Shabbat shalom, and good morning. Our parasha this week is found in Deuteronomy 7–11, which is called “Eikev” (עֵקֶב), meaning “Then it shall come about” or “This is what will happen.” You see, in the midst of Moses delivering his final instructions to the nation of Israel, telling them to worship God and to be faithful to God, He also warns Israel about two different outcomes that may take place once they enter the land. Depending on their faithfulness to God, one of these two results will happen.
The first option is the path that leads to life. If Israel remains obedient to the commands of God, Moses tells them they will live securely and prosper: “Then it shall come about, because you listen to these judgments… that the Lord your God will keep with you His covenant” (Deut 7:12).
The second outcome is that path that leads to death. Moses also warns Israel: “It shall come about if you ever forget the Lord your God …you will surely perish” (Deut 8:19). Now, we may say “How on earth could they forget about God?” But the idea here is not that they forget God exists, but they live as though He does not; His commands, revelation, and calling do not mean much in their lives. In today’s day and age, this is often called “A practical atheist,” meaning one who believes in the existence of God but lives as though God’s presence or commands do not really matter.
Moses warns Israel that this heart condition often happens when life gets too comfortable; we forget about our need for God. And so, Moses warns them about these two paths, and this really sums up the message of Deuteronomy: If you do good, you will be blessed. But if you rebel, you will be cursed.
And while we are not ancient Israel, this parasha is a good reminder that we are not to live as “practical atheists,”but rather like Paul says, daily we must “press on toward the goal…for which God has called [us]” (Phil 3:14). In other words, we must be careful to continually grow in our relationship with God.
You see, Israel could have thought, “Well, we finally made it into the land! Now it is the time to kick back, relax, and enjoy.” But Moses gives them a completely different message, now is the time to focus and stay vigilant about your relationship with God.
Unfortunately, some early followers of the Messiah had this mentality, where they thought, “Well, the Messiah is coming soon,” so they stopped working and stopped ministry. But Paul also challenged them to keep “fighting the good fight, finishing the race, and keeping the faith” (1 Cor 9:24). In other words, there is still work to do.
Therefore, parasha Eikev is a good reminder for us that time is short, and we have an important calling to grow the Kingdom and fulfill this mission.
Now, when it comes to the broader message of Deuteronomy, we need to be careful not to misapply it to our lives. For example, some take the principle “If you obey, you will be blessed” and apply it directly to themselves: “If I am obedient, God will bless me!” However, we need to keep in mind that in Deuteronomy, it is speaking in general terms to the nation as a whole: if they obey, they will be secure and protected in the land.
This does not mean that every person individually who obeys God will have a pain-free life. Instead, we read many times in Scripture that the opposite is true; it is the godly who suffer. And this struggle is depicted well in Psalm 73, where the psalmist Asaph is wrestling with the very question, “Why do the godly suffer?” He writes: “Surely, God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart…But as for me, my feet came close to stumbling” (73:1–2). Why? Because as he looked around, he saw the faithful suffering.
But in the midst of his lament, about halfway through, we are given the solution for when we wrestle with this question. Asaph wrote: “[the success of the wicked] was troublesome in my sight, until I came into the sanctuary of God, then I perceived their end” (Ps 72:16-17). In other words, it was only when he entered the presence of God, when he refocussed his eyes on God’s revelation and promises, that he regained his stability, and was able to press on.
And this is the point of Moses and Paul. Whether things are good (and we are comfortable) or they are hard (and we are discouraged), there is only one way to remain stable in all of it: by keeping our eyes fixed on the Lord’s revelation and staying close to His word. A beautiful picture of this stability is found in Job. Because Job kept his eyes focused on the Lord, he was able to remain stable when things were good, and when things were hard. Regardless of circumstances, he was able to say: “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).
So, today let us remember the important calling that we have: now is not the time to sit back and relax, but it is the time to press forward as a runner, to pursue the Lord and His promises, to fulfill our calling in growing His kingdom.