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The Apple Watch and Old Testament Laws

Posted by Pastor Larry Hackman on

So I got an Apple Watch for Christmas. To be honest, I wasn’t sure I wanted one, but I was curious enough to throw some hints Megan’s way and she went in with my in-laws to get me one. And now that I have it I fiddle with the thing all the time, of course. What’s been surprising about a device that’s strapped to my body is how much it tells me about my habits. Well, more to the point, about the habits I don’t do. Since I’ve begun wearing the thing, I’ve learned that I don’t exercise enough, I don’t drink enough water, and I’m not getting as much sleep as I should. I was probably aware of all those facts at some level, but now I have the cold hard facts, staring me in the face through the glowing thing strapped to my wrist. Thanks, Apple Watch, for helping me realize I’m a dried up, bleary eyed schlub. 

But I have to hand it to Apple, knowing that my watch is tracking all those things actually makes me do better. I am more motivated to get in my exercise times. The occasional buzz on my wrist does, in fact, help me remember to drink a little more water. I am getting to bed a little earlier than I was. And for all that, I think I feel better. It’s  accountability I didn’t know I needed, or wanted. 

One habit I have been doing well is reading through my Bible in a year. I began in November with a friend, which means I’m smack dab in the middle of Numbers right now. Trawling through Leviticus/Numbers/Deuteronomy can feel repetitive and arcane, embedded as those narratives are in the ancient context, but as I’ve been reading about the laws for sacrifice and the numerous ways one can be declared unclean, I have been wondering how that would have shaped the thinking of the average Israelite. I imagine they would have had to keep close watch on their actions, ever conscious of what could cause them to need ritual cleansing. Would that have helped remind them that they were “set apart” by God to be a special people? When they kept track of the different feasts and sacrifices, would that have kept in the forefront of their minds their dependance on God and his faithfulness? I have to believe that those kinds of habits would have informed their spirituality somehow. Just as the habits my Apple Watch has enforced have made me think differently about my health, surely the way of life that God called the Israelites to would have made them think differently about him. 

Which has made me think about my own rituals. What are the things I do, day after day, and how are they changing the way I think? Our habits conform us, and much of the time we aren’t even conscious of them. They are, after all, the things we do over and over again: mini-rituals. Their frequency bears on our souls. When our first act in the morning is to pick up the phone to check email or Facebook, could we be teaching our soul, ever so subtly, that our primary satisfaction is in the busy buzz of our social feed? When we dial up the news station on our drive, or at home, day after day, do we feed our sense of fear? There are the habits we don’t do as well. When we never make time for silence, do we ever learn to listen? When we never take a day off from work, whether home or career, are we learning to rest and trust God to provide?  

I never would have imagined that my Apple Watch would intersect with Leviticus, but there you go; both conspire to change my way of life. As a follower of Jesus, I believe he fulfilled all that those sacrifices and rituals meant, and that they’re no longer necessary. But I also believe that he’s given me his Holy Spirit to help me shape my life to be like his. I have no doubt it’s his Spirit that has brought me to ask what rituals, what grace-infused habits, he calls me to today. You don’t need an Apple Watch or Leviticus to do the same, just inviting the Holy Spirit into your habits and thinking will do.

Will you take the time to do that today? Simply beginning by writing down a typical day for you and inviting the Holy Spirit to help you think about that could be a great start. 

P.S. This isn’t the first time I’ve been brought to this kind of reflection. One tool I’ve found helpful is a practice called a “rule of life.” A very helpful resource that allows you to work through how God has made you and what habits he is calling you to is Steve Macchia’s workbook "Crafting a Rule of Life: An Invitation to the Well-Ordered Way." I hope you find it useful too!  

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