Weekly Torah Commentary – Vayechi January 13, 2016

Torah reading:  Genesis 47:28-50:26

Haftorah reading: I Kings 2:1-12

Now the days of David drew near that he should die, and he charged Solomon his son, saying: “I go the way of all the earth; be strong, therefore, and prove yourself a man. And keep the charge of the Lord your God: to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His judgments, and His testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn; that the Lord may fulfill His word which He spoke concerning me, saying, ‘If your sons take heed to their way, to walk before Me in truth with all their heart and with all their soul,’ He said, ‘you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.’ ”  I Kings 2: 1-4

daviddeath

David, son of Jesse – Israel’s greatest king, apart from the Messiah – recognized that he was but a man and shared the common destiny of all men. Knowing he would soon pass from this life, David gave a final charge to his son, Solomon.

Perhaps David sensed some weakness in Solomon. Perhaps he knew Solomon would be tested in far greater ways than he was. Whatever the exact reason was, David knew Solomon needed strength and courage. Great responsibilities require great strength and courage.

David also knew that Solomon could not be strong or courageous without obedient fellowship with God. In this place of obedient fellowship, Solomon would prosper in all that he did.

David had a general reason to exhort Solomon to obedience, but he also had a specific reason, a specific promise of God. God promised David that as long as his sons walked in obedience, they would keep the throne of Israel. This was an amazing promise. No matter what the Assyrians or the Egyptians or the Babylonians did, as long as David’s sons were obedient and followed God with their heart and with all their soul, God would establish and protect their kingdom.

We love to read about the promises of God but sometimes overlook the condition tied to those promises.  The book of Deuteronomy is filled with the repetition of the words:  “If you will….I will…”  If WE will love the Lord our God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our strength, than HE will dispense blessing, protection and prosperity of soul and body to us in proportion to our obedience to Him.  This is an uncompromising principle in God’s Word.

Here are some examples of this principle:

Now if you obey Me fully and keep My covenant, then out of all the nations you will be My treasured possession.  Exodus 19:5

If you pay attention to these laws and are careful to follow them, then the Lord your God will keep His covenant of love with you, as He swore to your forefathers.  Deut. 7:12

See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse – the blessing if you obey the commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you today; the curse if you disobey the commands of the Lord your God and turn away from the way that I command you today by following other gods which you have not known.   Deut. 11:26-28

If you make the Most High your dwelling – even the Lord, who is my refuge – then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent.   Psalm 91:9-10

Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.  If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land… Isaiah 1:18-19

The promises of God can be likened to a spiritual bank account.  He has placed those promises on deposit, not because of anything we have done but because of His own eternal covenantal integrity.  Our means of accessing those promises is obedient faith; i.e., to believe what God has said and to walk according to His ways.  That is what ‘takes us to the bank to make a withdrawal’.  To attempt a withdrawal without the ‘access code’ will get you nowhere!  Our ‘access code’ is obedience to the conditions.

God wants us to benefit from His promises.  If He didn’t, He wouldn’t have made them!

Application:

This Shabbat would be a great time to take the scriptures quoted above and in quiet reflection, examine our own hearts to see if there are conditions we have overlooked, dismissed or ignored.  Repentance is the way back.  May we all live in such a way that the blessings of the promises of God can flow freely into our lives.

Shabbat Shalom

 

 

 

 

 

Weekly Torah Commentary – Ha’azinu October 14, 2016

Deuteronomy 32

He is the rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.  Deut. 32:4

lordrock

What did Moses mean when He characterized God as a rock?  It means He is stable in his nature, invincible in his power, fixed and immutable in his ways, and His promises are sure; not one of them will fail.

For example, changes that happen in our lives that are inconsistent with our hopes and dreams are ALWAYS for our good, whether or not we understand that when it happens.  In fact, very often we only appreciate what God has done for us in hindsight.  But knowing that He is a “Rock”, unchangeable and invincible, strengthens our faith to remain steady in the midst of unexpected circumstances.

His work is perfect for He is perfect. All his works, all his actions are blameless, perfect, wise, and righteous. Faith is the evidence that we believe this to be true; our life is the testimony to that faith.  We have all witnessed individuals struck with shocking loss or devastating illness who inspire all of us to greater faith.  How do they do it?  By growing their faith consistently.

Faith grows; it is not static.  Its nourishment is the Word of God which is why Moses also wrote, ‘Not by bread alone does man live but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ Deut. 8:3  Do you want a stronger faith in God? Spend more time in His word, reading and pondering what you have read.

It always puzzles me how people who say they have trouble believing in God forget that in everyday life, we constantly operate in ‘faith’.  When you’re driving and the light turns green, you go, ‘believing’ that the other driver who has a red light will actually stop because if they don’t, you could die.  But we rarely think of that as ‘faith’.

When you shop for food, you purchase what you desire with the – may I say – irrational ‘faith’ that all the food you buy is pure and healthy? It doesn’t cross your mind that something may be poisoned or spoiled until on the rare occasion when that’s exactly what happens.

We use natural ‘faith’ every day of our lives.  If we didn’t, none of us would ever leave our homes!

So why is it such an issue to have faith in God? REAL faith? He is the ONLY ONE who is stable in His very essence, unchangeable, unstoppable, irrevocably loving towards His children, just in all His ways…. and desiring a good future for you.  He said so:

For I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD. They are plan for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.  Jeremiah 29:11

This verse in Deuteronomy is the first time God is called a ‘rock’ in Scripture.  It means that HE is our firm foundation on which we may build our hopes and dreams. He has a perfect plan for our lives and is eager to share it with us if we will just seek Him.

Under his protection we find refuge from all our enemies, and a sure footing in all our troubles.  David picked up this theme in several of his psalms, among them:

The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength in whom I will trust; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.  Psalm 18:2

For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion; in the secret place of His tabernacle He shall hide me.  He shall set me high upon a Rock.  Psalm 27:5

He alone is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be moved.  Psalm 62:6

In Tune with Torah this week = whatever you may be facing now or in the coming months, this is a good week to meditate on what it means to you that the LORD is your rock.  Think about what that means to you, your family, your friends.  He is always there for you; are you there for Him?

Shabbat Shalom!