Friday, February 21, 2014

Learning and Teaching God's Word

Christians often refer to the Bible as God’s Word.  By that reference we mean that God has graciously revealed himself to us through this Book, the Holy Scriptures.  The ancient Hebrews referred to the first five books of the Old Testament as the Law of the Lord or the Torah.  The Jewish people understood God as a great, high and holy Being who graciously accommodated or communicated to us on our level by giving the Law.  Just as a parent coos and babbles and speaks in a very different way to a baby in a crib, so God speaks to us in a manner that we can understand his care and concern and love for us.  Just as an infant can in no way understand an adult conversation taking place, so God is a being well above our comprehension and we have no ability to understand anything he says unless he graciously and lovingly bends down to speak to us on our level.

            God’s Law, his Torah, was the curriculum for Israel’s religious instruction.  The law of the Lord is meant to be a behavior pattern, to be embodied in the lives of God’s people through both teachers and parents who learn God’s Word and, in turn, pass it along to children and others outside the faith so as to provide our guide for how to live in God’s world.  God’s law is an extension of God’s grace, and we are to gratefully accept the grace of God expressed in God’s Word.  We are to ingest it, eat it, reflect on it, dwell with it in order to know God and be the people God wants us to be.

            There are several other Hebrew words that come from this root word of law, Torah, in the Hebrew language.  A teacher is a “moreh.”  A parent is a “horeh.”  Parents and teachers are to be living guides in the way of God’s Word.  The Hebrew word for teaching is “yarah.”  In other words, the moreh’s and the horeh’s are to yarah the Torah.  Parents and teachers are to point and lead others into the ways of the Lord.  The fifth book of the Law, Deuteronomy, makes it clear how parents, mentors, teachers, and influencers are to pass on God’s Word:

Hear, O Israel:  The Lord our God, the LORD is one.  Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.  These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.  Impress them on your children.  Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates (Deuteronomy 6:4-9, NIV).



            In other words, God’s Law or God’s Word is to be as familiar to us as our back door and it is to be in front of us all the time.  Let me put this Deuteronomy passage in a modern spin to help us understand a bit better what our privilege is when it comes to God’s Word:

Attention, Church!  God, our God! God the one and only!  Love God, your God, with your whole heart: love him with all that is in you; love him with all you’ve got!  Write these commandments that I’ve given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children.  In order to do this, talk about God’s Word at home when you are eating supper together and when you are working or playing with each other.  Start your day with God’s Word when you get up, and end your day with God’s Word when you go to bed at night.  Put God’s Word on your refrigerator and your car’s dashboard; have it on your smartphones and let it be available to you anywhere and anytime.  Use every opportunity you have to incessantly chatter about God’s Holy Word.

            Someone may say, “That’s pretty radical – I don’t need to do all that!”  Then I would say you are missing out on living a blessed life because people are blessed when they walk according to God’s Word and keep God’s Law in front of them and seek God through his Word with all their heart. 

            Eleanor Turnbull, a veteran missionary to Haiti, collected and translated some simple but powerful prayers of the Christians who live in the Haitian mountains. Here are four prayers that they pray every day.  Take note of their high view of God, and their longing to know God’s Word:  “Our Great Physician, Your word is like alcohol.  When poured on an infected wound, it burns and stings, but only then can it kill germs.  If it doesn't burn, it doesn't do any good.”  “Father, we are all hungry baby birds this morning.  Our heart-mouths are gaping wide, waiting for you to fill us.”  “Father, a cold wind seems to have chilled us.  Wrap us in the blanket of your Word and warm us up.”  “Lord, we find your Word like cabbage.  As we pull down the leaves, we get closer to the heart.  And as we get closer to the heart, it is sweeter.”


            Let’s not be so busy, pre-occupied, or worried that we push God’s Word to the margins of our lives as only a Sunday activity.  Let’s take the time to carefully look at it and let God speak to us through it. Let’s be intentional about connecting with the God who has so graciously given us his guide for grateful living.  Let’s lay solid plans to catechize people into the basics of faith and holy living in the church.  May your efforts both honor God and build up Christ’s church.

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