There is an old story of two men sitting and discussing life. One man says to the other, “I really love you brother, you are my best friend.” The other responds, “If you really love me, tell me where I hurt.”
Messiah Yeshua/Jesus has called us friends; He has called us brothers; and He has assured us of the love that He has for us.
It isn’t always possible for those close to us to know where we are hurt – as we, believing that we are protecting ourselves, continually work at keeping the hurt hidden.
Messiah, however, knows exactly where the hurt is and how to heal that hurt; as it is part of the promise of His coming:
Isaiah 61:1, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to announce good news to the poor. He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted; to proclaim freedom to the captives, to let out into light those bound in the dark…”
It was said: unforgiveness caused the holy altar in the Jerusalem Temple to weep. Why? Unforgiveness.
Unforgiveness, from an intentional act or something unintentional, separates; it divides.
The altar is the place where sacrifice was offered. One word for sacrifice קָרְבָּן/qārbān, means to draw near, and is from a root meaning to approach or be near to; it is also the root of cherub. The altar is where man approached God; and then, from a place of His forgiveness, he would then reconnect to man. Drawing near to God will inevitably draw us nearer to others.
The first sacrifice listed in Leviticus 1 is the עֹלָה קָרְבָּנוֹ, the Burnt Offering, or raising up and near to sacrifice. It was a total offering to God, representing the worshipper giving himself totally to God (Ro. 12:1); but it could not be given while in unforgiveness. As one draws near, and the other divides.
In that divide we dwell alone, giving not to God or others, but only to ourselves; as we cultivate the fruit of unforgiveness in our lives. The heart principle of godly sacrifice was giving our best to God, not ourselves. When we give we draw close. When we give the best of ourselves, we then invest ourselves, our lives, not in ourselves, but God.
“And the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone.”
When we are alone, in unforgiveness, we give to ourselves, and only ourselves. In fact, we take, rather than give. Isolation breaks us down, drives us inward, not outward.
Messiah Yeshua/Jesus taught:
“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matt. 6:14-15).
Additionally, at the conclusion of the parable of the unforgiving servant (Matt. 18:21-35): “So also My heavenly Father will do to you, unless each of you, from your hearts, forgives his brother” (Matt. 18:35). Note the word “torture” in verse 34, not that God Himself will torture us; but rather, we will actually become our own torturers. Allowing torment to reside in our hearts and minds.
Why would He not forgive us in our unforgiveness towards others? We can answer this in many valid ways, but it is simple: unforgiveness not only divides us from those we are not forgiving, it separates us from Him. We turn, as it were, not to Him, but away from Him. We can rationalize unforgiveness in many ways, but in the end, extending forgiveness is not for them but for us. They may not want it, ask for it, or know they need it; but the act of forgiveness releases us from holding a debt that accrues bitterness, resentment, anger, and hatred. Yes, there is no condemnation for those in Christ (Ro. 8:1), but neither would we be living rightly by the Spirit of God in Christ while walking in unforgiveness!
If the sages conceived of the altar crying due to unforgiveness, how much more does our Father in heaven weep at unforgiveness? How much more does He agonize over our separations?
There is so much unforgiveness in the world; and surprisingly, it is rampant in the congregation of God as well. No matter the reason, it is not good for man to be alone; but especially alone in unforgiveness. It’s time we trust in the grace that God has extended in forgiveness, and experience the power of the Gospel in our lives once again. We must learn to place our hurt, and the cause of it, upon Messiah, whereby we draw close to Him and every promise found in Him (II Cor. 1:20). He gave us the example, while nailed to the cross, bloodied and beaten: “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.” Yes, we are not that strong, and we are not Him; BUT, we are in Him, therefore, we can, we will, and we must. Yet, it takes humility. Listen to Peter’s words:
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (I Pet. 5:6-7).
Two little words. One, a conjunction. The other, a proper noun. Yet, these two little words are powerful, restorative, and they allow us to see the heart of our Messiah.
Peter gives me hope. He should also give you hope. Why? He often said the wrong things, did the wrong things, and acted more like a fisherman than an apostle. He could be stiff-necked, short tempered, and bold about the wrong things; but God.
Two little words show us the heart of Yeshua/Jesus after His resurrection for His friend; his lost friend.
One of the angels at the tomb said to Miriam, “But go, tell His disciples and Peter, ‘He is going before them to the Galilee…” (Mk. 16:7). Amplified: “Go and tell the disciples where He will be Miriam, and tell Peter!”
There is a distinction. The disciples. And Peter.
We all know Peter denied Yeshua (Mk. 15:66-72). His denial disqualified him. Peter attempted to stand for Yeshua in his own strength. His strength failed. This was Peter’s mistake. Peter, not yet empowered by the risen Messiah, could not stand against a simple question or assertion. This strong man fell by the words of a young girl.
I am sure most of you are familiar with Peter’s restoration in John 21:15-17; but Yeshua already revealed His plan for restoration, even before Peter’s repentance.
“But go, tell His disciples, and Peter…”
Mark, who is recording his gospel according to Peter’s testimony, is the only one to record “and Peter.” Matthew had no need to. Luke would have closely investigated the matter and found it an accepted fact. John has his own restoration of Peter. The angel announced what others might have doubted – that Peter, who publicly denied Yeshua, would be restored.
Before Peter could announce the Gospel to Jerusalem in Acts 2, to Gentiles in Acts 10, and defend the inclusion of those who should be excluded in Acts 15, Peter – the one who should be excluded, but was not only included, but used mightily – he, personally experienced the power of Messiah’s restoration.
When things are not going the way we had hoped, it is easy to believe that perhaps we have done something, intentionally or unintentionally, to deny Messiah. Thus, we are excluded from the family of disciples. What Peter did not do was separate himself from “the disciples.” He was there in the upper room. He was there on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. He was there at the Great Commission. Perhaps he was thinking that his time as a disciple was over, but he stayed in fellowship: but God, and Peter.
When you feel disqualified, excluded, unloved, forgotten, whatever it might be, think of Peter. He denied Yeshua, to His face. He failed. Yet, Jesus made sure it was announced, via heavens messenger, that Peter knew where He would be. He wanted Peter there, with them.
In times of crisis, remember God’s promises, and learn to say, “tell his disciples and ______ …” put your name in there. Personalize it. He wants you to know where He is, because He is preparing a place, with Him, just for you: “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you” (Jn. 14:2).
Reading the lists of clean and unclean foods and animals found in the Bible can seem pointless, even extremely antiquated. Yet, there is a rabbinic teaching that says the lists of clean and unclean food are not so much about the food, but about us. We should not take on, as we might say, the qualities of forbidden foods.
But what of the stork? It’s on the forbidden list (Deut. 14:18), but why?
Stork in Hebrew is חֲסִידָה/ḥăsîḏâ, meaning: the kind bird, stork. It’s from the root חָסִיד/ḥāsîḏ, meaning pious, godly, holy, merciful, saint. Aren’t these good qualities? Well, yes. We are to be holy disciples of Messiah, saints. Appearances, however, can sometimes be deceiving.
The stork identified in the Bible was recognized for its kindly, compassionate behavior, but only to storks of its kind. Towards other birds, they were noted to be cruel at times.
The message is simple, our kindness, godliness, mercy, and grace is to extend beyond those of our own “kind,” beyond those like us. We cannot adopt a storks faith. We must recognize the image of God in the human other, even those we do not know, recognize or relate to, and respond according to His Word.
Messiah examples this for us in John 4, by His interaction with the Samaritan woman of unsavory character, delivering a message of forgiveness and recovery. Also, in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Lk. 10), making a recognized enemy the hero of the drama. Messiah warns against acting hypocritically, directing us to act faithfully (Lev. 19:18, 34).
It is easy to act in a kindly manner toward those most like ourselves; but we do not live righteousness in a vacuum. We live His Word in a complex world, with many different peoples, and customs.
Take the kindness the Living God has shown you, show it to those close to you, but also to those you do not know, probably would choose not to know, and there, you will learn the depths of His amazing grace. Difficult, but God. Hallelujah!
I recently thanked someone for the little, unseen things that they do. Most people would never know that they were being done, except me. As those little things help me to make ministry and communal life better. The little things done that few notice, really says that we care.
I was meditating on one word recently: if. From the Torah portion of Ekev, meaning “because of,” or “on the heels of,” or “as a result of.” וְהָיָה עֵקֶב תִּשְׁמְעוּן, “And it shall come to pass, if you listen…” (Deut. 7:12).
One little word, עֵקֶב/Ekev, translated “if” or “because.” This word is often translated as “heel,” and is the root of the name Jacob, or יַעֲקֹב, so named because he grabbed the heel of his brother Esau.
Why translate עֵקֶב/Ekev as “if” in this instance? Just as the heel is a small, but important part of the human body, there are commands of God that seem small, but are also important. They can easily be overlooked, left out, not thought of, but as Moses explains:
“He, God, will love you, bless you, and multiply you. He will also bless the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground, your grain and your wine and your oil, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock, in the land that he swore to your fathers to give you” (Deut. 7:13).
As we walk along the way in life, using that seemingly insignificant heel to stabilize our steps, even as we do those seemingly insignificant acts along the way that few will notice, God will. In the doing of the small things, we demonstrate not only a love for God, but also our fellow: seeing, noticing, and helping.
“If,” “heel,” as you walk, do, even if it seems unimportant, if God commanded it: it is. If the community or your family needs it, do it. It’s not only the grand gestures that demonstrate our love, but those little things tended to that really say: love.
As Messiah Yeshua/Jesus taught us, “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much” (Lk. 16:10).
Be faithful with the little things, and they will add up to greater things than we could have imagined.