We begin this parasha (portion) of Torah study with the final of the five books of Moshe (Moses) that make up Torah. Moshe here is reminding the people of the Mitzvah (commands) of the L- RD prior to his death and the entry of the people into the Promised Land that G-d had promised Avraham (Abraham.)
Devarim literally translates as “words.” And again begins with the recap, if you will, of what they had all been through since receiving Torah.
An interesting verse is Deuteronomy 1:8, “See, I have set the land before you; go in and possess the land which the L-RD swore to your fathers–to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob–to give to them and their descendants after them.”
I’ll take just a moment to focus you in on one word in particular that leaped out and struck me during my study time this week. That word in the English is “possess.” We think of the triumphal entry of the people into the Land as something akin to children receiving an inheritance, as when a parent passes away. Somehow you can imagine some sort of ceremonial or covenantal ritual taking place where the keys of ownership were turned over to the children. Not exactly.
Remember, there were inhabitants in the Land still and they were no ordinary people, we know that amongst them were giants, nephelim, that would oppose them. So with that in mind the word possess is worthy of stopping a moment to consider. While possess is a decent translation of the Hebrew, I think the more appropriate option the translators could have chosen is the definition listed in Strongs is “seize.” Telling the people to go up and seize the Land takes on a whole new picture. There are a couple definitions of seize that we can consider. One is that of a verb depicting action. Not just any action, but actual taking by force, even to the point of violence. Synonyms include grab, grasp and take. All of which imply, at least to me, a transfer of authority, again, in an aggressive or violent way.
A legal phrase comes to mind while writing this; you have likely heard it yourself. Possession is 9/10 of the law. In this case, it is all about the Word and Will of G-d, but the people were about to add to that the fact of seized possession!
Just as an aside, I will share a thought in my mind at this point. Certainly not saying this is “Thus saith the L-RD” but merely submitting it for your own study and thought processes. In addition to the literal actual and historical pashat (surface level) reading of the text, perhaps one application we take away from this is as follows. Perhaps some of the promises or blessings, if you will, of the Father are not only available to us but we are meant to “seize” or accept or better yet, “take” possession of them? This obviously will not and cannot apply to everything, but maybe certain blessings you have sought and prayed for your whole life already have been given to you. See, the people about to enter the Land have already been “given” the Land. It says that G-d “set it before them.” In other words, He had brought them to it…laid it before them…but now what? Had they ignored or missed the command to go and possess it they would have waited their entire lives at the doorstep of immense blessing without ever actually experiencing it!
Don’t worry, I’m not going over the edge. I’m not suggesting that this is a financial message, as some would try to suggest. What did the Promised Land mean to the people? What should it represent to us? This is a tough one as it encompasses so much, but I will attempt to pull out one possible thought.
This Land was a place where the people were called to settle down and establish themselves in. It was to be a place where they could live, grow, multiply and BE a blessing to the world. Note my focus was NOT on the obvious blessings that were in it for them, but rather on the blessing they were to be.
I am feeling for a number of reasons that spiritually speaking we can make application to our “people” or congregation. The Father has called us to a work. I’m not solely speaking of Rabbi Cliff and myself alone, but as all of us as One body, One Congregation. We are called to a work, and that work is to be a blessing to His Kingdom and to this community and surrounding areas.
Perhaps it is time for us to refrain from lingering any longer just outside the perimeter of the blessing. Maybe it is time for each of us to be stirred from within by the Ruach (Spirit) to “seize” it! How can we take possession of the promise? Not by living the example only, but by putting into action all we have learned and taking it to the streets. We need to reach out and invite not only unbelievers and share the Gospel, but also to those who the L-RD puts on our hearts. His sheep will know His voice.
i believe it is just about time for us to grow. Not for the sake of numbers, but for the sake of change, and the sake of the Kingdom.
Our ultimate Promised Land of Heaven via the Glorious catching away or rapture is close at hand. We need to grow with that in mind for the sake of taking as many with us as possible.