“The Lesson of the Lay of the Land”
Parashah RE’EH (Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17) Week 47
“When ADONAI your God brings you into the land you are entering in order to take possession of it, you are to put the blessing on Mount G’rizim and the curse on Mount ‘Eival. Both are west of the Yarden, in the direction of the sunset, in the land of the Kena’ani living in the ‘Aravah, across from Gilgal, near the pistachio trees of Moreh. For you are to cross the Yarden to enter and take possession of the land ADONAI your God is giving you; you are to own it and live in it. And you are to take care to follow all the laws and rulings I am setting before you today.” (Deuteronomy 11:29-32 CJB)
Mount G’rizim (Blessing) stood as an imposing visual for the Nation of Israel. The mountain, to this day, is alive with vegetation and life of all kinds. The Mountain is a sacred, religious site which features, among other historical places, the stone platform where Abraham took his son Isaac, in obedience to the Lord, and lay him on an altar for sacrifice. The Mountain symbolizes life which flows out of obedience to Adonai’s commands. The verdant, green Mountain is a tangible image of what our obedience to God’s call on our life looks like, when we choose life, light, love, in unity with Him.
In contrast, Mount ‘Eival (Curse) stood as an imposing visual for the Nation of Israel. Mount ‘Eival is a rock mountain made primarily of limestone. It contains caverns, caves and the hewn graves of the dead. The barren, rock-solid mountain symbolizes the condition of one’s heart, as it hardens over time, in disobedience and disrespect of Adonai and His call upon our life. It was in the valley, between the two mountains, the Ark of the Covenant would rest, with the priestly Kohanim and Levites encircling the Ark in the valley between the two mountains.
The blessings which were promised by Adonai to the Nation of Israel for honoring His covenantal rulings were repeated by Moses to the people, and the people would offer their Amen or agreement after each blessing was recited by their leader. The blessings were repeated facing Mount G’rizim. The Amen of six tribes of the Nation who stood in front of the mountain of life, declared their agreement with the blessings.
The curses were warnings from Adonai for the Nation of Israel if they rebelled against His covenantal rulings, and were repeated by Moses to the people, and the people would offer their Amen or agreement after each curse was recited by their leader. The curses were repeated facing Mount ‘Eival, and the Amen of the other six tribes of the Nation who stood in front of the mountain of the dead declared their agreement with the curses; the results of idol worship and sin.
It was in the valley between the two mountains, imposing their shadows over the Nation of Israel and over the Ark of the Covenant, which held the stone tablets etched by the finger of God, that the collective minds and hearts of God’s chosen Nation saw with their own eyes…there were only two options to choose from! There were only blessings or curses to come on the heels of their choices to honor or dishonor the rulings of a Holy God. In Parashah Re’eh (See) we can see with our eyes and prayerfully, with the eyes of our hearts, how obedience to the instructions of Torah brings blessings; only blessings!
It is in the valley of our choosing where we must see with clarity, the verdant life of Mount G’rizim against the barrenness of Mount ‘Eival. The result of sin is death. The result of a life of turning from Mount G’rizim to Mount ‘Eival will harden our hearts like Pharaoh, ushering in a self-fulfilling prophecy. We curse our own lives, by our rebellion!
This is the Lesson of the Lay of the Land. The Covenant Land of Israel was new territory; new to the Nation of Israel, but not new to Adonai. He who breathed out creation as His lips released, Let there be light, (Yehi’ Or) breathed the two mountains into existence for this very day recorded in Parashah Re’eh. The appointed tribes, which carried the royal DNA of the Messiah, stood in the valley of decision, looking to the left and to the right, in the defining moment of consideration of the narrow choice offered from the mouth of Moses, as he repeated the warnings from Adonai.
This is the Lesson of the Lay of the Land. As I ran and prayed out the story to the Lord, asking for revelation this morning, I saw myself standing in the valley of decision. The mountains were imposing and towered over me; pointing up to heaven. Both mountains rose high into the sky in the direction of God’s throne, casting shadows over me as I stood in the dark valley. I prayed, “Lord, every moment I am in this valley I have a choice! Every day there will be temptations, moving my head to the left or to the right. Father, I want to choose life and your ways, for all of my days. Help me to see with the eyes of my heart, the two mountains of decision, and your ways versus the ways of the world!”
This is the Lesson of the Lay of the Land. The land before us has rivers separating territories yet to be conquered for the Kingdom of God. We are commissioned, as His Wild Olive Branch, the grafted-in adoptees of The Most-High, to cross over rivers into new, expanded territory.
May our sweet prayers of Shabbat this week ring with the words which follow…
May we plant the banner of Adonai on Mount G’rizim, today and every day of our lives!
May we shun the shadow of Mount ‘Eival, and turn toward the Mountain of Life!
There is a pathway in the valley that leads to life; the Mountain of Blessings! The Mountain of God!
Choose right! Choose well! Be blessed!