When Taking Care of Numero Uno is Biblically Correct

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In the Gospel of Luke (12:26), we are told that Yeshua the Messiah says if we wish to be the greatest we must be the last. In order to be in charge, we must first learn how to serve. The world tells us quite the opposite: it says you should first and foremost take care of Numero Uno (Number One), and that once you have seen to your own needs and desires, then you can do something for someone else, but you don’t have to. That’s because they are supposed to be taking care of their own needs, too.

The world says take care of yourself first and the Bible tells us to serve others, yet the Torah teaches us that when we ask for forgiveness of sins, we cannot start with others. We must take care of Numero Uno before we can attend to the rest. Starting with the Cohen HaGadol (High Priest) and going down the ladder of authority to the Elders and community leaders, each person must first atone for their own sins before they can come to God to intercede for someone else.

I found this to be an interesting thought when I was reading the beginning of Leviticus the other day. Even though the religious and community leaders have an obligation to care for their “flock”, when it comes to one of the most important things we can do for others, which is interceding for them, we have to see to ourselves first. Once we have taken care of our own need to be forgiven, then and only then can we ask forgiveness for those who we are in charge of.

BTW: I know that no one can forgive someone else’s sins, and to be forgiven each person must ask that of God, individually. I am assuming that any intercession is similar to the one made for sin by the Cohen HaGadol in Biblical days.

We see this also in the teaching of Yeshua, who said (Matthew 5:24) that we are not to bring an offering to God until after we have taken care of our own issue with someone else, meaning that before we come into the presence of the Almighty we must be as “clean” as we can be. That doesn’t mean just physically or ceremonially clean- it also means spiritually clean.

Just about everything Yeshua taught was on the level of the Remes, the spiritual truth underlying the written word (P’shat) in the Torah. He is repeating what God told us in the Torah- take care of our own sins before we come to God to ask for someone else.

In Leviticus, the High Priest is to atone for his sins before he atones for the people. Yeshua tells us if we have an issue, some unrepented sin with someone else (and we know that any sin is first and foremost a sin against God), we must first atone for that sin, i.e. be cleansed of it before we come to God.

Another example is when Yeshua tells us to first remove the log from our own eye before we tell a brother (or sister) about the log in their eye (Matthew 7:5.)

One of the most difficult spiritual positions I can think of is the one of being an Intercessor. It requires the gifts of compassion, empathy, and patience- none of which I have in abundance- and because of the requirement to be sinless before interceding for others, well.. can you see now why I think it is such an awesome burden to have?

To intercede for others we must first take care of Numero Uno: we have to make sure we have interceded for ourselves. Only after we are clean, physically, ceremonially and spiritually, can we then ask God to help others.

I suppose it makes sense when we consider that we who have accepted Yeshua as our Messiah are seen by God through his righteousness, through his “cleanliness” when he intercedes on our behalf. Likewise, when we intercede for others we must also first be “clean” before the Lord so that he will see them through our cleanliness.

I pray every day for forgiveness. Not just because I know I am sinning, but because I don’t always know when I am sinning. I find it much more comforting to do this because I accept that I am a sinner and born with iniquity, and despite how hard I try I will never be free (at least, not in this lifetime) of what I am- a sinner who wants to sin. By always asking for forgiveness I know I am covering any and all sins I have or may have committed before the Lord. Remember how Shaul (Paul) confessed in Romans 7:15-20 that he does what he doesn’t want to do, and doesn’t do that which he wants to do. That’s why I accept my sinfulness and pray every day for forgiveness because he did, and believeyoume…I am certainly not better than him!

So let’s put today’s message to rest with this conclusion: when someone tells you to take care of Numero Uno, tell them you do by interceding for others only AFTER you have first asked for your own forgiveness. That’s how to take care of Numero Uno correctly.

Then tell them that in all other matters, we are to be a servant of the Lord and a servant to others.

Don’t Ask To Be Forgiven If You Are Planning On Doing It Again

I was praying yesterday and, as usual, asked for forgiveness for sins I have committed. I like to first ask to be forgiven my sins, then I raise up those I love to be forgiven for what they do, especially Alex and Bryce, my children who have rejected me and don’t even know the Lord. I do it in this order because in the Torah the Cohen HaGadol (Head Priest) had to be cleansed first before he could act as intercessor for the people, so I ask to be cleansed before I intercede for those I pray for.

That’s when it hit me…I had done something that morning that is, by technical standards, a sinful act. It is not terrible; it’s one of those “minor” sins (if you will be kind enough to accept that term, even though we all know any sin is a sin) that I find myself doing on occasion because, well, I like it. As I was going to ask for forgiveness, the realization that I intend to do this again made me feel that I was wrong to ask God to forgive me.  To ask forgiveness for something that I do not want to stop doing, something for which I have not done T’Shuvah, seems wrong to me. It is like throwing the fleece before God. I mean, really…forgive me for this but I am going to do it again, so forgive me then, too. Is that right? Is it fair to ask God to forgive me for purposefully rejecting His instructions, especially when I fully intend to do it again?

I decided I was wrong on two counts- wrong for doing something that is not Godly and correct in His eyes, and even more wrong for asking Him to forgive me when I don’t intend to stop doing it.

I know, I know… now you all think I am less than what you hoped for. I have sinned, I sin and I will continue to sin (I sound like Caesar saying, “Veni, vidi, vici”) and that is why I think it is wrong of me to ask God to forgive me for this thing. I’m not perfect. I am getting better, but still, I am not perfect. I’m not bragging about it, and I am not beating myself up over it. I would like to be able to overcome this one little thing, but I haven’t, and that’s probably because I don’t want to stop.

After I felt that I shouldn’t ask forgiveness, I asked God to show me a sign (I was on a roll for doing wrong, wasn’t I?) The sign I asked for was to demonstrate His forgiveness by taking away all desire to do the thing I won’t ask forgiveness for. In other words, I feel unjustified to ask forgiveness for doing something I know I will purposefully do again, so I asked Him to show His forgiveness by taking away the desire to do this. Don’t just forgive me, but change me so I won’t need to ask forgiveness for this again. Rewire my brain to no longer be satisfied by this act, to no longer feel the need for the “worldly” satisfaction derived from this act.

Here’s the difference: I will ask for forgiveness for doing things I shouldn’t do and that I don’t want to do; for instance, using bad language, having mean thoughts, for being the sarcastic, cynical and attitudinal New Yorker I am at heart.  I won’t ask forgiveness for doing the things I shouldn’t do that I still want to do. Why? Because if I still want to do them I haven’t turned, I haven’t given them up, I haven’t chosen God’s way over my way. I don’t feel right in asking for forgiveness for doing something which I choose to not stop doing. It’s not fair to God, and I feel like it is stomping the blood of Messiah into the dirt. He suffered and died so that I can be forgiven, and if I ask for His blood covering for something that I choose to keep on doing, well, to me that would be more of a sin than the thing I actually am doing.

What do you think? If we choose, willingly and willfully, to perform an act which we know is sinful, whether it be eating ham, cursing out the neighbor, or as terrible as having an affair, and we know we will continue to do that, are we justified in asking for forgiveness? More than that, if we choose to continue to do it, will we be forgiven if we ask for it? Will God forgive something that we are NOT sincerely sorry about?

Yeshua said that if your brother asks to be forgiven, you should forgive him, not 7 times but 70 times 7 times. However, I have always thought the underlying assumption is that the brother asking for forgiveness is sorry for the sin he committed. If he isn’t sorry, if he isn’t truly doing T’Shuvah, then should/will he be forgiven?

There’s the parable that follows this about the servant who was forgiven a debt and refused to forgive the debt owed to him. For his unforgiveness his own debt was recalled against him. My interpretation of this parable is that the servant was sinfully selfish, in that (1) he borrowed a large sum he couldn’t pay back and (2) did not forgive a small debt that was owed to him. He did not do T’Shuvah from his sin, as demonstrated by his actions. And, not being repentant, his sin was laid back upon him. He wasn’t forgiven because he didn’t want to repent of his sin.

I will not ask forgiveness for things that I know I shouldn’t be doing but choose to continue to do, whatever they are. I will, however, ask God to help me do T’Shuvah, to give faith to my faithlessness, to strengthen me through the Ruach to not just overcome sin, but to hate it to the point where sinning is painful to me. Any sin. And if I ever reach that point, then and only then can I justly ask for forgiveness for a sin I keep committing.

I like to say that before I was saved I was a sinner who rationalized my sins, and now I am a sinner who regrets my sins. To all of you, and before God, here and now I confess: there are some sins I still choose to do.

The bottom line is we will be forgiven anything, over and over, when we are truly repentant, when we come before God with a broken spirit and a contrite heart, and when we choose to stop doing what it is we are doing. When I reach the point that Shaul reached, confessing he was a wretch because he did the things he didn’t want to do, and did not do the things he wanted to do, then and only then will I be able to ask forgiveness for anything and everything I do wrong.

I have a rather long and arduous journey ahead of me. What about you?