Friday, July 17, 2015

A Thought for Friday 17 July 2015

“O, how I love Your Law!  It is my meditation all the day.  You, through Your commandments, make me wiser than my enemies; for they are ever with me.  I have more understanding than all my teachers, for Your testimonies are my meditation.”  Psalm 119:97-99 NKJV

Psalm 119 is the longest of the psalms (176 verses), but that is not what is so remarkable.  What is remarkable is that the psalmist puts so much thought and effort and zeal into praising The Lord for His Word, the “Law”, the “Torah” (the psalmist is not praising only the Ten Commandments; the “Torah” is much bigger than that!).  But why?  Christianity has come close to suggesting the “Law” (again, the entire “Torah”) no longer has meaning for the Church in the light of the New Testament, the New Covenant (we do know we are very selective in which verses we will embrace!).  I submit, however, that the New Covenant has no depth, no real context or meaning apart from “Torah”, the “Word”; for St. John said it best: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us”.  Not a “new” word; THE Word.

Incidentally, “Torah” is the Hebrew word for the first five books of the Bible.  I personally choose “Torah” over “Pentateuch” because it rolls off the tongue much easier (and is easier to type!).

There can be no doubt the “Law” is so easily misunderstood as unduly restrictive, probably because it is so easy to get caught up in “thou shalt not”.  By the time of Jesus the religious leaders had created such an overbearing Law that it was virtually impossible not to run afoul of that Law.  It has been said the Law became so restrictive after the Exile as a way of overcompensating – just making sure no unnecessary risks were taken with the well-being of Israel.  Maybe, but even that clearly missed the entire point of “Torah” which was, incidentally, Jesus’ own “Bible”.

I have often wondered if that is “the law” (the man-made one) St. Paul so often refers to in a not-so-uplifting way, rather than “Torah” itself.

Jesus did not “do away” with THE Law (His own words), but He certainly can be said to have turned the interpreted Law upside down!  By what is written in the Gospel accounts about Jesus’ constant clashes with the religious leaders, the interpreted Law was indeed a burdensome list of “thou shalt not’s” - and “taxes” rather than “tithes”.   And that’s what is happening today in our so-called “culture wars” even within Christ’s own Body, the Church.  And lest we forget, those who are outside of the Covenant cannot be expected to abide by the terms of that Covenant – until they are earnestly invited into the Covenant according to its genuine terms, the “Word which has comforted me in my affliction, and has given me life” (119:50).

The “Torah” (Law) is not a hammer to be used against those with whom we disagree, though The Word is “sharper than a double-edged sword” (Hebrews 4:12) – BUT only in the Hand of the Almighty.  We have been given a great and enduring Gift in The Eternal Word.  It is long past time for us to embrace and appreciate it as the true Gift it is rather than a restrictive burden; for it is The Word which has “given Life” to a dying world.  It is The Word which will restore the Church to its true Self.



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