D’varim (Deuteronomy) 7:12–11:25
In our reading last week, we learned of God’s call to the children of Israel to be a people set apart unto Him – a sacred and holy people. He explained that because of His unconditional love, His endless grace, and the promise to our forefathers, Israel would know that He is their God, the faithful God who keeps His covenant to those He loves and who love Him. But He also warned Israel that obedience was a key aspect to knowing His blessing in their lives.
God’s choosing of, and His love for Israel was never conditional; those were the basis of His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. What was conditional, however, was the intensity of blessing that Israel would experience if they loved and obeyed God with all their hearts.
How do we know this? Well, the opening verses of our parasha (weekly scripture portion) show us that God promised incredible, abundant blessing to those who kept his statutes. He promised to bless the fruit of the womb, the fruit of the ground, abundant grain, wine, and oil, as well as incredible health and victory over Israel’s enemies. (Deut 7:12-16)
But there is another component of obedience that was (and still is) very important to the Lord – the condition of our heart. God isn’t interested in having robots in His kingdom; He created us with the ability to choose, and the blessing of the covenant was the byproduct of choosing to obey God.
In our reading this week, we find the word “heart” mentioned at least 12 times! Some examples are:
If you should say in your heart, “These nations are greater than I; how can I inherit them?”.
And you shall remember all the way which the LORD your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.
Thus you are to know in your heart that the LORD your God was disciplining you just as a man disciplines his son.
..then your heart becomes proud, and you forget the LORD your God who brought you out from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
Otherwise, you may say in your heart, ‘My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth.’
Do not say in your heart when the LORD your God has driven them out before you, ‘Because of my righteousness the LORD has brought me in to possess this land,’ but it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is dispossessing them before you. “It is not for your righteousness or for the uprightness of your heart that you are going to possess their land, but it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD your God is driving them out before you, in order to confirm the oath which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require from you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul…
And it shall come about, if you listen obediently to my commandments which I am commanding you today, to love the LORD your God and to serve Him with all your heart and all your soul…
Beware, lest your hearts be deceived and you turn away and serve other gods and worship them.(Deuteronomy 11:16)
You shall therefore impress these words of mine on your heart and on your soul; and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontals on your forehead.
God is looking at our heart; He is jealous for our heart and He desires our heart to fully belong to Him. In fact, “heart” is mentioned over 800 times in the Bible! I think it’s safe to assume that the condition of our hearts is extremely important to Him.
So how can we have a heart totally devoted to God? Our parasha gives us an important clue. In Deut. 10:16, we find a very interesting term that says “Circumcise then your heart…”
Circumcision of the foreskin is a key part of the covenant between Abraham and God, so we can understand that circumcision of the heart is also a key part of the covenant. God desires us to have a “heart of flesh” rather than a “heart of stone”, so that our hearts would be soft to His instruction. In Messiah Yeshua, everyone receives a heart of flesh (not of stone), which is circumcised as a sign of our belonging to Him. (2Cor 3:3) A circumcised heart is a sign of love for the Lord, and so we obey Him because we love Him. (John 14:15)
Our love for Him will lead us to honor and obey Him! When you truly know Him, truly understand Him with all of your heart, understand His covenant, His endless grace, and His amazing faithfulness then you will desire to live in way that will honor Him.
Our works do not lead us to salvation, but rather our salvation leads us to honor Him with all our hearts, and obey all that He has commanded.
This article originally appeared on Hope for Israel, August 10, 2017, and reposted with permission.