Nitzavim - Deut 29:9(10) - 30:20

D'varim/Deuteronomy 30:9   And the L-rd your G-d will cause you to abound in all the work of your hand ...


Moshe is now summing up his last full-length speech in the book of D'varim. Having run through an extended list of blessings and curses that will befall the Israelites following their obedience and disobedience to The Name ...

HaShem: literally, Hebrew for 'The Name' - an allusion used to avoid pronouncing the Tetragrammaton, the so-called 'ineffable' name of G–d
HaShem's commandments respectively, he is now concluding what will happen to them when - from a position in exile - they repent and return to HaShem. As well as being gathered from among all the nations and restored to the Land, having their hearts turned towards Him and seeing the curses inflicted upon those who were persecuting them, HaShem will cause everything they do to prosper.

The verb is the Hifil affix 3ms form, of the root with a 2ms suffix and a vav-reversive construction: He will cause something to happen to you. The root, in its simplest Qal stem means "to remain, or be left" (Davidson); but the Hifil (or causitive) stem when followed by the preposition, means "to cause to abound in" that thing. So here, , "in all or every work of your hand". The verb only appears twice in the whole of the Hebrew Scriptures in this form: here and in (D'varim 28:11) which then almost exactly follows the next phrases of our text. Jeffrey Tigay comments that "the first half of [this] verse essentially reiterates the promise made in 28:11".

In the context of restoration and return, Ovadiah Who Is ...

Sforno: Rabbi Ovadiah Sforno (1470-1550 CE), Italian rabbi, philosopher and physician; born in Cesena, he went to Rome to study medicine; left in 1525 and after some years of travel, settled in Bologna where he founded a yeshiva which he conducted until his death
Sforno comments that "He will grant you success greater that all former successes." What follows from being restored to relationship with G-d is even greater than knowing Him in the first place. Rabbi Who Is ...

Hirsch: Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808-1888 CE), German rabbi, author and educator; staunch opponent of the Reform movement in Germany and one of the fathers of Orthodox Judaism
Hirsch goes even further: "Here follows the ultimate complete realisation of the whole of the commands of the Torah to which the promise of the most complete blessing in every direction is promised, and will then become a reality, and without having to fear the repetition of the danger of backsliding which prosperity had always brought in the past." Not only will this level of blessing be the best that it can possibly be, but the risk of falling away - "When the L-RD your G-d brings you into the land that He swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to assign to you -- great and flourishing cities that you did not build, houses full of all good things that you did not fill, hewn cisterns that you did not hew, vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant -- and you eat your fill, take heed that you do not forget the L-RD who freed you from the land of Egypt, the house of bondage" (D'varim 6:10-12, JPS) - always a past risk, will cease to be possible? That doesn't sound quite right or consistent with history. The book of Judges reports a number of cycles of Israel falling away from HaShem, being oppressed by their enemies, crying out and being rescued and restored, just to go round again in another generation or two. The Babylonian exile was a massive trauma for Israel, from which she was explicitly restored to the Land; the destruction of the Second Temple marked the start of nearly two thousand years of exile from which Israel is not yet fully restored, at least in part because she is still not trusting HaShem and obeying the covenant He has given.

The Haftarah portion for Nitzavim - the seventh and final prophecy in the seven weeks of consolation after Tisha B'Av - is Isaiah 61:10-63:9. It starts with celebratory: " I will greatly rejoice in the L-rd" because "He has clothed me with garments of triumph, wrapped me in a robe of victory" (61:10, JPS). This is the voice of Zion who will rejoice in her G-d, for He has given her victory over her enemies and restored her in every way possible, including fine clothing, reputation and relationship with Himself. After a number of paragraphs where the prophet exhorts himself, then delivers words and pictures of encouragement to Israel and Jerusalem, the Haftarah concludes with "I will recount the kind acts of the L-RD, the praises of the L-RD -- for all that the L-RD has wrought for us, the vast bounty to the House of Israel that He bestowed upon them according to His mercy and His great kindness" (63:7, JPS), another abounding shower of blessing. The Hebrew words used here mean "great goodness" or "many good things", riches beyond measure.

All these promises are made explicitly to Israel in the context of G-d's covenant with Avraham, Yitz'khak and Ya'akov, concerning particularly the Land of Israel, the city of Jerusalem and the physical descendants of the patriarchs. They cannot be appropriated by the church or spiritualised away; they are typical of a genre of prophecy given by a number of the Israelite prophets over an extended period of time and in a variety of different contexts. The original hearers heard them as applying to themselves and their descendants, covenant promises made by the G-d of their forefathers whose faithfulness will ensure that they are kept even if the people are unfaithful. The Jewish people are still, rightly, waiting for their fulfillment and remind G-d about them on a regular basis; it is what we do and it is a part of our relationship with G-d as His people: "O you, the L-RD's remembrancers, take no rest and give no rest to Him, until He establish Jerusalem and make her renowned on earth" (Isaiah 62:6-7, JPS).

Believers in Messiah too are promised blessings as part of their relationship in Him. Rav Sha'ul wrote, "Yeshua the Messiah did this so that in union with him the Gentiles might receive the blessing announced to Avraham, so that through trusting and being faithful, we might receive what was promised, namely, the Spirit" (Galatians 3:14, CJB). We too look to the return of Messiah, when He comes on the "clouds with tremendous power and glory" (Mark 13:26, CJB). We have that hope, that certainty set before us and "hope does not disappoint, because the love of G-d has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us" (Romans 5:5, NASB).

But can things ever get too good? At Pesach we sing the song "Dayenu - It would have been enough" and bless G-d for the successive steps of goodness to our people. Arranged in three stanzas of five lines each, the lines have a common format: "If He had only ..." followed by one of the blessings - brought us out of Egypt, had split the Red Sea, given us Shabbat, led us to Mount Sinai, and so on - and everyone sings Dayenu. We then conclude by saying together that in spite of all these blessings, G-d has still given us so much more: life in Messiah Yeshua and the blessings of relationship with Him and belonging to the kingdom! As Rav Sha'ul says, "He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?" (Romans 8:32, NASB). If we get all this and more, does that ever get too much for us. What does too much goodness look like and could we handle it?

Firstly, G-d promises that He will not push us past the point where failure is inevitable: "No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and G-d is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it" (1 Corinthians 10:13, NASB). This means that although we have seen a number of examples of leaders who have fallen into sin through sexual or financial irregularities, those leaders all chose to follow the sequence of events that led to their fall. That is not to say that they were not pushed or helped along that way by the enemy of our souls - "Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour" (1 Peter 5:8, NASB) - but that they could have chosen to resist those bad decisions and remain free from sin. As Peter goes on, "after you have suffered for a little while, the G-d of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Messiah, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you" (v. 10, NASB). These situations are there to test and prove us, to temper us like wrought iron, so that we may not shatter under stress, but instead be sharpened and polished to be used by G-d in the building of His kingdom. James makes it clear: "Resist the devil and he will flee from you" (James 4:7, NASB). In Messiah we have both the strength and ability to resist the enemy, for "destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of G-d, and taking every thought captive to the obedience of Messiah" (2 Corinthians 10:5, NASB).

Secondly, we can trust G-d not to overfill our cups. Rav Sha'ul tells us that "G-d is trustworthy: it was He who called you into fellowship with His Son, Yeshua the Messiah, our Lord" (1 Corinthians 1:9, CJB). Not only does He know how to "rescue the godly from trials" (2 Peter 2:9, CJB), but how to bring forth a harvest of "thirty, sixty or a hundred-fold" (Mark 4:8, NASB) from the seed that He plants in our lives. We or others may water the fields or labour in the vineyard, but it is "God who causes the growth" (1 Corinthians 3:7, NASB).

Further Study: Jeremiah 31:27-28; Mark 10:29-30

Application: Are you seeing the increase of your hands, yielding fruit for the kingdom, as G-d brings forth His blessing? Why not conduct a spiritual inventory and then talk it through with Chief Grower to see what can be done better?

© Jonathan Allen, 2015



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