Do You Think God is Your Drinking Buddy?

Having been raised Jewish, even though we were not at all “religious” when I was young, the one thing that I have found universally true with all my Jewish friends and family is a respect for God and for His Holy name.

What I have found prevalent with Messianic and Hebraic Roots Christians (maybe as a left-over from being raised Christian) is a nearly universal disregard for the holiness of God’s name, in that it is used as often as any other person’s name.  People constantly use the Holy Name of God, the Tetregrammaton, in postings and banners and as often as we would use the words “Lord”, “God” or “Adonai.” I don’t get it- if they want to be more “Jewish” why do they do what Jews would never do?

You know what? Maybe that’s the difference- maybe that’s what I have been missing all along! I have been thinking that Hebraic Roots and Messianic Christians want to be more “Jewish”, in their worship and their obedience to Torah, but that may not be what they want. I may be the one who’s missing the point here- maybe they want to worship more like Yeshua did, but they don’t want to be Jewish. They want to be comfortable with what they are used to and ignore what they don’t want to do. Christians grow up using “Jesus” all the time, and much of Christianity teaches He is God. Now that they have this zeal to know the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, I suppose they think they can use His name as often as they used “Jesus”, although Jews almost never use the Holy Name of God.

And more than that- some change how it is spelled! Many substitute a “W” for the “V” in the third letter, citing that this is how it was pronounced in Paleo-Hebrew. There isn’t a Jew anywhere that does that, but these new “scholars of Judaism” think they should change thousands of years of respect for God’s name because they are, what? Better than the Jews? More knowledgeable than the Jews? Closer to God than His own people?

I’ll tell you why they do this: it’s to make Judaism more comfortable, to make certain parts of it more like the Christian ways of worship they were brought up with. Just like the “Church” fathers of old that separated themselves from their Jewish roots, these new “converts” to Jewish worship want to keep what they are comfortable with, even if it goes against (and insults) the Jewish worship that they want to partake in.

Why do Jews distrust Christians? One of the main reasons is that Christianity has persecuted Jews, and why? If you ask me, it’s because Christians feel that Jews are “wrong.” They feel that because Jews haven’t universally accepted Yeshua that they are wrong, that they have rejected God, and (some believe) are no longer considered by God to be His people. And as such, Christianity has felt fully justified in changing all the Jewish laws and festivals to what they think they should be. No wonder Jews feel like second class citizens in a Christian world. And , at least to me, when I see someone using the Holy Name and/or changing it, or hear someone use Yahweh or Jehovah, over and over, I get a sick feeling in my stomach and feel like saying, “Excuse me, but God chose us and we have known Him a LOT longer than you have, so what makes you think you can just come in and change how we should address God?”  The misinterpretation of Micah and other scripture to try to justify that God, Himself, says we should constantly use His Holy name (which He has kept hidden all this time) is just a way to “Christianize” Judaic worship, and is an insult to Jewish tradition.

It is one of the most important Jewish traditions that we never use the Holy Name of God. The Orthodox won’t even use the word “God”, and will substitute HaShem (The Name) or Adonai (which translates to “Lord”) instead. They would never, ever think of using Jehovah or Yahweh (which is not His name) in speech, or write the four letters in normal usage.

Traditions are important: they bind us culturally and religiously, and give a sense of comfort to those who see these traditions pass from generation to generation. I have introduced a few traditional Jewish prayers into the Hebraic Roots congregation I worship with, and some of those who had been raised Jewish felt a sense of “home” and belonging when they heard the prayers they were brought up with being used again.

The problem Yeshua had with traditions was not anything to do with traditions, per se- His issue was with those specific man-made traditions that were over-ruling the commandments from God. There is nothing wrong with tradition, so long as it doesn’t replace or change the commandment from God that it is based upon. For instance, Kosher laws are very difficult to work with, and the Rabbinical Halacha (“Way to Walk”, defined in the Talmud) adds many stringent regulations over the simple laws of Kashrut God gave us in Leviticus 11. But that’s not a bad thing because it doesn’t detract from or over-rule anything God said. As such, I keep Kashrut according to bible only, but if I wanted to have separate dishes, pots and pans, and if I turned lights on Friday before sunset so that they were on during Saturday, and if I didn’t walk any further than the distance I am allowed for a “Shabbat walk”, etc., I would not be doing anything “wrong.”  If, however, I celebrated Shabbat on Sunday, that would present a problem, since God said Saturday is Shabbat and the traditional (i.e., man-made) tradition (of Christianity) is to celebrate it on Sunday. In that case, the tradition is wrong and I should not be a part of it.

For the record: traditions performed from love and respect for God and/or the Jewish people as their motivation is not “legalism”.

Using the Holy name is like calling God by His first name., and just because Hebrews 4:16 says:

So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. 

that doesn’t mean we can slap God on the back and ask, “Yo! Big Guy- WASSUP?”

Using God’s Holy Name is disrespectful- that is all there is to it. When you go to a restaurant, and the waiter says, “Hi guys– I’m Steve and I will be your server tonight.” don’t you feel a little put-off by the uninvited intimacy of addressing you as “guys”? Maybe I’m just an old fogey, but I do. I also feel insulted for my wife, who is not a “guy”. I am sorry, but I expect to be addressed as “Sir” and my wife as “Ma’am” until such time as I offer my name. We are not college pals or go bowling together, and  as such this person should address us respectfully. If we are to address each other with respect, how much more so should we do it to the Lord of Lords and King of Kings?

We are told that God spoke to Moses face-to-face, as with a friend, but do you really think Moses talked to God using God’s Holy name? Moses was the humblest of all men, so it doesn’t seem likely he would have taken it upon himself to address God as he would have to Aaron or any of the other Israelites.

David was a man after God’s own heart, but do you really think he addressed God using the Holy Name? Everything we read about David showed he had the utmost respect for God and admiration. It doesn’t seem likely that he would have taken it upon himself, as with Moses, to use God’s Holy Name often, if ever.

I have gotten to the point of ignoring people that use the Tetregrammaton and change it’s spelling because as often as I have tried to get it through to them they are being disrespectful to God and to Judaism, they ignore me. I am tired of “kicking against the goads” and will leave it up to God to decide how He feels about it. As for me, I am not ever using God’s Holy name- not ever. If God tells me it’s OK, if He comes from heaven and stands in front of me and says, “Steve- you are allowed to address me as you would your drinking buddies because you and me, we’re mates!” , THEN I might use it. But probably not.

The name of God is spelled with a Yud, a Heh, a Vav, and another Heh, and no matter what anyone says, we really do not know exactly how it was pronounced by Moses, or the Hebrews up to the destruction of the Temple by Babylon. Or afterwards, for that matter. There are many different ways to pronounce it, and as many arguments that we shouldn’t use it as there are that we should. For me it all comes down to this: my people have respected God and not used His Holy name for millennia, so who am I to change that?

I will do what Jews have done since before the Exodus: I will show respect for God by not using His Holy name.

God is so far above us, He is the holiest of everything that is holy, and He is our Lord and King, so what makes someone think they can address God like He is their drinking buddy?

is willing to obey enough?

Why do we obey? When we are told to do something, we always have the choice to obey or refuse. There is a middle course- obey the order but don’t do it the way we were told. That isn’t really refusing, but it’s pretty darn close to it.

In the military you obey for one of two reasons: the first reason is if you don’t, you get in trouble, which can mean anything from losing free time to losing money to going to the Brig. The second reason is that you trust the officer giving the order and do what he or she says out of respect, and knowing that what they are asking you to do is for a good reason. You don’t have to know their reason, you just have to trust that they have a good one.

At the workplace (I think) most obey in order to keep their job- obedience from desire to remain out of trouble. And yet, as above, obedience does often come from knowing the manager has a good reason, respect for the person and trust that they know things need to be done in a certain way because that is the best way to do it.

We obey traffic laws so we don’t get a ticket, but overall we recognize that when everyone drives lawfully we protect ourselves and others. This obedience comes more from a desire for self-preservation than from respect for the Department of Motor Vehicles.

However, whether in the military, at the workplace, or even within a family unit, some people will refuse to do what they have been told to do and make excuses, saying someone else told them a different way, they didn’t understand, they got bogged down with other work and will get to it soon, yadda-yadda-yadda. Nearly everyone can find an excuse for not doing what they were told that will not result in them getting into too much trouble.

If you have been agreeing with me so far, I hope we can agree that when it comes down to it, there are two different motivations for obedience:

  1. To prevent getting into trouble; and
  2. Obedience that comes from respect and trust for (maybe we can add desire to please) the one telling you what to do, whether or not you understand why.

Now….what about obedience to God? What is the main motivation for that? As we said above, it is either because we fear retaliation (going to hell) or because we trust in God that what He tells us to do is for our benefit and that He knows what He is doing.

Oh, wait! Let’s not forget those “middle-of-the-road” types that will do what they want to do and refuse to do what they don’t want to do, then find excuses for disobedience. Such as, “My Rabbi/Priest/Pastor/Minister told me I don’t have to do that anymore”, or “That was just because of health reasons, but we have better medicine today and things are cleaner”, or “The men who wrote the bible are chauvinists”, or the the one I really can’t stand,”That’s for Jews only; we are Christians and don’t need to do that because Jesus overcame it.”

Oy!! I really can’t stand that excuse, which is totally man-made by people who refuse to do what God says simply because they don’t want to, then use Jesus (real name- Yeshua) as their excuse, ignoring the truth that He did those things, Himself, and preached that everyone should.

When you obey God’s word, do you obey what He told Moses or what the Elders (in Acts) said Gentiles need to do? If you read the entire bible, you will see that everything the Apostles (in Hebrew they are called “Talmudim”) did and preached is all based on the Old Covenant writings, including the laws of Moses, and they never, ever said that Gentiles accepting Yeshua (Jesus) as their Messiah don’t have to follow the same rules and regulations as the Jews. That’s because there were no other religions that worshiped the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (BTW- He’s the same God of Jesus) that weren’t pagan. There were Pagans, and there were Jews, and the Jews worshiped God as God said they were supposed to. The same rules He gave Moses are the rules we are ALL told to obey.

God has no religion, only rules, regulations and commandments that are designed for our good. OUR good- not His. I mean, really- He’s God, the All Powerful, the Creator of Everything, the One and Only Almighty: do you really think there is anything, anywhere, that we humans could do or give Him that He can’t get anywhere except from us?

There is something God can only get from us: our worship, devotion and love.

I don’t obey every commandment, neither do you. None of us can, which is why Yeshua had to sacrifice not just His life on earth, but His divinity, too. But I try to obey, and more than that, I really, really want to be as obedient as I can simply because God asks me to do these things, and I trust God to know more than I do what is best for me. I also respect God, and as such want to do what he says I should out of respect for His justifiably absolute authority. Don’t think I am bragging- I try, but I fail, much more often than I succeed, but what I can boast about is that because of God’s Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit), which leads me, I can obey more often than I ever did. I’m still not very good at obeying, but I am getting better at it, and that is not from fear of reprisal, but from fear of the Lord (in the biblical sense, which means to have an awesome reverence for God.)

Obeying just to avoid going to hell is better than not obeying, but it is like the good seed falling on the poor soil, which never takes root deep enough to last during tribulations. If you obey only what is easy to obey, only what you don’t mind obeying, and only because you don’t want to go to hell, then your obedience is probably not going to be enough when the fecal matter hits the air circulation unit. The enemy will offer you a much better program, one that will let you pick and choose what you want to do and promise eternal reward for it. Trust me- it’s a lie; anything worth having is worth working for, and if you are promised great rewards for doing nothing hard, you are going to be very, very disappointed.

Think of all the wonderful things God has done for you- and even if you are homeless, sickly, distraught, lonely, whatever- even in those sad and unhappy conditions, God has made sure that you are still here: you still have hope for things getting better and you can always turn your life around. God will help if you ask for it, but you need to get off your tuchas and work at it. The bible tells us that salvation is not easy, that obedience is possible but very hard, and that suffering will ensue as you strengthen your relationship with God. It only makes sense- the world we live in is cursed and under the authority of the enemy, so anything ‘Godly” is out of place. So what? God is more powerful than the enemy, and even if the enemy attacks you and destroys everything you have (as he did with Job), God can replace it, easily, and give you even more than you had. And what God can do for you eternally the enemy can’t even come close to doing.

Obey from love, obey from respect, obey from desire to please God (a labor of love, so to speak) and obey every commandment you can. Do all that God said we should do (which is every commandment and regulation found between Genesis and Revelations) and never give up trying to do better.

That kind of obedience will be more than enough.

Are we praying respectfully?

Shaul (Paul) says that we should pray constantly. I talk to God a lot. I have gotten into the habit of praying to God in the morning, while I am driving to work. I used to have a long drive, so there was plenty of prayer time. Now I have the shortest commute to work since I was in the service and lived across the street, literally, from the base. But I still can pray while driving, and during the day, and at night, and every time I have a close call, or whenever I feel upset, or…well, you get the idea.

But is that respectful? I mean, is it respectful enough for the Lord of lords and King of kings?

I confess my prayers are not. I feel bad admitting to this, but I often will start in with a prayer and find myself wandering off in thought, leaving God “on hold” while I tangentially go off onto some other subject.

For instance, I will always pray that my children reconcile to me and to God, and that we can be mishpocha (family) again, centered on God.  Then I think of how I can do something to make that happen, then I go off on explaining to them why I had to leave that marriage, then before I know it I am at work and the prayer time has devolved into “me” time.

I left God on hold while answering another call. That’s not very respectful.

I hate it when I do that, and I do that a lot. I mean, a whole lotsa times!

I believe that God is so compassionate and understanding that He is not insulted, but He is still God. He deserves better than that and I have to get better at being more respectful in my prayers.

Yeshua was asked by His Talmudim (students, or Disciples) how they should pray, and He told them how- read Matthew 6:9-16. That isn’t just a prayer, it is the template for all prayer.

We start by recognizing who and what God is; only after giving God the glory and honor He deserves can we then ask for ourselves. And when we ask for ourselves, we ask for only what we need to get by that day. This represents our faith and trust in God to always provide what we need. We shouldn’t ask for a week’s worth of manna because the amount He gives us is enough. It’s enough for today, and we should know and believe He will do the same, tomorrow.

Next we ask for forgiveness of our sins, which we should do before we intercede for anyone else. Just as the Cohen HaGadol (High Priest) made atonement for himself before he asked for forgiveness of the people, we should come to God for forgiveness, through Yeshua, so that when we ask God to help others we are coming before Him cleansed and pure.

Then we stick our necks out and literally put our salvation where our mouth is: we tell God that He should forgive us as we forgive others. This is also what Yeshua warns us about in verses 6:14-15. As we forgive, we will be forgiven. As we judge, we shall be judged. Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, limb for limb. If we are not willing to forgive on Earth, God will not forgive us in heaven, and this is something that we should remind ourselves of every time we ask for forgiveness. That’s why not only does Yeshua tell us to incorporate it in every prayer, but He emphasized that point after He finished telling them how to pray. Believe it- if you cannot forgive, if you refuse to forgive, then you are not truly saved. You haven’t done T’Shuvah (turn from sin) , you haven’t allowed the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) into your heart, you haven’t held up your end of the bargain!

Salvation is free for the asking, but it is not guaranteed. That’s right- all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved: but getting salvation is not keeping salvation.

If you don’t show that you have truly turned from your sins, then you can speak the words all you like- it won’t help. God isn’t stupid, and if you don’t show in your actions, especially in your forgiveness of others, that you have turned from sin and are being obedient to God, then you haven’t really changed. Just speaking the words is not enough- you can’t talk your way into heaven- you have to bring an offering before the Lord.

God tells us a couple of times that we should not come before Him empty handed (look it up- you can find it easily in Exodus and Deuteronomy regarding the Festival of Unleavened Bread.) I am taking this past the literal meaning (the P’shat) and making a small Drash on it: when we come to God here on earth we should bring to Him something, such as unleavened bread, a sacrifice, first fruits- something that He has provided for us that we bring back the very best we have, as a thank offering to Him. The best, the very best thing we can offer to God is obedience. Therefore, since we can’t bring bread or lambs or fruit of the vine to Him when we come before Him at Judgement Day, we bring the fruit of our obedience. We bring before the Lord our good works, we bring our personal and financial sacrifices that we made in His service, we bring to God the forgiveness we have shown to others while we were alive. We bring to God what He wants- we bring the proof of our T’Shuvah.

If you don’t have something to bring before God when that time comes, don’t expect to get past the gates. At least, not the pearly ones.

We also ask God to protect us from temptation.

Finally, our prayers end where they started- recognizing the awesomeness of God.

I have been praying to God for nearly (or should I say, only)  two decades- I was a late starter. And in that time I have digressed more often during my prayer than I care to admit to, but I confess it. I have to own my sin before I can give it away to God.

I constantly try to pray more respectfully, and I constantly end up asking God to forgive me when I digress. Sometimes, when I know my brain is off on a holiday, I will just thank God for everything and leave it at that, before I go off on a tangent.

Prayer is necessary, prayer should be constant, and constantly presented to God in a respectful manner.