Deuteronomy 7:12: “Wherefore it shall come to pass, if ye hearken to these judgments, and keep, and do them, that the LORD thy God shall keep unto thee the covenant and the mercy which he swore unto thy fathers:”
Every promise in the book is mine
Every chapter, every, verse every line.
-Tradition Sunday School chorus-
This morning is Thanksgiving day and I woke up singing this little chorus that I sung so often in Sunday School, children’s church and VBS when I was child those many years ago. I grew up attending a Baptist church on Waveland and Damen Avenue in Chicago. My family and I attended that church almost every day of the week and twice on Sundays. That was home and the people in the church were an extended family who taught me to love God and His Word with all my heart. My fondest memories of childhood all revolve around that Baptist church. The memories of white gloved ladies admonishing me to “not run in the house of God” and Herman Bell dressing up as the Duke of Paducah. I woke up this morning on Thanksgiving with thanksgiving to God that I have these childhood memories to cherish and that I still cling to the faith that was so instilled in me as child by those people who loved me and trained me in my faith.
It was, after all a fundamentalist Baptist church where we were taught that dancing, drinking, smoking and theater attendance was sinful. Well, after all those years I still cling to two of those taboos. I mean I cannot help but appreciate the art and skills of dancing and there have been some pretty good movies lately with a strong Christian message. So I guess I did slack off from a little bit of that training. However, there are certain things that were so instilled in me as a child that I will never let go of, that are more precious to me than life itself and that is my belief in the fundamentals of my faith. I can still sign that doctrinal statement from Moody Bible Institute without flinching. The key line in that statement is “ARTICLE II The Bible, including both the Old and the New Testaments, is a divine revelation, the original autographs of which were verbally inspired by the Holy Spirit. (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21).” Note is says, the original autographs not the English version that we have. With over 120 modern English translations and paraphrases of the Bible it would be impossible to say that they are all the inspired Word of God or that any one of them is the inspired Word of God. Yet, in a wonderful way, they all really are the inspired Word of God because the original language that it was written in is too ambiguous to render in a word for word translation. Therein lies my lifelong passion, to study not only every chapter, every verse and every line, but to also study every word and letter of the Bible for I believe that every word and every letter as found in the original autographs are inspired by the Holy Spirit and I have become obsessed with studying as many words and letters of the Bible that I can during this life time.
Let me give you an example. In Deuteronomy 7:12 the second word in this verse in Hebrew is eiqev which is rendered in the KJV as it shall come to pass. Some modern English translations
render this as, listen, pay attention, obey, after you have heard, it shall happen, it has been, to name just a few renderings. The word itself means because or on account of. All the renderings by our many translations are correct. The translators may render eiqev with different words but it all means the same thing. The message remains unchanged.
Now here is what the Jewish rabbis and sages do that we Christians do not do. We honor the Masoretic text and use it as the basis of our translation, but we do recognize that the Masoretic text, written 700 years after the birth of Christ is not the inspired autograph. The inspired autographs no longer exist or have not yet been found. We do know, however, that Hebrew writing, at the time of the original autographs had no vowels, it only used consonants. Three of these consonants were used as vowels but that hardly offered us the precise expression that the Masoretic text gave us. The Masoretic text developed a series of dots and dashes to express the finer grammatical points of the Hebrew language. These finer points help us to distinguish whether the three consonants for eiqev found in ancient text (Ayin, Qof and Beth) express a noun, conjunction or an adverb. Oddly, the Masoretic text puts a qammets underneath the Ayin and not a sere’. The ‘sere makes it an adverb which would then render this as because, on account of, pay attention, listen etc. But the qammets, which the Masoretic text uses makes it a noun. This is the same root from which we get the word Jacob. It means in its noun form a heel or the hoof of a horse. In its Persian and Akkadian form it means the rear of an army.
Now we as Christians just look at the word, say it is an adverb, praise the Lord, let’s move on. Not so with the Jewish sages and rabbis, they believe every word is inspired by the Holy Spirit in all its grammatical forms. “Ok,” some ancient sages may say, “It is an adverb, we got that, but what is God trying to tell us when this word is used as a noun. Huh? Hey? One dimensional Western cultured Christian, did you think about that?” “Ridiculous,” we say, “In our Bible colleges and seminaries we teach that the word heel or horse hoof or even the rear of an army has nothing to do with keeping the judgments of God. Come on, don’t be so unacademic and reading into or sermonizing this text.”
But you see the sages and rabbis didn’t care about academics, they cared about what God was saying, they wanted to know every little bit of detail in what God was trying to say. Some ancient rabbis teach that the heel, the horses hoof, the rear of an army are not given much attention yet we are to apply God’s ordinances even to those areas of our lives to which we pay little attention. Perhaps God is saying we are to trample the ordinances with our heel that is to break them down into its finest detail and examine it piece by piece. Or perhaps, like the heel is insignificant to other parts of our body we are still to pay attention to for without the heel we would not be able to walk. Perhaps God is saying we should pay attention to even the seemingly insignificance parts of his ordinances, for without them we would not be able to walk with God.
I can see the sages shaking their fist at us Christians saying, “Just an adverb indeed, mashugana, God inspired His Word without vowels because He has a message for us with his Words being used as verbs, adjectives, adverbs, conjunctions and nouns, modern Hebrew syntax – a pox be upon you.”
Oh, just a footnote here. One rabbi actually counted all the Hebrew words in the ten commandments and then calculated the numerical value of the word eiqev and both came to 172. I know, big deal, no message there, God didn’t design it that way, just a coincidence, we’re sermonizing again. Right!(?)