Is our youthwork Biblical?
How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Praise be to you, O LORD; teach me your decrees. With my lips I recount all the laws that come from your mouth. I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches. I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word. (Psalm 119: 9-16)
We start with a heavy lump of Old Testament. How can the psalmist be so delighted with rules and regulations? With words and commands, with laws and statutes and precepts and decrees? Aren't we, after all, people of grace, of freedom, of liberty? Who needs laws anyway, hasn't Christ freed us from all of that?
Thus ends a potted summary of the Old Testament all too typical in Christian circles today. It's sad really and all a matter of perception. Perhaps what the Old Testament needs is better public relations, a Bible-bashing P.R. guru with ecclesiastical connections. But, rather, what Christians need is a balanced view of the Bible that views the Old Testament as more than a dusty and outdated old tome. Consider the implications of Paul's words:
These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come (1 Corinthians 10:11)
There are real lessons for us Christians within the pages of the Old Testament. And what about this?
Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law. (Romans 3:29-31)
Following Jesus does not mean jettisoning what came before him. There is sufficient value in the Old Testament, particularly the Torah, the "law", for it still to be upheld. What this implies has become a long-running and passionate debate if we focus on particulars, such as the dietary laws, so instead we will examine generalities and look at the whole thing in its entirety.
What is the Torah and where did it come from?
There is a Jewish legend that tells of God considering which people He was going to give His teachings (Torah) to. These people would hereafter be bestowed with great responsibilities as God's ambassadors, so He had to get this decision right. First He went to the pagans, the Gentiles, who turned Him down point blank. Then He went to the Edomites who refused it, because they couldn't handle the prohibitions against killing. The Ammonites and Moabites had trouble with the adultery clause and also turned Him down. The Ishmaelites had issues over robbery and the Canaanites couldn't give up their cheatin' ways! All the nations of the World refused the Torah. So God then turned to the Jewish nation ...
This takes us to Mount Sinai a few millennia ago. Two Jews are leaning against a palm tree, two out of around three million, impatiently awaiting the return of their leader, Moses, who had ascended the mountain to meet with God ...
Do you think he's coming back?
He always comes back - we don't get rid of Moses that easily. And anyway, he did tell us to wait until he got back.
But thirty eight days! Without food!
He's speaking with the Lord, I'm sure food won't be an issue.
I hear some are talking about bringing back the old gods.
The gods of Egypt! Didn't Moses defeat them ... the plagues, you know?
Even as we speak Aaron is smelting down some gold and making a golden calf.
Is this an image of the Lord?
Some say. Others say it's Hapi, the bull god of the Egyptians.
Oh dear ...
Moses' brother, Aaron, the High Priest for the Children of Israel, was sincere, but wrong ... sincerely wrong. And stupid. Can you believe his pathetic excuse when confronted by a furious Moses?
So I told them, "Whoever has any gold jewelry, take it off." Then they gave me the gold, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!" (Exodus 32:24)
Aaron escaped judgement, but three thousand perished. It is fair to say that this whole episode provided a defining moment in Biblical history. It was Satan's last throw of the dice before the official birth of the Nation of Israel, when Moses again climbed Mount Sinai and returned with the Torah inscribed on new stone tablets (having smashed up the first ones in anger).
Then the LORD said: "I am making a covenant with you. Before all your people I will do wonders never before done in any nation in all the world. The people you live among will see how awesome is the work that I, the LORD, will do for you. Obey what I command you today. I will drive out before you the Amorites, Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. Be careful not to make a treaty with those who live in the land where you are going, or they will be a snare among you. Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones and cut down their Asherah poles. Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God." (Exodus 34:10-14)
The Torah had been transferred from the mind of God to the world of mankind and things were never to be the same again.
(This is an abridged extract from Steve's book How the Church Lost the Truth)