Friday, January 23, 2009
Quick History Lesson
One of the things I love about the Old Testament and the Jewish traditions and festivals is the rich history that is told and retold. Many of the stories in the early part of the Old Testament are much older than the writings themselves. The stories were passed down orally for generations before they were ever written down. The people were commanded to share the stories with their children when they rise, when they lie down, at meal times, during special festivals and feasts, and at other sacred times of the year. Even the festivals had special meaning and marked significant events in the life of Israel. For Example, Passover is a festival to remind the people how God passed over the Israelites as he smote (great word, huh?) the first-born of the Egyptians. As Christians we also recognize Jesus as the Passover lamb. For just as God "passed over" the homes of the Israelites God also "passed over" us as Jesus sacrificed his very life on the cross for us. And the festival that we have looked at recently, the Feast of Tabernacles or the Feast of Booths, was meant to be a marker and a reminder that Yahweh provides. While the people were wandering in the wilderness they were provided with all that they needed. Got sent manna and quail, "their clothes did not wear out, nor did their feet become swollen." (Neh. 9:21) The people constructed booths and lived in them for the duration of the eight day festival as a reminder that God had provided even when it seemed they had nothing to call their own. There are markers and reminders too numerous to name here. There are also spots in scripture that that tell us a lot about the history of Israel in just a small space. Nehemiah chapter 9 is one such place. Here we read a prayer that is intended as a reminder for the people of what God has done and why they are to fear (read "respect") and worship God. For us this also serves as a brief lesson of the history of Israel. Praise God for these reminders. I for one am glad they show up in random places. Aren't those the reminders that we really need anyway; those that come when we least expect them? Don't forget your Bibles on Wednesday!