Deuteronomy 7—What will it be for YOU? Fear or faith?

Deuteronomy 7:12, Because you listen. This verse shows the conditional nature of the Mosaic Covenant. Blessings are conditional upon obedience to YHVH’s Torah instructions in righteousness. It was a person’s choice to obey or not. Either way, the law of cause and effect would come into play. Blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience. The same is true with the New Covenant. If we place our faith in Yeshua the Messiah,who is the Living Torah, and love him by keeping his commandments (John 14:15), we will not only be blessed physically blessed here and now, but we will be blessed with eternal life. Those who refuse to place their faith in Yeshua and obey his commandments will receive the fruit of their disobedience now, and will also perish in the lake of fire. The law of cause and effect still applies to both the Mosaic Covenant and the New Covenant, and humans will reap the consequence of their actions based on the choices they make whether good or bad. It’s that simple.

Deuteronomy 7:17–18, Dispossess them…not be afraid. Do we walk by faith or by sight (i.e. relying strictly on human logic or intellect)? Was it logical to think that Israel could dispossess a fortified land full of people mightier and greater in number than themselves? Fear and logic are often the enemies of faith in YHVH’s Word and promises. Without faith it is impossible to please YHVH (Heb 11:6), and the just shall walk by faith (Heb 10:38). What is faith? (See Heb 11:1.) By faith the physical creation came into existence (Heb 11:3), therefore, faith preceded the physical creation and is the “mother” of it. From the “womb” of faith, if you will, came forth all that we see and know. That “womb” is the very heart, character and mind of YHVH Elohim. It is spiritual. We live in a physical dimension. The new heaven, new earth, and the Jerusalem from above, for which we look, will be of a spiritual dimension. Those who plan on being there must learn to walk in that dimension here and now by trusting in the Word and promises of YHVH for all of their needs. What lessons can we learn from the Israelites in this regard?

Deuteronomy 7:18; 8:2, 11, Remember… forget not. An essential element of a strong faith in the promises of YHVH (e.g. ­prosperity, verse 13; fruitfulness of the womb, verse 14; healing, verse 15; victory over enemies, verse 16; etc.) is to remember YHVH’s past accomplishments in your life: how he has healed you, prospered you, answered your prayers, transformed your life, delivered you from enemies and troubles, given meaning, hope and purpose to your life. In the last days, many are turning away from Yeshua the Messiah (who is also YHVH of the Tanakh, see Acts 7:36–38; 1 Cor 10:4, 9; and compare John 14:15 with Deut 11:1 and Exod 20:6) and are turning to idolatry, doubt and unbelief, secularism, materialism, hedonism, rabbinic Judaism and false religions because they have forgotten what YHVH-Yeshua did for them. Have you forgotten? To forget is a slippery slope that can lead to spiritual oblivion. Take a moment to recall the wonderful things he has done for you. Write them down. Remember them. Thank and praise him for them.

Deuteronomy 7:20–24, YHVH will go before you. Do you really believe that YHVH is leading you into your spiritual Promised Land? What is your mission, calling, destiny and purpose in life vis-à-vis helping to advance the kingdom of Elohim? As he promised to be with the Israelites and to go before them (7:20–24), so his promise commandments and faithfulness are for a thousand generations (7:9), which means they are for you! If you do not have a mission, goal or purpose (the Israelites’ goal and mission was to enter and to possess the Promised Land) then you will wander aimlessly in the wilderness indefinitely.

Deuteronomy 7:25, Carved images of their gods. This shows the link between the two commands contained in the ten statements or commandments relating to idolatry. The prohibition against the worshipping of false gods and making graven or carved images is actually one command with two parts. Men tend to worship idolize what they can see or make.

 

When the Going Gets Tough … Let Faith in YHVH Arise to Carry You Onward!

Isaiah 40–41

Isaiah 40:27–41:16,The Soncino Edition Pentateuch introduces its commentary to this Haftorah portion as follows:

The Sedrah [Parashah] opens with the call of Abraham and [YHVH] bidding, “Be thou a blessing” unto all the families of the earth. Such, likewise declares the great Prophet of Consolation, is the Divine charge to the Children of Abraham. Israel, suffering in Exile, might well despair of the fulfilment of the Divine promise, nay, even of God’s remembrance of that promise. The Prophet stills such questionings. In God, Israel has the source of inexhaustible strength. The everlasting God will not fail to carry through His great purposes for mankind through Israel His servant, the child of “Abraham, My friend.”

How firmly do you believe this? When the daily rigors and routine of life take their toll on you, your faith wanes, your upward look dims, the joy of your salvation diminishes, your first love for Yeshua lessens, and your hope in YHVH’s promises for your life is tarnished, what do you do? What is your reaction and response? Do you call to remembrance the ongoing faithfulness of YHVH to his promises and to his Word as Isaiah here encourages us to do?

Isaiah 40:27, My way is hid from YHVH. Is YHVH hiding from us, or have we walked away from him, and in reality he is there all along? Abraham might well have despaired when he left the cosmopolitan comforts of Ur and vacated to a sandbox piece of land on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea. He might have despaired when the land YHVH promised him did not come immediately into his possession, when he even had to flee the land promised him because of famine, when he waited for about two decades to have a son through whom YHVH’s promises would be fulfilled, and upon the death of his wife he had to purchase, at a premium price, a burial plot in the very land that YHVH had promised to him decades before. Yet he overcame the despair to become the Father of the Faithful, and an example to us all. What can we learn from Abraham? (Read Heb 11:8–19.)

Isaiah 40:28, Have you not known? Abraham was in exile in a foreign land, and so was Israel during its captivity. We are spiritual exiles in a foreign land called spiritual Babylon awaiting our spiritual inheritance. While enduring the rigors and ignominy of exiled status, the fear can arise that one has been forgotten by YHVH. When this situation arises, what does Isaiah counsel us to do? We are called to remember the very character of YHVH, the Set-Apart One of Israel. That simple act opens up a reservoir of divine enablement and upliftment that will begin pouring into our lives. (Read verses 29–31.)

Isaiah 41:2ff, Who raised up the righteous one from the east.This is enigmatic and confusing language. Some commentators say this is referring to Abraham (e.g., ArtScroll Chumash, Adam Clarke in his commentary), some say it refers to Cyrus, the Persian king who liberated the Jews and allowed the to return to Israel (Ibn Ezra, Soncino Pentateuch), and some see it as a reference to both (Matthew Henry in his commentary). Regardless of whom Isaiah is referring to here, what is the bottom line message? (Read through verse 5 and then start again in verse 8 and continue to verse 16 for the answer.) What major attributes of YHVH are being emphasized here? Notice some of the key phrases in these verses that speak of YHVH’s sovereignty:

Who accomplished it?

I am YHVH … I will be the same.

The islands saw and feared.

Israel … whom I have chosen.

I have summoned you.

You are my servant, I have chosen you.

Now look at some key phrases that speak of YHVH’s tender mercy:

I have … not despised you.

Fear not for I am with you.

I have strengthened you … even helped you, even supported you with my righteous right hand.

I shall be your help … your Redeemer.

Now look at what YHVH promises to do to the enemies of his people who would prevent them from receiving YHVH’s promises:

All who are angry with you shall be shamed and humiliated, those who contend with you shall be like nothing and shall perish.

You shall seek them but not find them.

The men who struggle with you; they shall be like utter nothingness.

(Read Verses 15–16.)

This is what YHVH promises to those who walk with him and trust in him as Abraham did.

To whom is YHVH making these promises? As we have studied in the previous two Haftorah portions, there is only one nation to whom YHVH primarily is directing all of Isaiah’s prophesies. Who is that nation today? Who is the seed of Abraham today? (Read Gal 3:29 for starters! Then read Eph 2:11–19.) What call is YHVH sending forth to his people at this very moment? He is calling them to come out of exile to Babylon (Read Rev 18:4). Is your life presently being shaken and turned upside down? Is YHVH separating the wheat from the chaff in your spiritual life? Are you passing through the fires of refinement and being given a new direction and purpose in life, a fresh start and a new beginning? Are the old religious paradigms fading away and new ones arising where YHVH is demanding of you a higher, more righteous, more obedient, and a more intimate walk with him? Can you trust YHVH’s leading? Is he strong enough to vanquish your enemies, meet your needs and bring you into your promised inheritance? For you, that is a yes or no question. If you answer yes, then trust and obey him as you go forward as Israelites—as the seed of Abraham.

 

Waiting on YHVH is good. Here’s why.

Psalm 106:13, Wait [Heb. chakah] for his counsel [Heb. etsah]. Wait means “to adhere to; hence to await long, tarry,” while council means “advice; by implication plan; also prudence, or advice, advisement, counsel, purpose.” Waiting on the counsel, advice or purpose of Elohim is an essential element of faith, which is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not things not seen (Heb 11:1).Due to the impatient, squirrely and impetuous nature of man’s carnal soul i.e. his mind and emotions), this is difficult for us to do. 

Why is it necessary to wait on YHVH? There are several reasons. To increase our faith in Elohim, to refine our patience, to allow Elohim time to work in our the lives and in the lives of those around us and to work out the perfect and blessed plans that he has for us, which are better than anything we could have hoped for or imagined. 

Sometimes it takes time for his perfect plan to be worked out in our lives. He has to bring everything together, so that we may be conformed to the image of Yeshua (Rom 8:L28–29), so that we will be the kind of person that will manage the gift of eternal life wisely and in a non-destructive manner. Additionally, YHVH wants to form and shape us into the kind of person with which he will be pleased to spend eternity. 

These are the big picture reasons why Elohim allows us to go through the trials and difficulties of life and why we don’t always receive immediate answers to our prayer requests. Sometimes our having to wait on YHVH is good spiritual medicine for us, and it’s is so much more than just having our desires, dreams and plans fulfilled in this physical lifetime here and now on this earth!

 

The Silver Lining in Joseph’s Cloud

Genesis 45:5, 7, 8, Elohim sent me. Joseph was sold into slavery at age 17, was freed from prison and made ruler of Egypt at age 30. After that, seven years of plenty followed, and then two years of famine had passed by the time he was reunited with is brothers. Only after 22 years in Egypt did Joseph finally figure out Elohim’s grand and wonderful plan for his life, and how it involved the saving of his family.

Had Joseph lost faith along the way, become embittered over his multiple misfortunes, and turned away from Elohim, the nation of Israel may have never been preserved. 

Keeping one’s eyes on YHVH Elohim, and refusing to lose faith during the dark times of one’s life can yield some amazingly triumphant outcomes, as we learn from the life of Joseph. This is because YHVH watches over those who place their trust in him and who obey him the best they can. Their lives are in his hands, and the circumstances of their lives are under his guidance. Because of his love for his children, and because of the good plans he has for them, whatever he allows to happen to them will be for their ultimate good. So find the blessing in everything and your love and faith in your Creator will be strengthened.

Does the story of Joseph sound like a trite chliché to you? Well, read the Bible; it is full of such stories of hope, faith and blessing. Moreover, millions of Bible believers down through the ages have similar stories to tell because they trusted in the Word and promises of Elohim. So put your trust in him today. What have you got to lose except your dark despair and empty hopelessness?

 

The Overcoming Faith of the Patriarchs—Lessons to Be Learned

Scripture records that Abraham was the patriarch (literally chief father) of the Hebrew people, and a pillar of faith because of his trust in and obedience to YHVH Elohim. As such, he is often referred to as the Father of the Faithful. But when Elohim first called this man of faith and grandfather of the Israelite people, was he a giant in his faith? Not at all.  Yes he had faith, but his faith was imperfect; it had to grow, and it was a process, which we will discuss below.

Abraham’s faith, like the proverbial mustard seed, started out small, but it was still enormous compared to most other people. After all, on a mere promise from Elohim, he uprooted his entire family and travelled on foot hundreds of miles across the dangerous desert and through various countries and encountering many hardships along the way in hopes of a better life. It was if he were moving from New York City to Jawbone Flats, Oregon, a virtual ghost town in the mountains—population four!

Abraham’s first steps of faith were measured, cautious, incremental and at times hesitant, yet through it all YHVH was gracious because Abraham’s heart was inclined to do his will. Because of Abraham’s faithfulness, YHVH still counted it to him for righteousness (Gen 15:6). Not only that, but he passed his mountain moving, gravity defying faith on to his children and grandchildren and beyond, and this legacy of faith lives on in many of his descendants to this day. 

There is much that we, as the children of Abraham through our faith in Yeshua the Messiah, can learn from this pillar of faith and his immediate descendants and associates that will strengthen our own faith in YHVH Elohim and his promises.

Abraham and Sarah

Genesis 12:1, Get thee out of thy country. Did Abram immediately leave his father’s house and go directly to the country that YHVH would show him, or did he fulfill YHVH’s will for his life in incremental steps? Compare Genesis 11:31 with Genesis 12:1. Did Abram leave his father’s house completely, or take part of his father’s house with him including his father and nephew? Haran is located in northern Mesopotamia and is nowhere near Canaan. When Abram finally made his way to Canaan minus his father, did he still have part of his kindred with him, something YHVH instructed him to leave behind (Gen 12:1)? Did his nephew Lot prove to be a help or a hindrance to Abram in fulfilling YHVH’s mission for his life in a new land? What lessons can we learn from this account? 

First, YHVH is gracious to us even when we don’t obey him completely and immediately. Scripture still refers to Abraham as the father of the faithful or faithfulness (Rom 4:12, 16). 

Second, Abram was a man of prominence in Babylon (Chaldea), was recognized as a mighty prince (Gen 23:6), and was 75 years old when YHVH asked him to leave the comforts of life in Babylon to trek across the desert to the backwoods region of Canaan. No doubt, this was not an easy move for Abram for the reasons already stated. 

Those who would follow Yeshua have to make similar choices as Abram did: to stay in the Babylon of this world, or to leave it. What did Yeshua tell his disciples about the sacrifices that they would need to make to be a follower of YHVH? (See Matt 10:35–39.) At the same time, what did Yeshua say would be the eternal rewards of those, who like our father Abraham, set out in faith for a new spiritual destiny? ( See Matt 19:29.) What physical obstacles stand in your way of fulfilling YHVH’s spiritual calling, mission and destiny for your life?

Genesis 16:1–16, Abraham takes matters into his own hands. The faith of Abraham, the father of the faithful, was tried greatly. After waiting years for a son, he finally gave in to doubt and unbelief. In stead of waiting for YHVH to give him a son, Abraham too matters into his own hands and endeavored to work out YHVH’s plans and purposes in his life through fleshly means. The result was Ishmael, the father of many of the modern Moslem Arabs. What can we learn from this mistake of Abraham? 

Continue reading
 

Joseph—A Profile in Courage and Faith

Do you think that things are going badly for you in your life? Take heart. The Bible is full of encouraging stories of faith of people going through circumstances often much worse than what we have encountered, but who overcame their circumstances and prevailed because of their faith in Elohim. Yes, it is true that some people died for their faith, but because of their faith in YHVH-Yeshua and the promises of Elohim, they have waiting for them resurrection into eternal life and the glorious heavenly rewards that will accompany that life.

Genesis 41:9–10, The chief butler spoke. Here the chief butler is recounting the events to Pharaoh of how he ended up in prison as if Pharaoh weren’t aware of these facts. It is quite possible that this was a new Pharaoh, and the Pharaoh who had put the butler in prison was now dead. If so, then this new Pharaoh was very young, since in Genesis 45:8 Joseph, who by now would have been at least in his late 30s, refers to himself as “a father to Pharaoh.”

YHVH’s timing is perfect. Do you have the trust in YHVH to believe that for your life? Had the chief butler remembered Joseph prior to this how would things have been different for Joseph? Would he have had the chance to interpret Pharaoh’s dream? Would he have returned to Canaan? How would the history of the nation of Israel been different? Would YHVH’s purposes have been fulfilled?

Genesis 41:16, Elohim. By this time, Joseph had endured multiple false accusations, murder attempts, enslavement and imprisonment on false charges. A man of lesser spiritual stature than Joseph might have lost his faith in Elohim along the way. What can we learn from Joseph?

In this verse, what is the evidence that he hadn’t given up hope in his Heavenly Father, and that he had not lost sight of the dreams and promises that YHVH had made to him many years earlier? Simply this. Even though Joseph was standing before a king who had the power of life and death over him, he still had faith that Elohim would give him the interpretation to the king’s dream. Not only did Joseph believe this, but openly declared his faith to Pharaoh. 

As a form of witnessing to those around you, do you give honor to YHVH whenever you can—even to strangers and potential enemies as Joseph did? 

The fact that Joseph was able to proclaim his faith in Elohim in front of one of the most powerful monarchs of his day is evidence of his strong and abiding faith in and fear of YHVH even in spite of years of mistreatment and false accusations. Joseph is a powerful and encouraging example to the down-trodden saints of the world, who have been persecuted for the their faith. Joseph is proof that it is possible to maintain faith in YHVH even in spite of dire, even life threatening circumstances.

 

Isaac—To Obey or Not to Obey, To Walk in Faith or in Fear?

Genesis 26:1–29, There was a famine in the land. At the well of Lachai-roi (or “the well of the Living One seeing me,” Gen 24:62), Isaac was fruitful. There he met his wife while in communion with YHVH (Gen 24:62–64). Isaac also dwelt there for 20 years, and there he entreated YHVH because of Rebekah’s barrenness (Gen 25:21), and YHVH answered Isaac’s prayer and Rebekah gave birth to twins (Gen 25:22). 

But because of famine in the land, Isaac felt compelled to leave Canaan to seek relief in Egypt following the earlier footsteps of his father, Abraham. At this point, we must ask ourselves whether it is wise for the saint to rely on “Egypt” (a metaphor for the world) for their physical sustenance instead of trusting YHVH and believing that where he has planted us and blessed us is where we should stay? 

Evidently, YHVH didn’t want Isaac to go down to Egpty, for while en route to that land, he gracefully redirected Isaac stay in Canaan and to sojourn in Gerar (temporarily), where he would continue to bless him and his posterity (Gen 26:2–4). 

Isaac obeyed YHVH—more or less. Isaac ended up in Gerar located on the border between Canaan and Egypt and dwelt there a long time and not temporarily as YHVH had instructed him (Gen 26:6, 8). Instead of fully obeying YHVH, it was as if Isaac was hedging his bet between faith and fear, between Canaan, the land of promise, and Egypt, the land of comfort for the flesh man. How often do we halt between two opinions and compromise between YHVH’s will and our own in matters where he has given us clear direction? 

This place of spiritual indecision and weakness put Isaac in a compromising situation (Gen 26:7). He felt compelled to lie about his wife, thus repeating the sin of his father (Gen 20:1–2). Compromised obedience puts us in compromising situations where in order to “save our skin” we often have to compromise our values. 

Though Isaac was out of YHVH’s will, YHVH was still faithful to keep his promises that he had made to Isaac earlier (Gen 26:3–4). Isaac was blessed one hundred fold in his wealth (Gen 26:12–14). 

Despite YHVH’s blessings, Isaac’s labors were not without difficulty and opposition from an enemy who was intent upon stealing the water wells that were rightfully his (Gen 26:12–15). 

In the arid regions of the Holy Land, wells are essential for survival and prosperity. Wells are a spiritual metaphor for salvation, life, abundance and truth—things the enemy is intent on taking from us (in this light, consider Isa 12:3; 55:1–3; Ps 36:9; John 4:7–14; 7:37–39; 10:10). Don’t let the enemy steal from you that which YHVH has given to you.