Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Book Review: The Everlasting Tradition

The Everlasting Tradition: Jewish Customs, Holidays, and Historical Events That Reveal Biblical Truth. Galen Peterson. 1995. Kregel Publications. 160 pages.

The purpose of the book: There is a Hebrew folk expression that says more or less, "The apple does not fall far from the tree." This saying conveys the idea that we tend to stay close to our comfort zone, whatever it may be. But when it comes to the Bible, how many of us truly understand the cultural practices and traditions that formed the context of what we believe? These are the roots of our tree of faith. It can be said that, in many ways, our "apples" have rolled a long way down the hill from the tree which bore our fruit. We have lost track of our biblical heritage. This book unwraps many of those mysteries. It draws upon the specific features of both everyday and holiday customs of the Bible. It zeroes in on those elements which have either been misunderstood or have great underlying meaning. It also brings in some intriguing but little-known historical events which have profoundly shaped our perception of the message of the Bible. (9)

 I loved this book. I just LOVED it. It was informative. It was fascinating. It was straightforward. It was accessible. (Meaning, it was written to be read, to be understood. Read by people like you and me.)

It's divided into four parts with four chapters apiece: Tradition: So What's A Good Tradition?, A Little Box and a Cord of Blue, Do You Really Love God?, Written On Your Heart; Blessing: Blessings, Blessings, Everywhere, Messiah Was Not Born on Christmas, The Day the Rabbis Blinked, Some of That Old-Time Jewish Religion; Redemption: The Politically Incorrect Doctrine, A Place in the Book of Life, Who's To Blame?, More Than Just Dessert; Celebration: A Tale of Two Temples, When is the Church Not the Church?, A Marriage Made In Heaven and On Earth, A Visit to the Musuem.

I found all of it good. But there were two chapters in particular that I just loved. One was "A Little Box and a Cord of Blue." In which Galen Peterson examines in great detail, in great richness the Shema, which consists of three portions Deuteronomy 6:4-9; Deuteronomy 11:13-21; and Numbers 15:37-41.
Peterson writes, "The Shema declares some simple, yet important principles for spiritual living. It tells us who God is, what our response to that understanding should be, and about some practical reminders for those principles. It was given because of one of our major weaknesses: it is human nature to forget." (20) You might be thinking how can learning about tefilin, mezuzah, and tzitziot, for example, help me in my faith? You might just be surprised! For these rituals serve as reminders to live for God, to make God first in your life. You might think of a consistent prayer life, daily Bible readings, and Christian fellowship as modern-day equivalents.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9
 4Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD:
 5And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.
 6And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:
 7And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
 8And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes.
 9And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9, King James Version)

Deuteronomy 11:13-21
 13And it shall come to pass, if ye shall hearken diligently unto my commandments which I command you this day, to love the LORD your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul,
 14That I will give you the rain of your land in his due season, the first rain and the latter rain, that thou mayest gather in thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil.
 15And I will send grass in thy fields for thy cattle, that thou mayest eat and be full.
 16Take heed to yourselves, that your heart be not deceived, and ye turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them;
 17And then the LORD's wrath be kindled against you, and he shut up the heaven, that there be no rain, and that the land yield not her fruit; and lest ye perish quickly from off the good land which the LORD giveth you.
 18Therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes.
 19And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
 20And thou shalt write them upon the door posts of thine house, and upon thy gates:
 21That your days may be multiplied, and the days of your children, in the land which the LORD sware unto your fathers to give them, as the days of heaven upon the earth. (Deuteronomy 11:13-21, King James Version)

Numbers 15:37-41
 37And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
 38Speak unto the children of Israel, and bid them that they make them fringes in the borders of their garments throughout their generations, and that they put upon the fringe of the borders a ribband of blue:
 39And it shall be unto you for a fringe, that ye may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the LORD, and do them ; and that ye seek not after your own heart and your own eyes, after which ye use to go a whoring:
 40That ye may remember, and do all my commandments, and be holy unto your God.
 41I am the LORD your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: I am the LORD your God. (Numbers 15:37-41, King James Version)
The second chapter that I just loved was "A Marriage Made in Heaven and on Earth." In that chapter, Peterson examines Jewish marriage phase by phase: the match, the betrothal period, the culmination. He discusses what each phase meant in ancient times. And notes if tradition has since changed. (Sometimes it has, sometimes it hasn't.) He then presents the rich parallels between biblical marriage and God's plan for redemption. There are three charts--one for each phase--and he has Scripture proofs for each statement on God's side. This chapter was just so rich, so wonderful!

Of course, the book offers so much more! There are chapters devoted to the Passover, to the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost), to the Feast of Tabernacles.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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