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Hebrew Spirituality: The Jewish Roots of Meditation (part 2)

Post Title: Yeshua's Theocentric and Text-centered Faith


The Word of God for Jesus, for Peter and Paul, and all the apostles—indeed for the first two-hundred years of the church—were the Hebrew scriptures, what we, unfortunately, call the Old Testament.

"These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled." Then he opened their minds to understand the Scripture [...]. - Luke 24:44-45


Jesus alludes here to the threefold division of the Tanakh (Hebrew scriptures). Tanakh is an acrostic for those divisions: Torah, the Law; Nevi'im, the Prophets; Ketuvim, the Writings.

The worldview of Hebrew spirituality was shaped by and centered upon the Tanakh. You need to realize that in the strict sense of the word, the biblical faith of Jesus and the apostles and other devout Jews was not really a theology. It was theonomy.

What is the difference? A theology is man's reflection on God's existence in nature. It is man's attempt to understand and relate to God. A theonomy begins with God as a given. You do not speculate about him; he has revealed himself. You do not seek to understand him because he has disclosed his wisdom.


God revealed himself by delivering his people from Egypt, followed by coming down on Mt. Sinai to reveal his will in his self-disclosure of holy Scripture.


The essence of biblical faith is not really theology, us speculating about God's existence, trying to figure out how to come to him, know him, understand him. It is not so much a reflection as it is a response. God has already made himself known. He exists, he saves, he reveals, and he wants to rule over to bring you into the fullness of the blessings he prepared for you when he created you after his image.

The Jewish faith of Jesus was theocentric, which is to say God-centered—and it was text-centered. Theocentric and text-centered. Do you understand the distinction between theology and theonomy? Not a man-centered reflection about, rather a faithful God-centered response to him, based on his self-disclosure, his revelation in Scripture.


If that is the biblical worldview of Jesus and the apostles—and indeed it was—then I suggest our view of Christian spiritual formation should also be theocentric and text-centered. Thus, meditation precisely addresses the issue of being God-centered and text-oriented in our spiritual walk.


The Jewish faith of Jesus was informed by and infused with holy Scripture. Indeed, he is God's Word incarnate. The Word of God was vitally important to Jesus, which is why for three and a half years, he spent his life as a rabbi, teaching the scriptures and embodying God's truth. How does meditation relate to this? It is one of the core features of Hebraic spirituality.

Consider the very organization of the Hebrew Bible as an indication of how important meditation was to the biblical worldview.

Remember, it is a threefold division called Tanakh, an acrostic for those divisions—Torah, Nevi'im, and Ketuvim. Please turn with me to Joshua 1:8. In Jesus' Bible, you begin with the five books of Moses. The second division of Scripture, the Prophets (Nevi'im), starts with the book of Joshua.

"This Book of the Law [Torah] shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success." - Joshua 1:8

At the beginning of the second division of the Hebrew scriptures, we are exhorted to meditate on the Torah, the first division of the Hebrew scriptures! Turn now to Psalm one. The third division of the Hebrew scriptures is the Writings (Ketuvim). Notice what the first verse of the first chapter of the third division says.


"Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers." Start noticing this language: the way, the path, the walk. "But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night." The Law here is Torah. The better rendering would probably be his instruction because the essence of the word torah means to instruct, to teach.


"On God's instruction, they meditate day and night."

Again we are exhorted to meditate on the first division of the Tanakh, the Torah. This time, at the beginning of the third division of the Hebrew Bible of Jesus. Is it a coincidence? I think not. It shows the crucial role meditation plays in helping us be God-centered and text-oriented in our spiritual walk.

We have numerous examples of this in the Psalms. For example,


I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds. - Psalm 77:11-12


Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer. - Psalm 19:14

I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that you have done; I ponder the work of your hands. - Psalm 143:5


So far, in our study, we have established that meditation is fundamental to a Hebraic view of spirituality. It is central to the Hebrew Bible, which is the revelation of God's identity, will, and wisdom. So the question is, what is this meditation of which the Bible speaks? Next, we'll turn our attention to exploring the answer.


 

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This study is from a professionally produced transcription of the audio recording. It was edited for readability by the team at JC Studies.


Dwight A. Pryor (1945-2011) was a gifted Bible teacher of exceptional clarity and depth who earned the friendship and admiration of both Christian and Jewish scholars—in the United States and Israel—as well as the respect and appreciation of followers of Jesus around the world. His expertise in the language, literature, and culture of Israel during the life and time of Jesus and the early church yield insights that nourish every area of faith and practice.


Dwight founded JC Studies in 1984 to edify the people of God. Click here to explore over fifty of his audio and video seminars.

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