Parashat Ekev (Because of)
D’varim (Deuteronomy) 7:12–11:25
Haftarah: Isaiah 49:14–51:3
A few weeks ago, I wrote something controversial that some people found hard to accept. I wrote, “The truth is that if anyone picks and chooses to only tell part of [God's] story, and not the entire story, that person is rewriting God's Word. And that person is a false teacher." The more I study the entire Word of God, I am more convinced that this is true. We either believe what Sha'ul (Paul) wrote in 2 Timothy 3:16–17 that all Scripture is inspired by God's Holy Spirit or we do not. There is no middle ground here. And just as a reminder, when Paul wrote those words, he was actually referring to the Torah, Prophets and Writings (Tanakh) or, as it is popularly known as the “Old Testament”.
The truth is that the Scritpures are an incredible story of everlasting love between a sovereign God and a rebellious people, Israel. And this love extends to the Gentiles as well. The problem is that when people read only part of that love story, or don't read to the end, the plot, so to speak, becomes twisted and confused.
Our Parasha opens with the words:
Then it shall come about, because you listen to these judgments and keep and do them, that the LORD your God will keep His covenant with you and His faithfulness which He swore to your forefathers.
It then goes on to describe the blessings that Israel would receive for observing God’s judgments, including a difficult command in verse 16 where it is written:
You shall consume all the peoples whom the LORD your God will turn over to you; your eye shall not pity them, nor shall you serve their gods, for that would be a snare to you.
And in verse 26:
And you shall not bring an abomination into your house and become designated for destruction, like it; you are to utterly detest it, and you are to utterly loathe it, for it is something designated for destruction.
Once again, we see the blessings of obedience and the warnings against falling into idol worship and forgetting God:
And it shall come about, if you ever forget the LORD your God and follow other gods and serve and worship them, I testify against you today that you will certainly perish. Like the nations that the LORD eliminates from you, so you shall perish, because you would not listen to the voice of the LORD your God.
When one reads this particular warning from Deuteronomy 8:19-20 and looks at the way that, throughout history, Israel not only disobeyed God, but forgot Him and totally rejected Him by serving and worshiping other gods, one can reach the (false) conclusion that God turned against Israel and that Israel perished as a result of God’s judgment against them.
Sadly, this idea has become commonplace among many who consider themselves followers of the one and only true God. Furthermore, many wrongly argue that because of Israel's disobedience time and time again, God chose a "new" child, which they call the Church, which has become the "true Israel", and who will inherit all of the blessings that were meant for the Jewish people. There are a few different names of this teaching - most know it best as Replacement theology — and anyone who believes in this essentially says that God is a liar (God forbid!).
One of the strongest responses to Replacement theology is "You must read the whole story!" In our Haftarah, as the love story between God and Israel continues, we see a beautiful picture of mercy and love that unequivocally cancels any false teaching about God being done with Israel:
But Zion said, “The LORD has abandoned me, and the Lord has forgotten me.”
“Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you.”
It is impossible for God to forget His children! The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of Israel, the Creator of the world, is a faithful God who is true to His promises. Any effort to paint a different picture about His endless love and commitment to His promises is utterly false and is dangerous.
“I will feed your oppressors with their own flesh, and they will become drunk with their own blood as with sweet wine; and humanity will know that I, the LORD, am your Savior and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.”
History is "His story", and it is all about Him. Again and again in Scripture, we see that God is the Redeemer, and He will redeem Israel in the future just as He did in the past. The mere fact that Israel exists today is yet another testimony of God’s faithfulness.
Sha'ul (Paul) warned the Gentile believers in, what I believe, was a prophetic warning in Romans 11:18 against arrogance towards the Jewish people:
…do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you.”
Pride and arrogance have caused many to teach and follow false doctrines; it is time for the Body of Messiah to repent from them and totally reject them.
I personally take much comfort in the fact that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of Israel — my God — is a faithful God, whose love, mercy, and grace endures forever.
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