Hebrew Scriptures and Its Reflections on Discipleship
Pr. Phinni Joseph
Being a disciple is a sublime state of a human being according to the Scriptures. There are several facets for the term disciple. Primarily, every disciple is understood in relation to his/her master or teacher. In the absence of a teacher or master the word disciple will not be meaningful. Primary training begins from one’s own home. It is the primary school of every individual. Parents are the teachers of this first school. During the life’s journey we meet with different training centres and teachers. We understand the different aspects of discipleship through these learning centres. These experiences and training makes an individual a better disciple or a person with discipline.
As long as we live, parents and teachers help us to grow in the path of discipleship. But discipleship has another dimension. Each one has to achieve this discipleship in relation to God, the master of all and source of all wisdom. In the same way, there is discipleship in relation to men and women of God as we are subjected to their discipline. The Lord requires the spiritual maturity and spiritual discipline that a person achieves through this process. Because the scriptures are intended to make perfect the men and women of God through teaching, reproof, correction and training in righteousness. Only proper training can raise an individual to the level of being ad disciple. The maturity and spiritual growth that we attain through this is the purpose of such training. It was the constant fellowship and teachings values of the kingdom that even Jesus imparted to his disciples. The disciples could take over the Great commission and go even to the uttermost parts of the earth only when they experienced the higher levels of discipleship.
In the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) we can see a lot number of people who have achieved spiritual maturity and fullness of faith through constant communion with God. Abraham was a friend of God and he used to hear from the Lord. He used to respond to it (Gen.12:1ff). He took his steps according to the direction of the Lord... Only people who are submissive can be obedient. Obedience is mandatory for discipleship. As Abraham was continually submissive to the voice God and was careful about his journey according to it, there is no doubt that that He was a true disciple of God. Another important trait of discipleship is sacrifice. It is beyond doubt that Abraham experienced the deeper levels of discipleship by sacrificing his own son Isaac.
One of the important personalities in the Old Testament is Moses. From the childhood of uncertainty Moses ended up in the Royalty of Egypt and he learned all the wisdom of Egypt and excelled in words and deeds. Training and learning are the steps involved in discipleship. From thence, the wilderness of life’ experiences opened very unique learning experiences for him. Life after the sheep of his father-in-law, the revelation of God in the burning bush, confrontation with Pharaoh, forty years of wilderness experiences etc could bring out the Man of God in him. As he has undergone those experiences, even God speaks of him as ‘there are no meek persons on earth like him”. In the school of discipleship character formation is also taking place.
During the time of Samuel, Elijah and Elisha, there were official disciples and disciple schools functioning. They stayed with the master and learned from him. They secured higher divine revelations, commission for the upcoming mission and the double portion of the spirit. There were even disciples who were not faithful to the Master and they missed their reward. They stayed with the Master without realizing the mind of the master; they misused the name of the master and could not understand the value of discipleship. However, we could see prophets like Elisha who has followed the Master with faithfulness and vision gained the ultimate reward of the discipleship.
What we have seen thus far is the better models of disciples and discipleship in the Old Testament. Though we learned several lessons out of it, the idea of ‘the servant of the Lord’ in the writings of Prophet Isaiah would serve some unique features:
Isaiah 50:4-9 are the third among the Servant Songs. We can see the servant of the Lord as a disciple. Here we analyze some characteristics of the disciple:
Disciple Learns from the Lord
In verse 4 we see that the Servant is having a tongue of the learned especially in relation to the use of tongues. The disciple should be a person who studies the word. The disciples of Jesus used to learn from the words and deeds of Jesus. Apostle Paul was a learned missionary. Those who study the word understand the counsel of the Lord and they will be submissive to the will of the Master. As they know the mind of the Lord, the work accordingly and thereby comes to perfection to a better discipleship. Their words will be a comfort and encouragement to others.
Disciple Listens Carefully
Those who have ear, let them hear it’ is a common statement in the Scriptures. The meaning is that the people must listen carefully and understand. It is crucial for a disciple to listen. Jesus himself said, ‘ I spoke to you the things which I heard from my father’. In the modern world people are not willing to hear. But the scriptures tell us that we need to have ears that hear to understand what the spirit is saying to the Church. The lord said it once, and I heard it twice, the psalmist says. Those who enter into discipleship must be willing to hear from the master.
Disciple Willing to Suffer
There is a glorious experience as suffering in discipleship. Jesus said, unless you deny yourselves and follow me, you cannot be my disciple. The men and women of God has gone through the path of discipleship with experiences of suffering. We only realize the true glory of discipleship is in the path of self denial and surrender. The Servant of the lord who fulfils the will of the Lord pleases God through endurance and suffering. The physical assault, mental agony and rejections are all part of discipleship.
Disciple is courageous
Discipleship has a glorious state of having unmoved faith and boldness in God. In all circumstances the trust in God remains intact. It gives courage for the disciple as he/she confess that the Lord would help them in any situations of life. Those who are lead to the path of maturity through the discipleship will never be moved. They will always trust in their God. The Lord will defend and He will justify them. The Servant of the Lord expresses this boldness from the Lord.
Every individual should desire to become a disciple of the Lord thought the constant communion with the Lord. There are several men and women of God who have gone through the path of discipleship. They have learned from God, heard from God and advanced in their path through patient endurance. Hence they became bold disciples in their generation. Discipleship is a process and not a mere accident. Let us learn from God, hear from God and obey him without wavering, lets walk the path of endurance, and be a bold disciple of the Lord in this generation.