Shabbat Shalom. Today I would like to begin with a question: What Are You Worth? It is an important question and serves as a way to focus in on the brokenness we find in the world around us and in ourselves.
It is perhaps a large understatement to say we live in difficult times. Economically, morally, spiritually, emotionally, and in every other category of life we are being confronted with a profound brokenness. Things just really do not seem to be getting better. Despite assurances from our government and so-called experts many of us strongly feel and see the slow degrading of society around us. Academically, many psychological studies have shown depression and loneliness are on the rise among every group of people. This is despite living in an age of untold communication, where instantly we can communicate with anyone in the world, at any time. One article I read commenting on the rise of loneliness and depression among people in England named this age not the “age of information” but the “age of loneliness”. People seem more lost and confused about their lives and their identities than ever before.
This is because these tools that promise to bring us happiness, instead expose our depraved natures and broken lives, if you don’t believe me read any comment section on a news article. Social Media, which allows my Bube to know what my cousins and I are doing, is also shown to increase depression the longer you use it. The more you peer into the lives of others, the more inadequate or worthless you may feel your own life is.
This has been something on my mind and heart frequently for the past couple of months. I have seen issues of loneliness, confusion, depression, and feelings of worthlessness or inadequacy coming to light again and again. I see this in my experiences with others and it feels like I am surrounded by brokenness: brokenness within us, brokenness in our relationships with others, and brokenness in our relationship with our great Creator.
This profound brokenness is only matched by a profound level of confusion. Every single day we are bombarded by numerous voices trying to tell us who we are, what we are worth, and how to fix the problems that surround us.
We continue to be confused about issues related to sexuality, gender, marriage, friendship, wealth, beauty, and of course God. We have advertisers willing to convince us that we are inadequate and that with their products we can truly be happy. With the connectivity of the internet we now have so-called experts willing to dispense their opinions as facts, with the most persuasive voices having the most authority.
A quick search on the internet for questions relating to what we are worth or who we are, will show this confusion to be very real. There are many websites where you can ask questions and receive answers from random strangers or armchair experts. Sadly many people turn to these kind of websites for answers to life questions and serious problems. A quick survey of these websites will lead to many conflicting answers and arguments about serious life questions, like whether we have any worth. Some will say we have no worth, that with 7 Billion people on this planet people are expendable. Others say that our value is in our relationships, the stronger they are the more worth we have. Still others will say it has to do with money or power or prestige.
I could go on but I have the strong sense that you all listening today know what I am talking about. That as I began this message, specific examples of brokenness and confusion came to your minds just as it did to mine. But if things are broken and we are deeply confused and surrounded by numerous voices, how do we figure out a solution? How do we solve the problems that we are facing every day?
We cannot find the answer from just human sources because we are too broken to fix ourselves. Too easily we confuse subjective opinions for objective facts. The only source of real Truth that is not based on our personal feelings or opinions is the Bible, which is God’s Word to His creation. Only God’s Word completely explains why we feel a deep tension between how everything is and how it should be.
Only the Bible explains our broken relationships with one another and our Creator, God’s desire is to see these relationships restored so that we can have true Shalom, true completeness and peace, instead of brokenness and confusion.
On the very first page of God’s Word in Genesis 1 we read how this world we live in was created. We read that out of nothing God created everything in the universe and after each act of creation He said it was good. This isn’t the word good that just means adequate or okay or decent, but when we read God stating the world was good, He is really saying it is complete and perfect. There is nothing more to be added and there is no flaw in it at all. Towards the end of Genesis 1 we read of our own creation and how very special and unique we are, consider Genesis 1:26-27:
Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
We also see at the end of Genesis 1 that the Lord looks upon us in His creation and says that we are “very good”. There is a truth repeated several times in these passages, repeated so that we can understand it and not forget it, that we have been made in the likeness of God. Our ability to love, understand justice, show mercy, and be aware of our own existence in a very deep and complex way comes from our being made in Adonai’s image. Being made in God’s image also contains the responsibility the Lord gave us. We are allowed to rule over the creatures of the Earth, with the Lord ruling over us. Being made in God’s image means that each of us, always, have worth and value that cannot be calculated. No matter what our present circumstances are, no matter how deep our joy or despair, our worth is unchanging and incalculable.
As we continue reading the book of Genesis we see the fall of humanity in Genesis 3. Satan successfully confused Adam and Eve and convinced us to doubt God. We also began to believe we knew what was best for our lives. Because of our willingness to trust in the words of Satan over our Creator we suffered permanent damage from sin and began to experience death. The brokenness we experience in Genesis continues to this day, with most of humanity separated from God and separated from one another. In different forms Satan continues to convince many of us that we are worthless, maybe we can fix ourselves, and that we should trust everything but God’s commands to us.
Up until this point much of what I have shared has been mostly sad. The facts that we were created perfect, sinned and became broken in a world that also became broken. But the Lord has not separated from His creation or from us completely. Despite all our attempts to distance ourselves from God, He is still all around us. The Lord knows everything about us, is all around us, and wants us to be restored to Him.
King David, one of the wisest and greatest kings who ever lived, understood these truths and was used by God to write one of the greatest psalms describing God’s relationship with us, Psalm 139.
In the first section of this psalm we see that there is nothing about us the Lord does not know. No matter where we are or what we are doing the Lord knows our thoughts. Beyond knowing just our thoughts, the Lord also knows the words we will speak before we say them. This is all part of God’s protecting nature and David declares that Adonai is guiding him.
When King David considers the knowledge of God He cannot help but praise Adonai. The depth of Adonai’s knowledge is beyond our comprehension, but even when we feel alone or confused about ourselves we can have confidence the Lord knows who we really are and will guide us.
When we are alone or confused, we may also try to hide from one another and from God. We isolate ourselves from others and refuse to let people in. But the next section of this psalm states without any doubt that we cannot hide from the creator of the universe.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
King David understood that there was nowhere he could go where God was not present. Whether he was alive or dead the Lord was still with him. There was no darkness or light powerful enough to hide him from the sight of God. In this second part of Psalm 139 we see a repetition of God’s guiding hand. God’s omniscience, His ability to know everything and His omnipresence, being everywhere in the universe, is connected to His desire to lead and guide us. Adonai has not abandoned His creation to our sins. King David continues and praises the Lord for His creating and saving power.
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you.
We are fearfully and wonderfully made. Like of all God’s works we are wonderful but we have a special relationship with Adonai. This is a very different message from the kind we hear most days isn’t? Instead of being worthless and just another person each of us is full of worth. None of us are mistakes, even if we feel like it sometimes. Nothing about us and our lives are accidental, we have been intentionally designed to be unique and wonderful. Each of us was created by a grand designer, a Creator who has no equal.
Even when we were still in the womb, the Lord knew us and was with us. When you went to lie down last night the Lord was with you and when you woke up He was still with you. Every day of your life, God is near you and even now He is with us. Every day of our lives is known to Adonai and He has plans and purposes for each of us.
The Lord desires for each of us to be like King David, to have a real and personal relationship with Him and to experience the completeness that can only come from being brought back together with our Creator. But that leads us to a very important question: How can we restore our relationship with God?
The answer is found throughout God’s Word, in every Jewish holiday, and begins in Genesis 3, the same chapter where we fall from perfection. The Lord tells our first parents that there will eventually be a special person who will crush Satan. Throughout His Word He reveals more and more details of this promised Savior. King David learns that it would be his descendent and that as the anointed King, as the Messiah, all of humanity will be saved. This will not be any ordinary human being, but God Himself will send His Son, who is fully God and fully man, to pay the price of our sins and restore us to live forever with Him. In Romans 5, Rabbi Paul explains what Adonai has done in this way:
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Messiah died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Messiah died for us.
It wasn’t because of how amazing we were that Messiah died for us. It was because God loved us that much. Our capacity to love, to love to the point of deep sacrifice, is from Adonai. It is part of being made in the image of God. We can only love because He first loved us.
When I think about God’s love for us it always brings to mind what is maybe the most well-known verse in Scripture, John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
These words are said by the Messiah Himself. He tells us, just like Rabbi Paul stated, that it because of God’s great love that we have a way to be joined to Him, to be brought back into a right relationship with Him. But in this powerful verse there is a condition. We must believe in Him, in Jesus or Yeshua’s life, death, and resurrection. We have to accept the reconciliation He has provided and if we do so we have the promise of eternal life. If we join ourselves to God through the Messiah we will be made anew. We will be transformed into His image and begin the process of becoming more and more like Him in our hearts and minds. When we die we have the promise of eternal life, being restored to how we were before the fall, so that God can look on us once again and through the atonement provided by Yeshua declare we are “very good”.
Understanding and accepting the fact that we have incalculable worth because we were made by an awesome Creator who loves us and loved us enough to die for our sins, leads to some very powerful life applications.
First, we can have peace in knowing there is nothing we can do to increase or decrease our worth. The Lord does not love us less today then He did yesterday and none of our sins can erase the fact we are created in the image of God. We don’t need products, books, or articles to feel we have worth, we just need to properly understand who our Creator is and what He has done for us. I like this quote by William Scott: “My worth is what I am worth to God, and that is a marvelous great deal, for Christ died for me.” The emptiness and brokenness we feel deep inside can only be satisfied by Him and nothing else.
Second, we have to understand that God died for the whole world, and not just for us. The people who we do not like, the people who hurt us, they are also made in God’s image just as we are. We are not superior to them and we have to have peace will all people, even those who we do not like. That person who cuts you off in traffic, they are made in the image of God. Our spouses, friends, family, even when they hurt us, they are still made in God’s image. We have to show love towards all people, even our enemies.
This doesn’t mean that we need to put ourselves in bad situations but it does mean we cannot have hatred or grudges in our hearts that eat away at us from within.
Third, we need to understand that even when life is at its’ worst, when we are dealing with Job-like sufferings, the Lord is still there and still loves us. We need to seek our creator and our brothers and sisters in the Lord, to resist the urge to trust in ourselves or to hide away from Him. Satan is just as active as he was in the garden, trying to convince us God does not have our best interests in mind and that we need to find truth elsewhere. No matter what our present circumstances we need to know that God loves and that He loved us enough to die for us, not just the world in the abstract but for each of us personally. Knowing everything about us, seeing our sins and all our flaws, He loved you enough to die for you. If we truly understand and accept this fact we can have the joy King David felt in Psalm 139, a joy not dependent on circumstances. Joined to Messiah we have been given a new mind and a new nature, and it is because of His work in us, that He will enable us to overcome the problems we face in this broken world.
Finally and most importantly we need to be reconciled to our Creator before we leave this world. As we read in John 3:16 we must believe