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Tuesday: Reading and Interpreting the Word — 5 Comments

  1. Apart from the Seder Torah (Written Torah), the Jews also had the Torah she-be-`al peh, (Oral Torah). In ancient times many people could neither read nor write, and the only contact a lot of people would have had with written records was at a ceremonial gathering such as described in Nehemiah. The Oral Torah had been part of the Jewish (Israelite) tradition from before the exile. The Oral Torah was the collection of explanations about the written Torah. The Oral Torah was later (early Christian era) formalized and written down in the Talmud and Mishna.

    It should also be noted that in post-exilic Jerusalem, the exiles who had returned were largely priests and scholars, while the non-exiles were the peasants and farmers. This ceremonial gathering was essentially an opportunity to rekindle the Israelite vision for those who had remained behind. (as a side note, Babylon continued to host a large Jewish community and that community developed a significant rabbinical school later.) The explainers were later called Rabbis. As a side note, it is interesting to note that the term Rabbi is not used in the Old Testament, and in the New Testament its most frequent use is for Jesus.

    One of the things we need to think about when we read this story is what were the issues that faced the post-exilic Jews. One issue that had not been brought out in the lesson is that the Jews were not a nation in their own right after the exile right up to modern times with the establishment of modern Isreal. They had to establish their national identity while at the same time being ruled by other nations. In a sense, Seventh-day Adventists face the same issue. We are not a nation in our own right but are always subject to the rule and government of others. We have to form our own identity within the realm of other rulers and governments. The Jews looked for their identity in the Torah both Seder and she-be-`al peh. What is the basis of our identity?

  2. So Ezra stood on a platform: This allowed visibility of the speaker and gave a focal point for the audience.
    When Ezra opened the book, all the people stood up because of the transformation of the heart.
    They had respect for the Word. They came with the willing ears to listen to the Word of God.
    It is important to for us to understand the word that is being read.
    Acts 8:26 - 40
    29 And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” 30 So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.

    Philip was led by the Spirit to the Ethiopian Eunuch and Ethiopian Eunuch had a willing spirit to be led by the Spirit.

    It is important for us to spend time reading and understanding the Word to distinguish our action are in alignment with the Word of God.

    Word of God alone can give us a moral standard against sin.
    Have you read to understand the Word of God?

  3. When we are open, we recognize the truth wherever it comes from. Just pay attention. By being in contact with the Word our counsciousness arises. The one who looks for the truth will find it!

  4. Reading the explanation of how Ezra and his fellow scholars read the Word and the meticulous ceremony behind it reminds me of my visit to Israel in 2015. A Jewish colleague invited me to attend a Friday night prayer session, and I was in awe by the hundreds of people, singing, reciting the Torah, swaying their heads back and forth as a gesture of reverence for the Word of God. It made me realize that reading the Bible is an awesome privilege, and should be treated as such.

    The second part of this lesson about the Ethiopian Eunuch was a subtle challenge to me. There are so many times at work or in social gatherings when someone asked me about my faith or a passage in the Bible, and I missed the chance to evangelize. I want to be as effective as Philip, who was able to explain scripture AND baptize the eunuch in the same day. Now that is a great messenger for God.

  5. "I wish you all spoke with tongues, but even more that you prophesied; [a]for he who prophesies is greater than he who speaks with tongues, unless indeed he interprets, that the church may receive edification. So likewise you, unless you utter by the tongue words easy to understand, how will it be known what is spoken? For you will be speaking into the air." 1 Cor 14:5 & 9

    Paul writes about importance of understanding words so they can edify listeners as it is applied.

    When Religious/theological lingo is heard..such as justification, sanctification, reconciliation, glorification, incarnation, it can be like unknown tongues if not explained. Christian cliches like ...God is in control, Let go & let God, Ask Jesus to come into your heart.... are other ways to speak in unknown tongues...even though they are English words.When bible verses & religious terms are not exegeted or explained..how can the listener apply in the life?
    Inductive method of teaching--acquire knowledge, analyze it, apply it..or observe, explain, apply.


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