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D'varim/Deuteronomy 31:21 "For I know his inclination that he is making today ..."
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The word translated 'inclination' - , the noun with a 3ms possessive ending from the root , to form, fashion or make; to devise or meditate - can also be translated as 'thought', 'imagination' or 'plan'. The implication here is that the people have a somewhat different idea about what entering the Land is all about. The previous verse seems to confirm this: "For when I bring them into the land flowing with milk and honey, which I swore to their fathers, and they have eaten and are satisfied and become prosperous, then they will turn to other gods and serve them, and spurn Me and break My covenant" (v. 20, NASB). Richard Friedman points out (confirmed by Even Shoshan) that the word brackets the flood story (B'resheet 6:5, 8:21) but then doesn't appear in the Torah again until here. Right back at the beginning, HaShem knew what was going on: "Then the L-RD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually" (B'resheet 6:5, NASB); after the flood, in the midst of the promise that He made never to flood the earth again, He adds, "I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man's heart is evil from his youth" (8:21, NASB). Friedman's argument is thatHaShem recognises that mankind's basic inclination is towards doing bad; the people of Israel, as a subsection of humanity are no exception. This is why HaShem has Moshe teach the Israelites this song - so that they too will come to acknowledge that HaShem was right all along.
Although not all the classic commentators address this verse, theSforno explains HaShem's words: "For I know their inclination: They do not anticipate entering the Land so as to serve Me, which is My intent, as it says, 'And He gave them the lands of the nations ... that they might keep His statutes (Psalm 105:44-45)'. Rather they look to it (the Land) to satisfy the desires of their souls and because of this, the prophesied evil will come to pass, as it says, 'But Jeshurun waxed fat and kicked (B'resheet 32:15)'." Although G-d intended that the people should settle the Land and serve Him, in practice they will serve themselves and so fail to serve Him. The Ramban emphasises G-d's foreknowledge and assessment of the situation through the words of the prophet: "If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be eaten by the sword" (Isaiah 1:19-20, ESV); G-d offers them a choice that they can take, but tells them in advance that He knows that they will fail to obey Him: "Because I know that you are obstinate, and your neck is an iron sinew and your forehead brass, I declared them to you from of old, before they came to pass I announced them to you" (48:4-5, ESV).
John's gospel records that Yeshua too had this knowledge: "Now while He was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many people saw the miraculous signs He was doing and believed in His name. But Yeshua would not entrust Himself to them, for He knew all men. He did not need man's testimony about man, for He knew what was in a man" (John 2:23-25, NIV). Later on, after He had fed five thousand people, He again demonstrates that He knows what is going on but refuses to allow the people to have their way: "Yeshua, knowing that they intended to come and make Him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by Himself" (John 6:15, NIV). The Scriptures make this very plain: "Before G-d, nothing created is hidden, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of him to whom we must render an account" (Hebrews 4:13, CJB).
The biblical text is very clear, both that Israel is not an exception to the general state of mankind and that man universally follows through on his inclination to actually commit sin. King Solomon - who is famous because of the wisdom he was given by G-d - prays during the dedication of the Temple: "If they sin against you -- for there is no one who does not sin ..." (1 Kings 8:46 and 2 Chronicles 6:36, ESV), while Qohelet confirms, "Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins" (Ecclesiastes 7:20, NASB). The Psalmist prays, "Enter not into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you" (Psalm 143:2, ESV), while the writer of the Proverbs asks the question: "Who can say, 'I have made my heart pure; I am clean from my sin'?" (Proverbs 20:9, ESV). Rav Sha'ul's clear and forthright summary is perhaps the most famous of these quotes: "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of G-d" (Romans 3:23, ESV).
Many people will ask about those who do good in the world, those who give both their lives and their money to charitable works, to serving the poor or struggling for peace, yet seem to have no faith in or relationship with G-d. How could G-d possibly condemn people who do such good and noble things! Indeed, from the world's point of view, they rejoice that such good was done without needing to be framed in the context of religion. All these are the result of G-d's common grace - grace poured out upon mankind in general - and the way in which men individually respond to it. It is not for us to judge where people stand before G-d; that is clearly His position and His alone, but the Scriptures are sufficiently clear and unambiguous that we should not doubt how they apply to us.
On the basis of His knowledge of human nature and the repeated experience which the biblical text shows us, G-d knew that we would need help. He provided clear guidelines and instructions for living which, if kept faithfully, would protect our relationship with Him. Very few choose to maintain that walk with G-d of their own volition, although the Bible tells us that it can be done. While it is true to say that Yeshua is the only person who never sinned, it is incorrect to say that Yeshua is the only person who kept the Torah. Luke's gospel records that John the Baptist's parents "were both righteous in the sight of G-d, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the L-rd" (Luke 1:6, NASB). The Bible also records other isolated incidences of people who were righteous - Enoch, Noah, Abraham, David - yet their lives were hardly free from sin; they knew what to do with it and how to resolve the problem: they went to G-d, confessed their sin and offered the appropriate sacrifice in faith.
Despite all the thinkers of the Enlightenment, modern atheists and humanists, man still has a basic problem and - in his honest moments - knows that he has a problem. That problem is sin - choosing our own way rather than G-d's way, doing those things that we know are wrong. The inescapable fact remains, despite all our bluff or attempts at rationalisation: we sin, we know that we have sinned, we know that G-d knows that we have sinned, we know that G-d knows that we know that we have sinned; and yet we refuse to acknowledge it - this is not only foolish, it adds rebellion to our catalogue of sin.
Because G-d knows the inclination of our hearts, He provided a way for all those who were willing to return to Him. The Hebrew word for this is t'shuvah and means turning around or returning. In order to be reconciled with G-d, two things are necessary: a turning away from sin - a 180 degree turn, turning our backs on sin - and a turning towards G-d, accepting His forgiveness and a determination to follow Him rather than ourselves or the world. That turning, which theologians call repentance, is available to each and every one of us in Messiah Yeshua, because it is Yeshua who died on the cross to be the sacrifice for our sin and effect our reconciliation with G-d.
Just as G-d knew our inclination before the world was created, He also knew that Yeshua would have to provide a solution for sin before the world was created. That is why from the earliest moments in Scripture, G-d starts to explain about the solution; He talks over and over again about the coming of Messiah. He explained beforehand so that we could not say that Yeshua was an afterthought or an emergency plan when things went wrong. All along, it has always been G-d's plan for Yeshua to come and for us to know Yeshua. Yeshua is the Saviour of the world. He is also the King and High Priest of Israel, making the two into one so that G-d can be served and worshiped by all of His creation.
Further Study: Psalm 130:1-8; Shemot 34:6-7
Application: Do you know Yeshua? Now is the moment to make a turn-round in your life and find the only rescue plan that works. This is the season of repentance in the Jewish world, so why not go the whole way and find full forgiveness in the Jewish Messiah.
© Jonathan Allen, 2010
Comment - 29Aug10 01:37 Phil: Insightful and full of relevance for our time. Great to have the Hebrew/Jewish perspective/understanding coupled with the ways of Messiah. Think we often forget about those accounted as righteous so as to excuse our own breaking of the commandments. The comment regarding the Enlightenment and the groups following resonate today very clearly.
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