We’ve Done Nothing

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. James 4:10

Two men once climbed a mountain together. They trudged up the lower slopes and scaled cliff faces to reach the tree line. Past the mid-point, they spent days camping at various points to adjust to the thin, oxygen-poor air. They pulled and pushed each other along, sometimes tied together with a long cord so that if one misstepped, he might be saved by the other. After weeks of enduring howling winds and biting cold with the help of oxygen tanks and state-of-the-art gear, they finally reached the summit.

The first man, barely able to pull in enough air even to speak, turned to his friend and said, “Look…what we did…we saw…we conquered…”

The second man smiled and, looking around at the deadly beautiful mountain range, replied, “Thank God…made all this…gave eyes…and feet…”

Together, they achieved something that only the tiniest fraction of humanity could hope to emulate. They really did something great.

The first man will die and be forgotten within a generation. His experiences and labors will die with him. The second man, however, will never die. He will inherit all that he sees from one of the highest points on earth.

Do not say in your heart, after the LORD your God has thrust them out before you, ‘It is because of my righteousness that the LORD has brought me in to possess this land,’ whereas it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is driving them out before you. Not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart are you going in to possess their land, but because of the wickedness of these nations the LORD your God is driving them out from before you, and that he may confirm the word that the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. Know, therefore, that the LORD your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stubborn people.
Deuteronomy 9:4-6

Israel was nothing special in the world. We did nothing to deserve God’s favor. He rescued us from Egypt, made us a people, defeated our enemies, and gave us a country, yet we were stiff-necked, rebellious idolaters. And God knew this before he ever spoke to Abraham, our father.

As Moses was preparing the people to cross the Jordan and expel the Canaanites from the land that God had promised to Israel, he reminded them that they deserved nothing good from God. If they were blessed, it wasn’t because they had done anything to earn it. If they had victory in war, it wasn’t because they fought or planned better than their enemies.

Victory was assured because God had promised the Patriarchs, and God always keeps his promises.

The Anakim and the Canaanites had forgotten to whom they owed their existence and had exchanged worship of the Creator for things they themselves had created. They had succumbed to the basest sin of all: pride. And so God determined to destroy them. They are remembered now only as a vile people who sacrificed even their own children to gods of their own making.

Unfortunately, they weren’t the only ones to fall so low.

Has a nation changed its gods, even though they are no gods? But my people have changed their glory for that which does not profit. Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the LORD, for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.
Jeremiah 2:11-13

Despite having witnessed the utter destruction of the Canaanites before God’s power, the ancient Israelites followed in their corrupted footsteps. They erected sacred pillars and worshipped every false god they could imagine and manufacture with their own hands, as if the glory of a created thing could ever exceed that of the one who created it. They rejected the real glory of being God’s special people for the false glory of dead things that can’t move, hear, or speak.

Over and over again, God called Israel to repentance. We repented and regained his favor only to fall again into “the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world.” We exchanged service to the Most High for slavery to sin. We rejected the source of Living Water for broken cisterns of our own invention.

We don’t appear to have learned anything since then. We cut and splice God’s creatures, claiming to make them better. We kill millions in the name of profit and energy. We slaughter our own children for the sake of convenience. We build machines and send them into space and say, “Look what we did!”

Whether we call our own creations “gods” or “science”, we worship them as if the glory of dead metal and plastic could possibly exceed that of the One who created the particles, the energies, and the physical laws that make it all possible and which we have barely begun to comprehend.

Machines are good. Genetic science is good. I love to see the astonishing accomplishments of today’s space engineers. SpaceX landing rockets on their tails like something from a 1950s science fiction was one of the most exciting things I’ve ever seen!

But all of these things are only possible because God has made them so. We have minds to imagine and invent, because God gave them to think. we have hands to create, because God fashioned them after his own. Yet we still say, “Look what we did!”

Pride is the greatest barrier of all to spiritual health and restoration of people to their Creator.

We’ve done nothing.

But despite all this, God still promises forgiveness and even glory for those who repent, who love him above all earthly things, and determine to keep his Law.

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
James 4:10

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:9

But there is no true repentance without humility. It is impossible to say honestly, “God, forgive me! Aren’t I great?” Humility requires that we give credit where credit is due, and all credit is due to him who makes all things possible. We must say instead, “God, forgive me! Not my will, but yours be done in the world and in my life.”

Today Is the Day of Our Salvation

He who goes over before you as a consuming fire is YHVH your God. Deuteronomy 9:3a

In Deuteronomy 9:1-6, Moses told the Hebrews that they were about to cross the Jordan to confront numerous, stronger enemies. The people who lived in Canaan in that day were bigger, stronger, more technologically advanced, and better trained than Israel. Despite their massive disadvantage, Moses said not to fear, because God would precede them into the land and subdue their enemies before they ever met them in battle.

Hear, O Israel: you are to cross over the Jordan today, to go in to dispossess nations greater and mightier than you, cities great and fortified up to heaven, a people great and tall, the sons of the Anakim, whom you know, and of whom you have heard it said, ‘Who can stand before the sons of Anak?’

Know therefore today that he who goes over before you as a consuming fire is the LORD your God. He will destroy them and subdue them before you. So you shall drive them out and make them perish quickly, as the LORD has promised you.

Do not say in your heart, after the LORD your God has thrust them out before you, ‘It is because of my righteousness that the LORD has brought me in to possess this land,’ whereas it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is driving them out before you. Not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart are you going in to possess their land, but because of the wickedness of these nations the LORD your God is driving them out from before you, and that he may confirm the word that the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.

Know, therefore, that the LORD your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stubborn people.
(Deuteronomy 9:1-6 ESV)

But they still had to fight the battles.

Notice the introductory phrase in verse 1: “Hear, O Israel.” In Hebrew this is “Shema Yisrael.” It’s the same phrase used to introduce the Ten Commandments in Deuteronomy 5:1 and the passage in Deuteronomy 6:4-5 commonly known by the single Hebrew word Shema.

Hear, O Israel: YHVH our God, YHVH is one. You shall love YHVH your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
(Deuteronomy 6:4-5)

Yeshua quoted these verses when he was asked what was the greatest commandment of all (Mark 12:28-30), and they are immediately followed by instructions for Israel to remember the commandments, to teach them to their children, and not to forget them after God had made them secure in the Promised Land.

When Moses used those same two words, shema Yisrael, in Deuteronomy 9:1, the people would have immediately recalled the Ten Commandments and the Greatest Commandment and connected them to what he said next.

They were about to enter the Land, and Moses repeated God’s promises to deliver it into their hands, so there was definitely a connection to the Commandments and the reminder not to forget them when the conquest was complete, but the connection to the Shema itself is even deeper.

Hear, O Israel – The word shema means more than just “listen up” or “pay attention”. It means to hear and obey. Shema Yisrael is a call to action, much like the blast of a shofar: “Listen to what I have to say, internalize it, and do it.”

Moses said that they were going to cross over the Jordan “today”. Crossing into enemy territory was the next major event on Israel’s calendar, and it was time to start moving.

YHVH, our God – Let there be no confusion: YHVH is our God and we have none other. He is our ultimate authority, our supreme commander. His commandments are more than legal codes, they are the foundation of our existence. What he says, we will do.

When God told Israel to cross the Jordan and displace the Anakim and other nations who lived in Canaan, he meant it. There were no other options available for Israel. They must either cross and conquer or die in the wilderness like their fathers.

YHVH is one – God is unified in purpose. He is not duplicitous or double-minded. He doesn’t promise one thing and deliver something else. Much Christian theology says that God gave the Jews commandments that he knew were impossible to keep and promises that he never intended to deliver, but this is a horrible lie. What an evil and capricious god that would be! No, God is One. If he commands us to do something and tells us it’s not too hard, then we are fully capable of doing it. “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)

God gave the Hebrews a task that looked impossible from man’s limited perspective, but they had also seen the destruction of Pharaoh’s chariots and the annihilation of the Midianites. God is indeed a consuming fire, and nothing can stand against his decrees.

You shall love YHVH your God – Moses, Yeshua, and John taught us that to love God is to believe his promises and to keep his commandments. If a servant loves his master, he obeys him. If a master loves his servant, he does what is right for the servant, even to the point of sacrificing himself as Yeshua did for us.

God told Israel that he loved them and would fight for them. If Israel loved God in return, then they would believe his promises and obey his orders, even to the point of charging into battle on foot against armored giants and iron chariots. Their love for him waned at times, so not every battle was won, but when they obeyed, God ensured their victory every time.

With all your heart – A true love of God changes our innermost being. We must allow him to work in our hearts, to remove our doubts, fears, pride, and conflicts. He will not accept second place, and he will not share our affections with any other god.

Israel was required to memorize God’s words, to meditate on them, to hide them in their hearts, and to teach their children to do likewise. After they crossed the Jordan, they were to destroy every idol and every pagan holy place they found in Canaan. They were forbidden to learn the ways of the heathens, to “re-purpose” them in God’s name. It didn’t matter how meaningful or touching some ceremony or statue might be. Destroy it, because if God is to be in your heart, there is no room for his enemies.

With all your soul – The Hebrew word for “soul” here doesn’t refer to the spirit, but to the whole of one’s being: the body, breath, energy, spirit, and life-force that makes a person human.

As Israel faced their foes in the Promised Land, they were to hold nothing back. Their very existence depended on taking the land from the Canaanites. God doesn’t ask us for one day per week, a few dollars, and a good deed now and again. No, he wants everything. Every step, every thought, every breath belongs to him.

With all your might – Showing up isn’t enough. Crossing the Jordan isn’t enough. When God tells you to go, you have to go strong.

God said that he would fight on behalf of Israel, but that didn’t give them an excuse to sit on their hands and watch. He expected them to show up on the day of battle with armor on and weapons in hand, ready to fight for their lives, families, and future. “God helps those who help themselves” might not be in the Bible, but it’s true none-the-less.

When Moses prefixed God’s marching orders with the words, “Shema Yisrael“, a chill would have swept through the gathered multitude. “Today, you will cross the Jordan to dispossess peoples greater and stronger than you. Now is the time to stand for God. Now is the time to advance. Now is the day of our Salvation in Adonai!”

There are no excuses for inaction in God’s Kingdom. Whatever task he has set for you–and he has set a task for you!–God has made you capable of fulfilling it. No emotional baggage or physical infirmity is a handicap to God. When he sends you across the Jordan, your job isn’t to say, “But…but…but…” Your job is to draw your weapon and walk through the parted waters to face God’s enemies on the other side.

Whoever or whatever your Canaanites might be, show up humbly and in obedience to God, ready to fight with all of your heart, soul, and might, and God will subdue his enemies before you.

613 Ways to Love Your Neighbor

613 ways to shower your neighbor with blessings by keeping Torah

“And because you listen to these rules and keep and do them, the LORD your God will keep with you the covenant and the steadfast love that he swore to your fathers.”
(Deuteronomy 7:12 ESV)

Deuteronomy 7:12-8:9 contains a long list of blessings that God promised to Israel in exchange for obedience to Torah. These blessing should be understood to apply to the nation as a whole and not necessarily to every individual within the nation. In order for the nation to be blessed in these ways, many more individuals than otherwise must be blessed as well, because a nation is a group of individuals connected by blood, culture, tradition, and religion. As you narrow your focus to a single community, family, or individual, however, you cannot necessarily say that this person is well because he kept God’s commands and that person is not well because he did not. The entire book of Job refutes the idea that a person’s spiritual state can be determined by his physical state.

None of this is to say that it does not matter how we behave. It matters quite a lot. Thou shalt love yourself is not one of the two greatest commandments, but rather love God and love your neighbor. We love God primarily through our obedience. We obey His commands because we love Him, not because He promised to give us stuff.

As we love God, we love our neighbor—and here is the answer to so many difficult questions—also by keeping God’s commandments. The truth of this statement is obvious in some commandments, such as care for orphans, widows, and the indigent, but it is harder to discern in commandments such as those that concern lepers, sacrifice, diet, and sexual morality. This passage draws them all together. If we, as a people, a collection of individuals, obey God’s commandments, we, as a people, will reap the benefits of collective obedience, and what is more loving of a neighbor than to bless him with good health, financial prosperity, and many children? If we want our families to be healthy and productive, then we ought to live holy lives and teach others to do likewise.

This is an abbreviated list of the things that God promised to Israel in return for obedience to Torah:

  • God’s faithfulness
  • Steadfast love
  • Fertility and children
  • Productive farms and ranches
  • Good health
  • Military victory over enemies
  • Peace within the nation’s borders

What blessings are within our power to grant our neighbors by our behavior!

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12 Sources of Life in the Promised Land

In Deuteronomy 8:7-9 God lists twelve things that the Hebrews would find when they finally arrived in the Promised Land.

For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing out in the valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper.
(Deuteronomy 8:7-9 ESV)

Why does he pick out these things in particular? What about the pastures or the fish in the Kinnereth? Honestly, I can’t tell you why God didn’t specify other things, and I can only guess at what He meant by the things He did list. One thing I can say for certain is that His selections were not random. God does nothing without a good reason. In fact, He usually has more reasons for everything He does than we could possibly comprehend. One clue that they are not intended to be understand merely as a random sampling of the Promised Land’s good qualities is their chiastic arrangement:

A. Brooks of water/Fountains and springs out of the valleys and hills. (Water that comes from the ground.)
………B. Wheat/Barley (Raw ingredients for making other food.)
………………C. Vines (Fruit from which another product is extracted.)
………………………D. Fig trees/Pomegranates (Fruit trees whose produce is usually eaten raw.)
………………C. Oil olive (Fruit from which another product is extracted.)
………B. Honey/Bread (Processed foods, one the product of the labor of bees, the other the labor of men.)
A. Iron from stones/Bronze dug from the hills. (Metals that come from the ground.)

It could be argued that chiastic structures such as this are simply poetic devices. While it is true that they can be found in the literature, both religious and non-religious, of many cultures, we believe that the Bible was inspired by God, and it seems unlikely that God would employ such devices without purpose. Let’s examine each of these items to see if there is further meaning that can be drawn out.

1. Brooks of Water

The Hebrew word translated as “brooks” is nahal (נחלי) and refers to the seasonal creeks that are commonly called wadi today. Like the arroyos of the American Southwest, these brooks are dry for much of the year, only filling up after a good rain, and only flowing steadily during the rainy season in winter.

  • In Genesis, Jacob wrestled all night with God at a ford of the brook Jabbok. (Genesis 32:23-32)
  • Throughout the Torah, histories, and prophets, brooks are used to mark the borders of various lands.  (E.g. Numbers 34:5, Deuteronomy 3:16, etc.)
  • Brooks are also another sort of border, but a border to be crossed. They mark a transition from one phase to another. (E.g. Genesis 32:23, Deuteronomy 2:13 & 2:24)
  • Job referred to his friends as brooks, meaning that they are an unreliable source of support, providing water only in the rainy season, and having nothing useful to offer when life is harshest. (Job 6:15)
  • Brooks are places of hidden water that must be uncovered. Frequently, if you dig at the lowest point of a dry creek bed, you can find water. Large trees can thrive next to a seasonal creek either because they are able to withstand long droughts or because their roots can reach the water that is below the surface. (E.g. Genesis 26:19, Job 40:22, etc.)
  • Elijah was fed by the ravens at the brook Cherith. (1 Kings 17:3-7)

If I had to take some meaning from these things, I would say that brooks of water are symbolic of seasonal refreshment or relief after a long struggle in preparation for the next long struggle. Life in the Promised Land was never intended to be a life of ease, but one of predictable rewards after honest, hard work.

2. Fountains and Springs from the valleys and hills

The Hebrew word translated as “springs” in the English Standard Version is tehom (ותהמת), which is frequently translated as “depths” or “the deep”. They are underground reservoirs (e.g. Genesis 7:11) and the deepest places of the seas (e.g. Exodus 15:8). These are mysterious places that men cannot visit, measure, or know, the domain of God alone. In connection with “fountains” (Hebrew ayin (עינת), which can also be translated as “eye”), this seems to describe natural springs. Short of a major engineering project, there is nothing you can do to create a spring. It comes out of a mysterious source below the ground or it does not.

I suspect this refers to one of two things:

  • Supernatural provision from God that flows regardless of the season. Sometimes God simply provides for us, whether we have worked for a reward or not. The sages say that wealth does not necessarily come to those who work hardest, but to those who are most ready for it.
  • The moving of the Holy Spirit. As Jesus (aka Yeshua) said in John 3:8, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
The Seven Species of Deuteronomy 8:8 (image from Wikipedia)

3. Wheat

A good wheat harvest is the result of prolonged hard work. It is a source of wealth and, since it stores well, also of ongoing nourishment.  In more spiritual terms, it is the result of sustained evangelistic efforts, of preaching, teaching, and living exemplary lives. It sprouts long after the barley and is harvested later still. (See Exodus 9:32.) Wheat is a picture of delayed rewards multiplied many times and of the righteous in the last days before the final harvest. (See Matthew 9:37-38 & 13:30.)

4. Barley

Barley sprouts and is harvested earlier than other grain crops. It was used as a standard to measure the value of land and other property. (See Leviticus 27:16.) Barley has always been considered an inferior crop, courser and of poorer taste and nutritional value. At times it was thought only good for animal fodder. Revelation puts the price of a measure of barley at one-third that of wheat. (See Revelation 6:6.)

Despite its humble status, Yeshua used barley loaves to feed the multitude in John 6:9. Barley sustains the people until the later grains are ripe, makes a more plentiful food for the poor, and has been used to brew mild alcoholic beverages since long before the Hebrews left Egypt. Barley is a picture of the simple, first adopters of faith. It is the Hebrew rabble that first left Egypt, David’s Mighty Men who were debtors and running from trouble, and the twelve disciples who were commoners and a tax collector.

5. Vines

The grape vine is associated with family, children, lineage, and inheritance. It is the source of growth in progeny and ideology. It is a picture of unbroken inheritance. Psalm 80:8 speaks of nations in terms of vines. Genesis 49:11 contains a prophecy of the Messiah coming from Judah’s line. On the surface, it tells of Judah’s rich inheritance in the land. On another level, it appears to says that the Messiah will come from Judah’s descendants, his vine. Princes in times of peace rode on donkeys, and Zechariah 9:9 says this is how the Messiah will appear. Judah binding the ass to his vine is an image of the future King of Judah entering Jerusalem on the colt. (See Matthew 21:1-11.)

But the vine is more than an image of physical descendants.

In Deuteronomy 32:32, Moses gave another dual prophecy simultaneously calling the Israelites and their enemies the heirs of Sodom and Gomorrah. In this prophecy, God predicts the apostasy of Israel and their defeat at the hands of their enemies.

For their vine comes from the vine of Sodom and from the fields of Gomorrah; their grapes are grapes of poison; their clusters are bitter;
(Deuteronomy 32:32 ESV)

On the one hand “they” in this verse refers to Israel who has adopted the ways of those perverse people and inherited much of their fate with it. But on the other, “they” refers to Israel’s enemies who are even more the spiritual descendants of Sodom and possibly even the physical descendants who have misunderstood their victory over Israel as evidence of their own strength rather than God’s discipline of the people He loves.

Perhaps one of the clearest examples of a grape vine used to illustrate a spiritual or ideological inheritance is found in a lengthy teaching that Yeshua gave just before His death:

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.”
(John 15:1-6 ESV)

6. Fig Trees

Fig trees are an image of prosperity, contentment, and security, the well-deserved product of honest business. They provide sweet fruit, income, and shade long after the work required to establish them has been completed. The man who dwells beneath his own fig tree has no wants or worries. (See 1 Kings 4:25, 2 Kings 18:31, etc.)

7. Pomegranates

Vines, pomegranates, and figs go together in scripture for a total picture of peace and prosperity (See Numbers 13:23 and Numbers 20:5.), and appropriately so. All three are symbols of fertility and prosperity, but of these three, because of its large number of seeds, the pomegranate is more associated with fertility than the others. (Figs are also considered fertility symbols, but not as strongly as pomegranates.) Tradition places the number of seeds in the fruit at 613, which is also the traditional count of individual commands in the Torah. The implication is that keeping God’s commands makes one fruitful, both in body and in enterprise.

Like the fig tree, most of the labor is required long in advance of the extended reward.

8. Olive Oil

Olive oil brings to mind the anointing of priests, prophets, and kings, and is symbolic of the anointing of the Holy Spirit. It was used to fuel the Menorah in the Tabernacle, which is also a picture of the Spirit. Olive oil is a source of light, while the Spirit is a source of enlightenment. The oil was used in cooking, as a base for perfumes and incense, as skin care, and for countless other uses.

9. Honey

(Note: An alternate interpretation of “honey” is the date palm because of its syrupy juice.)

Honey was the sweetest thing known to the ancient Israelites. The idiom “land of milk and honey” was frequently used to describe a near paradise. It was used as a gift, as a special treat, and those who over-indulged were thought decadent and corrupt. Honey has two distinct qualities: First, it is very sweet. Second, someone else does all the work to produce it. Honey, like all of the sweetest things in life, is best taken sparingly lest we lose our taste for anything less, and fall into the habit common to all libertines of constantly searching after the next high.

There is nothing wrong with honey and fine things; they are a gift from God. But they are a gift that is easily abused. Remember that most things worth having don’t come easy.

10. Bread

Since wheat, barley, and olive oil are already listed, it seems odd to add bread, but there is a difference. The raw ingredients have nearly indefinite shelf lives if they are protected from vermin, but no so bread. It goes moldy or stale very quickly. On the other hand, the raw ingredients aren’t easily eaten or digested on their own. They require a certain amount of processing. The end product was treated as the single most important part of any meal.

Bread was a fundamental element of hospitality. Abraham offered bread to his three divine visitors (Genesis 18:6), and Abigail presented David with two hundred loaves of bread as part of a peace offering to prevent the death of her husband (1 Samuel 25:18).

The Showbread Table in the Tabernacle held twelve loaves of bread, one for each of the tribes of Israel. It is a picture of the Messiah, who called himself the Bread of Life.

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.
(John 6:35 ESV)

His body, striped by the centurion’s whip and pierced by the crown of thorns and the nails of crucifixion, is illustrated to this day in the matzoh eaten at every traditional Jewish of Passover. Just as bread made with grain and oil was fundamental to the Hebrew physical diet, so is the Bread of Life fundamental to our spiritual life. There is no spiritual life without Yeshua.

The last two things prophesied to be found in the Promised Land are a little more enigmatic. All of the previous items were things that you put into your body: water and food. The following are metals that are transformed or taken out of something else, and I believe the sources of the ores might be as significant as the ores themselves. Forgive me if I seem to be indulging in so much speculation in these last items, because I am. My opinions here are not cast in iron or set in stone, and they are certainly not so well polished as a brass mirror. (Also, please forgive the bad puns. I can’t help myself.)

11. Iron from Stones

Stones have a very complex representation in Scripture. Spiritually calloused and rebellious people are said to have hearts of stone. Stones can represent individual people or groups of people. They are the foundations (as altars), media (as tablets), and witnesses of covenants. They are instruments of punishment, markers of wealth, ornaments, and most significantly, they are used to represent the Messiah.

Iron is very similar to stone, but where stone is hard, iron is unbreakable. Where stones can be symbols of wealth, iron signifies strength, power, and punishment. It is unyielding, impenetrable, and forged into weapons of war.

I imagine two possible meanings of “a land whose stones are iron”:

  • The Lord disciplines those He loves, and His harsh discipline transforms hearts of stone into hearts of iron.
  • Even the common people of Israel are iron to their enemies.

12. Bronze Dug from the Hills

(Note: The word for bronze is sometimes translated as copper or brass.)

Hills appear to be as symbolically versatile as stones. They are places of refuge from disaster and points of connection between Heaven and Earth. They are platforms for prophecy and divine pronouncement. Armies gather and fight in the hills. Finally, hills are symbols of strength and permanence.

Bronze, unlike iron, is used extensively in the Tabernacle and Temple, and is usually taken to symbolize judgment and the process of purification. (Think of the bronze laver, in which the priests were to wash before serving in the Tabernacle.) It also has military uses, in weaponry and armor. Bronze and iron were often paired in prophecy to represent a harsh and unforgiving land or a hard and unrepentant people.

I have only one good thought about the bronze:

Hills can be dangerous, wild places with any number of hiding places for shelter or ambush. Primarily, they are a place where people in fear of the wrath of God flee in search of futile protection. Bronze, however, is an image of God’s refinement of his people. Through God’s judgment and Law, His people are brought out of the hills into which they have fled, exposing their sin to that refining fire. God’s people have been scattered throughout the world, many forgetting even that they were ever chosen. But God knows them and where they have hidden themselves and been hidden. He has prophesied their repentance and has promised to bring them back again from all the places they were driven.

God knows you. He knows all your hidden sins, and you can’t hide from His law or His call.

America is not Israel, and we cannot automatically claim all of the promises made to the Hebrews simply because we worship the same God. But believers in Yeshua of whatever ancestry are none-the-less God’s people, grafted into the tree of Israel. We are not in the Land of Israel, but I strongly believe that God’s Laws are universal and founded on Natural Law. The promises God gave to Israel for obedience are in large part an expression of cause and effect. If any person keeps His law with a right heart, they are bound to benefit in many ways. (Trying to keep God’s Law with evil intent or in a misguided attempt to earn your salvation will likely do you more personal harm than good.) Throughout history, nations that keep more of God’s Law benefit from it, while those nations that reject it suffer by their rejection. We can learn from the principles described in this passage. In keeping God’s Law–not for salvation because that’s impossible–we will undoubtedly become a stronger, healthier, wealthier nation.