This week our Torah portion is the beginning of the end of the Book of Deuteronomy. It describes covenant renewal procedures for the people when they enter the land. There are a series of statements that the people are commanded to make (the first examples of ‘liturgy’ in the Bible) declaring the goodness of God and their allegiance to him by promising to live in the way that he has commanded. Toward the end of the portion, Moses warns the people that they must never forget nor take for granted the blessings of God and that if they do, they will face a severe judgement which will include being exiled from the land. We will see in next week's portion that Moses will reiterate this judgment of exile in more detail. As we approach the High Holy Days, we need to hear these words and take the initiative of walking in the way of the Lord. In Deuteronomy 29:2–4, we read: “And Moses summoned all Israel and said to them, ‘You have seen all that the LORD did before your eyes in the land of Egypt to Pharaoh and all his servants and all his land; the great trials which your eyes have seen, those great signs and wonders. Yet to this day the LORD has not given you a heart to know, nor eyes to see, nor ears to hear’”.
Moses is reminding them that God has done great things in their lives. But Moses knows that the people do not respond well, even after being reminded of his love for them. They continue to live in the moment and complain whenever something negative happens. They cannot see the big picture, that endurance is a gift from God, and that there is a future for the people. He says, “God has not given you eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart of understanding”.
The Good News is that the Messiah has come, and he has now given us eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart of understanding. Now, we are empowered to live the life that God has always intended. Next week's Torah portion contains a promise of a new heart; but for now, let us be encouraged that with the pouring out of the Ruach HaKodesh (the Holy Spirit) we can not only be obedient to God, but live a full life of joy regardless of our circumstances. Now we have the gift from God to live an abundant life of joy, peace, patience, self-control, and other descriptions of relationship affirming qualities. It is these qualities that allow us to experience the presence of the future today. There is an inward renewal and a transformation of the way we think about ourselves and the world around us.
Our ancestors in the wilderness could not see beyond the desert. We have a living hope that sees beyond the temporal into the eternal. The Haftarah portion for this week is a description of the future. Isaiah 60 is a glimpse into the future that awaits us. But at least we can say with Isaiah, “Arise, shine for your light has come”! Yeshua is the light of the world. May we live in the light!
As we approach the High Holy Days, may we repent of our tendency to live in the moment and not see beyond the immediate. May we truly rejoice that now we have eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart of understanding. May it all be demonstrated in the way we communicate and interact with others. May this season be a turning of the page in which these great truths become a living reality in our lives.