Congregational life is important. Tensions in the Body of Messiah, lack of congregational unity, or the weariness that comes from overextending ourselves, can understandably tempt us to completely pull away from an organized congregation.
Yet, Rav Sha’ul (Rabbi Saul) wrote the Yehudim meshichim (messianic Jews) in Hebrews 10:24-25, “And let us keep paying attention to one another, in order to spur each other on to love and good deeds, not neglecting our own congregational meetings, as some have made a practice of doing, but, rather, encouraging each other. And let us do this all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
The fact that he wrote this to messianic Jews (particularly, but to all believers generally), is worth noting… Our identity is reinforced by our traditions, our forms of worship, and by fellowshipping with like-minded believers. It is imperative that we stay plugged-in to the larger body of Messiah in order to encourage one another, and to build new relationships.
On the other hand, it is possible to get involved in congregational activities every night of the week, and four or five times each weekend. Having grown up as the son of a pastor, I am very familiar with having to live up to the expectations of others; the notion that we must be at the synagogue (or the church) every time the doors are open.
Is this really what ADONAI expects of us? Are we to be so concerned with meeting the expectations of others that we overextend our families to the point where our family unit loses cohesion? I have learned over the years that being a “people pleaser,” no matter how righteous it may look, is ultimately a trap.
G-D is not impressed with our busy schedules, our “visibility” at the congregation, or our “faithfulness” to the numerous programs offered in our local body. On the contrary, becoming so “faithful” can actually be our attempt to achieve works-righteousness… And imposing that expectation upon others is to impose the “L” word, legalism.
Avraham was not considered righteous because of his “busyness.” The Tenakh says (in Genesis 15:6) that Avraham’s trust was credited to him as righteousness. We must learn from Avraham Avinu (our Father Abraham) that G-D’s greatest concern is our right-relationship with him.
Some of us have been called to ministry. Yeshua commanded all of us to make talmidim (disciples). Yet discipling our own children is our primary responsibility. IF WE FAIL AT THAT, we are Scripturally disqualified from “ministry.”
Eli the cohen (priest) was a man of G-d. Yet Sh’mu’el Alef (1 Samuel) 2:12 says that “Eli’s sons were scoundrels who had no regard for ADONAI.” How could this have happened? Could Eli have been so busy with the “work of the L-RD” that he lost the hearts of his sons, Hofni and Pinchas? Hofni and Pinchas became wicked.
In a bat kol (voice from Heaven), ADONAI told Sh’mu’el (Samuel) in chapter 3:14, “Therefore I have sworn to the family of Eli that the wickedness of Eli’s family will never be atoned for by any sacrifice or offering.” G-D held Eli personally accountable for the wickedness of his children! THERE WAS NO ATONEMENT AVAILABLE TO ELI, the G-Dly cohen!
In the end, not only did HaShem take their lives, but he struck Eli’s heart with grief also… In fact, Eli’s heart was so broken, over Israel’s loss of the Ark, loss of life and the loss of his own sons, he fell backward off his seat, broke his neck and died.
Ironically, Shmu’el (Samuel) ha Nevi (the Prophet), who ministered to ADONAI under the direction of Eli the cohen, also lost the hearts of his own sons even though the L-RD used him mightily!
His sons, Yo’el and Aviyah, “did not follow his way of life; they turned off it to pursue riches…” (1 Samuel 8:3). As a result, the leaders approached Sh’mu’el in Ramah and said to him, “Look, you have grown old, and your sons are not following your ways. Now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.” (1 Samuel 8:5). So ultimately, Sh’mu’el’s failure to raise sons after G-D’s own heart caused the people of Israel to desire a monarchy, instead of a theocracy.
Shmu’el, who heard a bat kol (voice from Heaven) as a small boy, calling him to minister to the L-RD, nevertheless lost balance between his family responsibilities and his responsibilities to ministry.
ADONAI spoke through Mal’akhi ha Navi (Malachi the Prophet) in Malachi 3:24 (4:6 in the Christian Bible), “He (Eliyahu ha Navi) will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the hearts of children to their fathers; otherwise, I will come and strike the land with complete destruction.”
My Brothers, as the cohenim (priests) of our households, we must maintain a healthy family life, passing down a heritage of G-Dliness to our children and our children’s children.
Our family life must be fortified by our balanced congregational life. Let us not mistake our busyness, over-commitment or “visibility” at the synagogue (or church) for righteousness, lest we, like Eli, face severe judgment from ADONAI that pieces our own hearts with grief.
*All scriptures taken from The Complete Jewish Bible
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