Bible Alive: Analysis of Faith in the Old Testament


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So what is “Faith”—that most important of realities—in the Old Testament? Discover the Hebrew aman and what it means (it’s more than mere ‘belief’). Is it individualistic or corporate? Why? How does the Old Testament see faith relating to the covenant and one’s identity? See how it moves from the fear of the Lord to reverence and love in wisdom in the environment of “shalom.”

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Bible Alive: Analysis of Faith in the Old Testament

  1. 1. Analysis of Old Testament Faith<br />
  2. 2. The following presentation would be impossible without these resources<br />
  3. 3. Let us Pray<br />Good Father<br />Thank you for your Word.<br />We Praise you for who you are.<br />Help us to listen with the Spirit of Humility. <br />Help us to understand and love.<br />Poor in Spirit, we give you thanks for today and every day, <br />By your Divine Presence, guide our study tonight<br />And in the weeks to come<br />Amen. <br />
  4. 4. Course Breakdown<br />Bible Alive: The Prophets<br />What is faith? <br />Who and what are prophets? <br />What is prophecy? <br />What you need: <br />Bring your Bible and a heart open to prayer.<br />
  5. 5. What is Faith?<br />Think of the word amen.<br />When do Catholics and other Christians use it? <br />Amen comes from the Hebrew term aman.<br />What does it mean? <br />
  6. 6. Using Amen<br />Catholics and other Christians use “amen” all the time. <br />We are very familiar with the term and we use it in specific ways. <br />The Hebrew word “amen” ends our Profession of Faith (The Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed which we profess each Weekend at Mass). <br />Amen ends the last book of the Bible, Revelation.<br />Rev 21:20—He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!<br />
  7. 7. Back to Hebrew<br />Both the Creed and the Last Book of the Bible were originally written in Greek—THINK about that. <br />Why would a Hebrew word “AMEN” be used in an otherwise Greek literary work? Could it be because there is something SPECIAL, something SOLEMN going on, that we must go back to our Semitic roots to express a profound reality? <br />Many prayers in the New Testament, all written in Greek, conclude with the Hebrew word amen.<br />The Church, which is peopled by speakers of every language on earth, likewise ends her prayers with the Hebrew word amen. <br />
  8. 8. Solid Meaning<br />Amen comes from the same root as the word “believe” in Hebrew—aman.<br />This root word expresses solidity, trustworthiness, and faithfulness. <br />And so we can understand why “amen” may express both (ONE) God&apos;s faithfulness towards us and (TWO) our trust in him.<br />
  9. 9. Christian Life: Amen<br />The Catechism of the Catholic Church 1064: The Creed’s final “Amen” repeats and confirms its first words: “I believe.” To believe is to say “Amen” to God’s words, promises and commandments; to entrust oneself completely to him who is the “Amen” of infinite love and perfect faithfulness. The Christian’s everyday life will then be the “Amen” to the “I believe” of our baptismal profession of faith:<br />(Isaiah 65:16) May your Creed be for you as a mirror. Look at yourself in it, to see if you believe everything you say you believe. And rejoice in your faith each day.<br />
  10. 10. Old Testament Faith<br />The first connection we make on this program is that amen and its Hebrew root AMAN are related to faith and there is in this connection available to us a RETURN to our very OLD TESTAMENT roots. <br />Exodus 17:12—But Moses’ hands grew weary; so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat upon it, and Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side; so his hands were steady until the going down of the sun.<br />
  11. 11. Image of Aman<br />Here is an image of AMAN—Faith—in the Old Testament. <br />In this story, the Israelites, having escaped from Egypt in the Exodus, encounter the vicious hordes of Amelek ready to slaughter them in the wilderness. <br />It looks like a war story, but it’s MUCH MORE than just a war story. <br />This gives us a beautiful depiction of how the Old Testament views aman (faith)<br />
  12. 12. Mosaic Faith<br />First note Moses: <br />Moses is weary, and he cannot lift his hands, and so the People take a stone and give him a foundation—aman-faith implies a solid foundation, like a rock or stone. <br />It’s more than just data and facts to memorize and nod our heads to—faith is something we can place safe every aspect of ourselves on.<br />Amansupports us, it helps us get through the darkest times, it is our foundation. <br />We can rest on aman as Moses rests on the stone, as we must rest our trust in Yahweh. <br />Aaron and Hur, representing the priestly Levites (Aaron) and the Kingship (Hur is from Judah, the line that produces David), hold up the hands of the prophet Moses—the war with Amelek, like the struggles for our lives wrought with injustices and grief, becomes a sacrificial prayer of the whole people to God, a dialogue between God and his people. <br />
  13. 13. Communal Reality<br />Notice also the whole congregation of Israel is ONE here, all doing different things and yet UNITED in one great task. <br />Joshua, leads the battle down below, as Moses’ hands are lifted up in offering, as if the whole dilemma were being presented as sacrifice to Yahweh. <br />Think about what this suggests about faith! <br />This suggests that faith, in the Old Testament aman, is never isolated or individualized—faith is communal. <br />
  14. 14. Stability<br />Is 33 verse 6—<br />…and he will be the stability of your times,abundance of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge;the fear of the LORD is his treasure.<br />
  15. 15. Isaiah and Faith<br />This reading of the Book of the Prophet Isaiah correlates to the Exodus reading. <br />First, this reading comes from the section of the book dealing with the doom of Judah and all nations that would go against God.<br />
  16. 16. About Isaiah the Prophet<br />The prophet Isaiah himself lives through a time of great struggle for the Southern Kingdom (Judah) and its capitol, Jerusalem. <br />It is suggested that the prophet Isaiah had an aristocratic origin by his ready access to the kings (Isaiah directly ministered to four Davidic kings, and under the fifth is believed to have been martyred)—but despite the wealth he must have enjoyed, Isaiah urged the people to care for the marginalized in society, the widow and orphan. <br />Isaiah was concerned with the connection between worship and the moral life—God refuses to receive the sacrifices of those who are unjust and cruel. <br />Another theme of Isaiah’s is that God is the God of the whole earth, not only Judah and Israel. <br />Also, Isaiah says that no one can defeat God—should Judah be defeated in battle, this is only because God allows it to happen. <br />
  17. 17. Faith is a Family Thing<br />The Revised Standard Version translates this passage as speaking of Zion (Jerusalem) completely trusting in Yahweh—this assurance in the treasure of Jerusalem.<br />So far then, Old Testament Faith (aman) implies solidity, firmness, support, security and is NEVER just an individualistic experience. <br />Faith is a family affair.<br />
  18. 18. Israel placed its aman in Yahweh. <br />Psalm 36—Transgression speaks to the wickeddeep in his heart;there is no fear of Godbefore his eyes.For he flatters himself in his own eyesthat his iniquity cannot be found out and hated.The words of his mouth are mischief and deceit;he has ceased to act wisely and do good.He plots mischief while on his bed;he sets himself in a way that is not good;he spurns not evil.Thy steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens,thy faithfulness to the clouds.<br />Thy righteousness is like the mountains of God,thy judgments are like the great deep;man and beast thou savest, O LORD.How precious is thy steadfast love, O God!The children of men take refuge in the shadow of thy wings.They feast on the abundance of thy house,and thou givest them drink from the river of thy delights.For with thee is the fountain of life;in thy light do we see light.O continue thy steadfast love to those who know thee,and thy salvation to the upright of heart!Let not the foot of arrogance come upon me,nor the hand of the wicked drive me away.There the evildoers lie prostrate,they are thrust down, unable to rise.<br />
  19. 19. Faithful Yahweh<br />Describe Yahweh according to Psalm 36. <br />Is Yahweh faithful? <br />If so, to what? <br />What is this faithfulness founded on?<br />Ps 36 verse 5-7—Thy steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens,thy faithfulness to the clouds.<br />Thy righteousness is like the mountains of God,thy judgments are like the great deep;man and beast thou savest, O LORD.<br />How precious is thy steadfast love, O God!The children of men take refuge in the shadow of thy wings.<br />
  20. 20. FAITH—Not Just Mental<br />God, in this psalm, is best described as being faithful.<br />Yahweh is faithful to the divine promises and the Covenant with Israel, and this is grounded in his steadfast love (hesed). <br />Faith then, in the Old Testament, not only acknowledges, it TRUSTS. <br />Faith is not only belief, but TRUST.<br />
  21. 21. Faith as Obedience<br />If Yahweh is faithful this way, what must his people do?<br />Deuteronomy 9 verse 23 tells us:<br />And when the LORD sent you from Kadesh-barnea, saying, ’Go up and take possession of the land which I have given you,’ then you rebelled against the commandment of the LORD your God, and did not believe him or obey his voice.<br />And the Psalmist pleads, in Psalm 119 verses 66 and 67<br />Teach me good judgment and knowledge,for I believe in thy commandments.BeforeI was afflicted I went astray;but nowI keep thy word.<br />
  22. 22. Faith is a Doing<br />These texts manifest that since God is faithful, one must believe God’s word and accept His commands. <br />Thus, faith demands more than mere acceptance in the reality of God and accepting a set of proposed beliefs, more than mere mental assent—faith demands a response where we obey. <br />Should we disobey, then we have no aman (faith). <br />Faith in the Old Testament is not just a mental nod or an emotional state—faith is a doing. <br />
  23. 23. Faith & Semitic Anthropology<br />To the ancient Semite the human person was an animated body. <br />Unlike the Greeks, human existence was seen as bodily existence. <br />Faith then must be lived out bodily; it must be united to obedience with the Covenant, lived out and breathed in actions of justice and love for neighbors, for human existence is co-existence. <br />Seen this way, can we call this aman only intellectual assent (nodding our heads) or an emotional state (feeling great)? <br />Does it involve something deeper? If so what?<br />
  24. 24. Faith in the Heart<br />Already we have seen that we would be incorrect to confuse faith as being only a “Yes, I agree!” with our minds (many Christians think that faith consists in this!). <br />It would also be wrong to confuse faith with an emotion response (many Christians are mistaken here also!). <br />But, on the other hand, faith MUST involve intellectual assent and our emotions. <br />Ultimately, it seems that the Old Testament sees aman as a moral response to God’s gift of our lives. <br />Faith involves the HEART, and therefore is a WHOLE response to God. <br />We touch this as it were when, at Mass, we “lift our hearts to the Lord” in living sacrifice. <br />
  25. 25. Father of Faith<br />In this sort of aman, or faith, who is our founding father?<br />Chapter 15:1-6 reads<br />After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, &quot;Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.&quot; <br />But Abram said, &quot;O Lord GOD, what wilt thou give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Elie&apos;zer of Damascus?&quot; And Abram said, &quot;Behold, thou hast given me no offspring; and a slave born in my house will be my heir.&quot; And behold, the word of the LORD came to him, &quot;This man shall not be your heir; your own son shall be your heir.&quot; And he brought him outside and said, &quot;Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.&quot; Then he said to him, &quot;So shall your descendants be.&quot; And he believed the LORD; and he reckoned it to him as righteousness.<br />Genesis 15 shows us it is Abraham who is our father in this sort of trusting faith. What is significant about this figure’s aman?<br />
  26. 26. Abraham’s Faith<br />Abraham’s primary concern is the defense of the character of Yahweh. <br />If something bad should befall him, or his family, or the world, Abraham’s chief worry is how this shall be interpreted by others.<br />Abraham believed Yahweh when the Lord promised him numerous heirs; it took a long time to be fulfilled. <br />Abraham’s angst, as it is depicted in the Bible, is not so much for the achievement of his own satisfaction, but rather is directed at protecting God’s character. <br />Perhaps, as he grapples with the promises of God, he is wrong in his understanding of God, but God always fulfills his word. <br />So aman-faith is turned toward the Other, God. <br />
  27. 27. Isaiah’s Faith<br />What is faith for Isaiah? <br />Imagine that you are a king of Judah descended from David. <br />Imagine that the dreaded Assyrians are sweeping down from the north and are at your front door in Jerusalem outnumbering your defenses 100 to 1. They have utterly devastated the land … and you are next! <br />What should you do, according to Isaiah? <br />Should you assemble an army? <br />What, for Isaiah, does faith consist of?<br />
  28. 28. The Cornerstone<br />Isaiah 28:16—<br />therefore thus says the Lord GOD,“Behold, I am laying in Zion for a foundationa stone, a tested stone,a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation:‘He who believes will not be in haste.’<br />
  29. 29. Aman-Faith = No Worries<br />According to Isaiah I should assemble the people for prayer, not for military battle. <br />In Isaiah we see that faith means accepting the power and will of God to deliver Judah from political crisis—all military action is to be abstained from. <br />To do otherwise is to fail in trusting Yahweh. <br />Faith demands total surrender and commitment to Yahweh—there is no worry in Isaiah’s aman-faith.<br />
  30. 30. Deutero-Isaian Faith <br />The intellectual quality of faith is more prominent in Isaiah chapters 40 through 66. <br />Israelites are deemed “faithful” inasmuch as they do what?<br />
  31. 31. Faith Manifests Intellectually Also<br />Is 43:8-10—<br /> Bring forth the people who are blind, yet have eyes,who are deaf, yet have ears!Let all the nations gather together,and let the peoples assemble.Who among them can declare this,and show us the former things?Let them bring their witnesses to justify them,and let them hear and say, It is true.<br /> “You are my witnesses,”says the LORD,“and my servant whom I have chosen,that you may know and believe meand understand that I AM.Before me no god was formed,nor shall there be any after me.<br />
  32. 32. Faithful Witnesses<br />The Israelites are faithful; that is, they are “witnesses” to the true God inasmuch as they draw the other nations to know, believe, and understand that Yahweh is their Lord (Isaiah 43:10). <br />Yet even this witness is not purely intellectual—“knowing God” in this sense is not speculative knowledge. <br />Rather it is the experience of God through God’s revealed word and saving deeds—hearing rather than believing (that is, intellectually assenting to), and here “hearing” means accepting in obedience.<br />Old Testament faith, then, is lived out through one’s witness <br />
  33. 33. The Rock of Faith<br />And what is the foundation stone to Old Testament faith? <br />Consider Genesis 1-2 and Exodus 3. <br />All things that were created owe their existence to God and depend on Him for their survival and wellbeing. <br />Therefore, God is the foundation stone to Old Testament faith. <br />He is the Rock. <br />
  34. 34. Faith: Walking with God<br />And how is Old Testament faith expressed? Is the response of faith is primarily emotional, intellectual, or something else? <br />Genesis 6:9—These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation; Noah walked with God…<br />And Genesis 9:22—Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him.<br />Again, Genesis 7:5—And Noah did all that the LORD had commanded him.<br />
  35. 35. Repentance, Obedience, & Trust<br />We see that Aman-faith is expressed through repentance, obedience, and trust. <br />Faith is primarily a moral response, one of obedience rather than mere intellectual assent. <br />Noah obeys God; he alone repents for the evil of his generation. <br />Like Abraham after him, Noah surrenders himself to Yahweh—Noah completely entrusts himself, his family, and all that he has, to God. <br />
  36. 36. Faith Tested <br />Nowhere is this better expressed in Genesis than in our father in faith, Abraham. <br />In Genesis chapter 22 Abraham obeys God to sacrifice his beloved son Isaac. <br />Abraham says, even though his boy is to die and with him all of Abraham’s future, that he AND THE BOY will return after the sacrifice. <br />This story is meant to tell us not a historical factual account, but to frustrate us, to make us realize that we OWN NOTHING in this life. We are only stewards. <br />Abraham lives this reality out by faith. He commits himself utterly to God without reservation. <br />Abraham’s trust and obedience are rewarded by God who spares Isaac and Abraham and blesses the world through Abraham’s faith. <br />
  37. 37. To be Docile to God<br />Aman-Faith means that the human being is DOCILE.<br />It is to hold oneself at the disposal of God; it is to be COMPLETELY open to God.<br />Aman-Faith is a SUPREMELY FREE ACT, a CONFESSION of radical insufficiency AND a trust that one will receive ALL from God. <br />Faith is SELF-ABDICATION. It abdicates self-sufficiency AND any delusion of support from others than God. <br />Amanis a leap into the saving mystery of God.<br />
  38. 38. Faith is FIRST and FUNDAMENTAL<br />Faith is the first and most fundamental demand of the Covenant.<br />Ex 14:31—And Israel saw the great work which the LORD did against the Egyptians, and the people feared the LORD; and they believed in the LORD and in his servant Moses.<br />Ex 19:9—And the LORD said to Moses, “Lo, I am coming to you in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with you, and may also believe you for ever.”<br />See also Joshua 24.<br />
  39. 39. Faith Forever<br />Is 7:9—“‘If you will not believe,surely you shall not be established.’”<br />Notice how solemn is the call of faith! This is not just acceptance in the existence of God!<br />This is a DEMAND to be utterly confident in Yahweh, to rely on him, his promises, and the Covenant.<br />This faith delivers salvation, Is 28:16.<br />There is no hope but in this aman—<br />Is 30:15—For thus said the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel,“In returning and rest you shall be saved;in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.”<br />Je 17:5—Thus says the LORD:“Cursed is the man who trusts in manand makes flesh his arm,whose heart turns away from the LORD.”<br />Ps 52:8—But I am like a green olive treein the house of God.I trust in the steadfast love of Godfor ever and ever.<br />
  40. 40. Action in Love<br />What is Old Testament faith essentially related to if not obedience, if not actions of love?<br />Deut 6:17—You shall diligently keep the commandments of the LORD your God, and his testimonies, and his statutes, which he has commanded you.<br />
  41. 41. Faith is Covenantal<br />God is called “the Lord YOUR God.” <br />God is the God of relations. <br />Faith is the relationship between the People and God and it gives identity to the People: they BELONG to Yahweh, just as Yahweh BELONGS to them. <br />Faith grants a name to the people and to God. God says “I am YOURS.” <br />Obedience is INSEPPARABLE from this reality. <br />It is to the covenant that faith is always related. <br />The covenant is the foundation of the people’s relationship to God. <br />
  42. 42. Faith is Corporate<br />So is faith ever only a one-on-one affair between God and individual believer? <br />Nope. <br />Faith is covenantal, a family affair. <br />All creation owes everything to God and depends on God for everything. <br />Old Testament faith is not just individual, but CORPORATE.<br />
  43. 43. Fear of the Lord<br />Deuteronomy 6:17—You shall diligently keep the commandments of the LORD your God, and his testimonies, and his statutes, which he has commanded you.<br />Deuteronomy 7:11-13—You shall therefore be careful to do the commandment, and the statutes, and the ordinances, which I command you this day. “And because you hearken to these ordinances, and keep and do them, the LORD your God will keep with you the covenant and the steadfast love which he swore to your fathers to keep; he will love you, bless you, and multiply you; he will also bless the fruit of your body and the fruit of your ground, your grain and your wine and your oil, the increase of your cattle and the young of your flock, in the land which he swore to your fathers to give you.<br />
  44. 44. God-Centered Awe<br />Old Testament faith must also be seen in its relationship with the “fear of the Lord.” What does this fear mean?<br />Certainly it is not fear in the ever day, common sense usage of fear. <br />It does not mean dread of something bad happening to me, or getting scared, or terrified a lightening bolt is going to strike me dead. <br />No, this “fear” means God-centered awe. It is poverty of spirit that enables us to MARVEL at the universe as the handiwork of God; it is that which makes us AWESTRUCK that we are alive and have being. <br />It means we are ready and willing to do his will. It is in this willingness that we discover, immediately, the security of the living God in his Shalom, in his dynamic harmony and peace. <br />However Old Testament faith allows no compromise. God finds idolatry intolerable. <br />
  45. 45. Summary of Old Testament Faith<br />So what is Old Testament faith? <br />It is aman, that is, solidity, firmness, support, security and is corporate, NEVER just an individualistic experience. <br />It is covenantal and bestows identity. <br />This faith trusts more than it intellectually assents to, and obeys. <br />It is expressed through repentance, obedience and trust. <br />And it moves from the fear of the Lord to reverence and love in wisdom in the environment of peace.<br />