Of Crockett and Christ
Two people who make my job at the Alamo more challenging are John Wayne and Walt Disney. Their popular movie versions of the battle of the Alamo have influenced three generations, but they are full of myth, legend, and factual error. That is why Alamo visitors are often disappointed to learn that what they had believed as truth is not truth at all.
This is especially the case concerning that famous Tennessee frontiersman, hunter, and politician, David Crockett. During his life he made great effort to lift himself above his humble beginnings as a poor backwoods man and break into cultured society. That is why he preferred to call himself David. Yet he never could get away from the stereotype of “Davy Crockett” the great hunter. Today people remember the frontier character who died at the Alamo, not the Congressman from Tennessee who was a champion of the poor. This was illustrated by a conversation I had recently with a visitor at the Alamo. After seeing our Crockett exhibits on display, she asked me, “Why do you call him David Crockett?” I answered, “Because that’s what he called himself.” Then she asked, “Why do we call him ‘Davy Crockett’?” I answered, “Because Walt Disney told us to.”
That brief exchange says much about how we humans operate. It is very easy to learn the true story of Congressman Crockett, but few people ever bother to pick up one of the many books written about him, including his own autobiography, A Narrative of the Life of David Crockett. Instead, they prefer to rely on what others have told them, taking that as truth without checking it out. All they know of Crockett is what they saw in John Wayne’s movie or in Walt Disney’s television series, or what their parents and teachers have learned from those movies and handed down over the years.
The same is true of the Bible. We expect unbelievers to have very little Bible knowledge, but we would hope those who have a testimony of Messiah Yeshua (Jesus Christ) have a basic understanding of the scripture and are improving their understanding with continued study on their own. That is what the Lord instructed us to do through Moses (Deuteronomy 6:5-9), Paul (II Timothy 2:15, 3:14-17), and Yeshua Himself (Matthew 22:29). But sadly, most Christians do not know the Bible they profess to believe. For example, one person I know confessed her surprise on learning that Noah took more than just two of every creature into the Ark with him. The scripture record says this:
Then the Lord said to Noah, “Come into the ark, you and all your household, because I have seen that you are righteous before Me in this generation. You shall take with you seven each of every clean animal, a male and his female; two each of animals that are unclean, a male and his female; also seven each of birds of the air, male and female, to keep the species alive on the face of all the earth.” (Genesis 7:1-3 NKJV, emphasis added)
My friend had been raised in the church all her life and had professed her faith in Messiah as a teenager. Although she read the Bible, for some reason it did not sink in. For the most part she relied on pastors and teachers for Bible understanding, but apparently their instruction left her with an incomplete understanding of the story of Noah and of many other things. It was not until she began to take more responsibility for her own biblical education that she finally learned the full story. Her example brings up some very important questions: what do we really know about what God says in His Word? Is what we say we believe really consistent what what God actually said? And if what we think we believe is not quite correct, what should we do about it?
There are many examples of things in the Bible that people do not know are there, or that they may not understand correctly. Here are a few:
- When God gave the Ten Commandments, He spoke to all of Israel from Mount Sinai, not just to Moses (Exodus 20:1-21).
- The people of Israel who heard God speak the Ten Commandments included Jews, but they were not all Jews. The people who later became known as Jews were those of the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and Levi, but there were people of 10 other tribes of Israel present at Mount Sinai (Numbers 1:1-54).
- The first mention of the name “Jew” in the Bible is in II Kings 25:25, in a passage that relates what happened in the land of Judah after the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem. That was nearly 1,000 years after Moses. The Jews we know today are the descendants of those people of the kingdom of Judah (the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and Levi), and they are indeed Israelites (Romans 9:1-5). However, there are still ten tribes of the northern kingdom of Israel scattered among the nations, as they have been since the Assyrian conquest of Samaria in 721 BC.
- Before David became king of Israel, he served in the army of the Philistines (I Samuel 27:1-2, 29:1-11). After he became king, he had Philistines serving in his army (II Samuel 15:18-22, 18:2). How does this speak to the applicability of God’s Word to all the nations? How does Israel fit into this context?
- The same Gospel preached by the Apostles was preached to Israel at Mount Sinai (Hebrews 3:16-4:2). What does that tell us about the faith we proclaim? Since Yeshua has won redemption for His people, what, if anything, is different about the Gospel we have received and the Gospel given at Mount Sinai?
- The Apostle Paul kept a Nazirite vow as specified in the Law, and paid expenses for himself and others to present the sacrificial offerings at the conclusion of that vow (Acts 18:18, 21:17-24; Numbers 6:1-21). How does this coincide with Paul’s statement that we are not “under law” (Romans 6:15)?
There are many other such examples, but let us consider only one for now. This is a major tenet of our faith: the New Covenant. Believers in Yeshua are right to claim we are under the New Covenant, but what exactly is this New Covenant? The answer is in Jeremiah:
“Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” (Jeremiah 31:31-34 NKJV)
Notice some interesting things here:
- First, God promises to make this covenant with the House of Israel and the House of Judah. Who are they? What about the gentiles? Are they not included in the Covenant?
- Second, He says these people will be His People. What does that mean? If this is a discussion of the nation of Israel, weren’t they already considered God’s people based on previous covenants? And if it is someone else, why does God make this New Covenant with Judah and Israel?
- Third, God says He will put His law in the minds and hearts of these people He is covenanting with. What law is that? How do we know what that law is?
- Finally, how does God write His law on His people’s hearts? He explains more about this heart question in Ezekiel 11:19-20 and 36:24-27, where He says He will give His people a new heart. What does that mean, and how does this new heart make it possible to understand and follow His law?
These are questions that every believer should ponder. They effect the way we live our lives each day, the way we pray, the way we interact with others, and our eternal destiny. It’s time to start asking these hard questions and testing our faith to see how is stacks up to what God intends for His people. Otherwise we could meander through life with an understanding of the God we profess to follow that is even more flawed than the average understanding of David Crockett.