“God’s Torah is His Spirit and His heart in writing. When we walk in Torah, we are walking in Him.” – Rabbi Matthew Salathe.
Yesterday was Yom Kippur, the High Holy Day, the Shabbat of Shabbats. And I was struggling to enter into God’s rest on this most holy day of the year. You see, my employer made some changes, and my job is once more out of control. For two years I fought to get my life back (read, “Not working 24/7”). The last 6 months have been such a blessing – a normal work-life in balance with home-life and ministry.
It was a wonderful time of truly being able to take a day off without worry that the plates would stop spinning. I would wake up in the morning with songs of praise and joy in a new day. Then, on Sept 29th, the bomb fell and the fallout has been nothing but eating, sleeping and breathing magazine service, completion, hiring, scheduling, yada, yada, yada.
During the Days of Awe (between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur) the focus should be on forgiving and being forgiven. It is a time for mending broken relationships so that the body can come together to corporately seek forgiveness as one body. But instead of this, I kept going back to my frustration and resentment over things outside my control. No matter how much I tried, I just couldn’t focus on anything but the mess my work life had become.
And it was Yom Kippur.
And because it was, I sent my boss an email saying I would be out of pocket until Sunday morning. I shut down the laptop and silenced the company phone. But most of all, I silenced thoughts about work, forcing myself to focus on God because it was Yom Kippur.
And God blessed that obedience by sending me two things.
The first was an article on aish.com Learning to Forgive – Five ways to let go this Yom Kippur. Boy did I need that! After reading the article, I realized I was feeling a lot of anger and resentment toward my employers. So I sent another email to my boss, apologizing for making his job harder, being very vocal in my displeasure. As I did this, the anger and resentment melted away and I knew my Father was in control, even of my job. With this knowledge, I began praying for the leadership of the company, many of whom are Christians.
It felt so good to pray again. You see, the anger I fostered kept me from entering into communion with the Father. Oh, I still shot those arrows up to Him, but they were more like weapons directed at my enemies than prayers sent to the Creator of All Things.
The second thing God did for me was send a verse through a bible app. Normally on Sabbath morning, I read through the Torah portion. But this morning I knew that it was all about the sacrifices and procedures on Yom Kippur, and my heart longed for something else, but I didn’t know what that something was. But God did.
The verse that came through my phone was in Matthew 24, talking about the end of days. I went to the entire chapter and there found the nugget that jumped off the phone and fueled my faith.
“And because lawlessness will increase so much, the love of many will grow cold” – Matthew 24:12 NET
It became very clear that Torah, including much of rabbinic interpretation and tradition, keeps us focused on God. Without it, our love grows cold. And I was living proof of this. Because it was Yom Kippur, I was determined to give God His proper place in my life on this most important day. And it was that determination, through the power of His Spirit, which God blessed and used to bring my focus back to where it needs to be.
Our obedience to the Torah might sometimes be superficial, but the mere act of obedience keeps our focus on God and gives Him permission to work in our life.
Why else would there be so many verses throughout the entire bible about obedience to the commandments? This is not an ‘Old Testament’ thing. Rather, Jesus Himself calls for obedience. As He pointed out seven times in the book of John, obedience to the Word of God expresses love for the Author of the Word. And is He not the Torah made flesh?
Now, don’t get me wrong, there is always the danger of following the Torah superficially and never letting it penetrate the heart. But God can use the obedience to rekindle the flame of love that flickers in the superficial obedience.
On the other hand, the danger of not following Torah at all leads to love growing cold with no scheduled opportunity to return and be rekindled. There is nothing drawing one back, as the knowledge of Yom Kippur did for me.
Above all, I see the magnificent love and wisdom of our Father for His children. He knows how easily we fall away from Him, so He gave us His Teaching, His Torah, that keeps us focused on Him – daily, weekly, monthly and annually. How great a love our Father has for us, that He gave us His appointed times to keep us close to Him!