Sunday, October 17, 2010

"That the World May Know": Ancient Israel

This week's Bible study put into context, with the help of a Focus on the Family video (part of a series), two aspects of Old Testament imagery to help modern-day Christians understand the Word better.

Part 1: The LORD is my shepherd. Texts: Psalm 23 and John 10:1-18.
  • In OT and NT wilderness imagery, God is the chief Shepherd, prophets and kings are undershepherds, and the people are sheep.
  • Children would do shepherding work (as undershepherds) while a man supervised from an elevated spot. Parents are also undershepherds in this way - children listen to their voice and watch their feet for how to walk.
  • Goats wander while sheep follow. They do not recognize a stranger's voice; the shepherd walks ahead, expecting to be followed. The fire-pillar in the Exodus "walked ahead" of the people, while Revelation 1:15 compares Christ's feet to furnace-hot metal, a pillar of fire.
  • Food - the shepherd provides daily/immediate grass, so don't worry about today or tomorrow, since He will find grass for you when you need it. God is always our Shepherd!
  • Quiet waters are rare in the wilderness, so unguided sheep gravitate toward pools by wadis, but those can kill the drinker. Be thirsty, but let God lead you to safe water. Streams will not always be visible, but you know they are there by the size and maturity of the trees "planted by streams of water." So let it be with your faith.
Part 2: God with us. Texts: Genesis 15, Exodus 20:1-21, chs. 25-30, John 14:10-13, and 1 Corinthians 6:19.
  • The temple at Arad is modeled after the Jerusalem Temple; it was built to substitute for the high places. Hezekiah forbade worship outside Jerusalem, so Arad's inhabitants covered theirs because they could not bear to destroy it. Interestingly, it survived, unlike the one at Jerusalem!
  • Covenants were made by this ceremony: sacrificial animals were split from top to bottom into right and left halves; these halves were placed facing each other on sloping ground so that their blood would run into the V-shaped ditch. The greater party would walk barefoot through it, in effect saying that "if I break my word, you may kill me as these animals were killed." God walked through for BOTH parties, Abraham and Himself.
  • In sacrifices at the Temple, the lamb's throat was cut at 3pm. Jesus died at the ninth hour, the result of thousands of years of foreshadowing by His Father.
  • Other worship images - bread is the Word, feeding us. At the incense altar, the smoke of prayers sweetly ascended to God.
  • 10 Commandments - stone tablets recorded an abbreviated covenant; each party protected his copy in his most sacred place. God gave Moses BOTH copies - He lives with us! Jesus was even more tangible proof of this.
  • Read the covenant to be reminded of its purpose - e.g. marriage vows on one's anniversary. The Commandments mean that God comes close to you, and that you can spread His presence to the world around you. Paul tells us that we are God's temple! Bring His power to the culture.

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