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Rabbi’s Reflections – Saturday, January 16, 2021
Daily Bread, reading plan by Lars Enarson (https://www.thewatchman.org/)
Sat 16-Jan-2021 3rd of Sh’vat, 5781 Parashat Vaera
Ex 9:17-35 Ez 28:25-29:21 2 Th 1:1-12
Give God Pleasure and Love Yourself – Day 13 by David Harwood
Rabbi’s note: David Harwood is a pastor and friend. David lives with his wife, Elaine, on Long Island. He is an author and song writer. He agreed to write for the RR on Saturdays so I can have Shabbat off. He is currently writing a series on the inner narrative going on inside each of our own heads all the time. This self-talk can be a positive blessing to us and to God, or through we can curse ourselves and grieve God through negative thoughts. Today we have part 13 in the series.
Through a sanctified inner-narrative we have an opportunity to bless the utterly aware, emotionally Holy One who is enthroned within us. To do this we may need to reorient ourselves.
A way to ensure an we posses an inner-narrative that consistently delights God’s presence is to recognize and remove what hinders His pleasure. Sometimes, to prepare for something good we need to clear out what is bad. Prophetically, a call to repentance is often sounded before a promised blessing may be fulfilled.
These are classic verses from Isaiah.
A voice cries out in the wilderness, “Prepare the way of Adonai, Make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4Every valley will be lifted up, every mountain and hill made low, the rough ground will be a plain and the rugged terrain smooth. 5The glory of Adonai will be revealed, and all flesh will see it together.” For the mouth of Adonai has spoken. (Isaiah 40:3–5 TLV)
Rabbi’s note: The Hebrew word for “straight” is “Yashar” meaning upright, righteous, true, and fair. End RN.
What obstacles require removal? What needs to be brought down? What needs to be raised up or straightened out?
We know we are called to edify others. The same call is appropriate to ourselves. How might we build ourselves up? How might our inner-narratives need to change?
Before we begin, let me address something that you are probably not guilty of: apathy.
A lack of knowledge and experience of God often leads to a nonchalant attitude towards our goal of pleasing Him. A false belief that His standards are so high that it is impossible to please Him can cause one to remain passive.
However, we are told to make it our goal to please Him.
So whether at home or absent, we make it our aim to be pleasing to Him. (2 Corinthians 5:9 TLV)
We are assured that we can learn to do this.
trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. (Ephesians 5:10 TLV)
Surprisingly, even little acts of love can please Adonai. Along these lines, bring this to mind: cups of water can bless the Lord. Yeshua said:
“And whoever gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, amen I tell you, he shall never lose his reward.” (Matthew 10:42 TLV)
This is true about our motives and actions. It holds true for our inner-narratives as well. We can please Adonai with how we meditate and speak about ourselves. To do so we may need to remove some things and reinforce others. Let’s look at what we may need to get out of the way.
Holy Spirit Sorrow
In Ephesians 4:29–32 we find that Paul instructed his disciples how to speak to each other. He prohibited rotten verbal interactions and he encouraged wholesome communication.
He directed and warned:
Ephesians 4:29 No rotten word must proceed⌋ from your mouth, but only something good for the building up of the need, in order that it may give grace to those who hear, 30 and do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
He forbade rotten emotions and words that grieve the Ruach ha-Kodesh of God:
Ephesians 4:31 All bitterness, and rage, and wrath, and clamor, and abusive speech, must be removed from you, together with all wickedness.
On the other hand, he encouraged what was good for the purpose of edifying fellow disciples:
Ephesians 4:32 Become kind toward one another, compassionate, forgiving one another, just as also God in [the Messiah] has forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:29–32 Lexham English Bible)
The warnings are given in the light of this: We can cause God to experience sorrow by the way we interact with others. Consider that and think about this: we can cause Him sorrow by the way we relate to ourselves. There are pollutants that poison our inner lives, but take heart, our meditations can be purified and give God’s presence pleasure.
The prohibitions are strong words. I’m certain not all of them would apply to our normal inner narratives. However, through them we can conclude that we’re not to relate to ourselves in a way God forbids us to relate to others. We are not called to be Pollyanna-ish in our self-evaluations (everything is not beautiful), but we are definitely not called to be our own prosecutors either. Give yourself some grace.
Bitterness, Rage, Wrath, Clamor, Abusive speech
To one degree or another we tend to indulge a rotten inner narrative. We can use Paul’s prohibitions to identify what we need to clear away. Let us examine this catalogue of unwholesome interactions beginning with what led Paul’s list: bitterness.
When bitterness seasons our speech we damage those we speak about and those who listen to us. If we speak to those against whom we are bitter we will hurt them, too. In many ways, bitterness is the foundation of all the other sin-filled emotions and actions.
In addition, and to our point, if we’re holding a grudge against ourselves we need to let it go.
Talk to God about it.
In the same way that we forgive others we need to forgive ourselves. Bitterness is unhealthy and produces all sorts of problems. Look to Calvary and recall that the Messiah took all the blame. Dare we despise what He did and take the blame back? God wanted our sins to be crucified. Yeshua made that possible.
Let’s look at the remaining four. Rage (θυμός thumos) is a notorious motivator for unfiltered unwholesome speech. It’s partner, wrath (ὀργή orgē) is closely connected, but rage is out of control.
Human wrath tends to self-righteously believes that it is principled and may become the motivator of merciless evaluations and actions.
Inner, self-directed wrath is like a settled guilty verdict pronounced on one’s self. It is legalistic and convinced by the equivalent of a prosecutor’s evidence. This is when you’ve evaluated yourself and are convinced that you are unworthy of love and acceptance. It is different from holding a grudge against a specific outrage. This is more as if your entire being is the subject of just condemnation and you’re carrying out the resultant judgment, condemning yourself.
The word clamor (κραυγή kraugē) basically means “shouting” (Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament). Clamor is LOUD.
Some thought patterns seem louder than others. Bitterness, rage, wrath, and anger tend to drown out mercy. We have to learn to not allow these sinful thought patterns – directed towards ourselves – to drown out the edifying inner-narrative God wants us to have.
Many believe they are justified in being embittered towards themselves. They refuse to forgive themselves as a matter of righteousness. They refuse to relent.
Look at Yeshua’s example and apply it to your own inner-narrative.
But Yeshua was saying, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34a)
Why not talk to yourself along these lines?
Have we mentioned abusive speech? The Greek word, blasphēmia, is the origin of our word, blasphemy. Nowadays, its meaning is narrowly applied to sacrilege. When this was written it just meant slander, or abusive speech. Recognize and remove it.
There may be aspects of your inner-narrative that contain some of these patterns. They are prohibited and can be replaced by meditations that give God’s presence pleasure.
God Incarnate reinforced the command that we should love our neighbors as ourselves.
My request is that we would consider loving ourselves like we love our neighbors.
The same courtesy we would show a friend, the same forbearance we would offer an adversary, is the same kindness we should offer to ourselves. We can apply the same attitude towards ourselves when we remember our past, or are currently at our worst. Forgive yourself like you would forgive others and please remove any obstacle that hinders your relationship with God.
Please consider this exhortation based on Ephesians 4:29-30a: Do not allow any rotten inner-conversation to proceed from your heart about yourself to yourself. Instead, concentrate upon what is wholesome. Strategically strengthen your soul according to your immediate need. Make it your ambition to please God with your meditations and impart grace to your inner-being. And don’t make God sad. All bitterness, and rage, and wrath, and clamor, and abusive speech (towards yourself), must be removed from you
Abba, may the words I speak and my heart’s deepest thoughts give Your presence pleasure. (paraphrase of Psalm 19:15a)