WORD STUDY – BE NOT FAR
Psalms 71:12, “O God, be not far from me: O my God, make haste for my help.”
“Oh God, thy sea is so great and my boat is so small.” Brenton Fisherman Prayer
Many passages of Scripture are so clear and straight forward that you really do not need to look it up in a commentary and indeed the commentary will likely add nothing that you do not already glean from a passage. Psalms 71:12 appears, at first glance, to be very clear, David is crying out to God for help, begging Him not to be distant.
I mean we surely can relate to this. Yes, we know God is everywhere, omnipresent and lives within our hearts, but yet sometimes our sea seems to be so great and the resources God has given us to navigate these rough seas seem so small that God actually seems to be distant from us. Then sometimes we get ourselves into such a pickle that we plead to God to hurry up and bring our deliverance. Time is running out, we’ve used up every possible resource and the sheriff is at the door with the eviction notice and we cry out, “God where are you!” Sure He is right inside us, He is everywhere and it is not that God is so far away as it seems like he is refusing to step in and help us out.
Then again we go through what St. John of the Cross called the Dark Night of the Soul. We go through a period when it seems like God is distant, we just can no longer feel His presence, it is almost as if He has withdrawn His presence from us, but of course he has not and we know it is just we who have withdrawn from Him. Yet, we repent, we cry out to Him and still we do not feel His presence. Perhaps this is what David is feeling. Perhaps that sweet presence of God has left him and he is crying out for it, he needs it to help him in his present situation.
Such is the beauty of the Word of God, it is infinite. Do you honestly believe that the God of the Universe was able to say everything He wanted to say to us in one skinny little book? Not unless that book is like Dr. Who’s TARDIS. A small box on the outside that you can walk around in a few seconds but is really a vast star ship inside that is so big even Dr. Who himself has not visited all its many chambers.
Psalms 71:12 is such a TARDIS, although it is only eight words in the Hebrew and thirty three letters, you could write volumes and a library of books off those few words and letters. Some will say: “Hey this word means help, nothing else, don’t try to read into it or sermonize it, it means one thing and that is all.” Well if you believe that then you have placed limits on our God. For if that is the case then we can pretty much come to a full understanding of His Word in just a few years of concentrated study and then move on to other things. The ancient Jewish sages used to study the Word of God every day, a minimum of seven hours every day, they would memorize it word for word and they would do this every day of their life and yet not a day would pass that they would not discover something new and fresh from the Word of God. So the next time you want to show off your complete understanding of a passage of Scripture in some Bible study, be aware of the fact that there will likely be someone with just another twist or spin on that verse and if you can hold back your pride for just a moment you may discover something new and fresh.
So without losing or ignoring the immediate understanding of this verse, let us just step into one of its many chambers and see what else we might discover. What about this God being far from me business? The word used for being far away is rachak which means far away, remote or at a distance. Yet, the word starts with a Taw which indicates that it is an incompleted action or one that is yet to come. In other words he is saying to God, “Don’t run off, stay around, stick with me.” The word comes from a Semitic root meaning to be large or vast. In other words David is saying, “I know you have a greater plan, a far larger purpose than just for myself, but, hey, could you just focus on my little problem right here.” The old Brenton Fisherman Prayer can explain rachak’s Semitic root very well, “Oh God, your sea is so vast and my boat is so small.”
Then he asks God for help. The word help is ‘azar which means to help or bring relief. It comes from an Akkadian word which was used by the Assyrians to call upon their gods for strength to prevail against an enemy. It is the root word for the name given to Ezra the scribe who preserved the Torah. He was the protector of the Word of God. So David is asking for more than just an assist from God, he is seeking God’s protection, relief and strength to prevail against his enemy.
The final word in this verse is rendered as hasten, which is the Hebrew word hushah which means to hasten, or hurry up. But the word is repeated twice. The first time it is hishah and the second time it is hushah. The first time the word is used its second letter is a Yod and the second time it is used the second letter is a Vav. Now the common Christian explanation that you learn in your seminaries is that it is the same word spelled differently and repeated to show emphasis. I go along with that, but I also like the explanation I read in Jewish literature that the first word, hishah, with the Yod means to hurry up with some knowledge or wisdom from heaven and the second time the word is use with the Vav, hushah, means to hurry up and connect me to heaven or fill me with the presence of God.
You see if you sit in a Bible study and you say this verse is obviously talking about David seeking the presence of God and then another person corrects you and says, “Nay, brother, it is just David asking for God to help him.” Then someone else says, “No, he is just asking God for some relief from his struggles.” Then another person jumps in and says, “Listen, brothers, I checked this out in the original Hebrew and what David is really saying is that he wants God to give him strength.” Then the rest of your precious time together is spent arguing over who is correct, trying to save face and pride. Yet, God’s word is a TARDIS, there are many chambers and all you did was simply enter the chamber that spoke to your heart. It does not means someone else is not going to enter another chamber that speaks with a little different spin but speaks to their heart just as much. In fact you are all correct, learn from each other and if someone is really off the reservation, your heart will tell you and just put a pad lock on that chamber and walk on. The only thing you will accomplish is wasting a lot of valuable time in the Word of God trying to get that brother to think like you do which, of course, he will not do, at least not in public. I mean he’s got his pride also. Remember, God’s sea is very great and your boat is very small.