Sunday, October 29, 2006

Content To Be Exactly Who I Am

In my studies into the Hebraic roots of our faith in Yeshua the Messiah I have come across many different websites, forums and blogs, read lots of different articles, and have accessed a great deal of information. Having grown up in the Christian church, I was well aware of the divisions within the church, whether denominational or doctrinal, and even within individual congregations between the different members. Suffice it to say that I was well aware of the "feet of clay" within Christianity. I'm not sure why I expected something better from those in the Messianic ranks and yet I did. Maybe I thought that people who had a grasp on the whole of God's Word, who had embraced Torah observance along with following Yeshua, would somehow set aside their differences and embrace one another in the love that we are commanded to walk in with one another. I think we will always have differences of opinion about the interpretations of scripture and the practical applications of those same scriptures. Yet even with those differences, there can be unity and there ought to be mutual love & respect.

As I have read and studied from these different internet sources, I have come to see a couple of different viewpoints. There are those who believe that if you are going to be a follower of Yeshua, that you need to walk in "Jewish" space, because Yeshua was born a Jew. These folks dive headlong into keeping Torah, along with much of the Jewish traditions and/or rabbinical interpretations. They seem to think that praying Hebrew prayers, singing Hebrew songs, dancing Hebrew dances, and embracing an orthodox lifestyle has more validity than living an unorthodox lifestyle. I am not saying that doing thus is wrong, no, not at all. I am only concerned when those who choose to walk in this manner make it seem as though every other believer in Yeshua should do so as well or they aren't truly a believer in Yeshua. And, unfortunately, I have also seen that those who embrace this lifestyle walk a slippery slope of coming to love their orthodoxy more than they love Yeshua; indeed, many embrace Judaism to the exclusion of the Messiah Yeshua. How tragic! I have also been told that if I was unwilling to follow Yeshua in this "Jewish" space, I should consider that I had no reason to keep Torah and should confine myself to the Christian church. Ouch!

Of course, on the other hand, you have the died-in-the-wool Christians who believe that doing anything that even smacks in the least of "Jewishness" means that you are denying the blood of Jesus, by whom we are saved, and are going back "under the law." Sorry, but I don't agree with that, either!

If you are descended by birth from the twelve tribes of Israel, then I think you should embrace your identity as a Jew, even if and especially if you are a believer in Yeshua HaMeshiach. This is your heritage as a descendant of the Twelve Tribes. You were born into this; embrace it. Then there are others, not knowingly or otherwise of Jewish descent, who choose, as did Ruth the Moabitess, to become one with Israel. That's okay, too. But there are also those who are Gentiles by birth and nationality, who find new life in Yeshua the Messiah, who are adopted into Israel, who are the seed of Abraham by faith (as all believers in Yeshua are), while maintaining their Gentile identity. You can find mention of many such in the book of Acts and in the Epistles.

Over the past couple of years, as we have learned more about the Hebraic roots of our faith and have chosen to walk in obedience to as much of the written Word of God as we understand how to do and are able to do, we have found ourselves not "fitting" into the Christian community any more. So few understand what we see wrong with Christmas, Easter, Halloween, etc. So few understand why we would choose to keep the Biblical Sabbath, the other appointed times on God's holy days calendar, why we would give up eating pork and shrimp, why we would wear the tzitzit, why we would study and seek to apply the "Old Testament" scriptures in our walk as "New Testament" believers in Yeshua the Messiah.

On the other hand, as we have fellowshipped with other "Messianic" believers over the past couple of years, we haven't exactly "fit" into that camp either. We do not believe that we need to get a shofar to blow or that we have to learn to read & speak Hebrew for the liturgical prayers or for worshipping the LORD in song. We don't believe that my husband has to put a tallit (prayer shawl) over his head when he prays or that I have to wear a headcovering. We do not believe that we have to incorporate all the rabbinic teachings into our lifestyle, whether that be in our bedroom or in our kitchen or anywhere else in our lives. What is clearly stated in scripture, that we do our best to apply however. We do firmly hold that there is one law for the Jew and for the Gentile. I guess, though, at this point, we don't think that the Jewish interpretation of that law is the only way to live it. We do not want to be Jews. We do not want to convert to Judaism. We are thankful to Yeshua for grafting us into the olive tree, but we are still wild olive branches. We are Gentiles who have been adopted into Israel, so we are Israelites by adoption, but we are still Gentiles by our birth.

Let me use an example from daily life. We know families who have adopted children from foreign countries. These children have come from China, Romania, Haiti, and other foreign lands. They are Chinese or Haitian by birth. Then they are adopted by American families and become American by adoption. That does not do away with their birth identity, however. No matter how long they live here in America, they will always be Chinese or Haitian. They will always carry some part of their cultural identity with them, more if they were older children or teens when they were adopted. Yet as Americans, they begin to assimilate the culture and traditions of the families into which they were adopted. The adoptive family would think it strange if that child refused to become a member of the family, to adapt to their lifestyle and join in their celebrations. On the other hand, the adoptive family would be abusive if they refused to let the adoptive child become one with their lifestyle and take part in their celebrations.

I am a Gentile believer in the Messiah Yeshua. I am content to be exactly that. I do not need to "put on" Jewishness in order to see myself as more valuable to YHWH. I think He is just as pleased with my extemporaneous prayers in English as He is with the liturgical prayers I am learning when we join in fellowship with other believers. I think He is just as pleased with the songs of praise we sing in English as He is with those sung in Hebrew. I think He enjoys many styles of music and of dance. I think He delights in modest and seemly apparel, but that there is no one "right" kind of apparel that fits this definition. And I think there is a day soon coming when all believers, of every people & tongue, tribe and nation, will worship Him together in spirit and in truth, expressing that worship in their own language (the languages that God Himself gave to all the nations when He confused our speech at Babel) as they sing and dance before the LORD. And maybe the Polish folks will learn to do a Davidic dance, while the Zulus will learn to do a polka and the Hassidic Jewish fellas will learn to do a Native American circle dance; get the picture? All of us as one, as "echad", worshipping Him from our hearts, in spirit and in truth, singing with joy in our hearts to the LORD and all of our different languages blending into one wonderful anthem of worship to the Most High! And all of our differences melting into nothingness as we join our hearts in worship to the Lamb who sits upon the throne--one flock with One Shepherd, One God and Father of us all. Amen!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Walking Worthy

Life has been quite busy lately which is why my posts here have been rather sparse, but the garden is done with for another year and autumn is rolling on into winter here in central Wisconsin, so I should have a little more time indoors to focus on writing again, amongst other things. Be assured that I WILL return to my study about words; I need to complete it for my own benefit, if not for anyone else. But today I had a different quick thought that I wanted to record before it slips away from me and gets forgotten in the ocean of thoughts that slosh around in my brain.

We can keep the Biblical Sabbath, the festivals, eat kosher, but if we aren't obeying the LORD in other areas, such as in our interpersonal relationships, the words we speak, etc, what good does our "Torah" observance do us? NONE! If I lived with a man I wasn't married to, but I kept the Sabbath & festivals, etc, what would be the point of my Torah observance? None. If I don't walk in integrity, honesty, faithfulness in EVERY area of my life, what good does it do me to keep these other things? None. There is no special value in keeping the Sabbath, the festivals, the kosher food laws, or other aspects of Torah if we are not going to walk in ALL the Torah--which includes the things that Yeshua taught and that His disciples Paul, Peter, John, and James taught. And ALL of it needs to come from a heart that is committed to the LORD, determined to follow Him, to bring Him glory & honor, to give Him pleasure by our willing, trusting obedience.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Out Of The Abundance Of The Heart--Part 3

Today I want to cover the second point that I introduced in Part 1 of this study: a) the words we speak are an indicator of what is in our hearts. The following passages of scripture put it quite well...

Matthew 12:33-37 (NKJ) Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit. Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.

Luke 6:43-45 (NKJ) For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, not does a bad tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

As I wrote in my previous post, I believe that God uses trials and tribulations in our lives to try our hearts, to test our faith in Him and our integrity. Take a look at this...

1 Peter 1:6-9 (NKJ) In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith--the salvation of your souls.

I also shared in my previous post about Job and Abraham, two prime examples of men who were tested by God and passed the test. Now let's look at some other examples of people whose words express the faith, belief in Almighty God, that dwells in their hearts...

Matthew 8:5:13 (NKJ) Now when Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, pleading with Him, saying, "Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, dreadfully tormented." And Jesus said to him, "I will come and heal him." The centurion answered and said, "Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, have soldiers under me. And I say to this one, 'Go,' and he goes; and to another, "Come," and he comes; and to my servant, 'Do this,' and he does it." When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, "Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such faith, not even in Israel! And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." Then Jesus said to the centurion, "Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you." And his servant was healed that same hour. (also in Luke 7:1-10)

Out of the abundance of the faith in his heart, the centurion spoke to Jesus, and as he believed, so it was done for him.

Matthew 9:18-31 (NKJ) While he spoke these things to them, behold, a ruler came and worshipped Him, saying, "My daughter has just died, but come and lay Your hand on her and she will live." So Jesus arose and followed him, and so did His disciples. And suddenly, a woman who had a flow of blood for twelve years came from behind and touched the hem of His garment. For she said to herself, "If only I may touch His garment, I shall be made well." But Jesus turned around, and when He saw her He said, "Be of good cheer, daughter, your faith has made you well." And the woman was made well from that hour. When Jesus came into the ruler's house, and saw the flute players and the noisy crowd wailing, He said to them, "Make room, for the girl is not dead, but sleeping." And they ridiculed Him. But when the crowd was put outside, He went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose. And the report of this went out into all that land. When Jesus departed from there, two blind men followed Him, crying out and saying, "Son of David, have mercy on us!" And when He had come into the house, the blind men came to Him. And Jesus said to them, "Do you believe that I am able to do this?" They said to Him, "Yes, Lord." Then He touched their eyes, saying, "According to your faith let it be to you." And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly warned them, saying, "See that no one knows it." But when they had departed, they spread the news about Him in all that country. (also Mark 5:21-43 and Luke 8:40-56)

In each of these instances, words of faith and belief were spoken by those seeking healing and they received what they sought. Out of the abundance of their hearts, their mouths spoke, and as they believed, so it was done for them.

Matthew 15:21-28 (NKJ) Then Jesus went out from there and departed to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a woman of Canaan came from that region and cried out to Him, saying, "Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely demon-possessed." But He answered her not a word. And His disciples came and urged Him, saying, "Send her away, for she cries out after us." But He answered and said, "I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." Then she came and worshipped Him, saying, "Lord, help me!" But He answered and said, "It is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the little dogs." And she said, "Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters' table." Then Jesus answered and said to her, "O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire." And her daughter was healed from that very hour.

Once again, out of the abundance of her heart, her mouth spoke, and she received that for which she believed.

Luke 19:1-10 (NKJ) Then Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. Now behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector, and he was rich. And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not because of the crowd, for he was of short stature. So he ran ahead and clumbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him, for He was going to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, "Zaccaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house." So he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully. But when they saw it, they all complained, saying, "He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner." Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, "Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold." And Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost."

Out of the abundance of his heart, Zacchaeus spoke, giving half of his goods to the poor and restoring fourfold to those he had stolen from, and Jesus said that salvation had come to Zacchaeus' house that day. Quite a contrast to the rich ruler who kept the commandments of God, but who could not part with his riches when Jesus said that he still lacked one thing, that he should go and sell all that he had and give to the poor. That ruler went away sorrowful and Jesus commented that it was very hard for someone rich like him to enter the kingdom of God.

I could go on. There's the account of blind Bartimaeus in Mark 10:46-52 and Luke 18:35-43. We could contrast Zacharias' doubt of the angel's message about the son to come, John the Baptist (Luke 1:18-20), and Mary's faith as the angel brings her the news of the Son she is to bear (Luke 1:29-38). Then there's the tragic example of Jesus' hometown, where He was met with ridicule instead of faith and the Word says that He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief (Matt.13:53-58; Mark 6:1-6; John 12:37-40). But most telling of all is the account of the Israelites in their wilderness wanderings.

If you've never done so, I encourage you to read the book of Numbers and take particular note of every time the Israelites grumble and complain against God. Numbers 14 really brings it home.

Numbers 14:1-3 (NKJ) So all the congregation lifted up their voices and cried, and the people wept that night. And all the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron, and the whole congregation said to them, "If only we had died in the land of Egypt! Or if only we had died in this wilderness! Why has the LORD brought us to this land to fall by the sword, that our wives and children should become victims? Would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?"

Numbers 14:11 (NKJ) Then the LORD said to Moses: "How long will these people reject Me? And how long will they not believe Me, with all the signs which I have performed among them?"

Out of the abundance of their hearts, they spoke doubt, fear, and unbelief. As the story goes, Moses intercedes for the people with the LORD because the LORD had determined to strike them with pestilence and wipe them out. The LORD pardons the people but there are still consequences for those who have sinned with their lips in complaining and doubting. The LORD declares that they shall have exactly what they asked for: they would die in the wilderness, never getting to see the land promised to their fathers, but their children, whom they'd said would be victims in the wilderness, those are the ones that the LORD says will inherit the promised land. Pretty sad, huh? It also causes me to think that the LORD attaches a high value to a heart of faith and belief.

Hebrews 3:7-19 (NKJ) Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: "Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, in the day of trial in the wilderness, where your fathers tested Me, tried Me, and saw My works forty years. Therefore I was angry with that generation, and said, 'They always go astray in their heart and they have not known My ways.' So I swore in My wrath, 'They shall not enter My rest.'" Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily while it is called "Today," lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end, while it is said: "Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion." For who, having heard, rebelled? Indeed, was it not all who came out of Egypt, led by Moses? Now with whom was He angry forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness? And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.

I'll continue with this study in my next post.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Out Of The Abundance Of The Heart Part 2

Today I am going to tackle my first point: God uses trials and tribulations to "try" or test our hearts. All of us face struggles. Sometimes they are small, just the daily things, the little irritations and annoyances of life, the "grain of sand in your shoe" kinds of things. Other times they are big, things like the death of a loved one, a car accident, finding out you have cancer or that a loved one does, divorce, any number of things that come like a bolt out of the blue and catch you off-guard. Unfortunately, at times in our lives these things seem to come in threes or fours, giving us little or no time between tragedies to catch our breath and regroup spiritually. That's when we are most likely to cry out "Why?".

There are many reasons why trials and tribulations come our way. Sometimes we are in the right place at the right time when evil happens, like the girl who was shot & killed in the Colorado school shooting or the Amish school girls who were killed last week when a gunman burst into their school. The families of these girls did nothing to deserve these tragedies; they just happened to be in the right place at the right time to reap the consequences of someone else's sin. Sometimes we are reaping consequences of our own bad choices, like finding out you have lung cancer after years of smoking or having your wife & children leave you after years of dealing with your alcohol abuse. And sometimes life just happens, like when you slip on a patch of ice, fall, and break your leg. There's also the possibility that Satan, the accuser of the brethren, is provoking the trials we face, to get us to deny the LORD who redeemed us (see Job 1 & 2). No matter why the trials and tribulations happen, I think the LORD is vitally interested in our response, that these things are a "test" of the faith that resides in our hearts. You don't think the LORD tests us? Here's what the Word of God says:

Psalm 7:9b (NKJ) But establish the just: For the righteous God tests the hearts and minds.

Psalm 11:5 (NKJ) The LORD tests the righteous, but the wicked and the one who loves violence His soul hates.

Psalm 17:3 (NKJ) You have tested my heart; You have visited me in the night; You have tried me and have found nothing; I have purposed that my mouth shall not transgress.

I cannot study this subject without going to the book of Job. Tragedy after tragedy overtake Job and he has no reason why. In one day all of his material wealth, as counted in oxen, donkeys, sheep, camels, and servants, and all of his beloved children were taken from him. Job is clueless as to what is taking place in spiritual realms between God and Satan. All he knows is that everything has been taken from him. Does he demand answers from God? No! Here's what the Word says:

Job 1:20-22 (NKJ) Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshipped. And he said, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD." In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong.

Then, as if losing all his material wealth and children isn't enough, God allows Satan to afflict Job physically with painful boils that cover his body. Job's wife gets into the act and tells Job to curse God and die. How does Job respond?

Job 2:10 (NKJ) But he said to her, "You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?" In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

Job also says:

Job 13:15 (NKJ) Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.

Job 23:10 (NKJ) But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.

There's also the account of Abraham. Take a look at this...

Genesis 22:1-2 (NKJ) Now it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham, and said to him, "Abraham!" And he said, "Here I am." Then He said, "Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you."

And what does Abraham do? Does he argue with God and ask "why?" No, he gets up early in the morning, saddles the donkey, calls for two of his servants and for Isaac, loads up some firewood, and they head to the land of Moriah. Just like that. When they get to the mountain that the LORD tells him to go to, he builds an altar, puts the wood and Isaac his son on the altar, then takes his knife to slay Isaac. At that point, God speaks again.

Genesis 22:12 (NKJ) And He said, "Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me."

From these scriptures, I conclude that trials and tribulations are part of God's purpose, that He uses them to try our hearts, to test our faith and integrity. So how do our words tie into these times of testing? How can our words be an indicator of what is in our hearts? Ah, but that is for my next post. Til then, my prayer echoes that of David:

Psalm 19:14 (NKJ) Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Out Of The Abundance Of The Heart-Part 1

Over the past week, the Holy Spirit has been teaching me about the importance of the words that come from my mouth. This isn't an altogether new study for me. I've been highlighting verses in the Bible that deal with the mouth, lips, words, and speech for many years. What's different this time around is that the LORD has taken me deeper, beyond speech itself to the motives of the heart that prompt that speech. He's connected some dots, so to speak, in my understanding and opened my eyes to some insights that I hope I never forget. Towards that end, I am trying to bring 3+ pages of notes into some semblance of order here so that I can read this again and be reminded. It's my hope that sharing what I am learning will also be a blessing and an encouragement to you in your own walk of faith.

To lay some foundation here, I am generally an honest and upbeat person. I don't do a lot of grumbling and complaining. I am not a whiner. I try to avoid gossip and being fault-finding. I do not use swear words, not even if I hit my thumb with a hammer. I try to speak words that will build up and encourage, that give glory and honor to God, that express thankfulness and contentment rather than dissatisfaction and discontent. However, I am far from perfect and since I like to talk, "in an abundance of words, transgression is not lacking" (Prov. 10:19), so even I have room for improvement, especially after seeing what the LORD wanted me to see in this study.

I work fulltime in a plastics factory with some great people, but unfortunately they don't have a relationship with the LORD, so the words that come from their mouths are often not edifying or expressing thankfulness to the LORD. I hear a LOT of grumbling and complaining, of fault-finding and of questioning those in management. There has not been an across-the-board pay raise in over 4 years and the semi-annual bonuses became a thing of the past 6 years ago. There have been other cuts in benefits as well, as our company has had to make tough belt-tightening decisions in order to remain profitable in a tough global market. I do understand my co-workers' frustrations, as the cost of living continues to rise while our wages do not, however we have a great deal to be thankful for if we are willing to look for it. The grumbling and complaining don't accomplish anything anyway except to make everyone miserable. This past week I listened to plenty of the "life's NOT fair" complaints again, which helped spur me into this study.

As a child, I know I whined that lament plenty of times: "it's NOT fair!" Why could my younger sister get away with something that I couldn't get away with? Why could my brother go do something that I wasn't allowed to go do? Then when I raised my own six children, I heard those same kinds of laments. And you know what? Sure you do! Life ISN'T fair! That's a life lesson that we're all supposed to learn as children. Yet somehow it seems that there are lots of adults walking around today who never learned that lesson, at least if you listen to the things they are saying, that's the conclusion you can reach. "Why does that person get paid more than I do?" "How come that person can take so much time off work and still have a job here? They can't possibly have that much vacation time coming to them!" "I should get paid more cause I don't have any work restrictions like that person does, so if I can do all the jobs here, I should be worth more." And so on it goes. Whether it's the daily irritations and annoyances that cause impatient, angry, belittling, unedifying words to come from our mouths or the bigger trials and tribulations of life that have us crying out "WHY?" and questioning God's loving goodness & faithfulness, the words that proceed from our mouths are very, very important. I believe those words are an indicator of our true spiritual state, whether we are truly born again or not, whether we truly believe God or not. I also believe that God uses the trials and tribulations of life, both the big and little things, to test us, to prove us, to see whether we truly are the people of faith that we claim to be.

I will be examining the following points:
1) God uses trials and tribulations to "try" or test our hearts.
2) The words we speak are an indicator of what is in our hearts.
3) By our words we will be justified or condemned.

Here are two passages of scripture to ponder as I wrap up the first part of this study:

Matthew 12:33-37 (NKJ) Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit. Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.

Luke 6:43-45 (NKJ) For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, not does a bad tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

My Thoughts On Yom Kippur

Tonight at sunset begins Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) on God's holy days calendar. This is one of the special appointed times that God has commanded for His children (see Lev. 16, esp vs 29-31, Lev. 23:26-32, Num. 29:7). This is NOT a holy day that belongs exclusively to the Jews; all of the special appointed times are called in scripture, "the feasts of the LORD" and God has said, "these are My feasts." (see Lev. 23:1-2) Because I have been adopted into His family, by the blood of the Messiah, I believe that I have a right and an obligation to observe His special appointed times.

Because I have not grown up in the Jewish culture where observing these appointed times is the norm rather than the exception, I am still learning the why's and how's of observing them. I do not desire to take on Jewishness and am not a Jewish wannabe, but I DO want to walk in all the ways that my Messiah Yeshua did, and He most certainly observed all of these appointed times. I also understand that the offerings that were commanded for the High Priest to make in the Tabernacle were fulfilled in the offering of the body & blood of the Messiah, that it's no longer necessary for the High Priest to enter into the Holy of Holies once a year with the blood of bulls and goats to obtain atonement for our sins. And yet, there is still great value in this special day.

The passages I have already shared from Lev. and Num. tell us that on this day we are to "afflict our souls." As I looked up this word 'afflict' in the Strong's Concordance, I find that it carries the thought of abasing ourselves, of chastening self, of humbling ourselves, of submitting ourselves. The word 'depress' is used in the definition as well. That reminds me of John the Baptist's words that He must increase, but I must decrease. More of Him, less of me; that seems to make good sense to me.

It also reminds me that we're to afflict our "souls," that this is something that reaches deeper than just a physical discomfort. Humility comes from our heart. Traditionally, those who observe this day will fast for the whole 24 hours. For some, this is a fast from all food & drink, as well as other physical comforts. Fasting is a good thing and I will be doing that also, but I am looking for something that goes deeper than the physical deprivation of my flesh.

Isaiah 58:1-14 gives me pause:

(Amplified) Isa 58:1 CRY ALOUD, spare not. Lift up your voice like a trumpet and declare to My people their transgression and to the house of Jacob their sins! Isa 58:2 Yet they seek, inquire for, and require Me daily and delight [externally] to know My ways, as [if they were in reality] a nation that did righteousness and forsook not the ordinance of their God. They ask of Me righteous judgments, they delight to draw near to God [in visible ways]. Isa 58:3 Why have we fasted, they say, and You do not see it? Why have we afflicted ourselves, and You take no knowledge [of it]? Behold [O Israel], on the day of your fast [when you should be grieving for your sins], you find profit in your business, and [instead of stopping all work, as the law implies you and your workmen should do] you extort from your hired servants a full amount of labor. [Lev. 16:29.] Isa 58:4 [The facts are that] you fast only for strife and debate and to smite with the fist of wickedness. Fasting as you do today will not cause your voice to be heard on high. Isa 58:5 Is such a fast as yours what I have chosen, a day for a man to humble himself with sorrow in his soul? [Is true fasting merely mechanical?] Is it only to bow down his head like a bulrush and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him [to indicate a condition of heart that he does not have]? Will you call this a fast and an acceptable day to the Lord? Isa 58:6 [Rather] is not this the fast that I have chosen: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every [enslaving] yoke? [Acts 8:23.] Isa 58:7 Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house--when you see the naked, that you cover him, and that you hide not yourself from [the needs of] your own flesh and blood? Isa 58:8 Then shall your light break forth like the morning, and your healing (your restoration and the power of a new life) shall spring forth speedily; your righteousness (your rightness, your justice, and your right relationship with God) shall go before you [conducting you to peace and prosperity], and the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. [Exod. 14:19, 20; Isa. 52:12.] Isa 58:9 Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and He will say, Here I am. If you take away from your midst yokes of oppression [wherever you find them], the finger pointed in scorn [toward the oppressed or the godly], and every form of false, harsh, unjust, and wicked speaking, [Exod. 3:14.] Isa 58:10 And if you pour out that with which you sustain your own life for the hungry and satisfy the need of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in darkness, and your obscurity and gloom become like the noonday. Isa 58:11 And the Lord shall guide you continually and satisfy you in drought and in dry places and make strong your bones. And you shall be like a watered garden and like a spring of water whose waters fail not. Isa 58:12 And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of [buildings that have laid waste for] many generations; and you shall be called Repairer of the Breach, Restorer of Streets to Dwell In. Isa 58:13 If you turn away your foot from [traveling unduly on] the Sabbath, from doing your own pleasure on My holy day, and call the Sabbath a [spiritual] delight, the holy day of the Lord honorable, and honor Him and it, not going your own way or seeking or finding your own pleasure or speaking with your own [idle] words, Isa 58:14 Then will you delight yourself in the Lord, and I will make you to ride on the high places of the earth, and I will feed you with the heritage [promised for you] of Jacob your father; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken it. [Gen. 27:28, 29; 28:13-15.]

This passage reminds me that God is looking for something more than an outward appearance of devotion to Him; He desires my heart. The following verse says exactly what I believe God desires to see in me:

(Amplified) Psalm 51:17 My sacrifice [the sacrifice acceptable] to God is a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart [broken down with sorrow for sin and humbly and thoroughly penitent], such, O God, You will not despise.

In looking up verses for this study and looking at their definitions in Strong's, the words 'afflict' and 'humble' come together quite a bit. 'Humble' has basically the same meaning as 'afflict,' at least as it is used in these verses: Matt 18:4, Matt 23:12, James 4:10, 1 Peter 5:6. It is also used in Phil 2:8 and Luke 14:11, Luke 18:14 in variations of the word. The passage from Luke 18 is especially appropriate here:

(Amplified) Luke 18:9 He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves and were confident that they were righteous [that they were upright and in right standing with God] and scorned and made nothing of all the rest of men: Luk 18:10 Two men went up into the temple [enclosure] to pray, the one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. Luk 18:11 The Pharisee took his stand ostentatiously and began to pray thus before and with himself: God, I thank You that I am not like the rest of men--extortioners (robbers), swindlers [unrighteous in heart and life], adulterers--or even like this tax collector here. Luk 18:12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I gain. Luk 18:13 But the tax collector, [merely] standing at a distance, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but kept striking his breast, saying, O God, be favorable (be gracious, be merciful) to me, the especially wicked sinner that I am! Luk 18:14 I tell you, this man went down to his home justified (forgiven and made upright and in right standing with God), rather than the other man; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.

I see this day as a time of introspection, of examining myself to see whether I am holding true to my first love (Rev 2:1-5), of checking my priorities to see if they are in line with God's Word and the goal of the upward call of God in the Messiah Yeshua, of laying aside every sin and the weight that does so easily beset me, confessing my sins that I might receive His forgiveness of them, and endeavoring to restore any broken relationships or make restitution to any I have wronged over the past year. Isn't that what 2 Chron 7:14 says we are to do?

"If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land." 2 Chron 7:14 NKJ

But I need to remember that humbling myself, praying and seeking His face is not enough. I have to also turn from my wicked ways. I have to be repentant. Repentance isn't just being sorry for our sin. The word means to turn away from our sin and to walk in right paths again, to follow hard after the righteousness that comes from walking in the Messiah Yeshua's footsteps.

As I humble myself, pray & seek His face, as I turn from my wicked ways, then will He hear from heaven and forgive my sin. Then I will truly know the reality of atonement: At-One-Ment with Him.