I’ve been teaching an Old Testament survey class to the 5-11 year olds at church this summer. It’s a five-week overview, and I’m trying to teach them the overall structures of the Old Testament and of particular books. In short, I’m trying to James-Jordanize them before they know what hit them.
I’m trying to embed certain basic biblical-theological structures and concepts by using chants, clapping and drumming along, acting out various stories and rituals, etc. For parents who wonder what their kids are learning, and for other interested parties, I give a few of the chants, which are printed in bold with emphasized syllables italicized, along with brief accompanying explanations.
Following Jordan, I’ve decided to use the four faces of the cherubim as an overall template for summarizing the Bible. The four faces are ox, lion, eagle, and man. They correspond to the four major covenants of the Bible – Mosaic, Davidic, exilic/postexilic, and new covenant. They also correspond to the offices of Christ: Oxen are sacrificial animals and thus represent priests; the lion is a royal animal; prophets soar and see like eagles; finally, Jesus comes to bring all those offices to their fullest expression. The Mosaic covenant focuses on the work of the priests; the Davidic on the work of kings; in the exilic/postexilic era the prophets come into their own; the new covenant is the fully human covenant, the exaltation of humanity in the Man Jesus. Here are the chants I’ve used, all of which need to be said rhythmically to have their fully hypnotic, mesmerizing effect:
Ox, Lion, Eagle, Man
Priest, King, Prophet, Man
Moses is an ox; David is a lion; prophets are eagles; Jesus is da man (for little kids, this is best done with hand motions – horns for ox, claws and a growl for lion, wings for eagles, erect posture for man)
When God first made the world, it was formless and void, and through the week of creation, God shaped and filled it. We chant this basic creation structure:
Formless, Empty, Dark (best chanted quietly with the lights off)
God lights and shapes and fills (flick the lights on when you start this)
At the end of the creation week, God has built His house. Vertically, it has three stories:
Heaven, Earth, and Sea
On earth, there are also three zones, each of which corresponds to a particular human activity and in each of which we encounter a particular person or type of person:
Garden, Land, & World
Worship, Work, & Witness
Father (God), Brother, Stranger
These can be put together as follows:
Garden is for worship; land is for work; world is for witness
And these three zones also correspond to the three offices of Christ:
Priests keep the garden; Kings rule the land; prophets witness in the world
These three zones are very helpful for giving an overview of the book of Genesis. There are three sins, which correspond to the three zones of the earth: Adam sins in the garden against his heavenly Father, Cain kills his brother in the land, the sons of God intermarry instead of witness in the world. The first chapters of Genesis end with the flood, which scrubs the world clean. No sooner has the human race reset, though, than they fall again at Babel:
Adam, Cain, and the sons of God - WHOOSH! (flood – lights go out again!) Babel
In the rest of Genesis, God reverses this with three great patriarchs: Abraham worships and obeys His Father, a new Adam; Jacob wrestles with his murderous brother and prevails; Joseph is a true son of God who does not go after the strange woman. Yes, Isaac is missing, but that’s because he doesn’t have a separate section in Genesis anyway. Check it.
Abraham, Jacob, Joseph
Overall, Genesis can be outlined as:
Adam, Cain, and the sons of God – WHOOSH! Babel – Abraham, Jacob, Joseph
Remember: These are supposed to be chanted, rhythmically. It can be done. Work on it.
When we talk about Exodus and Leviticus, I tell them how to define a priest:
A priest is a servant in God’s house.
Butler, baker, cleaner, counsellor.
The tabernacle has three zones with particular pieces of furniture, and the following chants summarize that:
Courtyard, Holy Place, Most Holy Place
Altar and laver in the courtyard; table, altar, lampstand in the Holy Place; the ark is in the Most Holy Place
Finally (for now), we can chant the procedure for sacrifice. This works best if chanted in low threatening towns, with everyone is wearing features, smeared with warpaint, and marching around a bonfire. Occasional war whoops a ululations add to the haunting effect.
Lay the hand, kill the beast, spread the blood, burn God’s food, eat the meal
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