Shabbat Lectures on the Torah: SELF ESTEEM
“Bind up the testimony, and seal up the Torah among my disciples… To the Torah [law] and to the testimony [of Yeshua the Messiah]! If they speak not according to this word it is because there is no light of dawn in them” (Isaiah 8.16,20 Heb).
This lecture is PART of a continuing series extracted from BRI’s official journal: “The Interpreter’s Pulpit.” Originally written in 1964, and updated in 1981, it was revised in 2000.
My purpose for this series of lectures on the Torah is fundamental to an appropriate understanding of the epistles found in the pages of the Messianic Scriptures. Unless we consider the Torah as it was given in the days of Moses, and compare it with changes that occurred to that same Torah over the centuries, we cannot properly claim to comprehend what the apostles were talking about when they referred to the Torah and restated that certain commandments were to be observed by the early, primitive Messianic believers. Indeed, a proper assessment of the Torah is essential if we are to really grasp Messiah and His righteousness. This theme of Righteousness by Faith I will return to again and again as we progress. In this study we will focus on:
“Self-esteem in the Torah, & the First Commandment of the Decalogue.”
Psychiatrists and self-help books tell us that we should all have self-esteem. Yet, paradoxically, the very first objective in many “fundamental” (with emphasis on “mental”) religious organisations (that bear the appellation “Christian”) is the process of dismantling any self-esteem we might happen to possess. This may at first sound like a very far-fetched statement. But I have been a member of a number of fundamental churches and denominations and every single one (with the exception of two which would call themselves “traditional” and/or “historic”) tried to break their member’s even normal self-confidence and self-esteem to be replaced, ultimately, by a mindless loyalty to the “minister” (or, “benevolent” dictator) in charge. Of course, totalitarianism can be found in any organisation, but it seems to gravitate to religion more than anywhere else.
But in the Torah we read, “And the Lord said, Let us make man in our image, and after our likeness, and let him have dominion” (Genesis 1.26-27).
Man was made in the exact image of God, and after his likeness. Man was the mirrored reflection of God Almighty. Man was created to rule. He was made to have dominion. He was created “a speaking spirit” (Targum on Genesis 2.7). But something of a major hiccough occurred and as a direct result of this misadventure (which was still in the plan and purpose of God for the entire creation, indeed his intent could not have been launched had it not been for Adam’s sin) we now look in the mirror and see our reflection which is marred and fractured. Its like looking into a mirror that has a major crack through it and our likeness has been distorted. But we are still the IMAGE of God.
Now while this is all quite true, in authentic Messianic theology converted man in Messiah has had
- the cycle of death in karma annulled
- he has been restored to Eden
- and has returned to the glory which he originally possessed.
Man lost glory. Without a sense of that glory man is lost. Man was at one time a shining, brilliant element of animated stardust. But he lost his glory — even the glory of God. This is the fundamental reason man battles to keep what little self-esteem he has left, and why the Dark Lord wants that last vestige of self-esteem ripped away completely. Genesis 2.25
(cf Genesis 3.7,10-11) tells us that Adam and Eve, upon their transgression, had a profound sense of “nakedness.” Eve lost her glory first, and Adam looking at Eve in ways he never had experienced before, and as a result of his love for her, joined her in that same stark nakedness. They lost the glory of God. In a linked sense, when we sinned we came short of it as well (Romans 3.23).
But you know, the teaching of Rav Sha’ul (Paul) the apostle is that in the Messiah that very same glory has been restored (Romans 8.30). We may not see it, unless we have the eyes of faith to do so, but Paul assures us that if we belong to Messiah then we already possess that glory by faith. This was God’s original intent, that Man should share His glory. That may sound trite, but the Messianic Scriptures (the so-called “NT”) is absolutely full of information about the fact that we are destined to receive that glory — that ultimate glorification. Recall that God created Man in His own image — and God is enveloped in bright light (in this universal dimension of our eternal “present” or “now” in which God is perceived in visions as anthropomorphic with brilliant glory) that we cannot look upon Him and live. If we attempted to do so we would be ash in a flash.
Nevertheless, it is written – “Beloved! What manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called the children of God… Beloved NOW are we the children of God, and it does not yet appear what we SHALL be, but we know that when he shall appear [the second Advent] WE SHALL BE LIKE HIM for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3.1-3).
Look at what Yochanan (John) confidently tells us about the Advent of Our Lord Yeshua. We shall look upon Him and live. Why? Because we shall be like Him. Like Him!
How does Messiah presently look? How does he appear? Whatever he looks like we too shall bear that same identical image. John described the way Yeshua looked when he appeared to him in vision. Let’s see:
“I heard behind me a loud shrill voice like a trumpet blast… and startled I turned to put a face with the voice that spoke to me… [and I beheld] a humanoid, draped with a garment down to the ankles, and a gold band was around his chest. His head and hair was like snow-white wool and his eyes were as burning flames. His feet were like burnished brass, as if they were blazing in a furnace. His voice was like the sound of many waterfalls… And his general appearance was as the sun shining in its full strength. My response when I saw him? I collapsed as a dead man” (Revelation 1.10,12-17 tentative BRI version).
This is how Mashiach looks today and we shall share His same identical glory! Others already see that glory in us! We’re like a shining beacon on a hilltop, or a lighthouse casting out its bright light as a signal for the lost at sea, and as a comforting haven for those who are stumbling about in the darkness.
Haven’t you been singled out, as it were, to become the confidante of a miserable sinner, who wants what you’ve got? Perhaps you can’t see it, but he can. The Rebbetzin Glenys and I were told to our faces by the wife of a local minister that we had brought “a nobility” to that particular AOG where we once attended. Yeshua himself said we were to “be lights of the world set on a hill.” Then he added, “So shine! That others may glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5.14-16). How can God be glorified? Why, in the same way the priests ceaselessly glorified God in the Jerusalem Temple! By our constant service of praise!
- We cannot shine as lights of salvation unless we have hearts intensified with praise of God.
“Whoso offers praise glorifies me” (Psalm 50.23). Praise literally intensifies the shining (glorified) heartbeat of the Lord.
Yeshua the Messiah is returning to reign before His ancients GLORIOUSLY (Isaiah 24.18-23). At Messiah’s glorious Advent we shall be a glorious SPIRIT Community (Ephesians 5.27; Titus 2.13). Paul is talking about literal glory here. Yet how often do we minimise this term ‘glory’ to the level of a spiritual or religious phrase with little or no real meaning whatsoever? There are literally dozens of Scriptures which encourage us concerning our final restoration to the “glory” of God. The glory of becoming GOD’s mirrored image, reflection. Sharing His GLORY — sharing His DEITY (Romans 2.7, 10; 5.2; 8.18; 9.23-24; 1 Corinthians 2.7 etc.).
Our Lord Yeshua had self-esteem. It was centred fully in God’s holy Spirit (Ruach haKodesh) which filled him. God’s Spirit is the Spirit of glory.
The apostle Kefa (Peter) said we must walk in Messiah’s footsteps (1 Peter 2.21). Consider the temptation Yeshua experienced in the wilderness. How did he send Satan miserably on his way? Very simple. He quoted from the Torah (Matthew 4.4,7,10 cf Deuteronomy 6.13,16; 8.3; 10.20 in sequence)!
Why did God give us the commandments?
“Now these are the commandments, the statutes and the judgments, which the Lord your God commanded to teach you, that you might do them in the land whither you pass over. That you might fear the Lord your God, to keep all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, you and your son, and your grandson, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged. Hear therefore, O Israel! Observe to do it! That it may be well with you, and that you may increase mightily, as the Lord God of your fathers has promised you, in the land that flows with milk and honey” (Deuteronomy 6.1-3).
- Firstly, they were given in order to awaken the fear or respect of God in man. Because the LORD is the LORD it should awaken an inner desire to obey Him. Aligning ourselves as much as possible with God’s will is to develop our self-esteem. After all to depart from a healthy fear of God into gross disobedience is to finally lose our self-esteem, invite insanity and lose any rational sense of reality.
- Secondly, keeping God’s commandments — in other words, maintaining the fear [awe and respect] of God and properly habituating our behaviour — would bring prosperity. The Torah teaches us that the word blesses and it condemns in terms of our response to it.
Deuteronomy 6.24 states, “And the LORD commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, FOR OUR GOOD ALWAYS, that he might preserve us alive, as it is at this day.”
Want to get through the coming Great Tribulation? Keep the commandments — all of them that are applicable. Our genuine and sincere response to Grace is the keeping of the Torah.
Because God is ONE both Torah and revelation are one in their purpose, intent and direction. Whenever we read of prophets attacking the Torah, it is always and invariably the wrong meaning given to the Law that the prophets dis-couraged and railed about. It is of cardinal importance that we grasp this fact and understand it thoroughly. This brings us to the Gateway to the Torah.
Look at the first commandment.
Exodus 20:1-3 “And God spoke all these words saying, I am the LORD your God, who has brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before me.”
This commandment forbids allegiance to any other god, any foreign god, other than the “I Am That.”
- First, God identifies Himself as the LORD, the Absolute, the Eternal, Self-existent One — “Yahweh.” “I AM THAT I AM.”
- Second, God identifies Himself as their Saviour and informs Israel that their relationship in Him — “YOUR God” — is therefore one of Grace.
- Third, all mankind is lost — fallen from the “glory” of God. This is the reason the mountain quaked and spewed out the red-heat of lava from its summit. Man was under the unsparing wrath of God (Exodus 19.16-25). Therefore, as God is our personal God, the Torah is given to the people of His Grace. If this is the case, the law becomes for the people of Grace, a way of Grace — as surprising as this first sounds.
Remember the teaching of Paul, about glory, in Romans and Corinthians? We are to share God’s glory — to share His Deity. We begin in our pursuit of ultimate glory by developing a focus on the character of inner glory. That inner glory comes from GIVING and praising, not GETTING and complaining. This can only occur when we have an overriding spiritual goal, incorporated into our life, that gives meaning to our work — indeed, whatever we are engaged in. Our attitude toward our life’s work is what grants us self-esteem. We must grasp the reality that we are created in the very reflection of God, that we mirror Deity.
- Deciding to expand our identity could transform virtually everything. We could DO absolutely whatever we wished by the utterance of a word.
This is the prime reason Yeshua said, “Seek you FIRST [essentially, principally and primarily] the kingdom of God” (Matthew 6.33). During this present age, the Kingdom of God is basically internal. “The kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17.21). It means forgetting about yourself and shifting your total energy to how you can best serve others. It means we suspend our ego allowing our inner man, the New Man, or the Invisible Self to emerge completely into what we are doing so that our body is going through the motions of activity without any negative judgment from us in our Self-talk because we keep the commandments. Its submitting to the authority of God in our life. Its learning to take orders from God the Father (through Messiah) to you — and to take those orders with a positive assurance of mind in joyous desire to obey.
“This is love, that we keep His commandments,” John tells us (1 John 5.3). John actually tells us a whole lot more about keeping God’s commandments.
“We know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments” (1 John 2.3).
The apostate Constantinian church, finally ditching the Torah in the 4th century, has (in its three major divisions) jettisoned the commandments of God, or most of them, or some of them, and replaced them with a maxim to “love God and our neighbour.” Just how we are to love God and our neighbour is a bit vague without a foundational reference guide, which of course was originally constituted in the Torah. God took pains to spell it out. What God said in effect was, “OK. This is how you are to love me…” and “This is how you are to show love to your neighbour…”
With the launching of the Protestant Reformation “loving God and neighbour” became essentially “to each his own.” Result? If we thought morality was at an all-time low during the Papal period look at what the Reformation has brought forth! We are still reverberating through the repercussions of license.
If we proclaim that we know God, and do not obey Him — if we do not keep His commandments — we are liars (1 John 2.4). That’s what God tells us by His holy Spirit. On the day of Messiah’s dais there are going to be a lot of red faces and public humiliation among those who today proclaim arrogantly that the Torah is abolished. Our Lord Yeshua said emphatically, “Heaven and earth would sooner disappear than one yod [the smallest letter in the Hebrew alphabet] or even one kots [the long thorn-like decorative stroke that scribes added to the yod] from the Torah.” A rabbinic statement, expressing support for this declaration of Yeshua, is found in Leviticus 19.2 Rabbah. “Should all the nations of the world unite to uproot one word of the Torah, they would be unable to do it.” “Heaven and earth” have not yet “passed away” (Matthew 5.18).
When we have need of something and God doesn’t answer us maybe its because we are disobeying Him. Maybe its not, but we should always examine ourselves, to ensure that we are in His will (1 John 3.22; 2 Corinthians 13.5).
“Those who obey his commands remain united with him and he with them. Here is how we know that he remains abiding with us: by the Spirit which he gave us” (1 John 3.24). The holy Spirit only indwells those who are keeping God’s commandments.
How do we know that we are converted? The holy Spirit will be indwelling us. If human nature dominates then maybe we’re not converted, and never have been. If that is the case there could be waiting for us an awful (albeit temporary) fiery end, make no mistake about it.
Further, if we claim to love the children of God, but we are not keeping God’s commandments, then our love for God is false and so therefore is our so-called love for our brethren (1 John5.2). There is an equation here that it would behoove us all to sincerely contemplate.
You see, the commandments of God are not harmful in any way (1 John 5.3) though some seem to think they are.
Those who claim that this is the case are not only liars, and have never known God, but are justifying their lusts rooted in their own rotten human nature.
The Torah is not a matter of rules, regulations and laws. The Torah is instruction for a better life. The Torah is
revelation from God on how to utilise certain principles of right behaviour in order to accomplish what we earnestly desire from this (very short) life. Its all about QUALITY OF LIFE and how to attain it.
“And now I entreat you, Lady, not as writing a commandment to you which is new in quality, but that commandment which we have been having continually from the beginning, namely, that we should be habitually loving one another with a divine love sacrificial in its essence. And this is the afore-mentioned love, namely, that we should be ordering our behaviour dominated by His commandments. This is the commandment, just as you heard from the beginning, namely, that in its sphere you should be ordering your behaviour” (2 John 5,6 Kenneth Wuest Expanded Greek).
The positive, dynamic Messianic life is a matter of living the principles revealed in the Torah of God — with and in a “new quality” of spirit. The Torah in Messiah gives those who observe it a new view of themselves, a new view of God, a new view of their fellow man, and a new view of the universe — in a word a restored Self-esteem.
Recall what I said about work, and our attitude toward it. When we seek the kingdom of God first, our work becomes enjoyable. This principle held true even for JWs (Jehovah’s Witnesses) in Nazi concentration camps. Even though they were wrong in many of the doctrinal views they held of the Bible, and their Lord and Saviour is a mere angel, their service in the camps and their attitude toward life kept them through the long and painful winter of man’s inhumanity to his fellow man. They were the one organisation Hitler couldn’t break.
Here are some points to try out based upon the liberating principles of life revealed in the Torah:
- Don’t strain to achieve. Rather, enjoy the process of the work you are doing. Results automatically come independent of our pursuit of them.
- When our mind is focused on the outcome, or result, instead of on that which we are doing, we create an inner discord which will block and thus prevent miracles from occurring. That’s how strong we are in our stubbornness.
- Prosperity is about process, not outcome. Process is about purpose and purpose is about loving and giving.
When we do this successfully we shift from a human doing to a human being. A human being has learned to stay in the
moment. It is in the silence of the moment that we discover the peaceful eternity of God. How true it is that the Torah was given by a loving God to habituate our behaviour in a positive way. The proper observance of God’s revelation and instruction creates a permanent inner joy in which Self-esteem thrives.
- What can we really say about the joy of the Torah?
“The Torah we were given is not of the world, neither is it something extraneous to it. Rather, it is the hidden essence, the primal thought from which all the cosmos and each thing within it extends. It is not about the world – it is the world, the world as its Creator sees it and knows it to be… the Torah is the blueprint G-d used to design His creation. There is not a thing that cannot be found there. Even more [the Talmud teaches us that] G-d and His Torah are one, for His thoughts are not outside of Him as our thoughts are.
“But He took that blueprint, that infinite wisdom, and condensed it… a billionfold and more, into finite, earthly terms that we could grasp – yet without losing a drop of its purity, its intimate bond with Him. Then He put it into our hands to learn, to explore and to extend.
“So… when our mind grasps a thought of Torah… with utter clarity, we grasp that inner wisdom. And at the time we are completely absorbed in the process of thought, comprehension and application, our self and being is absorbed in that infinite wisdom, which is the essence of all things. We have grasped it, and it grasps us. In truth, we become that essence” (Tzvi Freeman, From the Wisdom of the Rebbe, 1999).