Are you giving YHVH your best…or the leftovers?

Being the best

Leviticus 22:1–31, Profane Vs. Holy.  In this section of the Torah, YHVH makes some strong delineations between that which is profane, polluted or contaminated and that which is kadosh or set-apart in service to YHVH. To come into his Presence demands that men follow high and exacting standards. Why? It is to teach sinful man that although YHVH is high and lifted up above the mortal and mundane plane in his set-apartness and righteousness, he is not unapproachable by men if they will prepare themselves properly to come into his Presence. (Read Eccl 5:1–2.) He wanted to impress this upon the Israelites as they began the service of the tabernacle.

Therefore, YHVH specifies that certain offerings brought to his altar that are contaminated will be rejected if (a) the offerer is in a state of physical contamination, (b) he is contaminated through improper marriage, or (c) he is offering a blemished animal. What can we learn from this? What offerings do we bring to YHVH’s altar now? Our time, our money, our energy, our talents and spiritual gifts, our devotion? Do we give him the best? Do you pray to him and study his Word in the morning when you are the freshest, or do you give him the crumbs of your day after a hard day’s work just before bed when you offer up “sleepy time” prayers and read the Scriptures as your drifting off to sleep? Are your tithes the crumbs and leftovers after all the bills are paid, the government has taken out its portion and your play money has been set aside?

If you are a young person, are you serving YHVH while you have the health and vigor of youthfulness, or are you planning on playing now and serving YHVH after you have sated the lusts of the flesh? (Read Eccl 11:9–10; 12:1–14 and Matt 6:24.) Examine your life. Are you giving YHVH the best in all areas? If not, repent and change your priorities. Then see what happens in your spiritual walk and relationship with him!

Did YHVH Create Evil?

Isaiah 45:7, Create evil [or calamity]. Based on this verse some may be led to believe that all the evil that occurs in the world is YHVH’s fault, therefore, as the creator of evil, how can he be good? Some have even refused to serve and obey YHVH and rejected the truth of Scripture on the basis of this logic. But what is the truth?

Evil 167774

First, let us analyze the Hebrew word for evil/[r (Strong’s H7451; TWOT 2191). It is the generic Hebrew word meaning evil also meaning “bad, disagreeable, malignant, unpleasant, sad, unhappy, wicked, distress, wrong, injury.

As we can see, evil is only one of the many and varied definitions of the Hbrew word ra which can also mean “distress, adversity, unhappiness and sadness.” Can “bad” things happen to people that end up being good for the person? Of course. Such has happened to all of us many times in our lives. Keep this point in mind.

According to The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, the word ra has as its primary definition “the lack of quality or inferior quality of something or someone and is thus unable to meet standards of value or function beneficially.” The word can connote “moral deficiencies” and is contrasted to the Hebrew word tov which is the generic word meaning good. The TWOT notes that Elohim [as the Just Judge of the universe] acts with painful punishment against evil (ra) people who refuse to repent of their wicked or evil actions. If he failed to do this evil would take over the earth and universe.

But is YHVH the creator of evil in a direct sense, or is he the creator of the laws of cause-and-effect that when evil people break them evil (in the sense of punishment) befalls them as a result of their actions even as blessings and goodness are reaped by those who follow his laws?

Moses Maimon known as Maimonides or the Rambam, a medieval Jewish sage, discusses this issue in his classic book, The Guide to the Perplexed. He starts from the premise that all that YHVH created was good or tov as stated several times in the creation account of Genesis one. If Scripture is true and cannot be broken then Elohim is not the creator of evil or wickedness in that sense of the meaning of the Hebrew word ra. But as we have seen, this is not the only definition of the word ra.

To the western mindset, Rambam points out, darkness and evil are negative existence, but existence none the less, like two sides of the same coin. To the Hebrew mind evil is not even apart of the coin. Since YHVH cannot create evil, for all that he created was good, then the “evil” he created had to be good and all other evil exists outside of his creation. In other words, there are two kinds of evil: ultimate evil which is the total negation of all good, light and truth, and evil which is good in that it produces good results in the lives of people. To the Hebrew way of thinking (and that was the mindset of the authors of Scripture) all that YHVH created is existence and all else is nonexistence. Therefore that which is non-positive is nonexistence and not a part of his creation, or is outside of his creation. In Genesis one Elohim created existence, or that which is good, by creating good and light (existence) as a type of bubble in the midst of darkness and nonexistence. Humans as part of the physical creation live in what Scripture calls good. Everything outside is evil. So, reasons Rambam, all evil is the absence of good; that is, all that is evil is the negation of good. For example, death is evil since it is the negation of life (which is good). It is therefore non-existence. The same could be said of ignorance which is the negation of knowledge.

So when we read that YHVH “created evil” or “afflicted” his people (Deut 8:3) or brought calamity upon them in one fashion or another (Pss 55:19; 88:7; 90:15; 119:71, 75), to the Hebrew way of thinking it cannot be considered evil for its purpose was to refine YHVH’s people and to bring them to a higher level spiritually. Its purpose was to bring them (or reconcile them) to their loving Father in heaven. The writer of the Book of Hebrews says that as a father YHVH chastens his children whom he loves (Heb 12:5ff) for the purpose of bringing forth the good fruits of holiness and righteousness (vv. 10–11). On the other hand, as noted earlier, those who despise the chastening of their Heavenly Father (v. 5) end up separating themselves from him and separation from him leads to eternal death, darkness and nothingness which is ultimate evil and non-existence. Is it YHVH’s fault that they chose this path? Is it his fault that they removed themselves by their actions from his good creation and placed themselves outside of his creation, which is evil, so that they becomepersonifications of evil? Of course not. He is good and brings no evil upon people except to allow them to suffer the fruit of their own actions (Jas 1:13–15). YHVH hates wickedness and those who align themselves with evil as workers of iniquity (Ps 5:5). They are outside of his creation and outside of that which is good.

Now YHVH is gracious to both the just and to the unjust. He gives to both water, food, clothing air, etc. If he should choose to withdraw his hand of mercy and grace from an evildoer so that they suffer the consequences of their actions is he therefore the agent or cause of evil? Rambam reasons that he cannot be the creator of evil. Elohim cannot be responsible for or connected to that which he did not directly cause. The evil actions of the person brought about their judgment. Because Elohim temporarily stayed the judgment of the court against their evil actions does not make him the agent directly responsible for evil.

Now, the big question of all, was YHVH Elohim evil when he “smote” (which means “slay or slaughter”) and “bruised” his Son, Yeshua (Isa 53:4 and 10)? Not according to the scriptural definition of evil, since the results of Yeshua’s sacrifice of the cross resulted in the reconciliation of man to YHVH Elohim which is tov in the ultimate sense and the opposite of all that is ra!

This Hebraic understanding of good versus evil also goes a long way to answering the age old question: “How can a good God allow bad things to happen to good people?”

YHVH to Redeem His People From False Religious Systems and Idolatry

 

Isaiah 43–44

Isaiah 43:21ff, Religious service is the flower or result of a life of devotion and service to YHVH and our fellow man. It is not the religious service itself that matters to YHVH, but the condition of one’s heart and the life of righteousness that precedes resulting in the religious service that counts. Israel had lost sight of this, and their religious service had become empty, ritualistic and meaningless to YHVH. Additionally, the offering presented to YHVH had to cost the offerer dearly. Though Yeshua fulfilled the sacrificial system by his death at Golgotha by becoming the ultimate sacrifice (and it cost him dearly), if we are in Yeshua we must follow in his footsteps. How is this? (Read Ps 51:15–16; 34:18; Isa 66:1–3; Rom 6:3–13; Gal 2:20 and Heb 13:15–16.) Remember, it is not what we do, or how we do it that matters to YHVH as much as why we do it. Why do you do what you do in your spiritual exercises? If it is for any other reason than to draw near to our Father in heaven, to love him, and to become like him, then your motives may be questionable.

Isaiah 43:23–24, The purpose of the offerings was to bring the offerer nearer to Elohim. Israel had lost that perspective and therefore YHVH states, “Not for me have you brought the lamb of your elevation offering ….” What were the wrong motives on Israel’s part with which YHVH took exception? What are your motives for obeying YHVH? In the Christian world, the need for “fire insurance” against the fires of “hell” is a major though sadlymisguided motive for many to be a follower of Jesus. For some who are returning to the Hebrew roots of their faith, obedience may be simply a knee-jerk reaction against some of the false teachings of Christianity, or it may be about proving to others that they are better or more righteous than others. Or maybe we’re doing it so seek the approval of others? Perhaps it is to earn points with YHVH, making our obedience a works-based legalism. What is at the root of your motives? This are all wrong and misguided motives and are displeasing to the Almighty.

Isaiah 44:3–4, Pour water on him that is thirsty. In Scripture, water symbolizes both the Torah-Word and Spirit of Elohim. Is your innermost soul like parched ground that is begging for water? (Read Pss 63:1–11 and 84:2.) Is this your heart-cry and desire? When our offerings are presented to YHVH out of right heart motives, then heaven and earth align to bless the offerer. The physical land will be blessed with rain in due season, even as YHVH will bless the spiritual land of our lives with spiritual rain from the highest heaven. When YHVH blesses his people they sprout between the blades of grass and become like willow trees by a river. Grass is thick and what can possibly squeeze between blades of grass, much less grow? But YHVH can pour out his Spirit on your life and you will literally shoot up to tower over the grass like a willow tree. ­Willows require much water and will grow quickly into large trees. Some species related to the willow such as poplars and cottonwoods can easily grow to be 130 feet tall with trunks six feet in diameter if they are planted on a riverbank, for example. But they started out as an indistinguishable sprout amongst the blades of grass in the brush and weeds along the river. Cry out to YHVH for his divine river of life to flow into your life so that you can rise heavenward above your circumstances and setbacks. (Read Luke 11:9–13.) Isaiah is addressing the plight of the descendants of Jacob while in their spiritual captivity in galut (in exile). We are collectively in galut. But if each person individually begins to break out of his or her personal galutthrough the power of the resurrected Redeemer of Israel—Yeshua, through whom we are more than conquerors (Rom 8:37), then the entire body-politic of the nation of Israel will move forward spiritually out of exile and toward the Promised Land. Soon there will be a mighty forest of willow trees. (Read Ps 1:3.)

Isaiah 44:6–8, I am the first and the last … Is there any Elohim beside me? Who is the First and the Last? (Read Rev 1:11,17; 2:8; 22:13.) In the first part of verse six, we find the interesting phrase: “Thus says YHVH the King of Israel and his redeemer YHVH of Hosts; I am the first and the last …” To whom is this a clear reference? Who is redeeming Israel collectively and as well as one life at a time? With redemption comes deliverance, victory and eternal life. There is no possibility of defeat in the end when the one and only Elohim of the universe is on your side!

Isaiah 44:9–20, These verses discuss the absurd futility of idol worship. How would we define modern-day idolatry? Quite simply, it is anything in your life that takes precedence over your relationship with YHVH-Yeshua. What do you spend most of your time, thought life, energy and resources pursuing—God or mammon? Be honest and do not lie to yourself. Your heart will convict you. Down deep you know the real answer to this question. Many people put YHVH into a box and let him out of that box once a week when they are with other believers, and then put him back into that box when they are back alone. This is gross idolatry and hypocrisy. Idolatry is the religion of those in spiritual exile. They are those who worship the created instead of the Creator (read Romans 1). YHVH’s people Israel have gotten mixed up in these false religious concepts and must come out (Rev 18:4).

Isaiah 44:21–23, Read and meditate on these verses. This is our destiny. This will happen and is happening, for YHVH has declared it. Who eternally remains at the center of Israel’s redemption and glorious future? (Read Acts 17:28.) Do you love him with all your heart? If not, ask YHVH to enlarge (or widen, make room) your heart, as David prayed (Ps 119:32).