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Do You Have Holy Chutzpah?

The Temple Mount in Jerusalem, where the Islamic Dome of the Rock stands on the location of the First and Second Temples.

What Chutzpah!

This Yiddish and Hebrew word has found its way into American culture, and it has even been used in more than 200 legal opinions!

Westerners often use the word chutzpah in a positive way, to acknowledge someone who bravely pushed through the established norm to produce results.

For instance, President Trump was praised among Believers for having a holy kind of chutzpah to establish Jerusalem as the capital of Israel amidst great controversy and international threats.

But that view depends on whose side you’re on.

US embassy in Jerusalem (Source: US embassy Jerusalem Flickr)

Chutzpah can seem like a rude, outrageous, even destructive overstepping of boundaries, especially for the recipient.

Many people, for instance, are saying that the Palestinians have chutzpah, because they are suing the US government in the United Nations International Court of Justice to remove the US embassy from Jerusalem.

So, depending on where you stand, there is only good or holy chutzpah and really bad chutzpah — no in between.

What is a holy chutzpah and how can Believers express it?

We only need to look to the great heroes of our faith.

What Is Chutzpah?

English dictionaries define the Hebrew word chutzpah as improper audacity, brashness, incredible guts, presumption and arrogance, cheekiness, insolence, gall, brazen nerve.

Jewish commentators explain that having chutzpah is precisely what has enabled the Jewish people to survive; to not be overcome by evil but to persist as a people set apart By God.

The word chutzpah — חֻצְפָּה is not found in the Bible, but its root is.

The root chatzaf — חֲצַף means insolence, overbearing, or harshness.

This word describes the decree of the king to kill every wise man who could not interpret his dream  (Daniel 2:15 and 3:22).

Chutzpah doesn’t have to be harsh, irrational or destructive.

Yet, it often requires that one think like a king, who has the authority to demand something be done immediately and exactly how he wants it.

As one Jewish sage writes, “Chutzpah is royalty without a crown.”

In the best sense of the word, it can be a tool to manifest God’s kingdom on earth.

When done well, it is “effective even toward heaven.”  (Masechet Sanhedrin 105a).

As we’ll see, God responds to holy chutzpah!

The Exhortation to the Apostles, by James Tissot (Brooklyn Museum)

The Exhortation to the Apostles, by James Tissot (Brooklyn Museum)

Holy Chutzpah

Faith (emunah in Hebrew) is a supernatural gift of the Holy Spirit that enables us to trust God’s character, and courage is something we are commanded to have as a result of our faith.

“I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”  (Joshua 1:9)

But it could be said that chutzpah is the actual step taken to enact our faith.

Acting out our faith is a fundamental teaching of Yeshua and our heavenly Father.

Both Abraham (Genesis 18:23–25) and Moses (Exodus 32:11–14) exercised this type of chutzpah when they argued with Almighty God!

In each account, they negotiated with God to save the lives of their fellow man.

They approached God with chutzpah because they had great faith in His justice, mercy, and overall good character.  They believed that He would listen and consider their request, and maybe even grant it.

Brave and holy chutzpah is one of the first rules of behavior cited in the Shulchan Aruch, the classic codification of Jewish Law. (Joseph Karo, 1565)

Prayer of Moses after the Israelites Go through the Red Sea (1861), by Ivan Kramskoy

It says, “Be bold as a leopard and light as an eagle, swift as a deer and strong as a lion to carry out the will of your Father in heaven.  ’Bold as a leopard’ means one should not be humiliated by people who ridicule [him].’”  (HaRav 1:1)

In doing the will of the Father, our chutzpah will not always be received well.  Sometimes, it will require great courage. 

Down the centuries, many martyrs could have saved their lives by denying their faith in Yeshua.  But, they faced their killers declaring their love for their Messiah because they were not willing to lose their relationship with Him.

The Lion’s Chutzpah

Yeshua (Jesus) is our ultimate example of testifying the Glory of the Father.

He is both the Lion of Judah with the authority of a king and a Lamb in submission to the Father (Revelation 5:5–8), pointing people to the Father’s authority and character, not man’s.

After being severely beaten with 39 lashes ripping out his flesh, Yeshua who could probably barely stand in front of Pontius Pilate wearing His crown of thorns, said with much composure:

“You would have no power over Me unless it had been given to you from above.”  (John 19:11)

When we ourselves have the lamb-like attributes of simple trust in God, the Lion can begin to take His place and roar through us in any situation.

Ecce Homo (Behold the Man) (c. 1870), by Antonio Ciseri, depicts Pontius Pilate presenting a scourged Yeshua to the people of Jerusalem.

Chutzpah in Prayer

Chutzpah in prayer means just what the patriarch Jacob said to awesome Angel of the Lord:

“I will not let You go unless You bless me.”  (Genesis 32:26)

Jacob had quite the chutzpah!

Safe to say that our prayer meetings could use some of this same chutzpah.

That is the point of the parable of the widow who bothered an unjust judge so much that he granted her request just to stop her from coming to him.

And the Lord said, “Will not God grant justice to His chosen ones who cry to Him day and night?  Will He delay long in helping them?  I tell you, He will quickly grant justice to them.”  (Luke 18:1–8)

If we have the chutzpah to persist in prayer, our righteous Judge is faithful to answer.

A Jewish man prays at the Western (Wailing) Wall.

Why Chutzpah?

The correct motivation for holy chutzpah is to bring glory to God’s name and not for one’s own personal gain.

This is what drove Yeshua to turn over the tables in the outer courts of the Temple (John 2:15).

Zeal for His Father’s House consumed Him (Psalm 69:9; John 2:17), and it displayed itself as chutzpah.

Yeshua overturning the money tables from Hurlbut’s Life of Christ for Young and Old (1915), by Jesse Lyman Hurlbut

Chutzpah in Training

When we consider that our Father in heaven is preparing us to reign with the Messiah, we should expect times of training in exercising chutzpah on the earth, here and now.

In the Mishnah (a compendium of Jewish oral laws), the Jewish sages say that the generation preceding the coming of the Messiah will be one in which “chutzpah prevails.”   Truth will be absent, and God-fearing people will be ridiculed (Sota 49b).

And Yeshua (Jesus) said that in the last days, “lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.”  (Matthew 24:12)

Up to the very last moment of Yeshua’s return, we are called to be both “salt and light.”  (Matthew 5:13–16)

To accomplish that, the great leaders of our time have had to do much more than just pray; they had to “speak out” in word and action.

It took William Wilberforce a lot of chutzpah to keep standing against slavery in England until it was abolished.

Rosa Parks in 1955 with Martin Luther King, Jr.

Over a century later, the American Believer Rosa Parks was an example of a downtrodden lamb who rose up with a Lion’s roar inside her.

Sitting in the front of a bus in 1955, when blacks were made to sit in the back, she had enough and refused to move!

“I was tired of giving in,” she said.

Rosa was initially arrested and later lost her job, but she helped to fuel the American civil rights movement that brought an end to much racial inequality at the time.

When the Lion roars with faith-inspired holy chutzpah, a shift occurs for generations to come.

When we feel down or oppressed in the face of injustice, we can be encouraged by our Lamb of God, Messiah Yeshua, who is also the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, our eternal king.

If we abide in Him, He will give us the courage to roar against the evil chutzpah of the world — and in favour of Godly righteousness.

May God give you the grace, to know how to respond to the challenges and testing in your life with holy chutzpah!

“This I know, that God is for me.”  (Psalm 56:9; Romans 8:31)


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