Shabbat, February 14, 2015
In the Sermon on the Mount, Yeshua teaches us, with unprecedented authority and masterful wisdom, that the mitzvot (commandments) were not intended to be kept superficially, but from the heart. He could do so, because He knows our heart, souls, minds and emotions—better than anyone else. V’eemru? (And let us say?) His sermon has profound insight into how to handle anger, the importance of integrity in our words and deeds, and the true nature of love.
Last Shabbat, I began teaching about the Sermon that begins in Matthew 5. In verses 17-20, Yeshua makes it absolutely clear that His goal was not to abolish the Torah or the prophets, but to fulfill them, first in Himself, then in us—who claim to be His disciples. Yeshua does not intend us to fulfill His mitzvot superficially, but perfectly—the way He fulfilled them —for these commandments were, are and ever shall be mitzvot for the heart…. V’eemru?
Yeshua shifts our focus from external compliance to inward love—for God and for our neighbor.
So in Matthew 5:21-22, “You have heard it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever commits murder shall be subject to judgment.’ I tell you now that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be subject to judgment.” Committing murder is an external, observable act and enforceable in human courts. If you aren’t caught, you might think you got away with it. On the other hand, unforgiving anger and grudges are internal —enforceable only in the court of heaven—because only God knows our hearts—and He does!
Now let’s dig a little deeper. Since Yeshua teaching that anger is sin, immediately subject to judgment Well, God Himself got angry—at flagrant sin. Exodus 32:11 says, Then Moses sought ADONAI his God and said, “ADONAI, why should Your wrath burn hot against Your people.” HaShem’s anger burned against Israel for making a golden calf, weeks after He had forbidden idols in the Ten Commandments He had written with His own finger and given them with lightning & shofar.
Anger is God’s response when He sees really bad sin; He also designed anger in us, made in His image, for the same purpose—so that we should also hate sin, in ourselves and others. Anger is not a sin—but how we human perceive sin (selfishly) and how we deal with anger often is. Often our anger is selfish—unlike God, we don’t see the whole picture; or even our neighbor’s perspective. If I humble myself and listen to the other person and God, my anger might melt away.
Ephesians 4:26 says, “‘Be angry, yet do not sin.” Do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 nor give the devil a foothold.” The initial response of anger is not sin, but unresolved anger can become sin, and give the adversary of your soul a foothold, manifesting eventually as rage or depression.
Getting back to Matthew 5:22, what Yeshua says, is that “everyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment”—future tense. In other words, He is warning about what can happen with anger. Looking at the rest of this verse, we’ll see how a process of increasing warnings about God’s judgment: “and whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca‘ shall be subject to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be subject to fiery Gehenna.”
First, anger is subject to judgment—the Greek is krisis, from which English gets the word … crisis—it refers to the judgment of a lower or local court. Second, when anger blurts out of our lips a nasty remark such as “Raca (good-for-nothing!), that’s subject to the council—here the Greek word is Sanhedrin—a higher court, with more judges. Finally, if anger becomes an in-your-face “You fool!” that will be (still future tense) subject to fiery Gehenna—i.e., the judgment of God Himself. Do you see how unresolved anger escalates? We need to learn how to deal with anger before it gets out of control—when anger becomes angry words that insult someone else, that can lead to more anger, then wounded souls or wounded bodies.
In the following verses, Yeshua teaches us how to deal with anger. Matthew 5:23-25, “Therefore if you are presenting your offering upon the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.”
These verses are another example of hyperbole—If my brother is angry with you, I have to go and be reconciled? Wait a minute, shouldn’t your brother who is angry go and reconciled? Absolutely! All the more so! How can anyone expect HaShem to accept an offering when his or her heart is smoldering with unresolved anger? First, ask God to forgive your anger, and pray with the Lord about how to deal with it, and how to pursue reconciliation. Can we learn to deal with anger constructively?
Yet if you see your brother is struggling with unresolved anger, shouldn’t you be willing to help him or her get free, by approach him with a gentle word seeking shalom?
When God gets angry with His people, He let us know, so we might repent and be restored to Him. If His people won’t listen to His Spirit, then He speaks to His prophet—such as Abraham or Moses, so that the prophet might intercede, reveal God’s desire to show mercy if we will listen and repent. So Yeshua’s disciples should see anger as a signal to discern sin and pursue reconciliation.
In verse 25, He continues: “Make friends quickly with your opponent while you are with him on the way. Otherwise, your opponent may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the assistant, and you will be thrown into prison. Amen, I tell you, you will never get out of there until you have paid back the last penny!”
Again, notice the process of unfolding consequences for unresolved, unreconciled anger: if you don’t deal with it “on the way,” then you may be handed over to the judge. If if the judge rules against you, because you still haven’t resolved the matter peacefully yourself, then the judge may hand you over to an officer of the court to execute the judgment, and you will be thrown into prison.
When we think of judgment, especially involving fiery Gehenna, we may think of the final judgment. But here Yeshua is first talking about unfolding consequences in this life—since in the final judgment, there is no longer opportunity to pay back your debt and get out. Yet in this life, unresolved anger has consequences, not only in our relationships, but in our own souls—which can be prisons of bitterness and depression, until we learn to deal with our anger and grudges the way Yeshua does—with a willingness to forgive our brother, confront his sin mercifully & do all we can to bring reconciliation. V’eemru? Thanks be to God, Yeshua has shown us the way and called us to follow His example.
2 Corinthians 5:19-20 urges us, “He has entrusted the message of reconciliation to us. We are therefore ambassadors for Messiah, as though God were making His appeal through us. We beg you on behalf of Messiah, be reconciled to God.” Can we all become ambassadors for Messiah? Let us heed the Lord’s warning and appeal to us, lest we more damage to other & our own souls. And if a brother or sister comes to you seeking reconciliation, have an open heart! V’eemru?
In Matthew 5:43-45, Yeshua says: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven.”
Leviticus 19:18 says “Love your neighbor”—it’s a commandment that Yeshua often repeats to us. But where does the Bible say, “Hate your enemy”? I think that got added—by the Adversary, who likes to distort what God has said—and apparently got repeated as a saying among our people. The only enemies we should hate are the implacable foe of God—hasatan and his demons.
As Ephesians 6:12 says, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against … the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” V’eemru? So if you are having trouble with flesh and blood, just keep this verse in mind. If you could love the person and pray for him—and against the spiritual forces of evil that may be oppressing him—than you might find that your enemy will eventually become your friend. Have any of you had their experience. I have!
Once upon a time, Allen and I were butting heads pretty bad. But all the while I kept praying, forgiving putting on the armor of God and warring against the spirits that were oppressing us—say Allen, were you praying then, too? Well what do you know, Allen walks into Beit Simcha and we were both ready to give each other a hug and become friends again. Amazing grace! God is good….
How I wish more Arabs and Jews would do that in Jerusalem. V’eemru? Well, it’s already started with Bible-believing Arabs and Messianic Jews. Then you’ve got Allen, who is both Arab and Jewish!
Yeshua expands on His commandment to love our neighbor (including our enemies) in the Parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25ff. A Torah scholar asks Yeshua, “Then who is my neighbor?” So Yeshua tells the parable, in which a man is robbed, beaten and left half-dead by the road. A priest and then a Levite saw him, but they each passed by on the other side. Probably they were Sadducees, who were refraining from touching a dead body and thus defile their ritual purity. The Torah scholar, on the other hand, might have understood the ruling of the Rabbis, that the priority to save life supersedes all the other mitzvot, including those of ritual purity. He and others Jews listening in might even have expected that a just Pharisee might be the next person to come down the road and help the man before he died. But Yeshua surprises his audience by introducing a Samaritan as the third wayfarer, who stops to help the dying man. Samaritans had long been hated enemies of Jews—this hatred often came to blows.
In the days of Ezra and Nehemiah Samaritans had opposed the rebuilding of the Temple and Jerusalem, because they had their own sacred place near Shechem. Moreover, the Samaritans also followed only the 5 books of Moses. So why did this Samaritan stop to help a Jew? Shouldn’t he also believe a dead body would defile him? That’s the question and answer in verses 36-37, after telling the parable: “Which of these three seems to you a neighbor to the one attacked by robbers? And [the Torah scholar] said, “The one who showed mercy to him.”
Mercy moved in the heart of the good Samaritan. Will we let mercy move our hearts? As Jacob (James) 2:13 says, “For judgment is merciless to the one who does not show mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.”
If you holds anger in you heart and hate an enemy who is flesh and blood, then “judgment is mercies’ to the one show does not show mercy, and you will not get out of the prison of your soul until you have paid the last penny. But if you can bring yourself to turn away from judging your enemy who is flesh and blood, and soul and spirit, and instead love your enemy, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who persecute you,” then “Mercy triumphs over judgment.” That’s the truest love, sacrificing for others—it’s the love of Messiah. V’eemru? Can we reflect this kind of sacrificial love?
Let’s look at one more part of Yeshua’s drash on the Mount, in Matthew 5:33-37: “Again, you heard it said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall carry out your oaths to ADONAI.’ I tell you, do not swear at all—not by heaven, for it is the throne of God; or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make a single hair white or black. But let your word ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’—anything more than this is from the evil one.”
Exodus 20:7 gives the 3rd commandment, “You must not take the Name of ADONAI your God in vain.” Leviticus 19:12 elaborates on this mitzvah, “You are not to swear by My Name falsely, and so profane the Name of your God. I am ADONAI. “ Yeshua may be citing this verse—misusing God’s name is bad enough—since we should speak of Him with reverence as our Maker and King—yet how much worse when make a vow in His name and don’t keep it!
God hates hypocrisy, don’t you? He doesn’t want to hear empty vows that we’re not going to keep. On the other hand, God loves integrity. How many of you desire integrity? Give me an undivided heart!
Psalm 15 asks, “ADONAI, who may dwell in Your tent? Who may live on Your holy mountain?” How many of you want to dwell in Adonai’s tabernacle, on His holy mountain? Here’s how: 15:2. “The one who walks with integrity, who does what is right, and speaks truth in his heart….” and in v. 4, “the one who keeps his oath even when it hurts, and does not change.” In other words, “Let your yes be yes, and your no no.” If you give your word, keep it.
How many of you are members of Beit Simcha? When you became a member, did you make a covenant, a vow before God the congregation, to attend havurah meetings and congregational meetings? Did I invite you up here to stand before the congregation and when I asked you if you would attend services and a havurah group and congregational meetings, did you say “Yes”? So, are you attending a havurah and/or a strategic prayer center and/or our Bible study? Also, are you all planning to come to the congregational meeting at the end of the month?
When you became a member, did you make a covenant with God to tithe to the congregation? So, I ask you each to be transparent with God: are you keeping your “Yes”—your word & promise?
When you became a member, did you covenant to respect the governmental authority of the elders? So if the z’keinim make a decision about who to train as an elder or confirm as a shamash, are you willing to respect our decision? Or if the elders believe the Lord wants us to do a building project—having consulted with prophetic and apostolic input about such an important decision—are you actively supporting our leadership? (I always also explain that the z’keinim desire your input, yet for the sake of unity, we also need your prayerful, wholehearted support.)
If you said yes about these things, before the congregation and God and yet now are struggling to keep these commitments, then I urge you, my brothers & sisters, to examine your hearts before God and keep your vows—even when it hurts. Ask God to increase your trust in Him; ask us to pray for you. Let your yes be yes! If it hurts, or seems inconvenient or hard, ask God to increase your trust in Him. V’eemru?
The same exhortation also applies to your wedding vows and to any other commitments you have made. As Psalm 15:5 concludes, “One who does these things will never be shaken.” If you keep your word, your promises and covenants, then you will have unshakable integrity of heart. That’s what our Master and Messiah Yeshua expects of us. V’eemru?
If anyone struggles to trust and obey this mitzvah of the heart, I urge you to turn your heart over to our Messiah in repentance; humble yourself and He will lift you up, and ask Him to increase your faith.
Does anyone need to pray about any of these things that our Master & Rabbi taught & commanded us— dealing with anger unselfishly lest it become sin, loving your neighbor (even if he or she is now your opponent), or keeping your word and your promises and covenants? These things are standards for those who claim to be His disciples & live in the Kingdom. Moses and the prophets have revealed them; Yeshua has taught them; now we must obey them.
If you build your house–your personal households and our whole community—on His word, then your household and our community will stand firm on a rock, even if the storm comes. So, if you need prayer for any of these things, please raise your hand—be transparent and confess it, so that your desire to dwell in his tent and on His holy hill is clear to all: dealing with anger lest it become sin? loving your neighbor (even if he or she is now your opponent)? keeping your word and your promises and covenants?
This sermon may not to be reprinted in whole or in part without the express written consent of Messianic Rabbi Glenn D. Blank of Beit Simcha. Your generous support for our ministry and building project is appreciated!