WORD STUDY – SICKNESS – חלה

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Psalms 77:10: “And this is my sickness, the years of thy right hand of the most high.”

 

This is a Psalm written by Asaph.  From prior texts we learn he is the chief musician.  We really don’t know much more than that except that in Psalms 77 he was very troubled.  He has cried to God, but has found no peace.  Throughout the night, he is unable to sleep, his spirit feels overwhelmed.  He is so troubled he can not even speak.  He communes with his heart and diligently searches his spirit but he finds no relief.

 

Then he says a curious thing, that his sickness is God’s  right hand.  The right hand of God is suppose to be a good thing, yet he considers it his sickness. It seems every translation has their own take on this.  The NIV  says: “I will appeal to the right hand of God.”   The Living Bible says: “This is my fate, your right hand has turned against me.”   The NASB says: “It is my grief that your right hand has changed.”

 

Literally from the Hebrew the passage says: “The is my sickness, the years of the right hand of the most high.”   It seems translators just do not have the stomach to translate this verse literally.  I mean how can the right hand of God be a sickness.  But then let’s look at this word sickness.  It is the word chalah which has the idea of weakness.  The Jewish sages, however, point out that this is a play on words.  Since we know Asaph was a musician it would stand to reason that he is speaking like a musician and in his poetry he is most likely making a play on the word mahalath which comes from the same root as chalah weakness.  A mahalath is a stringed instrument like a harp, lute or lyre.  Such an instrument was noted for it’s ability to sooth a troubled soul.  David played such an instrument before King Saul to sooth his troubled soul.

 

Asaph seems to be saying that the right hand of God, is both at the same time a source of comfort and an affliction.  I think I can relate to this old boy.  I have a very important decision to make but God doesn’t seem to be helping me out any, at least the way I would like Him to help out.  As a result my soul is troubled.  I do all the right things, pray, cry out to God, remember Him, I search own heart and spirit for anything that may be causing this lack of comfort and help from God.  Then, like Asaph, I begin to think on the many times God rescued me in the past, how He always has been faithful.  I find comfort in these thoughts, like the soothing sounds of a harp.  Yet, I continue to be afflicted with the thought: “Well, He faithfully led me in the past, why is He not doing so now?”  Then I meditate on His past faithfulness and I find comfort knowing that He has proven the power of His right hand in the past.

 

Asaph,  meditates on the right hand of God.  The right hand of God  in Hebrew is yaman which is a word that expresses a close friendship with God who shares His secrets and divine revelation.  He remembers that God is his close friend.  He meditates on all His works and miracles and talks to others about His deeds.

 

There is suddenly a shift in the tone of this Psalm when we get to verse 11.   Asaph is now focusing on the mighty works of God rather than his own problems.  He remembers how He has delivered in the past, how He controls nature.  Then in verse 19 he declares “Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters, though your foot prints were not seen.”   The sea is a symbol of  the hidden mysteries of God.  Asaph is concluding this Psalm on a note of faith. God has not failed in the past, He will not fail now. Although his circumstances are unchanged, he still faces whatever problem it is that started this Psalm off but he is going to trust in God and accept the fact that  the solution to his struggle remains a mystery, known only to Him.

 

Back in the early 50’s a famous cowboy who played in many movies, wrote many of the songs that were sung by Roy Rogers, the Sons of the Pioneers, and many others, hosted a very popular radio program. Through Billy Graham this successful entertainer and song writer, Stuart Hamblen, found Jesus.  His life completely changed.  God cleaned up his language so much that he lost complete control of his hound dogs.  God also delivered him from alcohol.  He returned to his radio program and found that his new sponsor was a beer company.  He refused to sell beer and was fired.  He was unable to find any work because he was no longer the rough, hard drinking cowboy.  Money ran out and the bank was ready to foreclose on his house.  In the midst of his struggle, he, like Asaph, could find no peace, Yet, like Asaph, he also found the secret, and wrote about it in a song that Elvis Presley, the Blackwood Brothers and many others made famous.

 

Known only to him are the great hidden secrets

I’ll fear not the darkness when my flame shall dim

I know not what the future holds

But I know who holds the future

It’s a secret known only to Him.

 

In this world of fear and doubt

On my knees I ask the question

Why a lonely, heavy cross I must bear

Then He tells me in my prayer

It’s because I am trustworthy

He gives me strength far more than my share.

 

In case you are wondering, just as the bank was foreclosing on his house, Joe Stafford’s recording of  another one of his songs “It Is No Secret” became number one on the Hit Parade and Stuart Hamblin received a royalty check for enough to pay off his house.

 

In my case, when I finally stopped thinking of myself, my situation and just said: “Ok, God, whatever, you do what you want.”  The answer I was looking for was as plain as day, I was just too hung up on me and the answer I wanted to see it.