Monday, November 20, 2017

A Whirlpool of Concepts

This is the fourth of a series of articles on thinking like a Hebrew and not like a Greek. See the other articles below.  Need I point out that Yeshua's thinking was entirely Hebrew as God intended Hebrews to think?

In September 1989 president George Bush Sr. called for the nations’ governors to promote education reform. Never before in the history of America was such a thing needed or asked for. But the problem isn’t the schools, the problem is the family.  We today are caught in a swirl of thoughts, values, ideals and ideas, each colored by different concepts of who is responsible for what! 
The moral condition of our younger generations (note the plural on generations) make this clear:  We can’t legislate what should be natural to a family structure. Leave it up to the schools and we get what we have - moral chaos. When schools don’t meet the needs of the children its because the families aren’t meeting their needs.  It’s not for the schools to raise the kids, it’s for the Mom’s and Dad’s to raise their kids. I would go so far as to say when we've left it up to the church to raise our kids properly, that too has more often turned out a generation that doesn't carry with it the values their parents' hoped they'd learn from their pastors and bible teachers. The one validity in all this, is that God intended for both parents, with father's at the head of the home, to raise the children unto God.  The bible doesn’t say much about schools  and teachers but it sure does say a lot about parents and learning.  

In the last few articles, we’ve looked at ancient Greece and how they regarded children. We’ve also looked at the Hebrew model for raising children. Which do you see America leaning toward?  Athens education was almost entirely individualistic. The training was all for developing the individual to express themselves in their culture.  Sparta was all about development of force and power for the good of the State. I wonder, do we have some of both today? Do we aim toward inspiring individualism while at the same time see an increase in (political) Group-think?

Whether Athens, Sparta or Jerusalem, the values and goals that are most important to any particular group of people becomes the motivating force behind education of the next generation.  

The Hebrew model was for the development of the children for the glory of God and that His ways flourish.  Their children were for the service of God! The Hebrew family model starts with two people committed to one another for the rest of their lives. There’s security in that alone for the children.  Where there is mutual affection and commitment, the children learn respect and learn to honor one another, starting with their parents. These begin at home prior to any formal education.  Included would be the likes of paying attention and listening to an adult when they are speaking to you.  Having respect for others begins there, followed by prompt obedience. With this comes self-control.   These are foundational learning skills that create a person – and then a culture – of character and integrity.  Included in this is that there is a sound foundation for those children to raise their own children the same way in such a stable environment. 

This, however, is not today’s American culture.  The children are being raised by what they see in the media than by their parents. I once had an 8th grade class I was teaching in a Christian school. I asked the students to note throughout the week when they saw one of the Ten Commandments violated when they were watching TV during that week. I did it too and we were all shocked by how many were broken. And that was some 25 years ago!! Imagine what it would be today. The rare count today would be to find where the biblical values were actually upheld.   

Post WWII parenting models for some reason were largely child based. Give the child what they wanted.  Indulge them, cater to them.  Don’t over-discipline them. The no-spanking rule developed around them. The result is the most “me-centered” and destructive generation in American history.
Another aspect of the Hebrew parenting model is a community of families.  They had a common world-view, a mutually applied standard of parenting and agreed upon purposes of learning.  The school would not be the center of learning and education, the home was. And the community of families was. Hillary was right about the fact that “It takes a village to raise a child” – successfully, IF, that is, the village has the right values to begin with.  Sparta and Athens also had villages and agreed upon standards. 

I had the privilege at one time of being part of a Messianic “village” of sorts, a neighborhood in which a large number of us lived as families.  The children spent much time in each other’s homes where to a fair extent we were all in agreement of what we wanted our children to learn and to experience. It wasn’t perfect by any means, but it did give me the sense of the value of living in such a community when it is a healthy and God-centered one with correct doctrines. 

The first believers raised their children house-to-house, as the Book of acts tells us. Can you imagine what an exciting life that must have been for a kid, with all those signs and wonders happening, and the power of the Spirit manifested in their homes. But also that they were a part of such a meaningful  move of God, and has such a great sense of purpose and calling. They were God’s children and were expected to carry themselves in a godly way.  Would that not be the way we would like our children and grandchildren to live in the expectation of their role as God’s people as we grow closer and closer to His coming. Especially if there was a standard of godliness – of love and kindness, of respect and honor of one another, just as Yeshua was toward each person. What a wonderful sense of self-value – the kind that values each person as mutually valuable to God.  To attempt to see things as God does!
Abraham Heschel, a wise Jewish sage has said, “To us, wisdom is the ability to look at all things from the point of view of God.”  Amen to that. 

What was of value was not that a child or for that matter any person would have a high I.Q., but what kind of person were they in character?  Smart isn’t always wise!  The principle aim of learning is to gain wisdom, character and understanding – not of how thing’s or business or even intellect "work", but of how God thinks and how He wants us to understand the needs of one another and to be sensitive to others. “Be ye kind one to another,” is not a frivolous inconsequential verse. It carries great power and authority in one’s life. Being a person of trusting character is far more valuable in life than to gain much worldly wisdom – in God’s eyes, which would also mean in the eyes of those who value things as God values them.
Proverbs 4:7 says, “the principle aim of learning is to gain wisdom and understanding.” It’s worth thinking about.  Wisdom is to know how to live as we ought.  But we have detached learning from living, and school from life.    Do you remember in school thinking things were “irrelevant?” Much of it was.  Learning dates of battles in history class has nothing to do with developing character in our youngsters. 

The Greeks saw man as the measure of all things. Socrates said, “Know thyself.”  But the Hebrews’ cry was “Know God!”  Knowing God is seeing all things from His point of view which required getting to know what He said, and what He thinks. The Tenach mentions “God said,” 618 times which does not include other times He spoke without those introductory words.  We can assume He had much He would want us to learn. How else can we know what He’s truly saying and how He thinks but to read and listen with our hearts and hear what He’s saying to us.. Commentaries tell us how the commentators think He thinks!  But is it not likely that the Ruach HaKadosh, the Holy Spirit,  would rather that each person would have a loving and intimate relationship with Him, hearing His voice in their own spirits, their own hearts, to know what He would want to say directly to them. This might be seen as heresy in some circles… but is it possible that teaching our children to listen for God’s voice to them, to hear Him for themeselves, is of great value? 

Within the passages of the Bible lie all the elements of the biblical world view: The origin of life through the intelligent act of a Personal Unlimited All-Powerful God!  What if we taught our children that, instead of letting them come to some Hollywood-born cockeyed view of how the world is constructed.  What if he or she learned of the absolute 'non-negotiatableness' of moral law as something to recognize and accept for oneself in our own values?  Rather than being left to discern a value system for themselves.

The centrality to that is the love relationship with God. And each person needs to be aware of having an identity as an image-bearer to God, though fallen into sin – which we are overcoming. God’s call to us is, in part, to responsible stewardship over the earth under the Supreme authority of the Almighty!  The role of parents is to teach these kinds of values to their children. The parents are meant to be in the role of the teachers in these regards.  Letting the children know that the promise of blessings upon them is to those who live and love to serve God. 

Any teacher outside the home was considered an extension of the Father. It was the Father who remained responsible for much of the teaching that took place in their children’s ‘formative years.’  A Jewish person, to reiterate it, would not ask what kind of scholar is he? Or how much has he done thus-and-so?  Rather He was ask, “What kind of person is he?”  This leaves us with the questions as to how we each view others…. and ourselves?

Saturday, November 11, 2017


In the past three articles (see them below) we have been looking at how two different Greek cultures desired a perfection of their respective cultures:   Sparta for their physical bodies being  in a perfect a shape as possible for battle, which also included competition among themselves.  Athens on the other hand sought the perfection of their intellect or the arts.  We still see today Greek statues and architecture, both of which represent the standards of excellence in the human body and of their buildings.  In both cultures, we saw how they practiced infanticide, doing away with babies that appeared to be weak in any way which were not expected to meet the standards of their respective excellence.  In the case of Athens, babies were also seen as being in the way of their search for “the good life” they sought to lead.  
Homosexuality was also regarded as normal, especially in Sparta where men spent a good bit of their lives in the army. With few fathers at home, what children there were (who were kept alive; see the previous article) tended to be somewhat at war with their mothers as to who would run the household. Women had been raised to be competitive in Sparta, through wrestling and running races. The young boys were taught from the ages of seven to begin to live the hardening life of a soldier.  In short, the family was hardly a family at all. And the society was devoid of enough children to provide a thriving  second generation. It would appear that the parents never gave thought to how all that baby-killing and homosexuality would deplete the population sufficiently to jeopardize the very continuation of the culture they so tried to perfect or enjoy.  

Let’s shift now to how the Hebrew culture was dealing with their cultural and familial structure.  When God called Abraham, He chose him for this reason: “For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the Lord, to do righteousness and justice, that the Lord may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him” (Genesis 18:19).  For a people to become the strong nation that God called them to be, they would have to have a strong patriarchal society.  The fathers would be a parental mentor who would teach his children to honor God and to maintain a family of honor for one another in the ways God would teach them.  This in no way minimizes the role of the mother as Proverbs 31 reveals.  Israel would be a nation of God-honoring families.  

We can see this emphasis carried out even in Paul’s life when he exhorts Timothy to be sure that any man he puts into spiritual authority would be a man whose household is in spiritual order and his children are obedient to him and to God. If a man’s household is not in godly order, he would not be qualified to be a leader in the church. 

While children’s learning was accomplished mostly by the father, the family life did not center around the children. Though the children’s training was a major focus of the family life, part of the training included the children learning that life did not revolve around them.  They were to be respectful toward and obedient to their parents.  The family structure also assumes that the parents respected one another. In this way Hebrew parents laid a foundation of honor and respect for one another.  And a life of obedience to God in their respective roles.   The theory behind this is that it is much easier to submit to God when you are older when you learn it as children.  

In the Ten Commandments, the 5th Commandment is to “Honor your mother and your father” which the sages and rabbis of old consider is one with the four commandments above it which are all about our relationship with God.  The following five regard relationships among people.  Honoring one’s parents has much to do with how you honor God.  To honor God, you will honor your parents. To dishonor your parents then is to dishonor God for the commandment is His. So that commandment is considered having to do with one’s relationship with God.  It is, then, a major factor in the foundation and stability of the culture. 

Back to Athens and Sparta, despite the diminished next generation, what young ‘uns there remained, there was a great expectation that they would carry a greater achievement than their parents did. They were the hope of the future. They would be stronger, or smarter, or more artistic, or more poetic…. They would succeed in greater measure than their parents had.   We see, of course, the unfortunate and frightening similarities between ancient Greece and America today.  Aside from the societal acceptance (and legalization) of both infanticide – we in America today don’t even allow the babies to be born before they are cruelly done away with – and homosexuality having to do with both sexes, one of the distinguishing marks of the 20th and now the 21st centuries is an exaltation of the youth.  Do we not all try to look younger? Do we not allow the ways of youth to dominate and dictate many aspects of our society?  One might ask of many of the families today, “Where are the fathers?” Or in some cases, the mothers are missing.  Part-time parents, or even parents living in the house but who are not intimately involved in the moral and cultural upbringing of the children are all abandoning the responsibility of raising the next generation well.  The media seems to have more involvement than the parents.

In Israel the hope of the future was not in the hands of the youth. It rested firmly on the shoulders of the fathers as heads of the households as well as the elders of the community.  The elders did not look to the youth for wisdom, nor did the youth look to their peers for wisdom or understanding. They looked to their parents – because the hope of the future was in the adults! 

As it has been said, “As went the fathers, so went the nation!  If a child was to enter into wisdom and blessings, it was the fathers who would lead them there.  He was the real hope of the future.  What does that say about our single parent families today?  Israel was definitely an elder-oriented society.  There was no exalting of the child or elevating the youth. Rather the elders were looked to and revered for their wisdom.  In striking contrast is Athens which treated aging persons unkindly, as they feared and mourned old age, of growing older.  Is there any similarity in America? Why do we all try to look younger? What does that say about our culture?  Who carries more of our cultural values, our elders or our youth? Which generation is defining our values? 

The individual Hebrew family is part of something much larger than itself – a community with a common history and mutually shared values.  Hebrew children, as well as their parents, were constantly reminded of their common unity, through Shabbat, and the six moedim, holy days that are celebrated every year that consisted of feasts and festivals and other remembrances.  Coming together for all these as well as a public readings of Scripture reminded them of their history and the place God of God in their lives. They maintained an awareness of who they are and where they came from which was regularly imparted to young minds.  To use the previously quoted statement another way, “So goes the family, so goes the world.”  While Sparta was all about capturing other city-states, the Hebrews were concerned about a person’s inner character. They would be more concerned with this:  A man or woman, a boy or girl with self control in his or her life is a person who can control his own self and is stronger than one who captures an entire city.  (Proverbs 16:32).

The ultimate center of Israel was not the king, or the elders at the gate, or the priests in the temple, and not even the fathers. But it is the living God to whom they were all equally accountable – young and old, parent and children, common man or monarch. It was on God they were to focus their love and service. The results speak for themselves in so many different ways. 

The question presents itself in light of all this information. What does the church have to learn from her Hebrew roots? Has the church strayed away into more of a Greek mindset?  Are we more focused on looking good on the outside, as the Greeks did, or are we entirely absorbed with the kind of persons we are becoming on the inside, in our characters, integrity, values and in the things that our hearts are focused on.   

 We have been told that we, who are truly the Lord’s, are to be continually  conformed(reformed) into the likeness of Yeshua who was the perfect Hebrew Man.   
 Perhaps the Lord is making known more of what Hebrew culture is in order that it would have influence on His people elsewhere. After all, He has made us to be “one new man” – really “one new culture,” the foundation for which was that which Yeshua embodied for us as it should be lived.