Hebrew Roots/Torah observance/KiTavo

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Ki Tavo (When You Enter In) Devarim/Deuteronomy26:1-29:8

At this point in the narrative, the children of Israel are once again on the precipice of entering into the Land and Moses is giving some of his final words of instruction. In fact, the very name of this portion, Ki Tavo or ‘when you enter in,’ connotes the reality of the imminent entrance into the Land of Promise. After Moses goes over some of the details regarding the first fruit offerings and relationships with the Levitical priests, the strangers, the widows and orphans, he turns to making a summary statement that outlines exactly why the Holy One chose Israel for its unique position among the other nations.

“This day Yahweh your God commands you to observe these statutes and judgements, therefore you shall be careful to observe them with all your heart and with all your soul” (26:16)

On the basis of them being a people who walk in His ways and reflect His characteristics, Yahweh reaffirms the covenant which He made with them at Mt. Sinai and which will come into effect with them entering the land. “Yahweh 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 Yahweh your God, as He has spoken” (Devarim/Deuteronomy 26:18-19).

This is the realisation of the covenant enacted at Sinai where Yahweh said to them, “Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” (Shemot/Exodus19:5-6). As Israel was entering into the Land the terms of the contract came into effect. That is why stones were erected with all the words of the Torah on them and why they stood on the mountains to hear the blessings and the curses.


The Divine Commission In The Covenant

Immediately upon crossing the Jordan and upon entering the Promised Land Yahweh instructed the Israelites to set up a stone monument containing the Torah and to construct an altar for burnt sacrifices. (27:1-10) Yahweh required the people to recite a “pledge of allegiance” affirming their commitment to Him before entering the Land. (27:11ff) The significance of this is that the promised inheritance is based on the foundation of Torah observance and a consecrated life. On an individual basis in our personal lives, this is natural counterpart to inheriting the promises of the kingdom and is only entered into after the wilderness experience of dying to the lusts of the flesh which war against our compliance to obey His Word. The true sacrifices which He requires are a broken and contrite heart directed toward relationship with Him, by sacrificing one’s own desires for the purpose of being found acceptable to enter into communion with Him. (Psalms 51:16-19; Hosea 6:6). This altar which Yahweh command the Israelites to construct was of rough, uncut and whole stones. This prophetically points to the Messiah, the Rock which was not cut with hands, the chief cornerstone of the kingdom. Read Daniel 2:35, 45; Psalm 118:22; Matthew 21:42; Luke 20:17; Acts 4:11; Eph. 2:22. Yeshua the Messiah became our living Altar and Sacrifice. (Isaiah 53:2)


The Covenant

These boulders of unhewn stones which Yahweh commanded the Israelites to place on Mt. Ebal (the mount of cursing) and carve into them the Torah-law, were then coated with lime plaster rendering them white, a symbol of purity - His righteousness. An Israeli archeologist, Adam Zertal, has found an enormous altar made of large stones on Mount Eval which has the same measurements as the altar in the temple. Around the altar, there has been found remains of plaster on which Yehoshua wrote the Torah, see Joshua 8:30-35.

There they built the altar where burnt and peace offerings were to be made (27:2-8). The Torah were written on stones on Mt. Ebal (the mount representing the results of Torah violation) rather than on Mt. Gerizim because the Torah exposes transgression which causes the curse and when sin is exposed we then need to have an altar to make atonement and effect a consecration of our lives. An erroneous concept has identified Torah as the source of the curse, as compared to the Torah written on the hearts of men in the New covenant, but Paul calls the ‘law’ - i.e. the Torah, kadosh (holy), just and good in Romans 7:12.

Yeshua was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities, and the iniquities of us all were laid upon Him and He was made an offering for sin (Isa. 53:5,6,10). He was the Living Torah, the Word of Elohim made flesh (John 1:1ff), Who redeemed us from the curse of the law (Gal. 3:13) (i.e., the result of our sinning which is the violation of Yahweh’s law - the Torah [1 John 3:4], the wages of which, is death [Rom. 6:23])

The six tribes appointed to read the blessings from Mount Gerizim (880 ft. above sea level) were all children of ‘free women’ (Leah and Rachel). While those, with the exception of Reuben (who was lost the right of the firstborn because of the lusts of his flesh with his father’s handmaid, 1 Chron. 5:1), that were appointed to read the curses from Mount Ebal (940 ft. above sea level) were children of bondwomen (Bilhah and Zilpah), servants to the two wives. (Matthew Henry Commentary 27:11-16). The mountain of cursing is the highest, just as there are more curses than blessings.

The promises of the kingdom belong to the children of the “free woman” according to Paul’s allegory in Galatians 4:22; pertaining to Isaac and Ishmael, which is a similar situation to that of the children of Jacob - those born of the ‘free woman’ inherit the promises. This illustrates in typology the fact that those who walk by faith in the promises, inherit the material and spiritual blessing (namely, eternal life through Yeshua the Messiah), but for those who are in bondage to or under the curses of the Torah/law it is because they walk in sin (which is the transgression of the law, see 1 John 3:4). A legalistic form of compliance which is not from the heart is servitude and is born out of self-serving motivations and not out of covenant love relationship.


The Curses and the Blessings

According to Talmud,[Sotah 32a] six tribes went up to the top of each mountain. The priests and the Levites remained in the valley between the two mountains around the ark. They uttered the blessings toward Gerizim and then the curses that are written in the Torah toward Eval. The first blessing read, “Blessed is the man who does not make an idol.” and so on. After each blessing the six tribes answered, Amen” as did the other six tribes after each curse.

The admonitions contained in these verses are not in a random order (27:15-18). Consider the following: the prohibition against idolatry (verse 15) is juxtaposed with that of degrading one’s parents (i.e., not honoring one’s parents, or as Rabbi Hirsch puts it in his commentary, “who outwardly is respectful to his parents but inwardly considers himself vastly superior to them”) with removing trespasses against his neighbor’s property by removing his neighbor’s boundary markers or landmarks. A person who does not honor and fear Yahweh and turns to idolatry (the first and second commandments) will not honor one’s parents (4th commandment) and he will likewise not honor the property of one’s neighbor (including his wife). Juxtaposed next to that is one who misleads a blind person (verse 18), to indicate you should not take advantage of his blindness by advising him in a way beneficial to you but to his disadvantage in order to usurp his boundary. Juxtaposed to that is one who steals justice from another by perverting judgment against one who is weaker socially or financially or who less informed at law than another thereby giving the advantage to the stronger (AS Davis Edition Baal HaTurim Chumash/Devarim, pp. 2126-2127). Each command is interrelated with all the others which gives one insight into the statement in James 2:10. That is why the whole of Torah is summarized as the “royal law of love.” Deuteronomy 28, at least in part, should be read as a warning. Verses 28:1-14 inform us about the wonderful benefits of obedience to the teaching of Yahweh. However, much of the rest of the chapter warns us of the terrible consequences if we do not obey them. In Deuteronomy 28:69 we are told that the blessings and curses are part of a brit, or covenant. A covenant is an agreement between two or more parties. Since we as Believers have a covenant with God through Yeshua’s sacrifice, the blessings and the curses apply to us also. If we will seriously and joyfully take Yahweh at His Word, we also are to be the recipients of wonderful things. Likewise, violations of this covenant will bring curses and not-so-wonderful things upon us.


Torah Observance the Condition For Blessing

“And it shall come to pass, if you shall hearken diligently unto the voice of Yahweh your God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command you this day, … all these blessings shall come on you, … if you hearken unto the commandments of Yahweh your God, which I command you this day, to observe and to do them:” 28:1-13

There is a law of reciprocity in the Holy Spirit that generally follows that if “You want to be blessed you must first be a blessing. However, if you want to be a blessing you must also be an obedient follower of the will and dictates of God.” In this parashat Yahweh hammers this particular point of issue into Israel. As a matter of fact, it appears here that Yahweh is invoking an image of how a parent blesses or disciplines his or her children. He seems to take on the role of a parent who is constantly pursuing a wandering, rebellious child, seeking to teach that which is for its own good.

Yahweh states that ungratefulness for the blessings He has given us and failure to obey Him out of a joyful and glad heart will bring curses on us (28:47). Servile obedience will not exempt us from the curse because our obedience is not motivated by our love for Yahweh, but is out of a self-serving motivation of saving ourselves from His wrath. If the Believer will serve Him with unquestioned joy and gladness walking in His ways, as Deuteronomy 27:19 indicates, then, God will sanctify us and make us a treasure and an openly blessed and favored people.

“And all these blessings shall come on you, and overtake you, if you shall listen to the voice of Yahweh your God” {28:2}.

When we’re obedient the blessings come automatically, without any effort on our part. All that is required of us to set blessings into motion in our lives is to obey God’s commandments. You see, it’s a preordained spiritual law. However just as the blessings are spontaneous and automatic, so are the curses. Blessings overtake us without any effort on our part. So too curses overtake us without any effort on our part. The blessings are automatic with obedience and the curses are automatic with disobedience. In addition we can’t apologize ourselves out of the consequences of our actions. We can not expect God to bless us, if we disregard His physical or spiritual laws, both are as sure and deliberate in our lives. Yahwehs commandments are His spiritual laws. If we regard them and respect them as we do His physical laws (i.e. gravity), then all will go well with us. Unlike gravity the spiritual results may not be visible, they may not be scientifically measurable, but they are as real and effective in our lives as gravity. The only difference between the two, is that one is visible and measurable, while the other is invisible and can’t be scientifically measured. Thanking Him for His blessings in our lives is a form of worship, and such a heart attitude and orientation helps us to keep our focus continually upon Him so that we will forget not all His benefits (Psalm103:2) and fall into a state of hardened heart and forgetfulness (29:2-4). A wrong attitude will keep us from entering into the inheritance which He has for us and like Israel we will wander in the wilderness until the flesh comes to death and we learn to direct our heart toward Him. 1 Corinthians 10

Our salvation was a free gift from Yahweh, but the maintenance of it depends on us. “Wherefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” Philippians 2:12 We each must work at appropriating it into our lives in fear and trembling.

Since the decrees are commanded by Yahweh Himself, they must be kept without any rationalisations against or arguing about them. In the Hebrew text of “ha chookim and ha mishpatim” (the laws and decrees), the alef tav are placed as a marker before them (alpha and omega in Greek). This is a cryptic indication that these laws and decrees emanate from Yeshua Himself, who has identified Himself in Revelation 1: 8 as the Alef-Tav and the Alpha & Omega. Both the Alef-Tav and the Alpha & Omega are the first and last letter of the Hebrew and Greek alphabets respectively. Therefore, they must correspond in purpose to each other. For the English speaker, referring to both the Alef-Tav and the Alpha & Omega is roughly equivalent to saying from A to Z. Yeshua is the beginning and then the end of all things, be they Heavenly or physical. Because of these things, as it is written, “Let us remember to serve Yahweh with gladness and to come into His presence with singing, for His yoke is easy and His burden is light.”

Yeshua is the Word of God, the manifestation of the entire counsel of the Almighty, the A - Z of Yahweh’s purposes. He is the fullness of Elohim manifest in the flesh, the complete revelation of the Word and and Him the Torah finds its full manifestation. He calls us as His followers to also be a full-orbed manifestation of the Torah lived out in our lives, reflecting the glory of His Person in our mortal bodies so that we shine as reflections of the Holy One.

Ki Tavo ends with this admonition: “Follow the terms of this covenant so that we may prosper in everything that we do.” As it is written in Ya’akov (James) 1:22, “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”


Firstfruits

Deuteronomy 26:1-2 “When you enter the land that Yahweh is giving you as a heritage, and you possess it and settle in it, you shall take some of every first fruit of the soil, which you harvest from the land that Yahweh is giving you, put it in a basket and go to the place where Yahweh will choose to establish His name." There is an order here. First, that we enter the land. This is applicable on a physical and spiritual level. Many people have come into a ‘belief’ in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob but physically and spiritually they have not ‘entered’ the land.’ The kingdom of Yahweh is to be entered ‘into’. Many people spend a lifetime outside the ‘land’ never venturing to ‘enter’ in. The only way you can enter the land is through obedience to Torah, which is Yahweh’s teaching and instruction. The Children of Israel journeyed forty years in the wilderness because they did not follow the words at Mount Sinai and they did not enter the land. Paul warns us to take care that we also do not fall short and enter into idolatry with the things of this world and fail to enter into our inheritance. “For they drank of that spiritual Rock which followed them, and that Rock was Messiah. But with most of them God was not well pleased.. .. .. Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted. (1 Corinthians 10: 4-6) Moses is here teaching their children how to inherit the land by keeping His commandments.

There is a move and a call on people’s hearts to enter, possess and settle the land. This is done in an attitude of ‘holiness’, of being separate from the things o f this world, for without holiness no one will see Yahweh (Hebrews 12:14). As we continue to walk in holiness and overcome the ‘enemies’ of the flesh which war against our soul and keep us from obtaining our spiritual inheritance, we begin to possess the land and finally we settle and have peace (as a result of walking in His ways). As we ‘work’ the land that Yahweh has given us, ‘fruit’ is produced. We are to bring the ‘first of this fruit,’ (in Hebrew called Bikkurim or ‘firstfruits,’) in a basket before Him in thanksgiving for the inheritance He has given to us.

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures. So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of Yahweh. Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law (Torah) of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.” James 1:17-26

We pray we all experience the entering, possessing and settling the land spiritually and physically and may our baskets of ‘firstfruits’ be overflowing as we come daily before Yahweh rejoicing in His provisions. Selah.

The declaration which is to be made before the priest is an acknowledgement of Yahweh’s mercy as demonstrated in the history of their deliverance and creation as a nation until the promised inheritance of the land of “milk and honey”. After arduous physical labor in clearing, terracing, plowing and planting, a farmer might say in his heart: “My power and the might of my hand have made me successful”. He must remind himself: “And behold, now I bring the first of the fruit of the earth, which YOU, O Yahweh, have given me.” ‘I was brought by Him to this fertile land,’ says the farmer, ‘and now I am bringing Him some of its fruit.’ This conveys more than just gratitude. The entire land is given to the nation by Yahweh’s hand; the produce from the ground is likewise from God’s blessing and His actions; one cannot GIVE Him something of it, but one may BRING Him something – the choicest of the first fruits as a symbol and an acknowledgement of His faithfulness in the fulfilment of the covenant which He made with Abraham (Genesis ch. 15). The firstfruit is the evidence of Yahweh’s completion of the covenant promises, i.e. You brought us to the land, we have brought you the fruits of that land. The Torah concludes, “And you shall rejoice in all the good which God has given you...” - the entire ceremony of the firstfruit presentation to the priest, highlights that destiny has been fulfilled, we have come all the way from oppression and slavery to the good land, to rejoicing and satisfaction. He has done His part - we now do our part. The Rabbis agree on a common reason for all these mitzvot: the offering of the “first” of everything that one has represents one’s recognition of the fact that God is Master of ALL our possessions, and that He is the source of our bounty. Rambam (Moreh Nevukhim III:39) and Sefer Ha-Chinukh (mitzva 91)

This also has great spiritual significance to us to remember and appreciate what Yeshua has done for us, the price He paid for us through His incarnation and death on the tree. Therefore every time we bring our gift to Yahweh, we are to remember where we came from, where we were and how He has been faithful to the Abrahamic covenant enacted on our behalf by Yeshua.


The Seven Species

First fruits are brought only from 7 species in Deuteronomy. 8: 7-10. “a land of wheat and barley, and vines, figs, and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey” The first of these crops were brought before the priests in a processional basket and then waved in seven directions (tenufah) before being placed on the altar. The worshipper would then recite Deuteronomy 26:3, 5-10 as a declaration of gratitude for all that Yahweh has done.

These 7 species all develop, for better or worse, during the 50 days from Passover to Shavuot. This season in Israel is marked by multiple changes and climatic contrasts. Scorching southern winds bring extreme dryness and heat; cold winds from the north and west darken the skies, generating tempestuous storms. “The northern wind is beneficial to wheat when it has reached a third of its ripening (still young), but is damaging to olive trees when they have blossomed. The southern wind has the opposite effects. Thus the tabernacle table (of wheat showbreads) is in the north and the menorah (of olive oil) in the south” (Baba Batra 147a). Blossoms and flowers of Israel’s native olives, grapes, pomegranates, and male dates need successive days of dry heat to open, allowing pollen to reach pistils for pollination. Otherwise, cold northern wind and rain may blow away flowers and wash off pollen. A prolonged southern wind can devastate wheat and barley crops, if it comes before kernels have filled with starch. Placed together in the Temple, they symbolize a plea to their One Creator that each wind come at the right time-- e.g. the northern wind during the first weeks after Passover, aiding wheat and barley, when olive buds are still closed and the southern wind after the grain kernels have filled and stalks hardened and continuing until the flowers are pollinated. (see I Samuel 12:17-19). “If you pay heed to the commandments I give you this day... I’ll give the rain... that you may gather in your grain, your wine and your oil"-- the Israelites had to recite these words every morning and evening, and write them upon their houses’ doorposts and their city gates (Deut. 11:13ff).

The farmer has a special affection for the fruits that are the first to ripen; he awaits their appearance with great excitement. Isaiah/Yishayahu (28:4) describes the anticipation: “Like the first ripe fig before summer which, when one sees it, he swallows it up while it is still in his hand.” But the Israelite farmer does not treat his first fruit, the joy of his heart, in this way: “A person goes down to his field and sees a fig that has ripened, a cluster of grapes that has ripened or a pomegranate that has ripened – he ties a thread around them and says, ‘Behold, these are bikkurim!'” i.e. the firstfruits (Mishna Bikkurim 3:1) Then when they were ripe, they were carried to the sanctuary in Jerusalem during the time between Shavuot and Sukkot. During the temple period, whole families, and even others from the same community, used to go together. They went by foot with their baskets full of the seven types of fruit behind a bull whose horns were covered with gold and that had an olive wreath around its neck. The bull was offered as a peace offering. When they came close to Jerusalem the people used to come out to meet them with shouts of joy and playing flutes. The Levites sang Psalm 30 (which speaks of the resurrection of the Messiah that is symbolized by the first fruits, “bikurim”). When they came to the temple mount, they lifted up the baskets on their shoulders and they entered the court this way. The priests laid their hands under each basket and together they waved (tnufah) the baskets in all four directions (Numbers 18:13) in order to show that it belonged to the Yahweh God. Then the baskets were placed by the altar and the text from Deuteronomy 26:3, 5-10 was quoted. Then the priests would eat the contents of the baskets. Only the owner can make the firstfruits declaration, with his basket on his shoulder; he must spend the night in Jerusalem, as on all Temple visits. Those far away from Jerusalem brought dried fruit. (Abarbanel).


The Harvest of the Earth

Yahweh is the Heavenly Farmer (‘husbandman”) who waits for the precious fruit of the earth till it receive the early and the latter rain to bring it to fruition. He has sown the Seed in the earth and is awaiting a firstfruits harvest. James 5: 7

Yeshua told a parable about the sower that went out to sow, sowing good seed (His Word) into the field of the world. The harvest was determined by the type of soil into which it fell. Matthew 13:1-9 Some of the seed fell along the way and the birds came and ate them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground but could not gain a foothold in the soil and the sun burned them up. Other seeds fell among thorns and the thorns grew greater than they and killed them off. Lo and behold, some of the seeds fell on the good soil and took root and produced a crop suitable for the harvest. Of all the seeds put out in this parable taught by Yeshua only a small part of them took root, flourished and brought forth fruit to maturity which caused an ongoing multiplication of the original seed sown.

Those of us who have accepted Yeshua as Messiah and have continued in His Word are the seeds who have found the good soil and taken root and grow on to maturity, reproducing after our kind. In times past, present and future, Yahweh is redeeming His people Israel, who like the Israel of old that came out of Egypt, is made up of a mixed multitude who initially respond to the message to become the sons and daughters of the Living God. However with some the enemy steals the Word of life from their hearts before it takes root, with others they become offended when persecution arises and some become ensnared with the cares of this life and the life of the Word sown is choked off in them. We are warned - “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God”. Hebrews 3:12 We need to till the soil of our lives that it may be friable and free of weeds and soak in the rain which falls upon it to enable our lives to bring forth the seed sown to fruition. “For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe”. 1 Timothy 4:10

Yahweh’s commitment to the covenant is that He will establish Israel as a Holy Nation and His glorious Bride. This is just what was promised in Exodus 19 IF we obey His commandments and IF we walk in His ways. As a result, the other nations of the world will see that we walk in the name of the Holy One and they will give Him glory. Noting the awesome power of God and seeing Him bless His people will attract the other nations to the light that is coming forth from the nation of Israel. May we truly represent Him as a kingdom of priests and a holy nation that is interceding for the other nations and displays the light that points all men to Yeshua, the Light of the world.