The danger of home
Torah Portion: Ekev (Because) D’Varim (Deut.) 7:12-11:25
Haftorah Reading: Isaiah 49:14-51:3
Messianic Scripture Matt. 4:1-11, Luke 4:1-13, James 5:7-11
In our portion today we see Moshe begin to prepare the people of Israel for their new experience of entering the land of Israel, their land of promise. Everything they see and experience will be new for them. There will be battles to be fought and victories to be celebrated. No longer will they be wandering in the desert but now they will be free people in their own land.
However, with all the blessings of this new land there will be challenges as well. No longer will manna be provided. Now they must work for their daily bread. In some ways this should speak to each of us also. Before we came to the L-rd we were wandering in a dry thirsty land of sin. Then we came to faith and things changed. We had a new land to grow into. So as we look today at this portion I want us to keep that in mind. When Israel crossed over the Jordan they had new battles to fight, new temptations to overcome. How could they succeed in this new land? How do we succeed in our life of faith?
In Deut. 8 Moshe put forth a principle that will give us some answers. In Deut. 8:6-10 he laid out the ideal. He told the people about the land. It has streams and pools of water, hills and valleys. It was a land of wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, oil and honey. There was bread in abundance. They would lack for nothing.
Consider that these people had been wandering in the desert for forty years and before that they were slaves for hundreds of years. How must Moshe’s description have sounded to them? How did it sound to us when we heard the Maker of the universe loved us, sent His son to die for us, knew our name and would always be with us?
So here, Moshe went into depth on what lay ahead of them. In the last verse he began to transition into the dangers that would await them, dangers that we face also. He covered these dangers in Deut. 8:11-17. He listed all the material possessions that would come to them after they had eaten and were satisfied. He then began to list the dangers that would come to them when they began to believe that all the good G-d had done for them was because of their own strength and effort. If that happened they would forget the L-rd G-d. We face the same temptation of seeing what we have as coming from our own effort and strength. We may say to ourselves, “My powers, my hard work and the strength of my hands have provided all this for me.”
Then Moshe brought them back down to earth and told them, “Remember the L-rd your G-d, for it is He who gives you the ability to produce wealth, the same G-d that gave his covenant to your forefathers, as it is today.”
These two passages that we are talking about follow directly from one to the other, linked by the phrase, “When you have eaten and become satisfied.” The dominant words we see in these passages are, remember and forget. Moshe was warning the people of a clear and present danger that they were facing and we face also. Good things will happen in our life. However, the important thing is how do we respond. Either we will eat and be satisfied, blessing G-d and remembering that all things come from Him. Or we will eat and be satisfied forgetting who brought these blessings into our life. We may be tempted to think, even believe that all we have is a result of our own effort and forget G-d’s place in our life. Moshe’s point was important to them and is important to us. We may think we have arrived and we relax in the thought that we have done it all.
Here is the real danger, the real challenge in our life. We may look back and consider all we have come through and believe we have overcome it all by our own strength, our own intelligence, our own hard work, our own effort. So, here’s the bottom line: the real challenge in life is not poverty but affluence, not slavery, but freedom, not homelessness but home.
Moshe’s was warning we are most at risk when we begin to believe our own illusion that all I have is because of what I have done myself in my own strength. Our greatest challenge is to stay strong in our faith when everything is going so easy for us.
Moshe gave us the secret here in our passage as well as other verses. The guardian of a consistent life as a child of G-d is memory, remembering.
1. We see it used in Deut. 5:18 from last week, remember you were slaves in Egypt. Shabbat was G-d’s way of saying, we are not slaves to our work, we can rest.
2. Deut. 8:2 Remember how G-d has always been with us leading us.
3. Deut. 9:7 Remember how you provoked the L-rd your G-d in the desert.
All through this book we read where Moshe was calling the people to remember. Memory should help us all to retain our footing in such a fast moving, materialistic world. It is easy to forget and jump on some idea or cause that may lead us to places we would never have considered.
We can see this same theme in the Messianic scriptures.
These are but a few verses that speak to us about the importance of memory. I would pray we all are able to entrust to our children memories about our faith and how much G-d loves them.