Loyalty, Treaties, Covenants, and Sinai

Ancient Treaties and 10 Commandments

Before we launch right in, I’ve got to lay some groundwork. There are two types of treaties that are common in early Biblical times: 

1) A parity treaty – an international agreement/covenant between two equals

2) A suzarain/vassel treaty – an international agreement/covenant between a greater (suzarain) and lesser (vassal) king

In a parity treaty, each king (similar in strength and size) commits to protect and help the other. A king of a city/state may have several parity treaties going at once.

A vassal bows to his suzarain.

The suzarain/vassal treaty is a bit more nuanced. The suzarain (greater king) commits to protect and look out for the interests of the vassal (lesser king), as long as the vassal pays tribute and looks out for the suzarain’s interests. Since the vassal has so little power in comparison, he is at the mercy of the vassal and must be careful to adhere to his commands precisely. In this treaty, the vassal must remain loyal to the suzarain and would be considered treasonous if he made any other treaties.

Now that we’ve laid that groundwork, let’s start (like Sandra Richter does in her video series Epic of Eden) with Joshua 9 – The Gibeonite Deception. God has been using Joshua to conquer the promised land. The people in the land are hearing stories about how God is empowering Joshua and they are fearful. Several kings have joined together to defend themselves against Joshua. (These would be parity treaties among similar lesser city/state kings.) Gibeon is one of the city-states involved with this group, but they have decided to try to work out a new deal.

In Joshua 9, they venture off on their own with a plan to deceive Joshua and make a suzarain/vassal treaty (vs 9:6) with him. In vs 11, we read that they  tell Joshua, they will be His servants. (This tips us off that they are seeking a suzarain/vassal treaty.) Unfortunately, Joshua doesn’t consult God and he ends of falling for their trick. (He wasn’t supposed to make any covenants with people in the promised land.) Believing that they were from another country a long way off, Joshua makes a covenant with them in vs 15. When He realizes that he had been tricked, he was upset, but since he had made the covenant before God, he had to honor it. Now, when the other city-states discover what Gibeon had done and realize that they will no longer be able to fulfill their parity treaty commitment/covenant with them, they are rightfully angry. Gibeon had committed treason against them. Joshua 10:1-4 explains that  this alliance of kings decide to attack Gibeon. This puts Joshua in a precarious position. As the suzarain, he must defend and protect his vassal (Gibeon) even though they had tricked him into the treaty. In the end, this is how God continues the campaign to conquer the promised land. These kings are defeated and Israel advances forward in the conquest of the promised land. 

This is a great story on its own, but pay attention to the role that the treaties played and how they influence the lives of the ancients. A covenant was serious. It meant risking your life to defend those with whom you had committed. In the suzarain/vassal treaty, it also meant complete and total loyalty to the suzarain.  

Here’s the format of an ancient treaty: 

1) Preamble/Title – Suzarain is introduced. No one cares about the vassal.

2) Historical prologue – Suzarain records all the things he has already done for his vassal.

3) Stipulations/Obligations imposed – this is where the responsibilities of the vassal are spelled out – sending tribute, sending armies for support, and absolute loyalty (more than one suzarain and you have committed treason

4) Deposition and provision for reading of the treaty before the people. – This section determined how often the treaty would be read so that the people would be be reminded of the agreement  – so they would be reminded of their obligation to remain loyal. 

5) List of witnesses – most of the time, these lists were gods and since most were polytheistic, there were many pages of witnesses.

6) Curses and Blessings – Listed the benefits of keeping the treaty and the consequences of breaking it. A suzarain used this section to threaten the vassal if they ever rebelled.  

There were always two copies of the treaty drawn up – one for each party. They would then be placed in their respective temples because these oaths were made before their gods.  (those listed as witnesses in the treaty)

Now, with this structure in mind, let’s look at Moses, Israel, and Mt Sinai. 

Moses is on top of the mountain and that’s the story, but for a moment, let’s also consider the Israelites at the bottom of the mountain. All they have ever known (and their grandparents for generations) is slavery and the polytheism of Egypt. They are considering monotheism, but are probably skeptical and tentative about it. They have most likely heard of Yahweh and Abraham, but probably couldn’t explain this faith to anyone. They are God’s chosen people, but their choice to leave Egypt was quite possibly more about getting out of slavery than it was about becoming God’s people. God chooses Sinai as the place to try to explain who He is to them. They’ve seen Him deliver them through many miracles, but in this place God will describe His expectations of them. How can He do that to this secular ungodly rabble of a people? What can He say that will make sense to them? 

He will use this form and a model which they would have already understood – the suzarain/vassal treaty. God speaks to them and reveals Himself in a way that would have made sense. The context of this model, helped them to see the implications of His words and allowed the message to be more clearly communicated/understood. 

1 Peter 2:10 – “…..for once you were not my people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”  

God chooses Sinai to make a treaty with Israel. He will be their suzarain. He is great and mighty and will work on their behalf against their enemies even though they have little to offer. They are just a crowd of people with no home, no land, with very few possessions. They are wondering the desert. They are vulnerable and exposed, easy prey for attackers. They are spiritually confused and are swaying between worship of Yahweh and worship of the Egyptian gods they had known all their lives. However, God chooses them.  He acts, before He requires anything. At Sinai, we see the grace of Yahweh. Many think Yahweh is different in the OT from what we see in the NT, but we see grace throughout the whole of the Scriptures. The Law itself is grace. It will set them apart and keep them healthy. It will lay a foundation for their future and set boundaries that will lead to success. The Law is an expression of love as it offers these homeless, broken down spiritually confused slaves an opportunity to become a people, and not just a people, but THE people – the people of God. He calls them into a relationship before the rules are made . . . . much like we are wooed and courted into relationship before the rules get changed when we can’t have any other boyfriends/girlfriends. By that time, your desire is to make those changes, you want to change, because your relationship is so important. The relationship outweighs the responsibilities. It doesn’t feel like a requirement as much as an opportunity. A child is loved first and then disciplined for the same reason. Sinai doesn’t happen until after the people have been delivered from slavery.  

Compare the format of a Suarain/Vassal treaty to that of the Covenant at Sinai. It’s clear that God was speaking to them in the language of treaty. 

 

Once the treaty was drawn up, the people had a ratification ceremony or covenant ceremony to bind the oath. This is the way they signed the document in front of their witnesses. Since this oath was made before their gods, animal sacrifice was always a part of the covenant ceremony.    

Exodus 24:3-8 – Moses sprinkles blood from the sacrifice on the people. 

New Covenant – Matthew 26:27-28 – Jesus reminded the disciples of Moses and the old covenant during the Last Supper which celebrated the Passover.  

 

Covenant

Hebrew word for covenant = “beryth”

Here are the Hebrew letters

 

and here is what each letter means:

shelter representing God’s family
head – nothing is more important than God’s family
God’s hand reaching down – God has the will, authority, and ability to grow relationship
Pole to expand tent – expand God’s family

I posted this ’cause I’m amazed by the variety of ways that God has chosen to speak to us. He spoke to Israel in a way that they would understand, and He does the same for each of us. How is He speaking to you today? 

 


Ideas from Sandra Richter’s “Epic of Eden” book and video series. (5th week lesson)  

Faith – Be Adventurous

Dad’s Word:

The pieces will never line up perfectly. You won’t ever be “ready.” You may not have the financial ability to do something. It may never look like things are going to work out, but sometimes we’ve got to step out in faith anyway. According to Scripture, we are saved by “grace” (God’s gift) through “Faith” (our trust).

God’s Word:

Ephesians 2:8a – For by grace you have been saved through faith.

Dad’s Word:

There will always be a “faith” factor. God is gracious, but He doesn’t take all of the doubt away. The stars will never align perfectly for you to make the decision. Sometimes the “faith factor” will be large and other times it won’t be as big, but there is always an element of faith involved in every decision we make. Even choosing which cereal to put in your bowl requires faith that your choice hasn’t gone stale. Choosing your spouse is a bigger one. You will never know perfectly if he/she is the right choice ’cause there is always a “faith factor.” In those situations, we look at fruit in their lives; we look for evidence of Godly decision-making and a lifestyle that reflects the character of Christ. The evidence will never be enough, but it gives us a solid place to stand when we ultimately put our faith in Christ. (By the way, having a strong marraige is more about “being” the right person than about “finding” the right person. Check the “Marriage” section of this book.)

One classic example that illustrates faith is that of a car driving down a dark road. The headlights won’t show you the whole road, but they will show you enough to drive the next few feet. Faith works like that sometimes. When we have been faithful for the first few steps, God will reveal the next few steps to us. He has a good reason for doing it this way. You see, if He told us the end, we’d look for ways to get there on our own, but doing it this way, we become dependent upon Him; Our relationship with Him grows and we begin to trust Him even more through the process.

God’s Word:

Genesis 12:1 – Now the Lord said the Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.

Dad’s Word:

Abram left everything he knew without knowing where he was going to end up. He only knew that God would be with him because God has said that He would show him where his land would be. This is faith – traveling to a place you do not know simply ’cause you trust and love the One who travels with you.

God’s Word:

Luke 16:10 – One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.

Matthew 25:23 – His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much.

Famous Words:

“Faith is jumping off the cliff and trusting that God will build more cliff.” – Dustan Thrift (friend, ex-student – not “famous” words)

“The steps of faith fall on the seeming void, but find the rock beneath.” – John Greenleaf Whittier

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the staircase.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

“Faith is not something that goes against the evidence, it goes beyond it.” – Alister McGrath

“Reason can only get you to probability, but only commitment can get you to certainty.” – Tim Keller

“Faith is like radar that sees through the fog – the reality of things at a distance that the human eye cannot see.” – Corrie Ten Boom

“Faith never knows where it is being led, but it loves and knows the One who is leading.” – Oswald Chambers

(When he didn’t have a job.) I’m excited! God has us in His hands & I’m imagining what He’s planning on doing w/us…well, I’m a bit anxious too. Faith & Fear together. – Steve Corn (not-so famous words)

“Unbelief = putting circumstances between you and God. Faith = putting God between you and circumstances.” – Mark Batterson

“Where reason cannot wade, there faith may swim.” – Thomas Watson

“Faith is deliberate confidence in the character of God whose ways you may not understand at the time.” – Oswald Chambers

“We can pray for rain, but faith brings an umbrella.” – Unknown

Personal Story:

Before asking your mother to marry me (the greatest adventure of my life), I went to her parents to ask their permission; to get their blessing. I was working as a youth minister and didn’t have a college degree. I didn’t have much money and wasn’t sure how I would support her, but I knew that God was leading me to pursue her as my wife. Gigi and Papa were concerned about how I would support her. I remember telling them that I really didn’t know how it would all work out, but that I felt like if I listened to God as He led me to marry her, He would also lead us as we looked for a way to begin our family and relationship together. If I was faithful right now, I believed He’d be faithful to show us the future. If I was faithful in the first step, I knew I could trust Him with showing us the next step. Gigi and Papa gave me their blessing that night ’cause they recognized the very same thing – that God leads us one step at a time. We’ve got to have faith that He will lead us to the right place even though we may never know where that place actually is. Since that time God has taken us on an incredible journey with lots of ups and downs. We’ve had plenty of other opportunities to learn to trust Him. Each time, He has proven faithful.

Train Up a Child

Proverbs 22:6 – “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

I don’t know what you hear when you read this verse (or hear someone using it to tell you how to raise your child), but this is what I hear: “Raise your kid right. Teach him all the rules about how to live a Godly life and how to treat other people and when he is old, he will live that way. Train him to be a Godly man, and he won’t go down the wrong path. Whatever you teach him or forget to teach him, will determine how he will live and if he will be a productive member of society.”

Well..I hear something like that anyway. However, this is NOT what the Scripture says. I’m not going to debate all the ins and outs of what I hear, but I do want to point out what the verse actually says. Charles F Boyd says:

“The phrase ‘in the way he should go’ does not refer to some prescribed path that every person should follow. In the Hebrew language, the phrase is better rendered, ‘according to his way.’ And the Hebrew word for ‘way’ is derek, which literally means ‘bent’ and refers to a unique inner design or direction.” 

This verse is not about rules and a path, but about a relationship with my children. It means I’ve got to learn how God made them – their spiritual gifts, their skills/abilities, their passions/heart. I need to work at God’s side. God designed my children a certain way for His specific purposes and my role is to watch them closely, to recognize God’s handiwork, and then to join Him to strengthen and grow those gifts within them. I need to pay attention to the people in their lives and the opportunities that God presents to them. All of these things can be pieces to discovering God’s will for their lives. In order to “train them up in the way they should go,” I’m going to have to know something about the way they should go. Building close relationships is my best chance at getting that part right.

In the world we live in, it’s clear that people are able to accomplish more when they operate in the their strengths. That’s what this verse is about: finding our kids “strengths” (spiritual gifts) and then training them to develop those gifts to their full potential.

Me too

“Me too.”

I believe these are incredibly powerful words. These words connect us to other people. They build bridges, communicate love and support. These words demonstrate empathy and bring us together. When I think about it, the people I have to most “me too’s” with are the people I am closest to in this world. Our shared experiences, our commonalities, draw us together and hold us together. “Me too’s” are important.

When someone is struggling, the words “me too” help others to see that they are not alone. When we say it, we’re saying that we are with them, that we understand, that we care and can see why they’d feel the way they do. Even if we have never been in their situation, we can almost always try to put on their shoes and say, “Me too. I understand why you’d feel that way.” We may not ever be able to imagine HOW it feels, but we can seek to understand WHY they’d feel that way. Either way, “Me too.” is powerful. Sometimes (I’m thinking about grief in particular) we don’t even need to say “me too.” Our presence alone communicates it.

When someone is celebrating, a “me too” celebrates too. It strengthens our relationship. When I was a youth minister, it became more and more clear that one of the best things I could do for a student was to show up at a game they were playing or a concert where they were performing. Those experiences, “being with” them became “me too’s” between us and helped draw us closer to one another.

Romans 12:15 – “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.”

My hope is that I can become more aware of the moments I have. I want to say “me too” more often. I also want to live in a way that creates more “me too’s.” Of course I can’t be at everything I’d like, but I plan to be more intentional about “being with” people. My prayer is that you guys can all join me and say, “Yeah, me too.”

Ruth Sermons

I had the opportunity to preach through the book of Ruth over the last few weeks @ Grace Bible Church. In my preparations I listened to sermons by Voddie Bachaum, David Platt, Alistair Begg, and Mark Driscoll. Much of what I shared comes form these resources as well as a commentary that I wrote many years ago based upon several commentaries as well as some of my own thoughts as I studied.

Download Ruth 1-2

 

Download Ruth 3

 

Download Ruth 4

 

 

rePost – Shepherds

shepherd-edit
A shepherd pic I took from our bus when I was in Israel.

OK – What are shepherds? Well, they’re the guys who watched the sheep. Many times in ancient Jewish culture they were young boys, but sometimes older guys did it too. They were responsible for moving the sheep from one field to the next so they could get plenty to eat and safe water to drink. They also protected the sheep from predators and would leave the group in order to search for a lost sheep. The sheep knew the shepherd’s voice. With a few shepherds and their sheep all intermingled, the shepherd could call his sheep and only those who were his would follow. Shepherds led a humble life – probably a bit of a lonely life too out in the fields with nothing but sheep (and God) to talk to all day. This sets the scene for what we’re about to read. A group of shepherds were out in a field near Bethlehem one night when according the Message paraphrase of Luke 2:8-20:

They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God’s angel stood among them and God’s glory blazed around them. They were terrified. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master.  This is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.”

At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God’s praises:

Glory to God in the heavenly heights, Peace to all men and women on earth who please him.

As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the sheepherders talked it over. “Let’s get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us.”

They left, running, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. Seeing was believing. They told everyone they met what the angels had said about this child. All who heard the sheepherders were impressed. Mary kept all these things to herself, holding them dear, deep within herself. The sheepherders returned and let loose, glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen. It turned out exactly the way they’d been told!

Now consider this: These particular shepherds are famous. Think about it: Shepherds were humble nobodys and social outcasts in their own culture, but here we are talking about them 2000 years later. What did they do that made them different?

1. They listened to God. (vs 15)

When the angel appeared that night in the field, there were lots of voices competing for their attention: 1) The voice of Doubt saying “You must be hallucinating. It was something you ate.” 2) The voice of Duty “You can’t go into Bethlehem. You’re responsible for these sheep.” 3) The voice of Laziness “You’re tired. It’s been a long day. Just stay here and rest.”

2. They ran to Jesus. (vs 16)

Once they decided they were going to listen to God, they had a sense of urgency. They didn’t waste time. They allowed their own Godly curiosity to dictate their pace. (When I’ve preached this message, I use the scene from “When Harry Met Sally” where Harry runs to the Christmas Party to talk to Sally. At one point he uses the line ” When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.” I think that quote is appropriate for the shepherds too.)

3. They told everyone about Jesus. (vs 17-18)

When they had seen Jesus, they didn’t keep it to themselves. News spread quickly ’cause they were so excited. Matthew 12:34 says “out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.” The shepherds couldn’t contain themselves. Much like the news of a woman’s engagement. Sometimes she doesn’t even get to tell everyone, ’cause the news spreads so fast that people hear before she can get to them. Also, Remember, the angel had told them that this news was for “all people,” and so they were just doing their part.

4. They worshiped Jesus. (vs 20)

The shepherds worshiped with their mouths, but also with their lives as they told others and spread the news of Jesus.

I don’t know if it’s important to have people talking about us 2000 years later, but these shepherds stand out among all the other shepherds of the world because they reacted to Jesus in these ways. How would our lives be different if we did too? Would we stand out from the rest of the world if we truly listened to God, felt an urgency to be with Him, told others about Him, and worshiped Him? I think so and I pray that my life will reflect the attitudes and actions of these shepherd nobodys.

Other interesting Stuff:

It is very possible that these Bethlehem shepherds were watching over the temple flock – taking care of the sacrificial lambs. I think it’s cool that some of the first to see the true Lamb of God were the humble folks who took care of the sacrificial lambs from the temple.

Note that when angels appear, they aren’t greeted as if they are cute little flying cupids. They are feared. The first thing out of an angel’s mouth is almost always, “Do not be afraid.”

The fact that God chose to send the angel to the shepherds spoke volumes. Shepherds were regarded as unreliable and were not allowed to give testimony in courts (Morris), and so God chose to use them in spite of that reputation. Notice in verse 18 that when the people heard what they had to say, they were amazed. I think it’s interesting that they believed these unreliable shepherds enough to be amazed!

Notice the angelic glory in comparison the the humble Jesus who created the angels.

In ancient Jewish culture, when a boy was born, local musicians congregated at his home to greet him with music. (Daily Study Bible) Since Jesus was born in a stable, the angelic choir had to take the place of the local musicians.

The swaddling clothes was normal, but if the angel hadn’t told them to look for Jesus in a manger (feeding trough) they would never have believed it. Calvin said, “This was a revolting sight, and was sufficient of itself to produce an aversion to Christ. For what could be more improbable than to believe that he was the King of the whole people, who was deemed unworthy to be ranked with the lowest of the multitude?”

Check out what Calvin says about the shepherds “glorifying and praising God” in verse 20. “If the cradle of Christ had such an effect upon them, as to make them rise from the stable and the manger to heaven, how much more powerful ought the death and resurrection of Christ to be in raising us to God?”

 

Misconceptions:

Most scholars agree that the time of Jesus’ birth was probably not Dec 25th. In his commentary, Adam Clarke suggests a fall time frame due to the fact that the sheep were in the fields at night.

Shepherds fields in Israel are much more rocky than Most Americans imagine. Notice the shepherd and sheep in this pic.
Shepherds fields in Israel are much more rocky than Most Americans imagine. Notice the shepherd and sheep in this pic.

shepherds-field-with-shepherd
Shepherds fields in Israel are much more rocky than Most Americans imagine. Notice the shepherd and sheep in this pic.

A Manger was a stone feeding trough for animals, rather than the wood/hay centerpiece in most Nativity scenes.
A Manger was a stone feeding trough for animals, rather than the wood/hay centerpiece in most Nativity scenes.

A Perfect Act of Love

Self-Love (1)2If I ever do a perfect act of love, I’ll probably be proud of it, and then it won’t be a perfect act anymore. Maybe if I die in the midst of performing this act, I could do it.” – man on radio (wish I knew who he was)

When I heard it, this idea struck me. Even my best efforts are littered with selfishness and pride. My “wants” show up in the most unlikely of places – even when I “serve,” I want to be recognized – or I want someone else to take notice and look at me with more admiration, etc. My service serves myself. I’m sinful. Very sinful.

Scripture addresses this too.

Isaiah 64:6 – “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.

Romans 7:21-25 – “So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.”

So here’s the question: How can I get rid of this? How can I serve selflessly? Of course the only REAL answer is Jesus. He alone has done a “perfect act of love” – the cross. He alone is perfect, and so all of His acts were perfect. Ours are NOT. Nor will they ever be. Our acts of service and sacrifice are always going to be tainted with at least a little bit of selfishness. We are sinners, but because of His “perfect act of love” (the cross), we can receive forgiveness and will be made holy. Our selfishness is forgiven and covered by His blood.

A perfect act of love? This is not a goal for us to attain, but a grace that Jesus has offered to us.

Living Water

I had a great conversation with Kasen, my 4yr old boy this past week. We went camping in Cuchara, Colorado and  were hiking by a spring on our way back from “Blue Lake.” We took a little break from our hike and I convinced him to get a drink of water right out of the spring.

Kasen: Why can we drink it?

Me: ‘Cause it’s good water. It’s clean. In the Bible, they call it “living water.”

Kasen: Living water?

Me: Yeah, ’cause it moves. . . like it’s alive. It’s not dead like the water in the lake.

Kasen: Why is the water in the lake dead?

Me: ‘Cause it doesn’t move. It’s not good to drink ’cause stuff grows in it.

Kasen: Stuff grows in it?

Me: Yes. In the Bible, the best water to drink came from springs like this one. It’s good for you to drink. It’s healthy and makes you feel better.

Kasen: And it tastes good.

Me: Yeah – and it’s cold too. I like it.

Me: In the Bible, Jesus says He has the “living water.” He is good for us and makes us feel better too. 

Kasen: Jesus is the “living water.”

Me: Yeah, He nourishes us and quenches our thirst. Jesus is the best thing for us. Even better than this water.

Kasen: Daddy, Can I get some more water?

Me: Of course. I’m gonna get some with you.


Check out these verses:

John 4:13-14 – “13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

John 7:37-38 –  “37 On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”

 

 

 

Not Surprised

I am always surprised by the things God does. How He provides. How He speaks. How He. . . .

However, when I look back over my life, I see His consistency in all things. He is always faithful to provide. He is always speaking. He is always working, loving, guiding, intervening. . . He is always. . . He is God.

If I reflect on His character and our relationship, it’s not surprising at all that He would do these things. Why am I surprised?

Maybe my surprise reveals my lack of faith? Or maybe it reveals the greatness of God? He is beyond my imagination and comprehension.

I suspect it’s actually both.

Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus – Draft written June 2009 – Never Finished

satforbThis is a simple list of the things I learned from this book. (Some are quoted) Some things on the list are new to me and others are ideas that I was reminded of. I’d encourage everyone to pick up a copy and read it for yourself. I had a basic understanding of Jesus’ Jewishness, but this book taught me more. I’m sure it only scratches the surface of the depth of this topic, but it’s a great place to start.


When Jesus the disciples fell asleep in the Garden of Gethsemane, it followed a very long day, with a large meal, and multiple glasses of wine. It’s no wonder they fell asleep. (p 7) I had never really noticed this.

“Women [in the first century] were encouraged to sit in on the advanced discussions at the synagogue if they were able. A few even acquired the high-level education required to contribute to rabbinic debates, and their words are still on record.” (p 12)

First century Jews were acquainted with this rabbinic saying: “Let your house be a meeting place for the rabbis, and cover yourself in the dust of their feet, and drink in their words thirstily.” They were expected to open their homes to these teachers and their disciples. This is why Jesus and the disciples spent so much time with Mary and Martha. (p 14)

Rabbis often sat on pillows or chairs when they taught and disciples sat at their feet on the ground or mats around them. “When Mary is described as ‘sitting at Jesus’ feet,’ she is being described as a disciple.” (p 14)

Disciples followed rabbis so closely, they became covered in the dust swirling up from the sandals of his feet. (p 14)

As opposed to the crowns/coronations of other kings, Hebrew kings were with anointed with expensive perfumed oil. (p 16)

The oil Mary anointed Jesus with would have probably lingered for days. “Everywhere Jesus went during the final days of His life he had the fragrance of royalty. ” In the Garden, the soldiers would have smelled it and wondered who stood before them. Even when he was on trial, mocked, whipped, and stripped naked, there may have been a fragrance of royalty in the air. (p 18)

When Jesus’ rode into Jerusalem on a mule, the people would have remembered Solomon doing the same thousands of years earlier. 1 Kings 1:38-40 (p 17)

Davening, the rocking motion used by Jews during prayer, is intended as “a way of expressing that one’s whole self, body and soul, is caught up with God. The old rabbi explained that the movement of the body mimics the flickering flame of a candle, calling to mind the saying that “the candlestick of God is the soul of a man.” (p 22)

Jesus probably began learning to read and memorize Scripture at the age of 5-6 yrs old. (p 24)

On Sabbath, a member of the congregation would read from the Scriptures and expound on the day’s passages. (p 25)

Study of the Torah was done at every opportunity. “When people assembled for a joyous occasion such as a circumcision or a wedding, a group might withdraw to engage in the study of the Law.” (p 26) If we did the same, we might have people studying Scripture during halftime at the football game.

Rabbis believed that study was the highest form of worship. “They pointed out that when we pray, we speak to God, but that when we study the Scriptures, God speaks to us.” (p 26)

Rabbis encouraged debate and believed the mark of a good student was his ability to argue well. Sparing with one another forced students to refine their thinking. (p 28)

Here’s a rabbinic parable (similar to Jesus’ parable of the soils in Luke 8:4-11):

“There are four types among those who sit in the presence of the rabbis: the sponge (soaks up everything), the funnel (takes in at one end and lets out at the other), the strainer (lets out the wine and retains the dregs) and the sieve (removes the chaff and retains the fine flour).” The best disciple is the sieve, not the sponge as one might expect. (p 31)

In American culture, movie stars are revered. In Jewish culture, life’s supreme achievement was to become a great scholar of the Scriptures. (p 33)

“The disciple sought to study the text, not only of Scripture but of the rabbi’s life, for it was there that he would learn how to live out the Torah. Even more than acquiring his master’s knowledge, he wanted to acquire his master’s character, his internal grasp of the God’s law.” This is why he traveled with the rabbi and followed him so closely. Imagine handing an instruction manual to a five-year-old who wants to learn how to ride a bike. (p 33-34)

Jesus didn’t come only to save us from sin, but also to raise us up as disciples who would be like Him. (p 34)

Here’s another blog I wrote about one of the concepts in the book: Remez (p 37)

Stringing pearls is the practice of bringing together passages from different places in order to explore their great truths. Jesus did this in the Beatitudes – referencing Isaiah and the Psalms. His Jewish audience would have picked up on these references and been reminded of God’s faithfulness in rescuing His people. (p 43)

“The usual method of learning was through hands-on experience.” (p 53)

“Learning wasn’t so much about retaining data as it was about gaining essential wisdom for living.” (p 53)

“discipleship has always been about a process.” (p 56)

“While the Gospels record many instances of Jesus instantly healing people’s illnesses, we know of not evenone instance in which he simply waved his hand to immediately fix an ugly habit for one of his disciples. Instead, he simply kept teaching and correcting them, giving them time to grow.” (p 56)

Disciples were totally committed. They left their homes, jobs, and lives to follow a rabbi. It wasn’t like signing up for a Bible Study, or a class they could skip when they had a baseball game, etc. (p 57)

This goal of discipleship is not just self-discipline, but transformation into the likeness of Christ. Imagine if someone were to define parenting only as discipline. Of course children need discipline, but we would have great cause for worry if discipline was the only thing a parent focused on. (p 58)

Here are a few statements from Jesus’ time describing the relationship between rabbi and disciple:

“If a man’s father and his rabbi are both taken captive, a disciple should ransom his rabbi first.” (p 59)

“Your father brought you into this world, but your rabbi brings you into the life of the world to come!” (p 59)

“If a disciple is sent into exile, his rabbi should go with him.”(p 59)

Imagine Judas’ act of betrayal in light of the previous attitudes about this relationship. (p 59)

Another interesting saying:

“All acts a slave performs for his master, a disciple performs for his rabbi, except untying the sandal.” To untie someone’s sandal was considered demeaning, the task of a slave. Check out John 1:27 (p 60)

A rabbi was to model how to live by using examples from his own life. (p 61)

“An authoritarian style of leadership has little to do with Christ and everything to do with human ego.” (p 62)

“God’s goal isn’t simply to fill the world with people who believe the right things. It is to fill the world with people who shine with the brilliance of Christ.” (p 64)

An early rabbinical statement: “When two sit together and exchange words of Torah, then the Divine Presence dwells among them.” (p 67) Similar to Jesus’ in Matthew 18:20

“We tend to believe that the only way to deeply encounter God is through solitary prayer and study. But Jesus implies that his presence will be felt most often in the presence of a small group of haverim.” (p 67)

“Jesus never sent out his students alone, but always in pairs. He knew their critical need for haverim.” (p 73)

“In most societies, people don’t experience loneliness as acutely as Americans do. In other cultures, people are rarely alone, physically or emotionally.” (p 73)

“A haver is a fellow disciple who earnestly desires to grapple with others over issues of faith – someone who wants to delve into God’s Word, to be challenged and refined. A haver is like a spiritual jogging partner.” (p 74)

“Jesus was probably wearing small tefillin when he criticized those who were wearing large tefillin in order to advertise their own super piety. (Mt 23:5)” (p 79)

“An observant Jew recites at least a hundred blessings a day.” (p 82)