For the week of August 20, 2016 / 16 Av 5776
Torah: Devarim/Deuteronomy 3:23 – 7:11
Haftarah: Isaiah 40:1-26
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Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations, and repays to their face those who hate him, by destroying them. He will not be slack with one who hates him. He will repay him to his face. (Devarim/Deuteronomy 7:9-10)
I recently had a transformative experience. Regular readers of TorahBytes are aware that I was in Haiti visiting my daughter who has been working there for the past seven years. It was my second visit; the first being in 2012. Haiti has the reputation of being one of the poorest and most dangerous countries in the world. Being very aware of that, I was content on my previous visit to stay within the confines of the mission base with its high concrete walls, barbed wire, and armed guards. This time was different as I began to see Haiti from God’s perspective as a beautiful land with amazing people. You can read about my Haiti adventures on my blog.
Something my wife has been trying to tell me for years is that I tend to look at life through a negative lens. While there are negative aspects to the world in which we live, the goodness and love of God permeates the universe. Not only was everything created very good, even when reckoning with the pervading effects of evil, we need to remember that there is no limit to the reach of God’s powerful love.
With that said, we are going to look at what some may find to be a difficult and disturbing concept in our reading for this week. On one hand, those who love God can be confident in his enduring faithfulness, while on the other hand, he will destroy those who hate him. The language for the latter is so severe: “He will repay him to his face.” While I want to be more positively oriented about life, we ignore true negatives to our peril.
This is not the nice language that so many prefer to hear about God. But it is the truth! God doesn’t take our total disregard for him lightly. He actually loves us too much to do otherwise. I know that this is not how contemporary society regards love. But it is contemporary society that has redefined love to mean allowing everyone around us to do whatever they want, however they want, and whenever they want. But as any loving parent knows (if they care to admit it), permissiveness undermines maturity. If we care enough about our children, we will instill in them a sense of responsibility that can only come about through their understanding that actions have consequences. To let them get away with anything and everything will result in much harm to them and to others.
Contrary to popular thinking, this is not hard to understand. If you mishandle fire, you get burned. Ignoring God’s ways, you will unnecessarily get sick and injured. You can count on it. This is the negative side of Haiti. Health and safety are for the most part not valued there. Because people ignore some of the most basic of God’s principles, they prematurely die. And that’s what God through Moses is emphasizing here. To hate God is to disregard him. We cannot flagrantly turn our backs on how he designed creation and expect good results. It does not work that way!
But, as I learned in Haiti, the horrible consequences of disregarding God need not have the final say. No matter what we have done, no matter what the consequences have been, Yeshua the Messiah has made full provision to restore us to right relationship with God. Are you suffering because you’ve turned your back on your Creator? He is ready to reveal his faithfulness to you, if you are willing to receive it.
All scriptures, English Standard Version (ESV) of the Bible