Now that the appointed times (moedim) of the seventh month of Tishri have ended, I have been reflecting on several things learned and observed during this year’s season of restoration toward the God of Creation. What a joy to follow this pattern for life (the Creator’s calendar) for the past quarter century, and realize how the Holy Spirit uses this time for the saint’s personal sanctification process (John 17:19)—so desperately sought by all who want to truly please, bless, and minister to our Heavenly Father, the Holy One of Israel!
First, because the Book of Jonah is typically reflected upon at Yom Teruah/Rosh HaShanah, I had the pleasure of reviewing one of my favorite verses, which reminds me of God’s lovingkindness toward those who call upon His Name. This thought came to Jonah after a few days in a great fish, as he was crying out to the Lord for salvation and meditating upon the Holy Temple:
“‘While I was fainting away, I remembered the LORD, and my prayer came to You, into Your holy temple. Those who regard vain idols forsake their faithfulness [chesed], but I will sacrifice to You with the voice of thanksgiving. that which I have vowed I will pay. Salvation is from the LORD.’ Then the LORD commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah up onto the dry land” (Jonah 2:7-10, NASU).
Here in unequivocal terms, the prophet admits that worshipping or regarding vain idols or anything other than the Lord God, is a recipe for disaster—or namely, missing the reception of God’s lovingkindness, mercy, compassion, and love (chesed). Of course, no true Believer wants to ever forego God’s grace! But an additional reminder scrolled up in my heart, when the annual Ten Days of Awe commenced on the way to Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) on the 10th of Tishri. Since over the years I have found it personally beneficial to meditate upon the Ten Commandments for each of these ten days, the first two commands caught my attention, especially when the concept of an “idol” was thrown into the mix:
“You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me” (Exodus 20:3-5, NASU).
Obviously, God wants to be God, and He has no competition, except the one which has crept into every human heart since the fall of mankind. That is the idol we call “me, myself, and I”—and see every morning in the mirror. Every person from childhood makes themselves out to be a god, or at the very least, the “captain of their souls,” as epitomized in this poem by William Ernest Henley written in 1875:
Out of the night that covers me
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance,
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbow’d.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
But upon examination of my own heart, I recalled a much more profound statement regarding the life we have been given to live by the Messiah Yeshua, which contradicted the poem, and affirmed the command of the Creator God to not only have no other gods—but be wary of idolizing your own life and it’s innate abilities, strengths, character, gifts, talents, looks, intellect, physical prowess, athleticism, or any other acquired attribute that might be placed before worshipping God alone. In other words, we must “lose our lives in order to gain eternal life” (Mark 8:35; Luke 9:24; 17:33; et. al.):
““If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and WILL THEN REPAY EVERY MAN ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS [Psalm 28:4; 62:12; Proverbs 24:12]” (Matthew 16:24-27, NASU).
This line of thinking took me back to the words of Jonah, where he mentions vows to the Lord. Providentially, the Torah readings for this late time in the annual reading cycle was nearing the conclusion of the Book of Deuteronomy, and so I had to deal with these verses:
“When you make a vow to the LORD your God, you shall not delay to pay it, for it would be sin in you, and the LORD your God will surely require it of you. However, if you refrain from vowing, it would not be sin in you. You shall be careful to perform what goes out from your lips, just as you have voluntarily vowed to the LORD your God, what you have promised” (Deuteronomy 23:21-23, NASU).
Now this is where the sanctification process went into high gear, because back on February 12, 1992, I made a “Total Commitment-Lordship: Romans 12:1” voluntary vow to the Lord, and actually signed a contract with Him in red ink (signifying in my mind a blood covenant) which clearly relinquished all of my “rights” to Him. In fact, the final statement of the vow was this:
“I give God permission to do anything He wishes to me, with me, in me or through me that would glorify Him.” Signed: W. Mark Huey Date: 2/12/92
Suffice it to say, when you give up all your rights and entrust to God everything you have—including will, mind, emotions, body, future, plans, hopes, dreams, geographical location, home, marriage, family, mate, children, recreation, entertainment, career, past successes, failures, rejections/hurts, habits, finances, problems, time, integrity, character, attitudes, business conduct/relationships, Christian walk, and responsibility to authority and a plethora of other rights—you have essentially become a bond-servant to the Most High. In other words, by giving up your “perceived” rights as a human inculcated by the world system in which we live, you have “lost your life, in order to gain it,” in no uncertain terms.
Naturally, over the past soon to be twenty-eight years, I have not been perfect in fulfilling the vow which I made with my eyes, wide open to the severity of the oath. However, by God’s grace, He has been leading me to frequently reflect on the vow, by carrying a copy of it with me in my wallet, so in those moments of flesh-driven inclinations, I can be reminded of the life I have given to the Lord for His service.
In a like manner, He has given me a wife and an adopted son who both seem to be on the same wavelength when it comes to putting the Holy One first in their respective lives. As a result, we have been faithfully walking out the lives we have been given, to allow Him to accomplish whatever He wants to do through us. At times it has not been easy. But because of our personal and corporate commitment to Him, we would not exchange it “for all the tea in China,” as my mother used to say. In fact, today’s reading (as this is being written) from the Book of Proverbs, summarizes many of the benefits of serving the Messiah as the Holy Spirit leads:
“When a man’s ways are pleasing to the LORD, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him. Better is a little with righteousness than great income with injustice…How much better it is to get wisdom than gold! And to get understanding is to be chosen above silver” (Proverbs 16:7-8, 16, NASU).
Thank you all for your prayers and financial support of our efforts to serve the King of Kings, the Holy One of Israel. It has been a privilege and a blessing to be called into His service for such a time as this! May He continue to bless you, and keep you, may His face shine upon you, and may He turn His countenance toward you and give you His peace (cf. Numbers 6:24-26)!
Now do you know why the Apostle John ends his first epistle with this warning: “Little children, guard yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21, NASU)? I do, and shutter…
Blessings and shalom,