Yes, ‘tis true, I have gone back to grad school. In Theology 501 I have learned that some things, no matter the millennium, never change. We may label with new euphemisms the same old sin, but the human condition is the human condition no matter if you are donning a fig leaf, a toga or the latest European fashion.
Check this out, the ancient Hebrew word “avad” shows this very clearly and delivers a timeless, powerful punch...
Hebrew is an amazing language. The word avad, found throughout the Old Testament, can mean both to work and to worship. When we note that to worship is ultimately to serve (to work for) the object or Being of veneration, the word choice is perfect because to serve God in worship is to seek divine union with Him leading us back to the peaceful rest we so desperately long to encounter and for which we were made but tragically lost sight of after the fall.
We have an excellent example of avad being used to express the word enslave as we study the history of the children of Abraham in the land of Egypt. Only through divine intervention would they be set free, both physically and spiritually, to serve the The Great I Am, the Living God, Yahweh.
Through many miraculous acts, God, working through His servant Moses, released the Israelites from the bondage of slavery in Egypt in order to lead them to true freedom, avad (worship) without hindrance and service to Yahweh alone. Sadly, in a cycle that even to this day echos back again and again to the choice of bondage and sin over freedom in worship and service to God, the Israelites and we as well, choose to turn our backs on the love of God, as did our ancestors in the Garden of Eden. And just as they did, we too reap the bitter fruit of thorns and thistles, enslavement to idolatry, worshipping gods of our own making instead of entering into the heavenly avad (worship that leads to rest) of God.
Have you ever fallen into that trap? I have. Instead of living in freedom and doing just as God would have me to do, gaze at Him alone, I get caught up in worrying about other’s opinions’ of me. This worry places all kinds of burdens on me that God never intended for me to carry. Instead of just freely loving all I encounter and spreading His Light and word, doing what only God would have me to do (not more, not less) and then leaving the results up to Him (allowing Him alone to be my Judge), I hesitate or people please, wondering, “What will they think of me if…?”
You may not have this problem, but you might have another-- perhaps trouble saying “no” in order to prove your supreme capabilities? This excessive “performance to prove” leads to imbalance, not serving out of pure love of God but in order to build up your own self esteem and self worth in order to be able to say, “I did it!”
Or you may fall into yet another pit, the one of serving only when you feel like it, being enslaved to your emotions. You do not serve out of love of God nor rely on Him to give you what you will need when the going gets rough (or even just a little uncomfortable) but instead, think about your own pleasure and desires not what God would have you to do. The question on your mind is, “Do I really feel like doing that today?”
We can see, by our daily choices, that we are just as capable of falling into the avad delima, worshiping the temporal that leads to enslavement to this world and its false idols of image, self reliance, materialism, and comfort over the avad of the eternal, God the Father, which leads to true peace and unity with Him. Choosing God is freedom and rest from this world and all its vain emptiness. The children of Abraham serve as a mirror in which we can see our own reflection and a measuring rod in which we can evaluate our own spiritual growth.
As *Bob Dylan so eloquently sang, “You’re gonna have to serve somebody…” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jSvH35xE_Sg)
Which choice will be made? To avad (to work in the flesh, leading to enslavement to the temporal) or to avad (to worship in spirit and in truth, serving out of pure love of God, leading to eternal rest)?
Thanks be to God, that by His grace, one does not permanently cancel the other.
If we, like the Israelites of old, realize the error of our ways, repent, turning back to God with true contrition and a desire to abide in His love, we too can dwell in the divine rest of God, which is our very reason for existence.
“My soul looks for the Lord more than sentinels for daybreak. More than sentinels for daybreak, let Israel hope in the LORD, For with the LORD is mercy, with him is plenteous redemption, And he will redeem Israel from all its sins.” Psalm 130: 6-8
Help me! I want to avad (serve and worship) You alone. I can so easily get caught in the trap of serving other’s opinion’s of me--which is vanity, serving to show my own abilities-- which is pride, serving my own feelings--which is sensuality, instead of serving You out of pure love! Lord, only by Your grace can I ever break free. Help me Lord, for without Your divine intervention and the grace to change, I am afraid I can do no better. Please bring people into my life that can encourage and mirror to me the better way, Your way, and then grant me the grace to desire it and to work with Your merciful love to do better. Only in You is found the capacity for change through the power and working of Your Holy Spirit. Come Lord Jesus! Come!
I ask this in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.