Deuteronomy is the final book of the Torah, and it is pretty much a recap of all that has come before it.
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Moses has been going through his Third Discourse, and reminding the people of the instructions God has given them, how they have rejected him and been punished, and how he has forgiven them when they repented and blessed them, now (finally) bringing this new generation, born into freedom, to the very edge of the Promised Land.
This parashah begins with Moses giving the instructions for presenting the Firstfruits and goes through the blessings and the curses in Chapter 28: blessings for obedience and curses for rejection of God’s instructions.
What I want to talk about is not the Blessings and Curses, which is usually my favorite chapter in the entire Torah. Today I want to talk about what is written in Chapter 26, verses 13-15:
Then say to the Lord your God: “I have removed from my house the sacred portion and have given it to the Levite, the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow, according to all you commanded. I have not turned aside from your commands nor have I forgotten any of them. I have not eaten any of the sacred portion while I was in mourning, nor have I removed any of it while I was unclean, nor have I offered any of it to the dead. I have obeyed the Lord my God; I have done everything you commanded me. Look down from heaven, your holy dwelling place, and bless your people Israel and the land you have given us as you promised on oath to our ancestors, a land flowing with milk and honey.” (bold print added)
This statement was to be made after the person presented the basket of firstfruits to the Levite. I have purposefully put the last sentence in bold print because it signifies, to me, the major difference between Judaism and Christianity.
Christianity stresses the personal and individual relationship between the person being saved, and their Savior. As a Christian, it is all about me and Jesus. But that is not how things are in Judaism: as we can see from this prayer, the individual takes responsibility for his or her own actions, but the resulting relationship is between God and the nation of Israel.
Jews are a nation, and act and work together as a single entity. One person’s actions affect the entire nation. We take personal responsibility, as well as social responsibility for all that we do. Christianity is a collection of individuals who have professed faith in Jesus, but Jews are a nation- one people, one purpose, one set of rules (well, with 6 sects of Judaism that all disagree, even within themselves, I confess we have screwed that part up ) and one relationship: God and Israel.
I am not saying to insult Christianity, but only to point out the significant difference in the relationship between Christians and God and Jews and God.
As an example of what I mean, after Joshua attacked Jericho, the next battle against Ai was a terrible defeat by Ai, a smaller and weaker force than the Israelites. How could that be? It was because of one man. In Joshua 7:1 we are told:
But the people of Israel broke faith in regard to the devoted things, for Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of the devoted things. And the anger of the Lord burned against the people of Israel.
Notice how it says the people of Israel broke faith: not one man, but the entire nation, even though only one man sinned. God sees his people as a person, and likewise, we Jews know that one person’s sin affects us all.
The relationship you have with God and with Messiah Yeshua is a personal one, in that God knows every hair on your head and hears every prayer you submit to him. This is a good thing, and there is nothing wrong, in and of itself, with the Christian view of an individual and personal relationship with your Savior. What that relationship needs, though, is more of a Jewish perspective, which is to see the bigger picture, the one where all those who worship God must act as a single entity; one mind, one set of rules (the ones God gave) and one purpose, which is to do what pleases God.
Too often Christianity focuses on what God does for you instead of what you must do for God, and even though they often say
“It is all about God”, what they “sell” is personal salvation, personal relationship, and personal blessings all coming from God to you.
It IS all about God: the whole idea of firstfruits is not just the apples and grapes, and not even your firstborn child, but your first thought, your first motivation, and your first desire must be to please God, which is done through following his instructions. Not doing what you think Shaul (Paul) said, not doing what Timothy does, but doing what God said to do, and taking it to the next (spiritual) level, which is what Yeshua taught.
My ministry will probably never be popular because I don’t teach what God will do for you, I teach what you must do for God. People don’t want to serve but to be served, and that is the exact opposite of how it works with God. God makes promises to bless and to save us from the consequences of our sin, but we have to make the first move.
God wants to take your hand in his and have that special relationship, but you must first reach out to him.
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Until next time, L’hitraot and Shabat Shalom!