Monday, November 07, 2005

One of the reason I put off going to seminary (other than the deep conviction that the phone lines had been crossed when I got the 'call') was my inability with languages other than English, which presented problems of its own.

When I finally did give in to the God-who-is-like-a-tenacious-bulldog and went to seminary, you can imagine my surprise that I not only made it through Greek, but absolutely loved studying Hebrew! In fact, my study of Hebrew gave me a new appreciation for the wonder, the grace, the steadfast love of the God the Chosen revealed to us in the Old Testament. It removed any lingering questions about there being two different gods in the two different testaments.

Take the concept of 'commandment.' I grew up, probably like most folks, believing that the commandments given in the OT, especially the Top Ten, were "orders" given to us by that stern and punishing God who shook the mountains. If I took a candy bar off the shelf, God would turn up the flames in hell a little bit. If I gossiped about a friend, the dial was turned to medium. And if I wanted to sleep in on Sunday instead of going to church - well, I was toast!

Then I learned the Hebrew word 'mitzvah' (which we translate into English as 'commandment'). What a difference! Instead of an order, I discovered a honor and privilege given to us by God who has given us life. Rather than a rule, I found a responsibility that is mine as part of the covenant God has made with me. A burden that was almost impossible to carry became a good deed that I am longing to perform over and over. Grace replaced guilt, love overcame law, faith trumped fear.

No wonder the psalmist could talk about these words being a delight. God gave them to us, not so we would become lawyers, but so we would become lovers.

(c) 2005 Thom M. Shuman

1 comment:

Christopher said...

I'm glad you finally went to seminary, Thom. I enjoy reading Occasional Sightings. Grace and peace to you today.