2Only you I have known of all families of the land, Therefore I charge on you all your iniquities. 3Do two walk together if they have not met?
14 ‘I am the good shepherd, and I know my sheep, and am known by mine, 15according as the Father doth know me, and I know the Father, and my life I lay down for the sheep,
In many Jewish synagogues, a sign can be found above the ark [cabinet] that holds the Torah scroll. It reads:
Or transliterated: “Da Lifnei mi atah Omed”. It means “Know Before Whom You Stand”.
The idea for this comes from Moshe’s experience in the wilderness at the burning bush (see Exodus 3:2-15). The concept behind this statement takes its place as a reminder that when we approach God in either prayer or study, it should be with a respectable awe and a focused, reverent attitude.
The truth to this is that we are always in the presence of God as Paul alludes to in Acts 17:22-28 and as Isaiah relates to us in Isa 6:1-8. If we hold this to be true, then should we not always be aware that everything we say, think and do is in the divine audience of the Living God?
This ought to all believers be a sobering thought. I know it was for me. How many words have I spoken that I had not considered my true audience? How many idle, vain words, hurtful words, angry words, and blasphemous words have I thought or uttered? How often have I lashed out in anger or rage, how many great swelling words have I shouted at another in defense of one attitude or another and not regarded who else was in the room – the Presence of the Most-High God? O to this, brethren, to this now must I confess, must I repent…
O God, Yahvey Elohim, Yahvey Sabaoth
Before You and You alone, have I sinned…
I have not bridled my tongue, nor regarded Your Holiness, as I have spoken words against Thee
and against others
Today I repent, today I acknowledge my iniquity
And I throw myself before You, asking for mercy and forgiveness
There is a word that describes all this; it is the word “KaVaNah”. In Hebrew it looks like this:
Loosely translated in a variety of ways, it can mean “intent, focus, direction or understanding”. But KaVaNah is not merely a word that can be defined – it is, as I have stated before, exactly what Hebrew truly is – a concept. We stand before One who sees us – all the time. Nothing is secret from Him, nothing is hidden. Yet, consider this: how many of us, in the hopes of landing a job, will spend hours crafting our resume, practice our “spiel” if you will, to sell ourselves at the job interview with this potential employer? We’ll be willing to spend countless moments thinking of just the right words to say to someone we want to impress; there will even be rehearsed speeches, teachings, the list goes on and on… but, we’ll just drop in any time we feel like it before the King of Glory, with no preparation, no plan, no conscious thought of Who it is we stand before, and we’ll graciously give Him 2 minutes, 5, maybe 15 minutes of our time. Some maybe able to stretch it out to 30 minutes or an hour, but truthfully? The most important Presence you or I could ever hope to stand before is neglected or worse, assigned to our minds as an after-thought. We go about our lives, doing our own thing then off the cuff or on the spur of the moment we’ll go “Oh, by the way, did You want me to do this God? I sure hope so because it’s really what I wanted to do…”
KaVaNah needs a closer look. As seen before, in modern Hebrew it looks like this:
Reading right to left it is comprised of the Hebrew letters “kaf, vav, noon and hey”. Moshe would have written the word as this:
כֿ: the “kaf” symbolizes an open hand, with meaning of open, or allow
: the “vav” is the image of a tent peg or a nail; it means to add, secure or hook
: the “noon” is an image of a sprout, or something darting through water; it would later be akin to a fish. It means to continue, heir, or life
סּ: the “hey” is the image of a man with up-raised arms, later it would be drawn depicting a window because of its meaning: it means to look, to reveal, or what comes from
Using the ancient picture language, KaVaNah can be translated into meaning:
“Allow the nail to secure what comes from life”
Think about that if you will. It puts the whole focus of what we want or need out of life on something outside of ourselves. Take an alternate understanding of the picture language and you will see what I mean:
“The hand with the nail secures or reveals life”
There is only One with nail scarred hands that can provide, secure or give us life. KaVaNah reveals the Father’s intentions; what reveals ours?
Let us look again at Amos 3:3:
3 Can two walk together, except they be agreed? (KJV)
Other versions will handle this verse differently:
(ABP+) ShallG1487 [2goG4198 1two]G1417 togetherG2009.1 altogetherG2527 ifG1437 they do notG3361 make themselves known to each other , no .G1107 G1438
(ASV) Shall two walk together, except they have agreed?
(BBE) Is it possible for two to go walking together, if not by agreement?
(Bishops) Can two walke together, except they be agreed?
(Brenton) Shall two walk together at all, if they do not know one another?
(CEV) Can two people walk together without agreeing to meet?
(CJB) Do two people travel together without having so agreed?
(ISV) "Will a couple walk in unity without having met?
Can you see the point? If intentions are different – there can be no journey together. This then brings me to my sub-topic:
“…The Long Dark Night of the Soul…”
2 aConsider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter bvarious 1trials,
3 knowing that athe testing [Greek dokimion, meaning “approving”] of your bfaith produces 1cendurance.
4 And let 1aendurance have its [see Proverbs 1:20-33] perfect 2result, so that you may be 3bperfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
1 Peter 4:12-14
12 Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; 13 but rejoice nto the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that owhen His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. 14 If you are 5reproached for the name of Christ, pblessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. 6On their part He is blasphemed, qbut on your part He is glorified.
1 Peter 1:6-9
6 Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness [distress] through manifold [many, diverse] temptations: 7 That the trial [better, “the genuinesss”] of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried [tested] with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: 8 Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: 9 Receiving the end [the goal] of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.
There are periods and times that the joy of God escapes me. I thought of using the pronoun “us”, but please, allow me to personalize this. For what good can I do for another, if I don’t first experience what I call the “long dark night of the soul”. All around me, we see preachers and teachers that smile and joke, that all appear to have it so together; when I see them I wonder if they suffer anything at all. Yes – our walk is to be joy unspeakable, complete with rest, and peace yet…. Is there not a valley between every mountain? Is there not a long steep climb ahead of me at the base of every hill? For every bright sunny day or for every cloudless sky, does there not also exist the long dark night or the storm filled heaven?
Don’t let anyone tell you differently, for it can lead to a crisis of faith. One example:
After the defeat of the Japanese in China in World War II, missionaries flourished under the rule of the nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek; trouble was on the rise though with the resurgence of the communists under the leadership of Mao Zedong. The missionaries continued to bring thousands to Christ, telling them of all the good of being a believer, but neglecting the part of suffering for the Messiah. They preached safety and peace and wellbeing, yet when the communists took over in 1949, the Christians were among those that Mao sought to “purge” from China; by imprisonment, torture and death Mao waged his war against what he considered “western influences”. The missionaries and their flocks were rounded up and sent to the death camps and many turned on their teachers for lying to them, with promises of peace and security as they watched whole families and villages slaughtered by the godless forces of Mao. The cry went up “Where is Christ? Why didn’t He protect us as you promised?” The long dark night of the soul for the Chinese believers continues to this day, 64 plus years of persecution. How many turned away because they were not told of the trials to come?
Messiah promised us tribulation [John 16:33 “… 33 These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world....”]; Paul speaks of it in 2 Thess 1:4; Rom 5:3-4. Peter speaks of it in 1 Pet 3:14 and 5:10. Job spoke of it in Job 2:10. Tribulation is not a new thing, not something that has not been warned against.
We are refined in fire and tribulation, as shown in Zech 13:9; Psalm 12; Ps 66:10-12 and Mal 3:1-3. Today, there is trouble. Where does most of this trouble we have now come from? I can speak for myself, but I think the words of Yeshua can do it better:
34 ‘Ye may not suppose that I came to put peace on the earth; I did not come to put peace, but a sword; 35for I came to set a man at variance against his father, and a daughter against her mother [compare Mic 7:6, Matt 10:21, Luke 12:53], and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, 36and the enemies of a man are those of his household.
And from the Tanakh:
2 Sam 12:10
10 ‘And now, the sword doth not turn aside from thy house unto the age, because thou hast despised Me…11thus said Jehovah, Lo, I am raising up against thee evil, out of thy house…
Notice the words in 2 Sam 12:10: “…, because thou hast despised Me…” This English word, “despised”, in Hebrew is the word bâzâh [baw-zaw'], meaning “…to disesteem: - despise, disdain, contemn (-ptible)…”
Disesteem means to regard with disfavor. Does God bring trials and trouble upon His children because they regard Him with disfavor?
The short answer for this is “Yes”. How – and this is talking about my case – did I regard God with disfavor? By being a reactor and not a responder, that is how.
This simple act began my long dark night of the soul. Brethren hear me now – unless those you love have either begun or gone through the healing process, unless they have allowed God to completely have His way in their lives and do His work – then there will be trouble in your house. Here in this place – a place of safety – you are healing. Here in this house of God you are surrounded by the representatives of Messiah. You hear His words, experience in varying degrees His love and presence and slowly are healing. The same is not necessarily true for your family. In our sin, there was a lot of hurt, a lot of damage wrought. They – whoever “they” might be – be they mother, father, sister, brother, aunt, uncle, son or daughter, best friend – whoever it is that is significant in your life – is important to your healing process, as you are to theirs. But O hear me - that which is changing you has to be changing them also.
If it is not, here is what truly happens… They are watching. Every word, every move, every gesture – looking for any clue that what you are going through is one of two things:
Is it Real
Or Just another scam
I burned my family out on my “jail-house” conversions or my “discipleship” conversions if you will. I would go in – swear to Jesus I’d changed – then 6-7 months (if I was lucky) later – off to the races! Run and gun! Then, I would come sniveling back – back into rehab, discipleship, whatever – come out “Praise the Lord!” – then – Run and Gun! Get the picture?
It has been 12 years since my last “run and gun”. I KNOW this time it is real. They, my family, hope, but truly do not know; there is always a lack of trust present, most of the time it is not noticeable, but? All it takes is one miss-step – one wrong word, one wrong attitude, one wrong thing that reminds them of who I was – and folks, it is all over but the shouting. Back to square one – one thousand good deeds flushed down the tube…
The long dark night of the soul begins. The loneliness, the frustration, the pain of always being reminded of who you were – not who you now are. And it is here, in this environment, that you have to be a responder, not a reactor. What is the difference?
A Responder listens – checks their tongue – holds their peace – and humbles themselves.
A reactor only hears the accusation, not the pain behind it. A reactor barks back, gives up their peace and grows defensive, and combative. A reactor then justifies the other’s fears. And the cycle goes on and on.
It is hard to walk right with God. You are always checking yourself – your words, your ways – you park your emotional baggage outside the door and learn to stuff and swallow your feelings – usually your pride.
For myself, there are times I just want to walk away; it is an impossible task to do right all the time and to face the consequences that are waiting if you do not. You get tired, you get weary. And it hurts. It hurts because you know that you really do not have their trust. It is a fact of life my brethren. As formerly addicted personalities, we have to face one truth: unless our loved ones have been through the process of forgiveness, of rebuilding trust, of commitment, of letting go – then the fear that we are just one phone call, one car ride, one walk in the wrong neighborhood away from the fall…
That fear is always present. What we have to do is deal with it, not react to it. Now that is how we deal with family; but what about God? One aspect of this long dark night is feeling we are alone.
Why Are You Cast Down, O My Soul?
42 To the choirmaster. A Maskil1 of sthe Sons of Korah.
1 tAs a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.
2 uMy soul thirsts for God, for vthe living God. When shall I come and wappear before God?2
3 xMy tears have been my food day and night, ywhile they say to me all the day long,
“Where is your God?”
It is hard; God does sometimes withdraw the knowledge of His presence and this leads us to as the Psalmist said:
My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all day long,
“Where is your God?”
As with a deadly wound in my bones, my adversaries taunt me, pwhile they say to me all day long,
“Where is your God?”
This present darkness settles in for a time, and it unsettles you. You see, the word of God prepares us for these times:
“Why art thou cast down, O my soul?”
Why does God do this? Why, when we have His promise to never leave us or forsake us? I believe He does it to remind us that we just cannot do it alone. Look at Paul. Paul saw the third heaven. To keep him from exalting himself he was given “a thorn in the flesh”. What was that “thorn”?
Well, I do not know. Many scholars have pondered this, but they and I just really do not know what his was, I only know mine. What I was – that is my thorn. What I was is not a time to dwell upon or linger on, but it is one that never leaves – it keeps me humble. When I get too big for my britches, then God steps aside and lets me be reminded. Maybe Paul’s thorn was who he was: the damage he caused as a persecutor of God’s people. Maybe it was the death of Stephen – only God and Paul know.
It is a long dark night of the soul, this remembrance. I can still see the consequences of my sin, still played out in the lives of those I love. I ask, “Where are you God?” and yet, He still lets it play out. I am not trying to depress you my friends, just warn you. Maybe you will be blessed and not have to experience this – but in case this is a trial you have to go through; I want you to be prepared. I want you to be a responder. One who can:
Respond in love
Respond in Humility
Respond in Grace
For myself, I find that it is pride that is the catalyst for God to bring these nights upon me. When I allow pride to get a foothold – God brings me back to reality. For of a truth, what do I have to boast about?
9 But he said to me, j“My grace is sufficient for you, for kmy power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that lthe power of Christ may rest upon me.
For every weakness – there is a strength.
For every valley – there is a mountain.
For every long dark night – there is a brighter day; clichés I know, but there is an expectation, a hope that is needed to be kept alive in times like these…
3 Send Your light and Your truth; let them lead me. d Let them bring me to Your holy mountain, to Your dwelling place. e 4 Then I will come to the altar of God, to God, my greatest joy. f I will praise You with the lyre, God, my God. g 5 Why am I so depressed? Why this turmoil within me? Put your hope in God, for I will still praise Him, my Savior and my God. h
Trials, troubles and tribulation; these go hand in hand with love, peace and joy. You will be judged by what you were, but the answer is to respond by what you are, God’s child. The long dark night always has to give way to the dawning of the day.
Be not afraid of the slings and arrows of those you love, but do as Peter says:
2 Peter 3:18
18 But grow in the grace and knowledge d of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. e f •Amen. g
1 Peter 5:10
10 After you have suffered afor a little while, the bGod of all grace, who ccalled you to His deternal glory in Christ, will Himself eperfect, fconfirm, strengthen and establish you.
Fear not the night, just be prepared.
Now, how does this seemingly different topic fit in with KaVaNah?
Was I in agreement with God? On my long dark night, was I walking the same direction as He, or was I on my own course?
Where and when does KaVaNah meet the long dark night? Do they walk in agreement? Sometimes, maybe always. Sometimes intent is emptiness. Sometimes emptiness is the intent. The latter is what I believe I experienced. For some, this disconnect with God lasts for years. Friends, can you live with nothing? If God choose to pull back the knowledge of His presence from you today could you go on, hang on, waiting on the Lord? Can you go on hoping for more but enduring the emptiness, the nothingness till He choose to return? Before you say this would be impossible, let me tell you of one lady who did just that. For over 64 years she endured the silence of God, working tirelessly for His kingdom, giving her all for His least. It was not until near her death that the presence of God returned. Her name? Mother Theresa.
So, yes, it is a hard question, but one that might need be asked if we do not know before Whom we stand. Many believers face this emptiness every day – and either do not know the presence is gone or do not want anyone to know what they are experiencing. I would rather it be that I did not want anyone to know than to go about not knowing He was gone- for if I did not know it – was He ever really there?
Think about this. Do we value the blessing more than the He who blesses? Also, ponder about what we do, think or say – does it bless God or are we as James says in James 3:9-10:
9 Therewith bless we qGod, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, rwhich are made after the similitude of God. 10 Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.
“These things ought not so to be…” Then why are they?
We know not before Whom we stand.
Truly then, the long dark night of the soul is used by the Father to reveal our KaVaNah – our intent. The tongue that curses men cannot bless God. The two do not travel the same road, they do not meet, they are not in agreement. What lies within is verily what comes out of us.
What is the lesson then of “Da Linei mi atah Omed”?
It is the lesson of KaVaNah.
“Allow what was nailed to secure what comes from life.”
Trials, tribulations, troubles; they are the anguish of the long dark night AND the joy of the morning. They are the ascent up the mountain, and the descent of the same.
Moshe went up the mountain seven times – and down it seven. Seven times he ascended into the presence of the Living God, and seven times he descended back into the world of men. Where do you think he preferred to be? Each time, God had to tell him “Go back down”. Moshe knew Whom he stood before, and he obeyed. Back in the world of men when he was confronted, he responded by going to God. The one time he reacted and struck the rock the second time – it cost him the Promised Land.
Friends, it is all about KaVaNah. The intent of our heart has to agree with the intent of God if we are to truly walk with Him. If we know before Whom we stand, then all we do will finally change, our words, thoughts and deeds. It has been said before, if your faith cannot alter your behavior, it cannot change your destiny. KaVaNah will alter your faith; then it will change your destiny.
I hope you have been given food for thought today brethren; Elohim has given us a mind to ponder these things, and then, once we are fully persuaded, we can T’shuvah – truly repent and return.
This takes the right KaVaNah – and then surly will we know Whom it is before we stand.
May He richly bless you this day my beloved