Rabbi’s Reflections – Sunday, August 6, 2023
Shavuah Tov,

And The People Cheered, “Give ‘Em Hell, Tennessee” – Part 1
by Dr. Raymond Finney

INTRODUCTION: America’s college football season begins in a few weeks. We live in the heart of Big Orange Country (AKA Rocky Top). When most people in this area cut a finger, orange blood pours out, not that nasty red blood.

The Tennessee Vols’ 2023 football season starts on September 2.

A RECOVERING VOLS’ FAN RECALLS A CHEER: I was once a rabid Vols’ fan. I had season tickets. Being on call every third weekend and being required to be present physically in the hospital within ten minutes of being called, I could not be caught in a lengthy traffic jam trying to go to or from Neyland Stadium. I gave away or did not use a third of my expensive tickets. I found it more enjoyable to spend Saturday afternoon with my wife and watch all or part of the game on television. Now a recovering fan (is there a Vols Anonymous group for help?), I stay dry and comfortable, and I am always only seconds away from coffee.

I bore you with my Big Orange background to mention a cheerleaders’ cheer I remember. The cheer simply chants, “Give ’em Hell, Tennessee.” Other schools may have a similar cheer. For reasons previously stated, I have not personally attended a Vols’ game for years, and I do not know if this cheer is still used. I cannot hear the cheerleaders’ cheers, as I watch televised games.

Grammar alert: There is no consensus whether places of eternal residence should be capitalized (Heaven/ Hell) or lowercased (heaven/ hell). You will see both options in this RR, which means I am always right.

MOUNTAIN OUT OF A MOLEHILL? Is this RR an example of making a mountain out of a molehill? I understand the meaning of this cheer, which is intended to be harmless taunting of a competitor by sports fanatics (er, sports fans). I probably draw too fine a point on this cheer, which should not be taken literally, but I suggest there could be an underlying spiritual message we should consider. Would we want to send a Georgia Dawg, Florida Gator, or Alabama fan to Hell? (Yes, I occasionally watch the Paul Finebaum Show on the SEC Network, and maybe most Alabama callers really do not mean what they say.)

I equally question such casual condemnations as, “Go to Hell,” or “I hope you burn in Hell.” Yeshua said each person must someday give an account for idle words.

The answer to my question is: Few people– even die-hard sports fans– would desire to send anyone to Hell only because that person supported “the wrong team.” However, a sports fan/ Christian-Believer might unknowingly have the effect of not caring whether people go to Hell or Heaven by his/ her inaction and lack of concern. I realize this statement is a rigid interpretation of Scriptures, but consider what I have to say.

DO WE REALLY WANT TO GIVE SOMEONE HELL? Let’s analyze this cheer a little and bring it to a personal level:

● The Vos’ cheerleaders’ chant goes, “Give ’em Hell, Tennessee.” God forbid!

● Our synagogue congregants might chant, “Give ’em Hell, Shomair Yisrael Synagogue.” God forbid!

● I might chant, “Give ’em Hell, Raymond.” God forbid!

● You might chant, “Give ’em Hell, [insert your name].” God forbid!

Would a Believer want to “give” anyone Hell? No. A Believer surely would not want to see any person in Hell. The Bible describes Hell as a burning Lake of Fire, devoid of God’s presence or personal relief. There, souls are tortured for eternity. When we fail to spread the Gospel message and share the Blessed Hope of Heaven, we are in essence offering the alternative to Heaven, which is  Hell. Not following Yeshua’s teachings about sharing the Gospel with others is tantamount to not caring about his/ her future eternal life.

AVOIDING HELL: The Bible describes the way in which a person may avoid Hell. Although beyond the scope of this RR, salvation– God’s blessed, mysterious gift of being saved from Hell– requires several processes, including:

● All three Persons of the Godhead are involved in salvation. Father God provides the mercy and willingness (grace) to allow a sinful human to be cleansed of sin and appear before His sinless presence; Messiah Yeshua the Son provides the perfect blood sacrifice necessary for the atonement (remission) of sin; and the Ruach ha-Kodesh provides the conviction of sin and the gentle calling to accept salvation.

● Salvation is available only to “overcomers.” The Revelation stops short of concisely describing what must be overcome. Sin surely must be overcome. A person’s sin is nailed to Yeshua’s cross, and Yeshua’s blood flows over that sin forever removing it from view. Perhaps The Revelation is vague on “overcoming,” because each person may have different shortcomings in addition to sin that must be overcome. For example, we must overcome Satan’s temptations.

● Salvation must be achieved by faith alone (simple childlike faith that Yeshua is Savior), and not by works. James (Jacob) informed us, though, that we show our faith by our works for Adonai and others.

● A Believer’s “ticket” to Heaven requires his/ her name being written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

THE GOSPEL: The Bible underscores the need of Believers to spread the Gospel (the Good News) of God’s saving grace and mercy.

Nowhere does the Bible advocate giving anyone Hell– even persons who persecute Believers and who have walked far away from the will of Adonai. (Although Hitler surely will reside in Hell, we should even feel sorry for him.)  Yeshua is Savior. He came to save souls from Hell; He did not come to save souls from Heaven.

GIVE ‘EM HEAVEN: May we never chant by our actions, “Give ’em Hell.” May our chant always be, “Give ’em Heaven.”

Let’s change the “Give ’em Hell” chants noted at the beginning of this RR to this:

● The Vols’ cheerleaders should chant, “Give ’em Heaven, Tennessee.” Heaven? Politicians, judges, and liberal media would go berserk and would breathlessly toss around “separation of church and state” at every opportunity.

● Our synagogue congregants should chant, “Give ’em Heaven, Shomair Yisrael Synagogue.”

● I should chant, “Give ’em Heaven, Raymond.”

● You should chant, “Give ’em Heaven, [insert your name].”

How do we “give someone Heaven?” You know, but I remind you. Yeshua summarized the Gospel message. << See John 3:16-18: [Yeshua said to Nicodemus] “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son [Yeshua], that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him. The one who believes in Him is not condemned; but whoever does not believe has been condemned already, because he has not put his trust in the name of the one and only Ben-Elohim.” >>

Salvation– the saving of a human’s soul from Hell– is a mystery. A Believer, acting as Yeshua’s apostle (emissary), may plant the seed of faith in a sinner’s heart and mind through personal testimony. <<See Romans 10:14-15: How then shall they call on the One in whom they have not trusted? And how shall they trust in the One they have not heard of? And how shall they hear without someone proclaiming? And how shall they proclaim unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who proclaim good news of good things!”>>

The Ruach ha-Kodesh uses that implanted seed of testimony to urge an unsaved sinner to accept God’s grace and mercy and to follow Yeshua. < See  Galatians 3:2-5: I [Paul] want to find out just one thing from you [foolish Galatians]: did you receive the Ruach by deeds based on Torah, or by hearing based on trust? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Ruach, will you now reach the goal in the flesh? Did you endure so much for nothing– if it really was for nothing? So then, the One who gives you the Ruach and works miracles among you– does He do it because of your deeds based on Torah or your hearing based on trust and faithfulness? >> 

OUR SPIRITUAL GENEALOGY: Today, I reflect on my spiritual family tree. You have a similar spiritual family tree, and I encourage you to consider yours with gratitude.

People are interested in their families’ genealogy. One of my sons attained the Boys Scouts’ rank of Eagle Scout and earned many merit badges. One badge was a genealogy merit badge. He traced our family back hundreds of years. I learned I am the product of paupers, not princes.

Every Believer has a spiritual genealogy (a spiritual family tree), which can be traced back to one man or woman who witnessed the power and presence of the Ruach ha-Kodesh in a Jerusalem room on the Day of Pentecost in AD 33 (Acts, chapter 2).

Dating back many centuries, each person in a spiritual family tree shared a noble goal– give the next generation Heaven. This desire was made throughout the first, second, third, and so forth generations by a sharing of the Gospel and the holy, mysterious work of the Ruach ha-Kodesh. We are all spiritual sons and daughters of our spiritual parents who heard and witnessed about Father God, our Blessed Abba, from one generation to the next.

Let me reiterate by asking you to go back with me to that room in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost, AD 33. Each person in that room saw and heard supernatural events. Each person was filled with God’s gifts and power. Each person told others of his/ her experience. These persons, in turn, told the next generation what they learned and believed. Untold numbers of generations from AD 33 shared their feelings and beliefs with the next generation, until it reached me (and you).

I had a rudimentary understanding of Adonai and Yeshua in the early 1950s. My simple understanding of a child was quickened by a personal invitation from the Ruach ha-Kodesh. I can trace my faith back to a man or woman in that room in Jerusalem nearly two millennia ago. I do not know his or her name in this life, but I hope to express my gratitude in New Jerusalem ome day in the future.

I have an eclectic, actually strange, love of music genres. Of the genres I like, one genre is Southern Gospel. There is a song that expresses the appreciation of those who have shared the Gospel with others. This song, “Thank You for Giving to the Lord,” was written by Ray Boltz in 1988. The songwriter imagines a Believer, who likely considered himself as a nobody in the Kingdom of God, as he enters Heaven. There, souls come to him and remind him of things the Believer did that allowed their entry into Heaven. They thank him for giving to the Lord. They are in Heaven because of his gifts to the Lord. Will you or I have souls come to us in Heaven to thank us for planting seeds of faith that culminated in their entry into Heaven?

Listen to this song at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AWAv4qs_YnQ .

I speak of my spiritual family tree, but I remind you that you have a spiritual family tree similar to mine. You have benefited from person-to-person sharing of the Gospel message. If one generation had chosen not to share the Gospel, you might be a different person today. Just as a broken link in a chain destroys the chain, a broken link in your spiritual family tree might have left you without contact with that person who introduced you to faith in Yeshua. That person planted the seed of inquiry for the Ruach ha-Kodesh’s invitation for you to accept Yeshua HaMashiach as Savior.

American football was unknown in AD 33, of course, but I am so grateful that my spiritual fathers and mothers, if they could see me in the future, would have chanted, “Give Raymond Heaven,” and not “Give Raymond Hell.” They helped “give me Heaven” by sharing the Gospel message with generations of people who preceded me. They did their part in forging their generational link of faith in the long chain spanning nearly two millennia between Jerusalem (AD 33) and Knoxville, Tennessee (early 1950s).

Today, more than two and one-half billion (2.5-billion) living persons claim to be Christians/ Believers. This number has quadrupled in the past century. Persons claiming to be Christians/ Believers constitute the world’s largest faith group. As is obvious, many people have been busy sharing the Gospel with others since the Day of Pentecost, AD 33!

Have I contributed my share of telling others the Gospel? Have you contributed your share? I soon will have my accounting, and my Divine Judge will tell me how well I did.

I wish I had a better record. Yeshua addressed this issue. << See Matthew 7:21-23: [Yeshua said] “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in Your name, and drive out demons in Your name, and perform many miracles in Your name?’ Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you. Get away from Me, you workers of lawlessness!’” >>

I hope that Yeshua says to neither you nor me, “Away from me, you worthless servant. Souls are languishing in Hell because you thought more of yourself than you thought of God’s Kingdom or your neighbors!”

Several of Yeshua’s parables also warned us to work faithfully, while the Master is away. Now is our time to be Yeshua’s surrogate, while He is no longer on the Earth. I have wasted so many opportunities to serve Him. Have you?

CONCLUSION: This two-part RR series loosely based on a football cheer may seem frivolous. On its face, it is frivolous. However, this cheer reflects a real-life attitude of far too many Believers/ Christians. Such lazy, lukewarm, apostate Believers seem unconcerned about sharing the Gospel (the Good News) of God’s merciful love and Yeshua’s sacrifice for all humans.

May you and I look beyond a silly cheerleaders’ cheer and understand the life-and-death implications of not sharing the Gospel message with others. A simple sharing of God’s Good News will please God, may result in a lost person being saved and joining us eternally in Heaven, and may result in rewards at our Bema Judgment. When our Divine Judge reviews our lives to determine whether we were faithful to God’s plan of salvation, may He smile and say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Sharing the Gospel is a win-win situation! May all of us strive to be winners in this regard.

Next Sunday, I will finish this series. Until then, Shalom and Maranatha.

<< Scripture quotations from the Tree of Life Version Bible. >>

Daily Bread, reading plan by Lars Enarsson (https://www.thewatchman.org/)
Sun 6 Aug 2023 19th of Av, 5783
De 11:26-12:10 Ez 40 1 Ch 19 1 Ti 3 (Jn 8:1-30)