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Under the Influence of What?

Written by Rabbi Michael Weygant on . Posted in Biblical Lifestyle

Our English language contains many expressions to designate something as being obvious even if the obvious is disregarded. We are familiar with expressions suggesting exactly that, such as:

  • “You can't see the forest from the trees”
  • “There is an elephant in the room”
  • “If you don’t see that, you are blind as a bat.”

Some obvious truths and principles are upheld and set forth in Scripture that also cannot be disregarded. They are truths set forth by GOD Himself and therefore are immutable truths. If you are familiar with the New Covenant writings, you will recognize the following immutable truth statements and truth principles:

  • All of us have sinned, falling short of GOD’s glory.
  • The wages of sin (what we deserve for our sinfulness) is death
  • The gift of GOD is eternal life through faith in Yeshua (Jesus)
  • By the works of Torah no man will be justified before GOD
  • By grace we are saved through faith, it is the gift of GOD, not of works, lest any man should boast
  • We are His workmanship created in Messiah Yeshua for good works for which we have been called
  • We are to keep pressing on in the high calling of GOD in Messiah Yeshua
  • We are to walk in the Spirit of GOD (be empowered by Him)

To make the obvious more obvious we could correctly state that the New Covenant presents the summation of all the biblical commandments as:

We are to love GOD and we are to love one another — that is, love our neighbor with the love of GOD, love our neighbor as our self.

1 Yochanan 4:19-21   19 We ourselves love now because He loved us first. 20 If anyone says, “I love GOD,” and hates his brother, he is a liar. For if a person does not love his brother, whom he has seen, then he cannot love GOD, whom he has not seen. 21 Yes, this is the command we have from Him: whoever loves GOD must love his brother, too.

It is indeed noteworthy that immediately after the giving of the Ten Commandments, detailed in Sh’mot (Exodus) 20, nearly sixty other specific commandments connected to various circumstances are set forth in the next three chapters of the Torah, Sh'mot, chapters 21-23.

Included among these commandments are directives from the LORD on various real-life circumstances including kidnapping, cruelty to servants, restitution by thieves, concern for the widows and fatherless, not showing partiality to the poor, not reviling GOD, the command to bring the firstfruits into the house of GOD and even a commandment to avoid bribes. Each commandment is meant to foster righteous community living within Israel and to direct those facing such real-life issues to the prescribed-by-GOD way to deal with such matters within a covenant based community setting. 

In this same section of Exodus, we read:

 Sh’mot 23:4   “If you come upon your enemy’s ox or donkey straying, you must return it to him.

This commandment would be a ‘no brainer’ – a logical action anyone would instinctively want to do – if just one word within it was changed so as to read: “If you come upon your friend’s ox or donkey straying, you must return it to him.” But, alas, it says quite clearly, “if you come upon your enemy’s oxen…you must return it…”  A vast difference exists on many levels between one we consider a friend and one we consider to be our enemy. These two terms, friend and enemy, are polar opposites on par with terms like hope and despair, life and death, faith and unbelief, saved and unsaved, being led of the Spirit as compared to being under the influence of the flesh. 

Notice how the commandment in Sh’mot 23:4 proceeds with the words of the Torah recorded in verse 5:

Sh’mot 23:4, 5   “If you come upon your enemy’s ox or donkey straying, you must return it to him.  (v. 5) If you see the donkey which belongs to someone who hates you lying down helpless under its load, you are not to pass him by but to go and help him free it.

An obvious implication of this mitzvah (command) involves GOD’s desire to see His people rise above the rancor, negative emotions and ignorant actions connected to broken personal relationships. After all, messianic believers are instructed to bless others, not curse them (Romans 13:14) The LORD clearly desires His people to be above the fray and to be seated with Him, as it were, in heavenly places (Colossians 3:1, 2). Furthermore, we are to be set apart from the base emotions that shackle and hinder so that we instead can be free to help others even if the others include our enemies.

As much as we would like to think we could rise to meet the challenge in relationship to the plight of our enemy and his beastly companions, reality is shown forth most by the heart attitude we currently maintain, by the actions we currently take, and by the words we currently speak in the hearing of others. The New Covenant states that while we human beings – the donkeys and oxen we can be at times - were enemies of GOD, Messiah died for us. We were dead in the pit called sin and our great Savior and Friend extended His hand of mercy to us to lift us out of that pit even while we were in animosity to Him and His will. 

  • Would we choose to pass our enemy by in his dilemma? Would we offer a helping hand? Could we muster the inner resolve to set aside the differences and overcome the fear of interaction with our enemy, long enough to help free his oxen or donkeys?
  • After all, we could just choose to say within our self: “Ha, ha, ha, ha! My enemy is getting what he deserves! His plight shows that in this matter I am right! GOD is ‘dealing’ with him by letting this misfortune come upon him. Now my enemy will learn his lesson. He better humble himself before me now and admit I AM the righteous one in the matter that separates us! I’m the man!! GOD is on MY side and my enemy better not mess with me!”
  • Or, we could think like this in relation to our enemy and the calamity he is facing: “You see. I warned him, judgement would come upon him and I am a ‘prophet.’ When I speak, GOD is speaking. I even have a coterie of followers who consider me to be right in this matter and the purveyor of the words of GOD.’ (… So did Hitler.)

Sadly, such a come-uppance attitude, arrogant words and actions occur much too frequently in the body of Messiah. They are infectious, leprous and leave telltale scarring on many who have been misled or come under the influence of those who thrive and feel empowered in their own rebellious ways and those they subtly persuade to take up their unrighteous cause.

Yet, ironically, like the enemies in our life, at times we all face ox-in-the-ditch situations. We encounter events that blind side us or cause us to feel inadequate when we consider our own strength and abilities. At times we need a helping hand from a neighborly friend or consistent encouragement that has no strings attached and no hands jockeying to take over the reins of our calling.  Dare I say it, would we accept the help of our enemy if it was real? Should an enemy extend a hand of genuine help, both the enemy and the one the enemy offers to help are facing a challenge. It is one way an impasse in relationships can be overcome.

Further, the truth in this matter is different than what could be characterized by one’s sparrings with an enemy. Within the community, GOD does not desire schisms based upon disdain, distrust or animosity towards one another to continue unabated. He desires us to learn to love one another. Having enemies complicates the simplicity of that call upon the life of a believer. We should consider Yeshua’s own words:

MATTITYAHU 5:43-48   43 "You have heard that our fathers were told, `Love your neighbors -- and hate your enemy.' 44 But I tell you, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! 45 Then you will become children of your Father in heaven. For he makes his sun shine on good and bad people alike, and he sends rain to the righteous and the unrighteous alike. 46 What reward do you get if you love only those who love you? Why, even tax-collectors do that! 47 And if you are friendly only to your friends, are you doing anything out of the ordinary? Even the Goyim do that! 48 Therefore, be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfectly blameless

The Messiah’s words continue to ring throughout the millennia: Love your enemies! Be blameless! If you are like most people, loving those who have it in for you, used you, hurt you and long for your demise or failing is a major challenge which calls for a supernatural touch of His Ruach. But, He wouldn’t ask us to do something that is beyond the power of His Spirit or the realm of possibility.

Rav Sha’ul wrote the following words to the Thessalonians after they had turned from their idolatrous ways to follow Yeshua, the Living Way.

1 THESSALONIANS 3:12, 13   And as for you, may the Lord make you increase and overflow in love toward each other, indeed, toward everyone, just as we do toward you; 13 so that He may give you the inner strength to be blameless, by reason of your holiness, when you stand before God our Father at the coming of our LORD Yeshua with all His angels.

Rav Sha’ul further states to them:

1 THESSALONIANS 4: 9,10  Concerning love for the brothers we do not need to write you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other; 10 and you do love all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you brothers, to do it even more.

We are called to increase and overflow in love toward each other, indeed, to everyone. The question therefore arises: How can we love one another even more?  In order to do so, we must of necessity overcome the natural, ungodly tendencies to bear grudges, to not forgive those who wronged us, who maligned our character and reputation while purposely hurting us, and those who wish and pray for our demise while continuing to exhibit malice towards us. Such evil inclinations are a major component and are at the core of the list of fleshly traits that have negative and potentially eternal impact upon those who are motivated by, or under the influence of, such traits.

GALATIANS 5:19 - 21   Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness,   20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies,   21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God

The obvious truth is simply this: people who are actively causing dissension, continuing to be contentious, slanderous and who live by selfish ambition while not submitted to authority are listed along with adulterers and idolaters on this list. That says a lot! Such attitudes, actions and practices if not immediately repented of, will lead to dire consequences in GOD’s timing. GOD is not mocked. Some human traits GOD hates, but there is one type of person He hates: One who sows discord among brethren (Proverbs 6:19).

Thankfully, the New Covenant offers the solution to the problem for both friends and enemies.
That provision is found only in Messiah Yeshua and in the power of His Spirit:

GALATIANS 5:16   I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.

Further the Apostle writes:

GALATIANS 5:22− 25   But, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. 24 And those who are Messiah’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.      25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

Here is one concluding question:

Do you have a relationship with the Holy Spirit of GOD? If you answer yes to having a personal relationship with the Holy Spirit, you should not be a partner to any of the evil attitudes and ways listed in Galatians 5:19 – 21. Instead, your life should be increasingly influenced and characterized by the fruit of the Holy Spirit as mentioned in Galatians 5:22 – 25.

You see, our obligation is to walk in the Spirit of GOD, to be filled with the Spirit of GOD, to yield to the Spirit of GOD, to be changed by the Spirit of GOD and to be used by the Spirit of GOD for the outworking in our generation of the will of GOD. That outworking takes place in the arena of our personal lives, our families, our friendships and our congregation. We cannot be an unrepentant fomenter of ongoing divisiveness, dissension, vindictiveness, anger, lashon hara, fornication, idolatry or the like and also be an effective tool of the Holy Spirit. To think so is sheer self-delusion, likened to not seeing the forest for the trees, not seeing the proverbial elephant in the room or being spiritually blind as a bat. 

In order to walk more fully in the Spirit we must draw near to the Messiah, who alone can pour out His Spirit upon us. If we would draw near to His throne of grace, the factious, self-willed, divisive, angry and bitter ways will disappear from our lives. If we will let GOD do the leading and remain receptive to His conviction upon our soul, we will find in Him the grace and the empowerment to do the requisite ‘following’ a talmid (disciple) should do. 

The LORD is GOD and we are to obey and follow Him, oxen, ditches, elephants in the room and all. He is the Righteous One and we are to find our rest in the secret place of the Most High, under the shadow of His wings. His Spirit should be our Influencer and we should be under His influence even in regard to those who have lifted their hands against us. Yeshua was betrayed by one of His inner circle. He, therefore, can understand the betrayals and the malevolence leveled against His people even from those who were part of the ranks. And, He gives a greater grace and calls us into a greater walk of love even if that love must be extended, should the opportunity arise, to our enemies through their ox or donkey lost or fallen into a pit.