Last week, in Parasha Ki Tavo, Moses instructed the Israelites concerning the laws of the tithes.
In the Nitzavim portion of the Torah reading, the Jewish People stand before God about to enter into the covenant, a solemn oath with Him.
Such a momentous occasion! This covenant promised that God would establish Israel as His own people and that He would be their God.
It included everyone standing before God—from the greatest to the least—the heads of tribes, elders, officers, the men and women, the little ones, and the strangers (Deuteronomy 29:10–11)—from that day forward for all time.
It was so sweeping and powerful that it included those who were not present:
“I am making this covenant, with its oath, not only with you who are standing here with us today in the presence of the Lord our God but also with those who are not here today.” (Deuteronomy 29:14–15)
It seems that Moses not only foresaw through the Ruach KaKodesh (Holy Spirit) future generations, but also that day when others would enter into this covenant with the God of Israel.
On Remaining a Covenant People
“You yourselves know how we lived in Egypt and how we passed through the countries on the way here. You saw among them their detestable images and idols of wood and stone, of silver and gold. Make sure there is no man or woman, clan or tribe among you today whose heart turns away from the Lord our God to go and worship the gods of those nations.” (Deuteronomy 39:16–18)
In Nitzavim, Moses cautions the Israelites to remain single-heartedly devoted to God, and not to follow after the gods of the nations they had passed through.
Likewise, we cannot claim the privileges of the Covenant and at the same time continue to walk in the stubbornness of our own hearts, holding on to a sinful lifestyle as those do in the world (Deuteronomy 29:18).
The Brit Chadashah (New Testament) confirms that there is no sacrifice to cover a person who stubbornly persists in sin, even while knowing the truth of God’s Word:
“If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left.” (Hebrews 10:26)
Especially at this time, as we prepare for the fall mo’adim (appointed times) of Yom Teruah (Day of sounding the shofar / Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur(Day of Atonement), we need to examine our lives for any unrighteousness.
Captivity and Curses: Why Has God Done This?
“When such a person hears the words of this oath, he invokes a blessing on himself and therefore thinks, ‘I will be safe, even though I persist in going my own way.’ This will bring disaster on the watered land as well as the dry.” (Deuteronomy 29:19)
In this Parasha, Moses warns the Israelites that those who turn away from God and persist in following their own ways will experience God’s wrath. He will not forgive them, their names would be blotted out, and the curses written in the Torah will fall upon them. (Deuteronomy 29:20)
“The Lord will single him out from all the tribes of Israel for disaster, according to all the curses of the covenant written in this Book of the Law.” (Deuteronomy 29:21)
Moses warns that the destruction of the Land would be so great because of following after their own ways and the gods of the nations that the whole land would lay desolate and barren like Sodom and Gomorrah.
Indeed, just as foretold, this happened.
And just as predicted, the nations asked, “Why has the Lord done this to this land? Why this fierce burning anger?” (Deuteronomy 29:24)
The bitter answer is always the same: “It is because this people abandoned the covenant of the Lord, the God of their fathers, the covenant He made with them when He brought them out of Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 29:25)
The Return to the Promised Land
“They went off and worshiped other gods and bowed down to them, gods they did not know, gods He had not given them. Therefore the Lord’s anger burned against this land, so that He brought on it all the curses written in this book. In furious anger and in great wrath the Lord uprooted them from their land and thrust them into another land, as it is now.” (Deuteronomy 29:26–27)
Because of Israel’s sin, the Lord, in righteous anger, wrath and indignation, uprooted the Israelites out of their land and scattered them throughout the world to become the “wandering Jews” in every nation.
The good news, however, is that our God is merciful.
He doesn’t hold onto His anger forever, and He even promised through Moses that one day the children of Israel would return to Him (Deuteronomy 30:1–10).
He would turn things around for Israel, and bring them back to the Promised Land.
I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will turn again your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord; and I will bring you again to the place from where I caused you to be carried away captive. (Jeremiah 29:14)
The continued return of the Jewish People from their places of exile to the Promised Land, which only became an independent nation once again in 1948, is an incredible testimony of the faithfulness and mercy of God and the accuracy of His Word.