A Taste of Torah – August – Reflections from My Gratitude Journal

Torah - Devarim
A Taste of Torah – August – Devarim – Deuteronomy

(apcod.wordpress.com/a-taste-of-torah-august/)

02 / 08     Devarim – Words                             Deut. 1:1 – 3:22; Isaiah 1:1-27

09 / 08     Va’etchanan   – And I Besought      Deut. 3:23 – 7:11; Isaiah 40:1-26

16 / 08     Ekev – Because                               Deut. 7:12 – 11:25; Isaiah 49:14-51:3

23 / 08     Re’eh  – Behold                               Deut. 11:26 – 16:17; Isaiah 54:11-55:5

30 / 08     Shoftim – Judges                            Deut. 16:18 – 21:9; Isaiah 51:12-52:12


August 18 at 7.30 am – A Taste of Torah – Keren Hannah (his-israel.com); Ken Boa Reflection Ministries (www.kenboa.org)

A COVENANT OF LOVE

16 / 08 – 22 / 08     Ekev – Because       Deuteronomy 7:12 – 11:25; Isaiah 49:14-51:3

(A Taste of Torah: apcod.wordpress.com/a-taste-of-torah-august)

Wherefore it shall come to pass, if ye hearken to these judgments, and keep, and do them, that the Lord thy God shall keep unto thee the covenant and the mercy which He sware unto thy fathers:…And He will love thee, and bless thee, and multiply thee:…Thou shalt be blessed above all people: Deuteronomy 7:12-13

A Covenant of Love: What motivates covenant? With God and with Christ is love (Deuteronomy 7: 9; John 15: 12). I have always pondered on this eternal fact: Even before the creation of the world, there was love because God is Love (1 John 4: 8). Let us stop and think about this for a moment. Before there was the sun, moon and stars, there was love. Eternity is full of love because God is love. If there is another thing I lack (the first being lack of total devotion to God – August 17 reflections) is the continual debt I owe to love God with all my heart, and soul, and mind, my family and friends. This failure and weakness to love beyond myself is because of the plague within my own heart and this journey ‘to make peace with God’ is to allow the Holy Spirit to search my own heart and reveal those areas that are offensive to God.

God’s love is agape love, unconditional love. The Old Testament concept of covenant love: between God and Abraham, between Jonathan and David (1 Samuel 23:18) has “oneness” as its root meaning and always made before the LORD. This is best expressed in the words of Jesus Himself when the Lord declared to the Jews, “I and the Father are one” John 10: 30.  In the New Testament this concept of “oneness” is expressed as its root meaning in the word ‘koinonia’ meaning “Fellowship”.

Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards. Soren Kierkegaard

This is a powerful and true statement because it is so difficult to maintain an eternal paradigm of living in covenantal love with God and neighbor (family and friends) because we do not think much of eternity. The concept of covenant love is always eternal. I know that I would have lived my life in the fear of God and walked right before a Holy God if I had the end in mind all the time. Because the children of Israel could not see the ‘end’ in sight of crossing the Jordan into the promised land where God would dwell with them, take care of them, feed them, protect them and watch over them, what was a 11-day journey took 40 years in the wilderness. Why?…to test their hearts if they truly loved God and would follow His commandments. ‘Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep His commands. Deuteronomy 8: 2’

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Keren Hannah writes in ‘A Taste of Torah’:  Ekev, fittingly carries the confirmation of God’s covenant with His people, “It will come to pass, ekev, because of, your hearing these social ordinances and carrying them out with care, that the Lord your God will keep for you the covenant and lovingkindness  that He swore to your fathers” (Deuteronomy 7:12). The word Ekev compares with the Hebrew word for heel. In the light of the context, we could say that the blessings of God follow on the ‘heels’ of our obedience. As we willingly heed and obey His commandments, statutes and ordinances, our focus should not be on the rewards to be reaped; rather our joy should stem from hearing the Word of God and wholeheartedly applying it to our lives for His glory. As loving children, we do this in order to please our Father in heaven. Then, He assures us, His blessings will follow.

In The Weight of Glory, C.S.Lewis says: We are all immortal creatures, destined either to live an eternal, resurrected existence with Jesus Christ or destined to successfully have avoided God and His claims and to live in a Christless eternity. These are our only options.

May God grant us the grace to obey our Lord’s  command to love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind and with all our strength because, ”ekev‘, if we follow these ordinances of right living, this pleases our God and Father in Heaven to bless our lives and ties with one another in Christ Jesus. Amen!

Rev Dr John Fawcett  1739 - 1817
John Fawcett 1739 – 1817

“Bless be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love.”

Rev Dr John Fawcett wrote this hymn in 1772 to convey his sentiments and that of his wife to the poor people of a little village church in Wainsgate, England where they had chosen to live. He was supposed to move to a larger church but the love and affection of the people for the Fawcetts compelled him to stay and serve them. And that he did for the rest of his life – 54 years in all.

 

  1. Blest be the tie that binds
    Our hearts in Christian love;
    The fellowship of kindred minds
    Is like to that above.
  2. Before our Father’s throne,
    We pour our ardent prayers;
    Our fears, our hopes, our aims are one,
    Our comforts, and our cares.
  3. We share our mutual woes,
    Our mutual burdens bear;
    And often for each other flows
    The sympathizing tear.
  4. When we asunder part,
    It gives us inward pain;
    But we shall still be joined in heart,
    And hope to meet again.

 

August 9 at 7.30 am – A Taste of Torah

SHEMA ISRAEL: HEAR, O ISRAEL

09 / 08 – 15 / 08     Va’etchanan   – And I Besought      Deuteronomy 3:23 – 7:11; Isaiah 40:1-26

It was Friday evening, May 17, 1996 in Jerusalem. This was the first time I joined a Messianic Jewish fellowship to remember and observe the Shabbat. It was the first time I listened to ‘The Sh’ma’: The Jewish Prayer of affirmation of the faith of the Jewish people in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. It opened a new chapter in my life to love the Lord my God with all my heart and soul and mind and strength. It is only within the context of hearing the word of the Lord can we respond in obedience through faith in Lord Jesus of Nazareth to observe the greatest commandment that Jesus Himself gave to His people Israel: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. Matthew 22:37-38, KJV

The absence of hearing the Word of the Lord results in a spiritual famine – not a famine of food or a thirst for water but a famine of hearing the words of the LORD. This is the central vision of APCOD – The Asia Pacific Consultation On Discipleship (www.apcod.net) . It carries the urgent warning from the Prophet Amos to the nation of Israel in Amos Chapter 8: 11-12. Seek the LORD and Live – Amos 5:6

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The Torah portion for this week: 09 / 08 – 15 / 08 – Va’etchanan – And I besought carries the meaning of: to implore urgently, to request earnestly. It ushers in a sense of urgency for obedience to the will of God by hearing the statues and ordinances taught by Moses to the people of Israel so they may live and possess the land God had given to them. Moses emphasizes that the one indispensable condition upon which the future victory and prosperity of the people depended was obedience to the will of God as expressed in His Word. He urgently proclaims:  “And now, O Israel, hear the statutes and ordinances I am teaching you today … so that you may live and possess the Land” (Deuteronomy 4:1).

Keren Hannah Pryor
Keren Hannah Pryor

Keren Hannah Pryor writes: When we truly hear Him our response involves every aspect of our lives. This is highlighted in the Sh’ma: “Sh’ma YisraelHear O Israel—the Lord our God, the Lord is One. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might…” (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). To achieve this goal, Moses exhorts the people to “…fear the Lord your God” and to “…teach [His Word] to your children” (Deuteronomy 4:10).

Rabbi Lord Dr Jonathan Sacks
Rabbi Lord Dr Jonathan Sacks

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks writes:

The Meaning of Shema: What word does the Torah use as the appropriate response to a mitzvah (command)? Shema. The root “sh-m-a” is a keyword in the book of Deuteronomy, where it occurs 92 times, usually in the sense of what God wants from us in response to the commandments. In the Torah there is no concept of blind obedience. God, who created us in His image, gives us the freedom and the power to think, wants us to understand His commands. It is precisely this that makes the Torah different.

Throughout the book of Devarim (Deuteronomy), there is the giving of reasons for the commands. Often, though not always, the reason has to do with the experience of the Israelites in Egypt. They know what it feels like to be oppressed, to be a stranger, an outsider. Moses reaches the summit of his leadership, he becomes an educator, explaining to the new generation who will eventually conquer and inhabit the land, that the laws God has given them are not just Divine decrees. They make sense in human terms. They constitute the architectonics of a free and just society. They respect human dignity. They honor the integrity of nature. They give the land the chance to rest and recuperate. They protect Israel against the otherwise inexorable laws of the decline and fall of nations.

Only by recognizing God as their sovereign King will they guard against overbearing kings and the corruptions of power. Time and again Moses tells the people that if they follow God’s laws they will prosper. If they fail to do so they will suffer defeat and exile. That is why Moses, consistently throughout Devarim (Deuteronomy), uses the verb sh-m-a. He wants the Israelites to obey God, but not blindly or through fear alone. The Israelites should know this through their own direct experience. They had seen how God, creator of heaven and earth, had chosen this people as His own, brought them out from slavery to freedom, fed, sustained and protected them through the wilderness, and led them to victory against their enemies. God had not given the Torah to Israel for His sake but for theirs.

Keeping the commands involves an act of listening, not just submission and blind obedience – listening in all its multiple senses of attending, meditating and reflecting about the nature of God through creation, revelation and redemption. It means trying to understand our limits and imperfections as human beings. It means remembering what it felt like to be a slave in Egypt. It involves humility and memory and gratitude. But it does not involve abdication of the intellect or silencing of the questioning mind. God seeks not just our obedience but also our understanding. All nations have laws, and laws are there to be obeyed. But few nations other than Israel set it as their highest task to understand why the law is as it is. That is what the Torah means by the word “Shema.”

The greatest sin of all is to reject the love of God and harden our hearts to not love the Lord our God with all our heart, and soul and mind and strength. O Lord Jesus, grant us the grace to acknowledge the plague in our own hearts and the wisdom to number our days so we may live to worship and serve you only. Amen!

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”  Mark 12:29-30

So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Romans 10:17, KJV

Sh’ma Yis-ra-eil, A-do-nai E-lo-hei-nu, A-do-nai E-chad. Ba-ruch sheim k’vod mal-chu-to l’o-lam va-ed. Hear, O Israel, the LORD is our God, the LORD is One. Blessed be the name of the glory of His kingdom forever and ever.


 

August 8 at 7.10 am – A Taste of Torah

THE IMAGE OF GOD: RUINED AND RESTORED

The LORD your God has blessed you in all the work of your hands. He has watched over your journey through this vast desert.These forty years the LORD your God has been with you, and you have not lacked anything. Deuteronomy 2: 7

…because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1: 3-4

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The Torah portion for the week 02/08 to 08/08 is complete. Here in Deuteronomy Chapters 1-3, we read of ‘The Faithfulness of God’ as ‘a father carries his son’ (Deuteronomy 1: 31). For forty years they have been wandering in the wilderness. A whole generation has been lost and now Joshua is about to take the children of Israel into the promised land of God. An eleven-days journey from Mount Horeb to Kardesh Barnea has now taken forty years! They had been tested in the desert and had now reached a stage of accountability and Moses is trying to impress upon this new generation the lessons that needed to be learned in order to be prepared to enter the Land promised by God. In this discourse, standing on the East of Jordan in the territory of Moab, Moses portrays the image of God as a faithful Father whose unconditional love is unending and forgiving. But God is also a God of Judgement.

Whenever we go forward in faithfulness according to His direction, we see the salvation of our God and witness His unfailing love. – Keren Hannah Pryor – A Taste of Torah – August

1 Kings 8.38

As a personal testimony, for 28 years since the age of fifteen I was wandering in the wilderness before I received the call of God on my life on February 22nd 1995 at 5.30 am in the morning. A date, time, year and place etched in my heart, soul and mind because I was totally ruined, shocked, and afraid as a result of a visitation from God. These past 19 years have been a time of restoration and sanctification and like the people of Israel, the journey continues to be long and painful because I still struggle with areas of darkness in my soul as a result of the plague in my own heart.  During those 28 years prior to 1995, I was far from God making my own ‘golden calf’ and I had developed a very blurred image of God. I was a believer but not a follower of Jesus, not a disciple of the Lord. I knew Jesus as my personal Savior but no knowledge of who God really was and is as a Holy Father, Righteous Father and living God of Judgement. We need to see the big picture of who God really is and His redemptive plan and purpose for each of our lives in God’s purpose for all creation through the vocation of Israel as a people set apart by God. A study of Deuteronomy this month of August from ‘A Taste of Torah’ will give us a biblical worldview of the real image of God as Moses proclaimed to the people of Israel so they would live right, walk right as a ‘royal priesthood and holy nation‘ and worship God in spirit and truth.

My Gratitude Journal: August 4th reflections: We live within a meta-narrative. The word meta-narrative is a compound word coming from the word “narrative” and the prefix “meta.” Narrative refers to story and meta has the meaning of “along with, after, from”. Combined, they give the notion of ‘going beyond the story’. A meta-narrative provides a framework upon which an individual’s own experiences and thoughts may be ordered and is characterized by a form of ‘transcendent and universal truth’ of human existence that encompasses a story with a beginning, middle and an end.

For it is not a vain thing for you; because it is your life: and through this thing ye shall prolong your days in the land, whither ye go over Jordan to possess it. Deuteronomy 32:47, KJV

Professor N.Tom Wright (formerly the Bishop of Durham, England) delivers a message entitled: The IMAGE OF GOD: RUINED AND RESTORED (45 minutes). As we study the Book of Deuteronomy for the month of August let us listen to Dr NT Wright as he gives the big picture of the vocation of Israel for the redemption of all of creation through Jesus Christ our Lord. Questions to consider:

1. How does the image of God come to life in us? 2. What does it mean to say ‘We are in the image of God’? 3. How does the Abrahamic promise to take possession of the land God gives to the nation of Israel become the Davidic promise that a king will reign and rule from Zion over the land (Psalm 2) and ultimately through Jesus of Nazareth this possession of God’s inheritance for the people of God becomes God’s redemptive plan for all of creation.


 

August 4 at 7.30 am – A Taste of Torah

02/08 – 08/08    Devarim – Words      Deuteronomy 1:1 – 3:22; Isaiah 1:1-27

WORDS

“These are the words Moses spoke to all Israel….” Deuteronomy 1:1

Keren Hannah Pryor
Keren Hannah Pryor

A Taste of Torah is authored by Keren Hannah Pryor, a well-respected Hebraic teacher and author. In May 1996 in Jerusalem, I was so blessed to have met Keren’s husband, the late Dr Dwight Arnold Pryor. Meeting Dwight was revolutionary because it changed the way I read and interpreted Scripture through Hebrew eyes. Dwight was the keynote speaker at the inaugural 1st APCOD Consultation on Discipleship here in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia on July 25th, 2001. We all miss Dwight but his legacy continues through the life and teachings of Keren, his dear wife. Keren resides in Jerusalem. Her writings and teachings can be followed from the website HIS-ISRAEL : his-israel.com; The Gift of Torah: his-israel/torah-portion.

A Taste of Torah – for the month of August takes root in the Book of Deuteronomy.  Devarim, meaning ‘words’ is the Hebrew name of Deuteronomy with the primary focus of how to live as a people of God.

WORDS: I remember relating this story while trying to explain how much of damage many of the words I have spoken from my own mouth have caused endless hurt to so many people. I can never retrieve the words back nor undo the damage that has been done and I can only pray for forgiveness from those whom I have intentionally or unintentionally hurt from my spoken…words. Here is the story: A man goes up to the Rabbi and explains how much his heart grieves for the words he has spoken to so many people in his life and in particular to the one person he truly loves. He pleads with the Rabbi to help him heal this problem that is eating his soul. The Rabbi thought hard and then said: “Go and take a large pillow case and stuff it with many feathers till it is full and then seal the pillow. Take the pillow with the stuffed feathers to the top of the hill and then take a knife and cut the pillow into many pieces and allow the wind to blow the feathers away…far away”. Then the man asked: “Then what should I do Rabbi after the wind has blown all the feathers away?” The Rabbi answered: “Now go and pick up the feathers, one by one”. The man knew from this teaching that there was no way he could undo the damage that was already done. Words…when spoken …can mean LIFE or DEATH.

We live within a meta-narrative. The word meta-narrative is a compound word coming from the word “narrative” and the prefix “meta.” Narrative refers to story and meta has the meaning of “along with, after, from”. Combined, they give the notion of ‘going beyond the story’. A meta-narrative provides a framework upon which an individual’s own experiences and thoughts may be ordered and is characterized by a form of ‘transcendent and universal truth’ of human existence that encompasses a story with a beginning, middle and an end.

The Exodus story is our story…my story. ‘Out of Egypt I called My son’ fulfils what the Prophet Hosea (Hosea 11:1-2) lamented about God’s love for Israel – “Israel, My firstborn son” Exodus 4:22. The more God called the children of Israel to walk after the LORD and follow His laws and commands, the more they rebelled against the LORD. This is so true in our own lives too. ‘Coming out of Egypt’ is the story beyond the story. We are the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16). The more I am blessed, the more I forget my first love for the Lord Jesus and take His blessings and the grace of God for granted. There is this constant craving of the inner man for the things of this world (Egypt) and I need to be constantly reminded to fix my eyes upon Jesus the author and perfecter of my faith in God (Hebrews 12:2). The Word of God reminds us of the saving grace of God in our lives, if we obey His word and always acknowledge the plague in our own hearts.

Keren Hannah writes in ‘A Taste of Torah’ – August: 02/08 – 07/08 apcod.wordpress.com/a-taste-of-torah-august

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Devarimmeaning ‘words,’ is the Hebrew name of Deuteronomy, the fifth and last book of the Torah. Moses demonstrates that the great truths of God’s revealed Word need to be constantly learned anew, and that they always yield deeper and richer insights. This first discourse of Moses is a review of the Israelites’ journey from Horeb (Mount Sinai) to Kadesh Barnea. We are informed in verse 2 that it is “’eleven days’ journey” between these two points. The estimated time, eleven days, was extended to forty years! Moses is trying to impress upon this new generation the lessons that needed to be learned in order to be prepared to enter the Land promised by God. They had now reached the stage of accountability. On the long and arduous journey, they had known God’s faithful and tender care and had experienced: “…how the Lord your God bore you, as a man bears his son, all the way that you went until you came to this place” (Deuteronomy 1:31).

Moses concludes the parasha with a repetition of the assurance proclaimed in the first chapter (Deuteronomy 1:30): “You shall not fear; for the Lord your God, He it is that fights for you!” Whenever we go forward in faithfulness according to His direction, we see the salvation of our God and witness His unfailing love.

We become aware, as we journey, that this walk primarily is a means of growing in loving covenant relationship with God; our Father and the Father of all. Enfolded in this relationship, we grow in ever-increasing intimate knowledge of Him. All of God’s Word, we discover to our wonder, is a gift of life in that it is a gracious revelation of the One who is the Source of Life.

For it is not a vain thing for you; because it is your life: and through this thing ye shall prolong your days in the land, whither ye go over Jordan to possess it. Deuteronomy 32:47, KJV

1:50 pm: FAITH’s checkbook: Charles Spurgeon: Words and Blessings – A man’s blessing may begin and end with words, but the blessing of the Lord makes rich and sanctifies. It is an equally delightful thing to be kept of God: kept by Him, kept near Him, kept in Him. They are kept indeed whom God keeps: they are preserved from evil; they are reserved unto boundless happiness.

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