On Choosing God

TrustNegate your own will in favor of God’s will.

-Ethics of the Fathers 2:4

If I surrender my will and turn my life over completely to the will of God, do I not thereby abrogate my power of free choice?

Certainly not. Take the example of a child who receives money for his birthday. An immature child may run off to the toy store or candy store and spend the money on everything his heart desires. He may indeed have several moments of merriment (although a stomach ache from indulging too heavily in confections is a possibility). Without doubt, however, after a short period of time those moments of enjoyment will be nothing but a memory, with the candy long since consumed and the broken toys lying on the junk heap.

A wiser child would give the money to a parent and ask that it be put into some type of savings account where it can increase in value and be available in the future for things of real importance.

Did the second child abrogate his prerogative of free choice by allowing the parent to decide how to invest the money? Of course not. In fact, this was a choice, and a wise choice as well as a free choice.

We can choose to follow our own whims or we can choose to adopt the will of an omniscient Father. We are wise when we make the second choice.

Today I shall…

…turn my will over to God, and seek to do only that which is His will for me.

-Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski
“Growing Each Day, Nisan 23”

How much is this like the choice Jesus made on that last night?

saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”

Luke 22:42

Last week, I started talking about free will and Divine Election and how that describes the nature of man and our relationship with God. I still don’t think that we are wind up toy soldiers, pre-programmed by God in all our responses, including the most important response, accepting or rejecting the Almighty.

I don’t think this issue comes up for Jewish people, but then, all Jews are born into a covenant relationship with God just by virtue of being Jewish. Still, the recognition and acceptance of Messiah is a vital task that remains hidden from most Jews, largely due to how Gentile Christianity has “morphed” the Jewish Messiah into a Goyishe King. Still, many Jews see God, not as a harsh overseer with a whip controlling the gates of life and death, but as a teacher, gently but firmly guiding us in the lessons of life as we walk the path with our companion.

That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

Luke 23:13-27

Imagine having this conversation with the Master along the road, but imagine it being a picture of your entire life.

Jewish in JerusalemRabbi Twerski paints for us an image of giving our lives over to God by conscious choice. Even if a Jew is born into covenant, he or she can still completely reject God, and many Jews have done so. The majority of the Jewish population of Israel is secular, so even in the Holy Land, which contains Jerusalem and the Holy Temple Mount, most of the Jewish inhabitants choose not to connect to God.

Both Easter and the Week of Unleavened Bread are now done. Religious Jews continue to Count the Omer, but Christians just “coast” into April and for most of the church, Pentecost (Shavuot) is hardly a little blip on our radar. This is why it is so important for those few of us who are conscious of the season to remind everyone else.

The presence of Mashiach is revealed on Acharon Shel Pesach, and this revelation has relevance to all Israel: Pesach is medaleg, “skipping over” (rather than orderly progress), and leil shimurim, the “protected night.” In general the mood of Pesach is one of liberty. Then Pesach ends, and we find ourselves tumbling headlong into the outside world. This is where Mashiach’s revealed presence comes into play – imbuing us with a powerful resoluteness that enables us to maintain ourselves in the world.

“Today’s Day”
Wednesday, Nissan 23, Issru chag, 8th day of the omer, 5703
Compiled by the Lubavitcher Rebbe
Translated by Yitschak Meir Kagan

After the week of Matzot, we see that beyond the Omer count, some Chassidic Jews carry forward the revealed presence of the Mashiach into the outside world with them. How much more should we, who know for certain that Messiah is revealed in Jesus Christ, should carry him forward into the world with us?

Any Jew alive on the face of this planet today is a walking miracle. Our mere existence today is wondrous, plucked from the fire at the last moment again and again, with no natural explanation that will suffice.

Each of us alive today is a child of martyrs and miracles.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“Walking Miracle”
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe
Rabbi M. M. Schneerson

I can only imagine that just seeing a Jew walking the streets of the old city in Jerusalem, buying falafel for lunch, davening at the Kotel, must all be miraculous. Who would have thought such a thing possible a scant six decades before? Yes, of course it is a miracle of God that there are any Jewish people left alive today in our world and that they live in a Jewish nation.

But it is also a miracle that there are any Christians, for who of his own free will and in his nature of sin, would choose the Almighty, to come to Him through His Son, unless the Spirit of God were not whispering in our ear, urging us, pleading with us, exploring our heart?

And once Moshiach Rabbeinu has opened our eyes to God, and our minds and hearts to the scriptures, and we choose Him, and we learn of Him and who we are as His sons and servants, what would we not do, from the wisest among us to the most simple, to serve Him who is the author of our story and the lover of our soul?

Choose Love. Choose God. Choose Life.

2 thoughts on “On Choosing God”

  1. James, nice reminder about the miraculous in our daily lives… I found this interesting information in the Jewish Encyclopedia while researching a column:
    “The Jewish Encyclopedia, citing the Jewish Talmud, explains that angels appear at times as human, at other times as wind or fire; that they are audible and visible only to those whom their message concerns. It is said that a thousand angels follow every Israelite; one angel leading to bid the demons make way; the lead angel’s left hand holds a thousand angels, the right hand, ten thousand.”
    If nothing else, it’s safe to conclude that there’s much more going on than meets the eye… 🙂

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