Christianity 201

February 3, 2017

The Shadow of Death

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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How beautiful upon the mountains Are the feet of him who brings good news (besorah), Who proclaims shalom, Who brings glad tidings of good things, Who proclaims salvation, Who says to Zion, 
“Your God reigns!” – Isaiah 52:7 – New King James Version (NKJV)

Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” – Matthew 11:28  The Message

This article appeared at the blog of Rosh Pinah, a congregation which meets in downtown Toronto, Canada. It is one of many, many congregations in North America (and beyond) meeting on Friday nights (for a Sabbath or Shabbat service) which would come under the classification “Messianic Jewish” and in browsing their website I am reminded of how refreshing it is to see the besorah, בשרה – or the Good News of Yeshua – shared with others in its original Jewish context.

The verses quoted above are from a page about who they are, a page about their meetings is titled Some Assembly Required, an article about the Hebrew calendar is titled Do You Know What Time it Is, and a article about their services is titled Friday Night Live. Those meetings “are often very interactive as opposed to a more traditional ‘sermon.’ We like the Hebrew concept of d’rash (דרש) which actually means to seek out the meaning of the text.”

So that’s some background as to how today’s devotional came to us. A little longer than usual, perhaps but the devotional itself is shorter. Click the title below to read the article at source. If a group like this exists in a city near you, I strongly recommend you arrange to visit.

The Shadow of Death and the Image of God

The people who walk in darkness have seen a great light; Those who dwelt in the shadow of death (Heb צלמות Tzalmavet) Upon them a light has shined.
Isaiah 9:2 Written in the 8th century BCE (quoted in Matthew 4:16)

The expression “the shadow of death” appears many time in the Bible, the most well-known being Psalm 23 where the King David says about the Good Shepherd of Israel

 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death (Heb צלמות/tzalmavet) I will fear no evil for You are with me”

What does this expression mean? Job describes it as “the place from which I shall not return…as dark as darkness itself….without any order” Job 10:21, 22.  And Jeremiah compares it to darkness which makes itself felt in a wild and uninhabited desert – Jeremiah 2:6.

It is into this death shadow that the prophet Isaiah 9:2 claims the light of God will shine.

The Light of God appeared on the first day of creation in the chaos and disorder of the universe Genesis 1:1.  This light cannot represent physical light because it was created without the sun, moon and stars. It represents a spiritual presence in the chaotic world — the possibility of material and spiritual redemption.

In Hebrew the death shadow and the God image are the same root word.

When the light of God begins to shine into the deepest darkness, it makes us become shadows that represent the image of a God who has no image. The invisible light allows the invisible God to be seen because of the shadow/image/צלם of him in which we are created.

Sometimes we find ourselves walking in the darkness, in a valley, a wilderness or a frozen forest. It is in these times that God’s light on us will create shadows of himself in the physical world, just as the prophet Isaiah foresees the day when the great light of redemption would shine on those in the shadow of death in the Galilee in Israel through a miraculous child to be born in the house of David.


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