Rabbi’s Reflections – Saturday, January 30, 2021

Shabbat Shalom,

Daily Bread, reading plan by Lars Enarson (https://www.thewatchman.org/)

Sat 30-Jan-2021 17th of Sh’vat, 5781 Parashat Beshalach

Ex 17:1-16 Jdg 4:4-5:31 Rev 19:11-21

You Are Not Alone by David Harwood 

God hears your thoughts. 

Part of being created as the image of God is that we get to direct our meditations. Our thoughts are intended to be under our control. The ways we view our lives are to be deliberately yielded to God. They can be guided by our Creator’s Ruach through the Scriptures which He inspired.

Our motive is to please the ADONAI. We can learn to do this. Each of us can embrace this process. 

For once you were darkness, but now in union with the Lord you are light. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. (Ephesians 5:8–10 TLV) 

Look at verse 10: “… trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.” We are on a steep learning curve, but we are empowered by His presence.

Pleasing God is something we get to learn. 

Paul informed us that we were once darkness. We lived in the midst of cultural darkness that both infected and reflected the condition of our souls. We blended in without any difficulty. Part of this sphere of spiritual darkness is the war waged within and over our souls. 

Pertaining to our inner-narrative, the accuser’s armies seek to enslave us. It is as if there is an unseen throng ceaselessly shouting insults and slander at each person and about each person. We may not be consciously aware of these accusations and mockery, but the spiritual atmosphere is filled with it. Our souls have been trained by this wicked spiritual realm. Paul wrote:

You were dead in your trespasses and sins. At that time, you walked in the way of this world, in conformity to the ruler of the domain of the air—the ruler of the spirit who is now operating in the sons of disobedience. (Ephesians 2:1–2 TLV) 

But now, those who are born from above are children of light. We partake of a heavenly atmosphere in the midst of the darkness. We are being retrained as God’s beloved children who have received the Spirit of adoption (Romans 8:15). 

Let’s reexamine a God ordained motivation for growing in godly meditations. Question: Why should we cultivate an inner-narrative that honors our Creator? Answer: To please the Lord.

Yeshua said that on the deepest level of reality, human life has specific, permanent priorities. They are revealed in the great mitzvot of the Torah. An expert in religious law (New English Translation) tested Yeshua and got more than he bargained for. The lawyer basically asked, “What one thing does Adonai want the most?” Yeshua gave him two. 

And testing Him, one of them, a lawyer, asked, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Torah?”  And He said to him, “ ‘You shall love Adonai your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire Torah and the Prophets hang on these two commandments. (Matthew 22:35–40 TLV)  

Every disciple agrees. We know we are commanded to love and honor God in the deepest part of our beings. Our fundamental thoughts, attitudes, and emotions are addressed in the words “all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” 

Along these lines, Yeshua said, 

… ‘You shall worship Adonai your God, and Him only shall you serve.’ (Matthew 4:10b TLV) 

We are called to worship Adonai because we love Him. 

What of the other priority? Since we love Adonai we take the second command seriously. 

Yeshua stressed that we are called to serve Him (Matthew 4:10b). In the light of that, let us stress that we can think about and act towards others in a way that honors and serves their and our Creator. 

We express agape (love) for God through loving our neighbor as ourselves. 

We live in a time when various forms of worship have been emphasized. Yet, there is an underemphasized foundation of our expressions of worship. It is loving those He loves. The regenerated soul wants to worship the Redeemer.  Neighbor-oriented-agape is preparation for these acceptable acts of worship. 

The Messiah said, “Therefore if you are presenting your offering upon the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering” (Matthew 5:23–24 TLV).

We all agree with the following: Yeshua confirmed the importance of the second mitzvah. As we are to be aware of our actions towards our neighbors, so we are to bring this to mind: the way we think about others is part of the hidden foundation of love expressed to our neighbors. Also, it is part of the way we  worship God through our grateful obedience to this command.

What we generally do not hear emphasized is that our thought-patterns pertaining to ourselves can be part of honoring God. Our habitual inner-narrative can be conformed to a pattern that pleases God.

Each of us has an inner-narrative. Our recent meditations have focused upon this principle: We are to speak to ourselves, about ourselves, in a way that would please God. We are to respect ourselves in the meditations of our heart in the same way we seek to honor others when we think of them. 

Are we learning to please the Lord (Ephesians 5;10)? How might we know if we’re on the right track? We can be aware of our progress because we can understand aspects of the goal we are stressing. The goal is that our inner narrative should be of the same quality and motive as would please God if we were speaking to someone else about them, or speaking to them about another person.

To illustrate, here are a couple of questions.

Would we speak with a friend and slander someone we have in common who is not present? 

If so, we should repent. If that is how we speak about ourselves in the quiet of our hearts we should also repent. If we would not malign others, we should follow the same pattern in our inner-narrative. We ought not speak of ourselves, to ourselves, in a mean, accusing manner. 

Would we speak in a way that would reinforce a negative caricature about a friend to another? Most of us would rise to a friend’s defense. We should follow the same pattern and deconstruct false malignant narratives we might take for granted about ourselves. 

If our friend were demoralized would we pile on? Would we deliberately discourage our friend? No, we would try to encourage them with a truthful, faith-filled perspective. 

Although it may be difficult, we need to learn to consistently do the same for our own souls as an expression of worship. We are called to honor Adonai in the way we view ourselves. It is in the light of God’s compassion for us that we learn to surrender ourselves to Him as a spiritual sacrifice. It is reasonable that we should respond to God’s redemptive mercy. As a result of loving God, we worship Him in spirit and truth.

“God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24 TLV) 

We are called to practically express our love for Him. There are some verses in Romans 12 that speak to this reality.

I urge you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice—holy, acceptable to God—which is your spiritual service. Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. 

For through the grace given me, I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of yourself than you ought to think—but to use sound judgment, as God has assigned to each person a measure of faith. (Romans 12:1–3 TLV) 

Just like we are called to offer up our bodies to God, so we are to offer our inner-narratives. We begin by recognizing the importance of our thought lives. So much of our self-communications are thought-lies. We are summoned to embrace truth and surrender the way we see ourselves, and the way we speak to ourselves, in the presence of God.

Here’s a foundational verse about this that is worth reiterating:

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable before You, Adonai, my Rock and my Redeemer. (Psalm 19:15 TLV) 

Let’s learn to do this. Our inner-narratives can be an expression of our worship. May God give us enabling favor to take this seriously. Here’s a good prayer:

So teach us to number our days, so that we may get a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 90:12 TLV) 

Let’s add this to our prayer:

Amen, Lord. 

Teach us to think of ourselves in a way that gives You joy. 

Help us offer the meditations of our heart as an act of worship.