Girl Meets God
A convert from Judaism to Christianity is surprised to find solace among Messianic Jews.
BY: Lauren F. Winner
The rabbi proceeds to read this chapter just like rabbis read in the Talmud, the fifth-century compilation of Jewish oral tradition. "Where else is the Valley of Achor mentioned in the Bible?" he asks. This was a favorite rabbinic strategy-if a word appears only two or three times in the Bible, then God is telling us that when we come across one mention, we should think of the other passages that use the same word. This, for example, is how the rabbis figured out what activities were forbidden on the Sabbath. There are two words in Hebrew for "work,"avodah
. In the Torah, we findavodah
a lot, but God usedmelacha
only twice-in the list of 39 activities that went into building the tabernacle, and in the verses, like Exodus 31:15, that forbid working on the Sabbath: "For six days, work is to be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of rest, holy to the Lord." The rabbis reasoned that He usedmelacha
in those two places so that we would make a connection: the tabernacle activities must be the activities that are forbidden on the Shabbat.
Achor shows up in Joshua, and then again in Hosea 2:15, where God promises to turn the Valley of Achor into a door of hope. "And what does God mean," the rabbi at Brit Hadasha now asks, when He speaks of transforming this valley of Achor, the Valley of Trouble, into a door of hope? He tells us in John 10:9, when Jesus declares, 'I am the door. Whoever enters through me will be saved.' The door promised in Hosea, a promise that in turn looked back to Joshua, was Jesus, the only door that could undo the trouble of Achor."
His reading is dazzling. I am dazzled. I have not heard anyone read Scripture in this particular rabbinic way since I became a Christian. The rabbi has done just what the rabbis of the Talmud did when they squeezed out the Sabbath prohibitions from the wordmelacha
.There is something Jewish about this place
, I think,the most important Jewish thing of all. They read like Jews
The rabbi's marriage of Old Testament with the New is so striking that I hardly notice what comes next-an altar call. "If anyone here does not know the Lord," the rabbi says, "I invite you to come forward. I invite you to come up here and pray with me to ask our Savior into your life." We might be at a Billy Graham crusade. During the altar call Steven weeps, hunched over in his chair, crying like he's just been told the saddest news in the world-when, in fact, he's been told something very wonderful, which is that Jesus died to purge his sins. He weeps, and I sit next to him with my hand on the small of his back and my cheek pressed into his shoulder blade; I am both praying for the Spirit to set up shop in his heart, and wondering at all the work the Spirit has already done.