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Saturday, March 21, 2015

A shepherd's hook and a nomadic tent

When you have an older adult living with you, such as one of your parents, it is not uncommon that the conversations will gravitate to what they want done after they are gone.  They want to know the few treasures they possess will end up in the hands of those they most want to have them - because they know they will enjoy them greatly.  Last night was one of those conversations with mom - turning not so much to the "bigger" material things she has, but the simple ones, like the china tea cups and the tea service she received from my grandmother at her death.  Yet, we didn't stop there - because the topic of her hearing aides came up, as well.  She didn't want them to go to just anyone - so she asked what I would do with them.  I told her my heart's inclination was to find some agency with children or older adults needing hearing aides who could not afford to purchase these expensive devices themselves and then to bless them with them being "refitted" for their ears.  The inside technology could be reused because they still have great life in them.  She seemed pleased with that answer and then began a time of silence in which I could tell she was pondering something else.  When I asked her what it was, she told me it would wonderful if I could find some way to help people get their eyesight back.  Even more than the loss of her hearing, she misses her vision the most!  If I could find a way to help even one person to keep their eyesight instead of succumbing to this awful darkness of macular degeneration, she would want me to do that one thing.  All I could do was remind her we have made arrangements for her body to be donated to science and perhaps in the examination of the end results of the disease, she might benefit others through that research.  She seemed happy to know this simple act on her part may help many others in the future.  Mom often tells me to protect my eyes - avoiding unnecessary strain by putting a light on when I read, to not rub them when they itch, and the like.  Why?  She has come to value them in ways most of us take for granted.  I think God reminds us to protect his teachings in our heart in much the same way mom wants me to protect my eyes - because we don't know fully what we possess!

My child, remember what I say and never forget what I tell you to do. Do what I say, and you will live. Be as careful to follow my teaching as you are to protect your eyes. Keep my teaching with you all the time; write it on your heart. Treat wisdom as your sister, and insight as your closest friend.  (Proverbs 7:1-4 GNT)

Be as careful to follow God's teaching as we are to protect our eyes - this is the crux of the message.  Don't be frivolous with God's Word.  Don't neglect either the attention we give to it, nor the obedience we pursue in response to it.  We don't really understand this concept of "writing something on our heart" until we see it through the eyes of the time in which it was written.  The Hebrew language uses "heart" to describe the seat of the emotions and the center of thought.  In Hebrew terms, the "heart" wasn't this beating organ at the center of our circulatory system, but the brain and all the components of thought and/or memory which goes along with it.  In Deuteronomy 6:5 we are told to love God with all our heart - something Jesus re-emphasized during his walk on this earth (Matthew 22:37).  In the understanding of the original language of this command, this refers to you and I keeping our emotions and thoughts all focused on working for God - not on ourselves.  We are to focus on what pleases him and brings pleasure to him.  The Hebrew word for heart is actually made up of two Hebrew letters - one is the symbol of the shepherd's hook, while the other is the symbol for the Hebrew tent which a "nomadic" individual would know to be his home.  These two combined symbolized both the idea of authority over a flock and the place of being within the tent or in the family - belonging inside or within the family.  In essence, the idea is that of "the authority within".  So, when we are reminded to write God's teachings on our heart, we are being told to give them a prominence which has both the authority to govern our actions and to guide the emotions we place behind those actions.

Turning our attention again to this passage, it is pretty clearly taught that we must actually do something with God's Word.  It doesn't get inside us through osmosis, or some mystical measures.  It gets there because we are careful to take it in and then to give it a place of prominence or attention in our lives.  This idea of being careful to do something with what we possess is kind of like when I tell mom to not put her hearing aides just anywhere when she takes them out. She must put them in a designated location, awaiting their return to the charger. She cannot manage this on her own, so I place them inside the charger. She does put them on the small mat beside the bed on occasion because she knows I will look there to make them "useful" for her once again on the next day.  God is kind of doing the same thing with us - he asks us to pay close attention to what we do with the Word we possess.  Then he comes along and takes what we couldn't figure out on our own and makes it "useful" for us!

Our part is to be aware of the importance of God's teaching.  His part is to help us get the most out of it.  Our part is to be attentive to his teaching and guard it with all the tenacity we can muster.  His part is to take what resides within and to make it the authority by which we live our lives.  We willingly submit to this authority - because we are guarding it as the ultimate authority by which we will take our steps.  Just sayin.