“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” - 2 Chronicles 7:14, ESV
From this passage, we find a command and instruction of Adonai that is both captivating and demanding of our hearts, thoughts and actions. As with all passages of Scripture, CONTEXT is essential in not only interpreting its message, but also finding our calling within it. As such, the words before 2 Chronicles7:14 provides the reader not only the “why,” but also the hope for those who seek above all things to obey Adonai. Thus, in verse 12-13 we read, “Adonai appeared to Shlomo Solomon) by night and said to him, I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself (the Temple] as a house of sacrifice. If I shut up the sky, so that there is no rain; or if I order locusts to devour the land; or if I send an epidemic of sickness among my people.” (CJB) Thus, from this chapter, we find “choice,” where on one hand, BLESSINGS come for those who walk in faithful obedience, yet for those who reject God’s path, they will find judgment in pestilence, poverty and hardship.
From this, Shlomo knew that God’s direction here was but an echo of Deuteronomy 28, where only a few verses later we read, “But if you turn away an abandon my regulations and mitzvot which I have set before you, and go and serve other gods, worshipping them; then I will pull them up by the roots out of the land I have given them. This house, which I consecrated for my name, I will eject from my sight; and I will make it an example to avoid and an object of scorn among the peoples.” (2 Chron. 7:19-20, CJB). Therefore, from this bold passage, we find an elevated demarcation, where on one hand, if we follow righteousness and pure-worship we will be blessed, but if we reject the Word of Adonai, then we will only reap what we have sown!
Likewise, when looking at this passage of Second Chronicles, we come easily to the conclusion of the “IF’s” which embolden our text …
For if we as the people of God, who are called by his name (or, as the CJB renders, “who bear my name”), and if we would choose to humble ourselves and pray, and if we would not only seek his face, but also turn from our wicked ways - Then, and only then, would Adonai hear our prayers from heaven, He will forgive our sins and heal our land!
What is noteworthy of this passage, is that which many usually avoid - that the restoration we seek, the healing we pray for and the salvation we desire for our nation and for the world is interictally tied to how we heed God’s calling and IF we do what He commands. Equally, with this passage, there is the reality of what will happen IF we choose a more laissez faire or overtly rebellions approach, and do not heed the admonition of the Spirit’s call, where as a result, the Lord will not hear us from heaven as we pray, He will not forgive us of our sins and He will not heal our land!
In stating this, are we then suggesting that IF we use this “formula” that we ourselves are those who bring redemption to the world? NO! But, what it does mean is that when we choose to cooperate with the Holy Spirt, walk in humility and first repent of our sins and turn from our wicked ways (and with this, stand in the gap on behalf of the nation and own our collective sin, and ask God to forgive us), then we will see an outpouring of Yeshua’s grace in a greater measure than we have ever seen before and with it find Redemption for ourselves as we see the Goodness of God poured out as water on a dry and parched land!
Believed, Lets stand in this decisive hour of decision and stand in the gap for our nation and the world! Let us examine our hearts and turn from our wicked ways - and may we be the vessels God uses in this generation for healing and restoration!
~ Rabbi Mark Rantz
Rabbi argue and debate! Yes, we do! Historically we are known for this in taking deep theological issues and matters of deep spiritual importance and discuss them, debate them and ponder its significance as we seek to come to a consensus of that which is true, verses that which might be false or potentially misguided. The primary reason for this is not for the sake of argument, but instead for the purpose of not only coming to a clearer understanding of God's Word, but also to more readily provide an answer to all who might ask!
It is from this that we get the phrase, “three rabbis, five opinions” and from this important approach to biblical interpretation we are enabled to learn new things and to be stretched where we consider interpretations and applications which might slightly differ from that of our own. However, in our calling to known God's Word and given an answer to other, Pirke Avot (Ethics of the Father) 2:14 aptly reminds of the wisdom of our Sages in stating that,
"Rabbi El'azar did say, 'Be diligent to learn the Torah, and know what to answer a skeptic'."
This is echoed in the B'rit Chadashah to,
"Treat the Messiah as holy as Lord of your hearts; while remaining always ready to give a reasoned answer to anyone who asks you to explain the hope you have in you ..." (1 Kefa/Peter 3:15, CJB)
Of our Parashah this week, the topic of Noach and the Flood is one of those cases where the rabbis have asked many questions, including, how righteous was Noach, really? In Genesis 6:9 we are told that Noach was a man who was righteous in his generation. From this, our Sages ask, “Was he really righteous?” “Was he just tzaddik at his time, but not as an example now, “ or “Did he even fail in the pursuit of righteousness in his final days where he turned to drunkenness and compromise. In Christian tradition, this debate sadly, completely overlooked, but in Judaism it is both essential and central. Some say he was only partially good, because he only saved his own life and that of his families, but not the rest of the world. Others point to the shame at that end of his life (mentioned above) and alert, … See! He was not righteous at all - a drunkard and a man who left himself uncovered!
But, somewhere in the “middle” we find the true answer I believe, and in that we find comfort and redemption for ourselves. We as believers in Yeshua can be so quick in assaulting and judging our neighbor from a distance, but if the truth is told - Noach was only a man, and despite his weaknesses, Adonai still used him to save the world by boarding the ark with his family. We too, are mere human beings who sin and fall as well, but God has called us to the practice of Tikkun Olam (Repairing the World) in Messiah’s name. It is not who we are, instead, it is He who is in us which ultimately matters and every act of righteousness we fulfill only means something in light of that which God, in Messiah has done for us! Certainly, sin is always sin and that can’t be ignored, but in the end, God’s grace is always even greater and His love covers a multitude of sin!
May we walk in grace toward one another and go and repair the world!
- Rabbi Mark Rantz
October 24, 2020 | Sixth of Cheshvan, 5781
With the end of our reading the end of Deuteronomy and the the end of our High Holy Days celebrations and Simchat Torah, we annually roll the Sefer Torah back to Genesis to where the Torah begins -
בְּרֵאשִׁית, בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים, אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם, וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ
Where most, if not exclusively all discuss this passage in the sole-context of Adonai as our Creator, there is still another nuance of our text which we cannot forget. When we speak of Bereshit (Genesis) and God’s acts of creation, we also find the inspiration for new beginning, restoration and an eternal hope for the future as seen from, רֵאשִׁית “…in the beginning.”
Although this interpretation may seem esoteric by some, we can nevertheless see that creation and new beginning equally reflects the work of Messiah in our lives as noted by Rav Sha’ul (Paul),
“… he is the beginning, the firstborn of from the dead, so that he might hold first place in everything. For it pleased God to have his full being live in his Son and through his Son to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace with him, through having his Son shed his blood by being executed on a stake.” (Colossians 1:18b-20, CJB)
In speaking of Yeshua as our Lord and Creator, Rav Sha’ul eloquently chooses the phrase that Yeshua “… is the beginning, the firstborn of from the dead, so that he might hold first place in everything,” or as the NIV notes that, “…in everything he might have supremacy,” It is here that we see Messiah not just as creator, but also Savior and Sovereign King. May Yeshua, king Messiah fill all our hearts with hope and new beginnings in Adonai!
Rabbi Mark Rantz
October 10th, 2020 | 29th of Tishrei, 5781
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