The Whole Word of God

May 30, 2007, 9:30 am; posted by
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Last week at an awards ceremony in a university chapel, I sat near a plain square box with a gold Star of David painted on the front. It was a Torah ark. I hadn’t seen one of those in years, not since I had been to a special shul with my mother, during which graduates of a Hebrew class were honored. My mother was a graduate with her friend Damon, a Messianic Jew who sat beside her with a yarmulke covering his mostly bald head. He sang the Hebrew in a strong and liturgical voice and made me wish I knew how to sing the words so I could join in.

The Torah ark at the synagogue I had attended was huge, painted with rich hues and accented in gold filigree. The wood was carved and the metal molded into complex designs that no doubt told a story I would only understand if I were Orthodox like the people around me. Everything in the decorations had meaning because that is how the Jews look at the world. God created the universe; therefore it is imbued with His symbolic meaning. If we unearth this meaning, we draw a little nearer to God.

The rabbi took the Torah out of the ark for the reading. As he carried it from the ark to the bima where it would be read, the members of the synagogue kissed it as it went by. The part of this that struck me as most profound was how reverent everyone was as the rabbi walked by. This was the Word of God passing through their midst, and their quiet demeanor showed that they would not forget that.

In the Jewish tradition, the old scribes who copied the Torah had certain rules that governed their discipline. For example, they would only write the secondary names of God (El, El Shaddai, Elohim, etc.) with a brand new pen, no matter how fresh the first pen had been. And YHWH, the name God used to reveal Himself, was an entirely different matter. “Before they wrote this highest and best name, [the scribes] rose from their seats and went into their personal quarters. They took off their robes, bathed themselves, clothed themselves with new, clean garments, and returned to their work. There they knelt down, confessed their sins, took a new pen, dunked it once into the inkwell, and wrote those four letters.” (Dr. D. James Kennedy)

Quite a few of my Christian friends tend to avoid the Old Testament. Some of the reasons I’ve been given for that decision include that it’s boring history, or that it’s hard to spot God’s grace and mercy through all the gore on David’s sword. Worse, it has been called outdated, the old law that isn’t important anymore and shouldn’t be bothered with — except for the Psalms, of course, and anything to do with Revelation and/or Messianic prophecy.

But I was enthralled with the Old Testament when I read it. I mourned with Leah over her husband’s neglect and yelled at David for not going to war in the spring, when kings were supposed to go to battle, not play peeping tom. I fell in love with the poetry in Job and sobbed when Jonathan died.

Most importantly, I discovered something that is denied by all those excuses for not reading the Old Testament. I discovered, as we’ve seen in our weekly Bible study, that Jesus was and is everywhere, saturating the narrative with His presence and reaffirming His role as the fulfillment of the law.


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