Thursday, July 7, 2011

Who Memorizes Scripture?

What’s wrong with memorizing Scripture? Absolutely nothing . . . except now some of the words and phrasing mess me up when what I had memorized as a child is so different from the more modern translations I consult now. Ah, but that’s a good thing. Take, for example, this modern (1995) translation of Matthew 11:28: Come to me, all who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. What I had memorized is: Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Same thing, right? Not really. Looking into the original words of Jesus I discovered that he intended the two contrasting verbs – active and passive. That is, he’s saying we are weary from what we do and what is done to us, we are laboring and we are burdened. The modern version just has us tired from carrying heavy loads. What Jesus says next is also in two parts: Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. See? Take the yoke . . . and learn. The Bible uses “yoke” as an symbol of different things such as slavery, punishments for sin, afflictions, legal ceremonies, commandments of God, marriage, and religion. Here Jesus uses “yoke” as a metaphor for religion. So take on His religion (passive) and learn (active).

All of the Old Testament laws, hundreds and hundreds of them beyond the Ten Commandments, were indeed a heavy burden to bear, a yoke that would weary the strongest soul. But Jesus’ religion is based on love – love God, love your neighbor. He says in the next verse that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. I picture a set of scales with all the levitical laws on one side weighing down so heavily and the other side tipped up with just one word perched there: LOVE. Ahh, so light and easy. Restful. And that brings me back to the first verse I memorized as a kid: Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

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