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Devarim "Words"
Deuteronomy 1:1-3:22
 Isaiah 1:1-27
Psalm 137


The final book of the Torah is Devarim, or "Words."  Speaking of words, did you know that there is not a single Torah portion that fails to mention the Land of Israel  either explicitly or implicitly (prophetically)?

Approximately two-thirds of the Torah, as well as two-thirds of the Jerusalem Talmud, depend upon  Eretz  Yisrael - R.  Echanan  Wasserman

The focus of the Torah is restoring mankind back to the Garden of Eden.  In order to do that, the path leads to Israel and Jerusalem.  Look at the pins on the map above.  The traveler has lots of locations on her bucket list or "been there" list, but do you see one pin in Israel?  A person who doesn't put Israel on the bucket list hasn't internalized much from the Word.

If the Israelites didn't say, "Well, one day Messiah will take me home," then neither can we!  They had to walk.  So can we, at least for a pilgrimage visit! The Israelites had to be willing to give a good report no matter what they saw.  So do we!  Walking in the Word will plant the destination of the Word in our hearts: Israel.  First, though, there must be an accounting, or the journey may not go well.

"In  the fortieth year, on the first day of the eleventh month, Moses spoke to the children of Israel, according to all that the LORD had commanded him to give to them,    after he had  defeated  Sihon  the king of the Amorites, who lived in  Heshbon , and  Og  the king of Bashan, who lived in  Ashtaroth  and  Edrei Across  the Jordan in the land of Moab, Moses undertook to expound this law,  saying..." (Dt 1:3-5)

This portion is read the Shabbat before Tisha  B'av , thus the saying, "Come to  Heshbon ."   Heshbon  means an accounting, a balance sheet.  Before one goes into the Land of Israel, there is a war on the other side that forces us into taking an accounting and checking our balance sheet.  Before the Israelites battled the giants in the Land, the Anakim, they had to battle the giants on the other side of the Jordan, the remnant of the Rephaim.

"Come to  Heshbon " is exactly what Moses does to open  Devarim .  He gives a bullet-point history of the wilderness journey, including the grave sin of Tisha  B'av , giving a slanderous report of the Land of Israel when the door was open.   As a result, those who foolishly tried to ascend to Israel after the door closed, without Adonai's help, were defeated and chased by the  Emori ( Amorite).  An  Emori  is a "speaker,  sayer ."  Words.

The Amorite keeps re-appearing in the Torah narrative, from Hebron to  Heshbon .  From Abraham to Moses.  Sometimes an ally (with Abraham) and sometimes an enemy (to Moses).  The  Emori  give insight into an important personal balance sheet.

Eshkol was the brother to  Mamre  the Amorite ( Emori ).  Abraham lived among them at Hebron, and it was near the oaks of  Mamre  that Avraham was visited by three angels as he sat in the doorway of his tent three days after his circumcision.   The  Anakim , another class of giants, inhabited the same area.  So did the Hittites, from whom Abraham bought the field and cave of Machpelah.  Talk about a strange neighborhood!

So why did Abraham have to buy  Machpelah  from Ephron the Hittite?  Didn't it already belong to him as a Divine gift?

As with the giants at  Heshbon , Abraham had to check the balance sheet: spiritual and physical.  So far, he'd lived in peace with the giants and their giant grapes, Hittites, and the Amorites:  Mamre Aner , and Eshkol.   This is seen as one of Abraham's ten tests:  Would he pay for the Land that was already his? ( Pirkei  Avot  5:3)  Rabbi Moshe  Lichtman  writes:

God wanted to teach Avraham - and his descendants - that  Eretz  Yisrael  is acquired only through suffering.   Before acquiring a plot for the living, one must first acquire a burial plot.  In order to truly be able to strike roots and settle down in Eretz Yisrael , one has to first sacrifice for the Land. It is an integral part of the absorption process.  

But why must it be this way?  Why can't it be easy to live in God's Chosen Land...?  Since  Eretz  Yisrael  is superior to all other lands, both spiritually and materially, it 'costs' more...the reward is proportionate to the pain...Let us not forget that immediately after Avraham buries Sarah, the Torah states, The LORD blessed Avraham with everything." ( Lichtman , 2006, p. 54-55)   

This "accounting" of what it takes to live in the Land of Israel helps us decode some of Yeshua's mysterious statements to his disciples.  Take a look at the text, and then we'll draw a "Come to Heshbon" connection:

Now when Jesus saw a crowd around Him, He gave orders  to depart to the other side of the sea . Then a scribe came and said to Him, "Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go."  Jesus said  to him, "The foxes have holes and the birds of the  air  have  nests , but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head."  Another  of the disciples said to Him, "Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father."  But  Jesus  said  to him, "Follow Me, and allow the dead to bury their own dead ." (Mt 8:18-20)

Many commentaries explain that Yeshua was telling these disciples that they were not fit to follow him.  Perhaps Yeshua was saying just the opposite.  The scribe was a person who faithfully copied the Torah.  This scribe was a righteous one who recognized Yeshua as the prophesied Messiah.  Yeshua warns him that it will be a tough life of sacrifice.  Why?  Because Yeshua was about to "depart to the other side of the sea."  

The sea symbolizes the nations.  T he scribe would/should have understood Moses' prophesied plan of Return for Israel.  He volunteers that he will go, too, to gather the lost.  The scribe is warned that he will lose his home in Israel in order to follow.   Ironically, a rabbinic law says that the only permissible reason for a Jew to depart from  Eretz  Yisrael  is to search for a bride.

To take the Word to the nations and seek the Bride, the disciple-scribe would experience hardship, so he needed to "Come to Heshbon."  He would have no home.  Another disciple says that he will follow, but he first needs to bury his dead.  Sometimes an English translation doesn't transmit all the nuances of the Greek or Hebrew.  Look at this statement as an equivalent expression:

Follow me = Let the dead bury THEIR OWN dead

"Before  acquiring a plot for the living, one must first acquire a burial plot .  In order to truly be able to strike roots and settle down in  Eretz  Yisrael , one has to first sacrifice for the Land ."  Yeshua wants the living disciple follow to follow him like Abraham did in that weird neighborhood of the Amorite, Hittite, and Anakim at Hebron.  Although the whole Land was Abraham's, he bought a tiny piece of it  at great cost, effecting his own "death." Anyone who follows Yeshua must bury a treasured part of himself for the journey.

As burying Sarah at great cost was a test to Abraham concerning his belief resurrection life, so is burying a part of yourself.  Sarah and Abraham were one.  Hebron was said to be the entrance back to the Garden of Eden. Abraham believed that there would be a resurrection, and he believed that gospel so much that he paid a high price for prime real estate to experience that event.

When  He got into the boat, His disciples followed Him.  And  behold, there arose  great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being covered with the waves; but Jesus Himself was asleep.  And  they came to Him and woke Him, saying, "Save us, Lord; we are perishing!" 

He said  to them, "Why are you  afraid , you men of little faith?" Then He got up and  rebuked the winds and the sea , and  it  became perfectly calm.  The  men were amazed, and said, "What kind of a man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him ?" (Mt 8:21-27)

Yeshua i s "asleep," a symbol of death.  When the disciples ask for salvation, he "awakes." Even the wind ( ruach ) and sea (nations) obeyed him.
This pairs the spiritual with the natural balance sheet of  Heshbon , and how Israel may return.  First, they must "come to  Heshbon ," or cry out to Adonai if they are afraid of wind, sea, giant, or Amorite.  Yeshua awoke from the dead for just such cries for salvation.

When we say "we" can't do it or "I" can/can't do it, the balance sheet is out of whack.  If we say we can't go to Israel, we are out of whack. When doors Divinely open or close, we must remember that it was the Ark of the Covenant and the Pillar of Cloud who led the Israelites, not themselves. When it comes to the Land of Israel, a door into the Land is Divinely open to Jews and partially to non-Jews.

As with the Israelites, the Divine door is open, but we have to move our feet and invest our energy in getting there.  That means that there is also a personal Divine door that must open.  Adonai may open doors of finances, babysitters, vacation days, and many more miracles, but He expects us to walk through those doors and use them when they do open, not wait for the resurrection!  The leadership is Divine, but the Israelite must follow and not squander opportunities.  

You have to purchase a plot for the dead in order to make way for life. Sometimes the giants leave you alone. Sometimes they take up arms against you. Be prepared for peace; be prepared for war.  Be prepared to draw closer to the Father than ever before:

For the land, into which you are entering to possess it,  is not like the land of Egypt from which you came, where you used to sow your seed and water it with your  foot  like a vegetable garden. But the land into which you are about to cross to possess it, a land of hills and valleys, drinks water from the rain of heaven, a land for which the LORD your God  cares the eyes of the LORD your God are always on it, from the  beginning  even to the end of the year . (Nu 11:10-12)

The identifying characteristic of Egypt is that it is a place where food is easy to predict and obtain.  Its river irrigates it, and crops are not completely dependent upon the obedience of its inhabitants to the Holy One.  It is easy to have only a distant relationship to Adonai because one may prosper without it.

Israel DOES depend upon the obedience of its inhabitants to the commandments.  It is a land of hills and valleys, making it impossible to control the water supply as in the flat deltas of Egypt.  Because one's natural existence depends so strongly upon one's spiritual relationship to Adonai, one becomes closer to Him, obeying Him, seeking after Him, especially in the Sabbaths and at the feasts.  Israel is for those who seek that relationship of dependency even when the high cost is financial and security uncertainties.

The Hebrew word for "spy" is tor, which also mean "explore."  The ten explorer-spies gave precisely the right report concerning the Land of Israel. Until they added their judgment of whether the Israelites were capable of doing it, they were right on track.

Moses wanted them to see that it was too much for them in the natural realm. It would remind them of the impossibilities that they'd grown accustomed to every day.  Perhaps this is why Moses needs to recount all the details in Devarim.  Once again, the Israelites have an open door, but they cannot take for granted the miracles that occurred to bring them once again to the Land.  Come to  Heshbon .  Consider how you got where you are with Yeshua and how you are sustained every day before you proclaim ( emor ) that the Land is impossible to inhabit, or even to "explore."*

The miracles of past generations are ours to remember, but the miracle of where we are now is ours to TELL.  That we will return to the Land is ours to BELIEVE.   The giants in the Land were harmless to Abraham.  If we feel small next to the problems in the Land, then perhaps it's because we are just too personally large to feel small.  Part of yourself must be buried to gain anything in  Eretz  Yisrael .  Money, ego, family, friends, comfort, safety...

What are you waiting for?  The resurrection?  Check your balance sheet. Come to Heshbon. Explore.  Pin it.

For those among the nations who have repented and returned to the Torah, they are beginning to realize that the ultimate destination is Israel and Jerusalem.  Everything they read in the Word depends upon their reckoning that destination when the door is Divinely open.  

Like the scribe, they have no place to go once they've followed Yeshua and the Word.  They don't fit in a church.  They don't fit in a synagogue.  There is no place to lay their heads.  It's okay.  We're burying our own dead, sacrificing for this unique call on our lives.  The road of sacrifice eventually leads to Heshbon, Hebron, and Jerusalem.  Put it on your bucket list.  Pin it.

If you don't make it until the resurrection, you can rest assured that your sincere faith in desiring it will be reckoned to you as righteousness at Heshbon.  Pin it.

Yeshua's disciples did their jobs.  We've heard the Word.  The Divine Door is cracking open just like the Torah prophesies. 

 We got nowhere else to go.

Spotlight on Sukkot in Israel 2019
October 10-22, 2019
Dr. Robin Gould

With each trip or tour to Israel, we meet amazing people and build lifetime friendships.  We're highlighting some of those people that have been such a blessing to the tours and The Creation Gospel ministry. One of our favorite Israel travel partners is Dr. Robin Gould, who is also a BEKY Book author. Robin writes:

Traveling to Israel is more than just a trip of a lifetime. For me, it was a lifetime into a trip. Every time I had read my Bible for the past 30 years, whether I knew it or not, I was in preparation for that specific journey.  This was clear to me the moment I stood in the wild, peaceful, desert wind looking up at a sky that seemed to be watching. The exhale I felt in the wilderness of Israel was a cleansing encounter I could never really describe to another. Making the journey to The Land is nothing to take lightly or to miss. Trust me on this.

In Israel, waterways connect with the legacy of Kings, and the rocks beneath your feet are witnesses of the holiest things that have ever occurred on this planet. While the experience was sobering to my mind, it was also a salve for my heart to feel genuinely grounded, mind, body, and Spirit.  I was fortunate. On my maiden voyage, my group sought The Land to imprint on them rather than the other way around.  I wasn't with "tourists" per se; I was with seekers. There is a difference. 

For me, Israel is not just fantastic, clean food and incredibly stirring landscapes. It is the place that reveals the struggle within between the culture that raised me vs. the culture that moves me. Israel is not easy. It will cost, challenge, and measure you. It will also mesmerize, find, and complete you. There, you walk among the wailing prophets and rest beside the tranquil pastures. Your heart will break and sing as a miraculous, melancholic hope is drawn from the spring of your truest self. The Land demands a price from you, but what it exacts it returns to you in spades. I found the version of me in Israel that settled me from the ground up.  I hope you can get there and experience this for yourself.   

R. Gould, D.R.E., LMFT

If you haven't decided where to spend Sukkot this year, dust off your passport and click on  SUKKOT IN ISRAEL  to read the itinerary.   

It's Time for Devarim

If you follow the weekly Torah portions, you know that we've finished Bamidbar.  Purchase your Devarim study today so that you'll have study material for each Torah portion.  Click Devarim to order.

LaMalah Children's Centre

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