Rachmiel: Grace to the Humble
| By Moshe Morrison |
I was 30 years old in 1977. I had been a believer approximately 5 years, and at that time my family and I were part of a Messianic ministry on Long Island, New York. Many bible teachers visited the training center that had been established there and provided the students and staff with a rich perspective on Jewish and biblical topics. One of the teachers who came through was a man about 58 years old with a quiet, unassuming manner. I remember he wore glasses with dark rims and his rather generous mouth always seemed to be turned up in a hint of a smile. His name was Rachmiel Frydland and he was a holocaust survivor. Rachmiel had been born and raised in an ultra-orthodox home in Poland and still spoke with a thick Polish accent. He had studied with many well-known rabbis and in significant yeshivot (schools of rabbinical study) in pre-WWII Poland. In his late teens he left the yeshiva and through a series of encounters with Jewish believers he became a follower of Yeshua. Soon after that the Nazis invaded Poland. For the next 6 years Rachmiel lived like a hunted animal. All his relatives were murdered and he was always on the run. But the Lord had plans for Rachmiel and spared his life. In the 30 years since the war had ended, God had given him a family and a ministry to share Yeshua with his Jewish people.
One day during his lecture at the ministry center on Long Island he said something that I disagreed with. It related to an historical Jewish matter, but it certainly was not a critical issue. Yet somehow I felt as if I needed to correct Rachmiel to set him straight on this. After the class I approached him and told him what the right perspective was (which I had read in some "authoritative" book).
While there is nothing wrong with having a different opinion from someone older and wiser or even contending for another perspective, there is a huge difference between desiring the truth and wanting to prove yourself right.
Little did I know as I presumptuously opened my mouth that this would be a defining moment in my life. One of those episodes when the Holy Spirit hits you like an express train and you are never the same afterwards. Here I was, "Mr. Know-it-all." I was raised in a traditional Jewish home, read some books, and now I was an expert. Rachmiel's response? He said, "Of course, of course you are right. I had forgotten about Professor So and So's book."
It is written in James 4:6 that "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble." God did not just resist me, he reduced me to a little puddle of foolishness on the floor. I saw in that instant the pride in my heart. Rachmiel had more Jewish learning in his little finger than I had in my whole body. But not only that, the fires of persecution and suffering had formed in him a genuine love and humility that was overwhelming when confronted with human arrogance. His response was not conciliatory or contrived. It was sincere in its acceptance of another's opinion even the opinion of a young upstart too full of himself.
When in Numbers 22, Korah accused Moses of illegitimately taking on the leadership of Israel out of selfish motivation, Moses fell with his face to the ground before he would answer him. I believe that Moses was examining his own heart before the Lord in spite of Korah's rebellion. Perhaps he was correct and God had allowed this to reveal to Moses what were his own motivations? Only after Moses felt assured by the Spirit of God did he stand and rebuke Korah and confidently assert that the Lord Himself would reveal the truth on the next day.
1 Corinthians 8:1a,2 says, "Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies. If anyone supposes he knows anything, he has not yet known as he ought to know." This is not a rejection of learning, but a warning of how we approach it. On one hand we are told that the Scriptures are indispensable in making us adequate and equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:15-17). On the other hand (2 Corinthians 3:6), we are told that it is the work of the Spirit that makes us adequate because "the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life."
This is not a contrast between the "Old Testament" and the "New Testament." This a call to make love the motivational factor in all we do. Our perspectives in this world are at best incomplete. This is why in 1 Peter 4:8, we are told, "ABOVE ALL, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins (as well as misconceptions and opinions and assorted weaknesses of our flesh)."
We are like the five blind men who encountered an elephant for the first time. The first man took hold of its tail and said that an elephant is like a rope. The second put his arms around a leg and said it was like a tree. The third confidently declared it was like a wall after feeling its broad side. The fourth grabbed its ear and was impressed at how similar an elephant was to the leaf of a banana tree. And the fifth man was startled by the elephant's resemblance to a snake when he felt its trunk. All of them were partially correct in their observations, but their ultimate conclusions were wrong because their information was incomplete. They each might have started a faction within their congregation or gone out and founded separate congregations based on their own revelations. Probably calling them names like "Fellowship of the Holy Rope," or "Congregation of the Majestic Wall," or maybe even "Assembly of Snake Handlers." Each one being quite sure of what he knew as truth, yet resisting what the others had to say because they did not heed the exhortation of Peter, to "ABOVE ALL, keep fervent in your love for one another." The genuine love of the Holy Spirit is a love that in humility honors others and recognizes one's own propensity for self-centeredness more than theirs.
Hebrews 11:1 says that, "faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." If we are hoping for something, but we don't yet have it, faith is what carries us confidently forward until it arrives. If we had it now, we wouldn't need faith as the evidence of it, because that for which we are waiting would be visible evidence. In the same way love is what carries us confidently forward until that which is incomplete is replaced by the perfect. (1 Corinthians 13:10) So until the knowledge of the Lord covers the earth as the water covers the seas (Isaiah 11:9) and we know fully just as we have also been fully known (1 Corinthians 13:12), we must remain fervent in our love for one another.
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