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.

Fruitfulness Over Forgetfulness

Jacob lived a life. He had wrestled with his older brother Esau. He wrestled with God. He wrestled with his own sons. Now, as his life is coming to an end, he blesses Joseph, with whom he has been able to live in Egypt for seventeen years. The Torah says:

וַיְבָרֶךְ אֶת-יוֹסֵף

“And he (Jacob) blessed Joseph” (Gen. 48:15).

Yet, as we note in Genesis 48:14-16, Jacob did not bless Joseph, he blessed Joseph’s sons. Moreover, he blessed the younger, Ephraim, with his right hand and the older, Manasseh, with his left hand. Has Jacob not learned from the mistakes of the past?

Yes, he most certainly has learned. His father Isaac promised over his uncle Ishmael. Jacob himself was blessed over Esau; and now Joseph’s younger is blessed over the older!

Jacob blessed both boys, thereby blessing Joseph, and ultimately blesses the covenant mission of God’s people throughout the generations.

“And Jacob said: ‘Bring them, I pray thee, unto me, and I will bless them” (Gen. 48:9). The blessing was not for just one of them, but for both of them. Yet, Jacob has to set the younger before the older. Why? Their names: Ephraim before Manasseh.

Joseph named his sons during two seasons of his life: healing and prosperity.

Manasseh comes from a root meaning to forget. Forget what? The pain he has suffered by the hands of his brothers. He wants to forget; by this we note that he has not yet come to a place of forgiveness.

Ephraim is from a root meaning fruitful. Joseph had prospered in Egypt. He had a wife, children, and a position of great authority. This he wants to remember.

Jacob does not want to bless the forgetting over the fruitfulness, because it is when we recognize the blessing, the fruitfulness of our lives, that we walk in the healing that causes us to forgive and forget the pain, allowing us to echo Josephs words:

“And as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive” (Gen. 50:20; cf. Ro. 8:28-29).

Joseph then demonstrates this deep forgiveness:

“Now therefore do not fear; I will sustain you, and your little ones.’ And he comforted them, and spoke kindly unto them” (Gen. 50:21).

Joseph demonstrates the strength and forgetfulness of forgiveness by caring for and sustaining the very ones who inflicted harm upon him.

This is how Jacob blessed Joseph. He set the fruit of Joseph’s life under the right hand of strength, and the wounded desire to forget second. Jacob, the patriarch aids in his sons healing by showing Joseph the fruit that came from the pain.

Both Ephraim and Manasseh would become adopted sons of Jacob, and receive an inheritance among the tribes of Israel. Paul sees in Jacob’s prophetic words regarding Ephraim “and his seed shall become a multitude of nations” (Gen. 50:19) the fullness of gospel fruit among the nations, as he writes:

“Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in” (Ro. 11:25).

“Hardness,” a healing callous, has come over Israel until the prophetic words of Jacob come to pass, when the fullness of the nations come to faith in Messiah. When blessed fruitfulness ripens on the vine of Yeshua/Jesus (Jn. 15:1-4).

Still, there is another clue that Paul is perhaps meditating on the blessing of adopted sons into the economy of God. What I’ve overlooked in years past is the reaction of the boys, Ephraim and Manasseh.

Ishmael, separated and put out by Abraham, is understandably distraught. Esau weeps and wails before Isaac. The sons of Jacob wrestle and jockey for the advantaged position in the house. Yet, Ephraim and Manasseh remain silent. These were not boys, they were men; and in silent humility they receive the prophetic divine blessing of the patriarch. One does not boast or react negatively toward the other.

What does Paul say to the Roman congregation, “do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you” (Ro. 11:18). What is Paul saying? Be humble. Receive the blessing of adoption as sons into God’s house with humility, and be part of His unfolding blessing to Abraham (Rev. 7:9).

How can we do that? Set the blessing of God, even during our tribulations, first, under the right hand of His might (Isa. 41:10); and allow Him to work the forgetfulness of forgiveness into the richness of His blessing, as we see in the life of Joseph (Mic. 7:18-20). Is it easy? Absolutely not. Yet, we set our faith on the Lord, and walk out the grace that we have received through His Son, as the Holy Spirit does the work of pressing and molding us into the image of the Son of God (Ro. 8:28-29).

Sometimes the depth of forgiveness surfaces when we walk it out, when the wounds are still fresh or as they heal beneath a callous. Trust Him. He knows what He is doing.

Be well. Shalom.

A Lesson from … Esau?

“And Rebecca took the beloved garments of her older son Esau that were in the house…” (Gen. 27:15).

וַתִּקַּח רִבְקָה אֶת-בִּגְדֵי עֵשָׂו בְּנָהּ הַגָּדֹל, הַחֲמֻדֹת, אֲשֶׁר אִתָּהּ, בַּבָּיִת

I am always amazed that we can read verses of Scripture, and even teach them year after year, and miss one beautiful detail.

If anyone knows anything about Esau, it is that he and Jacob struggled, and that Jacob was chosen by God over him to continue the covenant established with Abraham. He is portrayed, and rightly so, as a wild man, “Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field” (Gen. 25:27), one whose brides caused bitterness of spirit to his father and mother (Gen. 26:34-35).

Still, there is an interesting detail in the verse above regarding the preparation of Jacob as Rebecca disguised him, she used הַחֲמֻדֹת, אֲשֶׁר אִתָּהּ, בַּבָּיִת, beloved, precious (הַחֲמֻדֹת) garments belonging to Esau that were in her house.

Esau had his own house, wives, family, so why were his beloved garments there? The rabbis explain, that when Esau would appear before his aging father Isaac, he would change into his favorite, most important clothes; clothes that he kept in his parents house. Why?

Esau loved and respected his father. Isaac was nearly blind at this time (Gen. 27:1), and he would not notice the quality of Esau’s clothing. He couldn’t see Esau’s clothing. Yet, Esau could. Rather than appearing before his father in the same clothing he had hunted and butchered in, Esau, for the love and respect of his beloved father, change into his best clothes before visiting Isaac.

Rebecca, knowing this, used those very beloved, purposely placed clothes, to deceive Isaac when she disguised Jacob; and it was perhaps in those very beloved clothes that Jacob ran for his life (Gen. 27:43). In his anger, Esau then did what was displeasing in his fathers eyes, and took a daughter from his uncle Ishmael (Gen. 28:8-9).

Esau wore his finest garments in order to show respect for his father, a gesture that Isaac was unable to recognize. It was from a genuine love and respect that Esau had for him, after all, Isaac and Esau shared a close father and son relationship (Gen. 25:28). Esau was not posturing to gain favor, as that he already had. No, it was Jacob who wore Esau’s outward expression of love and respect in order to complete the ruse of his mother, thus trampling on Esau.

The life and lessons of Esau are often overlooked in light of his many mistakes, but the love he had for Isaac should not be overlooked. It was genuine. Esau was not perfect, but neither was he outside the Abrahamic tent of kindness.

Even after his brother steals his birthright and blessing, and runs for his life, it is Esau who, years later, “ran to meet him (Jacob), and embraced him, and fell on his neck, and kissed him; and they wept” (Gen. 33:4). This action was rooted in the same love and respect that Esau had for their father, kindness perhaps learned from Abraham himself.

Sometimes a small detail, even the placement of clothes, can open our eyes enough to see someone differently than we have before. God did not choose Esau, and that is His sovereign design; but there are still valuable lessons we can learn from him, as it says in Pirkei Avot 4:1, “Ben Zoma said: Who is wise? He who learns from all men, as it is written, “I have gained understanding from all my teachers” (Psalm 119:99). And Paul exhorts us, “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good” (Ro. 12:9).

Esau loved Isaac, and he ultimately showed his love for Isaac by loving and welcoming home his brother Jacob, and years later they, together, buried their father (Gen. 35:29).

Be well. Shalom.