I’ve spent the last two months preaching on the life of Moses. It has been a fascinating study, looking deep into the life of one of the greatest leaders in all of human history. The story of Moses is found primarily in the books of Exodus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. These books also chronicle the activity of God as he formed the religion that we know today as Judaism. This formation took place as God and Moses had many, many conversations. These conversations happened on Mount Sinai and in a place called the Tent of Meeting. All that Jews do that makes them “Jewish” flows out of these conversations God had with Moses. All the feasts and laws and ceremonies and instruments of worship and sacrifices came from God, through Moses, to the Jews.
Part of the Jewish faith includes the wearing of a special prayer shawl called a Talit. The Talit is not just any piece of cloth, but it is made of special material, with special colors and Scripture on it. There is another curious feature of the Talit.
Passage for Reflection: Numbers 15:37-40
I want to focus on the “tassels” that are mentioned in this passage about the Talit. These tassels are called Tzitzit (pronounced “zseet-zseet”). Notice that God is very intentional that the prayer shawl must have one Tzitzit at each corner. In addition, and this is very important, the Tzitzit should also have a cord of blue thread in it. So what’s the big deal with “blue” thread? Just this: blue was the most difficult color to obtain in the ancient world. You could only get it from extracting the gland of a specific type of snail. That’s right, a snail. It would take 12,000 snails to fill up a thimble with blue ink. A pound of blue ink would go on the market for the equivalent of $36,000. That makes blue very special and rare.
God wanted something that would pop, something that would get the people’s attention. Something that required sacrifice to obtain and would thus have immediate and continuous impact. You see, the Tzitzit in general, and the blue chord in particular, were to be seen and to remind the people of God and his law. Specifically, God wanted people to see the blue chord and remember that they should “not follow after your own heart and your own eyes….”
Isn’t it true that we are forgetful people? Even leaders forget. Especially leaders forget. We forget that we are never as great as we think we are. We forget that we only lead at the pleasure of God. We forget that we lead in order to point people to God and not our own ambitions. We forget…
But God wants us to remember. And so he commanded the Talit and He commanded the Tzitzit.
We don’t use Talits and Tzitzit today. Oh, Jews do but “we” don’t. But the principle remains. When we place something in our lives, something that is tangible that we can’t help but seeing, it serves to remind us of our place before God.
Go find a Tzitzit to carry with you as you go…
“Lord, may I remember who you are and what you expect of me. Amen.”