For many of us, we can remember the days that as a child, when our parents would tell is to do something and we questioned authority as to why we should obey, the answer was often, ” … Because I said so!” Although in parenting child-rearing, this response runs the risk of backfiring, this word “because,” carries much weight in the Hebrew, and especially in light of Deuteronomy 7:12-11:35.
In Parashah ‘Eikev (or, because in Hebrew) we are taught what I believe to be biblical law of “cause and effect,” or better put, here God reveals how the Fruit of Blessings always follows those who lad a life a distinctive obedience. In this, we are not promised a worry or pain free life (cf. John 16:33), but are ensured that blessing will be our inheritance.
As to the context of this Parashah (Deuteronomy 7:12-11:25), Moshe is found, still delivering the end of his closing drash (instruction/address) of the Children of Israel, revealing the other side of covenantal-faithfulness. In this, the Word of God reveals that as the Children of Israel sought to obey the commands of the Lord (as detailed in the Torah), that they would both inherit Eretz Yisra’el and prosper in the Land and that victory would mark their steps as they conquer and settle in makom (the place) which the Holy One had promised them.
For us today in 2019, Parashah ‘Eikev provides a “three-point” perspective where on one end we see how, first, Adonai had faithfully given the Land to our father - Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya’akov, secondly, our Hatkivah (Hope) was renewed and revived by God’s very hand in establishing of the modern State of Israel and thirdly, we encounter the reality of not only those who seek our destruction, but from our passage, we are also reminded of the judgment which befalls those who hate and persecute Israel, the Jewish people and the ways of Adonai.
In this, our attention should nevertheless remain in a single location as we continue obeying, following and trusting Adonai! Of this, our delight must be not in the seeking ore receiving the rewards of Adonai, but instead the pleasure that comes in being sons and daughters of the commandments. It is the Word of God that gives us life, hope and draws us deeper into Covenantal-Relationship with Adonai and toward one another. We therefore Delight in Torah BECAUSE he first loved us (1 John 4:19) and BECAUSE continually seeks our good. It is BECAUSE of his great love that we must seek to continually obey his commands! Beloved, lets Delight in the Lord and His commandments today - Dear friends, today, taste and see that the Lord is in fact very good! ~ Rabbi Mark Rantz
As part of Parashah Va’etchanan, Deuteronomy 7:7-8 draws attention to the election of Israel in stating, “Adonai didn’t set his heart on you or choose because you numbered more than any other people - on the contrary, you were the fewest of all peoples. Rather, it was because Adonai loved you and because He wanted to keep the oath which he had sworn to your ancestors, that Adonai brought you out with a strong hand and redeemed you from a life of slavery under the hand of Pharaoh, king of Egypt.”
Of this marvelous passage of Scripture, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks recounts Israel’s sages, in reminding of Rabbienu Bachya quotes Rambam, “who says that we would have expected God, [the] King of the universe, to have chosen the most numerous nation in the world as His people, since ‘the glory of the King is in the multitude of people’ (Prov. 14:28). God did not do so. Thus, Israel should count itself extraordinary blessed that God chose it, despite its smallness, to be His am segula, His special treasure.”
This election for Israel is also seen in Deuteronomy 10:15 that “Only Adonai took enough pleasure in your ancestors to love them and chose their descendants after them - yourselves above all peoples, as he still does today.” Of verse 15, it is noteworthy in acknowledging that in stating “… Adonai took enough pleasure in your ancestors to love them,” literally means in Hebrew, that God DELIGHTED in your fathers to LOVE and CHOSE them! It was in love that God chose the Patriarch’s, it was in love that God sent His holy Prophets and it was in love that He sent, Yeshua the Promised Messiah!
When speaking of Israel’s irrevocable calling, as believers in Yeshua we are doubly-encouraged in knowing that Adonai is a God of Covenant and Promise, and that we in Messiah have that same guarantee in His LOVE! It is for this reason, 1 Yochanan (John) 3:1-2 states, “See what love the Father has lavished on us in letting us be called God’s children! For that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it has not known Him. Dear friends, we are God’s children now; and it has yet been made clear what we will become. We do know that when He [Yeshua] appears, we will be like Him; because we will see Him as He really is.”
In this, the grafted-in Gentile or Messianic Jew does not replace national-Israel in any way, but, because Adonai is faithful and true and will fulfill all His promises to national-Israel as seen in the Abrahamic Covenant (Genesis 12:1-3; 17:1-8) and to both Jew and Gentile through the shed blood of the Messiah (Colossians 1:20). In the end, this is the hope for all of Israel and the entire world, and by God’s great grace we are chosen of God and called His daughters and sons! Beloved, you are love and God’s special treasure!
~ Rabbi Mark Rantz
Often, we have heard the phrase that if anything is worth saying, then it is also worth being repeated over and over again! This has been true since time memorial, where “words of truth and noteworthy character” have been repeated over and over again. Many times, these words are of a sociological, anthropological or even a religious nature. For us, such is reminiscent in our Torah portion today (Deut. 1:1-3:22) where on the thirty-seventh day before his passing, Moshe recounts for the people whom he has loved and led the faithful words of the Torah of Adonai!
For our scene, all of Israel has been assembled to hear from God’s prophet reiterate all that had been declared over the last forty-years during Israel’s journey from Mitzra’im (Egypt) to Sinai to the Promised Land. In this, our Parashah begins, “These are the words Moshe spoke to all Isra’el on the far side of the Yarden River, in the desert, in the ‘Aravah, across from Suf, between Pa’ran and Tofel, Lavan, Hatzerot and Di-Zahav. It is eleven days journey from Horev to Kadesh Barnea by way of Mount Se’ir. On the first day of the eleventh month of the fortieth year, Moshe spoke to the people of Isra’el, reviewing Adonai had ordered him to tell them.” (Deut. 1:1-3, CJB)
Many theologians have questioned why only days before his death, Moshe takes on this task to recount all which Adonai had already declared previously in the Torah. Was it because the people had a bad memory? Possibly, such does occur when we stray away from God, and forget the good things he has done for us. But no matter what some might speculate, I believe that the instruction of Adonai is repeated out of an overwhelming love for God’s people! Knowing that his days are short, Moshe’s heart goes to only one place - that the people whom he has served and love would finally “get it” and with all their heart, soul, mind and strength serve Adonai! Here Moshe does not want the people of God to forget the goodness of God, and even rebukes them because of their previous failing and iniquities and calls them to a higher level of covenantal faithfulness in keeping the Torah, observing all of the Lord’s commands and knowing that they are God’s covenantal people and entrusted with that of an eternal heritage and blessing! As we have seen over and over again, when Moshe and Aharon either saw the people walking in spiritually compromise, turning to other gods and serving them - or their loving leadership, their response was the always to same -
To turn to God in intercession for the people and lead as Yeshua did (cf. Phil. 2) as a servant to all!
At the end of the day. Moshe primarily and singularly had a shepherd’s (pastor’s) heart for the people of Israel, and his greatest desire was that all the people would not miss it, but instead would embrace all that God had for them.
May our attitude be the same as his as we serve one another.
There is no greater calling!
~ Rabbi Mark Rantz
As seen only a few weeks ago with Bil’am in Parashah Balak, the beginning of this week’s dual-Parashiot reminds again of the importance of the words we speak and the promises we make. Within Parashah Matot-Masei (Numbers 30:2-36:13) our Sidra begins in communicating the laws and commandments of annulling of vows by stating, “When a man makes a vow to Adonai or formally obligates himself by swearing an oath, he is not to break his word but is to do everything he said he would do.”
Today, we live in a world where people are more prone to misuse their words and hold a greater prepotency to breaking our promises over keeping them. This is a problem often seen in our culture, where we often forget that our words and commitments are not just potential-promises which we have the option of keeping or breaking, but instead, are covenants which God requires us to keep to him and toward one another.
Sadly, these truths have been desensitized today, where through moral decline we often rationalize, it’s really no big deal, and come on, it’s just a little white lie. Instead of feeling the sting that comes with breaking covenant before God or with our neighbor, we too readily make excuses for our selfishness or overall lack of concern. Historically, this is not just a modern problem but instead a human one where if left to our own devises, too many would first seek the good of self rather than the needs of our neighbor. Of the importance of this topic, elsewhere in the Torah, Adonai further instructs, “Do not hate your brother in your heart, but rebuke your neighbor frankly, so that you won’t carry sin because of him. Don’t take vengeance on or bear a grudge against any of your people, rather, love you neighbor as yourself; I am Adonai.” (Lev. 19:17-18)
The lesson here is that with both our words and our actions, we must always seek the good of the other, and in relation to Numbers 30, we must always seek to keep our promises to one another in Covenantal Faithfulness. Knowing that centrality of our covenantal responsibilities our Messiah therefore instructs, “Again, you have heard that our fathers were told, ‘Don’t break your oath,’ and ‘Keep your vows to Adonai.’ But I tell you not to swear at all - not ‘by heaven,’ because it is God’s throne; not ‘by the earth,’ because it is his footstool; and not ‘by Yerushalayim,’ because it is the city of the Great King. And don’t swear by your head, because you can’t make a single hair white or black. Just let you ‘Yes,’ be a simple ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ a simple ‘No’; anything more than this has its origins in evil.” (Matthew 5:33-37, CJB)
Both the Tanakh and B’rit Chadashah stresses in the essential nature of our relationships with our neighbor as a barometer of our relationship to the Almighty, and here Yeshua provides us a blueprint for covenantal faithfulness by challenging us not to make vows at all! By doing this, it is not that he is contradicting Torah, but instead Yeshua is actually reinforcing by reminding that what is more important than an oath made or a promise kept is our responsibility to honor God and one another! To this end, we as Messianic-believers must actively guard our words and commitments - knowing that a broken promise holds the potential of creating a broken heart! In the end, our commandment is clear - that in all our verbal communication, we seek to honor God and one another in letting our yes be yes, and our no be no! This is the very heart of the Torah!
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