Thursday, December 14, 2017

Context of Our Faith

January 24, 2012 by  
Filed under Monthly Articles, Testimonies


Context of Our Faith

Have you ever watched the last 5 minutes of a movie and felt pretty confident that you got the general gist of the film? You know, like in that literature course in college where you were supposed to read Of Mice and Men, but you spent your time (and money) on other activities? So you rented the movie, and because you were bored to death, you fast-forwarded it to the “last 5 minutes and felt pretty confident that you got the general gist of the film?” Sound familiar? Well, if you’ve only got 5 minutes, I suppose the ending is the best part to watch, but who needs to pass an exam anyway, right?

It’s been my experience that most Christians have the same practice with the Bible–myself included. I was a pretty typical young minister—pastor’s kid all my life, teaching Sunday School way too early, graduating from Bible College and jumping right into the fire of ministry. And I, like most, had a really good understanding of Scripture from Matthew to Revelation (well OK, maybe Jude); but my familiarity dwindled when I turned left at the InterTestamental Page Break.

And really this isn’t our fault, we’ve simply never been held acceptable to know the Old Testament like we know the New Testament. I mean, many of us have gone to church all our lives, and experience tells us that if we take 10 weeks worth of Sunday sermons, 8 of them will be taken from the New Testament and the other two will simply be springboard verses to jump back into the New Testament. Hence our familiarity with the Old Testament is limited to the stories (Adam/Eve, Abraham, Joseph, the Exodus, Jonah, etc.), some selected Psalms and Proverbs, and one or two passages from the prophets, like Isaiah 53 or Jeremiah 31.

But have you ever stopped to consider that our Messiah Jesus knew the Old Testament like the back of His hand? Or that the only Bible that Peter, James, John and Paul had was the Old Testament? They actually preached the New Covenant from the Old Testament! Genesis through Malachi was their Bible—their only Bible. Now I’m not downplaying the New Testament in the slightest; the New Testament is where the whole tapestry of the story unfolds. I simply believe that perhaps we should be familiar with more of the story than just the last 5 minutes. It’s true that all the characters come together in the New Testament in an amazing crescendo of God’s grace and truth, but once we understand the character of all the players, then the story comes alive like we’ve never read it before!

About 10 years ago, I was challenged in my understanding of the Scriptures. A dear friend of mine had been attending a Messianic Jewish congregation for many years, and as he and I discussed the Scripture, I began to recognize that he was coming at many of the themes of the Bible from a different perspective than I was. The more I listened, the more intrigued I became. Unfortunately, my shallowness in Scriptural understanding became more and more apparent, which also frustrated me greatly. Mind you, at this time, I had already graduated Bible College and considered myself pretty knowledgeable in the Scriptures (like most young men). But as my friend and I walked through the Biblical themes, I became more and more exasperated! One night, I declared to my friend that I had had enough, and that I was going to take a break to study the Scriptures myself. So, for the next three months, I read the Bible through twice! I was amazed at what I found. Holding a reading regiment of about 40 chapters a day (and paying attention), I began to see where my friend was coming from. My problem hadn’t been in my ability to understand; the problem was my unfamiliarity with the context of the Scriptures before Matthew 1:1.

You see, our Father has taken the time to write a book and give that book to us, His children. That book has been translated and printed in a phenomenal number of languages and cultures. However, it wasn’t written in nor did it originate from those cultures. It comes from a Hebraic culture, based in the desert sands of the Middle East. Now if one were to read a novel based in Paris, it would help to know a thing or two about French culture. Likewise, when reading the Bible, it helps to know a few things about a Hebraic mindset. For instance, when Jesus began to gather disciples and teach them, was this a new model of leadership that was being demonstrated? No. The Sages of Israel had been gathering disciples in this same manner for centuries! And when Jesus denigrated the Pharisees for their hypocrisy, He wasn’t alone. Many of the Sages also complained about the pretenses of their peers. In fact, many of the parables that Jesus told have very close parallels with stories of some of the other rabbis of His day. When we place the teachings and actions of our Master Jesus in the Hebraic culture in which they were given, we will glean much more from His message.

I’ve spent the last decade studying the words of our Master and His apostles from their original Hebraic culture. In some areas of my study, this Hebraic context reaffirmed my beliefs in the teachings of Jesus and His apostles; in other areas, I was challenged to look again at what they said in context. I became familiar with new words like Torah (the Hebrew word translated ‘Law’ in our Bibles), and new ideas like covenant and disciple. These Hebraic concepts and themes run rich in our New Testaments, but often times they just get missed by our unfamiliarity with them.

It’s my desire to share some of this understanding with you. Perhaps you too will be intrigued and challenged with a better understanding of our Messiah Jesus. When we realize that Jesus is a Jewish Messiah, with a Jewish message, to a Jewish audience in a Jewish context, then we will be better equipped to understand the Jewish Gospel.

Shalom,
John

 

John is a congregational leader of a messianic congregation in Tucson AZ, who loves Yeshua (Jesus) with everything he’s got!–or at least that’s his goal! John is consumed with spreading His fame around the globe and seeing His Name on the lips of every tongue, tribe, nation and people group.

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