In this week’s Torah reading of NITZAVIM (Deut. 29:10 – 30:20) we find the chosen people standing before YHVH. They have just received another covenant (Deut 29: 1) and awesome commands which enumerated the consequences of obedience and disobedience (the blessings and the curses). But were they ready for the final oath that would catapult them into something so fearful, yet so promising as this covenant with the Elohim of their fathers? The conditions were clear, and so was their inherent weakness (which would make meeting the requirements almost impossible).
How could YHVH subject these men, women and children to such laws, when He already knew that they were born of the “sin nature”, and would thus miss the mark of Torah and suffer the consequences? Moshe said to them: “Yet to this day YHVH has not given you a heart to know, nor eyes to see, nor ears to hear” (Deut. 29:4). How unfair it all seemed, or was YHVH concealing His plan in the darkness of the “mystery of iniquity” (2nd Thes.2:7, also Eph.2:1-2)?
A MATTER OF THE HEART
“YHVH has not yet given you...” In this short phrase we see that YHVH holds Himself responsible for the future success, or failure, of His plan. Even after the flood YHVH declared that, “man’s heart is evil from his youth” (Gen. 8:21). Because of this inherent condition, Moses, under the anointing of the Holy One, begins to prophecy the destiny of the Hebrew people: “And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon you, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before you, and you call them to mind among all the nations, where YHVH your God has driven you…” (Deut. 30:1). Before the Children of Israel had a chance to prove themselves, or even to make any kind of free will choice, YHVH already knew what would happen to them, because of the condition of their heart.
As mentioned, YHVH had made Himself accountable regarding the covenant that He made with the Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, a covenant replete with blessings of land and fruitfulness that would multiply and spread to all nations. But this covenant (‘of Moav’), issued before entering the land was conditional. Standing before YHVH, they are looking toward the land that they are about to enter, the land of milk and honey promised to their forefathers. However, the conditions for remaining in the land are now hanging over their heads like a seething prophetic refining pot. "But if your heart turns away so that you do not hear, and are drawn away, and worship other gods and serve them, I announce to you today that you shall surely perish; you shall not prolong your days in the land which you cross over the Jordan to go in and possess” (Deut. 30:17-18). It was as if YHVH was using this conditional covenant as a tool to fulfill the Abrahamic Covenant, and preparing the way for an even greater promise.
History reveals that YHVH was true to His word, even though the potential consequences of the Moav Covenant may be interpreted as negative and even disastrous (abounding in curses and not blessings). Some may even venture to condemn the generations of our forefathers for failing to live up to the righteousness of Torah. YHVH, aware of these weaknesses, built into the Sinai Covenant the sacrificial system for atonement and forgiveness of sin to be in effect year after year throughout the cycles of the feasts. But did the Sinai Covenant take care of the condition of the heart? Obviously we would have to answer: “no, it did not”. In fact, it did the very opposite, revealing the corruptness of the heart. Yeshua pointed out this condition, as recorded in the Gospel of Mark: “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness; all these evil things come from within, and defile the man” (7:21-23). This is why Yeshua describes the religious man as a white washed tomb. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” (Mat. 23:27-28).
How was YHVH going to have a People that would become a holy nation (Ex. 19:6), and be His witness (Isa. 43:10,12)? As Moses continues to prophesy we are given one of the first glimpses into the mystery of the will of YHVH (ref. Eph. 1:9-10), and into a covenant that would once and for all deal with the condition of the heart: “YHVH your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love Him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live” (Deut. 30:6). A door of hope was left open; the destiny of the people was sealed by the prophetic word. The irrevocable calling upon them as YHVH’s people could not fail. YHVH said: “I WILL”, thus leaving no doubt that it was not going to be by the will of man, nor by might, nor by power but by the Spirit of the infallible Word/Torah of YHVH.
THE FINAL COVENANT REVEALED
The seed of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob was called out for YHVH’s namesake, called and chosen to be His firstborn (Ex. 4:22, Jer. 31:9), and, yes, to become YHVH’s possession and inheritance (Deut. 32:9). YHVH was not obligated to take care of them because of who they were. Their seed would become His witness and light to the nations because of His name, and the love that He had for their forefathers (Acts 1:8).
The prophet Ezekiel reiterated these same promising words many years later: “Therefore say to the house of Israel, this is what YHVH Elohim says: ‘It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone. I will show the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, the name you have profaned among them. Then the nations will know that I am the Lord’, declares YHVH Elohim, ‘when I show myself holy in you before their eyes. For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my Torah. You will live in the land I gave your forefathers, you will be my people, and I will be your God’” (Eze 36:22-28).
Through His covenant-relationship with Israel, YHVH was literally putting His head, His “Godship”, His name (nature) on the “chopping block” of humanity. If He would not have been faithful to carry out His word, His covenant promises, to His people, especially to Abraham, then our faith and trust in Him would be to no avail, and the bible would simply be a book of bad jokes.
Step by step and line upon line God was setting the stage for the final covenant that would accomplish His purpose for the ages. It would be a blood covenant of grace and mercy, a covenant that would embody, fulfill and absorb all the previous covenants. This covenant would include a divine act of circumcising the heart, changing our very nature, in order for us to be able to love YHVH our Elohim with all our heart and with all our soul, and keep the commandments and live. This future covenant guaranteed life, because of the unconditional, unchanging, unfailing love and faithfulness of the God of Israel.
Standing before YHVH is often seen as a time of consecration and sanctification, therefore just as our forefathers stood before YHVH, let us stand before this portion of His word, examining its prophetic past and its reality and fulfillment for today. May we conclude and say ‘yes’ and ‘amen’ to a Father who is sovereign, just, faithful and true` who keeps covenant and shows mercy; who gives grace and truth through His Redeemer – Messiah Yeshua - who gave His life not only for us but TO us.
Surely, we who have received the grace of the New Covenant, having a circumcised heart that we may understand, eyes to see the reality of the Kingdom of YHVH and ears to hear His Word, can agree with the statement from this week’s portion: “Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, ‘Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?’ No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it” (Deut. 30:11-14).