How deep is your love?

Great song. The Bee Gees wrote this song in 1998 and when you read the words, it could easily be someone talking to God.

Except their lyrics say that the one they are singing to needs to show how deep her love is, whereas we need to show God how deep our love is, so maybe this is more like God singing to us?

How deep is your love? Do you love God? Why? Is it because of all the wonderful things He has done in your life? Do you love God for the promise of salvation? Do you love Yeshua (Jesus) for the way to salvation He provided for you?

If you said, “Yes” to any of the above, then I think your love is not very deep. Sorry, but if you love the Lord and love Messiah Yeshua only because of the things they have done for you, then your love is selfish and weakly rooted. Not very deep, at all.

If you have a disease and the doctor saves your life, do you love him or her?

If your spouse makes you feel happy, loved and appreciated, then someone you meet gives even more love, joy and appreciation to you, what do you do? Leave your spouse for that one? If your love is based only on what you receive from someone, then by definition you should leave. Then, if (and when) you meet someone who “ups the ante”, now you’re on your third marriage.

I love my wife for who she is: I believe that is because God is teaching me how to love as He loves. I love my family (immediate and cousins) for who they are, for our common experiences, and the same with my friends. I certainly don’t love them for the way they treat me, because in many ways they don’t treat me as I would like. Some of my lifelong friends don’t call me- I have to call them. Same with some family. But I love them despite what they do (or don’t do) because that is how God is teaching me to love.

But I still have a lot to learn. I am not holding myself up as an example to follow, just as an example. I am still very “fleshly”, and the word “love” brings up thoughts of romantic, human love. Do I love God? For me, loving God is- has to be- above what I can feel. Clearly, God is way above the realm of human love. Human love for God is so far below His love for us, it’s more than just “not in the same ballpark”, it’s not even the same sport!

I think I love God, I want to love God, and I am gratified that despite my human feelings (and lack of ability to love as completely as He does) He loves me, anyway.

God loves us despite what we do for, and to, Him. Look at history- after hearing God’s voice and seeing His awesome presence on Mt. Sinai, it took only 40 days for us to reject Him and build a Golden Calf (don’t you dare think, “Oh, well, that was the Jews that did that!  I wouldn’t have done that. You sure would have-so would I. We would have, and in our lives we all probably already have, in one way or another, built and danced before our own Golden Calf. If you can’t admit to that you better stop reading this now- it only gets harder to take.) After that sin, which was forgiven, we rejected His leadership (Moses and Aaron) more than once, we rejected the salvation He gave us (moaning and groaning all the time that they wanted to go back to Egypt), we then refused to enter the Land, then we sinned against Him by asking for a King, then that kingdom was split and the Northern Kingdom sinned from then on, the Southern Kingdom did OK for a while but also sinned itself into destruction, then the Greeks, the Romans, then the split of the Church, then….well, you get the picture.

And all during those times, no matter how many times we sinned against God, when we asked for forgiveness, He forgave us and welcomed us back to Him. Even though He knew we would backslide again, He still loved us despite how we treated Him. And He still loves us, today.

Didn’t Yeshua tell us to love our enemies? Didn’t Yeshua tell us to forgive our brothers who sin against us, pretty much as many times as they ask.  Aren’t we told to love as God loves, to forgive as God forgives (check out Matthew 6:14). That old adage, “To err is human: to forgive, divine” hits the nail right on the head! Forgiveness is absolutely tied to love- if you can’t forgive, you can’t love. If you can’t love for any reason other than how someone makes you feel, you cannot love as God loves.

Let’s say that again: If you can’t love for any reason other than how someone makes you feel, you cannot love as God loves.

That’s a hard word to hear. I think it is a word directly from God because (as the references above indicate) it is how God has loved us from the start.

To love as God loves is simply to love not for our needs, but for theirs. We should love others for who they are, for what they believe in, for how they treat all people. In 1 Corinthians, Shaul tells us that love is not selfish, but if we love only for selfish reasons than we aren’t loving, not really: what we are doing is just enjoying. We are feeling attracted to a person for what they do for us, not for who they are. At one point or another, what they do changes. If the relationship is a physical one, that’s gonna change, believe me. Age isn’t friendly to physical things. If the relationship is based on what “niceties” you get, such as little notes, little gifts, pretty cars or big, expensive stones, that’s gonna change, too. Eventually, the relationships we humans form will break down to their most basic components: you and me. So, do I really, really enjoy just being with you? Do you really, really enjoy just being with me?

Examine your love for those in your life, and remember that Yeshua tells us whatever we do to others is what we are doing to God (Matthew 25:40), so make sure your love is love going out and not love taking in.

Examine your love: is it selfish or selfless?

Parashah Ki Thissa (When you take) Exodus 30:11 – 34

Big stuff in here: the sin of the Golden Calf and the 13 Divine Attributes of God (announced when He passes by Moshe), which make up the major restrains of almost every Jewish prayer of repentance. Also we are told what spices to use for anointing oil and incense before the Lord, and it ends with Moses coming down (the second time) from the mountain with the Ten Words, his face beaming so much that from then on he wears a veil, except when he goes in the Tabernacle to talk to the Lord.

I asked myself why this time?  Why didn’t his face beam after being 40 days on the mountain the first time? My answer to myself was that there was one major difference between the first meeting with God and the second one: the second time Moses saw the Glory of God. In Exodus 34:5-7 God walks by Moses, covering Moses’ face as He passes so Moses can only see His back. God actually, physically was there, close enough to cover the face of Moses. I believe that Moses’ face shone from that day on because he was so close to the Glory of the Lord that the Shekinah glory infused his body. That’s why his face shone, and from what I read it sounds like his face shone for the rest of his life.

What I find of interest is not the great story of the Golden Calf- there is so much for us to learn there. What I want to talk about today is much simpler, much “smaller”, but no less important.

The parashah starts out with God telling Moses that everyone who is called up to fight in a war must pay a ransom for their soul of a 1/2 Shekel. Now the word of God is very clear that there shall be no ransom for a murderer, that is, someone who has committed murder purposefully. But this ransom is for those who have murdered during a war. Even though the wars the people of Israel performed were not just sanctioned  by God, but actually commanded by Him in many cases, they were still guilty of murder.

This shows us that God is true to His word, that His laws are always laws, that forgiveness is possible but only with real repentance. Those who go to a “holy” war for God and kill those God says should die (effectively being the executioner of the Lord) are still murderers. They have killed, and God said we shall not kill, but unlike the murderer who kills for passion or gain, and does so on purpose, this “murder” is different, so a ransom is acceptable. Again, even though this form of murder is commanded by God, we must ransom our soul to the Lord. The monies were to be used exclusively for the maintenance of the Tabernacle, so that this ransom did go, wholly, to the Lord.

God is always willing to forgive a repentant sinner, but He is also more than willing, and frighteningly able, to punish those who are unrepentant. And God must punish the wrongdoer. If God doesn’t punish those who do wrong and do not repent, then His promise of salvation is empty. God said that the guilty will be punished- He says it over and over throughout the Tanakh; He has the Prophets tell us over and over that we shall suffer if we do not obey the Lord (and we did, too!), and Yeshua also tells us this. At the end of the Lord’s Prayer, Matthew 6:14, Yeshua tells us that if we do not forgive on Earth, then we will not be forgiven by God in heaven.

Torah is valid: it was valid when God gave it to us, it was valid when David was king, it was valid when Herod ruled, it was valid during and after Yeshua’s ministry, and it is valid, today. Not just to Jews, but to everyone.  Just because we can be forgiven doesn’t mean we can ignore God’s word: God told us to ransom our soul even though we were doing what He commanded, so even when we obey Him we can still be guilty! His laws are absolute.

Christianity has been teaching for centuries that the Jews have Torah and Christians have the blood of Christ. That is totally wrong- everyone has Torah, and everyone has the blood of Christ! The Torah was given to the Jewish people so they could live it as an example for everyone else to learn from, and follow. The blood of Messiah was shed so that everyone could have salvation because no one can live perfectly in accordance to Torah. How absolutely inane to say that Christians have the blood of Christ, as if they were the only ones He died for! He died for Jews, He died for Buddhists, He died for Muslims, He died for Devil worshipers, He died for E-V-E-R-Y-O-N-E!!!   

And Torah was given to the Jews, but Torah is also for everyone. Torah tells us how God wants us to worship Him and treat each other, Yeshua told us the deeper meanings of the Torah and that we shouldn’t try to just follow it legalistically (i.e., just obey the letter of the law), but that we need to follow it spiritually. Jeremiah 31:31 tells us that the New Covenant will be that God will write His Torah on our hearts, which is exactly what Yeshua was telling us to do! It will be more than words to follow, it will be the very thing we are!

The Torah was given to guide us, Yeshua died for us because we can’t follow Torah perfectly (but NOT in place of the Torah) and the blood of Christ is for everyone to be able to have their sins washed away and be reconciled to God. God isn’t stupid- if you call upon His name and hold up the blood of Christ as your means of forgiveness, but you are unrepentant, you will not be accepted. And the proof that you are repentant, or that you are not repentant, will be by your fruits, by how you act towards others and towards God.

The Torah tells us how to show our repentance, so to refuse to follow Torah is to refuse to be repentant.

Look…no one can obey Torah completely, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t supposed to try.

I don’t deserve this

The parashah this coming Shabbat tells of the sin of the Golden Calf at Mt. Sinai. We see in this one of the less spoken about aspects of Moshe (Moses), which is his courage. We haven’t really seen that too much; I mean, when he first met the Lord at the burning bush all he wanted to do was get out of the calling. He did something along the way to Egypt that got God so mad He almost killed Moses (the Chumash suggests that Moses pretended to be sick to delay going), and even though he appeared before Pharaoh, it was Aaron that did most of the talking and doing. It took Moshe a while before he really stood up and took charge.

At the mountain after the people sin, God tells Moses to stand back so God can destroy these rebellious and stiff-necked people, then make a nation out of Moses. So, what does Moses do? He doesn’t stand out of the way, he stands in the breach! He places himself between a rebellious and sinful people deserving of death and the Lord, God Almighty, who is all powerful and, I should add, pretty pissed off at the moment.

Pretty gutsy, says I.

You may be wondering, “What does this have to do with the title? What doesn’t he deserve?”

The same thing that you don’t deserve- salvation.

The people deserved death, and they weren’t worthy to have God’s presence with them, but thanks to Moses they not only got to survive their sin, but also had God’s presence travel with them for the next 40 years.

Moses stood between God and the sin of the people to save them, and what they got they got because of Moses.

Yeshua stood between God and all the people in the world, and every sin that ever happened and ever will. Because of Yeshua we all have the hope of salvation- what we have we have because of Yeshua.

Shaul tells the Gentile Roman Believers in Romans 11 that they aren’t to be proud or haughty when thinking about how they have salvation that the Jewish people don’t because if it weren’t for the Jews (not accepting Yeshua fully), they wouldn’t have anything. They have what they have because of the Jewish people.

In Deuteronomy 9: 5-6 Moses tells the people that they are going to enter a wonderful land of milk and honey, which they don’t deserve to enter. The only reason they are entering is because of the promises made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

I don’t deserve what I have: salvation from my sinful nature, peace of spirit from the Comforter Yeshua sent to me (The Ruach HaKodesh, or Holy Spirit) and hope for my loved ones that comes only from the promise Yeshua made that whatever we ask for in His name we shall receive. Even though I know it comes down to these people choosing to accept God and Yeshua, and that because God gave us all free will they may never be saved, I have no hope for what I can do and every hope that God can do what I can’t. I trust that He is answering my prayers, and that if anyone can get my children to accept God and reconcile to me, it is God. And if  (and when ) they do, I won’t deserve it- it will be because of what God does.

We don’t deserve what we have, and we don’t have what we deserve. Thank God for that! We all should remember to remember this: we don’t deserve what we have with God. This is not something we should beat ourselves down with, it is something which we can use to continually raise ourselves up! When we understand and appreciate all that others have done for us it should encourage us to do better, ourselves.

We owe it to God, to Yeshua, to Moses, to Abraham, to the Prophets, to everyone and anyone who has stood in the breach between us and God to make our salvation possible. And because they have risked and (more often than not) lost their lives for us, we need to do everything we can to honor their sacrifice, every moment of every day.

I am saved by the Grace of God, by the sacrificial death of Yeshua, by the courage of Moses, with the guidance of friends and strangers who knew the Lord, by my Rabbi, who helped me to see how to maintain and strengthen my faith, by so many people. I owe it to them to continue, faithfully, to be a better me and to help others as they have helped me.

I don’t deserve what I have been given, and neither do you. Let’s show our gratitude by running the good race, keeping our eyes on the prize, and doing for others what others have done for us.

Parashah Ki Thissa (when you take) Exodus 30:11 – 34

As usual, there is just so much here. I took an entire course just about the symbolic nature of the spices used for the incense and anointing oils.

There’s also how God can use humans to achieve His goals, in the way that he gave all this knowledge and understanding to Oholiab and Bezalel to make the things required for the service in the Tabernacle.

Then there is the sin of the Golden Calf; and what’s up with Aaron? How could he have done that?

And then there’s Hur- Moses left both Aaron and Hur in charge, but there is no mention of Hur when Moses comes back and asks Aaron why he made the calf. In fact, Hur isn’t mentioned anymore. The Chumash says it is thought that Hur stood up against the people and was killed, so Aaron decided to do as the people said and live. It also says that Aaron was a peaceful man and that he was stalling, knowing that to refuse would cause bloodshed and hoping that Moses would return before they actually had a chance to worship the calf (which is why he said the next day would be a feast.)

The Levites are the ones that come rushing to Moses when he asks who is for God, which God later reminds us about when He separates the Levites from all the other tribes to serve Him, alone. Their dedication and their immediate choice to serve Him was remembered and they were given the honor of having God as their inheritance. There’s gotta be at least one or two good sermons in there!

And then we have Moses asking God, after this terrible sin, to do him a favor? To show Moses His glory? I mean, what’s that about? Moses just managed to convince God that He shouldn’t destroy the people for this terrible sin, and when God relents Moses decides, what? Now’s a good time to ask Him something no one has ever asked of Him? To show me your presence so I will know that you really, really like me?

And God says, “OK- you got it. But you can’t see my face or you have to die; that’s how it is.” Talk about a compassionate and forgiving God! He is so teed off at this stiff-necked, rebellious group of people that He is going to wipe them out of existence, and when He relents to Moses’ pleas and says He won’t destroy them…POOF! It’s gone. No more anger, and here’s this guy asking to see my presence. Ah, he’s OK, I guess. After all, I did tell him that he finds favor in my sight, so why not?

Finally, Moses goes back to the mountain and gets the 10 Commandments again. After he destroys them in his anger (after telling God not to be so angry), God doesn’t say, “Why did you do that? I gave them to you and you broke them, on purpose, and now you want me to give you more?” Instead, He gives another set of tablets to Moses.

This parashah shows just so much about God, Moses, and the sinfulness of mankind. Where do I start? Worse than that, how do I stop?

I am always affected by Moses’ actions in this parashah, regarding the first set of tablets and how he soothes God’s anger, then loses his own. God is holy and righteous, yet with the intercession of Moses God relents from destroying the people and making a new nation out of Moses. This, alone, is remarkable when you consider that God was willing to chuck some 470 years of work right out the window, and start over. This reminds us that God’s time is not like our time. It would have been easy for God to do what we could never even think of trying. Yet, was God really going to destroy the people, or was He testing Moses’s desire to lead and his humility before the Lord? Abraham asked God to relent from a destruction, and here is Moses doing the same. Was that really the reason behind God saying He would destroy the people?

And after Moses, with a cool-headed and compassionate plea (not so much for the people but for God’s reputation) saves the people, when he sees the actual crime before him, he totally loses it. He smashes what God gave him, he calls for support and then he, on his own, orders the destruction of the sinners. Some 3,000 of them. Much less than the number God was going to destroy, but still, that’s a lot of people.

So Moses was cool and thoughtful when he was keeping God from vengeful destruction, but when faced with the same emotional response, Moses doesn’t hold back.

I think there is a lesson here for us- it is easier to tell others what to do than it is to do it ourselves. “Do as I say, not as I do” is easy. God, however, is different; He does what He says, and He expects us not to do what He says. Yes, He commands us to do things, but He knows we can’t. If He didn’t know that we are incapable of doing what the Torah says, then why did He plan, from moment One, to send Yeshua our Messiah to make it possible for us to be with God?  If, when God gave us the Torah, He really expected that we could obey it to the letter (as Yeshua did), then why did we need Yeshua? Even if we are able to observe Torah perfectly, there still will be very few people who will make it into Heaven. No doubt. Even with the Grace of God we have now through Yeshua’s sacrificial death, Yeshua told us that only a few will make it. The path less followed is the one to salvation, so even with the automatic and guaranteed “Get Out of Hell” card Yeshua deals us, still, only a remnant will make it.

But we can’t observe Torah perfectly. And we do need Yeshua. That’s why I say God does as He says and doesn’t expect us to do as He says.

That’s no reason for us not to try. We need to do the “WWJD” thing. God requires us to do, not to think about doing, not to observe others doing, but to do. Like Yoda said, “Do…or do not. There is no try.” We must start out wanting to do, not saying we will do our best. I believe that saying we will try our best is making an excuse for failure before we even start. Henry Ford was quoted as saying, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.” And Will Rogers said, “Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”

What God is saying to the people and to Moses is simply, “Do!”

Maybe we can’t “Do” as God tells us to do, but we can do more than we have been doing. We never can be sinless, but we always can sin less. That’s the “Do!” for us. This is something we can hear and obey: sin less.

Look for the thing that God wants you to find in this parashah, as you should with the entire Manual. Always read it with the prayer that God will show you what He wants you to get from it.

I feel like I did a lousy job this morning, since there is too much for me to talk about and too little time for me to do it with. So help me, please- take whatever you can from my babbling and use it in a way which will allow you to please the Lord. That’s the best I can do- give you something you haven’t had: a new understanding, insight to a new revelation, or just a push to get you off your tuchas and into the game.

Thank you, Father, for your Word, your teachings, and your salvation through Yeshua Ha Mashiach, help us all to be doers of the Word.

Shabbat Shalom!