This week we turn to Psalm 119:113-120 (samek), where every verse begins with the letter samek. This paragraph in our psalm will be opened through the window of what it says about God. And the first thing it tells us about God is that God teaches.
The psalmist, in true psalmist fashion and directly contrary to what we think is socially and spiritually appropriate, begins with this:
“I hate men of divided heart (se’ep), but I love your teaching.”
The word for “teaching” is the very common word “torah.” Torah, of course, is inscripturated words and it is written words and before long “Torah” becomes “Bible” and its origins can be forgotten.
Torah is God’s teaching. That God reveals his will for his world reveals that God teaches. It would be anachronistic — though it rarely fails many from doing this — to sketch a model of a teacher today and then say “that is what God is like.” Instead, we need to see how God teaches in the Torah.
A big sketch would look something like this:
God creates and informs Adam and Eve of who they are and what they are to do — including what they are not to do. God’s teaching involves warnings about consequences of behaviors (Gen 3). God’s teaching involves forming his people into a covenant community (Gen 12; 15). God’s teaching involves creating a community that “experiments” with doing God’s teachings and not doing God’s teachings — which either brings them flourishing (blessings) or diminishing (curses). God’s teaching involves informing Israel how to worship in holiness and how to purify itself of sin and impurities. God’s teaching involves quite specific laws they are to obey and things they are to avoid.
It’s not so much classroom stuff as it is “life”room stuff. God’s torah is about revealing to God’s people how to conduct themselves in this world in order to be faithful, glowing Eikons of God’s grace.
We don’t often call the New Testament — our inscripturated text — “torah” but Paul calls the teachings of Jesus the “torah of Christ” in Galatians 6:2 — and it seems quite likely he is talking there about the Jesus Creed (or at least its second half in learning to love others).
Whether we want to call our NT our “torah” is not quite the point: we affirm that our NT is inspired and what we mean by that is that God speaks to us in and through the words of the NT. We affirm that God “teaches” — he “torahs” — us.
God teaches. Teachers teach in order that students may learn and practice.