Psalm 119:105 describes God’s Word as “a lamp to guide my feet, and a light for my path.” This month, we begin a new periodic feature in which a member of the church is invited to share thoughts and insights on a passage of Scripture. This month, our contributor is FPC’s Senior Pastor-elect, Peter Kim.
Every year, I make it my goal to try to read through the whole Bible at least once. It is a good goal to have and, according to some, only requires about 12 minutes of reading a day. That means if you dedicate about an hour a day to read, you can read through the whole Bible four times in a year. Well, as for me, I am on track to reading through it just once this year and so I have come to Deuteronomy this March.
Before getting into what I have been so blessed by, I need to provide a little background information. For the past few times of reading through the Bible, I have tried to switch Bible versions. I have read through the NIV and ESV multiple times. I have also read through the NASB and The Complete Jewish Bible. But I never read through the whole Bible in the King James Version (KJV). This is the version that uses Old English and can be a bit difficult to understand. However, the KJV provides a pretty faithful translation (technical term: literal translation) from the original Greek. (Side note: if you do not have some Biblical Greek under your belt, I would suggest using other versions of the Bible instead of the KJV). Anyways, as I have been reading through the KJV, I have discovered some new things that I never noticed before.
Deuteronomy is such a great book to read through because it is Moses' last speech to the Israelites before he dies and before the Israelites finally go into the long-awaited promise land. In this book, Moses calls the Israelites to remember the Lord especially when things go great and when there seems to be no reason to need God anymore. There is a call to hold dearly to Him and to love Him. And as I read through these passages in the KJV, I discovered a particular word, "cleave." In Deuteronomy 10:20 it says, "Thou shalt fear the LORD thy God; him shalt thou serve, and to him shalt thou cleave, and swear by his name." And again in Deuteronomy 11:22, "For if ye shall diligently keep all these commandments which I command you, to do them, to love the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, and to cleave unto him;…"
“Cleave?” What is so special about this word? Well, the more you read through the Bible, the more you will notice connections between different parts of the Bible, between different stories, even at times between words. It is almost like in a movie where a person touches some object and all of a sudden a ton of flashbacks race through his mind. When encountering certain words or certain themes, it should cause someone who is familiar with the Bible to remember certain background information, and this is what the Jews during the New Testament times would have also experienced. One example is the word "Passover." As soon as the word is mentioned, the Jews would have thought of a feast that they celebrated every year. But not only that. They would also remember all the stories found in the first five books of the Old Testament regarding the Israelites’ escape from Egypt and all that occurred. So then what comes to mind when looking at the word "cleave?"
Finding the word "cleave" in Deuteronomy was surprising for me, because this word never came up in other versions. The NIV says, "hold fast;" ESV, "holding fast;" NASB, "hold fast;" even the New King James Version says, "hold fast.” However, as soon as I read the word "cleave" in the KJV, the first statement of marriage in the Bible flooded my mind like a flashback. Genesis 2:24 says, "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh." I quickly checked to see if the word in Hebrew was the same, and I discovered that, indeed, it was.
Wow! So what does this all mean? Well, I understood it to mean that Moses was reminding the people to hold on to, cling to, cleave to the Lord God in the same way that a man is supposed to cleave to his wife. In other words, our relationship with the Lord God is like a marriage relationship. He is committed to us and we must be committed to Him for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health. Having this understanding, it becomes more and more clear why in the prophetic books, like Jeremiah or Ezekiel, God's people are accused of adultery when they sinned and turned to other gods. However, God's love is incredible!
God's love to His people comes out so clearly through the life of Hosea. God calls Hosea to marry an adulterous wife because His people is an adulterous people. And after all the hurt and pain that Hosea must have gone through from being married to such an unfaithful wife, God calls him to go find his wife and pay whatever price to bring her back, because this is exactly what God was going to do for His people. God says, "And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the LORD…. And I will have mercy on No-Mercy, and I will say to Not-My-People, 'You are my people'; and he shall say, 'You are my God'" (Hosea 2:19-20, 23, ESV). In other words, God declares that He will receive His loved ones back to himself, adulterous though they may be, and will see them as pure and whole just like how a wife is seen on the wedding day.
Speaking of "wedding day," this brings another flood of thoughts to mind. But this time it is from the future. In Revelation, Jesus reveals events of the future to the apostle John, and in Revelation 19, John reports a heavenly scene of a wedding ceremony. After the great victory, there is much praise and worship and a great multitude shouting out, "Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns" (Revelation 19:6). And what follows is a great marriage ceremony between Jesus, the Lamb, and his people, the bride. How wonderful, how awesome, how delightful to know that our Savior sees us as pure and holy, like how a man and wife ideally marry one another in their state of purity.
All these thoughts jumped out as I read through Deuteronomy, and I began to praise the Lord as I realized that all the way back from the beginning, and all the way through to the end, God desired an intimate relationship with us. However, in our sin, we became unfaithful and rejected His love for us. We ran away and became adulterous. But God…but God, in His great love, paid the greatest price and sacrificed Himself for us so that we might be received once again as a pure, guiltless, and whole bride.