Tazri'a & Mezora
For the week of April 17, 1999 / 1 Iyyar 5759
Torah: Vayikra / Leviticus 12:1-15:33 & Bemidbar / Numbers 28:9-15
Haftarah: 2 Kings 7:3-20; replaced by: Rosh Hodesh, Isaiah 66:1-24

The Ones God Esteems

This is the one I esteem:
he who is humble and contrite in spirit
and trembles at my word (Isaiah 66:2).

God esteems some and not others. "To esteem" in this context means, "to regard, to give positive attention to." The fact that the God of the Universe might take notice of you and me is beyond comprehension. That this possibility might exist should urge us to find out how it could actually happen.

God tells us here whom he so regards: "he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word." This person is contrasted to the ones described in the verses following:

But whoever sacrifices a bull is like one who kills a man, and whoever offers a lamb, like one who breaks a dog's neck; whoever makes a grain offering is like one who presents pig's blood, and whoever burns memorial incense, like one who worships an idol. They have chosen their own ways, and their souls delight in their abominations; so I also will choose harsh treatment for them and will bring upon them what they dread. For when I called, no one answered, when I spoke, no one listened. They did evil in my sight and chose what displeases me (Isaiah 66:3,4).

God rejected their religious acts. Even though they were doing the kind of religious rituals that God had himself prescribed, they were not doing what he wanted. He likened their sacrifices and offerings to forbidden ones.

Some would say that this is all a matter of the heart. There are the humble on one hand and the proud on the other. In fact, we read in another place, "He mocks proud mockers but gives grace to the humble" (Proverbs 3:34). While this is true, I do not think that that is the main issue here.

While humility plays an essential role, that is not the main issue here. God is saying that he is attentive to those who are attentive to him. To hear God and to respond to him appropriately does takes humility. But humility alone does not make one attentive or responsive. One can be humble and ignorant, humble and lazy, humble and mistaken. But in order to humbly respond to God, you need to hear him.

The ones doing the religious rituals thought they heard God. Were they not busy doing the very religious rituals commanded by God in the Torah? Their mistake is so typical.

The fact that God has laid down principles to live by and directions to follow does not imply that we are to focus on them to the neglect of God himself. God is alive and involved in our world. The purpose of his written word is to help us get to know him, which includes learning to hear him speaking to us.

God wants us to humbly be attentive to him moment by moment. He calls us to follow him, to be in fellowship with him. As we accept our constant dependency upon him, we will grow in our attentiveness to his voice. And as we hear him and obey him, he will be ever increasingly attentive to us.

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