Rabbi’s Reflections – Saturday, October 24, 2020

Shabbat Shalom,

Here’s a confession. 

I’ve been under some gentle pressure to write another devotional and I’m going to use the deadline Rabbi Weiner has given me to encourage me in this endeavor. If you’d like to give feedback, or offer challenges, please feel free to get in touch with me. 

The topic of this devotional is our inner narratives. 

Let’s begin.

In 2012 I taught on biblical cosmology for months at a Friday evening meeting. I thoroughly enjoyed getting into the Scriptures with friends and exploring the overarching narrative we are called to believe. Having a basic understanding of the inspired meta-narrative in which we find ourselves is important. This understanding helps us in our relationship with our Creator and helps us chart our course in the midst of His spiritual and material creations.

At the end of this course of study and inquiry it struck me that we not only have a meta-narrative, we also have a micro-narrative. Specifically, how we see ourselves as individuals within “the grand scheme of things.” I began to consider in the light of the overarching view of existence how might we relate to ourselves. Oh, also, a related topic captured my interest. Let me phrase it as a question: How might we relate to ourselves in a way that enhances our relationship with God?

This became the subject of prayer. 

In seeking the Lord about this matter I found Psalm 19:15 to be helpful.

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) 

I luxuriated in this verse. I studied it. I turned it into a song. I remembered old choruses based upon this verse. I want to share with you a few things about it.

To me, of first importance is the reality that those of us who are born from above are indwelled by the living God. 

The Hebrew for “in Your sight” (לְפָנֶ֑יךָ) and its Greek equivalent in the Septuagint (ἐνώπιον σου) stresses the personal nature of this concept. They both convey the meaning, “in Your presence.”  This is reflected by some English versions (for instance the Lexham English Bible and the Complete Jewish Bible).

The Hebrew idiom “in Your presence”, or “before You” is really helpful. Yet, a more literal sense expresses a more personal feel. It means before Your face. Right in front of You. Face to face. It’s personal. It’s not just something of which God is aware of through super vision. It is relational. It is similar to John 1:1 where John wrote that the pre-incarnate Word was relationally with God.

In the beginning was the Word. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1 TLV) 

Your inner awareness is also with God. You exist in His presence.

Here’s something else to consider. Acceptable is a pitiful translation of a Hebrew word that expresses delight and pleasure. The Greek follows suit. The psalmist expressed his longing to bless God. He  wanted his words and thoughts to delight God. 

Some things give the Creator pleasure. What our translations normally refer to as acceptable is too weak a word. I find things to be acceptable that I am not crazy about. Don’t you? Acceptable to me means, “That will do. Thanks.” Psalm 19:14 communicates more than a desire for God to find his words and thoughts to be adequate. It does not mean:

May my words and thoughts be good enough in Your sight

Now, the amazing thing is that God indwells us. We have a relationship with God that is not only observed from without – God seeing us clearly from a distance – but God dwells in our hearts. He is not only present in heaven and earth. His presence is within us and He experiences us from within. I know this is elementary, but please take a moment and consider the following four verses.

Yeshua answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word. My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our dwelling with him. (John 14:23 TLV) 

He anointed us, 22set His seal on us, and gave us the Ruach in our hearts as a pledge.. (2 Corinthians 1:21c-22 TLV) 

Now because you are sons, God sent the Ruach of His Son into our hearts, who cries out, “Abba! Father!” (Galatians 4:6 TLV) 

so that Messiah may dwell in your hearts through faith (Ephesians 3:17a TLV) 

In the annals of Israel it is recorded that the presence of GOD’s glory indwelled the temple in Jerusalem. Right now we are individual temples who are part of a corporate spiritual structure. In the same way God lived in a house constructed of stone, so He lives in us, right now. The living God in His living house. It’s the way it ought to be.

Let’s concentrate upon this: the meditation of your heart is in His personal indwelling presence.

My non-literal translation of Psalm 19:4a is the following:

Let the words of my mouth and my heart’s deepest thoughts give Your presence pleasure. (David Harwood’s personal paraphrase of Psalm 19:15)

This is so interpersonal. It is so true. His presence is within us. Our words and meditations can please the Lord. 

I know that to some, this thought reminds them of legalism and bondage. It’s not. It’s an opportunity.

One thing that is often lost in the current cultural spiritual climate is that there are some ways His children can please God and there are other things that displease Him. We do operate from a baseline of grace. Every child of God has been justified and experiences the favor a father has for those he loves. We are already ultimately pleasing to God through the atoning work the Messiah accomplished. He did this for us. He offered an atonement on our behalf. Therefore, we are favored right now. We are pleasing to God, right now. 

It is out of that foundational favor that we can further please our Father and our Lord. We get to give God more delight.

In closing this week’s meditation allow me to mention that I am not interested in sharing with you a series of encouragements to help you feel good about yourself. The person who is important to please is God, Himself. How we think about ourselves and what we say about ourselves is important to God. At the same time, this adage remains certain.

“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:33 TLV) 

If we seek to please God with the way we speak and think about ourselves we will reap the benefit of His delight in us. We will learn to relate to ourselves in a way that pleases Him. As a result we will become more spiritually, socially, and emotionally whole. 

Let’s ask the Lord to disciple us to think and speak about ourselves in such a way as to please the Lord, Himself.