This post is about the power of fear, and the power of love, and draws upon some scriptures in the Torah (Old Testament) and the New Testament. For those of you who have been hurt by a church or religious group, or who have a general disdain for any organized religion, please hang in with me for a bit. Buried within the accumulation of man-made misogyny, oppression, and cultural bias, there are shiny treasures of the Divine heart and mind that still have the power to speak truth and beauty directly to the human soul, and that are untouched by church doctrine or scriptural manipulation. It’s also important for me to say that while I do have a relationship with Source (who for me is both masculine and feminine), and with the consciousness of Yehushua (a Christ figure) I absolutely do not believe that Jesus, or Christianity, are the only doorways to salvation. I believe that salvation itself simply means a heart that is fully healed and restored and can commune in love with a Something Big, Good and Eternal. And that promise is not the monopoly of any one person, group, or doctrine. What God Wants - Loving Friendship and a Community of Prophets The God of Israel delivered the people from slavery in Egypt with a very big show to assuage their fears and reassure them that he was there. A series of plagues that fell on Egypt was followed by the parting of the Red Sea so the people could pass on the dry riverbed, the release of the waters on the Pharaoh's chariots, and the steady visible presence of a pillar of cloud by day and fire by night leading them through the desert. He asked them to love Him (and to really hear Him) and presented continued physical displays of His presence and intention, but the Israelites held onto their fears and grumbled against God at each sign of hardship or obstacle. They complained, often, that it would be better to be slaves in a land that was familiar than to be free in a wilderness that was unknown. New King James translation: Now this is the commandment…. Love your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. (Deut 6:1-5) More comprehensive Hebrew translation: Now here is your commission…. love Me, The One, in affection and friendship, from your innermost part, with all of your breath, and with all your strong abundance. The Hebrew word for Egypt is mitzrayim, which is a plural form of the word matsowr, which itself comes from a root that means to cramp, confine, assault, or besiege. Plural forms in Hebrew can be about the quantity of something, as in two or more, but they can also be about the quality or intensity of that thing. So Egypt literally means ‘a place of extreme confinement, restriction, and distress.’ It’s worth pausing here, on this. I’ve seen this in myself, and in, well, everyone. We often choose the mental and emotional prison that’s known over the freedom that is unknown, and this is a powerful thing to understand about ourselves. The Israelites had been physically freed, but inside they were still bound in fear to the conditions that had restricted and assaulted them, and their fear was so powerful it even obscured the clear, persistent and showy display that God was making to reassure them. This uneasy relationship with their Creator intensified. After Moses left the tribes for an extended communion with God on Mount Sinai (and returned with a face that shone with the love and glory of their friendship) the people rose up again in fear, saying they would only listen to God if he spoke to them through Moses. And even though God said to them that he desired a kingdom of priests - a people who would draw close to Him in love and communion - they refused, demanding that a man made of flesh and blood remain as their intermediary. The word translated as priest is the Hebrew kohan, which means one who officiates, or acts as a chief ruler. It comes from a root that means one who predicts the future. So, a more direct translation is prophet-chief. It was only after - and because of - this exchange that God created the priesthood, separated them from the rest of the people, and gave them instructions on how to build a mobile tabernacle. The outer and inner ‘walls’ of the tabernacle were curtains, and only the newly formed priestly caste could pass through the curtains that separated the outer rooms from the innermost sanctuary called the Holy of Holies. And so, the tribes of Israel continued their reluctant migration through the desert in self-imposed estrangement from the One who loved them, performing external rituals without internal communion or intimacy, physically free but still spiritually bound in fear. Israel eventually makes it to the Promised Land, after waiting for the first hardhearted generation to pass away, but their fear prevented them from wholeheartedly receiving the promise of that land - its peace, safety, or abundance. The generations that follow continue to struggle with their religious legalism and attachment to external conditions, and the rest of the scriptures are stories about the strife, suffering and turmoil that come as a result. Then, many generations later, comes the Christ. His name in Hebrew is Yehushua, the word itself being a beautiful message from the One that he is still trying to comfort the hearts of his creation, alleviate our fears, and enjoy friendship and communion with us. There are many, many interpretations of what Yehushua intended to do in his time on earth, and I certainly have my own. But for this post, we’ll focus on what occurred when his breath left his body on the cross. The name of God that is usually translated as Yahweh, or Jehova, is actually an unpronounceable string of four Hebrew letters that sounds like 'yeh-hoooooo.' It’s also a pun; God took the word haya which means ‘to be or exist’, and made it a non-word, or simply breath. The name Yehushua is made by adding the letter shin to that unpronounceable string of letters, thereby turning a non-word into a word. Each letter in Hebrew has its own meaning. The letter shin means 'to pierce, and to teach diligently.' Three of the four gospel accounts say that as soon as Yehushua’s spirit left his body, the sky darkened, the earth quaked and split, and the veil (curtain) of the temple was torn in two. And here is where all of this gets beautifully, achingly, real. Curtain, in Hebrew, comes from a root that means 'to tremble in fear'. What occurred on earth when Yehushua lovingly gave his life was the tearing asunder of the fear that had separated humans from the Holy of Holies - the innermost place, or heart, of the Divine. This truth is repeated in the gospel of John, which says “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. He who fears has not been made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18) It is very much worth looking at this statement through the original Greek, as a fuller translation would be this: There is no fear in love or contentment; but complete love releases all fear because fear involves restriction or restraint. He who fears has not yet carried through to the end, or fully matured in love. We have all lived in emotional and psychological places of confinement and duress, held there by fear, and reluctant to trust the unknown journey that opens our hearts and brings us to a broad place of liberty. The condition of the Israelites continues to be the human condition. But the nature of the One has endured as well, and we are still invited to release our innermost parts from the confinement of fear, to soften through courage and fill with love, to enjoy communion, friendship and knowing we always have a place, and to come to a mature understanding of the power which unconditional love wields. I believe this gem is at the heart of all true spiritual paths, and that the promised land is, and will always be, our birthright. To look further into scriptures and the Hebrew and Greek etymologies, a great resource is the Blue Letter Bible.
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