WORD STUDY – SEEK ME EARLY – משׁחרי
Proverbs 8:17: “I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me.”
Often our personal time of worship with God that we would call a quiet time or personal devotions takes place early in the morning. It seems this proverb tends to back this timing up as it says that God loves those who seek Him early. The logical conclusion is that the earlier in the day you worship God the more He will love you. Like you, I am not buying into that conclusion.
This whole verse, however, is a little odd in the Hebrew. Let’s examine it more closely. I love them is in an imperfect form, hence it should correctly be rendered as I will love them. Of course no one will translate it that way for two reasons, one it implies that God does not love everyone and He is waiting for a little love coming from the other side before He decides to love in return. Another reason is that the following words that love me is in a participial form and means those who are loving me. Thus grammatically you would render this as; I will love those who are loving me. This would again suggest that until we start to love God, He will not love us. However, when put into the context of the proceeding phrase, those that seek me early… then the grammatical strangeness would start to make more sense.
The word love here is ahav which not only means love but in its Semitic root carries the idea of filling someone’s heat with your presence. Thus in this context it is God filling our hearts with His presence. When you love someone in the sense of ahav, that person has entered your heart, has taken control of your heart. They are constantly in your mind, your thoughts, your heart is no longer your own, they have seized control of your heart and can cause you to do some really strange things. A very normal, articulate, intellectual person is reduced to speaking nonsense to a little baby like “Goo, Goo, Da Da.”
Because of the broad range of meanings behind the word ahav it is very difficult to translate this phrase, “I will love them that are loving me.” We can only paraphrase this or make a commentary on it. Thus, what this passage is doing is conveying the idea God will fill the hearts with His presence with those who love Him.
Those who seek him early will find him. The word find is masa. In Modern Hebrew you have the word Masaad which is really not related to this word but the function of the Masaad does help us understand the word masa. The Masaad is the CIA of Israel and their job is to discover hidden or secret knowledge. That is an excellent definition of masa. In this passage masa is in a hiphil form which means that when you seek Him early you will be caused to find Him. It will just naturally happen.
Hence what Solomon is saying is that God will fill the hearts of those who love Him with His presence and if you seek Him early you will discovery His hidden secrets. Rabbinic writings teach that the hidden mysteries or secrets of God are like the taste of food. It is impossible to describe it to someone who has never tasted it. You cannot describe in words exactly what it is, it is hidden. Hence you can see the mysteries or secrets of God in Scripture, you can read it and you can even hear teaching on it, but until you actually taste it or experience it, it remains hidden, a mystery until God fills you with His presence. A pastor may preach on God’s love for hours but until he allows his congregation the freedom to worship God in this serve, will his people really understand what he is preaching.
So what does it mean to seek Him early?” The word used here for early is shachar which literally means black as in the night, or dawn, or early morning. One interpretation is that God speaks to us in our dreams. The Talmud teaches that the last dream you have, the one that you have as you are awaking in the morning is prophetic dream. So when you seek Him in your early morning dream you will discover his hidden mysteries or secrets.
Another interpretation (and both are considered by Jewish rabbis as correct) is found in ancient rabbinical writings which say: “Happy is the Holy people! Their Lord searches them, calls to them to bring them close to Him. So the Holy people should join together and enter the synagogue. Whoever arrives earliest joins himself to Shekinah in a single bond!”
This is explained in an old Jewish parable. A king summons a minyan (a quorum ten) to appear before him on a certain day and a certain place at a certain time. While everyone is preparing, one individual arrives early and alone. The king is present and waiting. He asks the man where the others are. The man explains that the others are coming but he has arrived early. Therefore the king sits down and shares with the man his thoughts and feelings in an unofficial way. Then when the others arrive he takes on a more formal posture and conducts his business. After a number of such meetings and the continual practice of the one to arrive early, the king recognizes the man’s early arrival as showing his eagerness to serve and his deep love for the king. This causes (hiphil) the king to open up with this man and share with him things that he would not share with the others.
Hence this seeking God early is presented more as a picture than to be taken literally i.e., it is not saying that the earlier you get up in the morning to have your devotions, the better chance of learning the secrets of God. Rather what is being expressed in seeking Him early is your eagerness to serve God and to meet with Him. If you arrive late for a job interview, you can pretty well write off your chances of getting that job. Why? Because your late arrival will be interpreted as a lack of desire for the job. If you arrive early you are conveying the message that you are really interested in that position. You are so interested that you made it a priority over everything else to be on time, even early.
So too with God. If you really love (ahav) Him and desire to serve Him, that love (ahav) will cause God, fill your heart such that He will be a priority over everything else you have to do and He will be the first on your agenda, hence you will arrive in His presence early. To such individuals who love (ahav) God, He will entrust His secret knowledge. As that one arriving before the others before the king, he learned and knew things about the king that the others did not because he was with the king on informal basis.
As in a natural relationship between a man and woman. If the man shows up late for a date, is sending out a text on cell phone when she is trying to talk to him and is searching the internet on his smart phone while waiting for dinner at a restaurant, well you can expect that relationship to end very quickly and that woman will not reveal anything of heart to that man. In fact she will be hurt, insulted and will her heart will be deeply wounded. But if he shows up early for the date, listens to her every word, turns off his cell phone encourages her to talk about herself, that old boy stands a good chance of learning secrets of this woman’s heart. So too if we approach a worship service late, stop to check a text during the middle of worship, check out the background of the writer of the song you are singing on your internet during worship, odds are you will not enter the heart of God. If fact that relationship between you and God will not last very long. In fact God will be hurt, insulted and you would have wounded his heart. It is best you not even show up for that worship service if you do not plan to seek Him early.