Calling the Weary

Many of us remember the days when our parents would call us in from playing outside, play that usually began in early morning and went all day. At times it may take a shout or two for us to hear, but we would eventually respond; and when we finally did return home, undoubtedly we would hear, “You come when I call you.”

In Matthew 11:28-30 we read, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Today I suppose those neighborhood shouts have been exchanged for text messages, if kids do in fact still play outside. Nevertheless, Yeshua/Jesus isn’t texting us, He is calling us, beckoning us to Himself. We often interpret His call as an invitation, but it really is a parental demand, “Come to Me…”

When we consider this text, we note that Yeshua is calling those who labor, physically or emotionally, and those who are heavy with cares. The reward for obedience to His call is: rest.

He directs us to take His “yoke” upon ourselves, as in the yoke of oxen, and He will bear the load of our labor. He then directs us to “learn” from Him, learn how to walk in faith, humble in heart and gentle in spirit, it is a call by Yeshua for us to learn how to trust in the Him.

Dr. J. Rodman Williams explains of this calling, “On one occasion Jesus declared, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden…I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls.” Jesus was One who would “not break a bruised reed or quench a smoldering wick.” He was gentle with broken spirits, with weary and torn people, with all who cried out for help. In relation to the Thessalonians Paul writes, “We were gentle among you, like a nurse taking care of her children.”

As children we often considered the calling of our parents to be spoiling our fun, when in reality it was a means of care and ultimately a source of comfort. They would feed us, tend to us, and ultimately keep us safe.

This is exactly why Yeshua is calling us. He is asking us to not attempt to “figure” it all out on our own, but to turn to Him in prayer, in faith, and He will give us comfort and rest.

Here is my final thought to you: after you have prayed, be sure to listen for the sound of HIs voice echoing in your life, directing your steps in the way He has ordained, doing so is an obedient response to “coming when called.”

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.

Demonstrative Thanksgiving

“Give thanks to the Lord, He is good; for His mercy endures forever,” הֹדוּ לַיהוָה כִּי-טוֹב: כִּי לְעוֹלָם חַסְדּוֹ (Ps. 107:1).

It is a precious sight, that of family and/or friends, the young and the old, gathered around a beautiful table of blessing, food prepared over the course of days for a single united time of feasting. Followed by, thankfully, careful preparation and distribution of abundant leftovers.

Many have a unique dynamic within their families that make the day of Thanksgiving a collection of cherished memories. For some, it is the enjoyment of hearing what their relatives are thankful for from the previous year. For others it’s the food and conversation. Some enjoy cooking. Others enjoy the leftovers that always seem to taste better the second or third time around. Finally, for some, it’s the enjoyment of a parade or a football game, and, I would add, for a few very special people, the hunt of Black Friday.

Still, Thanksgiving Day is not simply a remembrance of a bountiful feast long ago celebrated by Pilgrim settlers in Plymouth. It is a very real and present necessity for those who follow the Messiah: it is the necessity of being a grateful, or thankful people. Thanksgiving is not actually a Pilgrim or American creation, but an expression of gratitude rooted in the Bible.

Leviticus 7:11-12 says, “This is the law of the sacrifice of the peace offerings which he shall offer to the Lord: If he offers it for a thanksgiving, then he shall offer, with the sacrifice of thanksgiving, unleavened cakes mixed with oil…”

וְזֹאת תּוֹרַת, זֶבַח הַשְּׁלָמִים, אֲשֶׁר יַקְרִיב, לַיהוָה

אִם עַל-תּוֹדָה, יַקְרִיבֶנּוּ–וְהִקְרִיב עַל-זֶבַח הַתּוֹדָה חַלּוֹת מַצּוֹת בְּלוּלֹת בַּשֶּׁמֶן

The thanksgiving offering, which is one expression of the peace offering, was regarded as a supreme type of sacrifice in the Holy Temple. In this sacrifice, the rabbis teach, all other sacrifices complete their educational purpose, as it teaches of the importance of gratitude.

Ingratitude, in biblical and rabbinic literature, is regarded as a sin that reduces man below the level of an animal, which is why we must be reminded, from time to time, to stop and give thanks.

The celebration that surrounded the thanksgiving offering was very much like our Thanksgiving observance today, as Alfred Edersheim comments, “Then, after the priests had received their due, the rest (of the thanksgiving offering) was to be eaten by the offerers (and their families) themselves, either within the courts of the Temple or in Jerusalem” (cf. Lev. 7:15).

Thanksgiving unto the Lord is encouraged throughout the Scriptures, as examples, “Offer to God thanksgiving…” and, “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving…” and, “Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving…” and as the apostle Paul wrote, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God…” (Phil. 4:6(.

Thanksgiving (תּוֹדָה) in Hebrew means “extending of the hands up in adoration;” it’s a demonstrative action of the body. In Greek, thanksigiving (ευχαριστία) is “grateful language to God;” this is an expression of the heart.

Dear reader, this Thanksgiving demonstrate thankfulness, gratitude, to the Lord in both action and speech. How do you do this? Demonstrate the love that you have for family, friends, and even strangers, with words of kindness that shows the love of Messiah. In doing so, you build lasting memories that will always be a memory of thanksgiving in action, and a lifting of hearts and hands in praise.

Be well. Shalom, and Happy Thanksgiving.