Ethics – Now & Then 20 – Avot 2:4

Avot 2:4 He [Gamliel, the son of Yehudah HaNassi] used to say:
              Treat His [God’s] will as if it were your own will, so that He
              will treat your will as if it were His own will, so that He will
              nullify the will of others before your will.

Treat His [God’s] will as if it were your own will, so that He will treat your will as if it were His own will…

All sin occurs in rebellion against, and in contradiction to, the will of God.
Since the first sin of Adam and Eve, and the subsequent separation from the Presence of God, both mankind and all Creation have suffered the resulting curses. Throughout history the purpose of the Kingdom of Heaven – Malchut HaShamayim, is the healing and purification of the world until eventually all mankind again will live in harmony and accord with the will of God and be restored to the fullness of His Presence.

At the time of the Second Temple both the disciples of Jesus and the Essene community at Qumran believed that, as Jesus proclaimed, “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:17). They “…saw themselves as participants in the eschatological drama that had already begun to unfold.” [1] The term “Kingdom of Heaven“ is not found in the Hebrew Bible but was coined by the Sages in relation to the Kingship of God, which was first pronounced by Moses after the mighty deliverance from Egypt (Ex. 15:18).

In many instances the Sages equate the term with the “Days of Messiah,” which would occur in this world – Olam HaZeh. The apostle Paul reflects the view of the Early Church that the return of Jesus, the Risen Messiah, was imminent and the good news must be spread with urgency. All should be living with “lamps lit” in readiness and in eager anticipation of the Bridegroom’s arrival (Matt. 25:1-13)). This is echoed in the Didache, the extra-canonical writings, also known as the Teaching of the Apostles: “Keep vigil over your life. Let your lamps not go out and let your waists not be ungirded but ready, for you do not know the hour at which our Lord is coming” (16:1).

Now, two thousand years later, this remains true. While waiting in anticipation as His approaching footsteps grow louder we do what we can in Messiah, and the empowering of the Spirit of holiness, to live according to the Father’s will. We then trust that, wherever He has placed us, the light of His Kingdom can shine in our lives. Whenever and wherever His will is obeyed blessing follows and, in place of the chaos of sin, the peace and beauty of His Kingdom are made manifest.

Throughout his life and ministry on earth, Jesus was the perfect example of the intent, “Father not my will but Thine be done!” In order that true covenant relationship could be entered into in love, God, when He created them, made the choice to give mankind a will – the freedom to choose. Every time we choose to make His will our own, He is able to “treat our will as if it were His own” and to act on our behalf knowing what will be for our most ultimate and eternal good, in accord with the perfect plans He has for each of His beloved children.

When Messiah returns as King of the Father’s Kingdom, he will reign from his Throne in Jerusalem for a thousand years (Rev.19:15-16; 20:6). Talmudic literature agrees that at the conclusion of the Messianic Millennium there will be a general resurrection of the dead of all mankind and the great, final Day of Judgment will take place. Thereafter, the new and perfected heavens and earth – Olam HaBa, the World to Come, will be established. The apostle Paul recounts that at this time Jesus will present the Kingdom, in all its perfection, order and beauty, to the Father and God will be “all in all” (1 Cor.15:28). While we anticipate that glorious day, may His will be done and may we gratefully and creatively partner with our Father God who has “reconciled us to Himself through Jesus our Messiah, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation…” (2 Cor. 5:18).

…so that He will nullify the will of others before your will.

Jesus taught us to pray, “Our Father in Heaven, may Your Name be proclaimed as holy. May Your Kingdom come, may Your will come to pass on earth as it does in Heaven.” [2] He described the sustenance, both physical and spiritual, to be found in living according to the Father’s will when he said, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to accomplish His work” (Jn. 4:34). Jesus also made the startling declarations, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the Word of God and do it” (Lk. 8:21) and, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of Heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in Heaven” (Matt.7:21-23).

The strength to let “His will be done” increases as we grow in knowledge of the nature and character of God and who we truly are as those created in His image. Rabbi Solomon of Karlin once stated, “The worst of the evil impulses is to forget that one is a child of the King.” It is His will that we live the fullness of the life He intends for His children. As we remember who we are, and the purpose of our sacred journey through this life, we can devote ourselves to “seeking first the Kingdom of God” and, in the Lord, to work with Him towards seeing it established where we are, here and now.

When we choose humbly to lay down our own will and set aside our selfish desires in obedience to God’s will, He responds in ways that are far beyond our expectations. However, we inevitably and constantly experience tension between our fleshly, self-centered wills and the desire of our spirits to follow the expressed will of God. It usually is difficult to “nullify” our selfish, ego-driven impulses and yet, when we yield our will in accord with His, we experience true inner stillness and serenity; His peace surrounds and Shalom fills our souls.

 

Endnotes:

1. The Oxford Dictionary of the Jewish Religion; 40
2. The Didache, 8:2

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