SoulBreaths

Soul Remodeling Series: A Wilderness Call [Part 1]

It can feel like you’re walking on a high wire. Deconstructing . . . for your soul’s reconstruction.
Breaking free from preconceived “factions”—
becoming
Divergent, your unique self in the Lord.

 

© SoulBreaths.com. All rights reserved.

 

The original article was created in late 2014 and posted in early 2015 with some picture additions and post divisions later. Judaic scripture numbering references used.

 

READ TIME: 4 MINUTES.

 

He said, “Go.” But I wondered, “Where? When? For how long?” A shift was in motion. It was palpable, stirring in the pit of my soul, pushing me to the edge of a cliff and onto a high wire across a chasm with no way back.

 

So I waited. Waited for His move that would move me. I stood before Him . . . praying . . . pacing . . . questioning . . . seeking . . . kneeling . . . then standing some more. But He wasn’t “moving” me anywhere. I’d been dropped into no-man’s-land.

 

That doesn’t mean things were stilled. I had become a girl interrupted—on a cliff in a God-designed wilderness. Recently widowed, followed by what felt like an avalanche of even more losses, relationship changes, twists, and turns. Suspended.

 

I was free falling. I couldn’t breathe. My body, yes. My soul, not so much. It was suffocating. I’d lost my tribe in more ways than one and didn’t know where I fit in any more, if any place. And the uneasiness of where else this journey was taking me (soul wise or otherwise) was escalating. I felt like a character in one of my favorite YA movies, Divergent.

 


It will be difficult to break the habits of thinking . . .
instilled in me, like tugging a single thread
from a complex work of embroidery.
—Tris, Divergent by Veronica Roth


 
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GOD’S LOVE CALL

 

God is in the soul business. And He was moving deep within mine to set it apart for His purpose, taking me off the grid of my life and into a six-year-and-counting process called in Hebrew lech lecha (pronounced lek leh-kah, לֶךְ-לְךָ).

 

Totally à la Abraham in Genesis 12:1 where God told him to leave his land, father’s house, all that he knew to follow God to a new place.

 

A lech lecha journey is God-appointed . . . the soul traverses deeper, going to itself, within itself, and for itself, for a higher purpose.

 

A special period of time God sets apart. On a special journey. Not always a physical move. Not a disciplinary action. It’s a love call.

 

A wooing-from-God wilderness journey
away from the common,
into the holy,
uncovering the soul’s hiddenness.

 

It’s where He does the deepest work in your soul so it can emerge in another level of its potential in Him—a matter of the soul where it becomes its purpose, which is always linked to bringing forth the kingdom of God.

 

He removes any heaviness in your soul that’s hindering its movement . . . anything that’s muffling His voice or words . . . anything that’s blinding the soul from seeing or receiving His visions and revelations.

 

It’s like God is parting the Red Sea inside you. Rabbinic thought says that God peeled back the sea to reveal a mystery. The earth represents the physical, what is visible, tangible. But the hidden under the sea represents the spiritual, what isn’t discerned in the physical and natural.

 

During your soul-remodeling process, God peels your life back. He removes you from what’s been your “natural” way of moving and being to expose what is flowing in those subterranean waters within your soul, within its nuances.

 

Those soul nuances are revealed through three Hebrew words from scripture—words interchangeably used for soul: neshama (breath), ruach (wind/breath, spirit), and nefesh (life force, rested breath, living being).

 

[Get more soul basics later: Combat Zone series.]

 

When your soul is free to stream the light and heart of God unhindered, it is in alignment and flooded with things of God. But when sin and self prevail and your soul—more specifically the soul nuance “nefesh”—partners with your world-tethered body (your soul’s vessel), things can start to go spiritually south and spiritually dark.

 

That’s because the nefesh—also referred to as the soul’s life force—clings, negatively or positively, has self-awareness, yearnings, appetite, and is enmeshed with the body.

 

The deconstruction-reconstruction process doesn’t necessarily occur because you’re steeped in sin and out of alignment . . . although that can happen. The deconstruction-reconstruction process is first and foremost a time when God wants to go deeper and draw you closer.

 

It’s a time where things are stripped away so the soul can get newly aligned with Him, away from the earthbound/world-focused body, making room for what is to come.

 

The process isn’t comfortable or easy. It may seem as if everything you put your hand to doesn’t work. Even if it flowed smoothly before.

 

Losses may surround you—like in finances, personal endeavors, work, relationships, family matters, health issues. The way you and God used to communicate and interact takes a hard right turn—your prayer life, study time, worship time.

 

Things may seem . . .
abandoned,
disconnected,
uncertain,
foreign,
not your norm.

 

Photo by Zoltan Tasi on Unsplash

You might be tempted to see things rapidly sliding
d
o
w
n
h
i
l
l
without any end in sight.

 

BUT. HANG. ON. He is there with you in the center of it all. There will be flashes of light. His light of revelation, understanding, direction. Maybe small flashes like a firefly—or greater, like lightning cracking the sky.

 

In time, in bits here and there, you’ll get a glimpse of where your soul is, what’s going on, and what He expects through the deep-work process.

 

And at times, you just might find your unsettling feeling starting to converge with an inner lightning bolt of excitement.

 

You also might start to realize that He is journeying with you for a specific purpose through unchartered territory where your soul will mature, awaken, and soar in unimagined ways. Ways it couldn’t have if you were still living in the old and familiar.

 

What you need is God’s game plan. Yep, He has one.

 

Read about it next: Soul Remodeling: The Wilderness Call, Part 2

 


I throw my arms out to the side and imagine that I am flying . . .
My heart beats so hard it hurts, and I can’t scream and I can’t breathe,
but I also feel everything, every vein, and every fiber, every bone
and every nerve, all awake and buzzing in my body
as if charged with electricity.
I am pure adrenaline.

—Tris, Divergent by Veronica Roth


 

CREDITS: Boat photo by Zoltan Tase on Unsplash.com
CREDITS: Woman praying by Diana Simumpande on Unsplash.com

Soul Remodeling Series: A Wilderness Hero [Sarah]

SARAH (SARAI) from barrenness of soul to prophet—and the world’s matriarch

 

© SoulBreaths.com. All rights reserved.

 

First—click this pop-up for a 1-2-3 recap of God's soul-wilderness tactic.

 

READING TIME: 6 MINUTES.

 

Flashes of His light. A moment of revelation. The soul pricked with divine sparks. That was Sarah as every crack of lightning cut through her story. The call from the polytheistic, cosmopolitan Ur to Haran, move from Haran to Canaan, dealings with Lot, battle with the five kings, sweepings into pharaoh’s and Abimelech’s harems.

 

Something had to be learned here, absorbed here, infused here, stripped here in order to birth something of greater magnitude later.

 

Sarah was strong, independent, vocal, and faithful to God’s calling on her soul. Rashi, a renowned medieval French rabbi, said the various meanings of her name reveal Sarah’s identity, her soul’s ascent as it were: divine spirit, beauty, royal leadership, and prophetic gifting that surpassed Abraham’s.

 

After all, God did say, “Everything Sarah says to you—listen to her voice.” Genesis 21:12.

 

Yet the catalyst of Sarah’s story—barrenness—could reveal even more.

 

Sketchy pieces of her earlier story appear in Genesis 11:29-31, before God renamed her (Sarai to Sarah) and her husband (Abram to Abraham). “The name of Abram’s wife was Sarai . . . And Sarai was barren; she had no child . . . And Terach took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran, his son’s son, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram’s wife; and they went forth with them from Ur of the Chaldees, to go into the land of Canaan; and they came unto Haran, and dwelt there . . . And the days of Terach were 205 years; Terach died in Haran.”

 

The next line begins chapter 12 and jumps right to God giving Abram the “lech lecha” command. Meaning, go for yourself, to yourself, into yourself. But hold up. How did Abram know God at this point? There’s no introduction—unlike when God introduces Himself to Moses in Exodus 3 at the burning bush.

 

Not to mention that Terach, Abram’s father, was an idolater and an idol maker, per midrash. And why was Terach moving Abram, Sarai, and the rest of the clan initially to Canaan? And what was the point of stopping in Haran, staying there instead of reaching their destination?

 

 

BACKSTORY: WHAT’S NOT SAID

 

Some rabbinic teachings suggest that Abram got the call of God—or perhaps, the introduction to Him—earlier in Ur, where he convinced his father to head out toward Canaan. Rabbi Meir Schweiger of Pardes Institute posited in a 2008 podcast on the Lech Lecha Torah portion that Terach may have thought, why not? Change your locale, you could change your luck. [1]

 

Couldn’t hurt. Sarai was barren, after all. Things just may do a turnaround.

 

But Canaan wasn’t Terach’s calling—it was Abram’s. Terach stopped along the way after setting eyes on Haran . . . perhaps distracted by what it offered or perhaps seeing it as a place to profit for his idol business. He apparently wasn’t someone with “spiritual” endeavors in mind, someone who could keep his eye on the goal and finish the task—namely, Canaan.

 

As a result, Abram and Sarai were interrupted from their destiny call to Canaan until Terach dies. They lived those years with their souls compressurized in a pagan family that had a pagan business, in a pagan city, in a pagan world. When the lech lecha command came forth in Genesis 12, Abram is 75 and Sarai is 65.

 

Her soul had to be freed from its barrenness.
Even though she had met the one true God,
her life had been steeped in the lie of paganism.

 

It was as if God were saying . . .

 

You’ve met me, but I need to take you through a series of events
to tenderize your soul and work out the toxic lies of satan
and the human viewpoint that has been polluting your soul.
I need you to come away with me
to remove any earthbound holds on your soul . . .
to remove all ties with darkness
so my Presence can flood every part of your soul
(breath, spirit/wind, rested breath/life force)
where I will release My voice, My truth of who I am
so you can discover the truth of who you are in me,
what I’ve called you to be.

 

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THE DAYS IN BETWEEN

 

Anticipation. Frustration. Each month, watching for signs of a pregnancy. Years passed. Was it a curse or sin? A divine abandonment? Something more . . . something different?

 

Sarai had her questions, maybe her doubts.

 

Could her soul even breathe in its barren exile—or did that empty nest, as some rabbinic teachings suggest, give rise to her independence and a more visible position along side her husband?

 

Was she consistently inundated with her in-law’s pagan fertility rituals, which added more pressure, physically and spiritually?

 

Did she eventually bury the hope of a child and learn to find contentment in her relationship and gifting from the one true God?

 

Actually, there’s a possibility that, in time, Sarai started growing and flowing in her barren state, and perhaps—with God’s strength—even getting a bit comfortable in her motherless wife role—free to move about, spiritually partnering with her husband.

 

But perhaps . . . perhaps that hope kept gnawing down deep within.

 


BELOVED, gaze in thine own heart,
The holy tree is growing there;
From joy the holy branches start,
And all the trembling flowers they bear.

The Two Trees, W.B. Yeats


 

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PHYSICAL JOURNEYS MIRROR THE SOUL’S INNER JOURNEY

 

Pressurized, stark, or barren situations in the natural reflect, ignite, and even move the tensions within the soul.

 

Like you and me, Sarai’s come-away-with-me, lech lecha call from God was no different.

 

She and Abram sojourned in the physical desert—living nomadically, in infertility, leaving all that was common, their land, birthplace, and relatives, entertaining guests and angels—while traversing the untapped spiritual terrain within their souls. [2]

 

Up probably felt like down. Down felt like up. A sojourn wrought with emotional, physical, and spiritual trials—not to mention those infamous family matters. Certainly, no cakewalk.

 

Promises from God were still sitting on the table.

But they couldn’t be touched or lived out until decades later.

 

When God gave 86-year-old Abram the promise of having a child by his loins, the bold, faithful Sarai came up with a plan of how they could fulfill God’s decree—a “solution” in the natural that lagged lightyears behind God’s intentions.

 

Enter stage left, Hagar.

 

Sarai’s so-called plan (using her Egyptian maidservant as a surrogate vs. God’s plan, having a child birthed by Sarai) resulted in another 13 years of deconstruction-reconstruction soul work for her and Abram—enduring and resolving the consequences of her prior getting-ahead-of-God decision to use Hagar.

 

Since Hagar’s son with Abram—Ishmael—was outside of God’s instructions, the Abrahamic covenant couldn’t be honored/fulfilled via him. However, Ishmael is considered the father of the Arab world.
 

GOD’S PLAN MOVES FORWARD

 

Count on it. God’s purposes will be fulfilled—even when we go rogue.

 

He voiced a promise and a new name into Abram and Sarai that impacted their destiny . . . a move from having “a” mission to having a worldwide calling, per the Talmud.[3]

 

Ninety-nine-year-old Abram—his name meaning father of a nation—became Avraham, father of many nations.

 

Eighty-nine-year-old, Sarai—meaning my princess, of a tribe/household—became Sarah, princess of the world, mother of every Jewish convert.

 

At age 90, counterintuitive to any human logic, Sarah was finally ready in God’s eyes to exhale her soul’s purpose . . . not just the birth of Isaac, but becoming a vessel in God’s hands to birth a nation out of a wilderness womb that would transform the world.

 

Read all the Soul Remodeling stories:

 

I’ve had my God- designed wilderness journeys to deconstruct-reconstruct my soul. How about you? These posts can shed some light and encouragement: Soul Remodeling Series: The Wilderness Call, Part 1 and Soul Remodeling Series: The Wilderness Call, Part 2.

 

RESOURCES & CREDITS

 

[1] Rabbi Meir Schweiger’s newer podcasts can be found on Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies.

[2] Genesis 12:1-3, Genesis 13, Genesis 14, Genesis 15:1-6, Genesis 18, Genesis 22:16-18

[3] The Talmudic concept regarding Avraham and Sarah moving from a particular mission to a universal one is from Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Berachot 13a.

CREDIT: Camels in Israel photo by Cole Keister on Unsplash.com

CREDIT: Woman’s eyes photo by Alexandru Zdrobău on Unsplash.com

CREDIT: Hair-blown woman photo by Engin Akyurt on Unsplash.com

Article created July 26, 2015.

Soul Remodeling Series: A Wilderness Hero [Joseph]

JOSEPH

favor lost, favor regained—in spite of himself

 

© SoulBreaths.com. All rights reserved.

 

First—click this pop-up for a 1-2-3 recap of God's soul-wilderness tactic.

 

READING TIME: 6 MINUTES.

 

Position doesn’t just happen. It’s given by God. Joseph’s prophetic dreams aren’t a free pass to ride the tails of his royal or priest-like, multi-colored coat.

 

The word for coat in the Hebrew is k’tonet pasim, כתנת פסים—the name of the high priest’s garment.

 

And perhaps a hint of Joseph’s future soul story.

 

Those dreams are something else. Manifestations of a calling that would first become a lightning rod in God’s hands—a tool that would spark situations and form a wilderness path for Joseph’s soul.

 

It begins with his father’s favoritism and skyrockets to his brothers’ actions and reactions to Joseph’s golden position and arrogant dream-talk.

 

Sforno—Italian rabbi and regarded Torah commentator (late 1400s)—chalks up Joseph’s behavior to “youthful immaturity.”

 

Meh. Maybe. But his dream-flaunting, scandalous reporting of his brothers and overall swag demeanor are firefly flashes . . . peeks into Joseph’s soul character at that moment.

 

And then there are the flashes of revelation from God that Joseph experiences earlier on. So he isn’t suffering from a lost soul identity or ignorance of his destiny.

 

It’s a matter of Joseph’s soul not understanding, not being prepared to walk in that identity. And so, sure, immaturity plays a part when he “sees” a glimpse of his future calling but then walks about “as if” it’s already occurring.

 

With that, he starts sharing it with his father. And then with his brothers—who aren’t amused.

 

Per Genesis 37:8, his brothers hated him even more for his dreams and for his words. So, like any of us, Joseph has to learn about prophetic gifting . . . and timing.

 

Here’s the point. We’re not always meant to share the secrets Adonai gives us from the secret place. It shouldn’t matter who sees or learns what God revealed to us . . . or who recognizes our gifting.

 

We need to remain intentionally prayerful on if, when, where, to whom, and how much to share.

 

And if we believe things need to be shared, we should double-check our motivations. Is it to seek self-glory, recognition, position, approval?

 

And that’s the thing with Joseph. His motives behind the dream-boasting may be viewed as suspect. Certainly by his brothers.

 

They don’t recognize him, don’t approve. The only position they want him to have is the bottom of that animal pit or somewhere outside of Canaan altogether.

 

Nonetheless, Joseph is destined to become the linchpin—a sustainer for B’nai Israel (children of Israel)—in spite of himself.

 

GOD STEPPED IN

 

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My heart was wandering in the sands,
a restless thing, a scorn apart;
Love set his fire in my hands,
I clasp’d the flame unto my heart.
—My Heart Was Wandering In The Sands, Christopher Brennan

 

Separated from the common in his life, Joseph is brought down physically to Egypt—signifying his soul being brought down to a lowly place spiritually.

 

A place where he’ll become deconstructed and then reconstructed into the holy.

 

Where Joseph would first have to become one with his barrenness (personal desert experience).

 

Unshackled from all he feels due him.


Freed from all he previously owned.

 

Including physical and spiritual gifting, positions as prophesied, favor with his father, and even his initial favor with Potiphar.

 

Distanced from his prior owning . . .
Joseph becomes the ownerless (hefker,הֶפְקֵר).
Left, lost, unclaimed, renounced.
No hope of being, reclaiming his perceived entitlements,
his perceived identity.
All that he thought he was vanished.
Unfulfilled position, status, prophetic dreams.
Instead, he’s regarded as a derelict.
Imprisoned.

But the love call is sounded.
The wilderness journey begins.
Relying on God for transformation, promotion, and release.
However, only in God’s timing, His way.

 

It would take a while.

 

Becoming ownerless isn’t easy on the soul-body. The earth-focused body/vessel is pulled to things of this world—and its old habits die hard.

 

Even with all Joseph had gone through, he still attempts to wield matters in the natural to force the birth of his prophesied future position.

 

CASE IN POINT: GENESIS 40

 

Egypt’s king sent his chamberlains (cupbearer and baker) to prison where they serve for a year along side Joseph. The king’s duo each have a dream that only Joseph can interpret.

 

Despite his physical imprisonment and its boa constrictor–like grip on his soul, Joseph knows on some level that God is keeping the communication channels open . . . breathing into him, flowing understanding.

 

It’s undeniable. God’s authoritative words are echoing within Joseph’s soul.

 

Flashes of lightning awaken the prophetic-anointing within him. Joseph recognizes it, steps up, speaks out. After all, don’t interpretations belong to God?

 

But like in any dim room after a single flash of light, darkness returns.

 

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TRUST: FAITH BECOMING REAL

 

Does Joseph still believe, remember, his early prophetic dreams? Is he encouraged by God’s lightning flashes through his soul over the years? Not right then.

 

In fact, he doesn’t merely ask the cupbearer to remember him before the king when the dream comes to pass—that would have been understandable.

 

The Hebrew reveals that Joseph pleaded, graveled, begged (nah, נא ) with the cupbearer to have lovingkindness/compassion (chesed, חסד) on him before the king so he could get out of prison. Because he was, after all, innocent.

 

Joseph may have been thinking, enough already.

 

My soul can’t breathe in this uncertain darkness any longer.
My mind is exhausted. My heart is weakened.
Favored in this prison pit or not, I want out—and I want out now.
And what about those prophetic dreams God clearly spoke to me?
I’ve waited long enough . . . time to take action.

 

There’s a difference between faith (אמונה) and trust (בִּטָּחוֹן), per commentary in The Stone Edition of the Chumash (Parasha Vayeishev, Genesis 37-40:23, pg 221).

 

Believing God exists is faith. But trust is having the certainty, the confidence, that God is “involved in events and that their outcome accords with His will.”

 

Joseph’s faith is sure. God existed. God speaks to His people. God can do the impossible. God gives flashes of light to reveal our steps along the way.

 

Trust is faith in action. It would take his soul-body dynamics to move and work in tandem, listening and daring to believe upwardly . . . maintaining a firm standing, going beyond what the physical eye and natural mind could perceive.

 

I so appreciate Joseph’s soul moment. It’s the stuff these biblical soul-remodeling stories are made of.

 

All these people are real. Human. Broken. Quivering or questioning themselves, others, God—even in their moments of faith and trust, regardless of who they are and what amazing things they’re about to do with God.

 

They are you, me, and everyone else on the planet.

 
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GOD KNEW: JOSEPH’S SOUL POTENTIAL

 

The Lord cast His light through Joseph’s soul to reveal things from a different perspective on high. Much had been gifted in Joseph. Now more would be required to birth it forth.

 

Two more years in the pit—his wilderness journey. Two more years of impatience, uncertainty, wavering beliefs pulverized. Two more years walking with God toward the uncommon, a holy place within the soul.

 

Pride is worked out, and humility worked into the new fabric of his soul.

 

Grace is deposited, mercy is infused, and forgiveness (especially for his brothers) is birthed.

 

Joseph isn’t just physically delivered from prison, he’s spiritually delivered . . . his soul freed, raised to a new level, a more honest relationship with God.
 

Deconstructed along his wilderness journey and reconstructed for his destiny, he’s able to wear that prophetic garment in humility and servanthood.

 

Finally Joseph can be lifted into a position of authority among his captors—and later, be elevated in the eyes of his brothers and father—who also have undergone a level of wilderness transformation before God.

 

Read all the Soul Remodeling stories:

 

I’ve had my God- designed wilderness journeys to deconstruct-reconstruct my soul. How about you? These posts can shed some light and encouragement: Soul Remodeling Series: The Wilderness Call, Part 1 and Soul Remodeling Series: The Wilderness Call, Part 2.

 

CREDIT: Prayerful man photo at sunset photo by Aaron-burdenon Unsplash.com

CREDIT: God is faithful photo by Tony Eight Media on Unsplash.com

CREDIT: Sapling photo by Lugo Minar on Unsplash.com

Article initially created August 17, 2015.

Soul Remodeling Series: A Wilderness Hero [Moses]

MOSES (MOSHE)
fugitive prince turned bride guardian—who almost missed his calling

 

©SoulBreaths.com. All rights reserved.

 

First—click this pop-up for a 1-2-3 recap of God's soul-wilderness tactic.

 

READING TIME: 6 MINUTES.

 

Ever since my younger years—later elementary school and decades forward—God has used Moses as an example to awaken and stir my soul, guiding it into a deeper understanding of God’s Word, God’s character, God’s name, God’s holiness, God’s immensity, and God’s desire for humbled, obedient leaders and followers.

 

Moses was a surrendered soul, truly in love with his God. But even with all he was allowed to do under God’s hand, he was still a man.

 

Egypt proved a blessing for the twelve tribes of Israel during the famine years when Joseph held a high position. Then the shift emerged and Israel experienced over 400 years of oppressive enslavement.

 

But God’s precision timing was about to unfold—not only for Moses’s soul, but also for Israel’s.
 

God begins by separating Moses from the common—his birth tribe and his adopted, privileged position in Egypt—for a series of deconstructing-reconstructing encounters—meetups with God to beat all others.

 

God’s lightning revelations flashed through Moses’s soul
time and time again.
Moses was humbled at the burning bush,
silenced at the sight of God’s glory,
illuminated at God’s giving of the Torah.

 

It was a process of discovering who he was in God.

 

Lightning cracked through Moses’s soul when he first encountered the Egyptian beating a Hebrew slave. His response was a natural one. He brought down the Egyptian to help raise up that slave.

 

Moses’s destiny burst forth for a moment, like a firefly flash . . . a hint of what was to come, what would be birthed . . . a foretaste of the servant redeemer that his soul was meant to be.

 

From that major lightning crack across the sky at the burning bush, his soul’s relationship with the living God rose to such a magnitude that the flashes of lightning became his new norm.

 

Times on the mountain, glory times in the tent. It all was part and parcel of what it would mean—for him and us—to flow in God’s presence, spirit, and the prophetic.

 
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BUT MOSES ALMOST MISSED IT

 

Torah scholar/commentator/author Avivah Zornberg gave some insight about “The Transformation of Pharoah, Moses, and God,” during an interview by OnBeing.com’s Krista Tippet.

 

Moses argued with God for seven days no less when he was first called to lead Israel. His thinking was rooted in earthly, physical standards, not in a heavenly perspective.

 

Internal resistance was stirring in his soul.

 

Psychologically, Zornberg says, Moses—like Pharoah and the Hebrews—has an unwillingness to open himself to an alternative reality.

 

He blames it on his speech—in the Hebrew the wording is heavy (kaved, kah-vehd,כָּבֵד). Moses says he’s got a heavy/impeding mouth and heavy/impeding tongue: כְבַד-פֶּה וּכְבַד לָשׁוֹן. Clearly, a negative connotation.

 

There’s another word association, per Zornberg.

 

The Hebrew word for heavy (kaved) is the same word used to describe Pharoah’s hardness of heart during the ten plagues—with the negative connotation of being closed in/off, impervious, resistant.

 

[Note: Kaved is not kavod—ka-vohd (long o sound) (כָּבוד) means glory or honor. Same shoresh (root), so there’s a link. Yet, as we’re seeing, kaved often reflects a negative usage; kavod, a positive one.]

 

Was the heavy (kaved) tongue of Moses also closed off, resistant to God?

 

Moses, per Zornberg, appears willing to forego the whole opportunity to redeem Israel, seeing himself as not the right person for the job. He does recognize, she posits, that an “operation” of sorts is needed—since Moses is like a babe in need of a circumcision and refers to himself as a man of uncircumcised lips.

 

However, this “heaviness,” an inability to open up to God and His word—psychologically, spiritually, emotionally, or otherwise—appears to go well beyond Moses, Israel’s exodus years, and Pharoah.

 

The Cambridge Bible commentary states the “closed in” or “impervious to good impressions” wording in regards to a “heavy, uncircumcised heart” appears elsewhere in the Tanakh: Leviticus 26:41, Jeremiah 9:25(26), and Ezekiel 44:7,9.

 

The wording also is used similarly when speaking of the ear, in Jeremiah 6:10, revealing that the nation heard imperfectly.

 

I dare say this “heaviness” is a human condition. One that only a spiritual surgery in God’s wilderness venues can heal. Turning a no into a . . . teetering if-you-say-so.

 

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QUESTIONABLE BRIDE—REDEEMING BRIDE GUARDIAN

 

Fortunately for us, Moses surrendered to God’s soul deconstructing-reconstructing process and embraced his soul’s calling—as Israel’s leader, intercessor, shepherd, bride guardian.

 

So much so that the Torah’s final words in Deuteronomy (Devarim) 34 say that “no prophet in Israel has since arose whom God knew face to face” and that Moses “evoked great terror before the eyes of all Israel.”

 

Rabbinic commentary says this great terror is none other than Moses’s shattering of the first set of tablets—which is linked to a midrash (exegesis/commentary on biblical narrative, sometimes reimagined to consider possible explanations). It goes something like this.

 

So there was a king, a bride-to-be, and her maidservants.

 

The king heads out of town on some business, putting the maidservants in care of his bride. But their character was lacking, big time. They engaged in harlotry, consequently smudging the betrothed bride’s character.

 

That pushed the king’s anger into overdrive. To the point where he wanted his betrothed killed and out of his life. Clean and tidy.

 

But the bride’s guardian was quick on his feet. As soon as he learned of the king’s intentions, he swooped in and destroyed the marriage contract: “Even if she was found wanting, she wasn’t your wife yet. So all’s good. She’s not accountable to the contract.”

 

Presto. No need to kill her. That appeased the king, which was a good thing because he later discovered his bride’s behavior really hadn’t been awry—just her maidservants’.

 

The bride’s guardian stepped in and suggested the king write a new marriage contract.

 

The king agrees. “Fine. But since you tore up the first one, you provide the paper and I’ll write it in my own hand.”

 

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SOUND FAMILIAR?

 
Israel is found wanting—though not all of them. Moses protects her covenant with God by destroying the first marriage agreement, the first set of tablets that God had carved and written on.

 

Then when God is willing to redo the marriage contract, He has Moses co-labor with him by carving out the tablets that God will write on.

 

But the Ramban—Nachmanides, a Spanish Sephardic rabbi and noted medieval Jewish scholar—adds another component. He says Moses had a temper, i.e. killing the Egyptian and striking the rock incidents. So it wasn’t all about his acting as defender of the bride.

 

I tend to merge the two thoughts. When you have a critical position that has to be assigned to someone—maybe a person who will handle significant aspects of your business or oversee your health directive or your will—you need to choose someone who won’t be intimidated in making tough, God-led, wise decisions. Someone who can do that in a split moment, if needed.

 

That’s why I think God chose Moses. Yes, he had passion, a temper even. For Moses, when something was wrong, it was wrong. He acted on it. The excessive actions of the Egyptian, the excessive rebellion of Israel at the rock.

 

In his talmudic commentary Shabbat 87a, French medieval rabbi Rashi played with the reading of “ashur” (meaning “that” or “which”) for “ishur” (meaning “affirm” or “praise”) to basically suggest that when it comes to the shattered tablets, it’s as if God thanked or praised Moses for his actions.[1]

 

Was God saying this? “Thank you, bride guardian, for having the passion, wisdom, boldness, and courage to make the hard decision when needed to defend Israel and allow me to still make covenant with her via a new contract.”

 

Quite possibly.

 

One thing’s for certain. Through all his soul’s wilderness travails with Israel and within himself, Moses humbly steadies the course at all costs—relinquishing any rights to a personal life or family legacy . . . God’s people became his legacy.

 

Read all the Soul Remodeling stories:

 

I’ve had my God- designed wilderness journeys to deconstruct-reconstruct my soul. How about you? These posts can shed some light and encouragement: Soul Remodeling Series: The Wilderness Call, Part 1 and Soul Remodeling Series: The Wilderness Call, Part 2.

 

[1] Rashi’s comment per an article called “The Marriage Contract,” appearing on www.meaningfullife.com

CREDIT: Blurred Arrow Target photo by Ricardo Arce on Unsplash

CREDIT:Broken Heart photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

 

Article created August 17, 2015.

Soul Remodeling Series: A Wilderness Hero [Jeremiah]

JEREMIAH (YIRMEYAHU)

Running with Horses

accidental prophet—cohen (priest) turned vessel of holy fire

© SoulBreaths.com. All rights reserved.

 

First—click this pop-up for a 1-2-3 recap of God's soul-wilderness tactic.

 

READING TIME: 8 MINUTES.

 

Personally, I really like the 1998 Lux Vid film Jeremiah, directed/written by Harry Winer and starring Patrick Dempsey as the weeping prophet. Yes, it weaves in a non-Biblical, yet quite plausible, plot line here and there—but it also breathes life into Jeremiah’s soul story.

 

Dempsey hits the right emotional notes, delivering a spiritually encouraging performance—equally matched by the rest of the cast. And if you haven’t guessed, I watch it often.

 

Jeremiah’s real story begins with God awakening the soon-to-be prophet’s soul, pronouncing his destiny. There would be no discussion, no fiery bush, no staff-turned-snake demonstrations as Adonai had done with Moses.

 

It would begin with a stirring, voiced in the womb.

 


Heaven and I wept together,

And its sweet tears were salt with mortal mine.

—The Hound Of Heaven, Francis Thompson


 

Back story: Around 755 BCE, Amos and Hosea prophesied to the Northern Kingdom of Israel, who had long meshed their Judaism with paganism. Israel ignored the warnings and landed in the middle of God’s divine discipline: Assyrian captivity, 721 BCE after a three-year siege.

 

But the Southern Kingdom, Judah, wasn’t so quick to learn from the idolatrous falterings of its fellow tribesmen.

 

According to the Lord: Truth had perished—vanished from their lips. They clung to deceit, no one repented, they refused to return to the Lord’s ways. Each pursued their own course like a horse charging into battle.

 

And so, along came God’s love call to His nation: Jeremiah.

 

Born in Anatot—a town given to the tribe of Benjamin, per Joshua 21, about three miles northeast of Jerusalem by way of the Mount of Olives—Jeremiah’s call-to-action probably occurred sometime before he was 25 or 30 . . . old enough to marry, but not yet beginning his rightful cohen (priestly) duties as son of the High Priest, Hilkiah.

 

Then the Lord reached out His hand
and touched my mouth and said to me,
“Now I have put my words in your mouth.
Today, I have placed you over nations and kingdoms
to uproot and to tear down, to destroy and to demolish,
to build and to plant.”
—Jeremiah 1:9

 

Jeremiah would be strategically placed in God’s archery bow—launched into dark moments taking him to near death. Yet along the way, spiritually transformed deeper and deeper and deeper still.

 

Jeremiah, a prophetic voice to a rebellious nation.
A cohen, standing in for Judah before the Lord.
God’s relentless love would trigger
deconstruction (tearing down/captivity) to breathe forth
reconstruction (humbled souls realigned with Him,
a return to their Land,
and Temple restoration).

 

For twenty years, Jeremiah sounds the alarm of the impending seventy-year Babylonian captivity—which is gradual, done in waves, beginning around 605 BCE, taking princes (like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, Azariah) for positions. Then toward the end, the captors deport the poorest of the poor Judeans as slaves.

 

photo by Eddie & Carolina Stigson on Unsplash

 

LIKE MOSES, FEELING UNREADY

 

Jeremiah’s calling wouldn’t be easy. He pretty much knows that going in. What’s ahead—a lonely soul experience with twists, turns, and chasmic drops—would break off any hardness and self-focus to uncover the soul’s holy hiddenness.

 

By God’s further command, there would be no wife. And no children. And no living his priestly heritage. No normality on any level.

 

Only risks and danger—on the wings of a prophetic calling that would voice sorrow, pain, surrender, exile, and the promise of a future redemption for Judah, a nation whose “soul” was under the power of its earthbound vessel. Unwilling, prideful, rebellious, delusional.

 

But you [Jeremiah], dress for action, stand up,
and tell them everything I order you to say.
Don’t break down or I will break you down in front of them.
For today, I have made you into a fortified city, a pillar of iron,
a wall of bronze against the whole land—against
the kings of Judah,
against its princes, against its cohanim [priests],
and the people of the land.
They [Judah] will fight against you, but will not overcome you,
for I am with you and will rescue you, declares the LORD.
—Jeremiah 1:17-19

 

Jeremiah’s knee-jerk reaction? Like Moses, he thought God should look elsewhere.  His “I’m only a young man” response—the word is na’ar (נַעַר) in the Hebrew—reveals Jeremiah’s take on his lack of abilities and readiness.

 

A na’ar is a young man, defined by age (teen through twenties) or of marriageable age, and sometimes, rabbinically defined as not yet ready to fulfill his duties/position. (As an aside, 17-year-old Joseph in Genesis 37:2 was called a na’ar.)

 

Based on Jeremiah’s writings regarding his prophetic calling spanning five kings, his birth is set around 655 BCE. His prophetic calling began in the thirteenth year of King Josiah’s reign—putting him around age 25–29, as mentioned earlier in this post.

 

Jeremiah 1:6-7

 וָאֹמַר, אֲהָהּ אֲדֹנָי יְהוִה, הִנֵּה לֹא-יָדַעְתִּי, דַּבֵּר:  כִּי-נַעַר

אָנֹכִי. 

And I said, “You are my LORD, ADONAI, here I am (or alas/behold), I  don’t know a thing because I am a young man.

 

וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֵלַי, אַל-תֹּאמַר נַעַר אָנֹכִי:  כִּי עַל-כָּל-אֲשֶׁר

שְׁלָחֲךָ, תֵּלֵךְ, וְאֵת כָּל-אֲשֶׁר אֲצַוְּךָ, תְּדַבֵּר.

And the LORD said to me, you shall not say I am a young man: because wherever I send you, you will go and all that I command you, you will say.

 

In the natural, I get why Jeremiah tried to excuse himself. To a young man who had yet to spread his wings, the call must have seemed like a galaxy beyond his skill set.

 

Human viewpoint would say that a man trained in spiritual matters, matured, married, and long observant in his priestly duties is far better suited to attempt the task.

 

And yet.
Jeremiah may have studied Torah,
but he’d yet to swim in God’s deep, His secret place.

He may have a cohen lineage,
but he’d yet to personally know the power of God.

The journey wasn’t ever about Jeremiah’s strength, knowledge,
bloodline, or abilities.

It was—and always will be—about God and His strength,
plan, power, will.

 

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FIRE IN THE SOUL

 

This isn’t a mission designed for a single man. God is working in Jeremiah’s soul for his own edification—while working through Jeremiah for Judah’s soul.

 

Making Jeremiah a fire-and-ice instrument in God’s hands.

 

A prophetic instrument that would see what God sees, feel what God feels, and experience in the physical what Judah is doing to God in the spiritual. Soul to soul.

 

Two realms begin to clash—with Jeremiah as both the scapegoat of Judah’s contempt for God’s ways and the conduit for God’s convictions, discipline, and hope.

 

Jeremiah is becoming God’s prophetic lightning rod.

 

He attracts the seething anger of Judah . . . while being consumed by God’s righteous, fiery words. Within those blasts of light, Judah’s soul condition is exposed.

 

There’s no place to hide. No place to run. There’s only surrender.

 

At times Jeremiah is sad, angry, appalled, and even feels abandoned by God. Other times he’s overcome with grace, mercy, and hope, empowered by His presence.

 

Don’t know about you, but that emotional flip-flop sounds way too familiar.

 

I am ridiculed all day long; everyone mocks me . . . so the word of the LORD has brought me insult and reproach all day long. —Jeremiah 20:7b, 8b

 

But the LORD is with me like a mighty warrior; so my persecutors will stumble and not prevail. —Jeremiah 20:11a

 

It’s always a matter of who’s on first.
Your soul surrendered to God or
entangled with your earth-focused vessel.

Therein is the battle within the battle.

 

Jeremiah learns that. The wilderness journey and the battle humble him. Knock the wind out of him along the way. The timing. The disappointments. The rage. The angst. The depression.

 

Tensions roll over him in every form, on every front. He once walked among the privileged, a cohen. Then he becomes an outcast.

 

But he can’t, won’t stop. Why? Because he knows his calling. He has surrendered to his king.

 


Accepts and bears the yoke of the kingdom of heaven—עֹל מַלְכוּת שָׁמַיִם.

 

photo by Michael Anfang on Unsplash

 

RUNNING WITH HORSES

 

If I say, “I will not mention Him or speak any more in His name,” His word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.—Jeremiah 20:9

 

Atmospheres are challenged when God’s words flow through Jeremiah. But the cost is high. Extremely, gloriously high.

 

If you’ve run with the footmen and they’ve exhausted you,
then how will you compete against horses?
You may feel secure in a land of peace,
but how will you do in the Yarden’s thick brush?
—Jeremiah 12:5

 

What is God conveying to Jeremiah? If you can’t keep up with the easier battle campaigns on the ground (footmen) when things aren’t that intense, how will you handle the thick of war?

 

A slightly closer look via the Hebrew fleshes it out . . .

 

כִּי אֶת-רַגְלִים רַצְתָּה וַיַּלְאוּךָ,

If you’re running/as in “rushing” (רַצְתָּה) with soldiers/footmen and they’re tiring you out (וַיַּלְאוּךָ)

וְאֵיךְ תְּתַחֲרֶה אֶת-הַסּוּסִים;

then how will you vie for/rival against (תְּתַחֲרֶה) horses [symbolic of army strength, an animal used for war times]

וּבְאֶרֶץ שָׁלוֹם אַתָּה בוֹטֵחַ, וְאֵיךְ

and in the land of peace you confidently trust in (or feel secure in), then how

תַּעֲשֶׂה בִּגְאוֹן הַיַּרְדֵּן.

will you do in the thicket (or raging/swelling or magnificence) of the Jordan?

 

In its glory days, the Jordan—which means “descender”—had umpteen curves with varying widths, from 75 feet to 200 feet. Many rapids and falls were along its course, which usually had a rapid, strong current.*

 

Sounds similar to a soul wilderness journey to me.
Being called down into His murmuring deep, descending into a place with rugged terrain and raging waters . . . an uncommon place where God alone is your road map.

 

Along his destined journey, Jeremiah learns how to focus on what God is doing—not what He’s removing during that soul wilderness process.

 

But that’s the thing, isn’t it? When God places any of us in a pressurized soul situation, we see what’s missing.

 

What’s been taken away.

Diminished.

Lost.

 

We mourn for what was—and wonder when, if ever, we will return to some state of our previous “normal.”

 

We long for release and hope for a new normal—the promise of something within that immerses us into His holiness and transforms us so we aren’t even a shadow of our former selves.

 
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PUTTING IT INTO PERSPECTIVE

 

Life isn’t easy. And trials of any magnitude are disturbing. But the point is . . . are you first seeking God and believing His Word, following His leading, and getting covered in prayer from trusted believers in Him—or is your soul-dial set for auto-tilt?

 

You know, your spiritual compass hitting a “10” on the frustration richter scale.

 

Believe me, I’ve been there and can return in no time—if I’m not staying in His flow.

 

That’s why Jeremiah 12:5 is special to me. God used it often to encourage me during one of my extremely difficult wilderness journeys.

 

When I didn’t think I could take another step, another hit, another disappointment—newly widowed, family issues, uncertainties on so many levels—He’d given me a vision . . . allowing me to see and hear the stampeding hooves of mighty horses.

 

Would I run with them or fall to the side? If these spiritual battles—in times of relative national peace with challenges common to humanity—get me down, how would I ever finish the race against tougher enemies?

 

And what would I do in times of more difficult hardships or even persecution?

 

My soul knew the answer. It had to keep pushing forward in Him and with Him. But I had no strength on my own.

 

Throughout that five-year process (and counting), I had to take it step by step, soul breath by soul breath.

 

I’m in process, learning to rest on this truth in Jeremiah 20:11.
God is with me like a mighty warrior.

 
 

Read all the Soul Remodeling stories:

 

I’ve had my God- designed wilderness journeys to deconstruct-reconstruct my soul. How about you? These posts can shed some light and encouragement: Soul Remodeling Series: The Wilderness Call, Part 1 and Soul Remodeling Series: The Wilderness Call, Part 2.

 

*Stats on Jordan from biblehub.com

 

CREDIT: Horse photo by Michael Anfange on Unsplash

CREDIT: Desert photo by Eddie and Carolina Stigson on Unsplash

CREDIT: Girl Looking Out photo by Edgar Hernandez on Unsplash

Article created July 28, 2015.

Soul Remodeling Series: A Wilderness Hero [Saul Paulus]

persecuting zealot—turned God’s messianic servant

© SoulBreaths.com. All rights reserved.

 

First—click this pop-up for a 1-2-3 recap of God's soul-wilderness tactic.

 

READING TIME: 9 MINUTES.

 

He’s the famed pharisee who some Jews and some Christians love to hate. His story—a real page-turner. His name, Saul Paulus from Tarsus.

 
 

So who exactly was this love-him-or-hate-him Saul Paulus? The guy who was privileged and free—yet caged behind bars of religious zealousness. The guy who later would be caged by man—but amazingly set free in the Spirit of God.

 

Let’s start here . . .

 

SAUL PAULUS: THE 4-1-1

 

  • A Jew. From the tribe of Benjamin, born in Tarsus of Cilicia (estimated 10 CE), circumcised on the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, a Hebrew born of Hebrews, in regards to the law, a pharisee—per Saul Paulus in his letter Philippians 3:5 and the book giving an accounting of the first Jewish believers, Acts 22:3.
  •  

  • A pharisee. Descended from pharisees, a scholar, highly intelligent, moved to Jerusalem to be a talmid (devoted student of the law)—which typically began by age 16 with deeper study to follow in early 20s until age 25 or 30, potentially putting Saul Paulus in Jerusalem for his rabbinic/pharisaical schooling somewhere shortly after 30 CE.
  •  

  • Educated under the renowned Rabbi Gamaliel. Saul, as an excellent, serious student, would have gone deeper into his studies, including rabbinic interpretation and scripture memorization, possibly scroll writing, then finally, scholarly study under the famed Rabbi Gamaliel.
     
    The Rabbi taught strictly according to the law of the patriarchs—”being zealous for God”—from approximately 22 CE to 55 CE and in the more lenient, more welcoming of converts, non-radical, nonviolent tradition of his grandfather, the great Hillel.
  •  

  • Yet, overzealous, persecuting—students were to become like their masters (rabbis), but Saul Paulus at times appeared more like the stricter, Jews-only traditions of Shammai (a sage opposing Hillel’s more lenient teachings) or in step with the oft blinding pride of the religious Sanhedrin.
     
    However, after his messianic conversion, Saul Paulus became more tender, more focused on love, promoting the one-new-man convergence—Jew and Gentile becoming one in Messiah, with joint access to ADONAI, per Amos 9:11-12 and Ephesians 2:14-15, 18, 22.
  •  

  • Jew and Roman citizen. The Roman citizenship was purchased by his presumed “moderately wealthy” family, hence his Jewish-Roman name, Saul Paulus . . . although it wasn’t unusual for Jews to have both a Hebrew name and a Roman/Latinized one.
  •  

  • A tentmaker of goat’s hair. Saul Paulus learned the trade from his father’s successful business and later on employed the trade to bear the expenses of his messianic ministry—Acts 18:3, I Thessalonians 2:9, II Thessalonians 3:8, I Corinthians 4:12, I Corinthians 9:6-18.
  •  

  • Did not witness or interact with Jesus (Yeshua, Hebrew name) during the Messiah’s years of teaching/miracle works . . . the first time Saul Paulus encountered Jesus is via his Damascene experience with the resurrected/ascended Messiah, per Acts 9.
     
    He would later write in 1 Corinthians 15:8 that he was “untimely born”—the other apostles had walked with Jesus and witnessed the miracles and all the other eternal-shifting events. And he viewed himself as the “least of the apostles” and “not fit to be called an apostle” because he “persecuted the church of God.”

 

But now the rest of his story.

 
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SOUL MATTER

 

Saul Paulus may have had Torah knowledge. Pedigree. Been a rising star among the pharisees.

 

But

his

soul

was

stuck.

Resistant.

Turned around.

 

Sure, his dedication to Torah/Tanakh learning was good, painstaking, exhilarating, a worthy life immersed in the things of God.

 

But then I recall something the Lord had said to me. 

 

It was back in 2005 as I sat reflective on the lower part of the southern steps in Jerusalem. Herod’s southern extension of the Temple Mount where Jews, including Jesua/Yeshua and the disciples, would have ascended to reach the Temple’s entrance, particularly during Pesach, Shavuot, Sukkot.

 

In fact, Jesus (Yeshua) often taught on those same steps.

 

God’s words came to me along with a soul-penetrating vision: Jesus standing beside me on those steps, his long robe, his feet, and an impression of the disciples standing behind him. I followed his gaze, which looked passed me and outward to the city, the people.

 

Then I heard these words from the Lord:

 

“I gave them the law,
but they loved the law more than Me.”

 

About three years later, the Lord led me to share His words with an orthodox rabbi at a synagogue I’d attended now and then. When he’d heard those words, he sat back, silenced.

 

As I explained it further, he nodded, understanding and agreeing.

 

I’d told him that Adonai gave the law, but the law can become an idol too—anything that takes the place of God is idolatry.

 

Perhaps Saul Paulus had made that blurry-line transition without knowing it.

 

Perhaps he’d became more enthralled by the religious elements, position, and spirituality—the law itself, the halachic steps, the learning, discussions about God, debates, commentaries, Hebraic word plays, standing apart from the masses.

 

And perhaps without realizing it, his world-bound vessel
was more in love with and actually worshipping the stuff of the law, spiritual gifting, and heritage  . . .
rather than falling in love with and worshipping . . .
God, the giver.

 

It’s a tricky business: Being spiritually minded, spiritually driven—yet misaligned in the soul. The swelling and swelling of knowledge . . . which can cause deeper fissures in the soul, releasing toxic, legalistic vapors.

 

Like manmade laws. Manmade separations. Self-driven interpretations. Performance and self-ambition waif upward, act slick, and claim center stage in the soul.

 

Just consider what the life of a first-century pharisee looked like:

 

Set apart.

Meticulously living the law.

Focused.

Unmistakably robed.

Honored by the majority.

 

And at philosophical odds with the Sadducee sect, who denied resurrection of the dead, destiny, and the soul’s permanence.

 

Despite all that—or perhaps because of it—Saul had become a dogmatist, fueled by youthful zeal. Not to mention, the heated indoctrinations of some rabbinic teachers, sadducees, and Sanhedrin members who unabashedly made defamatory comments against Jesus (Yeshua).

 

I say some because followers of Jesus
included pharisees, sadducees, members of the Sanhedrin,
Torah teachers, the wealthy, the poor, the middle class . . .
a multitude of Jews from every walk of first-century life.

 
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TWO SANHEDRIN

 

Take a look at the religious-political stew Saul Paulus swam in—the same milieu that confronted Jesus, and later on, railroaded Saul.

 

The political/secular Sanhedrin during this period functioned like a supreme court—with 70 (or 71 counting the president) aristocratic members, who met in a chamber of the Temple or elsewhere.

 

It held varying functions per the Roman government’s restrictions, was presided over by a president (the Jewish high priest held this position), heard criminal cases, and could impose capital punishment. (1)

 

There was another Sanhedrin at the time—a religious council called the Great Bet Din (or Bet Din). It originated as Kenesset ha-Gedolah/the Great Synagogue during the time of Ezra and Nehemiah—who were regarded as being the highest religious authority.

 

It had two titled officers at the head: a Nasi (“prince,” held by the high priest, but prevented at times from presiding over the meetings) and Av Bet Din (father of the court, the director).

 

The Great Bet Din had 70 members (some Pharisees and/or Sadducees, depending on who held influence at the time).

 

Qualifications? Scholarship, modesty, popularity among their fellow men, as well as being courageous and strong.

 

They sat daily (not on shabbat or feast days) on the southern side of the Temple’s inner court, between morning and evening services. (1)

 

The Great Bet Din supervised over . . . women charged with adultery, religious-law disputes, ritual acts, Temple service, burning the Red Heifer, water-purification prep, city selection for atonement of a murdered person, harvest tithes.

 

No wonder these Pharisees, Sadducees, Sanhedrin had rushed to Jesus (Yeshua) with coy questions—healing on the sabbath, hand washing, fasting, the adulterous woman, paying taxes, eating the grain from the wheat fields, etc. (Matthew 12, John 8, Luke 11:38-54, Matthew 6:16-18, Luke 18:9-14.)

 

Yet each time, Jesus had countered them with the words of the Father . . . and with demonstrations of miraculous power and wisdom beyond their realm. Leaving them speechless. See Matthew 7:28-29.

 

And now, these so-called esteemed authorities were the molding the mind of Saul Paulus—particularly regarding Jewish believers who were followers of the crucified (resurrected and ascended) Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth.

 
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SAUL: ZEALOT EXTREMES

 

The regarded Rabbi Gamaliel had one idea of how to handle Messianic Jews . . . later on, Saul Paulus would have his own.

 

But one of the members of the Sanhedrin rose to his feet, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the Torah highly respected by all the people. He ordered the men be put outside for a little while; he then addressed the court:

 

“Men of Isra’el, take care what you do to these people. Some time ago, there was a rebellion under Todah, who claimed to be somebody special; and a number of men, maybe four hundred, rallied behind him. But upon his being put to death, his whole following was broken up and came to nothing. After this, Y’hudah HaG’lili led another uprising, back at the time of the enrollment for the Roman tax; and he got some people to defect to him. But he was killed, and all his followers were scattered. So in the present case, my advice to you is not to interfere with these people, but to leave them alone. For if this idea or this movement has a human origin, it will collapse. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop them; you might even find yourselves fighting God!

 

They heeded his advice. After summoning the disciples and flogging them, they commanded them not to speak in the name of Jesus [Yeshua], and let them go. The disciples left the Sanhedrin overjoyed at having been considered worthy of suffering disgrace on account of him. And not for a single day, either in the Temple court or in private homes, did they stop teaching and proclaiming the Good News that Jesus [Yeshua] is the Messiah.—Acts 5:34-42

 

That didn’t stop Saul Paulus..

 

He oversaw the stoning of Stephen—the first Messianic Jew martyred—and continued to keep his persecuting pedal to the metal.

 

 I persecuted this Way [Messianic Jews] to the death, binding and putting both men and women into prisons, as also the high priest and all the Council of the elders can testify. From them I also received letters to the brethren, and started off for Damascus in order to bring even those who were there to Jerusalem as prisoners to be punished.—admission by Saul Paulus, Acts 22:4-5

 

They [Stephen’s executioners] began yelling at the top of their voices, so that they wouldn’t have to hear him [Stephen]; and with one accord, they rushed at him, threw him outside the city and began stoning him. And the witnesses laid down their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.—Acts 7:58

 

 
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SAUL: REBORN

 

Saul Paulus was a threat to contend with. But then God stepped in. It was deconstruction-reconstruction-of-the-soul time.

 

Just as we stand on the shattered tablets of Sinai and hold the second set of whole tablets in our hands, so Saul would be shattered in order to become whole.

 

On his way to Damascus, Saul experiences a physical and a spiritual flash of light. Not a bolt of lightning cracking the sky. It was the glory of the resurrected and risen Messiah, Jesus/Yeshua. A lightning moment that penetrated Saul’s body and soul—his physical and spiritual man—a light that physically blinds him for three days . . . and spiritually awakens him so he can finally, truly see.

 

The intensity of the heavenly lightning equated to the intensity of the calling on Saul’s life. He spends three days wondering where it all would lead. Three days of going from an honored, intellectual pharisee to a stilled soul before God.

 

Saul regains his physical sight and emerges with a radically different spiritual sight. It took years—including three years of solitary time in the desert with God and near abandonment from his fellow messianic believers—to grow through his deconstruction process before his soul was readied for its destiny. A destiny as a chosen vessel to bear the Messiah’s name “before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel,” per Acts 9:15.

 
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BECOMING A SERVANT

 

Saul had lost everything with his conversion and soul reconstruction process. Position. Jewish community. His pharisaical robes. His honor by the majority. Indeed, he now was at odds not only with the Sadducees, but the Pharisees, unbelieving Jews, and Rome itself.

 

Saul, the one who once hunted . . . became the hunted.

 

The one previously seated with the Pharisees and Torah teachers who occupied the “seat of Moses”—per Matthew 23—was unseated from everything he thought and was.

 

He had a new seat at the feet of the Messiah. There, Saul surrendered everything to be deconstructed in order to be reconstructed for a humble purpose in the service of the living God.

 

In fact, he was ecstatic about it. In his letter to the Philippians 3:8-11, Saul writes this:

 

I consider everything a disadvantage in comparison with
the supreme value of knowing the Messiah Jesus [Yeshua] as my Lord. It was because of him that I gave up everything
and regard it all as garbage,
in order to gain the Messiah
and be found in union with him,
not having any righteousness of my own based on legalism,
but having that righteousness
which comes through the Messiah’s faithfulness,
the righteousness from God based on faith.
Yes, I gave it all up in order to know him, that is,
to know the power of his resurrection
and the fellowship of his sufferings
as I am being conformed to his death,

so that somehow I might arrive at being resurrected from the dead.

 

Read all the Soul Remodeling stories:

 

I’ve had my God- designed wilderness journeys to deconstruct-reconstruct my soul. How about you? These posts can shed some light and encouragement: Soul Remodeling Series: The Wilderness Call, Part 1 and Soul Remodeling Series: The Wilderness Call, Part 2.

 

(1) Information on the political/secular and religious Sanhedrin is from various sources presented on the site http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/13178-sanhedrin
 

CREDIT: Tree by Martin Brechtl on Unsplash.

CREDIT: Torah Scroll photo by Taylor Wilcox on Unsplash.

CREDIT: Stone Pile photo by Markus Spiskeon on Unsplash.

CREDIT: Man’s Arm/Light photo by Elia Pellegrini on Unsplash.

CREDIT: Humbled Man photo by Ben White on Unsplash.

 

Article created October 14, 2015.

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