Monday, October 15, 2007

The Gospel According to Moses: Torah

This week we started a new series at h2o, The Gospel According to Moses. I saw a book with that title (and read it) a few years back, and this fall I was just thinking about trying to convey to folks to show what we can learn from the Jewish roots of Christianity. Although the series has little direct connection with the book itself, it was still an interesting title and read.

So it's going to be a five week series examining different ways that ancient Israel was distinct from the nations around them, and how Jesus redefines those distinctions. For instance, ancient Jewish people had been given the Torah from God. So, Torah helped define and give identity to Israel. Torah is the word used to describe the first five books of the Bible, but in a sense, all of scripture is Torah. According to Eugene Peterson, "The noun torah comes from a verb, yarah, that means to throw someting, a javelin, say, so that it hits its mark. The word that hits its mark is torah. . . God's word has this aimed, intentional, personal nature. When we are spoken to in this way, piercingly and penetratingly, we are not the same. These words get inside us, and work their meaning in us. . . all of God's words have this chaacteristic: they are torah and we are the target.

Jewish children during the time of Jesus had the Torah memorized by age 10. Have you ever memorized a book of the Bible? I came close to memorizing Ephesians once, and me and my buddy Brett tried to memorize Romans last fall (didn't work out so well.). By the age of 14, the entire old testament was memorized by ancient hebrew children, and the most talented among them would go on to become rabbi's. Memorizing large quanties of scripture was the norm--man I feel like a slug when I think about that. And of course, if you read the gospels you can see Jesus quoting old testament scripture (including the Torah very often.

Jesus even goes a step further though. In the gospels we find out that He is the "Word made flesh." Beyond this, there was an ancient jewish proverb about Torah that went like this. "Torah is the way, the truth, and the life." Sound familiar? Jesus told the disciples" I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me." Jesus shows the value of scripture in this, and also shows that He Himself is the essential point of our identity and our life.

Lest we think that scripture is not important, He also tells folks that "You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life." in the gospel of John.

So Torah has this value for us that it is God's piercing word that hits its mark in us and changes us. It is living and active--not just a reference book. Letter after letter, and word after word, it points us to Jesus and reveals Him to us.

With all of that in mind--here's a thought. Will you take time today to begin a habit of daily letting the scriptures shape your life and pierce you that you might know Jesus better? Take the time to soak in the sacred text. All scripture makes Jesus known to us; let them bring you to greater depth in your love for God and for others.

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