Between the years 1970 and 1976, my wife Katya and I lived on a farm in Maryland, about an hour's drive north of Washington, D.C. We had moved there after living for a year in San Francisco. Our desire and aim was to live the "good life," to get away from civilization and return to nature. I built an apartment in the barn and we heated and cooked with wood, got our milk and eggs from our own goats and chickens and did not have running water or an indoor toilet.
Part of living this way is an intense focus on the purity of diet. Now it is certainly true without any question that junk food is extremely detrimental to one's health and should be avoided. Also, a balanced and nutritionally sound diet will go a long way to keeping us well in body and mind. However, while whole and healthy foods are important to our quality of life, they will not give us the ability to live forever or make us more spiritual.
Although we didn't believe the part about living forever (but we did believe in reincarnation), we were sure that we were on the path to enlightenment and that nutrition was as much a part of it as meditation. (Becoming followers of Yeshua in 1972, brought about some major alterations in our theological perspectives.)
One of the foods whose virtues were sung loud and clear in the world of hippie spirituality was the humble sprout. Multitudes of glowing testimonials could be found of wondrous things wrought by the power of the sprout. Almost any grain or bean can be sprouted and when the tiny green protrusion begins to push its way out of the shell, all sorts of miraculous nutritional goodies become available for the ingesting. (This is actually true.)
Generally, Katya sprouted mung beans and alfalfa sprouts. A small amount of the beans or seeds to be sprouted would be put in a jar. Each jar had a thin piece of material stretched across its mouth through which water was poured over the contents and then drained, leaving the beans in a moist and airy environment conducive to sprouting. In a relatively short time the jar interiors were a jungle of intertwined miniature vines of varying thicknesses, from the thin wispy threads of alfalfa sprouts to the plump presence produced by mung beans.
The sprouts were a nice addition atop a salad or a serving of lightly sautéed vegetables, but were not substantial enough to serve as a main course. However, Hippy Moshe was focused on getting super healthy (and probably ascending to a higher level of consciousness as well). I figured that if one or two varieties of sprouts were good then how much more magnificent would a multiplicity be. I found several more jars and put in each one whatever other beans and seeds were around. Katya warned me that in spite of the fact that any seed or bean could be sprouted; they might not be very good. I would not be dissuaded. Soon my harvest was ready. I grabbed my plate and filled it with a heaping pile of each variety of sprouts - surely a cosmic combination. A little lemon juice sprinkled on top and I was ready to rock.
With every mouthful I could almost feel energy and enlightenment saturating my being. However, also along with every bite came a growing awareness of how unpleasant this stuff tasted. I got the distinct impression that I was grazing in the grass. I couldn't go on. The whole thing was just a revolting mess of weeds. Nauseated, I tossed it out the door onto the lawn where it belonged. It would be years before I could look at another bean sprout.
While abusing bean sprouts and abusing Bible spirituality may seem miles apart, the underlying problem is the same. If this much is good, then this much more is better. And the more excessive one gets, surely the rewards will be reaped proportionally. While the fallacy was exposed in the bean sprout story relatively quickly, it often takes years before we really take a hold of the truth found in the Scriptures.
Much of the book of Romans deals with the contrast between the righteousness of man and the righteousness of God. Simply put, the latter is a gift received by faith while the former is an attempt to achieve the acceptance of God by self-effort. i.e. If I just read the scriptures more, if I put more time in to prayer, if I give more money to the poor, if I tell more people about the love of God, if I keep all the commandments of God, then I will be righteous and the Lord will love me even more. So I must keep trying harder and harder.
All these things are good and there are benefits connected to them for us and for others, but our righteousness is not one of them. If Yeshua paid such a high price (His own suffering and death) in order to secure for us a righteous standing before our Father, how can we think that we can earn it (or maintain it) ourselves by doing stuff, no matter how good it is?
In Romans 10:2,3, Rav Sha'ul exclaims that his religious Jewish brethren "have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge. For not knowing about God's righteousness, and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God." However, this problem is not limited to religious Jews who reject Yeshua. It also afflicts the followers of Yeshua.
Part of the danger of this way of thinking is that it inevitably leads to discouragement. We never seem to achieve the standard to which we aspire because "by the works (self-effort in the performance) of the Torah shall no flesh be justified." (Romans 3:20) The ensuing discouragement then leads to the throwing out of the baby with the bean sprouts.
"God made Yeshua, who knew no sin, to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." (2 Corinthians 5:21) It is only as we embrace this truth about who we are in Messiah that we are able to walk as He intended. "In order that the requirement of the Torah might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit." (Romans 8:4)
Interestingly enough, sprouts do carry a very powerful confirmation of this message in themselves. A sprout is a picture of resurrection. Out of a dead and dry shell comes new life with marvelous potential. But the method is not scarfing down platefuls of every variety we find, but in embracing the One who literally came forth from the grave. Our new life of righteousness and our continued living hope has come through the resurrection of Yeshua (1 Peter 1:3). He is the shoot that sprang from the root of Jesse (Isaiah 11:1). He is the tender suckling that came like a root out of parched ground (Isaiah 53:2). He is the rod of Aaron that not only sprouted, but put forth buds, blossoms and ripe olives (Numbers 17:8). When we embrace Him we receive all the benefits that come from that resurrection life. We do get "spiritual" and we do live forever!
And when Israel embraces that message the whole world will benefit. "In the days to come Jacob will take root, Israel will blossom and sprout; and they will fill the whole world with fruit." (Isaiah 27:6)
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Also in this issue of the newsletter:
|Dr. Daniel Juster: The World View Question|
|Leora Mazurovsky: Who's Coming To Dinner?|
|Eddie Santoro: Bridges To China|
|Yuval Yanay: Prayer For Denmark|