Sunrise over Bethany and the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.
“Arise, shine; for your light has come! And the glory of YHVH is risen upon you…the nations shall come to your light, and kings to the radiance of your dawning!”
(Isaiah 60: 1,3; See this week’s Haftarah below.)
The Parashah for this week 26 August—1 September 2018 is called, Ki-Tavo — “When You Come Into…”
*Deuteronomy 26:1-11. Principal of “First Fruits”
“And it shall be, when you come into the land which YHVH your God is giving you as an inheritance, and you possess it and dwell in it, that you shall take some of the first of all the fruit of the soil, which you shall bring from your land that YHVH your God is giving you, and put it in a basket and go to the place where YHVH your God chooses to make His name abide. And you shall go to the one who is priest in those days, and say to him, ‘I declare today to YHVH your God that I have come to the country which YHVH swore to our fathers to give us.’ Then the priest shall take the basket out of your hand and set it down before the altar of YHVH your God. And you shall answer and say before YHVH your God: ‘My father was an Aramean, about to perish, and he went down to Egypt and dwelt there, few in number; and there he became a nation, great, mighty, and populous. But the Egyptians mistreated us, afflicted us, and laid hard bondage on us. Then we cried out to YHVH God of our fathers, and YHVH heard our voice and looked on our affliction and our labor and our oppression. So YHVH brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm, with great terror and with signs and wonders. He has brought us to this place and has given us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey’; and now, behold, I have brought the first-fruits of the land which you, O YHVH, have given me.’ And now, behold, I have brought the first fruits of the soil which you, O YHVH have given to me.’ Then you shall set it before YHVH your God, and worship before YHVH your God. So you shall rejoice in every good thing which YHVH your God has given to you and your house, you and the Levite and the stranger who is among you.”
God was giving the land of Canaan to His people Israel, to possess, dwell in and pass on as an eternal inheritance to their children after them. For her to enter into joy “in every good thing which YHVH her God was giving to her,” she was to
* Take some of the firstfruits of the ground to the place where the LORD’s presence dwelt, and offer it back to Him.
* This giving was to be accompanied with a verbal confession, testimony, acknowledgment of the grace and mercies of God—who alone had brought them from their place of insignificance and want, to this wonderful prosperity.
* A confession of the LORD’s having been faithful to His Word, and faithful to hear and act when they were in trouble. Of His great Might, Strength and Faithfulness to those whom have responded to His call.
* A confession that all of this prosperity had come from Him, and now, in gratefulness, we were acknowledging that and offering the first fruits back to the One from whom it had all come.
Having done this “gratefulness” release of First Fruits, a door was opened for “worship before the LORD her God!” There are a number of words in the Hebrew Bible translated “praise,” but only one is used for worship of the God of the Bible, L’hishtakhavot (Root: shachah; Strongs 7812) . It means literally, “to bow down.” It has to do with humbling ourselves in expressing love and devotion and dependence upon the One Omnipotent, who is good, faithful and just. This grateful worship released Joy “in every good thing the Lord had given—and that Joy was to be experienced by the individual, his household, the Levites (the spiritual intercessors for the people), and the non-Hebrew “strangers”whom God would bring into their midst.
* Deuteronomy 26:5. “You shall answer and say before YHVH your God, ‘My father was a wandering Aramean, and he went down to Egypt and sojourned there…”
Aram was an area which would today include northern Syria and Southwestern Turkey. Genesis 25:20 (also 28:5) clarifies that Rebekah’s father Betu’el was an Aramean. He was the son of Abraham’s brother Nahor. Either he or his father had evidently followed Abram to Haran (in Aram) from Ur and settled there.
*Deuteronomy 26:12-15. “When you have finished laying aside all the tithe of your increase…and have given it to the Levite, the wayfarer in you land, the fatherless, and the widow, so that they may eat within your gates and be filled… ‘I have obeyed the voice of YHVH my God, and have done according to all that You have commanded. Look down from Your holy habitation, from heaven, and bless Your people Israel and the Land which You have given us….”
For Israelis, part of the “holy tithe” or “tenth” of their fruitfulness was to be yielded up as provision for those who were ministering full-time to God on their behalf, the Levites. But not all—part of the tithe was to assist those whom God would send to live alongside His designated stewards of the land (Israel); as it were, a kind of offering of hospitality. And also, a portion was to go to those in their midst who had no means of supporting themselves, the fatherless and widows (James 1:27 in the New Covenant, makes clear that this last continues to please the Father today!). As Israelis were faithful and obedient to graciously see to the needs of all within the areas which they had been entrusted to inhabit, they could then call upon YHVH their God to notice from His “holy habitation in heaven” (26:15), and to release His heavenly blessing over the people and the land!
In these chapters Israel is given further instructions to those of Deuteronomy 11:26-32. Upon entering the land, she must travel to the two mountains outside Shechem (Modern-day Nablus). This was near to the place where the LORD had appeared to and spoke with Abram when first he entered Canaan (Genesis 12:7). Israel must now return there and verbalize what actions will bring Israel blessing in the Land—and those which will result in curses (This would be fulfilled under Joshua in Josh. 8:30-35). Curses for specific sins are listed in 27:14-26. Then come the promises of blessings for obedience to God’s commandments in 28:1-15. The curses for disobedience begin in 28:15 and continue through verse 68. This is one of the more disturbing passages in the Bible. By choosing to place one’s self outside of God’s protection, one opens one’s self to horrors—“Because you did not serve the LORD your God with joy and gladness of heart, for the abundance of everything, therefore you shall serve your enemies…” (vs 47).
Tragically, much of the history of Israel may be traced in her choosing to walk out from beneath the “joy and gladness and abundance” offered her (eventually turning down the epitome and very source of these Blessings in her rejection of her Messiah), and wandering for centuries in the nations. During the Captivity of the Kingdom of Judah in Babylon, the prophet Daniel recognized this, confessing “All Israel has transgressed Your law, and has departed so as not to obey your voice; therefore the curse and the oath written in the torah (instruction) of Moses the servant of God have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against Him (Daniel 9:11).
Yet, even as she has labored under that curse, there is an “everlasting love” which has “kept watch” over her long centuries of wanderings, continuing ever to “draw her in loving kindness” (Jer. 31:3). We believe there are many signs that those years are drawing to an end. This week’s Haftarah from Isaiah 60 portends her awakening, an awakening which heralds light and hope to the non-Hebrew nations as well!
*Deuteronomy 27:15-26. “And all the people shall answer and say, ‘AMEN!’”
Twelve times the people are called to say this word. Its meaning is much deeper than a mere ‘period’ at the end of a prayer! In Hebrew, amen is made up of three letters which also form the root for the words faith, faithfulness, belief, and to believe. To say “Amen!” means, “I have faith in this”; “I believe this to be true” (Emet, the word for “truth” is itself etymologically related to this root). Believing God’s pronouncements regarding the sins listed in these verses, and affirming them to be true would bring life to those who obediently spoke them out. “For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:10).
*Isaiah 60:1-3. “Arise, shine, for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee. For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the LORD shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.”
*Isaiah 60:14. “Also the sons of those who afflicted you shall come bowing to you, and all those who despised you shall fall prostrate at the soles of your feet; And they shall call you The City of YHVH, Zion of the Holy One of Israel” (Emphases ours).
It is significant that the most virulent of Israel’s present enemies refuse to use the name “Israel,” a name given by God to Jacob (the offspring of Abraham’s covenant-son Isaac) and his descendants. Rather than Israel, they choose to utilize in a derisive way the name Zion (“The Zionist Entity”). Neither will the deity they serve allow them to call on the name of the LORD (YHVH, Yehovah). This passage reveals that one day they will have discerned the light of Truth—and bow to the Holy One over all the earth, who chose to eternally associate himself with the three names they despised—Yehovah, Zion and Israel.
*Isaiah 60:18-20. “Violence (Hebrew: hamas) shall no longer be heard in your land, neither wasting nor destruction within your borders; but you shall call your walls Yeshu’ah (Salvation) and your gates Tehi’lah (Praise). The sun shall no longer be your light by day, nor for brightness shall the moon give light to you; but the LORD will be to you an everlasting light, and your God your glory. Your sun shall no longer go down, nor shall your moon withdraw itself; For the LORD will be your everlasting light, and the days of your mourning shall be ended.”
“‘For I,’ says the LORD, ‘will be a wall of fire all around her, and I will be the glory in her midst’” (Zechariah 2:5).
*Isaiah 60:21. “Also your people shall all be righteous; they shall inherit the land forever, the branch of My planting, the work of My hands, that I may be glorified.”
It is righteousness that exalts a nation. The final securing of Israel’s inheritance back in the Land will be their coming into that righteousness.
“He made Him who knew no sin, to be sin on our behalf that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (II Cor 5:21).
[The Parashah for next week 2-8 September 2018 is called Nitsavim—“You are Stationed”: TORAH: Deuteronomy 29:10—30:20; HAFTARAH: Isaiah 61:10—63:9]