Moses to "lift up his eyes" in all four directions of the compass. But that would include looking back in the direction he had come! Perhaps the reason for this is that God was going to allow Moses to see all the land promised by God to Abraham in Genesis 15 including the land to the East as far as the Euphrates River. I personally believe that Moses was not only allowed to see all the Land at that moment in time, but that he was given a Prophetic Vision of the future of the Israelite people into the future and all the major events that would take place all the way to the coming of Messiah and the destruction of the Second Temple and the ultimate dispersion of the Jewish people to all ends of the Earth. Though it does not explicitly state this in the text, this hypothesis would explain how Moses was able to record the future with such accuracy and detail in the following chapters of the book of Deuteronomy, Sefer Devarim.
In the opening words of the parashat, Moses pleads with God. The Hebrew verb used here is ואֶתְחַנַּ֖ן, V'etchanan from the root word חַנַּ֖ן, chanan which means to be gracious, to have mercy, to take pity. Moses is pleading his case, but he is not requesting a favor, rather he is asking for mercy, for grace – for a gift he knows he does not deserve, but is pleading for anyway. It may also be significant that the Hebrew term chanan is preceded by the Hebrew particle Et, spelled Aleph Tav, the first and last letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Some have suggested that this word is often a direct reference to the person of Messiah, who is in His own words, "the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last."(Rev 1:8) He is also the Living Torah (John 1:1.) As mentioned already, Moses appeals to the mercy of God who does not grant his request exactly, but grants him what his heart truly longs for, to see the land. We will return to this Mountaintop Experience again at the end of this discussion but first I want to touch for a moment on the Haftarah reading for this week.
The Haftarah normally read with Parashat Va'etchanan is Isaiah 40:1-26. This passage from the prophet Isaiah follows immediately after Tisha b'Av and as the first of a series of seven consolation haftarahs that follow the fast of Av. It is interesting that just as there were 49 days between Passover and Shavuoth in preparation of the giving of the Torah and the Holy Spirit, so there are 49 days of consolation between Tisha B'Av and Yom Teruah. Between the culmination of mourning for the destruction of the Temple and other catastrophic events on the 9th of Av and – the Feast of trumpets on the 1st of Tishrei - which heralds the coming of King Messiah. Appropriately the opening line of Isaiah 40 speaks of comfort. Many lovers of music will be familiar with this text as it comprises a portion of the libretto from Handel's Messiah. For that reason, we will use the KJV translation here.
Is. 40:1 Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. 2 Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD’S hand double for all her sins.
Is. 40:3 The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4 Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: 5 And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.
The most important aspect of this text is that it prophecies that one will come who will prepare the way of Messiah. That someone is John the Immerser (Matt 3:1-3, Mark 1:3, Luke 3:4-6 and John 1:22-23) who is the one in his generation to prepare the way for Yeshua just as Moses was the one in his generation to prepare for Joshua who will lead God's people into the promised Land. Yet we also know that in spiritual terms, Moses was forerunner for the Messiah - Yeshua, who was the prophet greater than Moses who was to lead God's people into the Kingdom.
Throughout history there have been great visionary leaders, who like Moses, lead a group of people into a great turning point in history. One such leader was, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, who led his people through a key transformational time in U.S. history - what is now known as the Civil Rights Movement. Why is it that so often these great leaders are able to prophetically see the 'promised land' and yet not permitted to 'cross over to the other side' of history? This was the case with Moses and also with Martin Luther King Jr.
Two speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr are seared into the memories of our generation that lived through this transformational period of history. The first is the speech he delivered on Aug. 28th, 1963 in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., known as the “I Have a Dream” speech. After referring to the Emancipation Proclamation signed by Abraham Lincoln and stating the nature of the complaint of continued injustice toward the African American descendants of those slaves freed 100 years before, Dr. King warns against the use of violence and retribution.
“But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.
"We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.”
Then he begins to provide a prophetic vision for a better future, one that some say we have achieved and others say is still yet to be achieved. I believe we have arrived but now some want to go back to the former days.
“I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
"I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”
"I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
"I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
"I have a dream today."
Then Dr. King quotes from our Haftarah for this week, Isaiah 40:3-5.
“I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.”
The other landmark address given by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is the sermon he preached the day before his assassination on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, TN. In this sermon he reiterated his dedication to the principals of non-violent protest.
“Another reason that I’m happy to live in this period is that we have been forced to a point where we are going to have to grapple with the problems that men have been trying to grapple with through history, but the demands didn’t force them to do it. Survival demands that we grapple with them. Men, for years now, have been talking about war and peace. But now, no longer can they just talk about it. It is no longer a choice between violence and nonviolence in this world; it’s nonviolence or nonexistence. That is where we are today.”
"We don’t have to argue with anybody. We don’t have to curse and go around acting bad with our words. We don’t need any bricks and bottles. We don’t need any Molotov cocktails. We just need to go around to these stores, and to these massive industries in our country, and say, “God sent us by here to say to you that you’re not treating his children right. And we’ve come by here to ask you to make the first item on your agenda fair treatment where God’s children are concerned.”
Toward the end of this sermon he mentioned an earlier attempt on his life by a black woman and a consoling letter he received while he was recovering in the hospital from a white girl in 9th grade. He said that he had received letters from the President and Vice President but he didn't remember them. Then he said:
"But there was another letter that came from a little girl, a young girl who was a student at the White Plains High School. I looked at that letter, and I’ll never forget it. It said simply, “Dear Dr. King, I am a ninth-grade student at the White Plains High School.” She said, “While it should not matter, I would like to mention that I’m a white girl. I read in the paper of your misfortune and of your suffering, and I read that if you had sneezed, you would have died. I’m simply writing you to say that I’m so happy that you didn’t sneeze.”
The conclusion of this sermon is what I want to bring into focus. This is where we see the clear connection between Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. , arguably the greatest U.S. Leader of our time and Moses who was the greatest leader of the Israelite people, leading them to the Promised Land but not into it. Dr. King concludes his sermon with these words:
"Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop, and I don’t mind.
"Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will, and He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. I’ve looked over and I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the Promised Land!
"So I’m happy tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!”
If only our eyes can be opened to the truth that the progressive values of today, such as Critical Race Theory are driving us back to a condition we lived in before Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and not in the same direction he struggled for.
Blessings and Shalom,