Run—a Reflection on Yom Kippur
I love the feasts and seasons of the Old Testament, as they lend so much insight, image, and example to the applications of New Testament truths.
. . . all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.
— I Corinthians 10:11
I like to observe these seasons, not religiously nor technically, but I try to follow the heart of each season's purpose and message. Who knows, maybe there are seasons in the Spirit that life might work more congruently with, as we cooperate with what God is doing in each one.
Traditionally speaking, and relative to the season we are studying, the 1st of Elul (August/September), on the Hebrew calendar, kicks off a 40-day season of repentance, according to Jewish tradition, that leads up to what is known as the "High Holy Days" of Rosh Hashanah (beginning of the new year) and Yom Kippur (Day of atonement/covering), also known as the "national day of repentance. Yom Kippur is considered the holiest day of the year by the Jewish people.
This tradition is rooted in the Biblical account of Moses's second ascension up Mount Sinai and the 40 days later when he returned with the 2nd set of tablets. Recall that the first ones were destroyed because the children of Israel were disobedient and unfaithful to God during Moses's absence in the giving of the first.
. . . when the people saw that Moses delayed coming down from the mountain, the people gathered together to Aaron, and said to him, “Come, make us gods that shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.”. . .
— Exodus 32
Aaron then makes them a golden calf to worship and
. . . they rose early on the next day, offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play
— Exodus 32
The New Testament application to this is in knowing that Jesus, our deliverer, like Moses, will return on a day that we do not know. Yet sadly, like the children of Israel, we are tempted to rise up, play, and become distracted by the things of this world. As His coming delays.
“Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing. Assuredly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all his goods. But if that evil servant says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying his coming,’ and begins to beat his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware of, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
— Matthew 24:45-51
This season of repentance is an excellent invitation for all of us to reflect on our lives, inspect ourselves, and seek the Lord concerning what might not be right or pleasing in His sight.
Examine me, God! Look at my heart!
Put me to the test! Know my anxious thoughts!
Look to see if there is any idolatrous way in me,
then lead me on the eternal path!
— Psalm 139:23-24
The Day of Atonement
The day of atonement that follows 40 days from the first of Elul is considered the most solemn day of the year by the Jewish people, in that it was the one day of the year when the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies to atone for his own sins and the sins of the people. Confession (acknowledgment of sin) and repentance are at the core of this season.
Tradition holds that sin not repented of, confessed, and forsaken was subject to judgment in the following year.
This thought applies to our Christian life, in that, when we come to faith in Christ for the forgiveness of our sin, we are made right with God, yet sin doesn't cease to be a problem.
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
— I John 1:8
He remains our high priest who intercedes for us. He was both the salvation sacrifice as well as our atonement sacrifice. We would do well not to make light of either nor trample His shed blood underfoot by continuing in known sin and being unrepentant. Is it possible that we subject ourselves to God's judgment when we choose to do so?
For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?
— Hebrews 10:26-29
Atonement represents God's requirement for us to grow up and reciprocate to Him by putting away those things standing between and preventing us from moving forward in successful spiritual living that his sacrifice for sin was supposed to grant us.
Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.
— Hebrews 6:1
One translation reads, "let us move on to maturity."
In the above portion of Scripture, we see that these "elementary principles" are like the "Passover" is the born again things and experience, and "Atonement" is "let's get on with it!"
I encourage all to read the book of Hebrews. It is an excellent reading that shows Jesus as the atonement sacrifice and the "our part" of that relationship. It is the Christian handbook concerning the observance of this season.
Ready Set Run
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
— Hebrews 12:1-2
The Lord led me, at a difficult time, to take up running. I wasn't exactly sure why considering I am not an athletic person by any means, and walking is about as aerobic as I have ever been.
At this time, I had encountered an insidious temptation that caught me off guard. I was disturbed that, this far into my walk with God, I would still be so prone or vulnerable to such things and that it would so easily creep in. My new found activity was about to teach me a few things.
When I read the verse above, the first thing that stood out to me was the part about "the sin which so easily ensnares us." I think we deceive ourselves when we believe that we are somehow immune to temptation because we are Christians. The writer of Hebrews is addressing a Christian audience, and he claims that sin easily entangles us.
According to Gesenius Lexicon, The Greek word "ensnare" above means to skillfully surround and encircle or cleverly entangle and prevent running. It's as if the temptation is tailor-made to fit our weakness, need, or desire, yet working behind the scenes, the temptation is trying to trip us up.
We're going to learn a little Greek today and look a little deeper into the smooth moves of temptation. I don't know Greek, so we're going to look at a clip from Rick Renner in his book "Sparkling Gems."
. . . "the phrase "easily entangles" (or "beset" in some translations) is from a greek word euperistatos which is a compound of three words: eu, peri, and statos . . . The word eu usually means well, but in this case carries the idea of something that feels well or something that is comfortable. The Greek word peri means around or being completely surrounded. The word statos is rom the root word istimi, meaning to stand. When these three words are compounded, the new word describes something that comfortably stands all around you, such as a comfortable environment."1
In other words, it fits. It might even look like the perfect solution and a great idea.
In Hebrew thought, there is something called the "Yetzer Hara." In English, it means the "evil inclination."
This inclination is based on a legitimate need that is fulfilled illegitimately through indulgence, and I might even go so far as to say entitlement. We deceive ourselves when we entitle ourselves those indulgences based on a perceived need.
And you shall have the tassel, that you may look upon it and remember all the commandments of the LORD and do them, and that you may not follow the harlotry to which your own heart and your own eyes are inclined, and that you may remember and do all My commandments, and be holy for your God. I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: I am the LORD your God.”
— Numbers 15:39-41
To follow in this verse means to meander, reconnoiter (scout in enemy territory), explore, seek out.
The above portion of Scripture demonstrates what we do when we indulge in temptation; we end up meandering off and scouting in enemy territory for solutions and satisfaction.
Run From Temptation
We might be tempted to think that resisting the ultimate distraction of temptation is too difficult, to which Paul informs us that.
No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.
— I Corinthians 10:13
We can always be rest assured there will be nothing that comes to us that God has not provided a way out for. There is nothing that will come to us that someone before has faced and was unable to overcome.
For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.
— Hebrews 15
Paul's encouragement to our race is once again considering Jesus knowing that He did it in the face of more complicated than we could ever imagine
For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin.
— Hebrews 12:3-4
Sin Is Heavy
Sin is also described in Hebrews chapter twelve as a weight. One of the reasons many people like to jog is to lose weight. The indulgence of food and inactivity causes weight gain. Sin is spiritual weight brought on by the indulgence of the flesh and inactive faith that makes us spiritually lazy and weak. We became spiritually lethargic, unmotivated towards the things of God, and weighted down. Sin can slow a spiritual journey to a screeching halt or a crawl at best.
“But Jeshurun (upright one) grew fat and kicked; You grew fat, you grew thick, You are obese! Then he forsook God who made him, And scornfully esteemed the Rock of his salvation.
— Deuteronomy 32:15
One of the health benefits of jogging is it reduces triglycerides and bad cholesterol (which essentially is fat floating around in your blood) and increases good cholesterol. Again, the analogy works, in that, just like in an inactive and sedentary physical life that isn't healthy leads to the build-up of dangerous compounds that cause artery blockage and cut off the life-giving flow of oxygenated blood; So, it is with an inactive spiritual life that isn't focused or in motion. It will truly cause a jam of sin that will block the life-giving flow of the spirit of God in us.
. . . the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.
— Mark 4:19
Newton's Law of Motion
There is a law of motion that was discovered by Isaac Newton that applies to this.
"A body in motion tends to stay in motion unless acted on by an outside force."
The outside force from a spiritual perspective is sin. Our Christian lives can lose their motion and ability to move forward unless we resist it.
Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
— James 4:7
The Word tells us we are to lay aside the sin; in other words, put it down. Don't play with it, look longingly at it, or linger in thought about it. Put it away.
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.
— Philippians 4:8
Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.
— II Timothy 2:22
The next thing we are instructed to do in Hebrews chapter twelve is to "run with endurance the race that is set before us."
An Example From Secretariat
Secretariat, the horse that "ran the greatest race ever run" in the Belmont Stake Race in 1974, had a heart that weighed 22 pounds, 2 1/2 times larger than average, that gave him a higher capacity to run that victorious win that has never been matched since.
When we have laid aside our weight of sin, we are instructed to "run with endurance the race that is set before us."
An essential goal of runners is to build endurance.
I will run the course of Your commandments, For You shall enlarge my heart.
— Psalm 119:32
There is an actual condition called "Athletic Heart Syndrome," which is described as a normal change in people who do strenuous aerobic activities such as jogging. What happens is the heart gets more massive, and its walls get thicker to allow the heart to pump more blood and helps it operate more efficiently. 2
The heart is learning to endure more and more activity.
As we run the course of His commandments unhindered and undistracted with sin, our heart will increase in endurance and have a greater capacity to accomplish the will and plan of God in our lives. Our spiritual lives will function more efficiently and operate at peak performance.
Jogging not only strengthens the heart but also relieves stress and reinforces the immune system. It also increases muscle strength.3
Strength and endurance are common themes with jogging and sin resistance. Strength building and exercises of just about any kind require some form of resistance, as James 4:7 states above.
But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.
— Jude 1:20-21
I listened to a message given by Dee Duke, senior pastor at Jefferson Baptist Church in Jefferson, Oregon, about endurance and perseverance that blessed my heart and is so relevant to this lesson that I would like to share it with you.
Dee's Lesson on Endurance and Perseverance
When Dee was twelve years old, about two months before his father retired from the navy, His family Lived in Alameda, California, where there was a naval base. They Lived about six blocks from the base, and In the evening, He and his dad walked down to the base and fish from the dock.
One night on the dock, there was no breeze, and the water was like a sheet of glass. His dad walked over to one of the big navy ships, to the middle of it, and put his feet a little over the edge of the dock. He leaned out over and put his hands on the side of the ship, and he started pushing on it, keeping in mind that this was a huge ship. He was pushing so hard that the veins in his neck were standing out. Dee was standing behind his dad, looking at him and thinking that his dad had lost it. But his dad continued to push with everything in him, and he did this for 15 or 20 minutes. Finally, the ship began to move. This huge giant ship began to move away from the dock. He saw the ship moving and thought his dad was Superman. After it moved away from the pier, his dad had him sit next to him and began to explain this lesson to him about what had just occurred. He said he wasn't sure how it worked but thought there was some law that the energy he had when he pushed that ship somehow got stored in the ship. He also explained that if he had quit 5 seconds before the ship moved, it wouldn't have moved, and everything he had done and all the energy he exerted would have been wasted.
A quote from Louie Zamperini, a World War II prisoner of war survivor, inspirational speaker, and former American competitive runner from "Runners World" magazine:
"Never give up, no matter what. Even if you get last place-finish"5
What is the key? Stay focused.
". . . looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame..."
There is always a goal with runners. Maybe it is to get to the finish line, complete a marathon, beat a time, or a distance. Sometimes during temptation, we forget that there is a race that is set before us. God has plans and goals for each one of us. With every race, there is a destination in mind. God has specific intentions for our lives, and that is the race we run and the goal we strive to meet. Sin attempts to trap us and distract us from living the plan and purpose He has for us.
For I know the thoughts (plans) that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts (plans) of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.(parenthesis mine based on word study)
— Jeremiah 29:11
Follow the Son
One of the things I see a lot on my walk/jogs during the fall season is the wild sunflowers. When a wild sunflower is at the bud stage, it always faces the sun. It faces east in the morning, and by evening it has tracked west following the sun's path. I can't help but think temptation seems to show up right when something good is about to blossom in our lives. We need to glean a lesson from the sunflower to follow the Son and keep our eyes on Him.
So you shall not turn aside from any of the words which I command you this day, to the right or the left, to go after other gods to serve them.
— Deuteronomy 28:14
One tip for running is to keep your head up and look forward, which also concerns the idea of focus.
Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.
— Colossians 3:2
The head-down position can lead to added weight that slows us down. Temptation begs us to keep our heads down, so we only see this earthly life and its temporary satisfactions, never letting on that these satisfactions are at the expense of the eternal ones.
One of the observances of Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) is fasting. Fasting is the temporary giving up of food to focus on spiritual matters. It reminds us that our physical existence is a temporary one and a practice of being able to say no to our flesh and desire.
With fasting, I have learned that in terms of physicality, one meal will only satisfy me for that meal, and then I will be hungry again. It reminds me that sin is a temporary satisfaction that will only leave me hungry again and again and again.
The book of Hebrews tells us that Jesus endured the cross because of a joy set before Him. His eyes were on the prize and examples perfectly the obedient, disciplined life, exhibiting for us how a life of faith that expects eternity is disciplined and obedient. Paul gives this analogy.
Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore, I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.
— I Corinthians 9:24-27
More notes on focus and discipline as it relates to a race, from Rick Renner in his book "Sparkling Gems," a devotional that studies Greek words as used in Scripture;
"The main goal of all believers should be to find God's plan for their lives and then to go after it with all their might and strength . . . The primary emphasis of reward (in the ancient games) was not material wealth, but on the distinguishable honor bestowed on the winners. These people were only able to achieve victory in the Olympic games by being disciplined, balanced, and committed to excellence . . . our task is to find the divine plan for our lives: to get in shape so we can start running our race . . . You have to remove all distractions and commit yourself to a life of discipline, balance, and devotion."
"What enabled Paul to press ahead when he was being assaulted so viciously? How could he maintain such a victorious attitude? How is it that he never surrendered to weariness, exhaustion, or the devil's attacks? . . . That he would one day hear Jesus say to him, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant."
But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.
— Acts 20:24
Jesus showed us the way to overcome the temptations of this life. It is through death to what our flesh desires that we can be resurrected to run.
For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
— Romans 8:13
He also told us to
Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
— Matthew 26:41
Another important feature of running for the long haul is to keep a good pace.
I like what Rick Renner has to say in "Sparkling Gems" about this too:
" . . . it takes full concentration and a stride that is paced for a runner to run a long distance . . . if we are going to run our race as God expects, it will require 100% of our attention and mandate that we learn how to run at a constant and consistent pace . . . we are to run until we obtain"
More From Dee Duke on Focus
Continuing from Dee Duke's above account, he related how, later in life, he had gained some weight, and a doctor visit convinced him that he needed to change his lifestyle to improve his health.
He tried several things unsuccessfully until a friend suggested that he should run. He told his friend that he hated running. But his friend talked him into signing up to be on the church relay team for the "Hood to Coast" relay race, anyway. It was the largest relay race in the world, totaling 180 miles. There were 12 on a team, so that each person would run 3.5-mile legs.
He said that he hadn't run more than a hundred feet in the last 20 years of his life, and he was pretty out of shape. He and his friend started practicing in the church gym that took 20 laps to make a mile. He ran one lap, and he said he sounded like an injured sea lion and about ready to keel over. Each night he added a lap. Then, after building up his strength and endurance, he decided to mark off 2.5 miles near his home and ran the whole way and the entire way back.
He did the church relay and finished all three legs, as well as later that year. He ran a marathon. He asked himself how he did it, and his conclusion was this . . . one lap at a time. It's a journey that we take. Having a goal in mind and going a lap at a time, putting away the laziness, thoughts of quitting, and all the things that distract us from the target, and might I add, are constant and consistent.
Sin has the potential to discredit us from the race, as Paul informed us in I Corinthians 9 above. Staying focused is essential.
"Now if you are going to win any battle you have to do one thing. You have to make the mind run the body. Never let the body tell the mind what to do. The body will always give up. It is always tired in the morning, noon, and night. But the body is never tired if the mind is not tired."
— George S. Patton, U.S. Army General, 1912 Olympian
The Hebrew word for "run" is "rutz." "resh," "vav," "tsaddiq," and leads to some interesting insights from a pictograph perspective (each letter being represented by an image that expresses a concept) relative to this.
"Resh" is imaged by the profile of a person's head, indicating a moving forward position, and can also represent the mind and conscious fore-brain activity. Running is something we do with intention unless you're being chased by a bear, in which case it is instinct.
It is also being discovered that running stimulates the growth of new brain cells and gray matter in the brain and helps with greater memory recall.
Jogging has also been shown to improve depression by increasing natural endorphins (feel-good hormones) to the brain.4
"Vav" is illustrated by a nail and conceptually speaking connects things
Tsadiq can be a picture of a man kneeling with hands extended to God and is a letter associated with righteousness.
Running to God in humility and away from sin connects us with God's righteousness and positions us to be made right in Him.
But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
— I Timothy 6:11-12
Therefore, my beloved, flee (run) from idolatry.
— I Corinthians 10:14
Tying it all together and concluding this message, we see from a spiritual and life application perspective in this pictograph that to run the race of life will require a deliberate assertion and decision to move forward in some right, God-pleasing ways while keeping ourselves connected with outstretched and focused in humility towards God.
Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
— Philippians 3:13-14
It is good for us to reflect on these things and examine ourselves, uncomfortable as it may be, that we might live this precious life He has granted us to the fullest.
Other Health Benefits of Jogging
- Guards against osteoporosis by building new bone tissue
- Regulates blood pressure
- improves digestion
- lowers the risk of some types of cancer including breast cancer
- promotes better circulation
(1)Rick Renner "Sparkling Gems from the Greek" Teach all Nations Publishing. Copyright 2003
(2) http://www.merck.com/mmhe/sec01/ch006/ch006b.html Last full review/revision September 2007 by Brian D Johnston.
(5) "Runners World" Magazine January 2011 editiion "Life According to Louie" by Christine Fennessy. Excerpted from Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand Copyright 2010 Random House Publisher. runnersworld.com/zamperini, unbroken-book.com
© 2010 Tamarajo