Tuesday, December 27, 2011

God Teaches : The Business of Christian Education XXXIII

The whole commandment that I command you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land that the LORD swore to give to your fathers. And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. Your clothing did not wear out on you and your foot did not swell these forty years. Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the LORD your God disciplines you. So you shall keep the commandments of the LORD your God by walking in his ways and by fearing him.” (Deuteronomy 8:1-6)

In the book of Deuteronomy, Moses instructed the Israelites, who were about to enter the Promised Land, concerning the Law of the LORD. In this important passage, Moses revealed a great mystery. This mystery is not understood by any other belief system. For there is no God like the LORD. The LORD is personal. He relates himself to his children. Moses pointed out that the LORD, as magnificent and glorious He is beyond our wildest dream and causing us to tremble in fear, is a loving father. “Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the LORD your God disciplines you” (v. 5). An alternative translation of
Deuteronomy 8:5 is: “And you shall know with your heart that like a man disciplines his son, the LORD your God is disciplining you.” The Hebrew word that is used for discipline, “יָסַר” can also be translated as teaching or training or admonishing. The idea is that God teaches. No other belief system would allow their gods to have an intimate relationship—father and son/daughter relationship—like what is portrayed here by Moses. Like a father teaches his children, the purpose is not the death of his children, but so that his children may live. For if you read the next few verses you will know that God was bringing Israel to the land of “life.”

For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing out in the valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper. And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land he has given you.” (Deuteronomy 8:7-10)

Education without the purpose of giving life to the learners, is not education. That is why education is never meant to be reduced to merely the training of certain skills and the mastery of certain knowledge. Education must aim at life, and life to the fullest as defined by God as the creator of life. The mood of relationship in education should be that of a loving relationship, like what is modeled by the LORD. However, I shall remind all of us that I do not refer to the puppy love or romantic love that is always full of flowers and good feelings. One must understand that when a father loves his children, he sometimes must use the rod of discipline. Moses referred to how God humbled the Israelites while in the wilderness for forty years:

And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” (Deuteronomy 8:3)

God did not pamper his people. He gave them difficulties. God literally starved his people so they will depend on God instead of the means of the world. The famous quote:

לֹא עַל־הַלֶּחֶם לְבַדּוֹ יִחְיֶה הָאָדָם כִּי עַל־כָּל־מוֹצָא פִי־יהוה יִחְיֶה הָאָדָם

Translation: “Not on bread only man shall live, but on every word of the mouth of the LORD man shall live.”

Jesus quoted this, in Matthew 4:4, when rejecting the devil’s first temptation:

ὁ δὲ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν• γέγραπται• οὐκ ἐπʼ ἄρτῳ μόνῳ ζήσεται ὁ ἄνθρωπος, ἀλλʼ ἐπὶ παντὶ ῥήματι ἐκπορευομένῳ διὰ στόματος θεοῦ.

Translation: “And he answered, he said: it is written: not on bread alone man shall live, but on every word coming out through the mouth of God.”

The sole purpose of the 40 years education in the wilderness was for the Israelites to learn to live by God’s word. Tragically, after 4000 years, the world today teaches man to live solely on bread. The material world is dying, and so those who depend on it. God never dies, and so those who depend on him. It is an important lesson to learn, very important indeed. So God went through all the trouble to teach his children just that, so that they may live. What is the point of learning if the ultimate end is death. Only life is worth all the trouble of learning. God did not take this education lightly. No sane father wants the death of his children. The father knows the secret of life, and that is the very thing he is teaching his children, so they may survive and live life to the fullest. The world, the devil, doesn’t care about our life, and thus lures us to the temptation of death. The devil’s aim is our death. He deceived Eve by twisting God’s word for the very purpose of destroying humans. God knows exactly the secret of life, for he is the creator of all life. The Pentateuch is filled with amazing interconnectedness. God created the world by his word. Life comes into existence through his word, for God is life (cf. John 14:6). So, consequently, life is sustained through his word and not through bread. The dead can only be resurrected by the word of God, not by bread (remember Lazarus). Remember when Adam was first created, did God feed him bread to bring him to life? No! God breathed the breath of life so Adam became alive (Genesis 2:7). And man’s life is sustained by the word. On the other hand, man’s death is caused by rejecting the word (cf. Genesis 2:17 and Genesis 3:4-6).

Dependence on God is crucial. One requirement is a humble heart. Without humility, one will never learn to depend on God. Rejecting God’s word is done with pride. This pride brings down humanity to the lowest state. Adam and Eve wanted to be God, and so they rejected God’s word, and thus they died. And the entire humanity is inaugurated to death. Man needs to be humble to understand that we are not God. Our life depends on God. Acceptance of God’s word brings life. This is the secret of faith. Israel was very stubborn, even though they were just liberated from slavery. God had to humble them again and again so they would understand their total dependence on him. God used the most primitive of our instinct, the craving for food, in order to bring us to our knees. Israel were used to have plenty of food while in Egypt. They did not realize that they ended up in Egypt was also due to God’s intervention through Joseph so their life was spared from famine (Genesis 50:19-21). 400 years after Joseph, God intervened again so Israel would be freed from destruction. But Israel had to learn to depend on God. So God brought them to the wilderness, detached from any source of food. Their bread was rained down from heaven for forty years (scientifically impossible). Therefore their life was preserved not by the presence of manna, but by the providence of God.

Your clothing did not wear out on you and your foot did not swell these forty years.” (Deuteronomy 8:4)

Living in the desert for 40 years and yet their clothes did not wear out and their feet did not swell, even though they walked around for 40 years. All these sign are scientifically impossible. Even with the best technology we have today, we won’t be able to preserve our clothes to stay fresh for 40 years.

All this teaching was necessary for Israel. They were about to enter a land, of which giants lived in there, peoples with great warriors defending their cities. Without total dependence on God, Israel would never capture Canaan and take possession of it. Remember the fall of Jericho? Did the wall fall by the might of Israel’s heroes or by the hands of God? We know the answer. And do you remember how Israel fell to the insignificant city of Ai? Do you remember the story of Gideon with his 300 warriors? The battle of Thermopylae cannot compare to this. For the 300 Spartans were all dead, while all 300 of Gideon’s warriors all alive. The famous story of David and Goliath is a perfect reflection of total dependence on God. All those who are trained in hand to hand combat know the odd of David winning the fight against Goliath. Even Saul knew that this was slaughter, so he let David “die.” Of all those battles, God fought for Israel. Israel just needed to believe. The difference between Saul and David was right there, the dependence on God. Saul depended on “bread” but David depended on God’s word. Saul could not bring himself to the fact that he won the war because God was behind him. Saul believed his might brought him victory. He was the fairest and the tallest of all Israel after all. That’s why he couldn’t make peace with the song sung by the people when welcoming David from a victorious battle: “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands” (1 Samuel 18:7). In other words, Saul’s pride brought him to reject God’s word, as he rejected God’s command through Samuel, which resulted in his rejection as king over Israel.

God teaches his children to live accordingly. God taught Adam to obey so he might live. God’s education is aimed at our life to the fullest. But often we prefer death (life as this world defines) instead of life (as God defines it). Moses reminded Israel of God’s teaching so they all might live abundantly in the Promised Land. God reminded all of us through his Scripture of his teaching so we all may live abundantly in his kingdom. This can only be achieved when we obey him.

So you shall keep the commandments of the LORD your God by walking in his ways and by fearing him.” (Deuteronomy 8:6)


No comments: