Friday, 16 September 2011

Ki Tavo (When You Enter)

Welcome to Ki Tavo (When You Enter), this week’s Parsha (Torah Portion)
This Torah portion is read in synagogues around the world during the Shabbat
(Saturday) morning service.

A large, fragrant citrus grove in Northern Israel

Ki Tavo (When You Enter)
Deuteronomy 26:1–29:8, Isaiah 60:122, Luke 21:14

“And it shall be when you have come into the land….” (Deuteronomy 26:1)

God instructed Israel to bring the first-ripened fruits (bikkurim) to the Temple after they finally entered the Land He promised to them.  

Once they had settled in the Land
and cultivated it, they were to present this offering to the Levites.  (Deuteronomy 26:2-4) 

In giving this ‘first-fruits offering’, which included wheat, barley, grapes, figs,pomegranates, olives and dates, the Israelites were offering thanksgiving to God for all the amazing things He had done for them.

He had rescued them from great hardship in Egypt and from wandering in the wilderness.  He had brought them into a good land to become a great nation, dwelling in comfort, safety and security in a rich and fertile land.

“The Lord heard our voice, and saw our affliction, and our toil and our oppression, and the Lord brought us forth out of Egypt with a mighty hand, and with an outstretched arm…and with signs and with wonders….” (Deuteronomy 26:7-8)

The tithes given to the Levites and the poor were not given in silence, but with a
confession of the awesome mercy and goodness of God!

Field of artichokes in Israel

When we present our tithes and offerings to the Lord, we also should acknowledge the many ways in which we have seen the goodness and mercy of God in the land of the living. Although we don’t know where we are going, we can rest assured that if the Lord is taking us somewhere, it’s going to be a ‘good land’.  Hallelujah! 
“And He has brought us into this place… a land flowing with milk and honey….”
(Deuteronomy 26:9)

When God brings us out of a difficult place, delivering us from the horrible pit and setting our feet on the solid rock, we need to thank Him and be willing to give back materially from His incredible bounty.

When we do this, we demonstrate that we know He’s the source of all our blessings
“And now, behold, I have brought the first of the fruit of the land which You, O Lord,
have given me.”  (Deuteronomy 26:10) 

First fruits offering illustration from a Bible card published by the Providence Lithograph Company between 1896 and 1913.

Finding Strength in the Joy of His Presence

Once we have given our offering, there is only one thing left to do – rejoice!  As Israel did in ancient times, we should recall how he has healed us, delivered us, and provided for our needs.

“And you shall rejoice in all the good which the Lord your God has given you….”(Deuteronomy 26:11)

Too often, the enemy seeks to steal and destroy our joy.  Why does he want to do this?  Because the joy of the Lord is our strength.  (Nehemiah 8:10)

If we allow the enemy of our soul to steal our joy, we won’t have the strength to possess the good land that God is giving us.

Still, there are times when we just wake up weary and discouraged.  Joy seems likeit’s nowhere to be found.
Maybe we have pain in our body, or maybe we lack finances.  Our family relationships might be going through a rough patch.  How can we recover our joy in these cases?

There is only one solution—enter in (tavo) to the presence of Adonai: “You will show me the path of life: in your presence is fullness of joy; at your right hand there are pleasures for ever more.”  (Psalm 16:11)

Jewish man raising up a sacred Torah (Bible)
Scroll at the Western (Wailing) Wall, Jerusalem.
The man's head is covered with Tefillin - a small
cubic leather box, containing scrolls of parchment
inscribed with verses from the Torah.

The Book of Life

Believers in Yeshua (Jesus) the Messiah have the responsibility and privilege of rejoicing continually in our Godnot just when circumstances seem to be going their way, but always.

Paul, while in a prison cell, wrote the words “Rejoice in the Lord always and again
I say rejoice!”  (Philippians 4:4)

We must not allow circumstances to dictate our level of joy. 

Despite what may be going on around us, we can always rejoice that our names arewritten in the Lamb’s Book of Life for eternity!  Hallelujah!

Indeed, Yeshua told his disciples not to rejoice that spirits were subject to them, but to rejoice that their names were written in the Book of Life.  (Luke 10:20)

The Book of Life is a Biblical theme that Jewish people use as a greeting and prayer during the time of the Fall Feast of Rosh Hashanah.  Jewish people traditionally send greeting cards to their friends and family with the words “May your names be written in the Book of Life.”

Sacrificial Love 

In the Book of Exodus, we read that Moses knew his name was written in the Book of Life.

We also read, though, that he was willing to have his name blotted out of the Book of Life in exchange for the salvation of Israel, after they constructed a golden calf and worshiped it. 

God was about to destroy them completely, but Moses prayed:
“This people have committed a great sin, and they have made a god of gold for themselves.  But now, if You will, forgive their sin—and if not, please blot me out of Your book which You have written!"  (Exodus 32:31-32)

It was a sacrificial, unfailing love that Moses had for the people of Israel.

Centuries later, Yeshua demonstrated this same love for the lost sheep of the House of Israel when he gave his very life to redeem them from their sins.
He said, “The shepherd gives his life for the sheep.”  
(John 10:11)
The apostle Paul wholeheartedly followed in the footsteps of Moses and Yeshua, echoing the same sacrificial love for Israel.  (Romans 9:1-5)

Those who shepherd God's people are also called to this life of sacrificial love!
May each of us be willing to make the sacrifices necessary for Jewish souls to hear
about Yeshua.

Although most Jewish people hope that their name will be written in the Book of Life through good deeds, prayer, repentance and the giving of charity, the only way anyone can know for certain that our names are recorded in God’s Book of Life is through knowing God through faith in Yeshua the Messiah, and walking
in the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit), which leads us to a holy life of prayer, repentance, and good deeds.

In Daniel 12:1-2, it says: “At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise.  There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then.  But at that time your people—everyone whose name is found written in the book—will be delivered.

Many who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life,
others to shame and everlasting contempt.”

The Hall of Names at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Jerusalem, is the Jewish People’s memorial to each and every Jew who perished in the Holocaust.  

Schindler’s List

In Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Jerusalem, a typed list of names on old, yellowing paper is on display.  At first glance, this list of names seems to be an ordinary list on ordinary paper.

But upon closer examination, one can see that it’s no ordinary list—this is the list made by Oskar Schindler, a German industrialist credited with saving 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust by designating them “essential” employees.

During the Nazi occupation of Europe in WWII, having one's name on Schindler’s list was the difference between life and death for the Jewish laborers of the Plaszow work camp.

Side view of grave of Oskar Schindler in the Mount Zion Franciscan Cemetery, Jerusalem.  His is the only grave piled with stones, a custom usually seen only in Jewish cemeteries, indicating the many Jewish visitors to his gravesite.

The Lamb’s Book of Life

While having one's name on Schindler’s List meant more time to treasure this mortal life, having one’s name in the Book of Life involves Eternity.

Those whose names are written in this wonderful book will have life eternal and also the privilege of being part of the Bride of Messiah in the New Jerusalem.

"Then I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.
…and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life."
(Revelation 21: 1-2, 27)

Pray with us for all those whose names are not yet written in the Book of Life, that they may rejoice with us in the Lord.  Amen v’Amen.

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"I will bless those who bless you."  (Genesis 12:3) 

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