Parsha Bo - Shemoth/Exodus 10:1 - 13:16
In last week’s blog, we talked about how to prepare for our redemption as learned from Parsha Va'era. We learned that in order for Yisra’el to be deemed ready and worthy of being taken out of Mitsrayim (Egypt), they had to first remove their idols and stop doing the ways of the Mitsrites (Yehez/Ezek. 20:5-8).
In this week's readings, Parsha Bo, YAHUAH gives Yisrael the commandments concerning korban Pesach, the Passover offering. YAH commanded Yisrael to slaughter a lamb, put the blood on the lintel and doorposts of their houses, and eat the meat with matzah and bitter herbs.
Sheep were an idol in Mitsrayim. So, slaughtering the lamb not only showed Yisrael's commitment to serve and obey YAHUAH, but it also showed that they rejected idolatry and the ways of the Mitsrites. Following these instructions proved that they were indeed ready for their redemption.
In the same manner, we too must remove our idols and change our ways if we want and expect a great deliverance from YAH.
Now, one may easily think, “I don’t have idols, so I’m good there.”
Well...not so fast.
Surely, none of us would be found bowing down or offering a gift to a statue. That type of idol worship is not much of a threat to most of us today.
Yisrael was commanded to slaughter the idol of the people around them. When we look at the world around us today, there are many idols - many things and/or people that are worshiped or adored.
But there is one type of idolatry that is more of a threat to us than any other. It’s the one that I’m sure each of us finds our self ensnared by at some time or another.
The main idol of today’s society, one that encompasses many other forms of idolatry, is the idol of "self."
I like to refer to it as "I"-dolatry.
"I"-dolatry can occur in different forms, such as:
Materialism - the love of physical possessions. It’s getting all the things that I want, when I want, and thinking I’m somehow better now that I have them. I’m always looking for a gift to give myself.
Love of Pleasure - I want to do whatever makes me feel good, whatever gives me (my body) comfort and/or pleasure. I often crave or lust for things, and I’m not satisfied until I get it. I may even have a few addictions. Laziness is another form because I just want my body to relax and be comfortable all the time.
Love of Self (obviously) - This manifests as being self-centered and selfish. I always make myself - my life and my problems - the center of attention. I make myself and my life so big, I just can’t see anybody else. I take up all the room in my mind and my heart.
Arrogance and Pride - I want everyone to know and acknowledge just how smart/funny/good-looking/wealthy/strong/ or _____ I am. If you don't acknowledge me, then I'll have to show you just how _____ I am. Low self-esteem, believe it or not, is just another form of pride. It's the sadness that results when I think no one recognizes just how good I am - not even me! All I can think about is what people think of me.
Anger - I get mad when things don’t go my way, when I don’t get what I want, and when people don’t do what I want them to do. How dare the world not respond to my desires!
These are just a few examples of how we fall into the trap of “I”-dolatry. Undoubtedly, there are many more ways that we tend to lift ourselves up and serve ourselves.
For many of us, though, we may be more on the subtle end of the spectrum. Perhaps, we're not overtly arrogant, but there's often an area (or two) in which we do quietly think highly of ourselves. And at times, we may feel we have to prove it.
Perhaps, we're not blatantly self-centered, but we all have those times when we get so busy in our own world that we're "innocently" oblivious to what someone else may be going through.
Ever get angry? We don't have to have an "anger problem" to fall into this "I"-dolatry trap. We just simply have to get mad that something didn't happen the way we wanted. Temporarily forget that we're not the One in charge.
These are some of the more subtle snares and traps of "I"-dolatry. Just as YAHUAH commanded Yisrael to remove all traces of leaven - the stuff that 'puffs up' - so too, we have to be scrupulous in ridding ourselves of all traces of "I"-dolatry, no matter how small.
The first two commands YAHUAH gave us at Sinai were to worship Him and to not have any idols. It was necessary to give us both commands because it is completely possible to worship YAHUAH and still worship idols.
So, though we may worship YAHUAH with sincerity, we must be certain to rid ourselves of any and all traces of idols, including the “I”-dol of “self.”
Just as Yisrael had to do something to show that they worshiped YAHUAH and rejected idolatry (slaughtering the Pesach lamb), so too we have to do something to show that we worship YAHUAH and reject the idols of the people around us.
Saying it with our mouths and committing to it in our hearts is a good start, but it’s only a start. We have to do something to show YAH we’re ready for His deliverance.
Here's how we get rid of the “I”-dol of self:
1. Learn Torah.
When we obey the commands in the Torah, we demonstrate that we worship and serve YAHUAH. Through obeying Torah, we submit to YAH's Authority - and lower ourselves.
YAHUAH's commands teach us discipline. They keep us from indulging our flesh and from inflating (exalting) our self. They cause us to always be mindful of YAHUAH and others.
Torah is also our weapon. YAHUAH brought out the “divisions” or “armies” of Yisrael (Shem/Ex. 12:17, 41). We have to be soldiers in the Army of YAH waging war against the Adversary and against ourselves - against the gentile ways that we’ve adopted and against our own bad character traits. We battle until we overcome. YAHUAH strengthens us when we learn His Torah.
2. Practice Humility.
Yes, practice. Constantly look for ways to exalt YAHUAH and put others first.
Be aware. Notice every instance of "self-service" - whether through materialism, arrogance, self-centeredness, anger, or whatever. Be aware. Stop “I” from elevating itself right then and there. The more we pay attention, then the more we’ll be able to stop self-serving before it even starts.
Remember that YAHUAH is Sovereign of the universe, not us. Submit to His Authority by thinking, “What would YAH want me to do right now? How would He want me to behave, think, or speak?” Diffuse anger by saying, “I am not the Sovereign. YAHUAH is the Sovereign. He is in control of this situation, not me.”
Practice, practice, practice.
Give. Give again. And then give some more. Giving helps us to esteem others higher than ourselves (goes together with humility). We have to give of ourselves and of our possessions - including money. Money is the hardest thing to give, and the more we find ourselves holding on to it (i.e. being stingy), then the more we need to give it.
Give to YAHUAH. We give Him ourselves and our time in prayer and praise, and we give Him our possessions through tithes, offerings, and contributions. This causes us to exalt Him and lower ourselves because we’re regularly reminding ourselves that "YAHUAH is the Source of my life, my blessings, and all my provisions - not myself."
Give the same to others - time and possessions (again, including money). This keeps us from being materialistic and self-centered. When we give of our time, through a listening ear or a helping hand, we put others before ourselves. Giving leads to love, and when true love fills us, there’s no room for the “I”-dol.
In doing these three things, we remove our “I”-dol and change our ways from the ways of the world to the ways of YAHUAH. This is what YAHUAH requires of us in redemption - this is our part to play.
So, if you're in a place where you’re waiting for the salvation and deliverance of YAHUAH, then work on these three things. Strengthen and increase in each area.
These are three areas that have no limit. There's always room for improvement - you can always learn more, give more, and be more humble.
Show that you are ready to be delivered: Learn Torah, practice humility, and give.
Give some more :)