Ki Tavo Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8
In this week’s reading, Moses prepares for his departure from the children of Israel. He – and they – are aware that while they are finally to enter the Promised Land, he will not go with him for Moses is about to die and be buried by God Himself. After forty years of guiding, teaching and leading the people, Moses issues his final plea and exhortation. He recounts the blessings God has promised them for walking in obedience to Him. Then warns of the curses that will fall on them if they don’t.
And all these curses shall come upon you, and shall pursue you and overtake you, until you are destroyed; because you did not hearken to the voice of your God, the Almighty, to keep His commandments and His statutes which He commanded you. [These curses] shall be a sign and for a proof to you and your descendents forever; because you did not serve the Almighty your God with joy and gladness of heart when you enjoyed an abundance of all things. (Devarim 28:45-48)
Lack of joy, serving God out of a cold sense of duty rather than a glad and grateful heart, lies at the very core of all the horrific curses listed in this section.
Some people think that joy is simply an emotion, a ‘feeling good’ all the time. That understanding reduces the spiritual trait of joy to a temporary emotion for no one feels good all the time. That’s impossible! Even the greatest optimist isn’t bubbling over with joy 24/7.
To understand Moses’ admonition, we need a definition of joy based on the scripture.
Nehemiah 8:10 “Do not be grieved; for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
Psalm 5:11 But let all who take refuge in You be glad, Let them ever sing for joy;
And may You shelter them, That those who love Your name may exult in You.
Psalm 16:11 You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.
Psalm 45:7 You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You
With the oil of joy above Your fellows.
Psalm 92:4 For You, O LORD, have made me glad by what You have done, I will sing for joy at the works of Your hands.
There are many other references but these are more than enough to convey the importance of rejoicing in the goodness and love of God towards us.
Joy is not a passing feeling; Joy is deeply related to faith and this definition makes that clear.
Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything that happens or doesn’t happen is designed for my ultimate good, and therefore, I make a determined choice to praise God in every situation. This becomes my ultimate expression of complete faith and trust in Him.
Life is a journey that affords us exhilarating peaks and depressing valleys; the thrill of pleasures and the weariness of pain. Each morning we wake up with some idea of what the day will hold but oblivious to the interruptions, the disappointments, the exciting surprises or the unexpected blessings that only God knows will come our way. Each of those has its place in our life for the ultimate purpose of providing us with opportunities to grow in the holiness and righteousness that Moses longed to see in the children of Israel. He knew that mechanical obedience to the His instructions without love and joy in one’s soul would result in frustration, boredom and ultimately, rejection of His commandments.
Serving the Lord with joy and from a heart of love for Him is the only true service.
So, my friends, when happiness isn’t enough because of it’s fleeting nature, joy in our relationship with God anchors our souls in the ever compassionate God Whom we serve.
In Tune with Torah this week = this shabbat is a good time to meditate on the verses listed above and to shift our focus from the myriad of chaotic issues in our world back to the assurance of His love for us, His care and His faithfulness.