I Remember …

I Remember them, because He invested in them.

Our hearts often follow our currency. The Lord, then, asks us to invest in people, both near and far, so that our hearts are always with them, and our treasure is stored safely in Him.

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt. 6:19-21).

Illustration.

While my wife and I were sitting at lunch one day, at a regular spot for us, I overheard a young couple across from us wrestling with some bad news. I didn’t need to hear the specifics, as my shepherds heart heard the key words I’ve heard thousands of times before.

It was then that I felt prompted by the Holy Spirit to bless them. I excused myself from the table, walked to my friend at the register, and quietly paid for their food. This is not noteworthy, he will often ask me if “that’s all” when I check out, as it’s something I’m prompted to do, well, often. He will ask, “What do I tell them?” Just, “their Father in heaven loves them.”

Here’s the point that connects us back to the words of Yeshua/Jesus. I remember each face of every individual, family, or group that I’ve been able to bless in that manner. Honestly, every one. In remembering them, I pray for them long after the food is gone, and probably long after the simple kindness has been forgotten.

Why? I’ve invested a little something that heaven invested graciously in me, in them, and there part of my heart is; this being but one of the ways of investing oneself in others. I was prompted to write this, after doing the dishes while praying for that young couple.

I pray that some part of this makes sense, and has blessed you. If so, then thank Him.

Be well. Shalom.

**I do not usually write or make public my personal faith practice, apart from the obvious leadership and mentorship roles I’m called to. I’ve shared this, not as a boast, but as an illustration of one aspect of the above verse on my heart. I pray it does not publish as a boast. And no, the people never know who blessed them, only the Lord.

The Antimodel Reformed

Jacob, יַעֲקֹב, stands alone. The swindler who swindled, bested by a better swindler in Laban, לָבָן. He faces, it would seem, utter destruction at the hand of his brother Esau; the very one he swindled in the house of his father. He prays:

הַצִּילֵנִי נָא מִיַּד אָחִי, מִיַּד עֵשָׂו

“Deliver (save me, exodus) me, I earnestly pray Lord, from the hand of my brother, the hand of Esau” (Gen. 32:12, paraphrasing mine).

He is beseeching the God of his fathers (Gen. 32:10), to rescue him; but immediately he executes a plan to save his household (Gen. 32:12).

In Laban, Jacob finds not a role model, but an antimodel. Defining an antimodel is rather easy, not imitating an antimodel who has influenced your life or surroundings is quite another endeavor. Laban causes Jacob to look in the mirror of his own behavior as he stands utterly alone beside the stream of Jabbok (Gen. 32:23-25).

Jabbok is derived from the root בָּקַק/bāqaq, meaning to empty, void or spread out. Phonically it would remind you of the sound of a bottle being poured out. Jacob now stands beside a dry wadi, bereft of his family, even as dysfunctional as they could be, facing certain death.

In the moment of his greatest emptiness, the Lord who has stood heaven side above, in Genesis 28, now wrestles him in that empty place on the earth. All night they struggled, until the Man touches the Jacob’s hip socket, dislocating his hip, even then he would not let go.

Seemingly sensing the significance of the moment, Jacob answers the Man requesting to be let go, “I will not let you go, until you bless me” (Gen. 32:27).

The blessing Jacob had received so many years before was the result of a scheme that soured his life. This blessing would be the result of his desperate need, in emptiness, wounded, to fill the void his disposition had reaped.

Touched by God, Jacob limps to face his brother, utterly convinced of his own demise, but blessed of God. This blessing was not the result of theft, or deceit, but wrestling with God who overcame Jacob’s old nature by a touch that forever changed his walk.

Yes, his children would do unimaginable things breaking Jacob’s heart, but Jacob went from an antimodel to a godly role model for them, and those difficult children would have to wrestle with the consequences of their own deceit as they mirrored the father and uncle they knew in their youth; but even they, through another antimodel turned role model, Joseph, would learn how deep the touch of God’s grace is, when Joseph, welding absolute power of life and death over a nation, says to them:

“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Ex. 50:20).

I remember vividly morning breakfast in Vellore India in 2016. I was sitting with a man of God I had, and still do, looked up to in faith for many, many years, Dr Karl Coke. We had been having a heart to heart about life struggles and ministry. He looked me squarely in the eye and said, “I do not trust a man who does not limp.” Of course, he was referencing the experience of Jacob.

In order to become modelers of faith for our family, friends, and community, we all need to have that moment beside the Jabbok, empty/void, when God arrives, wrestles with us, then changes us, not only internally, but externally.

Maybe you feel like you are wrestling right now. Perhaps you wrestled, and things seem to be remaining the same. Hold on, and as you see the new day dawning, the blessing of His presence there, in that empty place, will become apparent. Don’t despair. Endure.

Messiah said, “But the one who endures to the end will be saved” (Matt. 24:13). Jacob prayed: deliver me, save me. And he was. He walked out the salvation of the Lord. His walk may not have looked like ours, and that really does not concern me. Why? We are fruit from that night. We are the infilling of the void Jacob faced. We are evidence of what was yet unseen to Jacob (Heb. 11:1), but known to the Man who wrestled, touched, and then ascended to heaven until the fullness of time had come.

If you are limping in life right now, drop the cane, and take hold of Yeshua/Jesus’ hand. He will walk with you, as He bears the weight of your circumstance, even as you limp along. In the limp, you are saying to all those watching, and they are watching: I know in Whom I have trusted!

“For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day” (II Tim. 1:12).

Be well. Shalom.

Rest, a Betrothal

Beautifully, Shabbat in rabbinic tradition is sometimes pictured as a bride, or an approaching bride. The idea that we learn from this is that rest with the bridegroom is to be the condition of the bride – leading to the use of white tablecloths, and fine dinnerware on Shabbat.

In Exodus and Deuteronomy, two different words introduce the commandment regarding shabbat: remember and observe, respectively.

What does it mean to זָכוֹר, “remember” the Sabbath or to שָׁמוֹר, “guard” the Sabbath? What does it mean that “Sabbath was made for man (the betrothed), not man for the Sabbath?” Or, “the Son of Man is Lord (the Bridegroom), even of the Sabbath?”

Shabbat is a memorial of things accomplished/done in the past (remember), and a resting from what we are attempting to get done for the future (observe). It is, at heart, a recognition of Lordship, even headship.

It is a blessed day of “shabbating,” of resting. We might understand it in this way: Shabbat is the spiritual worship of God by the temporal rest of man – it is an act of worship through rest. It is the day our bodies worship by saying “ah!” and our heart and minds say “Hallelujah!”

Yet, there is more.

In Leviticus 23:3 we read, וּבַיּוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי שַׁבַּת שַׁבָּתוֹן מִקְרָא-קֹדֶשׁ, “and the seventh day is a Sabbath of rest, a holy gathering.” “Sabbath” and “rest” in this verse (שַׁבַּת שַׁבָּתוֹן) come from the same root שָׁבַת, meaning “to repose, desist, cease, rest, cessation or to sit down.” When we speak of Shabbat, we are really speaking of resting – specifically sitting/reclining. But what is it we are “rehearsing,” rendered “holy gathering” above?

The marriage feast of the Lamb.

Rest, then, becomes a sign – a betrothal sign (Matt. 11:28). It is a rehearsal of the Bride and the Bridegroom uniting as one. We now remember, anticipate, and set in right perspective the work He has set before us (Eph. 2:10). It is a living sign of the past redemption, and the future redemption, as a semi-eschatological redemptive rest – living out the now but not yet, as we await:

“And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God” (Rev. 19:9).

How blessed we are now, and how blessed we indeed yet to be!

Shabbat Shalom.