This week’s Parshah (Torah portion), is Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17. It’s a section designated by the Hebrew word re’eh. Re’eh is usually translated as “see;” as in the act of visually identifying something with one’s own eyes. But in Deuteronomy 11:26, re’eh also has a metaphorical nuance as Moses commands the Israelites both individually and corporately to see in the sense of giving serious attention to Yahweh’s declaration of blessing and cursing.
The reason for this kind of declaration is that in relation to the stipulations of the Mosaic covenant, blessings are promised rewards for obedience and curses are threatened judgments for disobedience. Also, in Deuteronomy as a whole, through covenant renewal, (literally the second giving of the Law), Israel is assured of Yahweh’s love for them and unconditional commitment to them as His unique people. And they’re reminded that as each generation obeys Yahweh out of love, they will experience His blessing and realize the purpose of their nationhood. And so at this point in the post-Exodus story, Moses unpacks, in very detailed fashion, covenant principles. He does this by providing specific direction for the worship of Yahweh. And he does it by providing specific instruction for Israel maintaining their testimony as a distinctive people so all the other nations of the world will know who to go to to discover the only true and living God.
Two sets of verses in Deuteronomy 11 that incorporate these themes are 26-28, and 31 and 32. It reads: 26 “See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: 27 the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you today, 28 and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn aside from the way that I am commanding you today, to go after other gods that you have not known. 31 For you are to cross over the Jordan to go in to take possession of the land that the LORD your God is giving you. And when you possess it and live in it, 32 you shall be careful to do all the statutes and the rules that I am setting before you today.
With these words, Moses explains and emphasizes the essence of the Law. He directs his audience to the heart of the meaning of the first two commandments in the Decalogue or 10 Commandments; namely the central issues of appropriate fidelity to God and proper worship of God. Moses urges Israel to be absolutely faithful to Yahweh because Yahweh has continually demonstrated His love for His people, and in response to that Israel should love Him.
So fast forwarding to right here right now, in terms of expressing our love and obedience to God; what principle do we do well to live by? It’s simply this: To love God sincerely and fully, we must obey what He commands. In both the Old and New Covenant, love for God and obedience to His Word are inseparably linked to one another.
Concerning this, on one occasion a Jewish leader who specialized in studying the Law of Moses asked Yeshua which command was the greatest. And no doubt Messiah’s reply here rocked the world of those who happened to catch this exchange. Yeshua said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands” (Mt 22: 37-40).
As Messiah followers today, a small but significant part of what that looks like is loving God and others with a Spirit-controlled authenticity as opposed to just going through the motions out of a sense of guilt, obligation, and duty; in other words demonstrating a sincere genuine love. And I think a small but significant part of what that looks like, is being cognizant of opportunities to actively listen to people share something of their life story. I realize this is not easy because it disrupts the basically default self-centered rhythm of our lives. But the fact is everyone has a story. And also everyone has family of origin issues. And as a result of these family of origin issues, everyone brings their own unique brand of baggage to the table. As so when people are truly heard instead of dismissively handled in the interest of so-called time management; a level of trust can be established, and shared encouragement and godly life change can take place. When believers make an honest attempt to do this kind of love, the church becomes a place where emotional wounds can be healed. And when that happens, people will see the body of Messiah practicing love and obedience up close and personal.