*An excerpt from a Bible lecture given at Makuya World Holy Convocation at Lake Biwa in August, 2018

Rabbi Benjamin Lau

When a man is about to pray, his heart trembles. Then he asks the LORD for a verse from Psalm 91, "He will command his angels to guard you in all your ways" (Verse 11). There are many kinds of angels in the world. I want to start our prayer study and invite two angels to me. One is my grandfather whom I was not acquainted with; he was murdered in the Holocaust in 1942. Next to him his son, my father, Naftali who died in Jerusalem in good old age four years ago. With these angels, I ask, together with all of you, to set out for our prayer journey.

To Be a Blessing

Every believer wants to experience what happened to Abraham. Anyone who studies the story of Abraham knows that revelation does not come without a work of a person. Abraham’s story at first does not say why the LORD chose Abraham. Suddenly the LORD said to Abram, "Lech lecha (Go out)" (Genesis 12:1). Only six chapters later, the LORD tells why He chose Abraham.

In chapter 18 of Genesis, when the LORD wants to destroy Sodom, He says, "I can not destroy Sodom if I do not tell Abraham what I do." Then the LORD explains why. "For I know that he (Abraham) will command his sons and his house after him to keep the way of the LORD, to do righteousness and justice" (Genesis 18:19). Suddenly it becomes clear to us that Abraham is not only a man seeking revelation, Abraham wants to repair the world. Abraham wants to educate his children, to keep the way of the LORD to do righteousness and justice.

Some people think that man's role is to be the man of the Spirit of God. But Abraham taught his children that the role of man was to take the Spirit of God and bring it to earth. This is called doing righteousness and justice. Ever since Abraham, all the prophets stood before the kings and said to them, "If you do righteousness and justice, you will have kingdom, and if you do not do righteousness and justice, God will drive you out of the palace."

The most important word that the LORD gave Abraham was His command, "Be a blessing." From the creation of the world until Abraham, in 11 chapters of the Book of Genesis only the LORD blesses the world. In chapter 12 the LORD says to Abraham, "I bless you but you will bless the whole world." It is a moment in the life of a person that he understands God is calling him and telling him to take responsibility. To be a blessing is not to wait to receive but rather to seek to give. To be a blessing is to know that the LORD gave you strength, gave you spirit, and you have to give them to someone else.

When the LORD sees that there is a person who wants to give and wants to repair the world, then the LORD is revealed. After the LORD is revealed, he is always with a man hand in hand, even in difficult days. Also when walking in the valley of the shadow of death, "I will not fear evil because You are with me."

Planting Heavens

A few days ago, my wife, Noa and I arrived at your Makuya community. The first thing we felt was that you were all disciples of Abraham. Abraham taught us that one of the most important things in the world was hospitality. We never saw hospitality like that of Makuya.

Then we started to learn about Prof. Teshima. We learned so much about him. One of the first things we learned was that Prof. Teshima did not start his ministry life with seeking a revelation. When he heard on the radio Emperor announcing the end of the war in Korea, he said, "I'm going home to help repair Japan." There was hunger in the country, so he decided to build a flour mill and make bread.

When he saw that American soldiers of the Occupation Army did not let children be educated according to the Japanese tradition, he decided to protect children. So they marked Prof. Teshima as a dangerous person. That's why he fled to Mount Aso. And only there when he was alone, only then the LORD was revealed to him. When the LORD saw that he wanted to repair and that he was ready to look after what was necessary, that he did not think of himself but thought about his people, then the LORD told Prof. Teshima, "I will choose you."

Ever since then until Prof. Teshima left this world, the LORD had never left him. We stood next to Professor Teshima's grave and saw two verses from Psalm 73 written on the tombstone. One verse is, "I am always with You gripping my right hand" (Verse 23). Prof. Teshima says to the LORD, "I’m always with you, I feel you always holding my hand." The second verse is, "Who is for me in heaven? And with You, I do not desire anything on earth" (Verse 25). Here Prof. Teshima says, "All I have is the LORD. I will bring Him to the earth."

There is a word in the Book of Isaiah the Prophet, "lintore (to plant) the heavens" (51:16). In Hebrew the word lintore always means to take a tree and put it in the soil so that it grows and gives fruit. Isaiah the Prophet says something amazing, "I want to take the heavens and plant them on the land." Isaiah the Prophet believed that it was possible to take the heavens to bring them to earth and raise even more heavens. This is what the disciples of Abraham Avinu, and the students of Prof. Abraham Teshima want to do: Planting heavens.

In Psalms we say, "Ahat shaalti (I asked one thing) of God. That I will ask to dwell in the house of God all my life, to witness the beauty of God, and to visit His temple" (27: 4). That is what all of us pray for, and perhaps we can also sing the song, "Ahat shaalti."

To be continued.
Click here to read "Prayer Yearning for the Beloved (2)"
Click here to read "Prayer Yearning for the Beloved (3)"