DISCIPLE/TAUGHT ONE: limmud. adjective. (Strong’s 3928). To LEARN: lamad. verb. (Strong’s 3925).
Sounds like: lee-mood, lah-mawd
This week was back to school on Prince Edward Island after a 6 month covid-related break. My daughters are now both in High School: Bridget is in her first year, and Grace in her last. They are students of many different teachers and have a lot of learning ahead of them. I pray for all the big and little disciples out there soaking up knowledge.
When most people think about disciples in the Bible, the first thing that comes to mind is the twelve disciples of Yeshua (Jesus) (Matthew 10:2-4, Mark 3:16-29, Luke 6:13-16):
- Simon Peter
- John (sons of Zebedee)
- James (sons of Zebedee)
- James (son of Alphaeus)
- Thaddeus/Judas (son of James)
- Simon (the Zealot)
- Judas Iscariot
These were the core followers of Jesus, His closest students, but they weren’t His only students. In fact, many of his pupils were women. At the crucifixion many women followed, and learned from, Yeshua:
There were also some women looking on from a distance, among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the Less and Joses, and Salome. When He was in Galilee, they used to follow Him and minister to Him; and there were many other women who came up with Him to Jerusalem.
Women were ministers to Yeshua, and Yeshua was a teacher of women. As a Rabbi He was unlike any other and His disciples a were students, male and female. This was a radical departure from typical first century “school” (synagogue) education, which was only for boys.
Yeshua taught in synagogues (Mark 1:21) and in the Temple courts (Mark 12:35), but He also taught in wide-open public spaces, allowing women to be discipled along with men and youth:
And He went out again by the seashore; and all the people were coming to Him, and He was teaching them.
Of course, Yeshua wasn’t the only person to have disciples; anyone who learned from a teacher was a “taught one”, a pupil, a disciple. One disciple asked Yeshua to teach them how to pray, like John the Baptizer had taught his disciples:
It happened that while Jesus was praying in a certain place, after He had finished, one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John also taught his disciples.”
And He said to them, “When you pray, say:
‘Father, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation.’”
Yeshua had disciples, but so did John and any Rabbi who was actively teaching. Disciples were students, and in the Tanakh they were called limmud, or “the taught one(s)”.
To Learn… to be Taught
Limmud came out of lamad (Strong’s 3925), meaning to learn or to be taught. Last year, at this time, we looked at the Hebrew word yarah, meaning to teach. These two Hebrew words, yarah and lamad, are often interchanged by translators, but yarah is more about the teacher, and lamad is more about the student (the taught ones).
YHWH, of course, was the Chief Teacher, and David prayed that YHWH would teach him:
[David to YHWH:] Let me hear Your lovingkindness in the morning; for I trust in You;
Teach me Let me know the way in which I should walk; for to You I lift up my soul. Deliver me, O YHWH, from my enemies; I take refuge in You.
Teach me [lamm’deni] to do Your will, for You are my God; let Your good Spirit lead me on level ground. For the sake of Your name, O YHWH, revive me. In Your righteousness bring my soul out of trouble.
Even though YHWH was the Chief Teacher, He authorized many of His people to represent His teachings. Moses was one of YHWH’s commissioned teachers:
Deuteronomy 4:5, 10-14
[Moses to the Hebrew people:] “See, I have taught [limmad’ti] you statutes and judgments just as YHWH my God commanded me, that you should do thus in the land where you are entering to possess it…
…Remember the day you stood before YHWH your God at Horeb, when YHWH said to me, ‘Assemble the people to Me, that I may let them hear My words so they may learn [yi-l’m’dun] to fear Me all the days they live on the earth, and that they may teach [y-lammedun] their children.’
You came near and stood at the foot of the mountain, and the mountain burned with fire to the very heart of the heavens: darkness, cloud and thick gloom. Then YHWH spoke to you from the midst of the fire; you heard the sound of words, but you saw no form—only a voice. So He declared to you His covenant which He commanded you to perform, that is, the Ten Commandments; and He wrote them on two tablets of stone. YHWH commanded me at that time to teach you [l-lammed] statutes and judgments, that you might perform them in the land where you are going over to possess it.”
Although it was Moses reciting the message, it was YHWH who was the Teacher (let them hear My words so they may learn). And the people were learning so they could, in turn, teach their own children. We are all to be disciples of YHWH, passing on what we have learned.
Isaiah the prophet spoke of having his own disciples:
Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples [b-limmudai]. And I will wait for YHWH who is hiding His face from the house of Jacob; I will even look eagerly for Him. Behold, I and the children whom YHWH has given me are for signs and wonders in Israel from YHWH of hosts, who dwells on Mount Zion.
But to be a good teacher Isaiah recognized that he needed to be a good disciple:
The Lord YHWH has given Me the tongue of disciples [limmudim], that I may know how to sustain the weary one with a word. He awakens Me morning by morning, He awakens My ear to listen as a disciple [kal-limmudim].
The Lord YHWH has opened My ear; and I was not disobedient nor did I turn back. I gave My back to those who strike Me, and My cheeks to those who pluck out the beard; I did not cover My face from humiliation and spitting.
For the Lord YHWH helps me, therefore, I am not disgraced; therefore, I have set my face like flint, and I know that I will not be ashamed.
What Isaiah desired was to learn how to sustain and uphold people using words… words that would direct people towards the truth, and put them on the path that would lead them back home to YHWH.
Learning Righteousness and Finding the Way
However, the Bible wasn’t strictly involved in theological training. For example, there were also those trained for war (2 Samuel 22:35, Micah 4:3), those trained for singing (1 Chronicles 25:7), and those who learned literature and language (Daniel 1:4). Primarily, though, YHWH was a Chief Teacher, who directed us towards the good path:
I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you.
The Way would lead us to righteousness and redemption:
The way of the righteous is smooth; O Upright One, make the path of the righteous level. Indeed, while following the way of Your judgments, O YHWH, we have waited for You eagerly; Your name, even Your memory, is the desire of our souls.
At night my soul longs for You, indeed, my spirit within me seeks You diligently; for when the earth experiences Your judgments the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness [tsedeq lam’du].
Though the wicked is shown favour, he does not learn righteousness [bal-lamad tsedeq]; he deals unjustly in the land of uprightness, and does not perceive the majesty of YHWH.
O YHWH, Your hand is lifted up yet they do not see it. They see Your zeal for the people and are put to shame; indeed, fire will devour Your enemies.
YHWH, You will establish peace for us, since You have also performed for us all our works. O YHWH our God, other masters besides You have ruled us; but through You alone we confess Your name.
We will come across many “masters” in our lifetime, but YHWH would always to be our Principal Teacher, leading us to the Truth, the Way, and the Life (John 14:6).
The Profit in Learning
Today there is a great emphasis today on learning in order to get a job… learning to make the most money… learning for economic gain. But YHWH taught that real profit came out of following YHWH’s commandments and growing in knowledge and wisdom:
Thus says YHWH, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, “I am YHWH your God, who teaches you [m-lamed’ka] to profit, who leads you in the way you should go. If only you had paid attention to My commandments! Then your well-being would have been like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea.”
Being a genuine disciple, with YHWH as our Teacher, meant that we had a real relationship with our God and our lives would change as a result. This was not just surface knowledge; this kind of learning would infuse our hearts and become part of who we were as a person:
“But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares YHWH. “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. They will not teach [w-lo y-lamm’du] again, each man his neighbour and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know YHWH,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares YHWH, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”
This was the new covenant: there would be a day when everyone would know YHWH so that teaching about Him would not be necessary. It would be a time of great forgiveness and a day when our relationship with God would be so strong that we would be fully integrated with will of YHWH… being the best Image-bearers of God that we could be.
But we are not there yet, and YHWH is very aware that humans need forgiveness because we’ve been pretty lousy students:
[YHWH:] “They have turned their back to Me and not their face; though I taught them [w-lammed], teaching [w’lammed] again and again, they would not listen and receive instruction. But they put their detestable things in the house which is called by My name, to defile it. They built the high places of Baal that are in the valley of Ben-hinnom to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire to Molech, which I had not commanded them nor had it entered My mind that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.
Basically YHWH was saying, I taught them again and again, but they did things that I did not teach them; they did things that they learned as disciples of foreign gods.
So YHWH handed His people over to the foreign powers they were so enamoured with, and they learned a terrible lesson. They were exiled to Babylon and forced to leave Israel. Jerusalem was sacked and the Temple destroyed.
But YHWH did not abandon them, and He brought them back home. In fulfilling His promise, YHWH regained the respect and allegiance of His previous students:
Now therefore thus says YHWH God of Israel concerning this city of which you say, ‘It is given into the hand of the king of Babylon by sword, by famine and by pestilence.’ Behold, I will gather them out of all the lands to which I have driven them in My anger, in My wrath and in great indignation; and I will bring them back to this place and make them dwell in safety. They shall be My people, and I will be their God; and I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Me always, for their own good and for the good of their children after them. I will make an everlasting covenant with them that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; and I will put the fear of Me in their hearts so that they will not turn away from Me. I will rejoice over them to do them good and will faithfully plant them in this land with all My heart and with all My soul.”
One of the most wonderful things about YHWH’s compassion is His willingness to wholeheartedly take us back as His disciples:
Isaiah 54:7-10, 13-14
“For a brief moment I forsook you, but with great compassion I will gather you. In an outburst of anger I hid My face from you for a moment, but with everlasting lovingkindness I will have compassion on you,” says YHWH your Redeemer.
“For this is like the days of Noah to Me, when I swore that the waters of Noah would not flood the earth again; so I have sworn that I will not be angry with you nor will I rebuke you. For the mountains may be removed and the hills may shake, but My lovingkindness will not be removed from you, and My covenant of peace will not be shaken,” says YHWH who has compassion on you…
…“All your sons will be taught [discipled: limmuday] of YHWH; and the well-being of your sons will be great. In righteousness you will be established; you will be far from oppression, for you will not fear; and from terror, for it will not come near you.
Disciples of the Wilderness
One of the more interesting translations of the word limmud, is found in the book of Jeremiah. The kingdom of Judah was compared to a twisted or entangled camel and a wild donkey accustomed to the wilderness. Translators have described the donkey as accustomed to the wilderness, or used to the wilderness, or at home in the wilderness… but the word Jeremiah used was limmud. Judah, like the donkey, was a disciple of the wilderness:
[YHWH to the people of Judah:] “For long ago I broke your yoke and tore off your bonds; but you said, ‘I will not serve!’ For on every high hill and under every green tree you have lain down as a harlot.
Yet I planted you a choice vine, a completely faithful seed. How then have you turned yourself before Me into the degenerate shoots of a foreign vine? Although you wash yourself with lye and use much soap, the stain of your iniquity is before Me,” declares the Lord YHWH. “How can you say, ‘I am not defiled, I have not gone after the Baals’?
Look at your way in the valley! Know what you have done! You are a swift young camel entangling her ways, a wild donkey,
accustomed to disciple of [limmud] the wilderness, that sniffs the wind in her passion. In the time of her heat who can turn her away? All who seek her will not become weary; in her month they will find her.”
In another instance in Jeremiah, translators are split on the meaning of one line of text. Although I primarily use the NASB, which I find very good, in this following verse I think they missed the mark:
“Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then you also can do good who are accustomed [discipled: limmuday] to doing evil.”
The answer to the first question in this passage is, no… nobody can change their skin colour, and a leopard can’t change his spots. If that’s the case then, the point of the response should be this:
“Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Neither can you do well who are discipled [limmuday] to do evil.”
The difference comes down to one tiny Hebrew word, gam (Strong’s 1571). This word is consistently translated as also, even, either/or, neither/nor, moreover. In this instance I’d suggest that neither is the better translation.
Let’s add the next two verses, with that translation in mind:
“Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Neither can you do well who are discipled [limmuday] to do evil. Therefore I will scatter them like drifting straw to the desert wind.
This is your lot, the portion measured to you from Me,” declares YHWH, “because you have forgotten Me and trusted in falsehood.”
We need to guard ourselves from becoming disciples of wilderness, disciples of evil, disciples of chaos. Wilderness, chaos, and evil are descriptor words for God’s Adversary, ha-Satan… and we certainly don’t want to be disciples of the Evil One. Through Jeremiah we have been warned to find and follow the right teacher.
Yeshua as Teacher
Yeshua was the epitome of the perfect teacher… intelligent, wise, calm, insightful, patient, strong, confident, dedicated, informative, and inspired. He was gentle, never patronizing, and He found and supported the strengths of each of His students individually.
He also recognized those who were dedicated and sincere disciples of YHWH, and those who were disciples of human-inspired traditions, rules and regulations.
There’s a story in the book of John about a blind man who was healed by Yeshua on the Sabbath. This, of course, got the Pharisees upset and so they questioned the no-longer-blind man:
Then the Pharisees also were asking him again how he received his sight. And he said to them, “He applied clay to my eyes, and I washed, and I see.”
But this was not a satisfying answer for the Pharisees. How could a man who repeatedly broke the Sabbath be from God and preform such miracles? So they continued to question, not only the man, but also his parents. Over and over they interrogated him about Yeshua:
So they said to him, “What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?”
Tired of all these repetitive questions, the man turned the conversation onto the Pharisees:
He answered them, “I told you already and you did not listen; why do you want to hear it again? You do not want to become His disciples too, do you?”
Brilliantly, the man knew exactly what to say to shut down their questioning: With all these questions, you must also want to be His disciples!
Of course this was the most offensive thing to say to a group of men who considered themselves the best teachers of their day:
They reviled him and said, “You are His disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where He is from.”
As we read earlier, Moses was a disciple of YHWH and He shared God’s teachings with the people. The people were meant to be disciples of YHWH, not disciples of Moses. Moses was like the substitute teacher, but not a replacement for The Teacher.
In response to the Pharisees concern about where Yeshua was from, the man said this:
…“Well, here is an amazing thing, that you do not know where He is from, and yet He opened my eyes. We know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is God-fearing and does His will, He hears him. Since the beginning of time it has never been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, He could do nothing.”
Insulted, and unable to debate the man, the Pharisees shut down the conversation and threw him out:
They answered him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you teaching us?” So they put him out.
Who was the teacher and who was the disciple in this conversation? The Pharisees did not appreciate being taught at. The healed man was instructing them, but they believed they were above being anyone’s disciple, outside of Moses.
Yeshua heard that the man had been thrown out of the synagogue, so He returned to him in the presence of the Pharisees. In the conversation that followed, Yeshua was the clear teacher:
Jesus heard that they had put him out, and finding him, He said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
He answered, “Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?”
Jesus said to him, “You have both seen Him, and He is the one who is talking with you.”
And he said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped Him.
And Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, so that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.”
Those of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these things and said to Him, “We are not blind too, are we?”
Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.”
Yeshua instructed them on their spiritual blindness, and this was a common theme in His teachings:
Luke 6:39-40 (see also Matthew 10:24)
And He [Jesus] also spoke a parable to them: “A blind man cannot guide a blind man, can he? Will they not both fall into a pit? A pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher.”
Those fully trained by YHWH/Yeshua are not blind… they are able to fully see the light… and they are graduation-ready students of YHWH. They will never be above the Teacher, but they will be as similar to the Teacher as they can be. They will be His image-bearers.
Discipline your Disciples!
The Pharisees didn’t always agree with Yeshua’s way of teaching and they were critical of His disciples. They watched Yeshua’s students closely and were quick to point out their faults. But Yeshua took these moments as perfect opportunities to teach the Pharisees:
Matthew 15:1-3, 6b-11 (see also Mark 7:1-8)
Then some Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, “Why do Your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.”
And He answered and said to them, “Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?…
…you invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you: ‘This people honours Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’”
After Jesus called the crowd to Him, He said to them, “Hear and understand. It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man.”
Putting food in your mouth before washing your hands wasn’t a great idea, but what’s worse was putting tradition above truth and genuine worship. The people were putting more emphasis on what entered the mouth (dietary laws), than the nonsense that came out of their mouths.
A similar instance occurred during Yeshua’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, only days before His crucifixion:
They [the disciples] brought it [the donkey] to Jesus, and they threw their coats on the colt and put Jesus on it. As He was going, they were spreading their coats on the road. As soon as He was approaching, near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the miracles which they had seen, shouting:
“Blessed is the King who comes in the name of YHWH;
peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.” But Jesus answered, “I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!”
Yeshua refused to rebuke His disciples for announcing his Kingship. They were doing exactly what they ought to have done… and if they didn’t do it, something else would. All of creation, apart from humans, recognized the Messiah. If the few humans who had acknowledged their Saviour closed their mouths, the rest of creation would raise a shout declaring God’s glory.
Denying your Teacher
The celebratory mood of Yeshua’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem changed very quickly when He was betrayed by one of His disciples. At the last supper Yeshua hinted that His betrayer would be the disciple Judas Iscariot. At the same supper Yeshua told Simon Peter that he would also betray Yeshua with a denial, not once but three times. It was not a betrayal of allegiance (as Judas’s was), but a betrayal of trust and friendship:
Matthew 26:31-35 (see also Mark 14:30, Luke 22:34, John 13:38)
Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of Me this night, for it is written, ‘I will strike down the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered.’ But after I have been raised, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.”
But Peter said to Him, “Even though all may fall away because of You, I will never fall away.”
Jesus said to him, “Truly I say to you that this very night, before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.”
Peter said to Him, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You.” All the disciples said the same thing too.
Every one of Yeshua’s closest twelve students refused to admit that they would ever deny their beloved teacher. But after the kiss of betrayal by Judas Iscariot, the Roman guards became hostile and all the disciples ran in fear and left Yeshua behind (Mark 14:50). He was arrested and brought to trial in front of the high priest. Simon Peter, and one other disciple followed Yeshua from a distance to the court of the high priest:
Simon Peter was following Jesus, and so was another disciple. Now that disciple was known to the high priest, and entered with Jesus into the court of the high priest, but Peter was standing at the door outside. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the doorkeeper, and brought Peter in. Then the slave-girl who kept the door said to Peter, “You are not also one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.”
Now the slaves and the officers were standing there, having made a charcoal fire, for it was cold and they were warming themselves; and Peter was also with them, standing and warming himself. The high priest then questioned Jesus about His disciples, and about His teaching.
Jesus answered him,“I have spoken openly to the world; I always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together; and I spoke nothing in secret. Why do you question Me? Question those who have heard what I spoke to them; they know what I said.”
When He had said this, one of the officers standing nearby struck Jesus, saying, “Is that the way You answer the high priest?”
Jesus answered him, “If I have spoken wrongly, testify of the wrong; but if rightly, why do you strike Me?” So Annas sent Him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.
Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. So they said to him, “You are not also one of His disciples, are you?”
He denied it, and said, “I am not.”
One of the slaves of the high priest, being a relative of the one whose ear Peter cut off, said, “Did I not see you in the garden with Him?” Peter then denied it again, and immediately a rooster crowed.
Out of fear, Simon Peter denied who his Teacher was. He refused to be acknowledged as a disciple of the Messiah. Yeshua had told him that this would happen during their last Passover meal together, but Peter couldn’t imagine he would ever do such a thing. He had such great respect for his Rabbi. But Peter put fear for his life above the respect for his teacher.
It feels like a great betrayal in the Bible, but Peter did not need forgiveness more than us… he needed it just as much as we do. As disciples of Yeshua many of us live our lives denying who our Teacher is… or at the very least, not proclaiming who our Teacher is.
Thankfully YHWH is a loving and forgiving God. He sent Yeshua the Messiah to die on our behalf, conquer death, and save us. His sacrifice widened the path towards YHWH. The stumbling block of sin was blasted off the pathway and we can follow Yeshua, free and blameless, as we head back home to the Father.
Disciples of the Way
David was a great king of Israel, and his Psalms reflected how he saw himself as a child of God. He was a humble, and willing, student of YHWH, and he proclaimed it to the world:
Make me know Your ways, O YHWH; teach me [lamm’deni] Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me [w’lamm’deni], for You are the God of my salvation; for You I wait all the day.
Remember, O YHWH, Your compassion and Your lovingkindnesses, for they have been from of old. Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to Your lovingkindness remember me, for Your goodness’ sake, O YHWH.
Good and upright is YHWH; therefore He instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in justice, and He teaches [wi-lammed] the humble His way. All the paths of YHWH are lovingkindness and truth to those who keep His covenant and His testimonies.
As disciples of YHWH we need to follow His commandments, and get on the path of lovingkindness and truth… because not only does this world desperately need it, we also desperately need it.
After His resurrection, Yeshua appeared to His disciples and commissioned them with a final homework assignment:
And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
If you claim that YHWH/Yeshua is your Teacher, then you too are to make disciples out of everyone you meet. Every single human on the planet deserves to learn about the best Teacher in the universe… take what you have learned and share it with the world.
Next week: Shout!