Parsha Va’etchanan: Out of Sight, Out of Mind

Radar_gunThis week we read Parsha Va’etchanan (Va’eschanan) which means “and I pleaded.”  Va’etchanan consists of  Deuteronomy 3:23–7:11.  You can read a very brief summary here.

Deuteronomy 4 (NIV):

32Ask now about the former days, long before your time, from the day God created human beings on the earth; ask from one end of the heavens to the other. Has anything so great as this ever happened, or has anything like it ever been heard of? 33Has any other people heard the voice of Goda speaking out of fire, as you have, and lived? 34Has any god ever tried to take for himself one nation out of another nation, by testings, by signs and wonders, by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, or by great and awesome deeds, like all the things the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your very eyes?

35You were shown these things so that you might know that the Lord is God; besides him there is no other. 36From heaven he made you hear his voice to discipline you. On earth he showed you his great fire, and you heard his words from out of the fire. 37Because he loved your ancestors and chose their descendants after them, he brought you out of Egypt by his Presence and his great strength, 38to drive out before you nations greater and stronger than you and to bring you into their land to give it to you for your inheritance, as it is today.

39Acknowledge and take to heart this day that the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other. 40Keep his decrees and commands, which I am giving you today, so that it may go well with you and your children after you and that you may live long in the land the Lord your God gives you for all time.

For all those folks who say “If God would just give me a sign… I would believe and do His will.” Read what Moses is saying above again, and realize who the audience is, and think about all that has transpired to this point.

These people really, REALLY got to experience God.  They did so in ways that are unimaginable and ineffable.  Plus, they experienced Him en mass!

But guess what happens next.

They doubt.

They complain.

They sin.

They disobey.

They act immoral.

They basically revert back to default mode when they either forget about God or think He’s not “looking”… or maybe they rationalize their behavior so that they think they are actually doing God’s will – though their yetzer hatov knows this is not the truth.

So my question is, Why do people think they would be any different?  If God were to reveal Himself directly to a person (let’s call him Joe… then what?  How would Joe change?

Maybe Joe would believe in God.  But for how long?  How long until he starts to think that was all some strange sleep deprived hallucination?

How belief in God change Joe’s behavior?

Perhaps initially he would watch his mouth, not steal, and treat others with kindness.  But for how long?  How long until he thinks, “God was with me then, but He’s not here now.”?  Or maybe Joe “rationalizes” (a nice word for lying to oneself) about a transgression because “God wants me to… that’s why the opportunity has presented itself.”

Joe is not evil.  Joe is not abnormal.  No!  Joe is typical.

Have you ever driven a car?  Have you ever driven that car faster than the speed limit?  Assuming you are like everyone else you have… why?

Either you thought you would get away with it, or rationalized why you needed to, or maybe you started by just going a mile or two over… and figured “why not 10 mph faster?”  Next thing you know you find yourself speeding routinely.

Then one day you get pulled over by the police, and get a ticket for speeding.

As the cop drives off, you drive lawfully for what – A few minutes? A few days?  Maybe a week or even a month?  How long you forget that there could actually be another officer with a laser waiting to clock your driving transgressions?

Joe is like you and me, and we are all like those Israelites.

It is very easy for us to have doubt, become ungrateful, become arrogant, and believe in gods (perhaps ourself) other than the One God who demands we act ethically toward one another.

Almost 3500 years later… not much has changed in humanity – spiritually, morally, or behaviorally.

So let’s get real with ourselves and realize overt revelation is not the key to belief.

Belief is not the key to good behavior.

Knowing God is One and there is no other, and He demands moral behavior regardless of our feelings – that is the how we begin to correct ourselves and the world.

Shabbat Shalom

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