The Voices Within Scripture

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Most Christians would agree that the Bible is the inspired word of God, however, Christians tend to interpret what the Bible actually says very differently.

What I find interesting, is that Jewish people, who hold to the same scriptures as Christians (minus the New Testament if they aren’t Messianic), tend to be much more unified in their interpretation of scripture.

Now, I’m sure this is in part, because of there shared cultural background and the fact that they were the original ones to whom the Scriptures were written to, therefore, it is much easier to understand the cultural context of the scriptures, but I believe there is another key insight that often gets overlooked.

I was unaware of this myself until I came across a little nugget in a book I am currently reading by a Jewish Rabbi named Jonathan Sacks.

The nugget is this: there are 3 different voices within the Scriptures.

What is ironic, is that almost all Christians believe that God is trinitarian, yet completely miss this, yet most Jews don’t believe that God is trinitarian, but get this, so much so, that they actually divide there Scriptures according to these 3 voices.

Christianity is mostly divided into 3 broad camps, that originate from which voice they tend to tune into..

The 3 Voices

Voice 1: God’s Word To Man (The Law/Priestly Voice)

The first section that the Jews divide the Old Testament into is the Torah, or in English we usually say the Law (although teaching or instruction may be a better translation.)

This scripture was written by Moses when he went up the mountain and God directly etched the 10 commandments onto stone. It is thus God’s word directly to man.

It contains eternal truths directly given by God to man. There are a lot of commands in this section of scripture, and things tend to be much more black and white (ie though shall not murder). This is a fixed unchangeable voice.

This section of scripture served as the constitution for the people of Israel and tells there story. But this story is actually actually a heavenly story being told through the Israelite people, that was written before the world began.

What do I mean by that?

Consider the basic outline of any individual Christians story:

1)They are born then, fall into slavery to Satan Sin and Death.
2)They find redemption and freedom from slavery. (ie a Salvation Experience)
3)They come into relationship with God
4)They learn to trust God while we await final restoration

Now Compare This To The 5 books of The Torah:

1)Genesis: The Book of Beginnings – Tells the story of the creation of the world and their fall into sin, and the birth of God’s people
2)Exodus – Tells the story of the Israelite’s falling into slavery, then finding redemption and freedom from slavery
3)Leviticus – Tells the story of God’s presence coming to dwell in the midst of Israel
4)Numbers – Tells of the story of Israelite’s faith journey through the wilderness on the way to the promise land
5)Deuteronomy – A summary of the rest of the book as they are on the verge of entering the promised land

In Israel, their was an entire tribe, the Levities, who were appointed to be the priests.

Their job was to be experts in the Torah and to teach the Torah to the people to make sure they knew and didn’t forget their story, as well as to serve in the tabernacle/temple, which was more or less a 24/7 continual drama of heavenly realities.  In Romans 3:2 Paul refers to these activities as the oracles of God that they were entrusted to guard.

The Priestly Voice is the Fatherly. Left brain voice of God being revealed.

Voice 2: God’s Word Through Man (The Prophetic Voice)

The next main voice that the Jews divided their Scripture into is the prophets.

What most Christians would probably be surprised at though, is that the books we normally consider history (1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles etc.), the Jews consider part of the prophetic section of Scripture.

If we understand the overall prophetic voice, though we will see why this is.

The Prophets were people that were able to hear from God, then speak God’s words to man, so thus the prophetic voice is God’s word through man.

It contains the history of God’s people trying to get and stay in the promised land and God’s commentary on this history.

The prophets spoke rebuke to the people when they were outside of God’s will and spoke hope and comfort to them when they were discouraged.

Although they speak often of the future it’s not primarily for the purpose of fortune telling or play by play prediction of the future, but, instead, for the purpose of encouragement and hope.

Whereas the priestly voice primarily reveals God’s character, The prophetic books reveal Gods heart and emotions.

Whereas the priestly gives God’s people his rules for living in relationship within, the prophetic voice deals more with God disciplining and nurturing his people through the process of living in relationship with him.

Whereas the priestly voice speak unchanging truths, the prophetic voices speaks in images and stories (now if you have correctly observed that the Torah also contains a lot of images and stories, this is because each voice also contains the other two voices in them as subvoices (the Father is in the Son and the Son is in the Father, etc.).

The prophetic voice is primarily the voice of the Spirit. It is the motherly/right brain voice of God being revealed.

Voice 3: Man’s Word To God (Writings/Wisdom/Kingly Voice)

The last section of scripture that Jews divide there scripture into is “the writings”.

This is composed of books such as Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Exclesiastes and Song of Solomon.

These primarily express man’s words to God.

If you don’t understand this you will be very confused when reading them as they will often say things that are flat out not true (think the laments in the Psalms, all is vanity in Exclesiastes, or Jobs friends wise observation that nothing bad ever happens to the innocent).

All though these aren’t necessarily true from the perspective of God’s eternal truths, they instead expresses man attempting to make sense of the living in a fallen world.

It is still to be read as inspired word of God but you need the help of the other 2 as well as your own human experiences of trying to live a godly life in a fallen world to make sense of it.

The Kings were to enforce the Torah in Israel. To do this they needed the priestly voice so that they knew and understood Gods law, the prophetic voice so that they knew God’s heart, as well as the people’s voice to know how to rule the people.

Jesus is the ultimate kingly voice of God, and the perfect embodiment of man’s words to God.  Many of the Psalms even directly functioned as prophesies of his experience on earth.

Putting Them All Together

I recently had an experience that I believe somewhat illustrated how the various voices within the Godhead function.

My two year old son just went in for surgery and got tubes placed in his ears.

Here is the way our different voices saw the situation:

Fatherly Voice: Although I knew the precedure was going to be painful for my son for a short period, I believed it to be for his good in the long run as it would stop the chronic ear infections that he was getting.  I knew this procedure to be a low risk for complications and thus trusted the doctors to take care of my son.

Motherly Voice: My wife was much more emotional about the procedure.  She knew the above to be true as well, however, she very much felt the momentary pain and fear that would accompany my son and wanted to (and did) everything in her power to comfort him, including holding his hand all the way till the time he went to sleep and the surgeons began and then was there immediately after he awoke to comfort him in his recovery.

Son’s Voice: Well my son didn’t have much choice in the matter, but he had to combine trusting that my (his father’s) will was good even though he could in now way at this stage in his life comprehend how being handed over to some doctors that were going to put him to sleep and then take a knife to his ear could possibly do any good for him (if he was more mature he perhaps would have written something like “father why have you forsaken me”.  He leaned on the comfort of his mother’s voice to receive comfort in the moment to help him go through with his Father’s plan.

I hope this helps you make more sense of Scripture and allows you to have God reveal more of himself to you!

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