Wednesday, January 17, 2007
People have asked me, even debated with me, about the significance of the Old Testament. I’ve also been challenged about my love for the ancient Hebrew texts, my references to Judaism within in the construct of Christianity and the fact that I have in my reference library a copy of the Tanach.
There seems to be a feeling amongst some of us that Christianity and Judaism are opposing forces in the religious world. Polar opposites. Never the twain shall meet.
These thoughts came to a head several years ago in our former church. I was talking to a dear friend who was filling in for the adult Sunday School teacher one week. In preparing for his lesson, the teacher’s manual advised a consideration of the “impact of Shiloh.” The man came to me to ask if I understood the question and ultimately, what was Shiloh?
Well, I didn’t know. I looked in my handy dandy concordance and couldn’t find the word. I asked a few people and they were stumped as well. I went to my ultimate Old Testament source, my Gramma and Grampa Gerhardstein.
Gramma and Grampa were not just Bible-readers but students of the Word. They didn’t read a daily devotional for the sake of it but read to understand. They studied, discussed and prayed about the sacred text.
So I headed to Gramma and Grampa’s house and asked them, “What is Shiloh?”
Immediately my Gramma answered, it was where Eli the high priest learned the Arc of the Covenant had been lost. We turned to the reference, Gramma, Grampa and myself.
We read together, heads bent over our individual Bibles. In 1 Samuel we found the record of Eli sitting on a stool and being told the horrible report, the Arc was gone.
Then we talked about why this mattered? What was the significance? We followed the thread of the Arc of the Covenant representing the glory and the presence of God with Israel. We realized that the loss of the Arc meant that the Glory of God was gone from Israel. We knew the utter devastation this meant and it shook us to think about it. My Gramma wept as she considered the moment. My Grampa talked in a low and reverent voice about how far we are today, from mourning the Glory of God. How easily we live without it, not appreciating our own state of devastation.
I was excited at what I’d learned that day. I went home and called my friend to tell him what the reference to Shiloh represented. His turn to teach was still a few days away and he’d be able to share such a sacred truth with his students. His response?
“I’m not gonna worry about that. I’m a New Testament Christian. I’m under grace!”
Did he teach his students about Shiloh and the Glory of God that Sunday? No.
But we are not New Testament Christians. At least I’m not.
The writers who penned the Bible did not divide it into chapter, verse and testament. This is a modern organization of the history of God. Taken properly, it is not the before and after but the continuum of the Glory of God us-ward.
Even as we claim the salvation of Grace through Christ, we must embrace the mercy of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. It was this mercy that ordained the cross by which we are saved.
Don’t run away from the Old Testament text. Don’t consider it just the history of Israel or the record of the law.
In the ancient books of the Hebrews you will find the Glory of God, revealed and lost. You will find the heart of man, broken and restored.
You will learn about the God of Creation and his utter refusal to let go of a rebellious nation.
Only then can you understand the miracle of grace.
And the lesson of Shiloh.
1 Samuel 3:21
And the LORD appeared again in Shiloh: for the LORD revealed himself to Samuel in Shiloh by the word of the LORD.