Last week, in Parasha Eikev (Because), Moses continued his closing address to the Israelites, which he began in Parasha Devarim. He promised them that if they obeyed the Torah’s commandments, they would prosper in the Promised Land.
In this week’s Torah portion, God sets before the people of Israel a clear choice: they could either obey God’s commandments (mitzvot) and enjoy a life of blessing (brakha), or disobey and suffer the resulting curse (klalah).
The blessings are to be proclaimed on Mount Gerizim and the curses on Mount Ebal when the people cross over the Jordan into the Holy Land.
“When Adonai your God brings you into the land you are entering in order to take possession of it, you are to put the blessing on Mount Gerizim and the curse on Mount Ebal.” (Deuteronomy 11:29)
These two mountains are situated in the vicinity of the West Bank city of Nablus (Biblical Shechem). On Mount Gerizim is an Israeli settlement called Har Brakha (Mount of Blessing). It is located near a Samaritan village called Kiryat Luza (Town of Luza).
This mountain is a point of divergence between the Shomronim (Samaritans) and the Jewish People.
The Shomronim consider Mount Gerizim a sacred place and believe that God intended the Holy Temple to be built on it, rather than Jerusalem’s Temple Mount.
Today, most Samaritans live in close proximity to Gerizim; it is here that they perform their annual Passover sacrifice.
Walking in the Blessings
When confronted with choosing between walking in the blessings or walking in the curses, all sane people choose blessing.
This Parasha makes it plain, however, that blessings follow obedience to the Torah. And many find obedience difficult as they struggle with temptation and the weakness of their flesh.
As followers of Yeshua (Jesus) the Messiah, our deepest heart’s desire is to obey God and to keep His ways. The Spirit of God in us compels us toward obedience. More than that, it empowers us to be obedient.
Nevertheless, obedience isn’t automatic. We must first discover what holiness is.
Paul lamented the “evil inclination” (yetzer hara) that causes people to fail, doing the opposite of what they intended to do.
“Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s Torah; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.” (Romans 7:21–23)
There is only one who can save us from our wretchedness and that is, of course, Yeshua the Messiah.
“What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Yeshua HaMashiach (the Messiah) Adoneinu (our Lord)!” (Romans 7:24–25)
Believers may still struggle with the desires of their flesh and should remember there is not a person alive who hasn’t sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). That is why we need Yeshua and continue to need Him.
Therefore, although we strive to grow in our faith and character, becoming more and more obedient to the Lord, we must daily depend upon the sacrifice of the One Man whose perfect obedience has made us righteous in Him—Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus the Messiah).
“For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.” (Romans 5:19)
That does not negate the emphasis Scripture places on the vast importance of heeding God’s commands. When we do, our lives are blessed, as are future generations.
Spirit-led obedience is the heart of our faith and God’s will for us. While some excuse their disobedience saying it is just too hard, in reality it is much harder to live with the consequences of disobedience.
As B. J. Miller said, “It is a great deal easier to do that which God gives us to do, no matter how hard it is than to face the responsibilities of not doing it.”
Finding Peace in the Midst of the Storm
The Haftarah (prophetic portion of Scripture) this week contains promises that will help us find peace in the midst of the storm.
“O you afflicted one, lashed and tossed about by storms and not comforted, I will rebuild you with stones of turquoise, your foundations with lapis lazuli. I will make your battlements of rubies, your gates of sparkling jewels, and all your walls of precious stones.
“All your children will be taught by the LORD, and great will be their peace.
“In righteousness you will be established: Tyranny will be far from you; you will have nothing to fear. Terror will be far removed; it will not come near you. If anyone does attack you, it will not be my doing; whoever attacks you will surrender to you.” (Isaiah 54:11–15)
God has good things in store for us and we may need, at times, to cling to this passage like a drowning person holding onto a lifesaver in the midst of a stormy sea.
His promise is not only for ourselves but also for our children. No matter how things look we can confidently confess repeatedly: the Lord is teaching my children and making their peace great.