WEEKLY SCRIPTURE READING
Torah Portion: Parashat Shemini ("Eighth")
Shabbat: April 15, 2023 Nisan 24, 5783
Torah: Lev. 9:1-11:47
Prophets: 2 Sam. 6:1-7:17
New Covenant: Heb. 8:1-6
TODAY’S PRAYER OF AGREEMENT
Paul’s prayer in Colossians
“For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and long suffering with joy; giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins”. Colossians 1:9-14
The sages ask, "Why does the Torah use a repetitious expression, "Sanctify yourselves and you shall be holy" (הִתְקַדִּשְׁתֶּם וִהְיִיתֶם קְדשִׁים) (Lev. 11:44)? Because when we make an effort - no matter how feeble at times - to draw near to the LORD, He will draw near to us.
There is a story (told in the midrash) that wonderfully illustrates this idea: An old sage once saw a beautifully shaped rock which he very much wanted to bring as a gift to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. However, the rock was too heavy for him to carry and he couldn't afford to pay porters to bring it to Jerusalem. The man prayed and asked God for help, and soon five angels (disguised as men) appeared to offer the man help. The sage told them that he would like them to carry the stone to Jerusalem, but he couldn't pay them. The five angels immediately offered to carry the rock on his behalf, but only if the man put his finger to the rock to "help" them carry it. The midrash states that although the angels didn't need man's help, the man was required to do what he could.... God then took care of the rest.
In this connection, the Dubner Maggid once told this parable: A tourist once checked into a hotel and asked the porter to bring his suitcase to the top floor, where he had rented a room. After an hour or so the porter knocked on his door and brought in the suitcase, sweating and breathing heavily. "What did you put into your suitcase, stones?", the porter asked, "it is extremely heavy!" The tourist looked at him in surprise: "My suitcase is heavy? Not at all! Mine is very light. You must have mistakenly brought up someone else's suitcase!"
Do you feel "weary" about serving the LORD? Then maybe you have "picked up" some other agenda along the way. The Lord says, "You have not worshiped Me .. that you should be weary of Me... (Isa. 43:22). In other words, serving the LORD leads to freedom and joy. Indeed, the NT Greek word for the word for "joy" (χαρά) is directly related to the word "grace" (χάρις). If you find yourself "weighed down" in your service of God, something may be wrong - and the burden you are carrying might be coming from a source other than God. Where the Spirit of the LORD is, there is liberty... God is not a "slave driver," and indeed the purpose of our redemption was to set us free to serve Him. Yeshua's burden is kal - light.
People necessarily value things, and therefore every person alive is a "worshipper" (i.e., a person who finds "worth" in something). The question that matters is what is your ultimate concern? What moves you to get out of bed in the morning, to go through your day, to have hope in your heart? What do you really want? Where are you really going? Each of us will stand before God for judgment one day and give account of his or her life... One day all that is hidden will be fully disclosed to the light...
Where it says, "I can do all things through Messiah who strengthens me" (Phil 4:13), that includes being healed of the inner pain of your life: your failures, your shame, the ache of rejection, abandonment, and so on. It means being set free from disillusionment, despair, and the oppression of relentless fear. "I can do all things through Messiah" means no longer accepting messages of self-hatred and hopelessness, no longer heeding the malicious whispers that say: "I am of no value," "I am unlovable," "my life is hopeless." No, "I can do all things through Messiah" means learning to be accepted, honored, and esteemed by God; it means opening your heart to God's love and blessing for your life; it means allowing your heart to be made right, to have inner peace... After all, Yeshua's great prayer was that we would know the truth of God's love for us (John 17), and this is the central need our lives.
Postscript: Of course sometimes we indeed become weary in life - from sickness, from the world and its oppression, from heartache of life in a fallen world, from the battle with the devil, and so on, though it is vital to remember there is consolation given to us in Messiah, and heavenly food is given to strengthen us. I believe the LORD allows oppression to sometimes chasten us -- that is, to help us remember Him and our profound need for His love to reign within our hearts... As long as that is not settled, there is an ongoing lesson.