Teaching God's way.
Deuteronomy 6:6-7 And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie dowm, and when you rise up."
Exodus 24:12 Then the LORD said to Moses, "Come up to Me on the mountain and be there; and I will give you tablets of stone, and the law and the commandments which I have written, that you may teach them."
Job 33:33 "....hold your peace, and I will teach you wisdom."
Yes, there is a commandment in Scripture for all of God's people to teach. Many assume that teaching is something that 'teachers' are told to do, or for those who have the 'gift of teaching.' Many people operate in an religious environment where adults and children are separated in order to 'better teach' them by 'experts' using the latest teaching techniques.
What many fail to understand is that teaching is not only commanded for all believers, it is something that in reality everyone does in some way - for better or worse. Even neglecting to teach our children teaches them something - often with negative resultes. So the question becomes - what and how should we teach?
I don't think anyone will disagree that God knows best. And His instructions regarding the 'how' and 'what' are contained in His Word to us. There are five major Hebrew words that are used for the English word "teach." By examining these words , we can get a grasp on "how" we should teach. By examining the usages of these words, we can also see "what" we should teach. The principles of these concepts are carried over into the New Testament Scriptures and also show up in the Greek words used.
In Matthew 22:37 - 38, Jesus names the principle commandment from which all the others emanate. In Matthew chapter 22, Jesus is using the beginning of what Jews call the "Sh'ma" This is not new. It is as old as Deuteronomy chapter 6, from where Jesus draws from the Torah. Contained within the same chapter 6, there is a command to teach "You shall teach them diligently to your children...".
The Hebrew word used in chapter 6 for teach is 'shanan'. It means to 'sharpen or use a whet stone'. We all know a dull knife or sword will not cut. Children need to be sharpened (ahanan) . This shows a teaching method that shapens in preparation for conflict (not necessarily always physical conflict), or to 'teach by sharpeing'.
Psa 127:4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one's youth.
Psa 127:5 How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them; They will not be ashamed When they speak with their enemies in the gate.
The next Hebrew word used for teach is the word "yarah". It is spelled "yod-resh-hey"/ It is the root verb for the Hebrew word "Torah" (which is not fully translated by the word "law"). Torah is better translated 'instruction'. Yarah means 'to shoot or throw.' It means to 'teach by pointing the way.' Yarah can be found in Exodus 4:10-15. It is translated as 'teach'.
Another Hebrew word for teach is "lamad." The Hebrew pictograph of this word shows a shephard's staff prodding the flow through a door. It reveals a method to "teach by showing the way." "Lamad" is used in Deuteronomy 4:-1-9 which also reveals 'what' is being taught and 'why' it is being taught. Psalm 51:10-13 tells us what motivated David to teach.
The Hebrew word "Alaf" is another word for "teach". It means to be yoked together as a pair of oxen. Often a young ox was yoked with an expeeriencd ox in order to show by example. Alaf means to "teach by example". It is used in Job 33:33. Proverbs 22:25, and used with a negative effect (unequally yoked) in Proverbs 22:25
Finally, the Hebrew word "yasar" is used as a 'teach' word. The Hebraic pictograph of it's letters "yod-samech-resh" shows a hand encircling a head. It literally means "to turn the head". This word is often translated into English as the words "chastise", "punish" or "correct". This method of teaching is to "teach by discipline." We find this word used in Deuteronomy 8:5, Proverbs 19:18, Psalm 94:12.
"Yasar" is a very common word in the Bible, therefore it's correct interpretation is important. As with Psalm 94:12, we should read the English translations "chasten" and "discipline" and not rise up in opposition to what they imply for all of us. God's chastening hand is a loving and graceful one. We need to accept 'yasar' from the LORD as a gift.
Considering the word 'yasar' literally means 'to turn the head.". we now can see why the term "stiff necked" is such a picture of rebellion.
So, in reading Deuteronomy 10:12-16., noting the two possible responses to God's "yasar", let us not be stiff-necked!
In the New Testament, teh word most often used for "teach" is the Greek word "didasko." It is the word used in Matthew 5:19. It's also where the English word "didactic" comes from.
In Matthwe 29:18-20, we find what is referred to as "the Great Commission". Here, Jesus lists a set of commands for His followers. The English verbs are:
Make diciples (teach in KJV)
The usage of this passage for various reasons in some believing communites sometimes belies what it really says. Even if it can be used to promote a denominational "mission statement" one must ask how well this is being done in light of the fact that there are four commands listed in thsi passage. For instance, 'going' is a priority, "immersing" is a priority, but is 'teaching" a priority? What is interesting for us is to note that two of the verbs in the Greek refer to teaching. The Greek word used in "make disciples" is "matheteuo". It means to teach in instruct someone to follow a set of precepts or instructions. In Matthew 22:20, the word for teach is the Greek word "didasko." It focuses on speaking as a method of teaching.
Another Scripture that uses "didasko" is Colossians 1:27-28. Hebrews 5:12 sets up a relationship between spiritual maturity and teaching.
In Ezekiel 44:23, we are reminded what Levi priests were to teach the people. As intermediaries, they were called to teach 'the difference.'
"And they shall teach (yaray = shoot) My people the difference between the holy (k'desh) and the unholy (chol), and cause them to discern between the unclean (tamei) and the clean (t'hor)." --- The English translation doesn't tell the whole story....many think of "holy" as sinless, and "unclean" as a ritual issue having to do with "Old Testament laws." What we are actually reading about in this passage are two planes. First the division between 'holy' and 'unholy' is the division between "k'desh" (set apart for God) and "chol" (that which is not set apart for God - those things that are man-initiated, man-centered, and man-pleasing).
Also the priests were to teach the people to learn to divide the "t'hor" (that which is the whole and brings unity) from "tamei" (that which is fragmented and causes fragmenting). These words are translated as 'clean' and 'unclean'.
By having the priests teach the people to separate the 'holy' from the 'unholy,' God was preparing as way for the people to divide and determine God-centered from man-centered. This prepared the people to act in ways that were consistent with the character of God was enabling in them.
People were also taught to separate the 'clean' from the 'uncelan.' God was preparing them to identify and separate out those things which hurt them in their relationship with God. When God's people have been taught the difference between 'clean' and 'unclean' they can choose to interact with things that bring wholeness to them spiritually instead of that which will fragment them and cause their relationship with God to be less whole.
In the New Testament, we read this concept in 2 Corinthians 6:17 - 7:1. So think if this has any bearing on a believer today.
Then read 1 Peter 2:9-10 and cross reference back to Ezekiel 44:23. What does Peter call those who follow Jesus? What is the responsibility of those so named?
So now that we know the difference between 'k'desh' and 'chol', can we separate t'hor from tamei? Can we teach those distinctions?
So is the command from God to teach undervalued in today's body of Messiah? Should we re-examine what we are teaching, why we are teaching, and how we are teaching?