WORD STUDY – TEACH ME למדכי
Psalms 25:4b “O LORD; teach me thy paths.”
I have heard many times from preachers that a couplet in the Psalms is a repetition of the same thing just said in another way. That is really not accurate. A couplet is not a repetition of the same thing but following similar thought. It is an expression of something different yet similar.
Way and paths are similar but different. In fact the Hebrew uses two different word just like in English. In English there is a difference between the words way and path. The word way means a method, plan or means of attaining a goal. In this verse, as explained in the last chapter, that goal is to achieve intimacy with God. In English the word path means a route, course or track along which something moves.
It is interesting to note that the word way and path are in the plural in Hebrew. This does not necessarily mean that God has many different ways and paths. The plural in Hebrew is different than the plural in English where in English it means more than one. The plural in Hebrew could also mean the ultimate, the greatest, the best etc. Only from the context do we know whether we are speaking of more than one or not. To be consistent with Scripture we should not render this ways or paths in the singular because Jesus said I am The Way John 14:6. There is only one way to God. But then again if we are speaking of intimacy with God there may be many ways to be intimate with God. Just as God created six billion people with each being different in some way, it stands to reason each will relate to God in some different way. So God may have many ways. It would be consist with grammatical rules to say the plural means both more than one and the ultimate. His ways are greater than man’s ways.
Now the question is what are the paths of God. The word path is ‘orechoteka from the root word ‘orach. In its Semitic root it means to be long or to grow long. It comes from an old Akkadian word urriku which means to extend or delay. One way of looking at this is that the Psalmist is asking God that during this long delay on his journey to heaven he wants God to teach Him. The word ‘orach grew to take on the meaning of a manner of life or life style. So the Psalmist is wanting to be taught during this long delay on the road to heaven to walk in a manner or life style taught directly by God.
He specifically wants God to do the teaching because he starts off by saying: “O Lord.” The word Lord is YHWH or Jehovah. Oddly, the Talmud teaches that YHWH, which is in a feminine form, expresses the feminine nature of God, that is the loving, caring and nurturing nature of God. Elohim is the masculine form and expresses the masculine nature of God or the protection, provision and discipline aspect of God. He wants to follow in God’s footsteps while on this journey through life, but following in the caring, loving and nurturing aspect of God. Only God can teach us that.
We have Christian teachers and pastors who teach us the ways of God. But to learn how to be like God, only God can teach us that. Only in His presence where we feel his great love, nurturing and caring can we learn to love, care and nurture like He does. Let’s face it, no person of the flesh can teach us to love, no one can teach us to care and no one can teach us to nurture. We say these are natural instincts, which they are. All humans are born with a caring, loving and nurturing nature. This is the image of God that we are created in. However, we have varying degrees of expressing this and often these traits are buried in our own personal lust and desires. As we draw close to God throwing off these fleshly desires God is able to teach us by example how to express that love, caring and nurturing that He has instilled in us.
The ancient Hebrews and Semitic people understood this better than we do today because they lived a holistic life style. That is they were very close to nature or the creation of God. We in our culture look upon the slaughter of innocent animals as a sacrifice to God as brutal and inhumane. Most people who eat a hamburger will not care to consider the innocent, living creature that was slaughtered to provide the hamburger meat. Some do consider it and will not eat meat. Again all this is born out of the compassion that reflects the image of God that He created us in.
To the ancients however, they had just as much respect for life if not more, particularly among the Hebrew. Hunters would call the animals to them, ask the animal what their purpose in life was and if the animal said it was to feed his family so they would live, then that animal would sacrifice his life so the hunter’s family would continue to live. The hunter would be sure to be as humane to the animal as possible. In Judaism the butcher is called a shohet who is a shehitah one who is knowledgeable in the slaughter of animals. In the Bible it does not state how to slaughter an animal, this was given orally to Moses. Leviticus 22 does give some guidelines. In other words this slaughtering of animals was done in the most humane way possible as the instructions were given by God Himself so the animal would not suffer.
Scripture gives us information but the paths or life style of caring, loving and nurturing can only be taught by God Himself. God reserves the most precious things in life to be taught only by Him and Him alone. In my time of Silence in the Northwoods, I grew to understand this holistic life style, feeling one with God’s creation. When that happened God’s creation around me began to teach me the most precious things of God. It was God teaching me through His beloved creation. He allowed me to open my heart to hear the message of every creature and created thing.
Look at this word teach. It is the word Lamed. There is the same as the letter in the Hebrew Alphabet called Lamed and it means to teach. It comes before the Mem which means the open and hidden revelation of God. We must be taught before we receive the open and hidden revelation of God. The next letter in the Alphabet is the Nun which is the letter for faith. Once the open and hidden revelation of God is given to us, it is then we receive our faith. But it is the Lamed, the teaching that comes first. We have pastors, teachers and every believer who are to teach others of the revealed knowledge of God that will lead to Faith. But there are two Mems in Hebrew, there is the open Mem which has a little opening at the bottom to represent the open or revealed knowledge of God. Then there is the final or closed Mem which has no openings. This is the hidden knowledge of God. The Lamed or teaching goes in two directions. The first is the teaching or Lamed of man. That is the little bump in the middle of the Lamed which is man’s heart. Man must teach the revealed knowledge of God from His heart. But there is also another direction of the Lamed. It is like a hand reaching up to heaven. That is the Lamed of God or teaching of God to teach us the hidden knowledge. Both lead to the Nun which is faith.
But note, the Nun has two forms, an open and a closed Nun. The open Nun is faith received from the teaching of man, the revealed knowledge of God and is to be shared with everyone. The closed Nun is the faith received from the teaching of God, the hidden knowledge and that is meant for you and you alone.