Rabbi’s Reflections – Saturday, January 9, 2021

Shabbat Shalom,

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

Sat 9-Jan-2021 25th of Tevet, 5782 Parashat Shemot

Ex 5:1-6:1 Isa 27:6-28:13; 29:22-23 Ac 7:17-37

Give God Pleasure and Love Yourself – Day 12 by David Harwood

We love God. You wouldn’t be reading this if you didn’t. Today’s devotional is going to further reveal the reality of God’s emotions. This is true: He reacts to how we relate to ourselves. We’re going to begin to concentrate on Paul’s warning against grieving the Ruach ha-Kodesh. That is a window into God’s nature and His love for us.

Before we begin I encourage you to continue to pray along the lines of Psalm 19:14a. Please pray with me:

Abba, let the words I speak, and my heart’s deepest thoughts, give Your presence pleasure. (paraphrase of Psalm 19:14a)

We are often conscious of our actions and thoughts as they affect others. However, what we’re concentrating on is developing an ambition to please God through the words and thoughts we speak about ourselves. This is an underemphasized goal and we’re seeking to stress it.

I’ve isolated a passage in Ephesians that may help us become aware of our meditations and how they might be channels of blessing to the indwelling Spirit. Please slow down and read the section of Scripture we’re considering together:

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 and do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. All bitterness, and rage, and wrath, and clamor, and abusive speech, must be removed from you, together with all wickedness. 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) 

Through reading this and applying it to our inner-narrative we find that we can strengthen our souls through our meditations. If we can (and we do) give grace to others who hear good edifying words, then we can (and we should) give grace to ourselves through our heart’s deepest thoughts. 

I’m reminded of the time when King David was about to come into the first stages of being recognized as Israel’s king. Right before that happened he suffered the most disheartening defeat of his military career. As a result, his men were in rebellion. His family (and theirs), along with all their possessions, were captured by malicious marauders. It seemed hopeless. David led the lament:

Then David and the troops with him lifted up their voice and wept until they there was no more strength in them to weep. (1 Samuel 30:4 TLV) 

Imagine the confusion. How could God have let this happen? As they wept, David’s cadre began to fix the blame on him.

So David was in a serious bind, for the troops were calling for his stoning, for all the troops were bitter of soul, every man for his sons and his daughters. (1 Samuel 30:6a TLV) 

He was all alone. 

I can imagine him crying out to the God who had chosen him, “What did I do wrong? Have you forsaken me? Everyone around me believes You have. They are aware of my faults and blame me for their misfortune… Are they right? Is this all my fault? Are You finished with me? Will the promises I embraced never come to pass? Was I deceived?”

His back was against the wall. What did David do? He overcame.

But David strengthened himself in Adonai his God. (1 Samuel 30:6b TLV) 

Somehow he spoke to himself and found grace to help in his time of need. Please note: he did not utilize his newfound inner strength to pursue his own agenda. Despite his deep desire, David immediately sought Adonai for direction. The outcome of this story is that God enabled this company of champions to recover everything that had been lost. 

So David recovered all that the Amalekites had taken, and rescued his two wives. (1 Samuel 30:18 TLV) 

This is a worthwhile pattern for our daily lives. Speak to our own souls, and receive strength. Seek Adonai, and receive direction. Follow through and find victory. 

Paul wrote, that we can “give grace to those who hear.” If to others, then to ourselves, too.

What type of grace is this? Enabling, strengthening, favor. 

This energizing grace must be received. Just like when we speak to someone else the words must be respected and seen as both reliable and reality based. Good, supportive words can be offered, but unless they are received with faith they will not do the hearer any good.

We can hear God’s words and make them our own. We can agree with them. We can meditate upon them. They then become part of our stewardship. These words are like seed. We can sow them in our own heart. The Messiah Yeshua said,

And other seed fell into the good soil; and when it came up, it produced fruit a hundredfold.” While saying these things, He would call out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” (Luke 8:8 TLV) 

We can cultivate “ears to hear.” We can be good soil for an encouraging inner-narrative. It will bear good fruit. In this case the fruit we’re after is to give God’s presence pleasure.

Our text reads

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 and do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God (Ephesians 4:29–30 Lexham English Bible) 

I’ve chosen a translation that emphasizes the connective word, “and” rather than a full stop and the beginning of a new sentence. Why? Because the connective is there in the Greek. It is still one thought. The inference is that there is some speech that can grieve God’s Spirit. Friends, if there is speech that grieves, there is speech that blesses. 

Although not in this passage, God is pleased when we speak and give grace to those who hear. He loves it when we love one another. The way we speak can be an avenue for conveying that love.

God’s indwelling presence can also be grieved.

Here is the only other time the Bible specifically reveals that the Ruach ha-Kodesh can be grieved.

But they rebelled, and grieved His Ruach ha-Kodesh. So He turned to become their enemy. He Himself fought against them. (Isaiah 63:10 TLV) 

Paul uses a Greek word that more closely follows the Hebrew than the Septuagint. The Septuagint uses a word that has to do with giving provocation to anger. That is more of a paraphrase than a good translation. As in most cases, context determines the nuance of the definition of the Hebrew word, עָצַב (ʿāṣab). Although this word (ʿāṣab) can mean physical pain, that is not the case here. In this context עָצַב (ʿāṣab) conveys the emotion of sorrow as the result of having one’s feelings being hurt.

The Greek is λυπέω (lypeō) and according to the Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament it means to cause pain, or give offense. This is right in line with the prophetic lament in Isaiah.

What this might mean is that Paul is actually referencing the section in Isaiah. Here is Isaiah 63:10 in its immediate setting:

For He said, “Surely they are My people, children who will not deal falsely.” So He became their Savior. 

9 In all their affliction He was afflicted. So the angel of His presence saved them. In His love and in His mercy He redeemed them, then He lifted them and carried them all the days of old. 10 But they rebelled, and grieved His Ruach ha-Kodesh. So He turned to become their enemy. He Himself fought against them. (Isaiah 63:8–10 TLV) 

First, we find that Adonai had affection for, and confidence in, His people. With high hopes He saved them. God identified with their suffering, delivered them, and because of His love and mercy acted like a kinsman-redeemer. They had no strength, but He became their strength. And then, then(!), they rebelled. The result of their rebellion was that the Ruach ha-Kodesh was deeply grieved and, as a result of their callous, unthinking, unwise, rebellion, God was turned against them. He became hostile to them.

Our next entry will isolate and examine some of the ways our inner-narratives may need to be changed. It is possible to bless God by our thoughts and words about ourselves. It is possible to grieve the Ruach who abides in us and who is utterly committed to our wellbeing. 

Let’s continue to apply Paul’s exhortation to the Ephesians to our own souls. So that you don’t have to look it up, here is a more pointed paraphrase of Ephesians 4:29:

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. 

Embrace the goal to please God with your meditations and impart grace to your inner-being in your time of need (a paraphrased application of Ephesians 4:29)

Let’s pray again:

Abba, let the words I speak and my heart’s deepest thoughts give Your presence pleasure. (paraphrase of Psalm 19:14a)