Shalom Fellow Israelite,
In this week’s Torah reading of NITZAVIM (Deut. 29:10 – 30:20) we find the chosen people “standing” before YHVH. They have just received a reminder of the covenant and the awesome commands which enumerated the consequences of obedience and disobedience (the blessings and the curses). But were they ready for the final commitment, which would catapult them into something so fearful, yet so promising as this covenant with the Elohim of their fathers? The conditions were clear, and so was their inherent weakness (which would actually make meeting the requirements almost impossible).
How could YHVH subject these second generation wilderness men, women and children to such laws, when He already knew that they were born of the “sin nature”, and would obviously miss the mark of Torah and suffer the consequences, just like their parents? Moses said to them: “Yet to this day YHVH has not given you a heart to know, nor eyes to see, nor ears to hear” (Deut. 29:4). How unfair it all seemed, or was YHVH concealing His plan in the darkness of the “mystery of iniquity” (2nd Thes.2:7, also Eph.2:1-2)?
“YHVH has not yet given you...” In this short phrase we see that YHVH holds Himself responsible for the future success, or failure, of His plan. Even after the flood YHVH declared that, “man’s heart is evil from his youth” (Gen. 8:21). Because of this inherent condition, Moses, under the anointing of the Holy One, begins to prophesy the destiny of the Hebrew people: “And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon you, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before you, and you call them to mind among all the nations, where YHVH your Elohim has driven you…” (Deut. 30:1). Before the Children of Israel had a chance to prove themselves or even make any kind of free will choice, YHVH already knew what would happen to them, because of the condition of their heart.
The covenant He made with the Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, obligated YHVH to be accountable to His promises of blessings of land, and the fruitfulness that would multiply and spread to all nations through their seed. This “seed”, the people of Israel, were now in a position to be the recipients of the promises to their forefathers. But before entering the land YHVH is stating the conditions for the promises’ fulfillment. Standing before YHVH, the Israelites were looking toward the land that they were about to enter, the land of milk and honey that was promised to their forefathers. The said conditions for remaining in the land were now going to hang over their heads like a seething prophetic refining pot. "But if your heart turns away so that you do not hear, and are drawn away, and worship other gods and serve them, I announce to you today that you shall surely perish; you shall not prolong your days in the land which you cross over the Jordan to go in and possess” (Deut. 30:17-18). YHVH was using these conditions as a tool to fulfill the original promises to the Patriarchs, and preparing the way for an even greater promise.
History reveals that YHVH was true to His word, even though the potential consequences of the covenant may be interpreted as negative and even disastrous (abounding in curses and not blessings). Some may even venture to condemn the generations of our forefathers for failing to live up to the righteousness of the Torah. YHVH, aware of these weaknesses, built into His covenant the sacrificial system for atonement and forgiveness of sin to be in effect year after year throughout the cycles of the feasts, in order to enable Him to fulfill the original covenant with the Patriarchs. But did this present form of the (expanded) covenant take care of the condition of the heart? Obviously we would have to answer: “no, it did not”. In fact, it did the very opposite, revealing the corruptness of the heart. Yeshua pointed out this condition, as recorded in the Gospel of Mark: “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness; all these evil things come from within, and defile the man” (7:21-23). This is why Yeshua describes the religious man as a white washed tomb: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” (Mat. 23:27-28).
How then was YHVH going to have a people that would become a holy nation (Ex. 19:6), and be His witness (Isa. 43:10,12), and for that matter, how were the promises to the fathers going to be fulfilled? As Moses continues to prophesy we are given one of the first glimpses into the mystery of the will of YHVH (ref. Eph. 1:9-10), and into a covenant that would once and for all deal with the condition of the heart: “YHVH your Elohim will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love Him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live” (Deut. 30:6). A door of hope was left open; the destiny of the people was sealed by the prophetic word. The irrevocable calling upon them as YHVH’s people could not fail. YHVH said: “I WILL”, thus leaving no doubt that it was not going to be by the will of man, nor by might, nor by power but by the Spirit of the infallible Word/Torah of YHVH.
YHVH’s feast of Yom Teruah is ‘standing’ before us, ‘trumpeting’ the coming days of repentance. However, without the laws given at Sinai we would not know what we are to be repenting of. Paul writes in Romans: “Do we then make void the Law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the Law” (Romans 3:31). How does a New Covenant believer establish (validate) the Law given at Sinai? The Greek word for establish (histemi) means: to make to stand, to stand. Thus not only were the people “standing”, “nitzavim”, but the Torah also was ‘standing’, right alongside them. They could not enter the land promised without the Torah of Moses. So too, a New Covenant believer cannot fully enter into its promises without the Torah written on their hearts.
Without understanding the reason for YHVH giving us laws we will not know how we are to establish them. Paul continues in Romans 3, explaining: “…for by the Law is the knowledge of sin” (v. 3b). This sets the stage for true repentance. Here is the example the apostle uses: “What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, ‘You shall not covet’" (Romans 7:7). This absolute and invariable reality (as we noted above) makes us desperate for YHVH’s goodness that leads to repentance (see Romans 2:4) and the need for the ultimate atonement which was wrought through Messiah Yeshua, Who made it possible for the Torah to be etched into hearts of flesh.
Hag Same’ach and Shabbat Shalom,