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Hebrew Roots/Torah observance/Ekev

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Ekev (As a Result) Deuteronomy 7:12-11:25

The Ekev portion falls literally “on the heels” of the last exhortation from the Va’ethanan portion where Moshe commands the children of Israel to “faithfully observe the instructions or the commandments, statutes and judgments” that he has received and, in turn, given to Israel. The conjunctive word ekev, which means “on the heels of” from which this portion gets its title, is translated as “if” or “because” or “as a result of” in different translations and it indicates the results of obedience to the list of instructions or the Torah. The opening verses describe many of the blessings that flow from listening to and doing the commandments of God:

Because --Italic text

“So now, Israel, all that Yahweh your El asks from you is to fear Yahweh your El, follow all his ways, love him and serve Yahweh your El with all your heart and all your being; to obey,…….” WHY? BECAUSE .... it’s “for your own good, the mitzvoth and regulations of Yahweh which I am giving you today.” BECAUSE… “Only Yahweh took enough pleasure in your ancestors to love them and choose their descendants after them---yourselves---above all peoples, as he still does today. Therefore, circumcise the foreskin of your heart; and don’t be stiff-necked any longer!” BECAUSE… “Yahweh your El is Elohim of El and Lord of lords, the great, mighty and awesome Elohim, who has no favorites and accepts no bribes. You are to fear Yahweh your El, serve him, cling to him and swear by his name.” BECAUSE….”He is your praise, and he is your El, who has done for you these great and awesome things,…” “No one will be able to withstand you;” BECAUSE… “Yahweh your El will place the fear and dread of you on all the land you step on, as he told you.”

He gives us some reasons to obey his commandments. He tells us why he has chosen Israel. In these scriptures we have the reasons to obey our Father. And “because” we obey we have some promises of blessings. Starting with verse 12: Yahweh will keep the covenant he made with our ancestors BECAUSE we are listening to the rulings, keeping and obeying them. Do not show the enemy any pity, and do not serve their gods, BECAUSE that will become a trap for us. (verse 16) We are not to be frightened of them, BECAUSE Yahweh our El is there with us, a El great and fearsome. (v. 21) We are to remember Yahweh our El, BECAUSE it is He who is giving us the power to get wealth, in order to confirm His covenant….. (ch.8 v.18)

We will perish just like the nations, BECAUSE we have not heeded the voice of Yahweh our El. (ch.8 v.20) It is BECAUSE of the wickedness of these nations that Yahweh your El is driving them out ahead of you, and also to confirm the word which Yahweh swore to your ancestors, Avraham, Yitz’chak and Ya’akov.” Therefore, understand that it is not BECAUSE of your righteousness that Yahweh is giving you this good land to possess. (ch.9 vs. 4-6)

The Grace and Mercy of Yahweh

The overwhelming theme of Ekev is that the Israelites have been preserved and protected BECAUSE of their God and Who He is -not because of themselves. Devarim/Deuteronomy- 9:3-6 “Know therefore today that it is Yahweh your God who is crossing over before you as a consuming fire. He will destroy them and He will subdue them before you, so that you may drive them out and destroy them quickly, just as Yahweh has spoken to you. Do not say in your heart when Yahweh your God has driven them out before you, - ‘Because of my righteousness Yahweh has brought me in to possess this land,’ but it is BECAUSE of the wickedness of these nations that Yahweh is dispossessing them before you. It is not for your righteousness or for the uprightness of your heart that you are going to possess their land, but it is BECAUSE of the wickedness of these nations that Yahweh your God is driving them out before you, in order to confirm the oath which Yahweh swore to your fathers, to Abraham,Isaac and Jacob. Know, then, it is not BECAUSE of your righteousness that Yahweh your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stubborn people. “

In the excerpt above from Ekev, Yahweh clearly tells us why the heathen peoples occupying the Promised Land are to be destroyed and driven from it. It is not because of the overwhelming righteousness of the Israelites, who we know consistently disobeyed Him while in the desert. It is because the heathen peoples occupying the Land are in great sin and unrighteousness and they must be purged from the covenant territory. Moshe warned Israel here against thinking that their own righteousness merited their success and not to become haughty and proud so as to think that it is because of “them” that He will do all this for them.

We would do well to take the same warning. Though there are always blessings for obedience and punishments for disobedience, it would be foolish of us to assume that our righteousness amounts to anything. A person busily engaged in keeping the commandments might assume that he is a pretty righteous person and that God owes him some reward. It’s a wrong assumption.

Moshe reminded Israel that if not for his own intercession on their behalf, they would not have survived the trip from Sinai to the Promised Land. Therefore, they should not imagine that their righteousness amounted to anything. In the same way, if we are ever tempted to imagine that our own righteousness has amounted to something, we had best remind ourselves that if not for Yeshua’s intercession on our behalf, we would never survive the journey.

Even if one’s righteousness did accumulate enough to merit a reward, that is God’s business, not ours. We are not supposed to keep Torah (His commandments) for the sake of receiving a reward. The Master teaches us to obey God simply on the basis that it is what we are supposed to do. Our obedience to God does not deserve any special accolades. It is what we were created to do. We are his servants, and a servant’s job is to obey his master. Yeshua said that when we have done all the things which are commanded that we are to say, “We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.” (Luke 17:7–10)

Among many Believers today there are many who believe that they are called to “do things for God. “ Such individuals believe that they are called to “do this” or “do that” to please God. While many are indeed called, we as humans with a fallen sin nature are not supposed to necessarily “do things” for God. This will gender pride in what ‘we’ have done. On the contrary, we are called to serve Him. We serve God because we love Him, and our obedience to Him comes naturally because we love Him. We are not supposed to do things in our own strength -"for Him,” deciding ourselves what we think we should to do for Him. Rather, we are supposed to diligently obey Him and do what He tells us, as His Spirit leads, and do those things. Many are led by their own spirit and do not truly seek Yahweh diligently to know His will.

Pride has many dangers. It can cause us to be lifted up in our own heart, by our own reasonings, and go astray from the way of His paths, presumptuously assuming we have His blessing and are doing His will. His Word alone is the measuring rod of truth.

Pride is evidenced in many ways - “The people of Israel are compared to a vine to teach us that just as a vine has large and small clusters of grapes, the larger ones hanging lower than the smaller ones, the greater a person is (the heavier his wisdom), the profounder his humility” (A Torah Commentary For Our Times, p. 120-121, UHAC Press). “King Solomon teaches that pride causes a person to speak dishonestly. It forces a person to deviate from the truth and to make accusations that are unfounded. God weeps over those who are filled with pride” (ibid. p. 121).

Serving God Acceptably

After reviewing some of the details of his intercession because of their waywardness, Moshe, poses a rhetorical question and the answers to his question as, “And now, O Israel, what does Yahweh your God demand of you?” In the NASB version it reads: “Now, Israel, what does Yahweh your God require from you?” giving us the list of requirements that our Father demands and requires of us, His children. It is these admonitions that summarize not only what God requires of His people, but also how the sons of Israel can actually do certain things to fulfill these requirements. Let’s first look at the passage from Deuteronomy 10:12-22 from the NASB: “Now, Israel, what does Yahweh your God require from you, but to fear Yahweh your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve Yahweh your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep Yahweh’s commandments and His statutes which I am commanding you today for your good? “Behold, to Yahweh your God belong heaven and the highest heavens, the earth and all that is in it. “Yet on your fathers did Yahweh set His affection to love them, and He chose their descendants after them, even you above all peoples, as it is this day. “So circumcise your heart, and stiffen your neck no longer. “For Yahweh your God is the God of gods and Yahweh 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 Yahweh your God; you shall serve Him and cling to Him, and you shall swear by His name. “He is your praise and He is your God, who has done these great and awesome things for you which your eyes have seen. “Your fathers went down to Egypt seventy persons in all, and now Yahweh your God has made you as numerous as the stars of heaven” (Deuteronomy 10:12-22).

This is the sum total of the whole of the Torah, the essence of it all - love God and love your neighbour, as Yeshua reiterated it in Matthew 22.37 - 40 - “Yeshua said unto him, You shall love Yahweh your God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” and “You shall love your neighbour as yourself”, and all the gospel writers likewise.

James refers to this scripture when he exhorts the believers to be doers of the Word, keeping themselves from being defiled by worldliness and to exercise “pure and undefiled religion” in meeting the needs of the orphans and widows. (1:22-27)

Moshe says to them, “Fear Yahweh your God” (10:12). There are two levels of fearing God. The higher of the two is the sense of awe and reverence, and that is what Moshe calls for here. Such fear is easy to imagine, hard to walk out. The second fear, and the lesser of the two, is the fear of physical punishment because of disobedience to Yahweh. Motivated by love we can achieve this higher level of fear and maintain it as a constant force in our lives which will keep us on the straight and narrow path of righteousness, walking in intimacy with our heavenly Father.

John says, “And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, that, as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in it.” (2 John 6) The “beginning” that John is referring to is the beginning at Mount Sinai (Har Sinai) where Yahweh gave Torah to Yisrael.

We love Him because He first loved us and brought us to Himself. (1 John 4: 9-11) Out of that love we keep His commandments and thereby abide in Him through the Spirit He has given us. (John 14:15; 1 John 3:24) Maintaining a reverential fear of Yahweh will guard us against becoming contaminated with the things of this world and allowing our love to grow cold. 1 John 2:15-17

“Here is how we know that we love Yahweh’s children: when we love Yahweh, we also do what he commands. For loving Yahweh means obeying his commands. Moreover, His commands are not burdensome, BECAUSE everything which has Yahweh as its Father overcomes the world. And this is what victoriously overcomes the world: our trust.” And then back to chapter 4 verse 19: “We ourselves love now BECAUSE He loved us first.” I John 5:2-4

Hebrews 12.28 exhorts us - “Wherefore, receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve Yahweh acceptably with reverence and godly fear”

Yeshua - the Living Word

Yeshua is a tree of life to those who take hold of Him, His ways are ways of pleasantness and all of His paths are shalom. In the study of the Torah let us never forget that YESHUA THE MESSIAH is the Living Torah, the Torah-Word of Elohim made flesh. He is the way, truth and life – the Living Manna sent from heaven. Without Him living in our lives through the indwelling Presence of his Set-apart/Kadosh Spirit (Who leads us into all truth and revelation) the Written Torah can become the dead letter of the law! The written Word is a modern invention, His Word needs to be in our heart so He can make it alive and we ‘hear’ it.

In 11:13, the Hebrew this phrase literally reads, “If hearken, you will hearken...” Rashi interprets the double usage of this verb to mean, “If [you] listen to the old, you will listen to the new” meaning that if one listens to what one has already learned by taking care to review and understand it, one will gain new insights or fresh insights into the Torah (ArtScroll Sapirstein Edition Rashi – Devarim, p. 110; AS Chumash, p. 995). This requires consistent study and an attentive ear to His Spirit. Yahweh gave the Israelites fresh (not stale) manna every day and watered the land of Israel with the early and latter rains so that it would be fruitful without the need of man-made irrigation. Manna and rain both came from heaven and are used as figures of speech to represent Torah-truth. Our spiritual life needs to be renewed regularly with fresh revelation and insights into the Word of Yahweh, entering into His very heart and character. Fresh manna refreshes, nourishes and sustains the ground of our lives so that it yields an abundant spiritual crop of joy, shalom, intimacy with the Father and anointing.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down out of Heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down out of Heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give is My flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.’ John 6:40-66).

Yeshua was teaching that He was their source of spiritual sustenance - He was the living Word of the Father which would be given for their eternal life. In living by faith and in union with Him, we have life! But in order to feast on the words that come forth from the mouth of the Holy One, a person really needs to make a choice. After all, the flesh and its desire for gratification is a strong advocate of feasting on the tangible things in the earthly realm to those who are operating in the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life (1 John 2:16).

When you think about it, the things that attract you and get your attention and time are things that originate in the world system in which we live. The devil knew this, because as the prince of the power of air and the god of this world (Ephesians 2:2), he was used to watching mankind succumb to his wily ways. When you review the account of the “Wilderness Temptation of Yeshua,” you can see that the enemy of our souls did his utmost for the physically weakened Son of God to fall under his dominion. His victory, even when in His weakened condition, is a great example of how we can also meet with the tests, trials and tribulations that we know we will have in our lifetime. The question we have to ask ourselves is whether we belief enough in the promises and do we have enough faith to take our time and invest it in feasting on the Word of God. After all, there are a number of other things we could be doing with our time and the enemy of our souls will offer many seemingly legitimate alternatives.

It is a matter of placing our priorities on the things above, on the eternal things of the kingdom. “Now, Israel, what does Yahweh your God require from you, but to fear Yahweh your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve Yahweh your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep Yahweh’s commandments and His statutes which I am commanding you today for your good? . . . . So circumcise your heart, and stiffen your neck no longer” Deuteronomy 10:12-16.

This passage stipulate that we serve with BOTH — heart and nephesh. This takes in the two facets of our being: [1] our physical heart and body in this physical universe and [2] our spiritual nephesh in the spiritual realm. Both need to be brought into subjection to His commandments. This is the relationship between faith and works. A literal translation of verse 12 would read “And now Yisrael, what is Yahweh your God, asking of you; other than to revere Yahweh your God, to walk in every one of His Ways and for the love of Him, to serve Yahweh your God, with all of your heart and with all of your soul; .. .. .. “

This reveals a thought not usually recognized ‘to walk’ 1. in all of His Ways 2. for the love of Him

If we truly want to walk in His ways and love Him and serve Him with all of our heart and soul, we are going to have to prioritize what we are going to do with our time. Are we going to let the washing of the water of the Word penetrate into our spirits, so that we can begin to truly have the mind of the Messiah? For it is when we have the mind of the Messiah that we can deal with the temptations of life with the Word that has proceeded out of the mouth of God. He knows just what temptations are going to come our way and at each one, we are all individually going to have to make a decision. Are we going to react the way Yeshua reacted or are we going to react out of our own strength and inclination, responding according to our own nature? The Scriptures admonish us to make sure that we are in the faith. “Test yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Yeshua the Messiah is in you, unless indeed you fail the test? But I hope that you will know that we ourselves do not fail the test” (2 Corinthians 13:5-6). Remember “you are what you eat.” Our life depends on what we eat.

What God Requires: Faith

Do we walk by faith or by sight (i.e. by logic - our own reasonings)? Was it logical to think that Israel could dispossess a fortified land full of people mightier and greater in number than themselves? Fear and logic are often the enemies of faith in Yahweh’s Word and promises. (7:17-18)

Without faith it is impossible to please Yahweh (Heb. 11:6), and the just shall walk by faith (Heb. 10:38). What is faith? (see Heb. 11:1). By faith the physical creation came into existence (Heb. 11:3), therefore, faith preceded the physical creation and is the “mother” of it. From the “womb” of faith, if you will, came forth all that we see and know. That “womb” is the very heart, character and mind of Yahweh Elohim. It is spiritual. We live in a physical dimension. The new heaven and the new earth, and the Jerusalem from above, will be spiritual dimensions. Those who plan on being there have got to learn to walk in that dimension here and now by trusting in the Word and promises of Yahweh for all of their needs.

Remember! An essential element of a strong faith in the promises of Yahweh (7:18; 8:2,11) -- is to remember Yahweh’s past accomplishments in your life: how he has healed you, prospered you, answered your prayers, transformed your life, delivered you from enemies and troubles, given meaning, hope and purpose to your life. Some of these promises for Israel are --- prosperity - verse 13; fruitfulness of womb - verse 14; healing - verse 15; victory over enemies - verse 16; etc.

We need faith to go forward spiritually – to trust in Yahweh’s leading when it means going out of our comfort zone into unknown, uncharted areas where we are completely dependent upon Him (8:7-9). If we harden our heart we will find ourselves in a spiritual wilderness wandering around the same old mountain. It is this attitude that kept the older generation of Israelites out of the Promised Land (9:6-7; Heb. 4:1-7).

Faith is a matter of loving God and our fellow man after that, but it is not a works based salvation but salvation that evidences works caused by turning to the ways of God. Torah was not given by God to show us how sinful we are. It was given because God loved us so much He wanted us to see what it was that would please Him and cause Him to bless us if we did what He wanted us to. On the other hand He presented us with curses that come on us as a consequence if we break His laws. The subsequent blessings for our obedience are stated in Deuteronomy 7:12-24 in which we see what a great and awesome God the sons of Israel have as their Provider, Protector and Champion against all of the other gods of the world. But while rejoicing in all of the wonderful things that the Holy One will do for this nation of priests, there is the conditional “if” that qualifies it in v.12.

Lack of faith in Yahweh is the root of disobedience as Moshe has seen with the entire generation which perished in the desert because of their rebellion, stiff necks and unbelief, in spite of the visible presence of the Most High in their midst. Even with the daily provision of manna for bread, quail for meat, water from various rocks, protection and victory over the enemies of Israel and a myriad of other miracles during the desert journey, Moshe has witnessed the unbelief and the consequences of disobedience. Seeing is not necessarily believing, it takes faith to be born in the heart to obey and faith comes by hearing the Word of God.

That is why Moshe continually exhorts them ‘to listen/hear’ the word of Yahweh so that they will come to faith. Romans 10:9-10. Moshe’ concern is further heightened by the visions he received about the future scattering of the sons of Israel due to their collective disobedience. Just a few chapters earlier we can read a statement that describes what Moshe has already perceived: “Yahweh will scatter you among the peoples, and you will be left few in number among the nations where Yahweh drives you” (Deuteronomy 4:27). When you combine this realization with the fact that Moshe also recognizes that his limited days are coming to an end, the urgency of his appeal is better understood. With some of his last activities on earth, as the Rabbis believe that Deuteronomy was written over a period of thirty or so days, he continues to exhort the children of Israel to obey the commandments in order to receive the blessings that are promised. The heart of a shepherd over his flock is evident. Almost to his last breath, Moshe continues to repeat the words of instruction that lead to life and the promises of blessings.

Walking in Faith and Love

Paul tells us that each man has been given a measure of faith (Romans 12:3). But let us also by reminded that our faith in Yeshua does not exempt us from loving, serving, obeying, and clinging to the Living God. Those actions come as a result of our faith in the accomplished work of the Messiah, since we are unable to comply perfectly with the dictates of Torah in our own strength.

The apostles understood when they came to faith in Yeshua’s atoning work for sin that it did not however, change their need to continue in the Torah obedient life that they had lived prior to the Resurrection. In a like manner, as those of us in the 21st Century return to our Hebraic Roots, it is critical to understand that we likewise need to be following the dictates of the Torah with all of our heart, mind, souls and strength. With the Comforter and Teacher indwelling our now circumcised heart, we should understand more clearly what Moshe is saying when we read this section of Deuteronomy. Through the comforting promptings of the Ruach, we can each appreciate what truly fearing and revering Yahweh is all about, as we pursue Him in prayer and supplication. We should desire to walk in His ways so that we can please our Heavenly Father as we are being conformed to the image of Yeshua. We can learn to love Him more, as we understand the greater depths of His love for us and seek to serve Him with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength, knowing that we can literally be living sacrifices so that our spiritual service of praise and worship ministers to Him. As we each seek to obey His commandments, He can bless us according to His Word, recognizing that in Messiah, our sins are forgiven as we confess and repent from our misdeeds.

Through service to the Holy One, in whatever capacity, you are putting His interests ahead of your own and learning to be sensitive to what His demands are for your usefulness in the work of the Kingdom. By serving Him, you display a willingness to let Him use you in the circumstances of life that you find yourself.

Whatever our circumstances, whatever our stage of spiritual growth, Yahweh can use us in His kingdom. He does not expect immediate cleansing from all the contaminating effects of sin in our lives straight away. He gives us time to drive out the enemy. Yahweh said to the Israelites entering the land, “Yahweh your God will cast out those nations before you by little and little: you may not consume them at once, lest the animals of the field increase on you."(HNV revised) - The children of Israel had to experience many adjustments when they entered into the land. When you make major changes, it is better to do it bit by bit, in order not to be overcome by strategies of the enemy directed against you. (7:22) The conquest may take a long time, where there has been a strong entrenchment of the enemy, to battle them until they are eliminated from our territory. But this is not an excuse for not obeying.

“Moreover Yahweh your God will send tzirah among them (our enemies), until those who are left, and hide themselves, perish from before you."(7:20) - The Hebrew word that is normally translated as “hornets”, and sometimes as “panic” is “tzirah”, which, according to Rashi, is a type of flying insect that sprays poison on its enemies which paralyzes and blinds them, no matter where they are hiding. Yahweh’s presence in our lives has a paralysing effect upon the enemy’s perceptions and activities in our lives and will enable us to overcome and drive them out of our ‘territory’ and claim the total inheritance which we have been given.