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The bible is often incorrectly defined as being made up of two separate books: the Jewish, or Hebrew bible, and the New Testament. For myself, and others like me who believe that all of God’s word is for everyone, the Bible is one book- it starts in Genesis and ends with Revelation.
The study of God’s word is the most important thing that anyone can do, and unlike getting a degree in History or Finance, it is something that never ends and always results in a new and deeper understanding of what God is telling us about who he is, who we are and how we should be.
The usual result of studying something is that we ask questions, and questions are good. Yes, I believe there are “stupid” questions, but we can learn even from those.
My question for all of us today is this: Are we asking the right questions?
During the years I have been “blogging” this ministry, I have seen so many people ask questions that, in my opinion, are not seeking to know God better, or to understand what God wants from us, but are along the lines of Gnostic thinking.
NOTE: Gnostic thinking is when we believe that our spiritual understanding, maybe even our salvation is strengthened through “special” knowledge.
What I mean by “right” questions is this: are these questions leading us to becoming better people or just better trained in identifying details in God’s word? Are we learning more about what God wants us to become or are we becoming more interested in finding out hidden things, being smarter and having more knowledge than someone else?
The kinds of questions I see cropping up all the time deal with details about what I believe to be unrelated to salvation. For instance, the biggest argument I see is how to pronounce God’s holy name, the Tetragrammaton. This devolves into the same argument with Yeshua’s name. I also see people arguing over whether or not the “day” begins at night or at dawn? When does the lunar Sabbath start? Did Yeshua really have a Seder or did he celebrate the day before the “real” Seder? Is Satan a man? Is the earth really flat? How long did Yeshua walk the earth?
These, and many other questions, are interesting- no doubt about that. They can serve as fodder for debate and discussion, but are they important? How does knowing when the Shabbat starts save our souls?
The answer I will get from those types who absolutely love to nit-pick details from the bible (straining gnats) is that it is very important to know these things. One argument I have heard is that we are to call on the name of the Lord, but how can we if we don’t know how to pronounce it? If we don’t know his “real” name then we may be calling on the enemy of God!
Really? How many times are we told throughout the bible that God knows the heart? If God knows my heart, and I am calling out to him with a contrite spirit, repentant and asking for forgiveness do you really think that God is so petty and self-centered he will reject me just because I don’t pronounce his name exactly as Moses heard it? In the bible there are many different names used to identify God, and if we believe that the bible is what God told people to write down, then these different names are all given to us from God. That means God is OK with us using any one of them, and since the original Hebrew didn’t have vowel points, we can’t really know exactly how to pronounce them. As such, it seems to me that any way we pronounce it will be fine with God so long as we are calling out from our heart.
I believe that knowing exactly when a Holy Day starts is not as important as celebrating it.
I believe that calling on God and praying to him using any name we have always used to identify God is fine with God. He is concerned with our attitude not our pronunciation.
I believe that God wants us to know and worship him better and isn’t concerned with the details of when the day begins or whether or not the calendar we use is accurate. If someone celebrates Pesach on the wrong day because the calendar they have misled them, I do not believe God will reject their worship.
The bible constantly tells us that God is not interested in the ‘blood of bulls and sheep’ but in the attitude of worship we bring before him. He was very specific in his instructions regarding the sacrificial system, the building of the Tabernacle, the measurements of the Temple that Ezekiel saw in his vision, and I believe all those details mean something. Yet, knowing what that “something” is will NOT save your soul. Knowing what God wants from you and acting in that way WILL save your soul.
When I am interested in learning some detail of the bible I always ask myself my own Acid Test question: “How will this affect my salvation?” If it isn’t knowledge that will direct me closer to acting the way God says I should act, then it is not that important.
For example, knowing what importance the number “40” has in the bible will not save my soul, but knowing Abraham was credited righteousness because of his faith will save my soul.
Knowing exactly when the Shabbat begins and the absolutely correct date on the calendar will not bring me any closer to being the type of person God wants me to be, but faithfully observing the Shabbat, no matter when I observe it, will bring me closer to the proper worship of God and demonstrate my faithfulness, which will affect my salvation.
I know that there are many at this very moment who are yelling at me in their heads, telling me that everything in the bible affects salvation. I respectfully disagree, but understand why they feel that way- it is the only justification they can have for continuing to be Gnostic. If you ask me, the legalism that Shaul identified as misleading those Gentiles who accepted Yeshua as their Messiah has taken a new form today within the Christian world. Judaism has long suffered with this problem which is from following the Talmud as though it was God-given scripture, despite the fact that Halacha is rabbinic regulation. This is what Yeshua was against and did not want us to be encumbered with. Many Christians who are trying to live their lives and worship God more in accordance with the Torah are in a way disrespecting the Torah by becoming too interested in the details and missing out on the meanings. They are learning facts and figures and ignoring spiritual guidance and growth.
Spiritual growth doesn’t come from knowing facts, it comes from having faith. Faith doesn’t need justification or confirmation- that is how faith works. And faith absolutely affects our salvation.
Let’s close with this… I absolutely do NOT have any problem with wanting to know everything there is to be found in the bible. What I do have a problem with is thinking that knowing everything in the bible is essential. I also have a problem with people arguing over how much they know more than someone else, especially when it leads to those people accusing others of being faithless or ignorant or- worst of all- not really saved just because they disagree with what the other person believes.
When it comes down to it, all God wants is what we are told he wants in Micah 6:8:
He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.
If you know nothing more than that and live your life that way, you will be OK.