WORD STUDY – OLD – זקנ
Psalms 37:25: “I have been young, and [now] am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.”
This morning my first passenger on my disability bus was a blind man who was Jewish and in the midst of celebrating the high holidays. We got to talking about the history of the Jews and my friend commented: “You know why God allowed the Jews to go into captivity? It was because they stopped taking care of each other.”
Instantly I thought of Psalms 37:25 but not in the context Christians use it but in a Jewish context. In a Christian context we interpret that to mean that God will never abandon us and will always supply us with food. I cannot agree with that interpretation particularly when I recently read about a community of Christians in the Middle East who were starved to death by radical Muslims. I mean if God promises His seed will not be begging for bread how about these martyrs? They were righteous and faithful to the end, they would not deny Jesus even for a piece of bread and then died for lack of bread which apparently God promised to the righteous to supply, at least not to beg for.
For that and other reasons I reject our Western, self centered 21st Century interpretation of this verse. Putting this in its context, David is speaking about the righteous, these are those who obey the law of God. You see, unlike other nations, Israel did not have beggars on the streets nor were the weak, sickly or disabled forsaken. You see other nations did not take care of their weak, sickly or disabled, they were just thrown out into the streets where they had to beg and die. They were forsaken. The law of God did not allow anyone to be forsaken, the well and prosperous under the law of God to care for the less fortunate. So long as Israel followed the laws of God the needy were taken care of, they were not forsaken nor were they begging for bread.
The tribe of Levi was considered a righteous tribe for they were priest of the nation. They did not work the fields for they had no field, no portion was given to them when the land was divided, their portion was God, to serve Him, worship Him and study His laws. So long as Israel followed the law, these righteous were never forsake nor left begging for bread.
However, as my Jewish friend described, later on in Israel when it was ruled by wicked kings and left God and the law, people stopped paying their tithes and offering. Malachi 3:3-18 tells us of that period where they forsook the priest and left them begging for bread. God said that they were robbing Him. Would a man rob God, yes in neglecting their tithes and offerings, that is in not taking care of priest through tithes not he sickly, disabled, the widows and orphans through their offerings. Today people are so careful to put their ten percent in the offering plate as they don’t want to rob God. I remember a rabbi said that if his people were to give tithes they would be sinning as tithes were strictly meant for the priest and temple but since the temple and hence the priesthood do not exist today there is no need for tithes, but there is a need for offering, for we still have the poor and needy and that is what the offerings were used for.
Again, we Christians must learn to keep things within the context. God is not interested in your offerings being exactly 10%, He is interested in caring for the others and sometimes that may take more than 10% of our income. Offerings were not even meant to be 10%. The word tithe basically means 10. Offerings had no limitations like the priesthood and temple.
So back to Israel. Israel is the chosen nation and people, not only chosen to bring the Messiah into the world, but to teach us what God desires. So does Israel follow this law of giving so people are not neglected or begging as an example for us today? I went on the interent and had to search some fringe reporting as the mainline new media do not seem it is important enough to report the benevolent acts of Israel. I learned, a nation just the size of New Jersey actually have teams that travel the world bringing aid and comfort to any nation that has suffered a tragedy, regardless of whether they are friend or foe. Israel was first on the scene after the destruction of Haiti with medical personal, food, water, clothing and whatever the people needed. They were on the scene in Houston after the last Hurricane and in Puerto Rico. They are setting the example to the world only the world does not seem to notice
But to just give you a brief Hebrew lesson here look at how we usually translate Psalms 37:25 as “I was young and now I am old…” It is translated that way because it would be awkward and would not make much sense if translated literally which is “I have been young and I have been old.” I mean if he has already been young and already old what comes after old? Yet the word old is zaken in Hebrew and is in a qal perfect (past) form. The word young na’ar means a youth. It also could mean a roar or to be driven out. David may be making a play on words here referring to his time as a youth when he driven into exile by King Saul who wanted to take his life. God did not forsake him at that time nor now when he was zaken or mature in his walk with God. The Zayin represents an involvement with God, the Qop is sanctification by the Nun which is the Holy Spirit. The Zayin is the number 7 which represents God. The Qop is the number 100 – fullness and the Nun is 50 representing faith and the Holy spirit. Old in the Hebrew represents a fullness in God and the Holy Spirit and my own Christian twist – faith in Jesus Christ.
David as the leader of his nation continued in a life of faithfulness to God. Although not perfect he did his best to live according to the laws of God and led the nation in that same direction and as a result no one was neglected nor were there any beggars on the streets.