As the new year and a new decade dawns, it is natural to wonder what lies ahead. Whatever they are, keep your dreams alive. Maybe you wish you were happily married, or prospering, or healthier. Accepting your current circumstances as your normal reality is a terrible trap.
Who would have blamed the Israelites for accepting their nomadic lifestyle as normal? After two hundred years of slavery, followed by forty years wandering around a desert, how could they ever have seen themselves becoming independent landowners?
Every Israelite should have dismissed the words of Moses as a hopeless fantasy when he said to them:
And it shall be when you come into the land that the
Lord your God gives you as an inheritance…
What made them accept the vision of their own Promised Land without skepticism?
The secret is that Moses presented them with a vision, not a fantasy. He didn’t promise a utopian future divorced from reality; he let them know that with blessing comes responsibility. That was believable. He not only promised them their Promised Land and its abundant harvests, but he also revealed the duties and obligations that would be theirs along with the abundance.
In the future, they will take their first fruits, put them into a basket, and take them on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. In other words, as recipients of God’s blessing, they must acknowledge Him as the source of that blessing and welcome the obligation to follow His ways.
That first fruits ceremony is described in Deuteronomy 26:1-11. Now, you know how I encourage everyone to learn to read Hebrew. Well, off the Hebrew page jumps a real attention-getter—a rare word for basket. The word ‘basket’ appears about twenty times throughout Tanach (Scripture) and most times the Hebrew word used is sahl.
L – S
…and the birds were eating them from the basket…
In our first fruits passage, the word basket appears twice (Deuteronomy 26: 2-4) but the word used is not sahl but the very unusual word, teneh.
ט נ א
EH- N -Te
If you own our Genesis Journeys series, you have the study guides that accompany each teaching. At the beginning of your study guide, you will see our special layout chart of the Hebrew alphabet.
The 6th letter of the middle row is the letter samech pronounced ‘S’ (as in sahl-basket). You’ll notice that it is shaped like a closed circle. Not only is the word sahl missing in the first fruits passage but amazingly, there is no appearance of the letter samech in any word in all those eleven verses. The verse immediately preceding contains a letter samech (Deuteronomy 25:19) and a few verses later (Deuteronomy 26:18) we spot a samech. Why is it so important that the whole first fruits passage should not contain that letter? A different and unusual Hebrew word for basket is employed (Te-NEH)in order to avoid introducing the letter samech in the more common word—sahl.
Ancient Jewish wisdom explains that the fully enclosed circular shape of the letter samech hints of boundaries and limitations. These have no place in a passage filled with God’s promise of limitless abundance. For this reason, teneh replaces sahl to signify a veritable cornucopia of plenty. But along with being able to envision God’s ability to deliver abundance, one has to recognize that responsibility accompanies that gift, signified by the bringing of the first fruits.
Never view your today as your inevitable tomorrow. But merely fantasizing about a tomorrow with health, wealth, and love entraps you in an unchanging today. It is true that your promised land comes with no limits. But it does bring accompanying obligations. Convert hopeless fantasies into energizing visions by eagerly anticipating the obligations that will accompany God’s bounty.