Exploring Deuteronomy Week 7: God’s Big Story, Part 1
Pastor Dan’s latest message, “Home” in the “Not By Bread Alone” series is available here.
Did anyone get hit by a ball falling on your head from the ceiling yesterday? I loved the illustration Pastor Dan used to show us how many hours parents have with their children! Such a good reminder of the opportunities all of us (parents or not) have to influence those around us. (If you have no clue what I’m talking about, make sure to watch the sermon online!)
I am not a parent yet, but I felt inspired, right where I’m at in life, to live God’s story, to read it often, and to tell it to anyone who will listen. God’s big story is amazing — the plot is intricate, surprising and beautiful — and it is the way of salvation for all who will believe!
So Pastor Dan shared with us three ways we can teach our children about God. He said we should: 1. Pay attention to the questions children ask 2. Tell them stories 3. Tell the stories over and over again.
A few times during the sermon, Pastor Dan talked about how Orthodox Jews are so dedicated to the Scripture. Many of us may know a few verses from Paul’s letters and find our knowledge about the Old Testament fairly sketchy, Orthodox Jewish people know and memorize the Bible with an intensity unknown to most of us Christians. This reminded me of some things I heard speaker Ray Vanderlaan say about children’s education during the time of Jesus, so I thought I’d share a bit of that with you today!
Children in ancient Israel could go through three levels of schooling — all of it focused on the Bible. All children — boys and girls — would go to the first level of schooling, Beth Sefer. The boys would focus on memorizing the Torah — Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. Girls would work on memorizing some of those books, along with the Psalms and Proverbs. Oh, by the way, these kids were ages 4-12. By age 12, boys would hope to have the entire first five books of the Bible memorized, so that they could lead their first Passover. (In Luke, we hear about Jesus at age 12 in Jerusalem for Passover, which means He had the Torah memorized! This may have been an easier task for Him than most boys, but it shows us that Jesus followed the traditions of the time.)
If boys showed great skill with the Scripture, they would go on to the level of Beth Midrash from ages 12-15. They would study the Torah and the interpretations of it. They would also focusing on memorizing as much of the Tanakh as possible. Oh yeah, the Tanakh is just the entire Old Testament.
Most boys did not make it to the third level, Beth Talmud. This level was for the all-stars. These students would study under a rabbi and would continue memorizing the Scripture from ages 15-30.
All this is fascinating to me because it shows how much the Jewish people value the Bible. Even now in modern-day Israel, young boys memorize the first five books of the Bible. They truly focus on hiding God’s word in their hearts. Another thing I find fascinating is something Ray Vanderlaan also noted. During Jesus’ time, disciples would go to a rabbi they admired and ask if they could follow him and study under him. But what we see Jesus do in the gospels is choose His disciples. He invites them to follow Him. What is significant, is that these young men are fishermen or tax collectors. They were not the all-stars of their Bible classes. They probably weren’t good enough to make it to the top levels of their education, so they had learned their fathers’ trades and started working in the family business. (They also were probably much younger than we tend to picture them. Most disciples studying under a rabbi were between the ages of 15-30, which means that some of the disciples were probably teenagers.) But Jesus chooses them. He will make them fishers of people. He will so affect them that they end up writing new Scripture through the power of the Holy Spirit.
God’s story is worth knowing. It is worth memorizing and it is worth telling. Like Pastor Dan said, we memorize and spend time with the things that are important to us. God’s word is so beautiful and so amazing!
I wrote a second post with some great resources you and your family can interact with as you learn, talk about and share God’s big story together!
P.S. Did anyone figure out Pastor Dan’s challenge question — Why did God choose Abraham? Hint: Genesis 18. (That’s a really good hint, guys.)