Rabbi’s Reflections – Sunday, September 10, 2023
Shavuah Tov,

Labor’s Rest, Now and Forever – Part 2 of 2
by Dr. Raymond Finney

INTRODUCTION: I continue and conclude this two-part Labor Day series.

WORKS? FAITH? We debate– unnecessarily, in my opinion– whether  works or faith is more important. Works and faith should co-exist seamlessly in every Believer’s life. Jacob (“James”) wrote eloquently about the two in James 2:14-26. Read this passage, and note its conclusion. << See James 2:26: For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead. >> A Believer certainly needs faith, but he/ she should demonstrate that faith through works (labor) for God and others. I sadly confess that my works have been inadequate.

GOD’S RETIREMENT PLAN: After years of earthly labor, workers hope to be able to retire. I have been retired a number of years now, and it is a relief not to shoulder the burdens and stresses of work. My wife has created a peaceful home environment for us, and I am grateful for my sunset years.

Believers have a “retirement plan” infinitely superior to any plan devised by man. After years of toil (and, possibly, persecution) for God, God’s faithful workers enjoy the fruits of their labors– eternal life in Heaven. Yeshua promised to prepare homes for Believers in Heaven.<< See John 14:2-3: [Yeshua said] “In My Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to Myself, so that where I am you may also be.” >>

Word study: Some Bible translations (King James Version, for example) have Yeshua promising to build ”mansions” for Believers. The Greek text describes our future homes as μοναὶ (monai) – “dwelling places” (as properly translated in the Tree of Life Version). I am not trying to downgrade anyone’s “mansion” in Heaven. I suppose even the most modest “dwelling place” in Heaven will far surpass anything we can now imagine. If we will have the entire New Earth, New Heaven, and New Jerusalem to explore and probably will have no need for sleep, we may choose not to spend much time in any “dwelling place.”

Read Revelation, chapters 21 and 22. The Apostle John was afforded the great privilege of viewing New Jerusalem (Heaven). He only had a brief glimpse, but he was overwhelmed by what he saw. Think for a few moments. Heaven will be far greater than anything ever experienced on Earth. Constraining laws of physics may be altered or abolished. We may be able to move about by thought travel. (That is, if you wish to be on the other side of New Jerusalem, think about your destination and you are there. We have a sort of “thought travel” now. I have favorite places I have visited in the past. I can think of those places, and I am almost there.) We may communicate by thought, even over long distances. We may have senses now unknown to us. (We may be able to taste sound, hear light, or smell a magnificent aroma of rocks. We may have new senses.) Who knows? The Apostle Paul, quoting Tanakh prophets, wrote of the grandeur of afterlife. << See 1 Corinthians 2:9: But as it is written, “Things no eye has seen and no ear has heard, that have not entered the heart of mankind– these things God has prepared for those who love Him.” >> Happy retirement!

FINDING PURPOSE IN LIFE: Mark Twain, the pen name of Samuel Clemens (1835-1910), has been called “the greatest humorist the United States has produced” and “the father of American literature.” Of many memorable Twain quotes, I refer to one of them: “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”

If you are reading this RR, you have already completed one of your most important days– your day of birth. Have you yet realized your second most important day– learning the “why” of your existence?

Many persons live an entire lifetime, without ever learning why they exist. As an old man, I wonder why I exist. I have failed God and others so often, why am I still allowed to exist? If you do not know why you exist, may I suggest that you (and I) refer to the Bible? Scriptures clearly teach that God creates every one of His children for a purpose. Our purpose is to worship and serve Him. How? One way is to heed Yeshua’s prayer. << See Matthew 9:38: [Yeshua said] “Therefore pray to the Lord of the harvest that He may send out workers into His harvest field.” >> Are you a worker God may need in His harvest field of lost souls?

I have occasionally been a worker in the harvest field of lost souls, and I have fond memories. I may some day write a RR on my experiences in the Blount County Jail Ministry. Great memories! I wish I still had this opportunity and physical abilities to proclaim the Gospel to jail inmates. Even so, I have too often “called in sick” for work in God’s harvest field, and I am shamed by my absence.

If the Lord of the harvest (God) wishes to send you into His harvest field of lost souls, roll up your sleeves and use Isaiah’s words as guidance. << See Isaiah 6:8: Then I heard the voice of Adonai saying: “Whom should I send, and who will go for Us?” So I said, “Hineni. Send me.” >> Hineni, of Hebrew origin, means, “Behold” (more commonly translated, “Here am I”).

Great leaders in the Tanakh have responded to Adonai’s call with “Hineni– Here am I. Send me.” Examples include: Abraham (Genesis 22:1), Moses (Exodus 3:4), and Samuel (1 Samuel 3:1). Adonai also answers Hinneni – ”Here am I“– when we search for Him (see Isaiah 52:6, 58:9, 65:1).

If Adonai calls you or me to work in His harvest field, you or I should answer, “Hineni– Here am I. Send me.” If we refuse, His plan will not be not derailed. We are important, but not indispensable for God’s plan. He will seek and find another (substitute) worker for anyone too busy or disinterested. The rewards the first-called worker should have received, but which are forever lost for him/ her, will be given to the second-called worker who responds, “Hineni – Here am I. Send me.”

You probably are like me. I have tried to hire a tradesman (such as, a plumber or electrician), only to find he is too busy to accept the job. Needing the work done, I called others until I found someone who could accept the job. The job was completed. The accommodating worker who came to my house– not the worker too busy for me– received the reward (my payment for the work). Adonai has a “big list.” If a called person is too busy for Him, He will call someone else. The worker who completes God’s work will receive the reward.

GOD’S MODEL FOR OUR WORK AND REST: The Bible begins with a working God. << See Genesis 1:1a: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…. >> After creating the Universe, He rested (a Divine version of our Labor Day). << See Genesis 2:1-3: So the heavens and the earth were completed along with their entire array. God completed– on the seventh day– His work that He made, and He ceased– on the seventh day– from all His work that He made. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, for on it He ceased from all His work that God created for the purpose of preparing. >> We commemorate this day of rest, blessed by God, as Shabbat.

Incidentally, the Hebrew word translated “day” is yom. Yom may be translated “day” (Yom Kippur), but our twenty-four hour day did not exist at first (until Elohim created day and night). The more logical translation is not “day,” but an indefinite– even lengthy– period of time. A literal translation of a twenty-four hour ”day” does not square with modern science. Yom, as a division of time (an  indefinite, lengthy periods of time) makes the Bible and science compatible with each other. Students of both the Bible and other fields of learning can understand more than arguing a King James Version only translation. God gave a Believer a brain, and he/ she should use that brain.

God commanded, as one of the Ten Commandments, that we should keep Shabbat holy. << See Exodus 20:8-11: [God spoke] “Remember Yom Shabbat, to keep it holy. You are to work six days, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Shabbat to Adonai your God. In it you shall not do any work– not you, nor your son, your daughter, your male servant, your female servant, your cattle, nor the outsider that is within your gates. For in six days Adonai made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Thus Adonai blessed Yom Shabbat, and made it holy.”

My maternal grandmother interpreted the Bible closely and conservatively. She believed no work should be done on Sunday (her Sabbath). Of course, she cooked meals for her family on Sunday, which involved work. Is not work that is God-honoring (“holy”) allowed? When I practiced medicine, I worked frequently on Saturday or Sunday. (Sabbath is observed differently by different denominations.) I would have chosen not to work, but people become ill or injured on weekends, and it may be inadvisable (as well as a cause for malpractice litigation) to delay care until Monday.

Hebrew Shabbat translates to English “Sabbath.” Derived from the Hebrew letters shin-beit-tav, Shabbat means “to cease, to end, to rest.” Jews have observed Shabbat (the seventh day of the week– God’s day of rest from creating the Universe) for millennia, and it is still observed on Saturday in Shomair Yisrael Synagogue. (NOTE: Most Christian denominations recognize one day of the week as a day of rest. This day is usually the first day of the week– Sunday. Sunday is chosen in preference to Saturday because Yeshua arose from the tomb on a Sunday, and it is called “the Lord’s Day.”)

Even though Shabbat commemorates God’s rest from His work in creating the Universe, did He really need to rest? Of course not. Yom Shabbat (Sabbath Day) is really meant for human rest, as clarified by Yeshua. << See Mark 2:27-28: Then [Yeshua] said to them, “Shabbat was made for man, and not man for Shabbat. So the Son of Man is Lord even of Shabbat.” >>

THE PRIVILEGE AND NECESSITY OF WORK: It is a privilege to work, and all humans should work, unless physically or mentally impaired. Many Biblical examples inform us we must work, beginning with Adonai’s commandment for Adam to work (tend to the Garden of Eden). << See Genesis 2:15: Then Adonai Elohim took the man [Adam] and gave him rest in the Garden of Eden in order to cultivate and watch over it. >>

Because of Adam and Eve’s sin against Adonai, the idyllic Garden of Eden became a hostile environment that required hard work to eke out a living. << See Genesis 3:17-19: Then to the man [Adam] He [Adonai] said, “Because you listened to your wife’s voice and ate of the tree which I commanded you, saying, ‘You must not eat of it:’ Cursed is the ground because of you– with pain will you eat of it all the days of your life. Thorns and thistles will sprout for you. You will eat the plants of the field, by the sweat of your brow will you eat food, until you return to the ground, since from it were you taken. For you are dust, and to dust will you return.” >> Adam’s curse (weeds) has mightily hit my yard this year.

The Apostle Paul wrote that even the most basic requirements must be earned by work. << See Thessalonians 3:10: For even when we were with you, we would give you this order: if anyone will not work, neither shall he eat. >>

Following are a few questions I have pondered (without finding good answers). I hope these questions may provoke thought.

● Question: Communities of faith throughout the nation feed and care for the homeless. I have views on homelessness that are in conflict with many persons’ views. Many homeless people are homeless because of drug abuse. I consider drug abuse to be self-inflicted and voluntarily induced, but many persons feel drug abuse is a disease and beyond a person’s control. This difference of opinion begs this question: Is the drug addict responsible for his/ her condition, or is society or some other culprit responsible? I do not know the answers to these questions, but I do know: I would be homeless, too, if I had spent my adult years in a drug-induced stupor, sleeping all day on a park bench. I stayed sober, went to work early and returned late, worked hard, and earned a living. My wife and I were/ are teetotallers, never using alcohol or other drugs of abuse. I would not have a family and home now, if I had been a drug addict.

● Question: What is a reasonable dividing line between being a compassionate minister to those in need and a drug enabler? I am conflicted by this question. In the past, I was a reliable “soft touch” for any panhandler who approached me. I always gave something. I even gave a little, when I had little myself. Because of the realization that many homeless people are merely seeking beer or drug money; and there are more job openings than applicants for those jobs; and government funds (collected from taxpayers) flow in abundance to help persons in need, I now mostly decline to donate to able-bodied panhandlers. Am I wrong? Would Yeshua behave differently? I can cite Scriptures, which can be interpreted with conflicting messages on this subject.

● Question: If we were tougher on drug abusers (drugn addicts), would we force them into treatment to seek cure or into crime to support their habits? I think I know the answer. We see how no-punishment policies in, say, San Francisco  have created lawless theft from mobs. Peaceful, grateful poor persons are very much different from lawless, ungrateful “poor” persons.

● Question: How do these questions square with Yeshua’s Parable of the Righteous Judge (Matthew 25:31-46)? << See parable conclusion in Matthew 25:45: [Yeshua said] “Then He [the King, representing Yeshua] will answer them [His subjects, representing Believers], saying, ‘Amen, I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for Me.’” >> If we refuse to give to a panhandler, are we refusing Yeshua? Of course, Yeshua would not seek our money to purchase beer or other drugs.

● Question: What does the future hold for drug abuse? Huge amounts of fentanyl tablets are pouring across our wide-open southern border. Fentanyl is cheap and plentiful. Fentanyl is a powerful opiate. Fentanyl is causing a large number of deaths due to cessation of respiratory function. America’s drug problem will surely explode in the near future.

● Question: Read Revelation, chapter 18 about a great nation, Babylon the Great. This nation will be destroyed, presumably, by a nuclear strike (see Revelation 18:8– Babylon the Great will be destroyed in a single day). Reasons for Babylon’s destruction are given, including the use and promotion of “sorcery.” << See Revelation 18:23d: … for all the nations were deceived by your sorcery. >>

Concerning Revelation, chapter 18, what is this sin “sorcery” that is so repugnant to God that He would direct a nation’s destruction? “Sorcery” is a clumsy, almost nonsensical translation. The Greek text translated “sorcery” uses φαρμακείᾳ (transliteration, pharmakeia || pronunciation, far-mak-I-ah). The pharm- root provides the first clue to translation (being in such words as pharmacy, pharmacist, pharmaceutical, pharmacology, etc.). Pharmakeia is properly translated “drug abuse,” not sorcery (witchcraft, magical arts).

Is Babylon the Great the United States? Will God’s reasons for destruction of America include our rampant use of illicit drugs?

Since this is a Labor Day RR, I point out that drug pushers have a “job” – selling drugs of abuse to the public. Does God honor a drug pusher’s “job?” Of course not. Not all work is honorable in God’s eyes. You and I could compile a long list of “jobs” which dishonor and displease God. A job should mean more than merely making money.

CONCLUSION: Worthy work is ordained and blessed by God. Those of us who work now or are retired from work should thank God that we have been able to support ourselves and our families by the “sweat of our brows.” Labor Day should be a day we thank God for our ability to work and work opportunities that have been provided for us. Labor Day should also be a day we give thanks to and show appreciation for the many millions of workers– mostly unknown to us– whose work makes our lives possible, sustainable, and enjoyable.

LEST WE FORGET: In 1897, Rudyard Kipling wrote a poem, “Recessional.” In this poem, he used a phrase four times, “Lest we forget– lest we forget!”

America has an upcoming anniversary that we should not forget. Tomorrow, September 11, is the anniversary of Islamic extremist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001 (9/11). Immediately before the airliners struck their targets, our enemies prayed in Arabic the reason for the attacks: Allahu akbar (“Allah is the greatest”).

Some events are so burned into memory that they are remembered vividly. We remember where we were, what we felt, and other seemingly trivial details for major events. I remember the morning of 9/11, as though it happened this morning. My wife and I were glued to the television set. We saw the Twin Towers slammed by airliners, set ablaze with unstoppable fire, and collapse. We learned the Pentagon had been attacked and had sustained extensive damage. We heard a fourth airliner (bound for the White House or the Capitol Building?) had crashed in a Pennsylvania field.

America was under attack! The enemy was not completely known on the morning of 9/11. The immediate 9/11 death toll in New York City is set at 2,977 people (including 343 firefighters). The death toll in Washington, D.C. is set at 184 people. The death toll in Shanksville, Pennsylvania is set at 40 people. Some first responders still suffer from the effects of breathing the smoke and dust from the burning buildings.

We will likely be attacked again. America’s armed forces are being weakened at a time when America’s enemies are being strengthened and are openly preparing for war. Incidentally, every time you purchase a “Made in China” product, you are contributing to our enemy’s war preparations. (At least, America’s armed forces lead in building restrooms for transgender soldiers and sorting out non-committal pronouns. Yeah us! USA! USA! USA!)

The Tribulation will begin with war, and war will continue to the end. << For example, see Revelation 6:3-4: When the Lamb [Yeshua] opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, “Come!” Then another horse came out, fiery red. The one riding on it was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that people would slaughter one another. He was given a great sword. >> The “great sword” surely is nuclear weaponry.

Each of us should be aware of future wars, but should not be anxious. Evil men (such as, Hitler, Putin, and the future Antichrist) will always live among us, but God has always been and will continue to be in control.

When Yeshua spoke of endtime wars in the Olivet Discourse, He told us discord between nations must happen, but He cautioned us not to be alarmed. << See Matthew 24:6: [Yeshua said] “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must happen but it is not yet the end.” >>

Live every day in shalom. Enjoy your family and friends. Hope that God will assign you labor you can accomplish for His Kingdom.

See you at the House some glorious day, when all cares and labor will cease! We have an eternal Labor Day rest awaiting us. (I wonder if Heaven has watermelons.)

Until next Sunday, Shalom and Maranatha,

<< Scriptures quoted from the Tree of Life Version Bible. >>

Daily Bread, reading plan by Lars Enarsson (https://www.thewatchman.org/)
Sun 10 Sep 2023 24th of Elul, 5783
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