Have you ever shot a bow and arrow? I remember the plastic bow and the suction cup tipped arrows from my childhood, but I also remember the actual bow and arrow set we got in Cherokee, North Carolina. I remember setting up targets with my brother and trying to hit the bullseye. I never mastered the bow and arrow but I remember having fun as I tried.
There are two interesting archery terms in the Bible that we often miss because one word is Hebrew and the other is Old English. One of the most popular Hebrew words that we possibly use without fully understanding is torah. We use this word because it refers to our Old Testament, and is often translated as law. When Jews today speak of the Torah they are referring to the books of Moses, the first five books of the Bible, Genesis-Deuteronomy. But the word torah comes up throughout the Old Testament and speaks of God’s law.
Psalm 1 describes the person who wants to be happy, and verse 2 says, “But his delight is in the law (torah) of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.” Psalm 119 also speaks of the person who wants to be happy, and it begins by saying, “Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law (torah) of the Lord!”
Although we translate torah as law, it actually comes from a verb form which means to direct, to guide, to aim, or to shoot forward. This is an archery term because it referred to a person who would aim his arrow at a target and shoot it towards the bullseye. Over time the word evolved and became applied to the teachers of the law. When teachers teach their students, they have a goal in mind; they want their learners to grasp the subject, so they direct their students towards the end goal. So God’s law is something that we are supposed to be shooting for.
But there is another archery term that is familiar to us. The Old English word sin translates a Greek word that means, “to miss the mark.” Etymologically, this word was used in archery by the person who stood near the target during competitions. The archer would aim his arrow towards the bullseye and take his shot, and the spotter would either call out, “you hit the mark,” or, “you sinned.” This is amazing when we realize that one of these words is Old Testament and Hebrew, and the other is New Testament and Greek, but when brought together they give us a picture of humanity.
Romans 3:23 famously tells us that, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Every single human, from the best of us down to the least, has sinned. We cannot hit the bullseye, no matter how hard we have tried. Some have sought to earn heaven by being a good person. We pull an arrow from the quiver, line it up towards the bullseye of right living, and shoot our best shot. But the devil has assigned himself the role of spotter. He shouts out with great delight, “You sinned!” And even though he is the father of lies, he is telling the truth when he calls out our sin. God’s standard for us is perfection, but all it takes is one missed arrow to forever separate us from His presence.
This is where the sacrifice of Jesus comes into play. II Corinthians 5:21 says, “For He (God) made Him (Jesus) who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Jesus is the only person who never sinned. He never missed the mark. But God took all of our sin—our imperfections and shortcomings—and laid them upon Jesus when He went to the cross. When Jesus was crucified God the Father was dealing with our sin.
Now anyone who calls upon the name of the Lord can be saved because God will transfer our sin to Jesus’ account. Now we can truly be happy by delighting ourselves in the torah of God because it is not based on how well we keep it. We will still miss the mark, but our sin has been dealt with. This frees us up to do our best without fear of separation from God. We can now find His law to be enjoyable and for our own good, as it points us to God’s great character and amazing grace.