Photo and Commentary ©2021 by Shelley Schurch
Sunday, October 24, 2021
We’re fond of books. We own several. Many. Lots. Dear friends who knew this about us gave us this ornament years ago; we keep it near one of our bookcases.
Sitting up in bed, pausing in my reading to look with deep satisfaction around the room at our bookshelves, full of friends, I thought again of a favorite What If.
What if each book on our many bookshelves had a little light on its spine, and when we clicked a remote control button, all those lights would start glowing – different colors to match different categories.
For instance, books I’ve read more than once would glow with a little green light, books I started but stopped reading for some reason would glow red, books I haven’t read yet would shine blue. Maybe books I should give away because I will never get around to reading them could signal that with an orange light. Books given to me could glow lavender, books I loved in childhood and still love could shine aqua, library books that have accidentally joined my personal books on the shelf and are overdue at the library could have rapidly-blinking lights! And my nighttime bookshelf browsings could be helped along if the just-right book to read next would gleam a dazzling bright, inviting white.
I grin, just thinking what our bedroom, living room, study, family room, dining room, and kitchen would look like when I clicked that “on” button – what a colorful light show! For a few moments, I would have a clear view of my reading history and perhaps a path forward.
It’s comforting to have a clear view, to know with certainty. At time of great uncertainty I have sometimes muttered to myself, “Where are the Urim and Thummim when you need them?” Not that I know that much about the Urim and Thummim. They’re mentioned only five times in the Bible – once each in Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, Ezra, and Nehemiah.
They’re introduced in Exodus 28:30, as the Lord instructs Moses on how to build the sanctuary and all its furnishings, detail after detail:
And you shall put in the breastplate of judgment the Urim and the Thummim, and they shall be over Aaron’s heart when he goes in before the LORD. So Aaron shall bear the judgment of the children of Israel over his heart before the LORD continually.
Ezra’s and Nehemiah’s mentions of the Urim and Thummim are identical to each other:
And the governor said to them that they should not eat of the most holy things till a priest could consult with the Urim and Thummim. (Ezra 2:63 and Nehemiah 7:65)
So it seems that for at least a short time in Israel’s history, the Urim and Thummim were used to give counsel when the high priest was approached with a dilemma. Some commentators suggest they were large gemstones; one glowing with a bright light to signal a divine Yes, and the other clouding over to indicate a No.
And that’s what I sometimes yearn for, that quick, clear signal from God that would stop me in my tracks or give me the go-ahead whenever I’m perplexed.
The fact that the Urim and Thummim are not mentioned prominently throughout the Bible tells me that God must have His reasons for not wanting us to rely on that kind of guidance nowadays.
But He has not left us without – after all, the name Emmanuel means “God with us.” One of the ways He is with us is in His Word; another is with the farewell gift He described to His friends before He died, rose from the grave, and ascended back to heaven:
And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever — the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. (John 14:16-18)
And a few verses later, Jesus describes the Holy Spirit as the Helper, Teacher, and Memory-Jogger.
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (John 14:26-27)
We may not have the Urim and Thummim to turn to, but we have what is infinitely better – God’s living Word to reveal His character, our need, and His provision; the Holy Spirit to teach us and to live within us; and a resulting unearthly peace.