Posts Tagged With: humility

Know Your Place

The Spirit of Shavuot

After reading this past week’s Torah portion, B’midbar,[1] and celebrating the fourth Biblical festival of Shavuot (Pentecost), I began to think about our various “positions” before Adonai. The Mussar middah (character trait) humility has at its core the question of a person’s proper place. A balanced person neither thinks too highly of himself nor too lowly. Likewise, he or she doesn’t focus too much on self or on the faults of others. This sounds so simple, but the issue of humility is a great struggle for most of us. (Me included!)

signIn parsha B’midbar, HaShem described not only the placement of each individual tribe as they camped, but also outlined the order in which they would travel and go to war. The tribal leaders were named and the duties of the priests for the movement of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) were established. Adonai is very specific and organized. There was no question as to one’s duty or placement in the body of Israel. Today, instead of knowing our place, we seem to be “all over the place” in both physicality and deed; each thinking his way, interpretation, or understanding is higher or better.

This creates confusion, not unity. Instead of being united like the believers at Shavuot in Acts Chapter 2, we seem to be more scattered and divided like they were after Messiah’s last Passover and subsequent crucifixion. Using this as a model, we know that Yeshua’s desire was for them to come back together as one people at Shavuot. This is why the risen Messiah told them during the days of the Omer count to go to Jerusalem and WAIT for the promise of being “clothed with power from on high.”

“And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”  (Luke 24:49 NASB. See also Acts 1:4)

We all know what happened next.

And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. (Acts 2:1 KJV)

When we fully come into the Spirit of Shavuot, we know our proper estate. Can you even imagine how glorious the unity of the people was? Look at what their actions produced; it’s eerily similar to when God spoke the Ten Words to the people standing at the base of Mt. Sinai at an earlier Shavuot:

And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.  (3)  And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.  (4)  And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. (Acts 2:2-4 KJV)

So it came about on the third day, when it was morning, that there were thunder and lightning flashes and a thick cloud upon the mountain and a very loud trumpet sound, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled.  (17)  And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain.  (18)  Now Mount Sinai was all in smoke because the LORD descended upon it in fire; and its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked violently.  (19)  When the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and God answered him with thunder. (Ex. 19:16-19 NASB)

Adonai descended upon Mount Sinai in fire at the giving of the Ten Commandments and the people trembled. Later He descended in fire again, but this time, instead of manifesting on a mountain, the fire sat upon the people that had gathered at His Mountain (Zion). Like the mountain, the people were not consumed. In both cases, the Word of Adonai went forth like FIRE at the feast of Shavuot!

The people in each of the above examples were unified. I dare say that their theology was NOT what united them. It’s difficult to find two people that have the same opinion on any given matter. Jews have a saying to express this: “two Jews, three opinions.” So, what did unite the people? Or better yet, what CAN unify us?

The two most memorable Shavuot festivals have at their heart two great leaders. And there is one trait that both are said to possess that I find most fitting for us to focus on within the theme of unity. Moses is called the most humble man on earth.[2] Later, the one like unto Moses[3] is also called humble.[4] By following Moses’ and Yeshua’s example, it’s not our theology and opinions that binds us into one accord. Rather, it’s our willingness to “know our place” or live in a state of humility.

The Humility of Shavuot

“Always seek to learn wisdom from everyone, to recognize your failings and correct them. In doing so you will learn to stop thinking about your virtues and you will take your mind off your friend’s faults.”Cheshbon ha-Nefesh by Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Satanov.

If there is one thing that I notice more than anything on television, the blogosphere, and social media, it is that our focus is continually on the faults of others. I see very little introspection and meekness. As Rabbi Menachem mentions in the above quote, it is by seeking to learn wisdom from EVERYONE that we are enabled to really see our own failings and correct them.

Everyone? Even the heathen, pagan, atheist, and cult follower? Most would squawk that these lost souls have no wisdom. Is this true? The last time I checked, they too were made in the image of God. While they may need redemption, they too, are a holy soul and Adonai cares greatly for them. Pride is what causes us to assume that we have nothing to learn from these precious ones.

But, this is also true of those that we interact with from the redeemed. Just because Joe Schmoe doesn’t think, believe, or act out his walk with the LORD exactly like you do, doesn’t mean that you are better than him or that he doesn’t have something to teach you. Again, it’s PRIDE that keeps us from gathering together. I’ll give you an example from my own life.

Years ago, I was part of a congregation in FL. The local Seventh-Day Adventist (SDA) church allowed us to meet in their building. I personally don’t think or believe like SDAs. Other than obeying the Sabbath, I thought I didn’t have much in common with these folks. One day, the SDA group asked us to join with them to break bread. To be honest, I didn’t really want to go. My prideful little self secretly thought, “What could they possibly teach me at this point?” I know you’ve never had a thought like that about a person or group, but I freely admit my debauchery to you anyway.

FootwashingLong story short, I went… begrudgingly. The meal was fine. It was more or less a communion service in their fellowship hall. Since I associate communion with Passover, I felt that the meal wasn’t quite “accurate.” (More pride.) Then, something odd happened. The people rose from their seats and began to break off for a foot washing ceremony. Without anyone leading, spontaneous songs and hymns began to flow from the lips of these people. A sweet Spirit entered our midst and I think my mouth hung open, lol.

Married couples went to one room. Singles of the same sex went off into two other areas (children included). A sink and a stack of basins were in each room for us to gather water. One spouse sat while fresh, warm water was poured over the other’s feet. Song and praise continued to flow throughout the building. It was one of the most touching experiences I’ve ever had in my life. The water was just water, but it felt like SO much more than that.

It was SO much more than that! Adonai humbled me in a way that day that I will NEVER forget. Washing someone else’s feet is the epitome of humility. But, I honestly believe it takes even MORE humility to have someone else wash YOUR feet.

Feet are the lowest part of our bodies. Since they are what touch the earth and because they are what carry our every weight and burden, they are likened to our nephesh (soul/flesh). They are our beast (of burden). And they get dirty. They, more than any other part of us, need frequent washings. You can walk around in the dirt all day and your hands can remain clean, but not your feet.

Some of you may know that I’m a licensed manicurist. I give pedicures (wash, clean, and manicure of the feet) all the time. I actually enjoy it. I consider it a privilege to care for a person in this way that is often difficult for them to do for themselves. But without soap, sweet ointments, or even toenail polish, the foot washing that I gave and received at that little SDA church has stood out as the best of the best.

Having my feet washed in the presence of Adonai and His people nearly overwhelmed me. The chip on my shoulder fell off the minute the water touched my toes. This is the Spirit of Shavuot. I wanted to separate myself out like the disciples did at Passover and Unleavened Bread, but Abba wanted me to humble myself and gather together with His people in one accord and one place.

Shavout isn’t about perfect doctrine or halachah. It is one of the pilgrimage feasts and as such, it is literally a FOOT festival. You must tame your feet and direct them to Jerusalem to receive the promise of the Father. The journey will make your feet both tired and dirty, but when you arrive, true disciples will be there with fresh water and songs of praise on their lips. Better yet, YOU will be there happy to wash the grime and mud off of your neighbor’s feet.

The heart of the commandments is LOVE. And there is no better way to express the love for your brother than to wash his feet. In a sense, this humble act says; let me wash the dirt from your lower nature. I know walking through life gets your soul muddy. I understand. I too, have a dirty nephesh. Let me refresh you. Allow me to care for you by meeting a need we all share regardless of our theology or lack thereof. I love you anyway. Let me learn something from you. You matter to me.

If we think about Moses and Yeshua, didn’t they do exactly this? Both dealt with imperfect and challenging people. Both humbled themselves and SERVED the people. They knew their place. Instead of calling fire down from heaven to destroy those with dirty feet, they tenderly washed the people.[5] The result was a fiery Word in the mouth of Israel.

Since Shavuot is about the Bride receiving her ketubah (Torah Covenant) and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, I thought it would be fitting to conclude with the words of Abigail, a bride of King David. Let’s see what wisdom this model bride can teach us:

woman-kneeling-in-prayerWhen the servants of David came to Abigail at Carmel, they spoke to her, saying, “David has sent us to you to take you as his wife.” She arose and bowed with her face to the ground and said, Behold, your maidservant is a maid to wash the feet of my lord’s servants.” (1Sam. 25:40-41)

Abigail was a humble bride; one any king would desire. She proved this through the selfless action of foot washing. Shavuot beckons us to ask: “What do I do with the feet of those I encounter? Do I step on their toes? Do I turn my nose up at their grime? Or do I bow down low and tenderly wash them clean?” May we become a maidservant like Abigail. When the King comes to take us as His Bride, may we know our place as ones who wash the feet of His servants!


[1] Numbers 1:1- 4:20. B’midbar literally means “in the wilderness”.

[2] Now the man Moses was very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth. (Num. 12:3)

[3] “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me [Moses] from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him.” (Dt. 18:15)

[4] “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Mat. 11:29-30)

[5] Ex. 19:10-11; John 13:5-13

Categories: Moedim, Mussar, Torah Portions | Tags: , , , , , | 8 Comments

Torah Portion: Korach

Numbers 16:1-18:32; 1 Sam. 11:14-12:22; 2 Tim. 2:8-21; Jude 1-25   (K. Gallagher 2011)

 

Korach’s Rebellion

Do we sometimes feel that YHWH has been unfair to us? I shamefully have at times. We know from reading the p’shat or literal meaning of this portion that Korach’s desire is wicked and rebellious. Yet, Korach felt that he was a better choice to lead the people. I’ve been around people like Korach; they desire a form of the priesthood also. They are those that always find fault with leadership and as a result they begin to vocalize their opinions to others in the congregation. Whether they realize it or not, like Korach, they are drawing others unto themselves.

Those that participate in such activities usually do so under the banner of holiness or righteousness. They accuse the leadership in place of not being as righteous or as holy as they should be. Perhaps they accuse the leadership of not being as Torah observant as themselves. They forget that those leaders have been allowed to operate and function by YHWH Himself. Sure there are some legitimate reasons to confront a leader – like when there is proof of blatant or unrepentant sin. However, far more often than not, that leader is functioning just as YHWH has planned. Among Messianics, there is usually a family or group of families that comes against the leadership because of particular halachah (specific ways a community keeps a commandment) and not sin. And thus, I must wonder if they are in the rebellion like Korach.

Korach felt that he and all Israel were holy. While it is true that those that follow the Elohim of Israel and keep His commandments are holy, the real question is holy for what? In Hebrew the word for holy is “kadosh;” it means to be set-apart for something. But that something can be good or wicked. Kadosh doesn’t function like our English word for holy. This is why in Hebrew a harlot is also called holy; she is set apart for her task or god. The question is to what or to whom are you set apart? We must strive to be “kadosh l’YHWH,” Holy unto Adonai. There is a big difference.

One striking thing that cannot be overlooked is the condition of the camp at the time this rebellion took place. Last week, the Israelites learned that their lack of fear and trust in the God of Israel would cost their generation the Promised Land. They believed the report given by the 10 negative spies and once again grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The consequences of their sin must have seemed unbearable. Emotions had to be running high in the camp as they pondered their predicament: They would spend the rest of their earthly lives in the wilderness.

With a judgment like that looming over your head, Korach’s message would have been enticing to say the least. Thoughts would race through your mind possibly like the following: “Perhaps, Moses heard wrong. Maybe Korach is right. YHWH loves us too, right? He said we were holy. Look where Moses and Aaron have gotten us—nowhere! It’s not as if Moses and Aaron are perfect. They make mistakes too! Perhaps He will start all over with us! Yes, that’s it! We will get to the Promised Land; glory to God, A-men!” And on and on it would go. You see, it would feel like the right thing to do because it would make your flesh feel better about your lot in life. When YHWH says we don’t get to go somewhere or we don’t get to do something – He means it. We must learn to rest in His sovereignty and FEAR Him and Him alone. YHWH always has us right where He wants us. Whether or not we like it doesn’t matter. Our duty is to fear Him and Keep His commandments and to do so with a spirit of joy! It is possible… with Him. (Mt. 19:26)

Back Up

Let’s rewind this story a bit and ensure that we don’t find ourselves wearing the shoes of rebellion. The first spark of dissent happens after the people (20 years and older) realize that their dreams of entering the Land will NEVER be grasped. People that have had their dreams or agendas crushed are dangerous. Sadly, their fate is a consequence of their own making (sin). Instead of accepting the Creator’s sovereign ruling, the people want someone to blame. They look to the earthly leadership and plan a mutiny, even though the real culprits are their own evil inclinations and mistakes. Do you suppose that we are any different today?

Moses realizes the enormity of the people’s actions and humbly tries to quiet their emotions by bowing with his face to the ground before Adonai (he has a servant heart!) and reasoning with the people. He then devises a plan for all those in rebellion and the current leadership to offer incense before YHWH. By this, Adonai would affirm His choice of leadership. But Moses’ words of wisdom do not appease the people. As a matter of fact, they have become so prideful that they continue the onslaught of accusations against Moses and refuse to come when he requests their presence. (vs. 12)

Instead of looking at the real problem (their own evil hearts), they blame Moses. I believe this occurs again and again in our own assemblies. And, in other areas of our life. In 16:13-14, it becomes obvious that the people have deluded themselves into believing that their punishment is Moses’ fault. While it is most apparent to us that their accusations are completely unwarranted, the people feel justified in their actions.

When issues of halachah surface in our assemblies, often the accusers are simply rebelling as Korach did. They refuse to submit to the ruling of the leadership under the guise of “holiness.” These people, like Korach, really believe that their interpretation of halachah is more divine or biblical than the community’s current standards. And somehow they feel that it is their duty to “set everyone else straight.” They become the Torah police, controlling the people. When the leadership humbly tries to reason with the accusers, they puff-up in pride and usually spew verbal bullets (scripture proof texts) in retaliation. Is this not exactly what Korach and his company did?

You see, like Korach and his cohorts, we often react in similar fashion when we don’t get our way. Like little children, we kick and scream and blurt out false accusations toward leadership. Our evil inclinations can conjure up a myriad of threats, allegations, and blame. If the accused tries to humbly squelch the outrage, the people usually respond as Dathan and Abriam and refuse to make amends. I believe that by this point, pride has such a hold on the person or persons that they cannot repent. Like Korach, pride has completely blinded them to the truth and to reason. Sadly, what results is usually a sharp division of fellowship. But, the leadership cannot allow this spirit to proliferate. Like Moses, they must turn them over to YHWH.

The thing I don’t want you to miss is how “subtle” Korach’s initial argument was. In 16:3, everything Korach said about the people was true: the people were holy and YHWH was in their midst. This was the hook Korach used to drag the people away in his revolt. In reality, the people and Korach didn’t like the judgment YHWH made about their sin. They wanted to leave the wilderness and enter the Land. Realizing that they would never get there with “Moses” as leader, they decided that just perhaps, another leader would get them there.

In our assemblies today, this same thing plays out again and again. The “people” have a set desire (and that desire may not be wrong in and of itself). Upon realizing that the current leadership is not going to get them there or submit to what they perceive is the best halachah; they begin mouthing these things to other assembly members. Some with similar aspirations become carried away with the Korachs. Eventually, there is a “meeting” challenging the leadership. If the leadership refuses their demands, they throw a tantrum and leave the assembly, usually dragging others with them.

This saddens me very deeply. Even worse, looking back, I realize that I have been a cohort with a Korach before. I was so blinded by my “righteous” aspirations that I failed to recognize the authority that YHWH had placed in our midst. What resulted was a split and broken relationships. And guess what? When YHWH’s timing was right, that assembly did walk out the very thing that we aspired to! So the real lacking was my own humility and patience. We forget how powerful pride actually is. Pride’s favorite disguise is a form of godliness, holiness, and righteousness. Rarely is it overtly evil.

Since I’ve had a bad experience with a Korach, I really have to check myself when things aren’t done the way “I” believe they should be. When emotions are running high, we are primed for the enemy to slither in and plant seeds of dissent. We can be so zealous for YHWH, His Torah, and Mashiach, that we often forget the two most vital keys to unity: humility and authority. When everyone is his own master, serving others is nonexistent.

We must get to a place where loving YHWH and loving others trumps our pet doctrines and halachah. This is not compromise, it is humility. Too often our desire to be right far exceeds our desire to love, exercise mercy, and live in unity. Moreover, we have a real issue with authority. Where are the people that are willing to commit, lift up, serve, and stand with today’s leaders? Sure they aren’t perfect; yes they will make some mistakes. If you think (like Korach) that you would be a better leader — you are deluded by your own pride and rebellion.

Or perhaps you believe that you must isolate yourself and family from the main assemblies. Many that do this fear contamination, opposing doctrine. or halachah. This, too, is pride, because the negative side of pride is fear of man and circumstances.

This may sound harsh, but when I look around our “movement”, instead of seeing steadfast believers walking in unity, I see too many fickle and inconsistent people. Today, I doubt that their would be an Aaron or a Hur to help Moses hold his hands up to defeat an Amalek[1]

This is to our shame. My prayer is that we wake-up and mature. We have to accept the fact that we are each in different places in our restoration. We cannot demand that everyone be exactly where we are in our walk. Nor can we demand that everyone become a cookie-cutter version of ourselves in matters of halachah. If you dislike diversity (in halachah), then you need to reevaluate the creation and get over yourself. Prayerfully find an assembly. Stick with them. Support the leadership. Be steadfast. Serve the community with humility. Crucify your own desires and agendas and flow with the camp.

For which do you believe that YHWH will judge more harshly: having incorrect halachah and submitting to an imperfect leader or refusing to serve and love His people in unity?


[1] Ex. 12:8-13

Categories: Torah Portions | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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