For the week of August 28, 2010 / 18 Elul 5770
Torah: Devarim / Deuteronomy 26:1 - 29:8
Haftarah: Isaiah 60:1-22
The Promise Foundation
And you shall go to the priest who is in office at that time and say to him, "I declare today to the LORD your God that I have come into the land that the LORD swore to our fathers to give us." (Devarim / Deuteronomy 26:3; ESV)
This week's Torah portion describes what the people of Israel were to say when they presented some of their harvest first fruits. The individual was to verbally recount Israel's history from Abraham through the acquiring of the Land. Before the person presented his offering he was to say to the priest, "I declare today to the LORD your God that I have come into the land that the LORD swore to our fathers to give us". By doing this the person reasserted that the blessings he had received were fundamentally due to God's having fulfilled his promise to his people.
The Israelites' living in the Land of Israel was based on a promise - a promise given by God - a promise fulfilled by God. It was not due to their own ability, but God's power. The declaration to be made as the fruit of their labors was being offered not only corrected any prideful misconceptions the people may have had, but reminded the person that God is true to his word.
The trustworthiness of God's word is one of the most basic concepts in the entire Bible. It was over this that our first parents fell out of sorts with God. The serpent had introduced doubt over what God had said to Adam and Eve (see Bereshit / Genesis 3:1). Later on God would instruct the people that their lives depended on everything he said to them (see Devarim / Deuteronomy 8:3). And so it was crucial for the people to declare that they were where they were because God fulfilled his promise.
Sadly it is easy to forget how often God fulfills his promises to us. We receive blessing after blessing from his hand and yet we don't always take the time to declare what he has done for us. We may or may not have thanked him at the time, but how about years later? The person in our Torah portion may not have been part of the generation that acquired the Land. He may have lived many centuries later, and yet he was to declare that his current blessings were due to the fulfillment of God's promise in the past.
The fulfilled promises of the past are the foundation upon which our lives are built on today. In fact all the blessings in the world are due to God's being true to his word. It is as people and communities have trusted in God's promises that his goodness has been spread to every corner of the globe. When we declare that our present blessings are due to God's having fulfilled his promises in the past, we see life for what it really is.
If God had not done what he did in the past, we would not have a present to live in. Our technologically-focused society doesn't appreciate this. We throw away yesterday's achievement for today's so-called latest greatest thing. It is as we take the time to, not just remember, but purposefully and verbally declare that we are blessed today because of God's fulfilled promises in the past, that we will truly understand how blessed we really are.
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