Faith Lessons by Ray Vander Laan: The Very Words of God

The apostles followed Jesus “until they were covered by the dust of his feet,” as the ancient saying goes. And they were immersed in the text.

Jesus learned the text, lived the text, taught the text, prayed the text, and died the text — Jesus even recited from the Psalms while hanging on the cross.

The apostles had the advantage of having grown up in a culture that honored the text, but they had to teach in a Greek world that knew nothing of the text.

The lesson is given at Didyma, Turkey, on the 15-mile road from Miletus to the temple of Apollo, a road lined with shops and statues for its entire length. The temple was the second largest temple in the world.

There were 122 columns 60 feet tall, many 6-feet in diameter at the base.  The temple took hundreds of years to be built.

Apollo was the god of music, light, and oracle — a word from the gods. He had connections in the underworld and so could answer questions: if I do X, what would happen? The oracle would tell visitors what would happen if the questioner did this or that.

But the Torah condemned seeking guidance from such sources — divination. The Bible sometimes speaks of God’s words as an “oracle.” Oracles were not wrong unless they came from the wrong source. (What of modern astrology?)

“Oracle” meant both the place, the person delivering the message, and the message.

Best evidence is that they first went to a sacred well and washed in the water coming from the underworld. They’d also bring a sheep to be sacrificed, which had to be washed as well.

They then slaughtered the sheep and someone “read” the sheep’s entrails. They then approached the oracle’s door. A priest of Apollo would then present himself.

A member of the group would ask the question. Sometimes it took months for Apollo to answer the question. Pilgrims had no choice but to wait.

Deep inside the temple, the oracle, usually an old woman, sat and gave her answer. The priests would set the answer to poetry and deliver the answer.

If the ancients were so awestruck by this fiction, why don’t we take the oracles of God himself as seriously as they took their false “oracle”?

It took 57 years for one man to make one column — to  honor the oracle. Why aren’t we all-the-more serious about knowing God’s text?

To be like the rabbi is to be a man or woman of the text!

RVL —

* Memorize

* Read the text every day for the rest of your life

How badly do you want to be a disciple? How can you teach others to obey everything Jesus taught if you don’t know the text?

Questions —

* Why does modern man not have such respect for truth from the spiritual world? (Modern rationalism presumes that the only valuable truth will be found in science and logic.)

* Why do so many seek guidance in astrology or in talking with the dead? (Many find little comfort in science and so look for something else.)

* Why does God’s revelation often seem inadequate? (We don’t read it or understand it. It’s not personalized to us. We don’t like the answers)

Notice how Jesus and Paul assume that their listeners or readers know the text. Read through Rom 9 – 11, for example, where the text is mainly quotations from the Old Testament. Paul assumes that his readers are already familiar with those passages. Because we aren’t, and we fail to turn to those pages, we tend to skip the Old Testament references or interpret them to suit our preconceptions, whereas Paul presumes that we understand him because we know the context of what he’s quoted.

* How can we do better?

* Do we need to offer different/more/better Bible classes?

* What will help us learn the text?

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One Response

  1. RVL was very passionate in this one about knowing the text and comprehending that it is the comprehensive word of God.

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