Deuteronomy 7:12–11:25; Isaiah 49:14–51:2; Hebrews 11:8–13
“And it shall come to pass, because [eikev] you hearken to these ordinances, and keep, and do them, that the Lord thy God shall keep with you the covenant and the mercy which He swore to your fathers, and He will love you, and bless you, and multiply you.” (Deuteronomy 7:12–13)
Last week, in Parasha Va’etchanan, Moses reviewed the Torah and repeated the Ten Commandments, telling the Israelites to wholeheartedly love God and bind His words to their hands and between their eyes (Deuteronomy 6:8).
This week, in Parasha Eikev, Moses continues with this theme, promising the Israelites that they would enjoy prosperity and good health if they walk in God’s ways.
He reveals that it’s not enough to be hearers of the Word; we must also be diligent doers of the Word.
All the blessings and benefits we receive from God are because of our obedience to His Word.
Some of the rewards brought about by obedience to His Word include prosperity, favor, and good health.
“If you pay attention to these laws and are careful to follow them, then the Lord your God will keep his covenant [brit] of love [chesed-mercy] with you. … You will be blessed more than any other people. … The Lord will keep you free from every disease.” (Deuteronomy 7:12–15)
Notice that when we are obedient, all of the blessings are founded on two extremely powerful forces: divine covenant (brit) and mercy (chesed).
When God makes a covenant, He doesn’t break it. He will not break the covenant promises He swore to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob (Israel) and their descendants:
“He remembers His covenant forever… the covenant which he made with Abraham, and His oath to Isaac, and confirmed it to Jacob for a statute, to Israel as an everlasting covenant, saying, ‘To you I will give the land of Canaan….’” (Psalm 105:8–11)
When we have a covenant with God, choosing to love Him and to keep His commandments, not only do we receive God’s blessing on our own lives, but also upon our children, and our children’s children, to a thousand generations down the line! “Therefore know that the Lord your God, He is Elohim, the faithful God who keeps covenant [brit] and mercy [chesed] for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep his commandments.” (Deuteronomy 7:9)
Because God keeps His covenant “for a thousand generations,” it’s entirely possible that some of the tremendous benefits and blessings we are reaping today are because of the faithfulness of our ancestors.
Commandment to Possess the Land
One of the commands that Israel was given in this Torah portion was the hard task of possessing the Land.
God commanded Israel to not only go in and possess the Land, but also to destroy the inhabitants of the land so that they would not end up worshiping their false gods:
“You must destroy all the peoples that the Lord thy God gives over to you. Do not look on them with pity and do not serve their gods, for that will be a snare to you.” (Deuteronomy 7:16)
Israel wondered how they would be able to drive out these pagan nations who were stronger than themselves. To ease their fear, God reminded them of His power in delivering them from Egypt.
“Do not be afraid of them; remember well what the Lord your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 7:18)
The Israelites were not entirely faithful in destroying the inhabitants of the Land. It was one of Israel’s worst mistakes, since it eventually caused them to fall spiritually and morally.
“They did not destroy the peoples as the Lord had commanded them, but they mingled with the nations and adopted their customs.” (Psalm 106:34–35)
Even today, however, many people struggle with the morality of God’s command to destroy the inhabitants and wonder how a loving God could give such a command.
Of course, we can keep in mind the following three things:
- God’s intention was to protect Israel from falling away into idolatry;
- He also was judging the egregious sin of the nations in the Land; and
- He promised the Land to Abraham (Genesis 12:7–8).
“The Lord your God will drive these nations out ahead of you only because of their wickedness, and to fulfill the oath he swore to your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” (Deuteronomy 9:5)
Of course, the reality is that conquest is nothing new. Nearly every country in existence today conquered its present homeland and destroyed or dispossessed the original inhabitants. So too, in Europe and North America.
While Israel today attempts to appease the world as it points fingers at them, it seems that this tiny nation is making dangerous concessions with the Palestinian ‘inhabitants of the Land’ that may threaten our very survival as a nation.
That said, Israel as a nation comprises both Arab and Jewish citizens. Arabs who live in Israel enjoy the same citizenship and benefits as the Jewish people, including health care, education, etc. They have the right to vote and occupy seats in the Knesset (Israeli parliament).
In one respect they might have it easier than Israeli Jews. Unlike Jewish women and men who must sacrifice two or three years respectively of their young lives for military service in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), service is not mandatory for Israeli Arabs.
Although Israeli Arabs are allowed to volunteer for military service in the IDF, the numbers of those who do are small since many secular and religious Muslim Arabs want to see the destruction of Israel and the Jewish People. Both the Islamic and nationalistic Arab elements threaten the survival of the nation of Israel.
The Loving Discipline of the Father
“Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you.” (Deuteronomy 8:5)
God, as a loving Father, chastises, disciplines and trains His beloved children—even through hunger, hardship and suffering in the desert (Deuteronomy 8:5).
“Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you… to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” (Deuteronomy 8:3)
The Hebrew word for desert or wilderness is midbar, which has the same root letters as the word m’daber (to speak).
It is God’s word that sustains us, and He often speaks to our hearts during our desert/wilderness times of spiritual dryness.
There in our desert He tests us “to see what is in our heart, whether we will keep His commandments or not.” (Deuteronomy 8:2)
The rabbis call this ‘chastisements of love.’ We see that same sentiment in the Book of Hebrews, as well:
“For the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and chastises every son whom He receives.” (Hebrews 12:6)
God’s discipline, however, is not only fatherly; it is also motherly. The Book of Proverbs links “Shaddai,” one of the names of God, with God’s discipline.
“Do not despise the chastisement of Shaddai.” (Proverbs 3:11–12)
Although Shaddai is related to the word for destroyer and Self-Sufficient One, it comes from a Hebrew root word meaning a woman’s breast (as in a source of food for babies).
This specific name, Shaddai, represents the maternal, gentle, nourishing characteristics of God.
What does this tell us when the name of God that reflects His maternal nature is used is in the context of God’s discipline?
It tells us that His discipline is not only strict and just, but also merciful and tender. We can, therefore, ‘count it all joy’ even when going through times of discipline and suffering because we know that God’s love for us is entirely balanced.
We can rest assured that His discipline will bring us to maturity, and we will be ready to possess the Land when we come out the other side.
Possessing Our Own Land
“The Lord your God will drive out those nations before you, little by little. You will not be allowed to eliminate them all at once, or the wild animals will multiply around you.” (Deuteronomy 7:22)
God has given each one of us territory that He wants us to possess for His Kingdom. However, in order to do so, we must first face the challenge of dispossessing the enemy.
Our victory or deliverance may not happen suddenly or in one fell swoop. Since God says He will drive out these nations little by little, we may find that the process of transformation towards our freedom in Messiah Yeshua (Jesus) is gradual (Deuteronomy 7:22).
And as we begin to take the Land, we must remember that our victory has nothing to do with our righteousness or integrity as Believers, but it has everything to with God’s integrity, power, judgment and discipline.
God makes it clear that it was not because of Israel’s own righteousness that Israel went in to possess the Land, (for they were a stubborn, stiff-necked, rebellious people), but because God gave His Word to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob, and because the nations that lived there were wicked (Deuteronomy 9:5–6).
These words should give us hope for our own lives. When we are confronted by a sense of our own unworthiness, ashamed by our sinfulness—our stubbornness and rebellion—we can still count on God’s faithfulness to the covenant we have with Him through His son, Yeshua.
We know that our own righteousness is like filthy rags before the holiness of God (Isaiah 64:6); however, we also know that “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)
We are God’s people and His inheritance, a special treasure (segulah) to the Almighty. Because of our covenant relationship with Him, God will never leave us nor forsake us.
Though the way ahead may appear dangerous or impossible, we can always trust the discipline and leading of our Heavenly Father.
“For the Lord will not cast off His people, nor will He forsake His inheritance.” (Psalm 94:14)