Recently, headlines in America have focused on declining test scores. However, I have been saddened by the tragic news of the Oceangate submersible. Because the founder was warned. I believe we as the people of God can learn from each of these news headlines.
- Don’t be prideful
- Heed the warnings
- Be educated
- Apply knowledge
Ironically the Oceangate founder didn’t learn from the mistakes of the Titanic. The builders of the Titanic notoriously believed the ship was unsinkable. The Oceangate founder believed the same about his submersible; neither listened to their peers.
These same principles apply spiritually as well. Our Jewish stepfathers placed a high emphasis on the need for spiritual growth. Reading Scripture is a very Jewish practice because it leads to spiritual growth.
In Judaism Scripture memorization is critical to spiritual growth and is a key part of being God’s people. From the time Jewish children are little, they are taught Scripture. This process continues far beyond just the youth of the Jewish people.
Jewish parents are told to bring their children up in the ways of God (Deuteronomy 6:6 -7, Proverbs 22:6). Continuing to grow spiritually is a process of getting to know and growing closer to God. The Jewish education system had different phases as the children grew in their faith.
- Bet Sefer (age five or six).
- Bet Talmud (ages 10 to 14).
- Bet Midrash (age 15 and older).
Few made it to Bet Midrash because only the best got to study, serve, and live next to the synagogue. These were the brightest students of Scripture.
This emphasis on spiritual growth doesn’t end with the Jewish people in the Old Testament; Jesus Himself was a Rabbi with His own students (Disciples). When He called His disciples, they were no longer studying, because they weren’t the “Best of the best.”
For three years Jesus taught His Disciples and then commanded them to go and make more disciples ( Matthew 28:18-20). The Great Commission isn’t about just getting people saved it’s about teaching them the ways of God (Mark 16:15).
The Jewish Pharisee named Saul turned apostle Paul joined the Disciples in teaching the early church. He grew frustrated with the leaders of the early church because they couldn’t get beyond fundamental spiritual teachings (1 Corinthians 3:4, Hebrews 3:3). He pushed them toward spiritual maturity (Ephesians 4:13-16).
If we fail to learn from the past, we are destined to repeat it. If the church fails to learn from the mistakes of our Jewish stepfathers, we too won’t reach spiritual maturity and the danger will be catastrophic for the church.
The Apostle Paul’s transformation wasn’t about gaining more knowledge, because God had humbled him, he learned the need to apply Scripture.
He learned to put his knowledge to use for something beyond his desire to be the greatest among the Pharisees. In contrast to the other Pharisees, the Apostle Paul learned true greatness doesn’t come from gaining a bunch of knowledge, but actually using it to further God’s kingdom.
The Apostle Paul warned his protégé Timothy to not forget his teachings and to use them (2 Timothy 1: 13-17). Paul knew spiritual maturity meant using what we learn:
- Head knowledge
- Heart knowledge
One of the basic Jewish teachings is the Jewish Shema to love God with all of our mind-body and hearts (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). We are to apply Scripture and our love of God to every aspect of our lives.
Later Jesus taught His disciples this very teaching was the greatest command (Mark 12:30-31), we shouldn’t strive for comfort, but spiritual growth!