Before the Beginning
by Major Andrea See, USA Eastern Territory
We know that Jesus was 'the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world' (Revelation 13:8 NIV). Calvary wasn't an accident. It was God's plan from before the beginning of time! Israel's responsibility and opportunity continues to be a living visual aid for the Gentiles. How exciting it is to see all the details working together to bring glory to God!
Major Andrea See
Even in the minutest details of God's planning, we are brought to admire him as we discover their meaning. From the beginning, the Jewish people had a 'pup tent religion and the Jews were his movable treasure' (Walter Kaiser). Although the Tabernacle was a temporary structure, we can see just how much God valued his relationship with the Jews when we study the symbolism behind the ornaments found in the Tabernacle. For example, the colours of the linen curtains are always in the same order: violet, purple, crimson, gold and white. Translated as a Hebrew idiomatic arrangement of words the significance is as follows: 'Will buy', 'the heavens', 'from their king', 'by his blood', 'our cleansing', or 'Heaven's royal blood purchases our purity'. So every time the Jews entered God's presence, this message of redemption was before their eyes.
God continued following his redemptive plan through his incarnation. And because Jesus was raised in a Jewish home, we see more clearly how worshipping God touched every part of Hebrew life. There was no dichotomy between the sacred and the secular; working was as spiritual an activity as studying. The Hebrew word abad is translated as 'work and serve', as well as 'worship'.
From the time a child entered the classroom he was taught to love the Law. On the first day of study, the child would be shown a slate with the letters of the alphabet, two verses of Scripture (Leviticus1:1 and Deuteronomy 33:4) and this sentence: 'The Law will be my calling.' The teacher would read these to the child and then the child would recite them back. Next, the teacher would cover the child's slate with honey which the child then licked off. This was to remind him of the words Ezekiel spoke after eating the scroll: 'I ate it and it tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth' (Ezekiel 3:3 NIV). After this ceremony, the child was given sweet cakes with Bible verses from the Law written on them.
In Mary and Joseph's home, Jesus was raised piously following Hebrew customs. As the law required, Jesus was circumcised on the eighth day. (Luke 2:21) Luke tells how at the time of Mary's purification (which was at the same time as a sixth week check-up after giving birth to a child) Jesus' parents offered a pair of doves or pigeons as required by the Law of Moses. We know that Jesus was a member of a poor family from the type of sacrifice that his parents chose. The sacrifice was brought to the priest who took one bird and wrung its neck for a sin offering; the other bird was offered as a whole burnt offering.
Like other boys in town, Jesus spoke Aramaic in his home. The traditional timeline for boys starting their study of the Scriptures was followed. When he turned three, he began to study Hebrew. At age five, he began to memorise the Torah (beginning with Leviticus). At age 10, he studied the Mishna or oral law. Jesus celebrated his Bar-mitz-vah when he was 13 years old. He even studied the legal decisions of the Law at age 15.
As a practising Jew, Jesus wore both a tallit and phylacteries. Still used today, the tallit is a prayer shawl. The phylacteries are two small boxes containing pieces of parchment that have portions of the Torah written on them. When it is time for morning prayers, one of the boxes is attached to the arm near the heart; the other is worn on the head. The one on the arm would have been wrapped all the way to Jesus' fingers. There it was wrapped around his hand in such a manner that it spelled the name of God as 'El Shaddai'. When Jesus prayed to El Shaddai, he prayed to God Almighty the God of Abram to whom El Shaddai established his everlasting covenant with him and with Abram's descendants. With this visible reminder Jesus was encouraged to love the Lord his God with all his heart (Deuteronomy 6:5).
As a male, Jesus would have been viewed as an essential part of the family since he could carry on the family line. However, God's redemptive plan wasn't limited to extending Joseph's family name. Instead, God's redemptive plan included everyone that all could become members of God's family. In the Feasts of the Jews (Leviticus 23), specifically the Day of Atonement sacrifice and the Passover sacrifice, God accepted the blood of an animal as the means of atonement for sin. John, recalling the Old Testament sacrificial system, names Jesus as 'the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world' (John 1:29 NIV). Jesus became the sacrifice for our sins. God's redemptive plan was no accident. And for that we have another reason to give him glory!