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“[L]ooking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.” Hebrews 12:2-3
I’ve been thinking about this Hebrew word and idea behind “tsedaqah.” In a nutshell it means righteousness. But I think our English translations of a lot of foreign words just don’t do them justice. Sometimes our English just simplifies things too much. And I’m not so sure that real words are really so simple after all. I think the words I speak and the words I live ought to be rich with meaning and depth of life, or they are just empty words, full of gibberish. Well, tsedaqah is not so simple and not at all full of gibberish.
Yesterday, we began setting up for a four day medical/dental mission in the Philippines. It was a long day of travelling, 10 hours by bus. It was a really early morning of waking up and packing up and moving out, 2 AM. It was a day of confusion, setting up in a different hospital, language barriers, searching for equipment. It was a day of being tired and worn and wanting to just rest, but needing to continue on. It was a day of new foods for some, new sights, new experiences, some of which were quite inconvenient. It was a day full of opportunities for “tsedaqah”, for righteousness.
After all that craziness, I’m wondering what any of us had to boast about yesterday and what in the world that has to do with righteousness? Well, maybe looking at Jeremiah 9:24 can help me think about that a little more. ““[B]ut let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the Lord. “ Before I look at how I or we could use yesterday as an opportunity for righteousness, I need to know what You, Lord, consider as righteousness. And if I follow throughout the whole of Your word, I see that it’s deeper and richer than just doing good things and obeying the rules. It all has to do with knowing You and understanding You.
This understanding is the word “sakal” and it’s all about really grappling with knowing. It’s not a simple kind of take-it for granted knowing. You really have to take the time and effort and struggle of searching out the knowledge. No one else can search it out for me. I’ve got to seek understanding You like that. And I’ve got to “know” You. That’s “yada” which is a word I can get excited about. But for today, it’s the essence of truly experiencing relationship with You, Lord, and experiencing Who You are. Skip Moen puts it this way, “He means that the intimacy of deep relationship, the friendship, the honesty, the confrontation, the instruction, the familial bonding, are all part of ‘yada YHVH”. He’s your best friend, your protective parent, your mentor, your examiner, your guide, your lover, your comforter, your doctor, your judge and a host of other close connections. Understanding who God is is not enough. Understanding who He is and experiencing intimacy with Him is the essence of true religion.”
The next truth here is that this Lord we can know and experience is the One who “exercises lovingkindness, justice, and righteousness. Your the standard for all three things. And they are wrapped up together in You. God demonstrates all three qualities, behaviors to each of us. And You don’t just demonstrate this out of duty or because You must because You are God. You, Lord, actually delight in these things.
Now, I’ve got this box at home called a tsedaqa box, it’s a box for placing offerings, charity in. And charity is not just about good works or helping people in need. At least not God’s word for charity. It’s all about the demonstration of real love. It’s about a demonstrations of true compassion. It’s a demonstration of shear delight. But it only truly becomes those things when it is grounded in faith and trust in God, through His tsedakah, Jesus Christ.
See, for the joy, the delight set before You, You became my tsedakah, on my behalf. You were my offering that would not only shower me with lovingkindness forever, that would serve justice in my place, but that would make things right before me and God and empower me to live rightly in the Lord moment by moment. Hebrews 12:2-3 reminds me that I am to be “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. “
Well, yesterday was a day that made it easy to become weary and fainthearted. But when I think about that tsedaka at home, that offering box, I’m reminded of You, Lord. And if You can faithfully go through all that You endured for me and my reconciliation to You out of a delight in loving me, even to the point of Your bearing the wrath of God under my sin, well I certainly can trust You to use the circumstances in a crazy disorganized day to teach me how to be an offering like You for the sake of others and the love of You. Because if I act upon it with Your attitude filling me, if I act upon it and think upon it with a delight in my heart and spirit for Your righteousness, for the joy of all that yada, yada, yada, well, then I really start learning what it’s like to love like You and to walk in You and to live in You. And then I really start experiencing the love You have for me, because I am experiencing, though on a much more minor level, the extent that You offered Yourself for me and the cost You paid. And when I know You delighted in me and didn’t count Your suffering as more valuable, but me as more valuable, well, it makes me take on a whole new light of what my right attitude and actions ought to look like and how my heart ought to feel about it.
So, Lord, lots of stuff seemed to go wrong yesterday. But maybe it really all went exactly right. Because it gave me a chance to open up that special box and look inside. And instead of seeing money to do good things with, I saw a Savior who is Good. Instead of seeing things as just bad circumstances, they were opportunities to understand and experience You. So, I always have this choice. I can choose to be a tsedaka, and offering of righteousness and delight in the circumstances You place before me if only for the opportunity to experience You more intimately, or I can offer up things my own way and miss out on intimacy with You and wind up complaining and dissatisfied instead. May You give me the heart to deliberately pursue You even when it’s hard and delight in Your leading and coming alongside me.
It’s funny. I’ve been trying to get this devotion into words for days. Even lost my last entry. But I’m so grateful for the word “tsedakah” that You layed on my heart and mind. I’m grateful that years ago, you had me start learning about it and participating with You. And I’m grateful now that You’ve even opened up my understanding to a deeper level that is even more beautiful because of what it shares about You.