We study the Torah according to the triennial cycle every Sabbath. (Why?)
We must understand the paragraph divisions in Torah, which are inspired by the Spirit and preserved by Moses and the Jewish scribes (but discarded by the English translators). They are key to help us understand what God is trying to tell us. He wants to be understood, and has provided these helps to aid us! We must also understand how the Spirit teaches through Torah by common theme.
Deu 4:25-40 ends with a parsha p’tuchah, a strong paragraph division. This means that Deu 4:25-40 is teaching a single overarching theme.
Deu 4:41-49 ends with a p’tuchah. This means that Deu 4:41-49 is teaching a single overarching theme.
The first parsha p’tuchah, Deu 4:25-40, forms a chiastic structure:
1A 4:25-26 – forsake YHVH and do not prolong your days in the land;
1B 4:27-28 – YHVH will drive you out;
1C 4:29-31 – YHVH is merciful and will not forget the covenant;
1D 4:32-34 – has any nation heard the voice of YHVH out of the fire?
–> X 4:35 – To you it was shown, that you might know that YHVH is God and there is no other;
2D 4:36 – We heard YHVH’s voice out of the fire;
2C 4:37 – He loved our fathers and chose their descendants;
2B 4:38 – YHVH will drive out the nations;
2A 4:39-40 – keep to YHVH and prolong your days in the land.
The end of verse 40 is the end of Moses’ introductory speech. Next he will begin to explain the Torah of God.
The second parsha p’tuchah seems to be on a completely unrelated topic. Cities of refuge? What is going on?
There is another teaching tool the Torah employs that we must understand. Jesus said that Moses taught about Him, and that if someone believed Moses, they would believe Him, but if someone did not believe Moses, how could they believe His words (Joh 5:46-47)? In other words, the words of Moses (which are really the words of God, Moses was just writing down what he heard) reveals the Messiah. Of course, because the Word of God became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth (Joh 1:14)! Beloved, it is a lie that the Word of God is bondage, evil, or our enemy! In Him was life! The Word of God is full of grace and truth! Torah too? Yes, Torah too! Torah is full of grace and truth, because Torah too is the Word of God!
Okay, back to cities of refuge. This means, that if Torah teaches about Messiah, we should be looking for Messiah, we should be looking for grace and truth in Torah. So what characterizes Messiah? Self- sacrifice! Substitution! Forgiveness of sins! Mercy! Deliverance from death! Resurrection life! Freedom from bondage! All these things characterize Messiah, and all these things are embedded within Torah – even the commands of God in Torah.
Take, for example, the cities of refuge. The scenario is that a man has killed someone – he has broken Torah (one of the Ten Commandments is Do not murder). He is a manslayer! The penalty for shedding blood, is shedding blood – death for the one who killed. But Torah commands that cities of refuge be set aside (Num 35:9-15), so that if a man kills someone (when he has not plotted for his death beforehand) he can flee there and escape the death penalty. That reveals Messiah – we deserve the penalty of death, but we can flee to Messiah and live!
Now, the section about the cities of refuge is included in a single paragraph with the section that begins, “This is the law, and these are the testimonies, the statutes, and the judgments … (Deu 4:41-45).” In our English Bibles, the translators made the paragraph stop after the cities of refuge and started a new paragraph with “This is the law …” That is how it makes sense to man – they seem to be saying two different things. But God, in His wisdom, has all of vs. 41-49 as a single paragraph. There is not even a stumah, a weak paragraph division, following the cities of refuge!
Can you see what the Lord is saying by having the picture of the Messiah precede “This is the law” and include them both in a single paragraph? Messiah is full of grace and truth, and Torah is full of grace and truth. The Messiah is Torah in other words. And the Messiah is the Prophets and the Writings – all the Word of God, Torah included, is Messiah, who is the Word of God made flesh! God is not schizophrenic, as some accuse Him of being.
God gave us His instructions, and His teaching, in order to grace us with grace, in other words. He wants blessings to come upon us and overtake us, and His way of living is the way of blessing (Deu 28:1-2)! Do not listen to the lie that says obedience is an enemy of the Gospel of grace; that is a lie whose purpose, if you believe it, is to steal from you, kill you, and destroy you if it can (Joh 10:10).