His Forgiven Habitation

“Why is ‘forgiving yourself’ so difficult? First, it’s impossible…”

The children of Israel have walked through a miracle: the parting of the Red Sea (Ex. 14). Not only have they been delivered from a devastated Egypt, they were delivered from certain death at the hands of Pharaohs army. Trapped in an area called, פִּי הַחִירֹת, “the mouth of the mountains,” with the sea before them, and mountains on either side of them, the only way of escape was filled with an army.

What was Israel to do? Surrender to their vanquished enemy? No, as Moses said: “Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will work for you today” (Ex. 14:13).

The winds blew, the waters parted, and Israel walked through the divided sea on dry land. When they emerge on the other side, they sing. In Exodus 15:2 we read these beautiful words:

זֶה אֵלִי וְאַנְוֵהוּ,  אֱלֹהֵי  אָבִי וַאֲרֹמְמֶנְהוּ

“…this is my God and I will praise Him; my fathers God, and I will exalt Him.”

The first clause above is incredible: “this is my God,” amplified: “the God of miracles, deliverance, safety, and faithfulness, I will praise Him … the God whom my father exalted, I will also exalt.” What they have witnessed and received, they rejoice in, but there is something deeper imparted here as well.

זֶה אֵלִי וְאַנְוֵהוּ, in many translations reads, “this is my God and I will praise Him…” Yet, according to Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, וְאַנְוֵהוּ, “and I will praise,” from the root נָוָה/nāvâ, the form of this word lends itself to being understood in several ways, an example:“and I will prepare a home for Him.” This is not referencing the future tabernacle, but rather, the individual. In the midst of this praise song, Moses is expressing the hope of his heart, also of those singing with him, to be a habitation for and to offer one’s life to be a home for the Spirit of God.

Yet, Moses was not perfect, none of them were. Moses had taken human life. He argued with God when called by Him. He continued to doubt the message of deliverance and redemption of Israel given to pharaoh as it resulted in even greater suffering for them. How could he believe himself to be a worthy physical habitation of God?

The language of נָוָה/nāvâ, habitation, home or resting place, also speaks of the beautification of that place. The cleansing of it. By what means? Faith-ing to God. Trusting Him. His choice of Israel to be His people. In order to receive Him, they would have to be cleansed, prepared, and forgiven.

Forgiveness is a difficult subject. Forgiving and “releasing” those who wronged us (Matt. 6:14-15), or being forgiven and “released” by those we have wronged (Matt. 18:35). This author has recently taught on forgiving those who have wronged us, but a small treatment on “forgiving ourselves” is in order. How can we forgive ourselves for the wrong we have done, participated in or gave approval to?

In Messiah Yeshua/Jesus, we have been moved from a position of condemnation to forgiveness (Ro. 8:1). This is a greater miracle than the Red Sea. Yet, we are still in a world saturated in sin, and from time to time, sin, of one type or another, finds a point of entry, causing us to stumble. We must remember that all of have fallen short of the glory of God (Ro. 3:23). In Christ we are trusting in His righteousness, and His forgiveness. His forgiveness, and the cleansing that results, causes us to become a habitation of the Holy Spirit, as Paul writes, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” (I Cor. 3:16). When the house of Cornelius, gentiles after the flesh, heard the gospel of Messiah, they were filled with the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:45; cf. Acts 11:18), whose indwelling presence sealed their acceptance by God (Eph. 1:13-14).

“Forgiving yourself,” as it is oft constructed, is theological incorrect and confusing. You mean to express the sorrow of having participating in or committing a sinful act. Of this you cannot forgive yourself. Only God can. When repented of, He does, and then we walk out the forgiveness of the Father in daily life. Maturing the heart knowledge of the reality of His forgiveness by the blood of His Son, not just an intellectual recognition of it. The apostle John explains, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I Jn. 1:8-9). He is faithful to forgive and cleanse the conscience of confessed sin, should we then continue to enliven it?

This forgiveness and cleansing should take us, in our minds, back to the song of Moses referenced above, that having experienced the miracle of deliverance and redemption: “and I will prepare a home for Him.” We will tend to the inner space of our hearts and minds by the Word, walking out the forgiveness we have received by the blood of the Lamb, and ultimately resting and abiding in Him (Matt. 11:28-30; Jn. 15:4). Do we trust in the work of Christ on the cross for a complete cleansing of sin? “Forgiving yourself” is recognizing that His work of redemption and cleansing is, was and will be enough. You cannot add to it by self-imprisonment, self-condemnation, or self-mortification. Doing so shackles one to the past, not the beautiful freedom of the present victory. Paul writes:

“Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13-14).

Paul, who gave approval to the stoning of Stephen, could not press on if he was condemning himself. He was set free. Free, even when knowing how bad he really was. “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do” should still echo in our hearts today. There are times when we remain in a position of self-condemnation without fully knowing what we are doing. Breaking His heart. “I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah” (Ps. 32:5).

Why is “forgiving yourself” so difficult? First, it’s impossible, as forgiveness flows from the innocent party to the guilty party. Second, it demands we stop playing the judge. Third, we must trust His grace. Yet, knowing, “how bad I am, or how bad I’m prone to be, can He really forgive me?” Yes, from here to eternity. That is how great His love is. That is the message of the gospel. He loved you while you were still lavishing the excess of sin upon yourself (Ro. 5:8). How much more does He love those He has rescued by the blood of His Son, and now filled with His Spirit. You have been released, set free, and now press on in the “upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” The forgiveness of God has been granted to you, now you must continue to walk in and experience the fullness of it, this is part and parcel to the process of maturing, discipleship, by the indwelling the Holy Spirit, as His habitation. Remember, you did not choose Him. He choose you. And now you are His (Jn. 15:16).

Be well. Shalom.

Adorned for Such a Time

“Unleavened bread shall be eaten for seven days; no leavened bread shall be seen with you, and no leaven shall be seen with you in all your territory. You shall tell your son on that day, ‘It is because of what the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt.’ And it shall be to you as a sign on your hand and as a memorial between your eyes, that the law of the Lord may be in your mouth. For with a strong hand the Lord has brought you out of Egypt” (Ex. 13:7-9).

In every generation we are to regard ourselves as having been taken out of Egypt. We are to answer our children when they ask, “What’s this service about?” Not only is the exodus remembered on Passover, but it is memorialized daily. How?

‎וְהָיָה לְאוֹת עַל-יָדְכָה, וּלְטוֹטָפֹת בֵּין עֵינֶיךָ: כִּי בְּחֹזֶק יָד, הוֹצִיאָנוּ יְהוָה מִמִּצְרָיִם

“And it shall be a sign upon your hand, and as frontlets between your eyes; for by a strong hand the Lord brought us out from Egypt” (Ex. 13:16).

This is the practice of Tefillin, or phylacteries as they are called in the New Testament (see included pic). Tefillin are adorned every day except Shabbat and some holidays. They are a sign, for what?

There is an interesting answer in the text. The “sign upon your hand,” לְאוֹת, “sign” is in the singular. While the “frontlets between your eyes,” וּלְטוֹטָפֹת, “frontlets” is plural. Why? The Tefillin, the black boxes used during prayer, as a memorial adorning the body are incomplete without the hand and the head adorned together. In order to be a sign and as frontlets, they must be together, not separate.

The Tefillin of the hand actually rests on the bicep of the weak arm, for right handed people the left, adjacent the heart. While the Tefillin of the head rests upon the forehead, equidistant between the eyes, upon the mind.

These two, connected as memorial signs, teach us that we need to think and feel. Our intellect and our heart must be connected; and together they inform our thoughts and actions in this world.

But how are they connected?

Leather straps. The leather once used to enforce the crushing harshness of slavery in Egypt by the whip, now adorn the freed man as a sign of freedom of thought, action, and time. Freed by God to obey Him. Freed by God to do. Freed by God to live. The boxes contain four paragraphs of text from the Torah: Exodus 13:1-10, 13:11-16; Deuteronomy 6:4-9, 11:12-21, each a reminder to set this memorial, but also a reminder of our relationship to God.

“Frontlets” is an interesting word. Worn by brides, princesses and women of position, it was an adornment of beauty worn around the head. Not for labor, but for beauty signifying position and occasion. Commanded for memorial above, the וּלְטוֹטָפֹת, frontlets, bands, or marks, were to adorn the betrothed of God as a memorial of deliverance from slavery to freedom.

This memorial reminds one of deliverance. As freed people, we have the liberty to translate the meditation of our heart and mind into godly action for those bound up in sin, or to come alongside those stumbling. At times the Word upon our heart convicts the thoughts of our mind. While at other times, the Word upon our mind convicts the hardness of our heart.

Beloved friends, in messianic faith you have been adorned. You are robed in the righteousness of Messiah (II Cor. 5:21), crowned with the mind of Messiah (I Cor. 2:16), and sealed upon the heart by the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13). These also resulting from deliverance, from the greater and more brutalizing enslavement: to sin. Set not upon crippling weakness, but the Fathers grace, as Paul writes:

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (II Cor. 12:9).

Today, remember your adornment. The sign and frontlets upon you, the Word and the Spirit, as you engage the life around you. Yes, you may be laboring in the harvest field, dirtied by the trauma of life, but remember how He sees you: adorned beautifully for an approaching wedding feast (Rev. 19:9).

For such a time as this, you have been equipped in His Kingdom.

Shabbat Shalom.