Covenants + Grace
Ekev (Because) D’Varim (Deut.) 7:12-11:25
Haftorah Readings: Isaiah (Yesh’yahu) 49:14-51:3
Today we cover the Parasha Ekev. It is one of the longest passages that we study during the year. However, it is extremely important because it gives us a wonderful look at a something that should encourage us all every day, even in these challenging times.
I want to first take a moment to remind us all of a very important principle. The revelation of G-d covers the entire Bible. There are some people who only consider the Messianic scriptures as having any authority for Christians. In fact, many people only read the Messianic scriptures, wrongly believing that the “Old Testament” has nothing spiritual to say to us today. This has caused much damage to Christians who have ignored a major part of the Bible. People quote verses such as II Timothy 3:16-17 to bolster their argument. If you notice these verses say “All scripture.” At the time Timothy wrote these words what scripture would he have been speaking about? The only writings at that time that would have qualified as scripture were the Hebrew Scriptures. As a result many people ignore or at best, look at the Hebrew Scriptures as just interesting historical passages that have little value in their spiritual lives. Look at Ephesians 2:11-13, “Being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise having no hope and without G-d in the world. But now in Messiah Yeshua you who were once far off have been brought near by the blood of Messiah.”
Notice in this scripture quoted above, the word covenants is used. It is in the plural form. Which covenants are being talked about? This is talking about those covenants found in the Hebrew scripture. I say all this to emphasize the rich treasure we have forsaken far too long. Consider this when you read and study your Bible. Study it in its entirety. A great example we will find today in our readings.
In Deuteronomy 7:12 we read an interesting verse. Part of the verse reads, “then the L-rd your G-d will keep the brit (covenant) and the chessed (Love, mercy) with you, as He swore to your ancestors. We read this same phrase in last week’s reading in Deuteronomy 7:9.
Usually we have understood G-d’s relationship with Israel as being defined by the word covenant. So why add the word chessed or love and mercy? The “Living Torah” helps us by translation this verse as, “G-d your L-rd will keep the covenant and love.”
It might also help us to look at other times these two words appear together in the Hebrew Scripture. I think there are only three places, I Kings 8:23 where Solomon, in his prayer at the consecration of the Temple says, “L-rd G-d of Israel, there is no G-d like you in heaven above or on earth below. You who keep the covenant and love with your servants who continue whole heartedly in Your way.”
We also see these two words used by Nehemiah in Jerusalem when he renewed the covenant after the people returned from exile, “Now, therefore, our G-d the great G-d, mighty and awesome who keeps His covenant and love.” Nehemiah 9:32. So, we have these three places where we see the people at the threshold of a new beginning. In all three, the speaker was reassuring the people as they began a new walk that G-d had put before them. It seems that covenant and love are both part of what G-d was saying to them and is saying to us.
Maybe now is a good time to look at these two words and define them a little deeper, since they both are a part of our relationship with G-d Almighty. Loving kindness or mercy is something we grant to those who have no claim on us. Also we show chessed to a greater measure than is due even if there is some claim involved. When we act toward someone, or they toward us in chessed, it is an act of pure grace. The person has done nothing to deserve it.
The book of Ruth is known to be a book of chessed. It contains no laws about purity or impurity, forbidden or permitted. Its point is to show us, to teach us, what chessed is. Remember when Naomi returned to Israel her two daughters-in-law started off with her. Only Ruth continued to Israel with Naomi even though there was no obligation on her part to do so. She did it out of chessed or loving kindness.
Later Boaz went out of his way to help Ruth, later even marrying her. She was a foreigner and he had no obligation to help her. But he showed her loving kindness. So chessed was shown as good done for someone who had no claim on the other person. It was unmerited grace. Does that phrase sound familiar?
So to wrap up, a covenant is essentially a reciprocal agreement. Such as, I will do this if you do that. Exodus defines it very well in Exodus 19:5. If you do this I will do that, if not, it will go badly for you. However, when we add chessed to a covenant there are no “if – then” phrases. Where chessed comes in G-d says, you may break My covenant and there will be consequences but I will not throw you away. G-d’s relationship with Israel has been rocky. However, His chessed will never let them go and will never let us go either. He is always there calling us back to Him.
Bless you all this week. May G-d protect you. May He show His chessed (loving kindness) to you.
This week I read an article by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks that is the bases of some of the thoughts I have given you today.