Servitude or Servanthood


Today we are meeting in a new facility and it seems the world has shifted on its axis since the last time we met.  Members of our congregation have experienced great loss of personal items as well as the loss of friends to the ravages of Hurricane Harvey.  Harry Drennan and Elva had about 3 feet of water in their home.  Cynthia Bowen lost friends to the storm.  There is not a family in this congregation that was not touched by this storm.  It is a time to grieve for our friends and for ourselves.

There are a couple of things I would like to say about this.  It is OK to grieve.  Here in this area, there are a lot of engineers, oilfield and military folks.  I’ve heard it many times when catastrophe hits “it ain’t nothing but a thang”.  It is a mechanism for coping.  As long as no one is physically impacted then it is standard procedure to shrug off massive losses as if grieving was a sign of weakness.  I’m reminded of the Monty Python skit where the knight loses a limb and remarks that it is nothing but a flesh wound.  Losing most of the contents of a home is horrific and it is OK to mourn the loss of your stuff.

There’s another thing we need to understand about what we are going through right now.  It is OK to receive.  Many of us are not accustomed to being in a situation of need.  Perhaps we have been blessed to be in a position of giving during much of our lives.  So now we don’t know how to receive. It’s OK.  You can receive. It won’t be long before you will be able to once again bless others.

When we run into people that have needs it is important to help them retain their dignity.  Torah teaches us to help out our brother when he is in need in such a way that he can regain his footing.

Last week’s Torah portion, as well as this one recounts how Moses was instructed to take of census of all the tribes with the exception of the tribe of Levi.  The reason was to take account of how many men of military age were able to serve in the army of Israel.  Each tribe was counted, all the men from the age of 20 and older.  Notice that there was no upper limit.  There was no age at which the Lord discounted a man as unfit.  There was no retirement age.  Service in the army was mandatory.  All the men were required to be available.  The Bible records that there were just over 600,000 men available for the army. That is what I call servitude.  Mandatory service.  I am sure many of the men did not want to serve in the army.  Later on in Israel’s history the Lord allowed all who were afraid to go home.  There were other exemptions, such as the first year of marriage.

The Levites did not serve in the army, but were dedicated for service in the tabernacle.  Again, this was not optional.  The Lord said “thou shalt” and that that was it.

In recent weeks, we discussed how Yeshua taught his disciples about the virtues of being a servant rather than being a ruler.  It didn’t make a lot of sense in the natural, but Yeshua very seldom concerned himself with the things of the world.  Instead, He focused His attention on the Kingdom of Heaven rather than earthly kingdoms.

Here are some examples of Yeshua’s teaching.

Matthew 20:26  It shall not be this way among you. But whoever wants to be great among you shall be your servant,

Matthew 23:11  But the greatest among you shall be your servant.

John 12:26  If any man serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there also will My servant be. If anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.

Remember Yeshua’s example to His disciples of being a good servant by being willing to take on the lowly and sometimes unpleasant tasks of taking care of someone else.

Last night I saw an account of rescue personnel describing their rescue of elderly patients in a nursing home.  They recounted the deplorable conditions in which these poor folks lived on a daily basis and was exacerbated by the rising flood waters that eventually overflowed the nursing home and threatened their lives.  It was readily apparent that their caregivers were not displaying the love of Messiah in caring for these people.

By the same token, there are many stories coming out of this terrible storm that testify of the caring and giving spirit to which Yeshua calls us.  Yesterday I watched car after car pull up in this parking lot with families who were donating items for flood victims.  Items being donated were toys and clothing no longer needed by children who had long ago outgrown them.  But there were also massive amounts of new items that people bought solely for the purpose of giving to the less fortunate. They were showing the love of Messiah to a hurting world.

I saw a line of people that stretched for a city block in front of a distribution center.  These people were not looking for a handout.  This was a group of people standing in line to volunteer to help flood victims.

This cleanup and recovery operation will last for months.  People will get tired or will have to get back to their own jobs and families.  Today I would like to encourage those of you at Tree of life to seek out opportunities to serve.  Serve with gladness. Serve in love.  Let the light of Yeshua shine into the life of those whose lives have been darkened, battered and beaten in the last week.

When we were finally able to get back to our home this week I saw that we had been blessed by not having a great deal of damage to our home.  A couple of shingles, some tree limbs and a garden that was severely battered.  But I noticed something about my garden.  Before the storm I had massive okra plants, some with stalks 2” in diameter and almost 10 feet tall.  Almost all the plants had been blown over and their large, brilliant green leaves blown to shreds.  But on the end of the okra stalk there were pods that survived.  It did not matter to what angle the wind had driven the plant, in the three days between the storm and my return, the plants had redirected the ends that held the fruit.  The plants had twisted so as to face the sun so they could continue to produce fruit.

To me it was a testimony and a lesson.  No matter how much we may be battered, beaten or broken by the storms of life, the Son of God is there to provide hope and help.  We need only to turn our lives over to Him and he will sustain us and make us fruitful.

Today, let us determine not to live in servitude, servants because we are force to serve. But let us live in servanthood, voluntary servants, serving because we love God and want to show that love to our fellow man.