Today’s post by Dr. Skip Moen sparked a vein of frustration in me. It is about the Shema (the prayer that Jewish people say every day), and it’s translation in the gospels. First read his post here. Then you can read my comments, if you’d like: As a teacher, I see this mindset (that it’s what you know, not what you do) perpetuated everywhere and saturating the educational arena. One of my biggest struggles is to take my students from a point where they are waiting for me to feed them facts and stuff things into their heads (which is what most of them have come to expect after years of being told to memorize facts for a standardized test), to a point where they DO something with information. One of my favorite quotes is by Plutarch (yes, he’s Greek, I think) that says the mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled. Fires rage and consume and MOVE. Water in a cup just sits there and eventually becomes stale. Perhaps the way we teach students in school promotes this idea that God is about what I know and faith is about what I know and love is about what I feel, instead of it all being about action and movement and flow. Maybe that’s why I get so frustrated when students come to me bored and hating school and expecting yet another class of facts. Maybe that’s what we’ve done to Christianity. Facts are boring unless you understand what to do with them and understand why they’re important. But above all, you must DO something. Sorry for a bit of a rant! This post sparked that frustration I feel about the way things work in society, and it’s reflected in how we understand Yeshua and YHWH. Scary. Sad.
Psalm 119:4-8 You have commanded us To keep Your precepts diligently. 5 Oh, that my ways were directed To keep Your statutes! 6 Then I would not be ashamed, When I look into all Your commandments. 7 I will praise You with uprightness of heart, When I learn Your righteous judgments. 8 I will keep Your statutes; Oh, do not forsake me utterly! This is another example of the ABCBA structure! I’m running out of time this morning, but it’s there! The centerpiece: 6 Then I would not be ashamed, When I look into all Your commandments. (The rest of the verses tell how to keep from being ashamed when I realize how poorly I am able to keep God’s commands.) The “Book ends”: You have commanded us To keep Your precepts diligently. and 8 I will keep Your statutes; Oh, do not forsake me utterly! (He commands, and I obey) The climb and how to get there: 5 Oh, that my ways were directed To keep Your statutes! and 7 I will praise You with uprightness of heart, When I learn Your righteous judgments. (A prayer to be solidly established in keeping God’s ways, as well as to learn His right decisions, which leads to praise – I have an upright heart because I keep His statutes) So, knowing and being obedient to do what God commands leads me in His way of living and lets me praise Him with an upright heart. He will not forsake me!
A couple of days ago John told me about a dream he had, and it seemed pretty clear to me that it wasn’t just a dream. In his dream our little boys were playing in a huge room and above them was a large door (in the ceiling?) with demons swarming around it. The demons were harassing the boys as they played. John wanted to protect them and stop the attacks, so he lifted up his hands, praying, and stood beneath where the demons were, drawing their attention to him. As he did this, the pressure got more and more intense, pressing back onto his hands, but the demons slowly began to retreat. Every time the pressure got really bad, he stepped away, and every time he stepped away, the demons gained back some ground. Then, when he stepped back under the swarm, with raised hands praying, they retreated again and the pressure from their attacks was not as great. Eventually I and my mom came to help him. (Note: John told me this dream a couple of days ago, and I’ve tried to write it as I remember it, but it may not be quite right. I’ll have to get him to read it.) That’s all he remembers, but it seemed pretty obvious to me that this is his life. Our family is being attacked (I don’t know if this is part of the medical issues the boys have had, or if it’s more that every time John starts trying to be consistent in his life that he gets sick or something throws him off). John, like Moses, raises his hands and prays (basically rekindles a consistent relationship with God), fighting back (being persistent in doing the things he needs to do), and the battle swings in his favor, the enemy retreats. But the pressure is still there. It doesn’t get easier right away because the enemy is furious, so the attacks in his life continue because now it’s focused on him and not on the children. But if he steps away, if he quits fighting and stops doing what he should because he’s tired, then the enemy regroups and starts attacking the children again. I think that the bit at the end is that it will take help to fight. Just like Moses’ arms were held up by Joshua and Aaron (not quite sure if those names are right), John needs help to hold his arms up until the battle is won.
Psalm 119:2-3 Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart, who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways! The word edah is the word used for testimonies and it’s interesting that, according to the dictionary, it’s always plural and always about God’s law. The word for keep means to preserve, so it’s about not changing or losing His law. Over time, politics and philosophy tend to seep into the text, but those who preserve (or seek to be able to read) the original will be blessedness (remember ‘esher is a noun). Side note: to be blessedness seems to mean that you bless those around you by your actions. So perhaps by preserving and obeying God’s law we spread blessing and are a blessing to others. The last part of the first verse actually reads” whole heart seeking”. It means the same thing, but it’s prettier. So another way a person is blessedness is by seeking God with his/her whole heart. No part held back or hidden. No part chasing after other things. That’s probably easier said than done. I know it’s not the easiest thing for me to do. I’m very easily distracted. “They also” could be translated as “so much more they who”. Using that definition gives this verse an interesting twist. The word for also (or so much more, therefore, etc.) is always used as a conjugation showing greater than status. So David says, basically, that it’s even better to do no unrightousness (interestingly the word for this is evel – sounds like evil). It’s about action. Don’t just know it cognitively, do what it says. Walk in His ways! Walk in His manner of life (which is what ways means). Basically, it does seem to ask the question, “What would Yeshua do?”
Psalm 119:1 Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the LORD! Psalm 119 is one of those books that some people tend to shy away from because it’s so long (they shy away from the books in Numbers where it’s all about geneology, too). There are 176 verses! For some reason last night I started reading it in my NLT Bible, and it was so beautiful that I decided to read it and see how the Hebrew says it. So, I got as far as verse one! The first thing that caught my attention was the phrase “the law.” I’ve been listening to a lot of people discuss what that means and whether or not it’s even relevant today. I don’t want to get into a long discussion of this because I don’t know all the best arguments or anything like that. It just makes sense to me that the law is relevant today as a guide for living, not as a means of salvation. Anyway, I looked to see what word was used for “the law” and found that it was towrah (torah). There are two sets of laws: the Torah (the written law given by God to Moses that He says will NEVER pass away) and the Talmud (which, as I understand it, is the “oral law” as given by the various rabbis through the ages). If you want a really interesting discussion of Torah vs. Talmud, you should read some of the information on this site. It’s really interesting, and while there is obviously a huge amount of controversy here, it makes a lot of sense (especially in light of some of the questions I’ve asked over the years). Anyway, the word used here is Torah, the law given by God to Moses on Mt. Sinai. The next thing I did was look at the other words. Here are some interesting things that I thought about: 1. Blessed is a noun. So, it’s more like “a state of blessing.” 2. Way is a way of life or course of life, manner of living, etc. (definitely something that is done – a verb) 3. Blameless is complete or whole, innocent and unimpaired. 4. The second half of the verse seems to clarify what it means to be completed or whole. It’s to walk (definitely another verb – something that is done) in the Torah of YHWH. So altogether the verse is saying that a state of blessing for those whose way of living is complete and innocent which is to walk or live according to the Torah. Living according to Torah won’t save you or redeem you from judgment. It will, however, make life more blessed and complete. The final thing that caught me was that this verse is all about doing. It’s not about just knowing about YHWH or about Torah. It’s about walking – the things we do every day. Do my actions reflect my love for God? Do I give lip service and not walk out the things I believe? If I don’t act on them, do I really believe them?
So, it was one of those mornings…. John had a tour so he was rushing around getting stuff together. Kai woke up crying and was fussy and clingy and generally unwell acting. Gavin was bouncing off the walls. And it wasn’t until 1pm that I realized that I had TOTALLY missed the vocal clinic at church that I had been looking forward to for weeks! There’s that feeling of nausea in the pit of my stomach and sheer disappointment – because I really was looking forward to a chance learn how to make my voice better, because they had gotten childcare together for me (and hopefully others) so we could attend, and because I was excited to meet some of the other people on the team. Now I just feel horrible. I hate disappointing people, and I hate missing something I was so excited about. How could I have forgotten?? Why did my phone not give me a reminder? And why didn’t my Gmail calender remind me? This is like those times when I have to trust God to come through financially or in another way… Now I have to trust Him that the organizers of the event don’t feel like I’m unreliable or that I don’t care (I did send a rather upset email apologizing). But I think the hardest part is just being disappointed after wanting to improve and learn and knowing how few and far between these opportunities are. I think I’ll go cry now.
I don’t know how I get to places online sometimes. I start one place and somehow end up somewhere else… Such was the case this morning. Several days ago I listened to an mp3 by a Karaite Jew named Nehemia Gordon about a verse in Matthew. What struck me as interesting is that Karaite Jews don’t accept the Talmud (the oral teaching and traditions of the rabbis created hundreds of years after the Torah was given), because many of the Talmud teachings don’t seem to be based on any scriptural truths. It’s an interesting (and to me, logical) take on reading Torah. Anyway, I was curious to see what others thought and Googled the man’s name. As with most things he is somewhat controversial, depending on the viewpoint of the blogger. Some totally agree, while others think he’s going straight to hell in a handbasket. Anyhow, I ran across this article and thought it was a good reflection on the requirements of the law on Jews and Gentiles. It doesn’t really offer any answers, but it does a good job of expounding on some of the viewpoint of today. If you’re interested in reading more about Karaite Jews you can go to this site that has lots of information.