II Samuel 6:3 says that “the people of Israel yearned for Adonai.” Many versions will say the people of Israel “lamented” or “mourned” for God, and that’s a poor translation. The Hebrew phrase is naha ahare, and the sense of it is that the people were inwardly feeling that Yehoveh wasn’t with them; that there was a break in their relationship, and that Israel’s religious system had become empty and spiritless so they developed a deep desire for God. The key word is feeling, an emotion. Samuel was well aware of the trend of the Israelites towards wanting to recover what was missing, but they didn’t really seem to know how to get there from here. So Samuel addressed Israel as a whole congregation and said that the next step (since they desired God at least on an emotional level) was to do away with the foreign gods that had become part of their everyday lives and serve Yehoveh alone.
I could spend hours talking about this passage and feel no guilt over it (but I won’t). However I can’t let this pass without saying something. Over a period of years the people of Israel were beginning to feel the distance between them and God; they could inwardly sense that they were isolated in some way from Yehoveh. I doubt they could have put it into words, and they apparently didn’t know how to move this beyond a sense of longing, a mere emotion. But Samuel, God’s prophet, said that if they really wanted to repair the relationship with their God then two things were needed: they had to take physical action and they had to take mental action.
Remember, we are reading II Samuel 6:3, and I want you to take a pen or pencil and in verse 3 where it says, “if with all your heart,” and cross out heart and put “mind.” In ancient times (the entire bible era, Old and New Testament) the heart was thought to be the center of conscious thought. The heart was more or less seen then as how we today think of the brain. But due to the later Greek and Roman influences, the heart (in Western culture at least) came to be a metaphorical association with feelings, emotions. In the bible the heart has nothing to do with emotions, it means “mind.”
So what we see is that the people of Israel were naha ahare, having an emotional desire for God and all the shalom that such a relationship brought with it. But Samuel was telling them that in order to enjoy what they felt; they had to move beyond just the emotion of it and set their minds, their wills, towards the goal. But even this still involved only a passive intent; what was critical was to set their emotions and wills into action. And the action was to physically remove the foreign god idols and pagan sanctuaries from their midst and have only worship centers that dealt with Yehoveh.
Folks, our Messianic Synagogues and churches (especially) tend to have a large portion of permanent “seekers” as their congregations. People who always feel the need for God, but don’t have the will (their minds haven’t been set) to move towards God and make a firm commitment. Not only that, they won’t take the physical action of changing elements of their lives that by definition are roadblocks to harmony with Yehoveh. They won’t leave an adulterous relationship. They won’t stop cheating people, or stealing from people, or take serious steps to remove themselves from the drug or alcohol culture. They won’t dedicate time and energy to learn God’s Word, or fellowship with His people and be mentored, or serve in ministry. They won’t give up harmful things in their life that are completely incompatible with the things of God like sleeping around, or homosexuality, or absolute immersion in the love of money and wealth and power.
I am not talking about cleaning up your life before coming to the Lord; to find salvation from the Savior. For that, you are invited to come as you are. If you are dressed in your pajamas or big baggy pants . . . “come on down . . .” However, if you have already signed on the dotted line and accepted Yeshua as your Lord and Savior, but find you are distant and alienated from his presence because you refuse to let go of those things which are encumbering you, then cast those thing off and return to him.
But don’t make this determination according to how you feel about it. Yes, I understand that our emotions are part of who we are, and God created those emotions. Emotions are valid and necessary. But emotions are the lowest level of our relationship with the Lord. From low to high, the least earthly expression of our love of God is emotion, the next up the scale is an intellectual commitment (a commitment of our will), but the highest earthly expression is to act and do the Word of God. To live out the Word of God is the goal, not to feel it.
Of course this requires the Lord filling us with faith and a spiritual re-birth. But from a tangible point of view, the hierarchy of commitment I laid out for you is true and it’s the one that Samuel is talking about.
But notice something else here as well that plagues every one us who call on His holy name; something that is subtle yet vexing and plays an enormous role in our lives. It’s that the issue the Israelites and Samuel were dealing with wasn’t that they had stopped believing in Yehoveh the God of Israel—even during their darkest times. They had never renounced Moses and the Law. They didn’t deny the holiness and righteousness of the Lord. What they did do, was to allow impurity to creep in; they allowed things of the world to pollute their relationship with the Creator and to twist it until like the proverbial frog in the kettle; they were almost dead in the Lord but it happened so subtly that it was almost unnoticeable.
Today we ask how these weak, wicked Hebrews couldn’t notice that it is wrong to mix in the paganism of having Baal and Ashtoreth idols in their homes, and observing some of the pagan holidays (even though they went by Hebrew names), and that if they compared the Law of Moses with how they were living their lives it was at opposite ends of the pole? But we ask that question with blindfolds firmly over our own eyes, plugs stuffed in our ears, and ready rationalizations to explain away our paganizing of Christianity that would have made any of those ancient Hebrews green with envy.
Now every time I get on this subject and use some well known examples, I immediately get people sending me emails explaining that while indeed they understand that what they do might seem to be pagan, and possibly did have pagan beginnings, they do it in God’s name. Or, they don’t actually worship this or that, it’s just a symbol and besides non-Believers are always asking them about it so it gives them a means to create a relationship. Or that it’s just for fun and they’re able to separate it from actual religious observance. What’s so ironic is that I don’t have to give you even one illustration or example because each and every one of you know the sorts of things I’m talking about and you have at least one or two in mind right now, because they are your favorite and you aren’t about to give it up.
Well, then you better than anyone should understand and sympathize with these Israelites that Samuel is talking to because it’s exactly the same situation and they always used the same arguments you’re using. Problem is, God didn’t buy it then and He doesn’t buy it now.
Again, remember: these people who were eventually exiled from the land primarily for their idolatry had never renounced God, nor given up worship of Him; they simply added “fun” or “useful” elements of a pagan system to God’s pure and holy system. So don’t even remotely think that idolatry and Christianity are mutually exclusive; that somehow if you feel your heart is towards God, that anything you might do where your intention is to honor Him or just to have fun or be in tune with your neighbors and the rest of your family that it couldn’t possibly be wrong, or idolatry. Because in reality it almost certainly is and you know it, which is why you defend it so vigorously.
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I do thank you for your gifts. It is your faithful and continued support that makes these messages possible.