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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 believe–you–me…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.