Ki-Tavo

Ki-Tavo

When you enter in

“A Faithful Treasured Possession”

Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8
Isaiah 60:1-22


by Mark Huey
mark@outreachisrael.net

Ki-Tavo is frequently remembered for the lengthy lists of blessings and curses that are promised to Israel as a result of their obedience or disobedience to the Lord. In this season of repentance, which traditionally comes during the month of Elul as we approach the Fall high holidays, reflecting on such blessings and curses can be a sobering exercise. After all, God has declared many times throughout the Scriptures that Israel is a chosen people who have been designated as His own possession among all the peoples of the Earth—who are to in turn be a blessing to all they encounter. Here in our parashah this week, after we see instructions on how Israel should honor the Lord with offerings of first fruits and tithes,[1] Moses summarizes that the people are declaring their willingness to follow and obey Him fully:

“You have today declared the LORD to be your God, and that you would walk in His ways and keep His statutes, His commandments and His ordinances, and listen to His voice” (Deuteronomy 26:17).

This commitment receives a positive response from the Lord, who reiterates and amplifies just how treasured a possession Israel will be:

“The LORD has today declared you to be His people, a treasured possession, as He promised you, and that you should keep all His commandments; and that He will set you high above all nations which He has made, for praise, fame, and honor; and that you shall be a consecrated people to the Lord your God, as He has spoken” (Deuteronomy 26:18-19).

Being “the chosen nation” above all the nations of the world has some rather incumbent, serious responsibilities. Israel is required to be an example of a consecrated people, which fully submits itself to the will of God. He requires specific actions from His people to affirm that they are indeed His, and that they can truly be as prominent as He desires them to be.

Moses gives explicit instructions on what must be done once the Israelites have crossed the Jordan and entered into the Promised Land. In a very dramatic way, the Israelites are ordered to travel to the area around Shechem to perform a solemn ceremony on Mounts Ebal and Gerizim. There, the Levites will position themselves between the two mountains with six tribes on each side, and make loud declarations about curses that will come upon them as a result of deviant behavior.[2] Declarations about blessings as a result of obedience to God will be made,[3] but so will the consequences of disobedience be specified.[4] As all of these statements are ushered forth, the people will be expected to proclaim Amein, issuing their agreement with what is said. Just imagine a scene of hundreds of thousands of people declaring forth Amein to words that will determine their future (cf. Joshua 8:30-35)!

As we review the different statements that Ancient Israel was to make when they entered into the Promised Land, there are some things that should really strike us. Moses said that if Israel was to diligently obey the Lord, that His blessings will just “overtake” them:

“Now it shall be, if you diligently obey the LORD your God, being careful to do all His commandments which I command you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. All these blessings will come upon you and overtake you if you obey the LORD your God” (Deuteronomy 28:1-2).

The lengthy list of blessings offered by the Lord (Deuteronomy 28:3-12) culminates in the ultimate elevation for Israel to always be the head and never the tail among those in the world:

“The LORD will make you the head and not the tail, and you only will be above, and you will not be underneath, if you listen to the commandments of the LORD your God, which I charge you today, to observe them carefully” (Deuteronomy 28:13).

All that is required to attain this status is simply obedience to God. But as the testimony of Scripture is clear, this is much easier said than done. The narrative and the tone shifts, because there is a much longer list of curses that will come upon Israel if the people choose to disobey God. Moses summarizes,

“But it shall come about, if you do not obey the LORD your God, to observe to do all His commandments and His statutes with which I charge you today, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you” (Deuteronomy 28:15).

As you read curse after curse (Deuteronomy 28:16-65), you realize that these negative words touch almost every aspect of human life. After reading through these curses a number of times, you can understand why frequently—when this part of the Torah portion is often read in Jewish synagogues—it is traditionally read quickly and in an almost inaudible tone. So severe are the curses upon Israel that the Rabbis have sought to minimize even the contemplation of the possible curses. And yet, in this time of personal and corporate repentance, is it not an ideal time to consider some of the consequences of disobedience? Just consider some of the concluding remarks about just how the people of Israel will act once the effects of disobedience have taken their hold:

“So your life shall hang in doubt before you; and you will be in dread night and day, and shall have no assurance of your life. In the morning you shall say, ‘Would that it were evening!’ And at evening you shall say, ‘Would that it were morning!’ because of the dread of your heart which you dread, and for the sight of your eyes which you will see” (Deuteronomy 28:66-67).

Once all of the curses have taken their toll, life will be so miserable that one will not be comfortable with either the day or the night. There will be no assurance of life at all. One’s existence will be in a sphere dominated by the power of death—a routine marked with incessant fear and loathing—especially since the people will have been scattered into the nations as a result of their disobedience.

With all of this being witnessed in our parashah this week, is there not a great incentive to be obedient to the Lord? Surely, as a part of His people today—even though we have experienced redemption in Messiah Yeshua—should we not recognize that we can only be blessed if we expel the effort to follow and obey? Sadly, much of religious history is marked by people who have made more of an effort to disobey God, or bend the rules with trying to do as little as possible, then people who have strived to love Him and His ways. Lamentably, the Lord has been quite true to His Word to enact curses and penalties upon disobedient people throughout the ages.

 

The Faithful Remnant

Pondering this sad reality, I was also reminded that, thankfully, there has always been a faithful remnant of people throughout history who have chosen to diligently obey God to the best of their ability and understanding.[5] As a result, these people of faithful obedience have received the promised blessings, and have prepared the way for each successive generation. In His sovereignty the Lord has always had a group of people who are faithful to perform His Word, making a concentrated, positive difference in society—whether they be Jews or Christians. As the writer of Hebrews states it, faith is foundational to acts of obedience:

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the men of old gained approval. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible…And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him” (Hebrews 11:1-3, 6).

Apparently, over the ages, it has been the faith of many men and women—who beyond a shadow of a doubt can be counted among the “treasured possession” of God’s people—that has caused them to be obedient to the Lord. They have been responsible for demonstrating acts of kindness and mercy to others, fulfilling what James the Just calls, “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world” (James 1:27).

Considering the requirement of faith as a critical ingredient for generating obedience, my thoughts turned to some of the words of the Apostle Paul which address the requirement of God’s people to function as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1-2). Paul specifies how each person has been given a particular allocation of faith, requiring all Believers to work and serve together in the Kingdom of God:

“For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith” (Romans 12:3).

Reading this, I also had to recognize how Paul further says that faith is the means by which we receive salvation—not our human works:

“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

But, too many people stop reading at Ephesians 2:9, because nowhere in his letters does Paul ever negate the need for the children of God to have good works. Instead, he asserts how Messiah followers have been created for good works, which come as a natural result of our faith demonstrated in action:

“For we are His workmanship, created in Messiah Yeshua for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).

James the Just is also noted for his description about how faith and works are to compliment one another. A true follower of the Messiah of Israel is to have a dynamic, active faith, that manifests itself in the appropriate deeds:

“Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. But someone may well say, ‘You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.’ You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, ‘And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness’ [Genesis 15:6], and he was called the friend of God. You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead” (James 2:17-26).

 

More Faith

In these days of contemplation and repentance, as I have considered the different blessings and curses contingent upon obedience or disobedience to God—all I can do is entreat Him to give me more faith. I ask the Father to increase my faith, so that I can have a heart desirous of serving Him. In a day and age when temptation is rampant and is at clear odds with the will of the indwelling Holy Spirit—I beseech the Lord to reveal more and more of Himself, so that I can endure the trials and tribulations that have been thrust upon me in life. I want to live in accordance with His ways.

It is a great blessing to be given a significant measure of trusting faith. This gift results in one not only desiring to be obedient to the Lord, but it places one’s total confidence in His will for the future. It lets me know that I, personally, am a treasured possession of His—who He loves and who He truly cares about!

What about you? Have you been turning your heart and attention toward God in this time of contemplation, in anticipation of the Fall high holidays? What about your actions toward your neighbors? Have they been consistent with what is expected of able Messiah followers? If not, I would recommend that you go before the Lord and truly seek Him with all of your being—remembering that He is faithful to reveal Himself to those who truly seek Him:

“‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:11-13).

May you be found to be one of His faithful treasured possessions!


NOTES

[1] Deuteronomy 26:1-19.

[2] Deuteronomy 27:1-26.

[3] Deuteronomy 28:1-14.

[4] Deuteronomy 28:15-68.

[5] Editor’s note: Of useful consultation would be the many people described in Robert G. Tuttle, The Story of Evangelism: A History of the Witness to the Gospel (Nashville: Abingdon, 2006).

Ki-Teitzei

Ki-Teitzei

When you go out

“Be Well and Prolong Your Days”

Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19
Isaiah 54:1-10 (or finish at 52:13)


by Mark Huey
mark@outreachisrael.net

The final stretch of the Deuteronomy Torah portions through the month of Elul to Yom Teruah/Rosh HaShanah and the Fall feasts is now upon us (2003/5753). Our reading for this week, Ki-Teitzei, details many commandments that will directly apply to the Israelites upon their occupation of the Promised Land. A wide variety of unique subjects, ranging from how to deal with foreign women in the battlefields[1] to admonitions about those excluded from the assembly,[2] are covered. Reading and meditating about many of these different instructions can take Torah students to places in both spiritual reflection and Biblical examination that they may have not considered before. Further investigation into the thoughts of different Rabbis, commentators, and scholars is often in order. As you may begin to consider some of the writings that have dissected many of these instructions over the ages, you will discover that the amount of material is voluminous.

Many of the instructions witnessed in Ki-Teitzei can only make sense when read in the context of Ancient Israel within the world of the Ancient Near East. Still, some of the instructions, such as covering up one’s leavings (Deuteronomy 23:13), can be followed today (even if you just go out camping in the woods). One of the most perplexing yet intriguing instructions, is seen in how those who might take the eggs of a mother bird must make the effort to shoo away the bird before taking them:

“If you happen to come upon a bird’s nest along the way, in any tree or on the ground, with young ones or eggs, and the mother sitting on the young or on the eggs, you shall not take the mother with the young; you shall certainly let the mother go, but the young you may take for yourself, in order that it may be well with you and that you may prolong your days” (Deuteronomy 22:6-7).

There is certainly a level of humanitarianism seen in shooing away a mother bird before taking her eggs. But, the Torah actually instructs people to do this “so that it may go well with you and you may have a long life” (NIV).

Also witnessed in our parashah is instruction on how a rebellious child was to be tried and stoned to death.[3] Many Bible readers have no idea what to do with this material in the Scriptures, and in Jewish history there is likewise considerable discussion as to how these instructions were to legally play out in the process of jurisprudence.[4] Since the Torah is the constitution of Israel, one can easily see why observant Jewish people have debated these instructions over several millennia.

As I pondered the text of our Torah portion, and reflected upon how the Holy One desires to be intimately involved with His children, I could not get the instruction I read about the mother bird and her eggs out of my mind. It is juxtaposed between prohibitions about cross dressing[5] and the need to build a parapet on the roof of one’s house.[6] Catching my attention was how the blessing of a long life is attached to this commandment, and how the same will be incurred by honoring father and mother:

“Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you, that your days may be prolonged and that it may go well with you on the land which the LORD your God gives you” (Deuteronomy 5:16).

Comparing these two commandments (Deuteronomy 22:6-7 and 5:16), I really did not see a connection. It seems far more logically important to honor one’s parents rather than showing kindness to some random, female bird. After all, God Himself had included the command to honor one’s parents as a part of the Decalogue—the Ten Commandments engraved in stone. The Apostle Paul further points out how the Fifth Commandment is the first commandment with a promise of blessing:

“HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER (which is the first commandment with a promise)” (Ephesians 6:2).

It is natural to ask yourself if there is any connection between honoring one’s parents and showing kindness toward a female bird—both of which elicit the same blessing. Is it possible that the Lord wants His people to demonstrate kindness not just to one’s fellow humans, but also to those creatures that humanity has dominion over (cf. Genesis 1:26, 28)? Comparatively speaking, honoring one’s parents is obviously more significant than being kind to a bird—but perhaps in showing kindness to an animal, we will be more akin to show kindness to actual people?

In the late 1990s, my family and I lived on a small, three-and-a-half acre country farm in North Texas. We had some goats, sheep, a donkey, and a number of free-range chickens that roamed around the barn area. I can remember the mornings when I would be on a search for eggs. It was usually a quiet time, when I would find myself reflecting upon the mercies of the Lord and giving Him praise for our many blessings. As I recall this delightful chore, I can remember the times when I would have to shoo away the hens to look for eggs. My heart occasionally considered the thoughts of the mother hen. Even though I was glad to have the eggs, the hen was going to have to go about her business and lay another egg after I left the barn. At the time, I thought shooing the hens was simply a practical matter of moving them away so that I could more readily access the eggs. I never really thought about the blessing that I was going to receive for treating the hen with human kindness. For whatever reasons, this approach to retrieving eggs was the way that the Father intended His people to do it. It seemed to come naturally to me without any extensive instruction. But apparently, based on the words of the Lord—by extending basic human kindness to our hens—I was receiving blessings, even without my knowledge of this particular Scripture.

Remembering this past experience this week, I then turned my thoughts to the Biblical requirement to honor one’s father and mother, with its commensurate blessings. I reflected upon how natural my obedience to this instruction had been over the years—and I also remembered a period of time when I had a rebellious streak in me, which consistently dishonored my parents. Thankfully, the stubbornness was short-lived! My parents’ love for me prevailed, and our relationship has been wonderful for decades.

Thinking about the material seen in Ki-Teitzei more and more, the reality of lovingkindness kept coming to mind. After all, is love not one of the principal attributes of our Heavenly Father? Is He not constantly working to have this attribute become ingrained into the hearts, minds, and souls of His people? Is it possible that God wants us to be as tender hearted to mere birds as He is to us? By using the example of the mercy we might show to a brooding hen, how truly significant is it that He wants us to extend a similar amount of mercy and lovingkindness toward the people we interact with? Extending love toward our neighbors is the most tangible example that we are diligently obeying the Lord. Remember how Yeshua reacted when questioned about the greatest commandment in the Torah:

“One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, ‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ And He said to him, “‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND” [Deuteronomy 6:5]. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF” [Leviticus 19:18]. On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets’” (Matthew 22:35-40).

Yeshua concludes that the entire Torah rests on the requirements for people to love God and their neighbors. If people can observe these simple commandments, then they will understand why God gave us His Law to follow. The command to love one’s neighbor is perhaps the most basic when it comes to human interaction. Consider in tangible terms what loving one’s neighbor actually involves:

“You shall not oppress your neighbor, nor rob him. The wages of a hired man are not to remain with you all night until morning. You shall not curse a deaf man, nor place a stumbling block before the blind, but you shall revere your God; I am the LORD. You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor nor defer to the great, but you are to judge your neighbor fairly. You shall not go about as a slanderer among your people, and you are not to act against the life of your neighbor; I am the LORD. You shall not hate your fellow countryman in your heart; you may surely reprove your neighbor, but shall not incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD” (Leviticus 19:13-18).

The requirement to love one’s neighbor goes back to the foundational instructions delivered by God about separating out a unique people for His own possession (cf. Exodus 19:5; Deuteronomy 4:20; 7:6; 14:2; 26:18). The Ancient Israelites were commanded to judge their neighbors fairly, and to not oppress, rob, slander, hate, bear grudges against, or take vengeance against them. Such is all summarized and made complete in the actions witnessed in the ministry of the Messiah Yeshua.

To what degree do you need to be reminded that we need to be treating a brooding hen the same way we might treat our neighbors? If you show disrespect to animals, then it should not be surprising why you might show disrespect to human beings. Each of us needs to heed the admonitions of Scripture, striving to have hearts and minds indwelt with the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit). We need to be people who can treat all of God’s creatures with dignity and honor. Perhaps if we learn to extend loving kindness to the animal kingdom, then we will treat people properly. If we can exhibit love to all those we encounter, then we can truly live long and blessed lives.


NOTES

[1] Deuteronomy 21:10-14.

[2] Deuteronomy 23:1-11.

[3] Deuteronomy 21:18-23.

[4] Scherman, Chumash, 1047 summarizes some of the Rabbinical discussions on this passage, including the thought of there being so many prerequisites in order for a rebellious child to be executed, that the inaction of capital punishment is effectively impossible (cf. b.Sanhedrin 71a).

[5] Deuteronomy 22:5.

[6] Deuteronomy 22:8.

Shoftim

Shoftim

Judges

“Words Required for Life”

Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9
Isaiah 51:12-52:12 (or finish at 53:12)


by Mark Huey
mark@outreachisrael.net

Shoftim continues to establish the constitution for the emerging nation of Israel. Moses addresses issues like the judicial system[1] and the inevitability of Israel having a monarchy,[2] and how all are to be subject to God’s Law and authority. Specifics about the Levitical priesthood are also described,[3] and warnings are issued to Israel about some of the abominable practices that will be tempting the people as the conquest of the Promised Land proceeds.[4] Specifics about the cities of refuge are reiterated,[5] and further definitions about court proceedings are discussed.[6] Preparations for war with the obligations of the selective service or draft are outlined, with the rules of engagement for war included.[7] Finally, some specifics about how to handle homicide are detailed.[8] As you read and reflect upon Shoftim, you can easily see how the God of Israel is indeed a Master of order. He has laid out important aspects of the judicial, executive, and priestly functions that are to make His chosen nation be prosperous.

However, in the midst, of all of this instruction for the people of Israel, is a strikingly significant Messianic prophecy. Moses speaks of a Greater Prophet who will one day rise up with the words of God in His mouth. This Greater Prophet will speak all the words that God commands Him to speak. Not listening or heeding the words this Prophet will speak will incur a man or woman some severe consequences:

“I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. It shall come about that whoever will not listen to My words which he shall speak in My name, I Myself will require it of him” (Deuteronomy 18:18-19).

This expectation has a degree of finality to it. Moses declares that this future Prophet will speak words that must be obeyed by those who hear them. If they are not obeyed, then God Himself “will call…to account” (NIV) those who ignored or disregarded them, holding those responsible who did not take seriously the words conveyed. Deuteronomy 19:18-10 is a powerful prophetic statement made by Moses, which pointed ahead to the eventual arrival of the Messiah. And yet, when the Messiah did come, how many chose to really believe His words?

One group of people who fully believed and acted on the words of the Greater Prophet were the Disciples of Yeshua the Messiah. Ten days after the ascension of the Messiah into Heaven, on the day of Shavuot/Pentecost, the Ruach HaKodesh or Holy Spirit was poured out upon the Believers. As it is recorded in Acts 3, the Apostle Peter confidently declared that Yeshua was indeed the Greater Prophet who Moses had foretold:

“But the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Messiah would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; and that He may send Yeshua, the Messiah appointed for you, whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time. Moses said, ‘THE LORD GOD WILL RAISE UP FOR YOU A PROPHET LIKE ME FROM YOUR BRETHREN; TO HIM YOU SHALL GIVE HEED [Deuteronomy 18:19] to everything He says to you. And it will be that every soul that does not heed that prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.’ And likewise, all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and his successors onward, also announced these days. It is you who are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘AND IN YOUR SEED ALL THE FAMILIES OF THE EARTH SHALL BE BLESSED’ [Genesis 22:18; 26:4]. For you first, God raised up His Servant and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways” (Acts 3:18-26).

Peter directly quotes Deuteronomy 18:19, which details who the Greater Prophet is to be,[9] and identifies Him to be Yeshua the Messiah. But there is further amplification as to what the concept of “requiring” one to recognize Him actually means. Peter makes it much more succinct and to the point. He states that: Anyone who does not listen to him will be completely cut off from among his people” (NIV). This statement is really to be taken seriously, because those who disregard Yeshua will have severe consequences leveled against them. The early Messiah followers understood that Moses was indeed foretelling of Yeshua—because before he was stoned, the young disciple Stephen likewise directly quoted from Deuteronomy 18:15, defending himself with the word,

“This is the Moses who said to the sons of Israel, ‘GOD WILL RAISE UP FOR YOU A PROPHET LIKE ME FROM YOUR BRETHREN’” (Acts 7:37).[10]

Based on the prophecy delivered by Moses, and the confirmation offered by Peter and Stephen—we must believe in and heed the message declared by the Greater Prophet, Yeshua the Messiah—or the consequence will be eternal punishment. This might seem like a harsh word, but the author of Hebrews’ words are even more direct than those witnessed in either Deuteronomy 18:19 or Acts 3:23:

“For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and THE FURY OF A FIRE WHICH WILL CONSUME THE ADVERSARIES [Isaiah 26:11]. Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, ‘VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY.’ And again, ‘THE LORD WILL JUDGE HIS PEOPLE’ [Deuteronomy 32:35, 36; Psalm 135:14]. It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:26-31).

Reading this rather direct and stern admonition—born again Believers should recognize how they have the authority to not only rebuke those who have heard the knowledge of the truth and keep on sinning, but also those who completely turn away from the truth that the Messiah is Yeshua, the only Savior for humanity.

Brothers and sisters, you do not want to find yourself a sinner who fails to turn from bad habits, one who has known but has rejected the good news, or one who has just rejected the good news. While all of these negative predicaments are terrible—those who once professed to believe in, but later deny, the blood atonement of Yeshua on their behalf—are going to be punished even more seriously than those who just reject Him outright.

Have you truly believed in the words of the Messiah? Has the good news of salvation in Yeshua changed your heart, and truly enabled you to love God and neighbor like never before? If you have not experienced the supernatural power of the gospel—now is the time to go before the Lord in prayerful repentance! One must believe in the words of Yeshua to experience eternal life; it is not enough to only have the words of Moses.


NOTES

[1] Deuteronomy 17:1-13.

[2] Deuteronomy 17:14-20.

[3] Deuteronomy 18:1-8.

[4] Deuteronomy 18:9-14.

[5] Deuteronomy 19:1-13.

[6] Deuteronomy 19:14-21.

[7] Deuteronomy 20:1-20.

[8] Deuteronomy 21:1-9.

[9] Kurt Aland, et. al., The Greek New Testament, Fourth Revised Edition (Stuttgart: Deutche Bibelgesellschaft/United Bible Societies, 1998), 418.

[10] Ibid., 433.

Re’eih

Re’eih

See

“Choices and Tests”

Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17
Isaiah 54:11-55:5


by Mark Huey
mark@outreachisrael.net

Re’eih continues where Ekev left off. Moses is persistent in encouraging the Israelites to obey the Lord with due faithfulness, so that they can prosper in the Land He is going to give them. If Israel chooses to listen to and obey the commandments of the Lord, then blessings will emanate from Him. On the other hand, if Israel chooses to disobey the commandments of the Lord, then curses will manifest themselves. Once again, the bottom line for Ancient Israel is how their choices—positive or negative—will affect them when they dwell in the Promised Land. Will Israel choose to follow Moses’ Teaching? Or will Israel choose to abandon it? Re’eih opens with a rather critical admonition:

“See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you listen to the commandments of the LORD your God, which I am commanding you today; and the curse, if you do not listen to the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn aside from the way which I am commanding you today, by following other gods which you have not known” (Deuteronomy 11:26-28).

It is not difficult to compute how obedience to the Lord will result in people being blessed by Him, and how disobedience to the Lord will at least result in some kind of penalties being dispensed. If people desire to obey the Lord, then such obedience is a manifestation of one’s love and loyalty to Him. What does it say of those who do not desire to obey Him?

In Re’eih this week, we are introduced to a variety of tests that the Lord will use to ascertain whether His people will truly choose to follow Him. The tests which are given are fairly challenging, as they will come not only in the form of false prophets, but even one’s close personal relatives. False prophets, in particular, are said to be allowed to perform signs and wonders that come true:

“If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods (whom you have not known) and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the LORD your God is testing you to find out if you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall follow the LORD your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him” (Deuteronomy 13:2-5).

These visible and/or tangible signs and wonders have the intention of drawing people away to worship and serve other gods—especially when the signs or wonders the false prophets claim will occur, come true. But, because false prophets have every intention of leading people away from God’s commandments, Israel is instructed to execute them:

“But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has counseled rebellion against the LORD your God who brought you from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery, to seduce you from the way in which the LORD your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from among you” (Deuteronomy 13:5).

As serious as detecting a false prophet may be, even more hard-hitting is the fact that spiritual tests may come via one’s own kin:

“If your brother, your mother’s son, or your son or daughter, or the wife you cherish, or your friend who is as your own soul, entice you secretly, saying, ‘Let us go and serve other gods’ (whom neither you nor your fathers have known, of the gods of the peoples who are around you, near you or far from you, from one end of the earth to the other end), you shall not yield to him or listen to him; and your eye shall not pity him, nor shall you spare or conceal him” (Deuteronomy 13:6-8).

At this point, Moses warns Israel that siblings, children, best friends, and even wives can be used as vessels of temptation to get people to deny the Lord. God knows how intimate relationships with people who are unfaithful toward Him, can easily draw us away from Him. For Ancient Israel, at least, the answer was to similarly see that those close people would be put to death. And, the one who was tempted by a fellow family member, is the first one who had to throw stones:

“But you shall surely kill him; your hand shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people. So you shall stone him to death because he has sought to seduce you from the LORD your God who brought you out from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. Then all Israel will hear and be afraid, and will never again do such a wicked thing among you” (Deuteronomy 13:9-11).

This is a difficult test. After your loved one has been accused and convicted of enticing you away from serving the One God of Israel, you were required to be the first to cast a stone to initiate the capital punishment. Thankfully, we now live in an era where Yeshua’s sacrifice has absorbed such capital punishment (Colossians 2:14). Yet, even if we might not stone false prophets or relatives who worship other gods—we still have to be very mindful of the deceptive influences present in our world. We have to avoid them and not listen to them! Each of us has to make the conscious choice to fully love and serve the Lord—or pursue other things that take us away from Him and His promised blessings. Such has always been the age-old question for the followers of the God of Israel.

During the ministry of Yeshua, we also see some tests present, similar to what is described this week in Re’eih. The Apostolic Scriptures warn about the coming of false prophets, with signs and wonders, which are again going to be used by God to test the hearts of those who have claimed faith in His Son. In His Olivet Discourse on the Last Days, Yeshua warned His Disciples about the eventual coming of false messiahs and false prophets who will arise to show great signs and wonders, saying,

“For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and produce great signs and omens, to lead astray, if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24:24, NRSV).

The significance of such signs and wonders will be to test the hearts of the elect. The signs and wonders will be designed to mislead, and have the capacity to seriously disrupt how Messiah followers are to be exclusively loyal to Him. Taking Yeshua’s warning to serious heart today, we should always question the motives of any minister or ministry that is actively (or exclusively) soliciting a following based on the manifestation of “signs and wonders.” Are they the genuine activity of the Holy Spirit? Are they really confirming evidences of the work of the Lord, and in helping people be set free from their sins?

Just as Re’eih says that one’s close family may be a source of temptation, Yeshua also told His Disciples that there will be division in families, because of belief in Him:

“Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to SET A MAN AGAINST HIS FATHER, AND A DAUGHTER AGAINST HER MOTHER, AND A DAUGHTER-IN-LAW AGAINST HER MOTHER-IN-LAW; and A MAN’S ENEMIES WILL BE THE MEMBERS OF HIS HOUSEHOLD” (Matthew 10:34-36; cf. Micah 7:6).

In both Moses’ and Yeshua’s instructions, it is asserted how God’s people are going to be tested. False prophets will arise with signs and wonders. Families will be at odds because of loyalty to God and to His Messiah. Sadly today, the reality of circumstances on the ground is that many people actually desire to hear ear-tickling and sensational words—rather than receive instruction which can aid them in their relationship with the Lord and spiritual effectiveness. As the Apostle Paul wrote his colleague Timothy,

“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

The Final Test and Choice

Within Deuteronomy the subject of prophets is seen multiple times,[1] but it is not exclusively about false prophets who will plague the Israelites. Moses will later speak of a Greater Prophet who will be raised up by God and speak definitive words that the people must heed. This Prophet will provide the ultimate test, and not heeding what He says will bring disastrous consequences:

“I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. It shall come about that whoever will not listen to My words which he shall speak in My name, I Myself will require it of him” (Deuteronomy 18:18-19).

The Apostle Peter knew who this Greater Prophet was, as he made a direct appeal to Deuteronomy 18:19—applying it to the ministry and work of Yeshua the Messiah:

“Moses said, ‘THE LORD GOD WILL RAISE UP FOR YOU A PROPHET LIKE ME FROM YOUR BRETHREN; TO HIM YOU SHALL GIVE HEED to everything He says to you. And it will be that every soul that does not heed that prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people’” (Acts 3:22-23).

Here, the test of believing in Yeshua is clearly stated. The consequences of unbelief are utter and complete ruin. Have you placed your trust in Yeshua the Messiah, the Greater Prophet? Anything else short of this, and you will have chosen poorly. Only by expressing true saving faith in the Messiah of Israel, can one also possess the wisdom and discernment to identify all of the false prophets and deceivers out there—which the world will throw at us!


NOTES

[1] Deuteronomy 13:1, 3, 5; 18:15, 18, 20, 22; 34:10.

 

 

Ekev

Ekev

Because

“Because of a Circumcised Heart”

Deuteronomy 7:12-11:25
Isaiah 49:14-51:3

by Mark Huey
mark@outreachisrael.net

Ekev continues Moses’ monologue to the people of Israel as he is anticipating his death. He knows that his days are numbered, and how he is charged with preparing the Israelites to enter into the Promised Land. In many respects, the entire Book of Deuteronomy is Moses’ last will and testament to his beloved Israel. Following Deuteronomy’s recollections and instructions will be critical for a successful conquest of Canaan. Like any good leader, Moses knows the power of words—and as we saw last week in V’et’chanan, Moses is quite aware that he has been chosen to be the communicator of the voice of God to the people (Deuteronomy 4:2).

As we reflect on Ekev this week, one of the very first things we notice is that the term ekev, from which our parashah gets its name, begins the reading: v’hayah ekev, “Then it shall come about, because…” (Deuteronomy 7:12). You might consider what I have to say on Ekev to be a bit of a stretch, but I do wonder if there is something about the Hebrew term ekev that might communicate important messages to Bible readers. While stylistically ekev can be translated a variety of ways throughout English Bibles, TWOT describes how it means “consequence. Usually occurs as an adverbial accusative, as a consequence of, because.”[1] I simply ask, does this seemingly, insignificant connecting word have a more important meaning than just “because”?

Within our lives, we can probably all remember prefacing answers to questions with the word “because.” We have certainly heard other people use “because” to justify various actions, saying “Because of such-and-such I did so-and-so,” or “Because of so-and-so, such-and-such happened.” How many times have you encountered an immature child, who has been caught in the wrong, use “because” as an excuse? Frequently in speech today, we see a term like “because” used—really exposing some of the negative reasons or causes because of an action committed. Yet at the same time, the English term “because” can have positive uses as well. Within Ekev, is it possible that God is trying to get Israel to seriously consider the absolute root of their convictions, that they might take certain actions? Let us consider a variety of instances where ekev appears, so we can evaluate the function(s) it performs.

The opening verses of Ekev include a response to the final verses which concluded V’et’chanan last week. Recall how Moses ended his pleadings with a command to the Israelites: “Therefore, you shall keep the commandment and the statutes and the judgments which I am commanding you today, to do them” (Deuteronomy 7:11). This summary statement covers a broad range of instructions that have been given to Israel during the wilderness journey. Now this week as Ekev begins, we see a positive affirmation implied in the term ekev or “because,” listing some of the blessings that the Israelites will receive as a result of obeying the commandments given:

“Then it shall come about, because [v’hayah ekev] you listen to these judgments and keep and do them, that the LORD your God will keep with you His covenant and His lovingkindness which He swore to your forefathers. He will love you and bless you and multiply you; He will also bless the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground, your grain and your new wine and your oil, the increase of your herd and the young of your flock, in the land which He swore to your forefathers to give you. You shall be blessed above all peoples; there will be no male or female barren among you or among your cattle” (Deuteronomy 7:12-14).

Ekev is employed to describe the blessings that the Israelites will receive if they obey the Lord. The term ekev is only used two times in our Torah portion,[2] and only nine other times in the rest of the Torah.[3] At the conclusion of Deuteronomy 8, Moses reminds Israel of the consequences they will incur if they do not listen to the Lord:

“But you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth, that He may confirm His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day. It shall come about if you ever forget the LORD your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I testify against you today that you will surely perish. Like the nations that the LORD makes to perish before you, so you shall perish; because you would not listen to the voice of the LORD your God [ekev lo tishme’un b’qol ADONAI Eloheikhem]” (Deuteronomy 8:18-20).

What you discover between the two “ekev bookends” of our parashah (Deuteronomy 7:12 and 8:20) is a list of some of the benefits for Israel’s obedience to God, and some of the serious consequences for disobedience. The blessings bestowed upon Israel—from fertility to disease prevention to expulsion of nations from the Promised Land[4]—are described. Details about how to deal with pagan idols,[5] and helpful reminders about the forty-year wilderness journey,[6] are included. Moses does this to remind the Israelites about the provisions that have been maintained by God since their departure from Egypt.

While pondering the two opposite results of listening versus not listening to the voice of God, a further look at some of the other uses of the Hebrew term ekev seemed appropriate. I thought that perhaps some insight could be gleaned from other contexts where ekev is used.

The first time ekev appears in Scripture is where Abraham has not withheld his son Isaac for sacrifice. God will appropriately bless him because of his obedience:

“Then the angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven, and said, ‘By Myself I have sworn, declares the LORD, because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only son, indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice [ekev asher shama’ta b’qoli]’” (Genesis 22:15-18).

The second time ekev appears is where Isaac is warned by God not to travel to Egypt, but rather to remain in Canaan. Isaac, as the son of Abraham, will be an agent of blessing to the world because of the obedience of his father:

“The LORD appeared to him and said, ‘Do not go down to Egypt; stay in the land of which I shall tell you. Sojourn in this land and I will be with you and bless you, for to you and to your descendants I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath which I swore to your father Abraham. I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven, and will give your descendants all these lands; and by your descendants all the nations of the earth shall be blessed; because Abraham obeyed Me [ekev asher-shama Avraham b’qoli] and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes and My laws” (Genesis 26:2-5).

Finally, a third time, before this Torah portion where ekev is used, is in the description of the faith exhibited by Caleb, one of the two faithful spies:

“But My servant Caleb, because he has had a different spirit and has followed Me fully [ekev hayatah ruach acheret immo v’yemalleih acharay], I will bring into the land which he entered, and his descendants shall take possession of it” (Numbers 14:24).

In these three examples of ekev, preceding our parashah this week, we see how “because” is used to describe either obedience to God or people faithfully following Him. Certainly, every usage of ekev in the Tanakh is contingent on context—and as I have previously mentioned, in speech today “because” is often used to self-justify one’s sinful actions. But most important to us as people of faith is how ekev does indeed explain specific ways of how the Lord can demonstrate His favor to individuals who have heeded Him. And is this not one of the main points of Ekev that we are reading about? Is it possible that God was trying to get the Ancient Israelites—and by extension us today—to seriously consider following Him with their whole hearts?

Within Ekev Moses makes the serious point to Israel that God is going to drive out the inhabitants of Canaan, because of His previous promises made—and also because of the Canaanites’ own wickedness and sin.[7] Interestingly enough, within these words Moses also declares to Israel that they are quite stubborn and discordant, frequently not wanting to follow the Lord:[8]

“Know, then, it is not because of your righteousness that the LORD your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stubborn people…The LORD spoke further to me, saying, ‘I have seen this people, and indeed, it is a stubborn people’” (Deuteronomy 9:6, 13).

After recalling how a second set of Ten Commandments had to be written, and how the Levites were separated out for duty as priests,[9] Moses reminds Israel of the critical duty that is required of them:

“Now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require from you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the LORD’s commandments and His statutes which I am commanding you today for your good?” (Deuteronomy 10:12-13).

The Israelites must fear or revere the Holy One, walk in His ways, love Him, and serve Him with all their hearts and all their souls. The problem was that too many had hard hearts. Just how were they going to deal with those hard, stubborn hearts that they had? Moses provides an answer: a change of heart. The Lord demands that His people possess a circumcised heart, which will be sensitive to Him and to His ways:

“So circumcise your heart, and stiffen your neck no longer. For the LORD your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God who does not show partiality nor take a bribe. He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing. So show your love for the alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt. You shall fear the LORD your God; you shall serve Him and cling to Him, and you shall swear by His name” (Deuteronomy 10:16-20).

As you read this injunction for the Israelites to circumcise their hearts, you might consider the varied usages of ekev I mentioned—describing the obedience of Abraham and Isaac, and the faithfulness of Caleb. We cannot know whether these individuals consciously had heard of the idea to “circumcise” their hearts, but what we do know is that they were not stubborn and stiff-necked in their relationship with God. They knew of the Lord’s supreme power, and they desired to accomplish His will and purposes, not resisting Him or disbelieving Him.

The command for people to circumcise their hearts is not the whole picture of what it means to submit to the Lord. Later in Deuteronomy, Moses asserts how the Lord Himself will have to circumcise hearts—indicating how this is not only a human action, but also a Divine action:

“Moreover the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, so that you may live” (Deuteronomy 30:6).

To this may be added the Prophet Ezekiel’s expectation of how in the era of the New Covenant, people will be given new hearts, filled up with God’s Spirit:

“For I will take you from the nations, gather you from all the lands and bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances” (Ezekiel 36:24-27).

Both a heart circumcision and transplant refer to how the Lord will give His people the desire and ability to fully obey Him and walk in His ways. This will come not out of compulsion, but rather be a positive result of the love people have toward Him and for the acts of deliverance He has accomplished. There is no greater act of deliverance that we can conceive of than the sacrifice of Yeshua the Messiah at Golgotha (Calvary), and how it results in us possessing eternal life:

“He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Yeshua the Messiah our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:5-7).

Do you truly have a circumcised heart of flesh, that eagerly desires to obey the Lord and accomplish His tasks for your life? Do you receive of the blessings promised to those who follow the commandments? How will the Lord describe your life when you meet Him face to face? If there were any descriptions of your life employing the Hebrew word ekev, would they at all be similar to those of Abraham, Isaac, and Caleb?


NOTES

[1] J. Barton Payne, “eqev,” in TWOT, 2:691.

[2] Deuteronomy 7:12; 8:20.

[3] Genesis 3:15; 22:18; 25:26; 26:5; 27:36; 49:17, 19; Numbers 14:24.

[4] Deuteronomy 7:12-8:20.

[5] Deuteronomy 7:16, 25.

[6] Deuteronomy 8:2-5.

[7] Deuteronomy 9:1-5.

[8] Deuteronomy 9:6-29.

[9] Deuteronomy 10:1-9.

Two Houses of Israel?

In a recent YouTube video podcast, Zachary Bauer of New2Torah offered “7 Scriptural Proofs for Two House,” mainly referring to the Tanach passages: 1 Kings 12:21; Jeremiah 3:18; 5:11; 11:10; 31:31; Zechariah 8:13; Isaiah 8:14; 11:13. He then proceeded to say that today’s Messianic Jews are widely blind to this truth because they are “Judah.” Half of his presentation dealt with the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32), which he concluded is representative of Ephraim and Judah. Many assumptions were made which need to be challenged.

There is little doubting that in many sectors of the Messianic movement, when the issue of the Divided Kingdom era in Ancient Israel arises, that extreme tensions manifest. Today’s Messianic Judaism has not done a very good job at analyzing the proposals of the Two-House sub-movement, providing a reasonable alternative that has taken into account the relevant Biblical passages, positions on the Lost Tribes offered by both Jewish and Christian examiners, and more than anything acknowledging that there are people groups on Earth today outside of the Jewish community to be legitimately recognized as members of the Lost Tribes (although a Messianic Jewish evangelistic ministry like Jewish Voice does go to these people with various medical missions, etc.)

Messianic Apologetics editor J.K. McKee addresses how today’s Messianic people are long overdue for resolution on the whole Two-House controversy. This video podcast, “Two Houses of Israel?” serves as an introduction to the upcoming study on Israel in Future Prophecy, starting next week as a part of our Audio Archive series.