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Parashat Shemini - Strength for the Weary

Strength for the Weary

Further thoughts on Parashat Shemini

by John J. Parsons

The sages ask, "Why does the Torah use a repetitious expression, "Sanctify yourselves and you shall be holy" (הִתְקַדִּשְׁתֶּם וִהְיִיתֶם קְדשִׁים) (Lev. 11:44)? Because when we make an effort - no matter how feeble at times - to draw near to the LORD, He will draw near to us.

There is a story (told in the midrash) that wonderfully illustrates this idea: An old sage once saw a beautifully shaped rock which he very much wanted to bring as a gift to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. However, the rock was too heavy for him to carry and he couldn't afford to pay porters to bring it to Jerusalem.  The man prayed and asked God for help, and soon five angels (disguised as men) appeared to offer the man help. The sage told them that he would like them to carry the stone to Jerusalem, but he couldn't pay them. The five angels immediately offered to carry the rock on his behalf, but only if the man put his finger to the rock to "help" them carry it. The midrash states that although the angels didn't need man's help, the man was required to do what he could.... God then took care of the rest.

In this connection, the Dubner Maggid once told this parable: A tourist once checked into a hotel and asked the porter to bring his suitcase to the top floor, where he had rented a room. After an hour or so the porter knocked on his door and brought in the suitcase, sweating and breathing heavily. "What did you put into your suitcase, stones?", the porter asked, "it is extremely heavy!" The tourist looked at him in surprise: "My suitcase is heavy? Not at all! Mine is very light. You must have mistakenly brought up someone else's suitcase!"

Do you feel "weary" about serving the LORD? Then maybe you have "picked up" some other agenda along the way.  The Lord says, "You have not worshiped Me .. that you should be weary of Me... (Isa. 43:22). In other words, serving the LORD leads to freedom and joy. Indeed, the NT Greek word for the word for "joy" (χαρά) is directly related to the word "grace" (χάρις). If you find yourself "weighed down" in your service of God, something may be wrong - and the burden you are carrying might be coming from a source other than God. Where the Spirit of the LORD is, there is liberty... God is not a "slave driver," and indeed the purpose of our redemption was to set us free to serve Him. Yeshua's burden is kal - light.

People necessarily value things, and therefore every person alive is a "worshipper" (i.e., a person who finds "worth" in something). The question that matters is what is your ultimate concern? What moves you to get out of bed in the morning, to go through your day, to have hope in your heart? What do you really want? Where are you really going? Each of us will stand before God for judgment one day and give account of his or her life... One day all that is hidden will be fully disclosed to the light...

"Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up." (Gal. 6:9). Draw near to God -- and He will draw near to you (James 4:4; Heb. 11:6).

Postscript:  Of course sometimes we indeed become weary in life - from sickness, from the world and its oppression, from heartache of life in a fallen world, from the battle with the devil, and so on, though it is vital to remember there is consolation given to us in Messiah, and heavenly food is given to strengthen us. I believe the LORD allows oppression to sometimes chasten us -- that is, to help us remember Him and our profound need for His love to reign within our hearts... As long as that is not settled, there is an ongoing lesson.

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