Gods 'big' story of faith and obedience

Gods 'big' story of faith and obedience

Thursday, 22 May 2014  | Narelle - MECS Principal
I have always been fascinated by Jewish culture and learning about Jewish people across the ages. One of my formative schooling experiences was studying the book, The Chosen, a story about Hasidic Jews living in 20th Century America. When I travelled to Israel, I can recall vividly the moving experience of praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, side-by-side with Jews of various degrees of orthodoxy. I am fascinated by their rituals and observances; one of them being the wearing of a prayer shawl, or in Hebrew, the ‘tzitzee’. Many of you would be familiar with the image of orthodox Jews with the fringe of their prayer shawls appearing just under their jackets.

This requirement is first recorded in Numbers 15. Apart from outlining a whole host of other requirements, God says to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘Throughout the generations to come you are to make tassels on the corners of your garments… you will have these tassels to look at and so you will remember all the commands of the Lord, that you may obey them…” (v. 37 – 39)

I like this idea – and it makes good sense to me – to have visual reminders of what we must remember to do. Way back centuries before the chaotic and over-stimulated culture that we live in now, God realised that as humans we get easily distracted and we would need simple reminders to obey and honour Him! And many of us still might use various tools to do this: our devotional guides, a cross hanging somewhere in our house or around our neck, a WWJD rubber bracelet. Our own ‘tzitzee’ if you like. I think these things have their place.

What I find fascinating – and this is what I love as I read and learn more about the Bible and the truth of how Jesus comes to fulfill and continue the story of salvation – is that the Hebrew word for the corner of the prayer shawl on which the tassels are attached is ‘kanaf’. The same word is used later in Malachi when he is prophesying about the coming of the Messiah. He says, “The son of righteousness will come with healing in His wings” or healing in his ‘kanaf’.  And so legend grew up that the coming Messiah would have healing powers in the tassels of his prayer shawl or ‘kanaf’.

Now jump forward to the story in the New Testament recorded in Luke chapter 8.

“As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. She came up behind him and touched the edge of his garment, and immediately her bleeding stopped.” (v.42b – 44)
One can presume that, as an obedient Jewish woman, she probably knew about the promise of the coming Messiah who would have healing powers in the tassels of his prayer shawl and one also assumes, as a good Orthodox Jew, Jesus was probably wearing his prayer shawl. And so in great confidence she reached out and touched the ‘kanaf’, the corners of his prayer shawl and indeed she was healed.

How much richer is our understanding of the Word of God when we can see this story not only as a story of Christ’s healing power but confirmation once again of the promised Messiah that we read about in the books of the Prophets. And what a great privilege it is to be living in this part of the Biblical story where we actually know and worship the One that came to bring ‘healing in his wings’.

Our faith is NOT dependent on carrying out a quaint ritual or wearing a particular garment but is dependent on our relationship with the living God who comes to us in the person of Christ and in the presence of the Holy Spirit. Indeed it is the Spirit of God within us that is the ultimate ‘tzitzee’ – the one who reminds and prompts us in faith and obedience.

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