Parashah Ki Thavo (when you come in) Deuteronomy 26 – 29:8

We start with the end of the Second Discourse of Moses when we finish Chapter 26. The First Discourse was a review of the journey, the Second Discourse a review of the laws and codes given by God, and the Third Discourse (beginning with Chapter 27) is the enforcement of those laws.

Chapter 28, one of my most favorite of all the chapters in the Torah (in the entire bible, in fact) is known as the “Blessings and Curses” chapter.

Covenants have three components: first, you tell what the conditions of the covenant are, second the rewards of complying, and third the punishment for not complying. Following this format, the Second Discourse of Moses told of the conditions of the covenant, and Chapter 28 tells us the rewards for obedience and the consequences of disobedience.

The rewards, the blessings, are wonderful, and impact every part of our lives. Going in and coming out, in the fields (our work), the fruit of our body (happy, healthy family), the fruit of our herds and flocks (financial stability) and ultimately we will be known as a people blessed and protected by God (that would make a wonderful epitaph, wouldn’t it?)

But that’s not why this is my favorite.

After we are told all the wonderful things God will do for us when we obey, we are then told what will happen to us if we disobey. And these curses are the exact opposite of the blessings, except they go way beyond one-for-one, curse for blessing. Initially, we will be cursed going in and out, barren wives, failed crops, herds dying, enemies attacking and winning, we will be the tail not the head, but then it gets worse. We will suffer all the plagues of Egypt and, well…let’s just leave it at it gets worse. Ultimately, we will be known as a people cursed and abandoned by God.

Obviously, the curses aren’t why this is my favorite chapter, either.

What makes this my favorite chapter is because it demonstrates the true nature of our God- a loving, compassionate and fair Father who wants only to do good for us.

Let’s start with the first curse- Genesis 3, when Adam and Eve screwed up royally and God cursed the Earth (not them- the earth). Down the road a-ways, in the B’rit Chadasha (New Covenant), we get told who has rule over the earth- it isn’t God. Oh, yes- God is in control of everything, all the time, but we often read how He cedes rule to others. God has ceded rule (not control) over the earth to the Enemy, the Evil One, Satan.

You don’t believe me? Read Revelations 12: 7-12; read Ephesians 2:1-2; read John 12:31; read 1 John 5:19: the New Covenant tells us that the Enemy has dominion over the Earth.

So, what it comes down to is this: the curses that we read about in Chapter 28 aren’t things that God does to us, they are things that happen because we live in a cursed world with a really nasty guy running the show. Just being alive is a curse.

God does not curse us, He protects us from the curses!

The blessings of God are a kippur, a covering, which protects us from the world we live in. It’s like a golf umbrella that covers us and even the wind won’t make it turn inside-out. It’s stronger than the weather, which is the rain (or reign, if you will) of the Evil One falling down on us.

In other words, we receive curses when we show that we are so stubbornly rebellious we don’t have enough sense to come in out of the reign (of the Evil One.)

God’s blessings are what He does for us; the curses are what happens to us (when we walk away from God’s Kippur.)

That’s why I love this chapter so much: it tells me how wonderfully compassionate God is, how much He wants to do good for us, how He doesn’t do anything bad to us and when bad things happen it’s because we have left God’s protection by disobeying Him.

The blessings are what we receive for doing what is best for us and when we don’t, God will leave us on our own because He gave us Free Will. And He gave us Free Will because He loves us so much that He wants us to love Him back by our choice to do so.

What’s really unbelievable to us humans, self-centered and hedonistic as we are, is that even when someone hates God, rejects Him, and curses Him to His face, even that person will receive a blessing now and then. Just because God still loves him (or her) and even when being hated, God will love you enough to give you an occasional blessing.

It is said He rains on both the righteous and unrighteous, which I believe demonstrates His love for all.

So, that is why I love this chapter- it shows us how much God really loves us, and His wonderfully compassionate, forgiving and accepting nature. It also shows that He honors His word and does what He says He will do, which gives me confidence in His promise of salvation.

We can’t earn salvation but we can earn blessings. That is comforting, challenging and hopeful all at the same time.

Go earn some blessings today- all you need to do is read the Word, honor the Torah (as Yeshua/Jesus did) and get blessed.

For me, I try to do one less sin every day. That doesn’t mean not do a sin today, then never do that sin again- that can’t be done, at least, I can’t do that. But what I can do is one less sin every day.

We can never be sinless, but we can always sin less.  So, do one less sin today.

I can trade a sin for a blessing? Oy! Vot a deal! 

God’s Curses aren’t Really from Him

I just finished reading one of my favorite chapters from Torah- D’varim 28 (Deuteronomy). This is the chapter where Moshe tells the people about the blessings they will receive from God for obedience, and the curses they will receive for disobedience.

The blessings are about 1/3 the number of curses. This is not unusual for a covenant: if you read the covenants and warnings throughout the Tanakh, the promises of a blessing for keeping with the conditions of the covenant are nearly always followed by the promises of being cursed for violating the covenant. Except for the unconditional covenants, God tells us what blessings He will give when we obey and, if we don’t obey, how He will send terrible curses upon us.

But does God really “send” terrible curses?

Is the world a blessed place, or a cursed place? That’s the basis for my thoughts today. We are told the world was cursed from the original sin of Adam and Eve, and later in the Bible we are also told that the Enemy was thrown to Earth (not to Sheol, but to Earth), that he is the Prince of the Air (the world, not the underground) and that he is/will be given dominion over the world for a period of time.

In the Bible God often describes His desire to protect His people, Yeshua wanted to gather them like a mother hen gathers her young (under her wings for protection), and David often talked about God’s protection as being under His wings.

The Hebrew word “kaphar” means to cover, from which we get the word “kippah”, which is the covering men wear (yarmulka). It is also the way God protects us from the sinful and cursed world. When we are under God’s protective kaphar we do not suffer all the ills of the fallen and cursed world. The way we stay under God’s kaphar is the same way we stay under an umbrella someone is holding in the rain: we walk alongside that person.

When we wander off we are exposed to the world. We have lost our shield, and the curses that are in the world fall on us like an avalanche. We are especially susceptible, I think, because we are not ennured to the dreck (filth) and so the curses seem worse to the clean (formerly clean, that is) than to those who have been dirty for a long time.

That’s how God curses- passively. Whereas humans will actively try to hurt one another, God actively loves and protects us. When we reject His protection by doing what we want to do instead of what He tells us to do, we literally walk away from His covering, which leaves us totally exposed to the world. We are under an umbrella of protection, a kaphar of love and peacefulness, yet we choose to go out into the pouring rain, to chance the lightning, to get wet and cold. Why? Because we’re stupid! Duh!

God will allow us to do as we want. He sends prophets and signs to us, all the time, yes: even today there are signs and prophets, of a sort, to warn us to follow correctly. They remind us of His desire to protect us and save us from ourselves, but it rarely works. Really- it is rare. The number of people who follow God’s laws and commandments is exceptionally small. I’m not talking about the ones that say they do, I am talking about the ones that do. God told Elijah that 7,000 hadn’t bowed the knee to Baal; 7,000 out of how many people living in the Northern kingdom (Israel, or Shomron) at that time? Hundreds of thousands? Maybe over a million? And only 7,000 were faithful.

Yeshua said that many are called but few are chosen (I just did a blog on this last week- use the Search button at the bottom of the page to find it), and also that we must take the road less traveled. How many Jews are there in the world? Usually we number about 4/10 of 1 percent. And there are possibly 250,000 Messianic Believers? I looked at a website that said of all the Christians in the world, the “other” category (not Catholic, Protestant or Orthodox) represent about 2.2%. Of course, you can’t (and shouldn’t) believe anything you read on the Internet, but these numbers are not too far away from what I have heard from other sources. Those that choose God, and ‘walk the walk’, are very few.

The blessings God has for us are beyond our ability to count; in fact, they are beyond our ability to understand! How can such a powerful and awesome entity be so loving and compassionate to those that constantly accept His goodness and mercy, then bite His hand and turn against Him in a heartbeat. Yet, after our own folly and hedonistic desires cause us to hit rock bottom, when we call to Him for help He listens and brings us up from the depth of Sheol, a place we went to intentionally. And not just once, but over and over and over. Seventy times seven times. How can any human understand that? I can’t.

God’s curses are terrible, indeed, but they aren’t so much from Him as they are already here. God protects us from the curses, and when we reject Him we are, in truth, cursing ourselves. God passively, and sadly, watches us walk into the arms of the Enemy.

God’s way is not easy: it separates us from the world and, thereby, makes us an enemy of the world, whereas the real Enemy makes himself out to be a friend to the world. If you are of the world, you cannot be of God. That’s just the way it is, so when we choose the world, we lose the protective covering that God gives us. That’s why I say we really curse ourselves; God, being who He is, simply tells us that He is causing it because, uh…, well…you know something? I really don’t know why He takes the blame for it! Why would God say He will send curses our way when the curses are already here, and it is our choice to live with them?

Maybe because he is in charge of everything, and just like a good leader, he realizes that whatever happens on His watch is His responsibility?

Again, I don’t know. I never said I had all the answers, and if you think you know the answer to this question of why God takes the blame for curses we endure when we walk away from Him, please share it. Perhaps this is a question we can’t ever answer, and perhaps someone reading this has been given the answer. If you think you know why, please let us know.

The bottom line is that there are blessings for us, and there are curses, too. The blessings come from God, and the curses are already here, crouching at our door like a lion. The way we master sin is to stay away from it.

Stay under the kaphar of God. It isn’t easy walking alongside someone holding an umbrella, and often you get a smattering of the rain when you start to stray too far away or the person changes direction quickly. You need to be vigilant, every moment, and stay focused on where the person is going.

Sounds exactly like what the Bible tells us about following the Lord, doesn’t it?