Roots

…no, not Army roots…I’m talking of more ancient roots than those.

Anyone who has ever sat under any ministry of mine for any period of time will know that I have a love for the Old Testament. I really loved studying the Old Testament at Bible College especially. I really believe that if we don’t have a grasp of the Old Testament as well as the New, we really miss out on large aspects of the character of God and his purposes. We just don’t want to do that.

I’m becoming aware, through other study, that there is much that we miss about Jesus when we see him out of his earthly context as a Jew and, effectively, Rabbi. For example, I’ve learned that Jewish prayer such as reciting the shema (Hear O Israel, the Lord your God is one etc, Deut 11:13-31) and other prayers in the Hebrew prayer book (the siddur) are prayers that bless the name of the Lord. The idea of blessing God is simply saying, God your are it, you’re the main guy and I am going to praise you for everything. You know, in Fiddler on the Roof there is the classic section when someone asks the rabbi how they bless God for the Tsar and the rabbi responds “God bless and keep the tsar…far away from us.’ That over-riding idea of blessing God for everything is beautiful.

But then, when I learned this, my first thought turned to the words of the Lord’s prayer, where Jesus teaches his disciples to pray: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name” – here Jesus teaches his disciples to bless the Lord, to praise and honour his name.

It is clear from scripture too, that Jesus followed Jewish customs in terms of what he wore. For example, before he is crucified, we read that he had his all in one Jewish undergarment, to which were probably attached his tzitzit. His what? His tzitzit (Numbers 15:38 and Deuteronomy 22:12) which were little tassles that reminded Jews of the precepts of God’s law…sort of a Hebraic uniform!

In Jesus’ day, Jewish men wore a simple tunic both at home and at work. When appearing in public, they would cover their tunic with a large rectangular cloth which draped over the shoulder and fell to the ankles. This cloth was called a tallit and served as protection from cold and rain. Hanging from the end of each of its four corners (wings) was a tzitzit in obedience to the biblical command above. When we read in Malachi 4:2 that the Messiah will come with healing in his ‘wings’ the mind immediately go to the woman who touched the hem of Jesus garment.

Essentially what this woman is doing is remembering that the Messaih has healing in his wings and reaching out to touch him…she is healed. But note, the significance is not the actual literal tassles, the significance is that she looked a) to the Messiah and b) to the part of his garment that signified the law, you could say the Word of God (not just book but Jesus as John identifies him in John 1…in the beginning was the Word…etc etc).

These are just some of the things that have struck me. It just goes to show that there are layers of significance in the bible that a little bit of study just brings out to you and leaves you blessed and with a fuller appreciation of who God is and what he’s done.

I believe too that a fuller understanding of the Hebrew concept of sabbath (as opposed to the highly prohibative sabbath of the pharisees and modern day hyper-conservative Christianity) is the very kind of sabbath that Jesus often pointed towards. There is much to be learned to aid us in our walk with Him who loves us and calls us His children.

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