Rabbi’s Reflections – Sunday, October 16, 2022
Do You Follow Yeshua? How Do You Know? Part 2
by Dr. Raymond Finney
INTRODUCTION: In last Sunday’s RR, I wrote on the topic suggested in the title. I wrote that Yeshua invited Believers to follow Him, regardless of the group name they call themselves. In the original RR draft, I had included a lengthy sidelight about one obstacle to being a disciple of Yeshua (worshiping false gods or idols). That sidelight was too long. I deleted it and transformed it into a separate (today’s) RR.
WHAT IS AN IDOL? A few dictionary definitions of “idol” include: an object of extreme devotion, a representation or symbol of an object of worship, or a likeness of something to which is paid extreme devotion.
An idol is a false god. Adonai was very specific about making and worshiping false gods. In the Ten Commandments (Ten Words), we are told plainly (Exodus 20:3-6): [God spoke] “You shall have no other gods before Me. Do not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above or on the earth below or in the water under the earth. Do not bow down to them, do not let anyone make you serve them. For I, Adonai your God, am a jealous God, bringing the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to the thousands of generations of those who love Me and keep My mitzvot.”
Notes about this commandment:
● “Graven image” translates the Hebrew פֶסֶל (transliterated, pesel || pronounced, PEH-sel), which is understood to mean: “an idol or an image, usually carved (graven), which is worshiped or excessively adored.” Graven images (idols) abounded throughout the ancient world. Although this commandment implies a carved (visible) image, such as a statue, idols can be invisible (occultism, spiritism, etc.). It is interesting to read Catholic Websites, as they dance around the question of why statues of the Virgin Mary, ubiquitous in all Catholic churches and properties, are not graven images.
If you desire to know more about Catholic beliefs about Mary, the official Roman Catholic dogma about her (interesting reading) is contained in the Catholic Catechism, paragraphs 484-511 and 963-975. (These Catechism paragraphs are summarized at: https://www.marian.org/mary/in-the-catechism .)
SIDELIGHT: We English speakers traditionally call Yeshua’s mother “Mary.” In the B’rit Chadashah text, her name in Koine Greek is spelled, depending on use, as Μαρία [Maria], Μαρίας [Marias], or Μαριάμ [Mariam]. The name is of ancient origin. Moses’ sister was named Miriam. The Tree of Life Version uses Miriam, rather than Mary or Maria, when translating the Greek text. The Hebrew spelling of Miriam is מִרְיָם . In Hebrew, the name is only two syllables– meer-YAHM– but is three syllables in English– MEER-ee-ahm. The name translates to “Rebellion” or “Bitter.” It seems ironic to me that Yeshua’s mother would be given such a negative-sounding name. END sidelight.
● God is “jealous,” meaning there is no room for another deity. Yeshua emphasized the proper relationship between God and man in His explanation of the great commandments (Matthew 22:36-38): And [Yeshua] said to [the lawyer], “‘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.”
Such jealousy is consistent with other Scriptures. As noted in previous RRs, for example, God the Father and Yeshua are, respectively, spiritually married to Israel and to Believers. When people break their sacred relationships in these “marriages,” they commit spiritual adultery.
● In Exodus 20:6, the Hebrew mitzvot is translated “commandments” in English.
● Adonai gave Moses these commandments early in the exodus journey from Egypt (ca 1440 BC) on Mt. Sinai in present-day Saudi Arabia. Ironically, while Moses was on Mt. Sinai receiving commandments from Adonai, including the commandment cited above prohibiting God’s people from making graven idols, Moses’ brother Aaron was at the foot of the mountain doing exactly what God prohibited. In Exodus 32:1-35, we read that the Israelites demanded that Aaron make them an idol, a golden calf, during the forty days that Moses was away from them on the mountain. The Israelites collected and melted their gold to permit Aaron to fashion a golden calf for them. They claimed that it was the calf god who had delivered them from Egyptian slavery. Sadly, the Israelites’ faith lasted less than forty days before they turned to pagan worship.
CENTRAL SCRIPTURE– MAMMON AS AN IDOL: One teaching of Yeshua is central to this RR (Matthew 6:24): [Yeshua said] “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will stick by one and look down on the other. You cannot serve God and money.” This Tree of Life Version is loosely translated (“money,” rather than “mammon”), although the meaning is sound. Yeshua actually said we cannot serve God and mammon (Greek text, μαμωνᾶς || transliterated, mamōnas || English translation, mammon). Of Chaldean origin, mammon is understood to represent wealth or possessions (tangentially, money). Some scholars teach that Mammon was the name of a Syrian-Chaldean god, similar to the Greek god of wealth and abundance, Plutus. Plutus, god of wealth, should not be confused with Pluto, god of the underworld.
Yeshua was critical of devotion to riches. Representative Scriptures include:
● (Matthew 6:19-21): [Yeshua said] “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in or steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
● (Matthew 19:16, 21-22): Now behold, one came to [Yeshua] and said, “Teacher, what good shall I do to have eternal life?” |…| Yeshua said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you own, and give to the poor; and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.” But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving, for he had much property. Then Yeshua said to His disciples, “Amen, I tell you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
● (Mark 12:41-44): Yeshua sat in the Temple, watching contributions to the Temple treasury. Rich men gave large sums, with much fanfare and accolades from others. A poor widow quietly crept in and gave her two small coins (worth very little). He contrasted the giving of the rich and the poor (verses 43-44): Calling His disciples over, [Yeshua] said to them, “Amen, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those contributing to the box! For they all put in from their surplus; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything she had, her whole living.”
ARE ALL IDOLS “EVIL?” Not all idols may seem “evil” or undesirable at first blush. It must be questioned whether these “idols” distract from more important activities of life, including the worship of God. I have personally experienced such a conflict, and let me tell you about it.
Before retirement, I loved to practice medicine. As a hospital-based physician and chairman of a hospital department, I set my own hours. I typically worked at least 12-hours each day, with no breaks. I easily immersed myself in work, losing all sense of time.
Although I loved my family and spent as much time as possible with them (I was either at the hospital or at home at any given moment), I had to tear myself away from work to go home. There was always more to do than I could finish.
I worked hard, but not for money (Yeshua’s “mammon” example). I honestly could not remember the day after payday how much I earned the preceding month (and I wrote the paychecks for my partnership). I have never found “mammon” to be important in my life. I gave my paycheck to Linda to deposit and forgot about money. I loved to work, and I thought I was helping patients and my community with my work.
As an old man, now, I am a little envious of my wife, a stay-at-home mom. She experienced our children’s early years, much of which I missed. I now realize my work became an idol for me, even though I was trying to serve others for a worthwhile purpose. (This conflict poses a tough dilemma!) Are there idols– even idols that seemingly do good for others– in your life?
If I were America’s emperor (a scary thought!), I would decree that every citizen must see Thornton Wilder’s beautiful, thought-provoking play, Our Town. In Act III, Emily dies in childbirth and is transported to Grover’s Corner’s cemetery, then in a flashback to her childhood home on “an unimportant day” in her earlier life. Seeing her loved ones, as they appeared when she was sixteen years old and watching the casual way in which they interacted, Emily was struck with how precious life is wasted. This dialogue ensues:
EMILY: “Does anyone ever realize life while they live it… every, every minute?”
STAGE MANAGER: “No. Saints and poets maybe… they do some.”
You really need to watch carefully at least the entire Act III (and, preferably, the entire play) unfold to capture Emily’s sad regrets, as she looks back on what she considers a somewhat wasted life.
Poet T.S. Eliot (“The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”) summed up the wasted lives many of us lead: “I have measured out my life with coffee spoons….”
As an octogenarian, I look back with sad regrets for the many things I did wrong or could have done better in life. I have wasted much of the precious, one-time life God gave me, measuring out a “coffee spoonful” of life at a time.
I have wondered: Is old age a time God gives as a time of reflection in preparation for judgment? (Probably not, I have concluded, because some people die at an early age and do not have this time of reflection.)
I sympathize with Emily in Our Town. My idol of work parallels Emily’s epiphany of not “realizing life” to its fullest. (I did not then and do not now realize life to its fullest, and I was then and am now the poorer because of it.)
I have two suggestions for you:
● Evaluate your life for unnecessary idols, and remove any you find; and
● See Our Town, if you have the opportunity. Our Town is best seen as Wilder wrote it in 1938 for a Depression-era theater audience, with almost no stage props and mostly pantomime actions by the actors. You probably cannot see this play as originally written, but you can watch a 1977 version on YouTube at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LEoXuXRoOdY . (Have Kleenex ready.) I have not seen this production in years, but I recall the late Hal Holbrook’s outstanding performance as the Stage Manager.
If you watch it, I accept in advance your “Thank you.” If you watch it thoughtfully, it might transform your life. You may start to think about what is or is not important in life.
Okay, RRs are not literary reviews, but I suggest you watch Our Town for at least two reasons:
● OUR TOWN, AS A TRIBUTE TO THE COMMON MAN: I recommend Our Town as a tribute to “common” men and women. “Insignificant people” – the Gibbs and Webb families and their neighbors in the play– in an “insignificant part of the world” – Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire, more than a century ago– lived, loved, and died unknown to most of the world. They were common folk– as common as common can be.
Although the Our Town citizens of Grover’s Corner are fictional, untold millions of people like them have contributed and still contribute to the strength of our nation. These are the type of people of whom Abraham Lincoln said, “God must love the common man– He made so many of them.” Yeshua spent much of His ministry working with people in the lower socioeconomic strata of Israel. He loved the widows, orphans, beggars, lepers, and “the refuse of society.” God surely loves the downtrodden, the poor, and the weak, because much of the Holy Bible is written as encouragement for them.
Read Yeshua’s Parable of the Righteous Judge (Parable of the Sheep and Goats) in Matthew 25:31-46. This parable prophesies the future after Yeshua’s return. Yeshua will judge the nations (all people). As our Good Shepherd, He will divide the goats (evil people) from the sheep (righteous people). He will test how people treated the disadvantaged in His absence. Did they feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, house the stranger, clothe the naked, and visit the ill and imprisoned? Always a “day late and a dollar short,” the slow-to-understand disciples asked when their Lord was ever in need and they failed Him. The answer was that Yeshua is represented by every “common man” one may encounter (Matthew 25:45): [Yeshua said] “Then [the King, representing King Yeshua in the parable] will answer them, saying, ‘Amen, I tell you, whatever you [did or] did not do for one of the least of these, you [did or] did not do for Me.’” Yeshua loves and is concerned about “the least of those among us.” When we treat well or mistreat common man, “the least among us,” in reality we treat well or mistreat Yeshua.
SIDELIGHT: I have a problem with this parable, and I do not know how to resolve it. Years ago, I was a “soft touch” for any panhandler I met on the street. If he said he needed money “for food,” I gave him money. In earlier times, my generosity came at a time when Linda and I were barely scraping by on my meager house officer’s salary. Even so, I could scrape together a little for them. I have always felt sorry for poor people, wanting to help as much as I could. I now know that most panhandlers seek money for beer or other drugs. It is rare that I now give these people anything, even though I can afford to be generous. I think: Why should I help finance this person’s drug habit– especially when so many governmental assistance programs are available and when job vacancies exist in nearly every city? I do not have an answer for this problem. I do not want a poor person to go hungry, but I do not want to buy drugs for him. END sidelight.
● OUR TOWN, AS A REMINDER THAT SO LITTLE TIME IS LEFT: I recommend Our Town as a reminder that each of us has a “clock” strapped to his/ her back. Whether we listen to the ticktock of that “clock,” it still runs. Tick, tock. Tick, tock. You and I grow older every second of every day. As we age, you and I have one fewer day to get our lives in order. And, you and I are one day closer to judgment (Hebrews 9:27): And just as it is appointed for men to die once, and after this judgment,….
JUDGMENTS: There are two judgments. You, as a Believer, have sole control over which Judgment (the good Judgment or the bad Judgment) you will face:
● The Bema Judgment (Judgment Seat of the Messiah) will occur, as I read Scriptures, shortly after the Believer enters Paradise. All persons present at Yeshua’s Bema will have had their names inscribed in the Lamb’s Book of Life, meaning they are guaranteed entry into Heaven by the salvation granted by God’s merciful grace and Yeshua’s sacrifice on Golgotha’s cross. In a little more than one-thousand years after that Judgment, these Believers will enter Heaven. They will first serve in the Millennial (Thousand-year) Reign of Yeshua on Earth. The Bema Judgment is intended solely for God’s redeemed children to be awarded– or not awarded– crowns (rewards) for service and faithful perseverance in earthly life. All persons at this Judgment will enter Heaven, whether in triumphal joy (crowns awarded) or sorrowful regret (crowns not awarded).
● The Great White Throne Judgment will occur, as I read Scriptures, at the end of the Millennial Reign and after Satan is cast into the Lake of Fire to join the Antichrist and False Prophet. The Book of Life is opened, as each poor soul is judged. Every thought and every deed, whether good or bad, is recorded. I believe the two primary considerations affecting persons at this Judgment may be: 1) Has he/ she accepted Yeshua as Lord and Savior? 2) Has he/ she overcome sins? I am not the Divine Judge, of course, and other things may be considered. I suspect this Judgment is for the purposes of establishing why this person receives the eternal, inevitable punishment and, to set the degree of punishment. There is only one verdict– GUILTY! There is only one sentence– ETERNITY SPENT IN HELL WITH OTHER UNBELIEVERS. Pertinent Scriptures include: Revelation 20:7-15, 19:19-20, 2:23, 18:6, 22:12; Psalms 28:4, 62:12; Romans 2:5, 14:10-12; etc.
Idol worship may hamper rewards that should be given to you at your Bema Judgment. I apologize for rambling so much in this RR. Until next Sunday, Shalom and Maranatha.
P.S. – A REMINDER: Once again, that YouTube address for Our Town is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LEoXuXRoOdY . You are welcome that I recommend that you watch this masterpiece of American drama.
Daily Bread, reading plan by Lars Enarson (https://www.thewatchman.org/)
Sun 16-Oct-2022 21st of Tishrei, 5783
(CH”M) Sukkot VII (Hoshana Raba)
De 33:1-7 Nu 29:26-34 Mal 3-4 2 Ch 36 Jn 7:37-52