"SERVICE OF THE HEART"
By the Late Rabbi Michael Short of Blessed Memory
Tonight we are going to talk about what I call "Service of the Heart", and what that means. To start with, I'd like to qoute Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, from this book "G-d in Search of Man" we read the following on page 34:
"The Greeks learned in order to comprehend. The Hebrew learned in order to revere. The modern man learns in order to use. To Bacon we owe the formulation, "Knowledge is power."
This is how people are urged to study: knowledge means success. We do not know any more how to justify any value except in terms of expediency. Man is willing to define himself as "a seeker after the maximum degree of comfort for the minimum expenditure of energy." He equates value with that which avails. He feels, acts, and thinks as if the sole purpose of the universe were to satisfy his needs. To the modern man everything seems calculable; everything reducible to a figure. He has supreme faith in statistics and abhors the idea of a mystery. Obstinately he ignores the fact that we are all surrounded by things which we apprehend but cannot comprehend; that even reason is a mystery to itself. He is sure of his ability to explain all mystery away."
Heaven prohibits this last line of the above quote, to be true! I pray that in this study you will see God wants the "Service of the Heart", and that is not a mystery. Let's look at some Scriptures first, go to
8 I have set the LORD always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.
25 For David speaketh concerning him, I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved:
This should be the principle of all believers in the Messiah, that we set the Lord before us always.
Because the attitude and conversation of a man when he is in the presence of a King are not the same as when he is in his own house among family and others who know him well. In the presence of royalty a man takes special care that his speech and demeanor be refined and correct. How much more should a man be careful of his deeds and words, realizing that the Great King, the Holy One, whose glory feels the whole universe, is always standing by him and observing all his doing, as it is said in the Scriptures.
24 Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the LORD. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the LORD.
If you always bear this in mind, you will aquire a feeling of reverence and humility and you should be ashamed and afraid doing anything wrong.
We should be conscious of the presence of God even while still lying in bed, as soon as you wake up you should acknowledge the loving-kindness of the Lord because He renewed and refreshed us thereby enabling us to serve Him devotedly all day.
23 They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.
This means, every morning man is like a new-born living being, and for this he should thank God with all his heart. Before you arise you should acknowledge God's greatness, one of the prayers said by Jews in the morning is, "I thank thee, O living and eternal King, Who hast mercifully restored my soul within me; Thy faithfulness is great".
We, who are Messiah's own, should be much more grateful!! One of the first prayers a Jew says in the morning is a little startling, but if you look at it close it says a tremendous thing - "Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe, Who has formed man in wisdom and created in him several apertures and pipes. It is clearly known before the Throne of Thy Glory that if one of these opened or one of them be sealed [contrary to it's nature], it would be impossible to exist and stand before Thee". Basically what he is saying "Thank you, Lord, because the plumbing works"! To the Western trained mind this prayer is almost shocking. Yet it is thoroughly characteristic of the simplicy, purity, and wholeness of the out-look of the Jew. You see the Jew views prayer as an absolute necessity, it is the corner-stone of Judism. That's why Rav Shaul (the apostle Paul) says in:
18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;
17 Pray without ceasing.
2 Cor 5:20
20 Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God.
1 Cor 14:15
15 What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.
When you read that you think, boy Paul surely was spiritual or some such. However if you remember that Paul was a Jew and if you know anything about Judaism, you will realize Paul was only saying what the Rabbi's say - I'll quote the prayer book, "He who fails to include his fellow man in his prayers is a sinner", of course Paul was now filled with the Holy Spirit and what he said carries much more meaning!
But also bear in mind that Paul, as a Jew understood the essence of prayer, that is why you will find in all his books some phrase about prayer. Let's look at a few more Scriptures on prayer:
26 Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
1 Cor 14:14
14 For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful.
2 Cor 13:7
7 Now I pray to God that ye do no evil; not that we should appear approved, but that ye should do that which is honest, though we be as reprobates.
9 And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment;
9 For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;
23 And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
25 Brethren, pray for us.
II Th 1:11
11 Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power:
II Th 3:1
1 Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you:
1 Tim 2:8
8 I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.
2 Tim 4:16
16 At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge.
18 Pray for us: for we trust we have a good conscience, in all things willing to live honestly.
13 Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms.
14 Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:
16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.
The Jew when he prays, the prayers serve as an occasion for exercising the values of Malkhut Shama' yim, the Kingship of God,
Kiddush HaShem, Sanctification of God's Name,
Tzedakah, Charity or Love;
Mitzvah, Religious Commandment or Good Deed; and of course Torah, this constitutes the framework of Jewish Worship.
I want to quote you something from the Midrash; "God says to Israel. 'I bade thee read thy prayers unto me in thy synagogues, but if thou canst not, pray in thy house; and if thou art unable to do this, pray when thou art in the field; and if this be inconvenient to thee, pray on thy bed; and if thou canst not do even this, think of Me in thy heart"- Amen!!!
Folks as believers in Messiah, we should be doing these things, we who are supposed to make Israel jealous are failing because we don't understand the power of prayer the way the Jew does!!!
In Romans 12:1; Paul says to present your bodies as a living sacrifice - Can we find in Judaism a background for this N.T. statement?
1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
Well to start with the English word "Carnal" has no equivalent in the Hebrew language, but this does not mean that Judaism does not recognize the evil in man. There are words in Hebrew that speak of the "good impulse" and the "evil impulse" in man.
Now lets get back to the question about Paul, in the Midrash the Rabbi's express the opinion that it is possible for a man to worship God in both his impulses. How is this possible, by bringing the impulse under subjection to the Torah!! By giving reverence to God for being so wonderfully made. The closing blessing for the proper body functions ends with, " Blessed art, Thou, O Lord, Healer of all flesh and Maker of wonderful things"; Paul had a much better view of this by saying "present your bodies as a living sacrifice", but the intent is the same.
Judah, the son of Tema, said; "Be bold as a leopard, light as an eagle, swift as a deer, and strong as a lion, to do the will of the Father who is in Heaven" -
"Bold as a leopard" means that a man should not be ashamed to worship God in the presence of people who may laugh at him. What did Paul say, " I am not ashamed of the Gospel". Look a Rom 1:16
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
To get a better view of the application of this "Bold as a leopard" and what it means, let's look at some Scriptures, you see God's word is a two edged sword!!
38 Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.
26 For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father's, and of the holy angels.
33 As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.
11 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.
2 Cor 7:14
14 For if I have boasted any thing to him of you, I am not ashamed; but as we spake all things to you in truth, even so our boasting, which I made before Titus, is found a truth.
2 Tim 1:8
8 Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God;
2 Tim 1:12
12 For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.
11 For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren,
"Light as an eagle," refers to our sense of vision, that is, we must be swift to close our eyes so as not to look at evil; because sight is the initial act of sin; the eye sees, the heart covets; and the limbs, the instruments, executes it:
I Jn 2:16
16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
I Jn 2:17
17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.
6 Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart;
1 Pet 3:17
17 For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing.
22 The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.
23 But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!
9 And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire.
15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?
22 Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness:
"Swift as a Deer," refers to the legs; that is, our feet should always run swiftly to perform God's will, and to flee from evil:
1 Cor 6:18
18 Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.
1 Cor 10:14
14 Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.
1 Tim 6:11
11 But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.
2 Tim 2:22
22 Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.
12 Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.
18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
36 For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.
1 Pet 2:15
15 For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men:
"Strong as a Lion"; refers to the heart; because the zeal to worship the Creator is in the Heart. It is our duty to do our utmost to worship him. Paul says in :
20 Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;
Paul also said in :
2 Tim 2:15
15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
This goes along with the theme of "living sacrifice" , in Judaism, the Rabbi's say, "it is the duty of every man to make himself strong as a lion". Immediately upon awakening from sleep, he must rise quickly and be ready to worship God, before the "evil impulse" is given an opportunity to dissuade him from rising. How many of you have heard "It's too cold to get up" in the winter, or "you didn't get enough sleep" in the summer ? Well that's the "evil impulse" getting his shots in!! But we need to consider a few things here, what if the President, or even the Mayor of Phoenix, called you in the middle of the night, in the middle of the winter, and request you to meet them downtown, how fast would you get dressed!!! How much more must one rise swiftly, when one is called upon to perform the Service of the Supreme King of Kings!!
In (Yoma 38b) the Sages say, " He who makes an effort to do good, is assisted by Heaven", of course, we as believers in Messiah know that assist comes from the Holy Spirit!!
Let's re-read Rom 12:1, what is our reasonable service?
In Temple times, some Priest were required to perform the mid-night service; how would you like that to be your reasonable service? Well the Priest didn't look upon it as anything but a blessing. They(the priest) say there is nothing more meritorious that serving the Master at mid-night. Let's look at a couple of Scriptures to back up why the priests felt this way:
19 Arise, cry out in the night: in the beginning of the watches pour out thine heart like water before the face of the Lord: lift up thy hands toward him for the life of thy young children, that faint for hunger in the top of every street.
30 Therefore prophesy thou against them all these words, and say unto them, The LORD shall roar from on high, and utter his voice from his holy habitation; he shall mightily roar upon his habitation; he shall give a shout, as they that tread the grapes, against all the inhabitants of the earth.
This is the result if they don't do these things. In Lam 2:19, the Rabbi's say that this means the "Divine Presence" is then before them. They (the Rabbi's) also say "He who engages in the study of Torah at night, is called 'a servant a of the Lord' ", look at Psalms 134:1
1 Behold, bless ye the LORD, all ye servants of the LORD, which by night stand in the house of the LORD.
So what is our reasonable service? I believe it is listen for our names to be called and to be quick to try to perform what ever duty God call's us to do!!
We could take some lesson's from the Jews about prayer and service. The day of prayer begins with the Jew the moment he opens his eyes. A man awakens in the morning to full consciousness; he discovers, with delight, that he is still alive. And at once thanks God for having restored to him life after the deathlike sleep of the night. Scientist and Doctors will tell you that when we sleep we are as close to death as we can be, if your body forgets to breath, you die!!! The Jew recites this prayer, "Blessed art Thou, O Lord, Who returns the breath of life [in Hebrew- Neshamah] to the dead, [literally, dead bodies]. The Neshama You gave me, God is pure. You guard it and You will take it away from me at the Appointed time, only to return it in the future world to come. But as long as the Neshama is within me, I will acknowledge You, O God, and God of our Fathers, Master and Lord of All". Folks, if the Jew who we claim does not know the Messiah, can pray prayers like this, how much more should we who are His, open our hearts and really give Him the proper adoration and respect due Him. Look in
11 Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.
12 Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.
He is worthy of Honor and Glory!!! And speaking of honor, someone go to Matt 6:9-13
9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
10 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
This known as The Lord's Prayer, well wait to you hear this!!
Some of the most passionate personal prayers in Jew liturgy are found in the daily morning service, known today to so few Jews, and in the Yom Kippur service read only once a year. They are in part, individual prayers, recorded in the name of the Rabbi who recited it.
Much like the Lord's prayer, but here is one of great interest, in starts like this "May it be Thy will, O Lord our God, ... that we acquire the habit of Torah study and that we may cling to the mitzvot. Lead us not into the power of sin or of transgression or temptation or shameful deeds. Let not the evil inclination rule over us....and give us this day and every day grace, love, and mercy in Thine eyes and in the eyes of all men".
This prayer is known as The Vihi Ratzon and of course, what the Jews say about this, is the Lord's Prayer owes much to the Vihi Ratzon, but it is the age old story of which came first, the chicken or the egg. But at least they (the Jews) recognize the Messiah was a Jew and He had a good understanding of the Hebrew prayers and traditions, if we could only get the Church to recognize the same.
To the Jew, the term 'Service of the Heart' is not a new term or concept, as the Jews have always had persecution for their religion. In 456 C.E. when they were in Persia, it was forbidden to say the "Shema" in public. The Rabbi's urged the Jews to worship God in private, just as they had been accustomed to do in Public Service.
The term "Le'Olam Yehay Adam" was the by-word, it means "Let a man always remember to worship God in private, as he would in public". This was a reminder to say the Shema even though government authorities had forbidden it. Today if you look at a Siddur, you will see that the Shema may be written in small letters to remind us of the forbidden times.
Look at Matt 6:19-21,
19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
the Lord is telling us just as the Rabbi's were telling the Jews, to lay up our treasures in Heaven and not worry about what is happening here on Earth! Also look down a little to Matt 6:24-25;
24 No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
25 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?
does not this also fit in to the "Service of the Heart", you cannot serve two masters.
In Matt 6:32, it says "the Heavenly Father knoweth what ye have need of",
32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
Once again the Jews have a good understanding of what this means. Remember it was forbidden for the Jew to say the Shema, and of course, they found a way around the law by having a short form of the Shema. However, before the short form was used the Rabbi's would say this prayer: "Master of all worlds, not because of our righteous deeds do we lay our supplications before Thee, but because of Thine abundant mercies, What are we? What is our piety? Our Strength? What shall we say before Thee, O Lord? Are not all the mighty as nought before Thee, famous men as if they had not been? But we are Thy people, the children of Abraham who loved Thee... Therefore, we are bound to praise and to sanctify Thy Name.. How happy are we; How beautiful our heritage. Happy indeed are we, for we can declare, twice each day "Shema Yisrael". The Jews understood even in a forbidden State that God knew their needs and they were telling Him how happy they were for his provisions. The prayer's were concluded with this statement; "Blessed art Thou, O Lord, Who sanctifies His Name before the whole world"; with this the Jews were expressing the hope that the need for secrecy may be speedily pass and that God will be worshipped openly all over the world. Friends, I'm afraid that this kind of prayer for all believers will be upcoming in the not so distant future, as today the "New World Order" states in order for them to be successful, the Evangelicals and the Jews must GO!!
In Matt 6:33-34 This portion of the Sermon on the Mount is summarized by the statement " Seek ye first the Kingdom of God".
33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
The believers who have pledged their allegiance to the King must continue seeking the kingdom and it's righteousness. We must seek the spiritual and the material will be added. If we as believers seek first the righteousness that is characteristic of God's Kingdom, then "all these things(material things)" will be added.
God's sovereignty over the whole universe is recounted by Jew and Gentile when we pray, "Thou hast made the heavens and the earth and the sea and all things that is in them, and Who among all the works of Thy hands, on high or below, can question what Thou doest"? We turn from what seems to be an unapproachable God to a heavenly Father when we pray, "Our Father who art in heaven, deal with us lovingly for Thy great Name's sake". If we keep him utmost in our hearts and our prayers, giving him, his proper place, then truly all these things will be added unto us. Hallelujah!!!
Just as the Service of the Altar is called 'Avodah' so is prayer called 'Avodah', the Rabbi's add that prayer is 'Avodah Shebalayu' or ' Service of the Heart'; today even in English we use the term 'services' to mean worship!
In closing this 'Service of the Heart'; I would like to point out the closing of the evening services in Judaism, they close with two benedictions after the Shema. One is called the 'HaShkivaynu' meaning cause us to lie down, it is the benediction that God is the Watchguard of Israel and for sure he is the Watchguard of the believers in the Messiah!! And the last benediction is one of the most touching figures of speech in the Siddur, this is the prayer for God's protection. For what dangers and troubles does a man conjure up in the weary hours of the night!! From them he seeks safety in the safest place he can imagine, near to God. So he prays every night, "Hide us in the shadow of Thy Wings, for Thou art God, Our Guardian and our Deliverer; Thou art God, a compassionate and merciful King". Bless and praise His Holy Name, AMEN!
MHM would like to thank Rabbi Mike Short for letting us put up some of his archive teachings from Beth El Messianic Fellowship. To have been part of a that Messianic Fellowship was truly a blessing. Rabbi always allowed all of us a voice, what a wonderful thing, a what a wonderful friend. May the Lord bless you in your retirement!