Everyone Gets Rained On

During the Sermon on the Mount, Yeshua tells the people that they should love their enemies and pray for them because that way they will become children of their father in heaven.

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He then tells them that God makes the sun to shine on good and bad people alike, as well as makes the rain to fall on the righteous and unrighteous, alike.

I have always thought this passage meant that God is such a loving God that even those who reject him and ignore his instructions will be able to receive goodness from him. The sunshine and the rains have always represented life to me, in as much as they both are necessary for growth, so when Yeshua said that God provides sun and rain even to the unrighteous, I felt that this was a good thing.

Recently, though, I have thought differently about this. I read Jeremiah 49 and I saw a totally different meaning to what Yeshua said.

In this chapter of Jeremiah, he is prophesying against the different nations surrounding Israel, and in his prophecy against Edom, he says this in Jeremiah 49:12 (CJB):

For this is what Adonai says: “Those who do not deserve to drink from this cup will have to drink it, anyway, so should you go unpunished? No, you will not go unpunished; you will certainly drink it.”

When I read that, even though it is in a distinctly different part of the Bible and is not the same subject matter as the Sermon on the Mount, I realized that what Yeshua said might be understood in a totally different light.

How many times have we heard people ask “Why do bad things happen to good people?” Now, after this revelation (if you will) of mine, I think one answer might be that it’s because they are “collateral damage.”

God loves all people, even the ones who hate him, and even though he knows every hair on every person’s head (which, finally, I will be able to get cut this evening), when he judges a nation, it is the entire nation. How many times has he told us, through the Prophets, that Israel is his son? Israel is seen by God as a unique and singular entity, meaning that God sees all the people that live in Israel as one. And how many times do we hear the Prophets confess the guilt of the people? Not for an individual or a select few but it is always the “sins of our fathers” or “the sins of your people” that they reference when praying to God for forgiveness. And, again, not for the forgiveness of a person or persons, but of the nation.

I came to realize that when God gives sun and rain in abundance at the right times, which is his blessing to the righteous, the unrighteous will be collateral beneficiaries. But, too much sunshine with too little rain, or too much rain without enough sunny days and you don’t have a blessing, you have a curse. And when God sends his curses on the unrighteous, the righteous will be collateral damage.

In other words, we are sometimes guilty by association.  And perhaps that is why when God first gave us his instructions for how to live, he was very clear that those who were not clean were to be separated from the rest of the community and placed outside the camp. For example, in Numbers 16 before the ground swallowed up Dathan and Abiram, Moses told the people close by to separate themselves and get away from them, or they too would be swallowed up.

Too often things happen that we cannot explain, and when we look to God for answers, too often there are none to have. God is so far above us, and he doesn’t really care about our existence on Earth- he is focused on eternity. He is an eternal being, and although he can understand the finite, we, as finite beings, cannot understand the infinite. God has given us this life for one purpose, and one purpose only, which is to choose where we will spend eternity.

If a righteous person is taken from this life along with unrighteous people, then as sad as that may seem to us, it isn’t that bad for the righteous person taken because he or she is now in the eternal presence of the Lord. C’mon, really? What’s the downside of that? This existence is merely a wisp, a mist, and because we have only the amount of time God gives us, and we don’t know how long that is, it is best to make sure we are right with the Lord, first, then try to separate ourselves from evil and unrighteousness as much as possible.

I am not saying to cut off all relationships with non-Believers and run to the mountaintops, living as a hermit, but just to always try to be right with the Lord, and try to associate with the more righteous people as much as you can. It is a fallen and cursed world, and there are more evil and unrighteous people in it then righteous people, so you can never be fully separated from them. But when you know you are living as righteous a life as you can, then even if you end up as collateral damage, it won’t be so bad for you.

When you see good people suffer, it might be because they are collateral damage from someone close to them or something they were associated with. It doesn’t, by itself, means they were guilty of anything. Just like with Job, or the man born blind in John 9:3, whose blindness was not the result of anyone’s sin but so that God’s power and goodness could be made known, we can’t know why bad things happen to good people, nor should we feel it is unfair when bad people receive blessings because the one thing we can be sure of is that in the end, the good are rewarded and the bad receive their punishment.

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Parashah Ki Tavo (When You Come In) Deuteronomy 26 – 29

This parashah is one of my favorites, mainly because of Chapter 28, which is the Blessings and the Curses.

Moses starts out by telling everyone that they must bring the first fruits of the land to the place where God will place His name, and the pronouncement they must make which is to re-affirm their history, what God has done for them and that they have not strayed from God’s commandments.

When the people are in the land they are to stand at Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim and pronounce the curses upon people who do sinful things, with all the people saying, “Amen!” to each pronounced curse. The blessings are also to be said, although they are not specified here- only the curses are specified.

The blessings are identified in Chapter 28, as well as the punishment (curses) that will fall upon the people for disobedience. When you read the curses, they are more numerous than the blessings and as wonderful as the blessings are, the curses are relatively just as devastating and horrible.

But does God really curse people? Isn’t He the Lord of lords and Kings of kings? Isn’t He compassionate, long-suffering, abounding in grace and love? Does the Lord, God Almighty really sock–it-to-us just because we screw up?

This is what I love about this chapter- the truth of God’s “curses” is that they aren’t curses from God, they are curses we impose on ourselves by walking away from God.

God’s blessings are active- He gives them to us. We can earn them through obedience, and even when we are disobedient God will still bless us (He rains on the righteous and unrighteous, alike) because He is a loving and compassionate God.  The blessings will come, without end while we obey and (as Micah advised) when we walk humbly with our God. In other words, God holds this giant umbrella, a hoopah, a kippur, a covering that protects us from the world and the horrible things in it. When we walk with God, meaning when we are obedient and staying in His will, we are protected. Oh, yeah, just like when we have an umbrella in the storm, our pants and feet get wet, and we may have to suffer some wind damage to our hair, but we are protected. The full force of the storm is kept away from us. That’s what it is like when we stay obedient.

God stays on His own path- ain’t nothing gonna change where God wants to go. So what happens when we disobey? He goes His way and we wander off in another direction. Ever try to walk with someone in the rain when they are holding the umbrella? If you don’t watch your step and make sure you are going where they are going, you get soaked. When we disobey God and wander off His path, we lose the kippur of protection that God provides us (i.e., His blessings) and therefor we suffer the curses of this cursed world.

It’s that easy. God actively blesses us, and His “curses” are not curses at all- it is Him passively allowing us to wander away from His protective kippur;  what it comes down to is when we disobey God’s commandments, we curse ourselves!

If you feel that you are being cursed, under attack, check yourself out in the mirror. Ask yourself, “Am I walking with God or am I wandering off on my own?” God doesn’t really punish us, but He will allow us to punish ourselves when we disobey and wander off on our own. Even with Job, the curses and horrors Job suffered, were allowed by God but not directly performed by God.

We could argue that passively allowing evil is not really different than performing the evil, itself. In fact, we are told in Deuteronomy that we should NOT stand by and allow evil, we should help even our enemy if his donkey is overladen. So why can God get away with allowing evil to happen to others?

I don’t know. Maybe because He is God? Maybe because His plans are way above us, and what we perceive as a plan for evil He knows is really a plan for good. How many times in your life have you felt that you were never going to come out of a situation smelling good, yet when you look back that terrible time is what led to to a real blessing in your life? My first date with Donna was the “Date from Hell” but we got past it and just last week we celebrated our 20th Anniversary of that first date. And even today, each kiss is better than the last one.

It’s alright to question God, He’s big enough He can handle a few questions, but don’t expect to understand the answer. Hello? He’s God, and we aren’t!

God will bless you when you obey, and when you disobey you choose to walk away from His protection from the world so you suffer curses.

Here’s one last interesting thought: if you look closely, you will see that curses are the opposite of the blessings. That proves (to me, at least) that the curses are what exist in this world and the blessings are the absence of the curses. Just like being under an umbrella in the rain- all around us it is raining (curses), but under the umbrella we are safe from it.

How many times throughout the Tanakh is God described as our shield and protector?

God is our umbrella: do you have enough sense to get out from under the rain?