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D'varim/Deuteronomy 11:22 ... to love the L-rd your G-d, to walk in all His ways and to cleave to Him.
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Jeffrey Tigay provides context for this text: "In this paragraph Moshe develops the first conclusion mentioned in the paragraph starting at verse 8, promising that if Israel loves and obeys G-d, G-d Himself will dispossess the Canaanites and enable Israel to succeed. This paragraph ... casts new light on the promise of victory uttered in 9:1-2 by making it clear that everything promised in chapters 9-11 is conditional." Israel will only have G-d's blessing and so succeed in taking possession of the Land if they meet G-d's criteria. What are they and how are they to be met? After explaining that Israel is to "certainly obey" all of the commandment that Moshe is giving - connected by all the commentators with significant Torah study - so as "to perform it", the verse ends with the text above that provides the essential detail needed for implementation.
First and foremost comes the question of relationship: "to love the L-rd your G-d". It is only in relationship that obedience can be commanded or carried out, but the relationship is to be one of love rather than of fear - although awe of G-d certainly plays a part. Israel is to be committed to HaShem, to defer to HaShem, to seek His will and purpose for their lives and - in return - to expect His involvement in their affairs, His provision for them, His protection and perhaps most importantly, His presence in their midst. This seems so clear and obvious that the commentators are unanimous in their silence at this point.
Secondly, at which point the commentators spring into life, there is the injunction to, "walk in all His ways". Is this not simply the same thing again: obey the commandments? The commentators suggest this is much more a matter of attitude - the way things are done - rather than the mechanical doing itself. It is not that we should simply imitate what G-d does, but that we should do it in the same way and relationship that He does.Rashi says, "He is merciful so you should be merciful; He bestows kindnesses so you should bestow kindnesses." The Sforno adds, "to conduct yourselves in those ways with which He conducts His world, namely righteousness and justice." Those qualities and attributes of G-d that govern His relationships with men should also be seen in us and our relationships with each other: seeking righteousness and justice for all. Hirsch sums up by quoting from the earliest rabbinic commentary on this text, Sifrei, "to try and copy His ways of dealing with the world, to be like Him in pity and love and patience, benevolent and dependable, gentle and forgiving and make ourselves worthy of bearing His name" (Sifrei 49).
The third leg of the strategy is "to cleave to Him", but how can this be done? Rashi asks, "Is it possible to say this? Is it not written, 'He is a consuming fire' (D'varim 4:24)?" He answers the question by putting these words in G-d's mouth: "Rather, cleave to disciples and to the sages and I will consider it on your behalf as if you cleaved to Me." In other words, you draw near to G-d by associating with those who are already in relationship with G-d, those who are engaged upon the study of Torah and living the Torah lifestyle.Hirsch amplifies this: "seek association with such people who, by word and example, will strengthen us in our 'walking in His ways'"; Hirsch sees the cleaving process as an essential part of the walking. The Sforno closes, "that all your actions have as their aim the doing of His will, as it says, 'In all your ways acknowledge Him' (Proverbs 3:6)".
We can all see the obvious applications in these suggestions for our lives today as believers in Messiah Yeshua. We must be in relationship Yeshua - His words - "On that Day, many will say to Me, 'L-rd, L-rd! Didn't we prophesy in Your name? Didn't we expel demons in Your name? Didn't we perform many miracles in Your name?' Then I will tell them to their faces, 'I never knew you! Get away from Me, you workers of lawlessness!'" (Matthew 7:22-23, CJB) - can have only that meaning: it doesn't matter what we do in His name if we don't know Him. Rav Sha'ul tells us that we are being made "like Yeshua" - "those whom [G-d] knew in advance, He also determined in advance would be conformed to the pattern of his Son, so that He might be the firstborn among many brothers" (Romans 8:29, CJB) - so that we take on His mannerisms and characteristics to those around us. We cleave to Yeshua by spending time with Him, by reading and studying His word and by sharing and fellowshipping with the saints so that we may together be built up in our faith.
On the other hand,Nachmanides offers another perspective on the third part of the strategy outlined by Moshe. Quoting Ibn Ezra, who said, "to love the Eternal, to walk in all His ways until you become worthy to cleave to Him in the end", the Ramban points out the verse, "Do not utter the names of their gods or swear by them; do not serve them or bow down to them. But hold fast [same root: cleave] to the L-RD your G-d as you have done to this day" (Joshua 23:7-8, JPS) and concludes that idolatry is the opposite of cleaving to G-d. He says, "This verse is similar to 'worship none but Him, and hold fast to Him' (D'varim 13:5, JPS), the intent being to warn that one is not to worship G-d with anything else besides Him, but to worship G-d alone, with one's heart and deeds." The practical issue of cleaving, the Ramban continues, is that our thoughts should never be separated from Him, "when you stay at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you get up" (D'varim 6:7, JPS), so that in the words of Abigail to the future King David, "your life will be bound in the bundle of life with ADONAI your G-d" (1 Samuel 25:29, CJB).
Our lives are bound up together with Messiah. John writes, "G-d has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son" (1 John 5:11, NASB); we have life in Him, or: apart from Him we have no life. Our faith in the resurrection is based upon Yeshua's resurrection: "if the Spirit of the One who raised Yeshua from the dead is living in you, then the One who raised the Messiah Yeshua from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit living in you" (Romans 8:11, CJB). Because He lives, we live; as He was raised from the dead, so are we now spiritually alive and will be raised to new life in Him when our mortal bodies die. We cleave to Him, cling to Him, hold fast to Him, because He is our life and in Him we are bound up the bundle of life!
Further Study: D'varim 30:19-20; 2 Corinthians 11:2
Application: Are you holding on tight, or has your grip relaxed a bit over the years? Are you still holding fast to Yeshua alone, or have a few other things been absentmindedly caught up in your hands along the way? You need to be certain that your grip is tight and unimpaired by anything that could cause your fingers to slip when it comes to the final pull over the line - these are not the days for relaxing or picking up fluff.
© Jonathan Allen, 2010
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