For thousands of years, about 6,000 to be exact, mankind has struggled with making the correct decisions. In fact, from the beginning that was the issue with Adam and Chavah (Eve), making the wrong decision. We all have seen the drawing I have posted above in some form of comic or cartoon, someone trying to make a decision while an angel (or good decision) sits on one shoulder and a demon (bad decision) sits on the other. Where does this concept come from and could this comedic image be based upon truth from Scripture? If this is a real and serious issue, why don’t we see and hear more about it from our teachers and/or preachers?
In Hebraic thinking among Judaism this concept is called yetzer יצר. It is referred to as yetzer tov and yetzer hara, in English we would say good imagination or inclination and evil imagination or inclination. Are there any Scripture verses that talk about a good or evil imagination?
A principle that works in the Hebrew (Old Testament) Scriptures is to find the first time a word or phrase is used and let it define the usage going forward. So this phrase is probably found in Proverbs or Psalms first, right?
Genesis (Bereshit)6:5 And יהוה saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every inclination (yetzer) of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
Wow, it took just six (6) chapters or barely 1,000 years, before יהוה discovers than mankind has become a creature that thinks of wicked things all of the time or as Bereshit says, has an evil inclination. An inability to control their thoughts has led people to have wicked hearts or an evil will. But to be honest with you, didn’t we make the decision at the WRONG Tree to become that way? We chose knowledge of tov/good and hara/the evil, over Life from the onset. Today the same insanity continues among mankind, yes the same choice is available and we are still choosing the power to make our own choices over Life.
But isn’t that what יהוה wants is for us to make choices and not be robots? יהוה certainly didn’t create humans so they could walk around as robots or perfect little clones, right?
Absolutely not what יהוה is looking for from His creation! יהוה wants us to have the power of choice and without us choosing we are not any different than any other living thing He created. Think about that for a minute. All animals have a preset list of functions they do and can only choose from those listed. Animals don’t wake up one day and decide to do a thing that isn’t part of their day to day existence. No dog that I know of has made the sudden decision to leave home and go to obedience school on their own.
So if יהוה wants us to have the power of choice, why is it so bad that we have this power? It can seem somewhat conflicting to want us to have choice but want us to control that power to choose at the same time.
Why is it that we consistently choose Death/Sin/Sickness over Life/Torah/Health? Are we not smart enough to make these decisions on our own? NO! Our pursuit of earthly knowledge instead of Life from יהוה, has made us into creatures who operate as if we cannot make intelligent decisions on our own. Let’s see what Paul/Shaul said about that issue.
Rom 7:15 For I do not know what I do. For I do not do the thing that I want; But I do the thing which I hate, this is what I do.
Rom 7:16 But if I do what I do not wish to, I agree with the Torah, that it is good.
Rom 7:17 Now then, it is not I who do it, but the sin which dominates in me.
Rom 7:18 For I know that it does not fully dominate me, (that is in my flesh) but as far as good is concerned, the choice is easy for me to make, but to do it is difficult for me.
Rom 7:19 For it is not the good that I desire to do, that I do. But it is the evil that I do not desire, that I do.
Rom 7:20 But if I do what I do not desire, it is no longer I who do it, but the sin which dominates me.
Rom 7:21 I find therefore that the Torah agrees with my conscience, when I desire to do good, but evil is always near, distracting me.
Rom 7:22 For I delight in the Torah of יהוה according to the inward man;
Rom 7:23 but I see another law in my members having warred against the law of my mind, and taking me captive by the law of sin being in my members.
Rom 7:24 O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from this mortal body?
Rom 7:25 I thank יהוה through Y’shua Messiah our Master! So then I myself with the mind truly serve the Torah of יהוה and with the flesh the law of sin.
WOW! Does that passage make more sense now in light of what we have been discussing? Shaul is saying that his flesh wants to do sin, but his mind or conscience wants to do good. Evil is lying at the door, waiting to dominate, but he has to take dominion over it and choose to do good (Torah), even when his body doesn’t want to do what’s right. How long has this condition been around?
Genesis (Bereshit) 4:7 If thou (Cain) doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.
יהוה lets Cain know that he has the power to choose good or evil and that Cain can rule over his evil inclination (yetzer hara) if he chooses to do so.
So from the beginning (bereshit) we have had the power to choose good thoughts and actions over evil. We have had the power or authority over evil imaginations all along. But what about the theory that we all or going to choose sin from time to time even after we have came to the saving knowledge of Y’shua? Doesn’t verse go against this theory and all it stands for, and is it possible to NOT choose sin?
Isaiah (Yeshayahu) 26:3 “The one steadfast of mind (yetzer) You guard in perfect peace, for he trusts in You.
Isa 26:4 “Trust in יהוה forever, for in Yah, יהוה, is a rock of ages.
The person who has their mind/inclination established or steadfast upon יהוה will be kept in shalom shalom (perfect peace). Trust, rely upon or make our refuge in יהוה, and He guards us in perfect peace or complete wholeness. The opposite of a complete or peaceful mind is a chaotic or unstable mind. So if one would have an unstable mind it would be a result of their mind (yetzer) not being established upon יהוה. Is their any Scriptural evidence of someone becoming unstable by trying to listen to both good and evil?
James (Yacob)1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of Elohim, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it shall be given to him.
Jas 1:6 But he should ask in belief, not doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.
Jas 1:7 For that man should not think that he shall receive whatever from the Master –
Jas 1:8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
So belief is considered as thinking on good (yetzer tov) and doubting is seen as thinking on evil (yetzer hara). Are we not encouraged to think on good things? Trying to think on good and evil at the same time creates chaos, making us unstable. In this state we are unable to make the correct decisions, so we struggle with good and evil. One who has their mind stayed or fixed upon יהוה makes the right decisions, because יהוה gives that person wisdom.
Shaul clearly establishes in the passage from Roman posted above, that the mind (yetzer) can control the body when the yetzer is submitted to Y’shua (Torah).
This is the spiritual battle we fight on a daily basis, warring against an evil mind that wants to serve sin and pleasure. When we choose to serve יהוה and shomer (guard) His Torah, we bring into captivity all thoughts that tries to lift itself above יהוה
2Co 10:3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh:
2Co 10:4 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through Elohim to the pulling down of strong holds;)
2Co 10:5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of Elohim, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Moshiach;
Do you see that the issue is submitting our mind (yetzer) to יהוה so that our very thoughts are on good things only? When we let our minds rule us we are slaves to the evil mind. By placing our yetzer into submission unto יהוה we are free to serve Him and not be slaves to the flesh.
Over the years I have seen many people on social media outlets who claim to follow יהוה , but consistently post statements that show they are slaves to their netzer hara. When we are slaves to earthly desires and fleshly needs, we are submitted to that evil inclination.
Not all earthly desires are evil. We all desire a comfortable bed and even though we can live without that desire, there is nothing inherently evil in desiring a better place to sleep. When someone becomes captivated with constant earthly desires that is when the netzer hara has become master.
Training our mind (netzer) to choose good is the way to win this battle. Dwelling on the Torah, putting on the mind of Y’shua is the way we prepare our minds for this battle. If we consistently choose the wrong thoughts and do not wash our minds in the Word, neglecting to put on the helmet of Salvation (Y’shua), we loose these battles that eventually result in a lost war.
So you still believe it doesn’t matter what you think about? What you read, listen too or watch is insignificant? Are you constantly striving to fill desires and wants to no avail? Does everything you acquire leave you unfulfilled and wanting more?
Turn around and go back to יהוה Lay your inclinations/thoughts/imaginations at His feet. When you become His bond servant, you will no longer be a slave to sin. You can walk in newness of life, with a mind that chooses Life.