Category: Devotionals

Daily Devotionals from Chaim Bentorah

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Word Study: Wandering Desire

WORD STUDY – WANDERING DESIRE

Ecclesiastes 6:9: “Better is the sight of eyes than the wandering of the desire, this is also vanity and the vexation of the spirit.”

One of the stories from Geoffrey Chaucer’ s “Canterbury Tales” is entitled “The Pardoner’s Tail” In this story he makes reference to an enigmatic old man who is unable to die and wishes to trade his age for someone else’s youth. He explains that he cursed Jesus as he was on his way to the cross and was doomed to wander the earth and never die until Jesus returns, or until the second coming. This is a reference to the old legend of the Wandering Jew. It is told that when Jesus was carrying his cross to be crucified he paused to rest. When he did a Jewish man came up to him and mocked him and ordered him to keep moving, taunting him all the way to his crucifixion. He was then cursed to walk the earth until the second coming, living a life filled with desires but never able to be satisfied in their fulfillment. This theme has been played out in many variations from the Flying Dutchman to modern day morality plays. The idea is that what man desires most, immortality, when given proves to be a curse. He is doomed to wander the earth filled with desires of the flesh, but never able to find satisfaction in their fulfillment. This then becomes a punishment worse than the flames of hell.

Another variation of this legend has the Wandering Jew walking the Halaka or righteous life as atonement for his sin of mocking Jesus, yet never finding true forgiveness because he is unable to really know Jesus and understand that it was the cross that paid for his sin. So the Wandering Jew still wanders the earth to this day seeking his salvation through living a righteous life, yet never finding salvation because he does not know Jesus.

“Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the desire.” When you read this verse in Hebrew you can find many variations on the rendering of this verse. One variation almost tells the story of the Wandering Jew. The word better is tov and this can be rendered as in harmony with God.” The word sight is ra‘ah which references spiritual sight as well as physical sight. The word for eyes is Ayin which represents deep spiritual discernment and insight. So you could render that first part of the verse: “Harmony in spiritual insight with spiritual discernment is better than wandering of the desire.”

Here is this clincher, the word wander is halaka, a righteous walk and the word desire is nephesh the soul. In other words we can render this verse as: “It is more in harmony with God to have deep spiritual insight than to walk a righteous life to satisfy the soul.

I was reading an article about the Muslim religion and my attention was caught on photos of Muslims. (A Muslim is someone who follows Islam and Isalm is the religion a Muslim follows). I saw Muslims praying and others deeply involved in the study of the Koran. I could not help but think: “My word, these people are more devoted than I am.” I went to the Lord about this and I believe he gave me Ecclesiastes 6:9 as a response. There are a lot of religious devotees in this world that will walk a halaka a righteous walk for the sake of their soul. Yet, that is not in harmony with God. To seek the Ayin, the deep spiritual insight and discernment of God or, as the Ayin can also be expressed, to seek and know the heart of God is more in harmony with God than walking a righteous life for the sake of your soul.

I have to stop and ask myself: “Are these devoted Muslims just “Wandering Jews?” Am I a Wandering Jew?” Do I wander this earth seeking to walk the Halaka through my devotion, prayer and study of the Word and yet end up not really knowing God, not knowing His heart?

To seek to walk the Halaka or live a righteous life for the sake of your soul is vanity, an illusion and is a vexation of the Spirit. Some translations say it is like chasing the wind. The word vexation is ra’ah which has the idea of grazing or feeding. To walk a righteous life for the sake of your soul is like feeding on the wind. There is nothing there and your hunger is never satisfied.

So many people hunger for God and they seek to satisfy that hunger by living a righteous life, or devoting their lives to prayer and study, but like the Wandering Jew they find no satisfaction, their lives are empty. Like the Wandering Jew they can not see that it is Jesus the one they mocked that will fill that emptiness. To follow the Ayin (the sight of the eyes) will lead you directly to Jesus. To follow your own righteousness is like chasing the wind or trying to feed on the wind, it leads to emptiness. Our righteous acts are considered filthy rags, we do not owe them to God we owe them to the wind.

Word Study:Nashon נהשׁנ

WORD STUDY – NAHSHON – נהשׁנ

Num 7:12 And he that offered his offering the first day was Nahshon the son of Amminadab, of the tribe of Judah:

I am amazed at how Christians will talk of their love for the Word of God but (by my guess) only spend their time, at best, studying 30% of the Bible. Most of their study is in the New Testament particularly the Book of Revelation where they will parse every verb. As far as the Old Testament goes they will read the Bible stories and the Psalms but when they get to a book like Numbers. I mean really who cares that Nahshon was the son of Amminadab from the tribe of Judah and that he gave the first offering?

Well, I will tell you who cares, the Jews. This is from the Torah, the book given to them by God and thus they will devour every word seeking a message from God. If you study this passage in light of the following passages, if you examine the words that are used, meditate on it, the Holy Spirit will reveal a truth to you. I can look at many hours I waste every day, but the three to four plus hours I spend in the Word of God is time I know and am certain is not wasted.

First let’s look at the name used here, Nahshon. The first person to give an offering was a man named Nahson. You don’t usually hear this name very often. It is a Hebrew name from the root word nachash which means an enchanter. It also means one who observes signs both the giving and receiving of signs. Isn’t it interesting that the first one to give an offering is one who observes signs, both the giving and receiving of signs. He is the son of Amminadab which means my kinsmen are of high morals, principled and honorable.

So the first man to give an offering came from a respectable, morally principled and honorable family who carefully watched for signs from God and would give signs to God. You can play around with this yourself to find some message but to me it means that we should look for signs from God and send signs to God. Nahson saw that giving an offering was sign to God, a sign of one with an honorable heart. He did not give an offering to God to get something in return, he gave it to send God a message, a message of love or respect. Ok, that is just me, maybe you can pull something else from that, maybe the Spirit of God is showing you something different. But still this is the Word of God and there is a message for us, even in a verse that seems to have no significant message. But like Nahson, we should look for the signs of a message from God when we find a passage like this that seems to have no spiritual value.

I went to the Midrash Rabbah to see what the Jewish sages and rabbis picked up from this passage. Let me quote from the Midrash Rabbah, more specifically Numbers Rabbah 13&14: “The Torah seems to be squandering dozens of verses by itemizing the gifts brought by the leaders of the twelve tribes of Israel on the occasion of the inauguration of the Sanctuary. Each tribe brought its offering on a different day, but the gifts they each brought were identical in every respect, down to the weight of the silver plates and the age of the five lambs. Nevertheless, the Torah recounts each tribe’s gift separately, repeating the 35 item list twelve times in succession.”

Here’s the kicker: “While the twelve tribes made identical offerings, each experienced the event in a different manner. Each of the 35 items in the offering symbolized something – a personality or event in Jewish history, or a concept of Jewish faith or practice- but to each tribe it symbolized different things.” The passage concludes by saying: “All conform to the same divinely ordained guidelines, all order their lives by the same Torah; all carry a common bond with God, yet each flavors the very same deeds with his individual nature and approach…we are faced with the powerful drive to create, to personalize, to grow and soar with our individualized talents and tools.”

This is what it Numbers 7, a chapter which seems to “squander” dozens of verses with repetition, is saying to me personally or what I believe the Holy Spirit is revealing to me for my personal benefit. What it being told here is that everyone is different. We all share a common bond with God, but when it comes to worship and our relationship with God this is personal, individual with each of us responding to God within the nature, creativity, and mentality that He created in us.

I will make a confession. I cannot worship God with the music that is played in our churches today. I know that there are people who can, but I can’t. Yet, I feel this pressure to join in the worship, I lift my hands and I act like I am being blessed by the music. In truth I am not. So what I do is stay seated. Not in defiance. For whatever reason worship leaders expect you to stand during the worship service for the full half hour to forty five minutes as they drone on and on with their horrible music. I am getting to be an old man, it is a really a challenge to stand all that time, particularly when you are bored out of your socks. So I disobey the worship leader, I stay seated. I have my own way of worshipping God and relating to God and it is not the way of the worship leader. I bow my head and I just sit back and enjoy the presence of God. If I feel compelled to lift my hands, I will but if I don’t I won’t.

You see, like you, like every Christian, we are individuals who have a personal relationship with God. Right now God created me old so I worship like an old person. I dig the old hymns and worship songs of the 70’s. That is how I worship. The music may sound silly and stupid to you but to me it brings me into God’s presence just like the modern music does for you.

You see, Numbers 7 convinces me that of the 6 Billion people in the world today, no two are absolutely identical. Each are different in some way. If God made each person different then it stands to reason they can relate to God and worship Him in a way different than the other six billion. So don’t try to tell me how I am to worship God, how I am study His word, or how I am to enjoy my relationship with Him. I have a personal relationship with God and I have spent my entire life discovering how I relate to Him personally without trying to imitate some young whipper snapper who can play a guitar.

Word Study:A Husband Of Blood

WORD STUDY – A HUSBAND OF BLOOD

Exodus 4:24-26: “And it came to pass by the way in the inn, that the LORD met him, and sought to kill him. Then Zipporah took a sharp stone, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast [it] at his feet, and said, Surely a bloody husband [art] thou to me. So he let him go: then she said, A bloody husband [thou art], because of the circumcision.”

This is a rather strange story that covers three verses and then we hear no more about it. There has been much speculation as to what this is all about. As Moses and his family arrive back in Egypt he meets up with the Lord who seeks to kill him. Zipporah immediately takes a sharp stone cuts the foreskin off of her son and throws it at the feet of Moses and declares he is a bloody husband. As a result the Lord decides not to kill Moses. This is not exactly an account you want to include when you are teaching little children the story of Moses in Sunday School.

So why is this even in the Bible, did it actually take place? Well, if it is in the Bible then I believe it is a real event. Not only do I believe it to be a real event, but I also believe it carries a very powerful message for the church today.

First we need to look at who Zipporah was. She was the daughter of Jethro who is in introduced in Exodus 2:18 as Reuel of Midian. In Islam Jethro comes under the name of Shuaib or Shu’ayb and is revered as a Prophet of Isalm. It is believed that he is a descendent of Ishmael which is very likely as Ishmael was known to settle among the Midianites. This then would make Jethro a descendent of Abraham and would explain his empathy for the Jewish God Jehovah.

I was reading in the Talmud Sanhedrin 106a that the Pharaoh consulted with Jethro, Balaam and Job regarding what to do with the Hebrews. Balaam said to exterminate them, commit genocide. Job sat on the fence and did not say harm or bless them and Jethro said to leave them alone. Because of Jethro’s stand on behalf of the Hebrews his descendants the Rechabites were allowed to sit with the Sanhedrin in the Temple. Jethro was a good man and sought to follow God Jehovah according to the best of his knowledge. However after generations and generations of having no guidance in the ways of Jehovah syncretism, the mixing of various religions, took place.

Exodus 2:16 tells us that Jethro was a priest of Midian. What that means is not altogether clear, however, it is safe to assume he mixed some of his belief in Jehovah with the pagan religion of Midian which is believed to be an early form of Druze which is monotheistic and Abrahamic and eventually evolved to Isamailism which is a branch of Shia Isalm. The important thing to keep in mind is that there is an element of the true worship of Jehovah mixed in with all this. As the descendants of Ishmael had not religious training in the ways of Jehovah, a lot of pagan beliefs wandered into this religion as the generations formed. One basic element of the Hebrew religion that was initiated by Abraham was circumcision. By the time of Zipporah, however, circumcision was still practiced but it was done by the bride on her wedding night, yeah go figure. Who wants to be circumcised on your wedding night. So to make this more viable a belief arose that on one’s wedding night a demon would come around to kill the new bridegroom
To appease this demon the new bride would cut the foreskin off of her husband as a blood sacrifice and throw it at his feet as an atonement of sorts so that the demon would have no cause to take the husband’s life. Somewhere in all that mish mosh you see an element of the original belief of blood sacrifice for atonement of sins. Anyways, the husband would be so grateful to his new bride for saving his life that he would then consummate the marriage, after a little time of healing for his wife’s surgical procedure. But she would declare to her new husband chatan damim atah li you are a husband of blood to me. This is a colloquial expression meaning I saved your kester buddy so you had better be faithful to me.

So come the wedding night of Zipporah and Moses as Zipporah gets her martial knife ready to save her husband from this demon that is to come around to kill him she discovers to her horror that the old boy is already circumcised. Now she lives in anxious watch, waiting and sensitive for this supernatural being to come around to kill her husband. They have their first male child and on the eighth day as Moses gets ready to have the Brit milah old Zipporah steps in and says “Not on your life kiddo, you may have escape that demon for now, but no way are you going to endanger my son’s life. He keeps his foreskin until he gets married.” They argue, they fight over it and of course as week kneed men have done throughout the ages he eventually gives in. He probably thought, “What the fat, would it make any difference?” Actually, yes, it put Moses in direct disobedience to God.

Now that Moses has entered Egypt and is ready to really move in the power of God, here he is about to declare a plague that would kill the first born of the Egyptians and his own family is not in obedience to God because his wife is clinging to some pagan belief that her son would be protected from this angel of death through a perversion of one of the key commands of God, the rite of circumcision. Ironic, isn’t it. Zipporah senses the presence of a supernatural being that is not at all pleased with the household and she is suddenly struck with the fear, “This is it, that demon has come to kill my husband and he has no foreskin for me to cut off to save his life.” In the Hebrew the phrase seeking to kill is yibaqesh hamitho which really means desiring for the death (of Moses). It does not mean God was seeking to kill him but only desired his death. The word death is moth which simply means an end to life. Paul said: “For me to live is Christ to die is to gain,” Philippians 1:21. If Moses was not in obedience to God he could not be used for this great task so his mission on earth was over, God was ready to take him home and hire someone else who was in complete obedience. So in desperation Zipporah cuts the foreskin from her son and tosses it at the feet of Moses and says, “You are now a husband of blood to me.” Moses and God simply says, “You are now in compliance, let’s get these Hebrew children out of Egypt already.”

I think there is a great lesson for us in this. I have a friend who grew up in a very legalistic church. Movies, dancing, bowling on Sunday, smoking, drinking and back in the 60’s and 70’s long hair on men was sinful. The Bible has absolutely nothing to say on movies, long hair and bowling. It does mention drinking to excess and actually encourages dancing. But the church taught her it was sinful and stretched some Scripture references to support their view and she grew up hog tied to a certain belief system that she could not really fellowship with any Christians outside her denomination. She even questioned that they were Christians.

Eventually as she grew older, married and had children of her own she came to realize that although there was really nothing sinful in following her legalistic system, she also realized she grew critical, judgmental to Christians who did not abstain from these things. She realized she was in not really living the ministry God laid on her heart because of her critical attitude toward other believers. Even though she was following a harmless and seemingly beneficial belief system she was not in obedience to God in loving others and because of that disobedience, God could not perform the work through her that He intended.

We have a lot of traditions in our churches, many are not really Scriptural but just cultural. They are harmless and not sinful, but we really need to discern if some of these traditions will cause us to be disobedient to God.

Word Study: Green

WORD STUDY – GREEN –  Yod Resh Qop

Isaiah 15:6: “For the waters of Nimrim shall be desolate, for the hay is withered away, the grass faileth, there is no green thing.”

Today my study partner was telling me about a personality test and that these test assigned certain personalities a color. It has been shown that color does affect our personalities, moods and attitudes. I recently read where a study was done and found that the color pink help cut down on thefts and so many macho athletic teams began painting locker rooms pink. They actually noticed a drop in thefts in the locker room. Restaurants did a study on colors and tried to determine colors which affects the appetite.

In modern times we have learned to synthetically produce colors on such a massive scale that we really never give much thought to color. In ancient times, as well as medieval times color, was special. Most of a person’s world was in black and white. Thus, to come upon a field of wild flowers one would be far more awed by the colors than we who are surrounded by colors all day long. Even today the sudden appearance of bright colors do startle us. Did you ever watch the Wizard of Oz where the movie starts off in black and white and then when Dorothy opens the door of her house in the Land of Oz, the movie introduces full technicolor. Even today we are awed but you can imagine how audiences in the thirties who were used to their movies in black and white must have felt when they saw the color, most for the first time on screen.

To ancient man reading Isaiah 15:6 the mention of a color, green thing, must have really stood out to him more than it does for us today. Isaiah the prophet is predicting the desolation of Moab. The waters of Nimrim which flows into the Jordan and brings fertility to the area would dry up. Hence the hay will wither away. Actually, there is no word for hay here, it is just the word wither and due to the syntax translators felt obligated to put something in there that withers so they called it hay. Some translations say vegetation. I tend to agree with the World English Bible which says the grass withers and the tender grass fails. In other words all green plantations disappeared such that there was nothing green left.

If you really read this passage you get the idea that the prophet is not so much talking about the disappearance of a food supply as he is talking of the disappearance of color. One of God’s greatest gifts to us is color which we take so for granted. It has been found that the color green has the tendency to sooth a troubled mind, to relax you and sooth you. In fact in many cities where they switched from a bright white street light to a green color found crime decreased.

The word green in Hebrew here is iereq which your lexicon will simply say means green or green plantations. It is also used for the word spittle which has a greenish color so the emphasis with ‘iereg is not on vegetation but on the color. It is interesting to note that ancient man felt there were healing powers in one’s spittle which is why healers would often anointed someone with their spit. Of course in our culture green spittle is gross but not to ancient man. The Old Testament is filled with color and we, as Christians, simply focus on the symbolism of color.

Even the ancient rabbis who assigned letters to the word for green ‘iereg spelled it out so as to show that Green was a color that brings peace and rest. The first letter, Yod, teaches us to be at one with our changing world, to calmly and peacefully embrace it. As the green grass fades in autumn and winter, there will be a spring where it will again return. Yod teaches us to trust our creator’s faithfulness as demonstrated in His faithfulness to give us our seasons. The next letter is the Resh which is the letter for the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus called our Comforter (John 14:16) that He himself would send to us. The Resh is also the letter of healing and it is through this Comforter that we are healed. The last letter is the Qop is the letter of completion, and fulfillment. The Qop brings us into peace with the changes around us. Thus, God gave us the color green ‘iereg to bring us into peace and to sooth our troubled minds. When I need to find peace, I turn to God’s medication or prescription: “Take two walks in the lush green of My park, sit under My green leaves of My trees and give Me a call.”

I was just informed by my editor that my lastest book has gone to the printers and will be ready for release in January. It is entitled: Journey Into Silence. It tells of my experience of living in silence. While living in silence I walked through a forest where I was surrounded by green vegetation. Surrounded by God’s creation with a dominate color of green. I felt the peace of God in such a way that I never feel when I am in the city.

I always introduce my Hebrew classes with a lecture on art as you cannot fully understand Hebrew unless you understand what art is all about. Artist, painters, love to deal with color and they try to create colors that will invoke a passion or emotional response in someone. I love to tell of my favorite artist, Vincent Van Gogh. Van Gogh originally aspired to be a pastor and indeed was a missionary to a mining town in Belgium where he began sketching the people in the community. Van Gogh was also a man with a troubled mind who was tortured with depression. The genius of Van Gogh was his ability to take his pain and torment and turn it into color. Well, that is what any artist tries to do, but what made Van Gogh stand out from all the rest and indeed is probably the only artist in history to do so, was his ability to take his pain, turn it into color and then make something beautiful out of it.

God’s gift of color found in His creation was meant for a purpose. Every colorful bird, animal, sea creature and vegetation is given to us by God so that in spite of all the misery, pain, sadness and torment of this world, He has given us something beautiful.

Word Study: A Good Spirit


WORD STUDY – A GOOD SPIRIT

II Samuel 18:10: “And it came to pass on the morrow that the evil spirit from God came upon Saul and he prophesied in the midst of the house.”

“There is no witness so terrible, no accuser so powerful as conscience which dwells within us.” – Sophocles

The spelling for the word ra’ah (evil) is identical for an adjective or a verb. As an adjective the root word would be ra’ah. Ra’ah is an evil so consuming that it causes envy, sorrow and/or sadness. As a verb the root word would also be ra’ah which is something that consumes you or feeds upon you. There is positive side to ra’ah and that is that it is a consuming passion where we could say God has a ra’ah or consuming passion for us and we have a ra’ah a consuming passion for Him. The context will determine if this is a positive ra’ah or a negative ra’ah. In this case I believe it is safe to say this is a negative ra’ah, a consuming passion for evil. But soft, is it really? Let’s examine this a little.

Yesterday a gunman entered a church in Texas and killed 26 members and wounding 20 others. The is the negative side of ra’ah. This gunman was consumed by evil. A few weeks ago in Las Vegas a gunman fired upon a crowd and witnesses told of men who threw themselves on top of their girlfriends, fiancé and/or wives so that the bullets would strike them and not the one they love. They had such a ra’ah a consuming passion for their loved one that they were ready to die in their place. That is a the positive side of ra’ah. The context in this case seems pretty obvious. Both the defenders and the shooter were ra’ah, but one showed the positive side of ra’ah and the other the negative side.

In our study passage the context may seem obvious, until we look at the syntax which seems to be very ambiguous. Most your modern translations will take a traditional approach and render this as an adjective expressed as an evil spirit from God. However, a literal rendering would say: “The spirit of God was evil to Saul.” Now the context of ra’ah gets a little blurry. If we say: “The Spirit of God was consuming or feeding on Saul” how would we define ra’ah, as negative or positive, bad or good?

We automatically think of a demonic spirit when we read the words evil spirit. I believe the Bible does clearly teach the existence of demonic spirits, but that could very well not be the case here, especially considering this spirit is sent by God. Would God actually send a demonic spirit to torment someone for being disobedient? I have a problem with that. I personally believe that God did not need to send a demonic spirit upon Saul; he just needed to fire up the old conscience. A guilty conscience can manifest itself in many ways, it could come out as depression, fear or anger. Saul had once worshipped God with all his heart and he had once loved God with all his heart. But when sin and disobedience entered his life there grew a separation between himself and God.

God often uses our conscience or as we like to say the conviction of the Holy Spirit to awaken us to our disobedience or sin. I remember watching my father as he lead a man to the Lord. This man was crying, sweating, shaking his head, wringing his hands. He was under the conviction of the Holy Spirit. When he finally accepted the Lord I watch an amazing transformation take place as this man who was so filled with guilt was suddenly freed from his guilt and started praising God.

I believe the Spirit that came upon Saul was not ra’ah evil spirit but a ra’ah Holy Spirit filled with a consuming passion of love for Saul. It filled Saul with such guilt that he became depressed and angry. God was wooing Saul back to Him through the conviction of the Holy Spirit and like many who resist the loving persuasion of the Holy Spirit they become depressed or angry because they often interpret the conviction or consuming passion of the Spirit of God as just a guilty conscience. Such moves by the Holy Spirit will either bring us to repentance or cause us to rebel all the more and do exactly what Saul did become filled with rage. Have you ever shared the Gospel with someone and suddenly they break into a rage? Maybe they are resisting the Holy Spirit. To resist that loving persuasion of the Holy Spirit, making you feel guilty and sorrowful over your sins is blasphemy.

Blasphemy is defined by Webster as an act of insult or showing contempt or lack of reverence for God. When you share God’s Good News of Salvation, the forgiveness of sin, tell me how someone who rejects and scorns the loving persuasion of the Holy Spirit, making him mindful of his sins when being shown the way to receive forgiveness and cleansing of these sin does not fit the definition of blasphemy. Mark 3:29: “But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation:”

The Holy Spirit is pictured as a dove. I have two pet doves. One day I was trying to concentrate and they started to cheerfully coo. It broke my concentration and annoyed me and I walked up to the cage shouted at them: “Would you shut up so I can concentrate.” They flew to the edge of the cage and would not look at me. For some time after that whenever I approached the cage they would turn away from me. I committed an act of blasphemy against them. I could not help but think how gentle the Holy Spirit is and how easily offended the Holy Spirit is when He is gently prompting you and you reject it.

I believe what happened to Saul was that God sent His Holy Spirit to convict him of his sin and disobedience. Saul rejected that soft prompting and it turned to rage. Then when the time came that he really needed the Holy Spirit to direct him, the Holy Spirit wasn’t there. In desperation he sought out a witch. I believe Saul committed blaspheme against the Holy Spirit and thus the Holy Spirit left him and without that conviction and prompting Saul could never seek forgiveness of his sin. Saul had his chance but he rejected it. To him the Spirit of God was a ra’ah evil in the negative sense. Many years later a king in a foreign city called Ninevah heard the Good News that God would forgive. He did not reject the prompting of the Holy Spirit to convict him of his sins. Unlike Saul he tore his robes, sat in sackcloth and ashes and wept in repentance. As a result he and his people were all saved from destruction. For him the ra’ah Spirit was not evil but Good.

Word Study: Simlitude מונ


WORD STUDY – SIMLILITUDE – מונ

Deuteronomy 4:12: “And the Lord spake unto you out of the midst of the fire, you heard the voice of the words, but saw no similitude, only you heard a voice.”

My personal definition between a cult leader and a pastor is that a cult leader will tell you: “You cannot understand this passage of scripture without me. Let me show you what it means.” A pastor will say: “You cannot understand this passage without the Holy Spirit, let me pray with you so you will clearly hear His voice.” Of course by my definition practically every church in American would be a cult.

We clearly speak of depending upon the Holy Spirit to reveal all truth to us, yet rather than dig into the Word of God ourselves, spend time in meditation and prayer on the Word of God we go to a human teacher or pastor to tell us what the truth is rather than to seek confirmation from this teacher or pastor on what we have learned through our study.

Five hundred years ago a monk named Martin Luther started the Protestant movement. Martin Luther never wanted to leave the church but they left him no alternative. Martin Luther learned a truth that exist in the church today, including the Protestant churches, truth is often determined by the power structure in the church. If a pastor does not agree with the doctrinal position of his denomination, he is forced to leave. There are many pastors who disagree with their denomination but rather than be a Martin Luther, they just keep quiet for the sake of the three P’s – Power, Position and Pension. To most the pastorate is just a job no matter how much they talk about a calling.

There is so much to be mined in the Holy Scriptures, so much the Holy Spirit can reveal to us but if we are trapped in our denominational doctrine we may end up closing our minds to views outside our denominational teachings.

Hearing the voice of God has been a life long passion of mine. I am just never really sure if it is the voice of God I hear or my own imaginations. As I journey to the heart of God in my Hebraic studies I am learning just how regimented our English translations of the Bible really are and as a result how some important knowledge can be hidden from us simply because our English translations lack the flexibility that is inherit in the Hebrew Language. I find Deuteronomy 4:12 is one such example.

We have the passage: “And the Lord spoke unto you out of the midst of the fire.” The word in Hebrew for fire is ha’ash. This is the standard word for fire and a Bible translator will never give it a second thought. That is, unless, that translator is really searching for the heart of God and seeking to hear His voice. You see ha’ash can also be an interrogative or an adverb. Ok, I know the English syntax would not call for an interrogative or an adverb and my former Hebrew professors would throw salt in the air over such a suggestion, but I met some good orthodox rabbis who would wink and say: “Go for it.”

If I were to do such an Unchristian but Jewish thing I would have: “And the Lord spoke to you out of the midst of what is it?” Or I could say: “And the Lord spoke to you out of the midst of there is or there exist.” I know it sounds awkward in English, but it is really very poetic in Hebrew. Let’s put this in context with the rest of the verse.” “You heard the voice of the words, but saw no similitude, only your heard a voice.” There are a couple interesting things here in the Hebrew. First the word similitude is mavan which means form or fashion. Actually specifically it is speaking of something substantial, natural, something that you can see, feel, hear, taste and touch.’ Take a close look at this phrase: the voice of the words or the qol of the devar. Qol can be voice or sound and devar is a reference to words from the heart of God and/or His power. Then the passage says a very strange thing: only you heard a voice. The word for hear is not shama which is your standard word for hearing a sound, but it is the word ra’ah which is the word for “seeing.” How can you see as sound? You can’t which is why translators render it as hearing rather than seeing. But soft, ra’ah can also mean a spiritual sight. This could be a dream or vision.

Here is the thing that gets me. The word spake at the beginning of this verse is devar. As I said the word has the idea of speaking from the heart and when God speaks from His heart, there is power flowing from Him. I can render this verse as: “The power from the heart of God flows from something not seen, felt, heard, tasted or touched and then you saw this power. Yet. The word devar as a verb is in an imperfect (incompleted action) form and should be rendered: “The power from the heart of God is continually flowing but you cannot see it, feel it, touch it, taste it or hear it, but you know it is the power of God.”

Forgive me for not walking in lock step with standard Christianity, but this verse means nothing to me from the way it is normally rendered as I have never heard a voice from the midst of fire nor have I met any other Christian who has. Yet, every Christian I met will say that they have experienced the voice of God. It had no similitude mavan in other words no substance that you could experience with your five senses, but yet, you knew it was the voice of God because he demonstrated it. That I can relate to. God speaks no different to us today than he did back in the days of Israel.

Yet, like the people of Israel, God was ready to speak to them personally, but they said: “Moses you go and tell us what God says.” God will speak to us personally, don’t say to your pastor, you go and tell us what God says, that what we pay you for.” We only need our pastors, teachers or Christians friends to confirm it for us.

Word Study: The Mendela Effect ( part 2)

WORD STUDY – THE MENDELA EFFECT (PART II)

Isaiah 38:8: “Behold, I will bring again the shadow of the degrees, which is gone down in the sun dial of Ahaz, ten degrees backward. So the sun returned ten degrees, by which degrees it was gone down.”

II Peter 3:8: “But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day [is] with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

Yesterday I told a story of a former student and the clear memory I have of learning that he died in Afghanistan. I have a clear memory of confirming this with the military and of the night I was awakened and convicted to pray for him about the same time he stepped on a mine. I did not pray for him at that time but I did after I learned he had been killed. A couple years later I learned he was still alive and active in the ministry. I called the military and this time they said they had no record of a special forces officer by that name killed in Afghanistan or Iraq.

At the time I passed this off as just a trick of my memory. I did have a high school friend who was killed in Viet Nam and my mind and memory probably fused the together to create a memory that never happened. That is until a few weeks ago I ran across an article about the Mendela Effect which told how thousands upon thousands of people have a very clear memory of Nelson Mendela dying in prison even through in our reality, he left prison became President of South Africa and lived a very fruitful life.

I had this thought, is it ever too late to pray for someone? There are many scientists who say that time is linear, that is the past, present and future exist simultaneously. Picture all of human history laid out on a huge table covering an entire galaxy and the past, present and future laid out on the table. Now picture God who does not live in time who, in fact, created time. He lives outside of time. So he is now pictured looking observing the past, present and future laid out on this table and observes the time of Hezekiah and the point where he is desperately ill and dying. God looks across that table of time and sees that Hezekiah dies shortly after his illness began. But wait, he prays and pleads with God to extend his life. God grants that request and gives him 15 extra years. So God steps into this time line and tweaks it giving Hezekiah an extra 15 years and not only that he causes the shadow on his sun dial or stairs, however you wish to translate it, to move backwards. God was literally playing with time.

But let me ask you, if God can alter the future and the present, why can He not alter the past? Why can we not intercede for an event in the past? Can the past be altered like Marty McFly in Back to the Future and have his future father knock out the local bully thus altering the entire course of Marty’s future and only Marty, the one who cause the rift in time is aware of the change? Could my prayer after the event have actually fulfilled God’s call on me to intercede such that God was able to prevent the event from happening as he wanted even if I prayed a couple years after the event. Only I really have a memory of what would have happened had I not prayed?

Why did Lazarus step from tomb and not talk about his experience in heaven or what he experience after he died? Maybe because Jesus altered the past so that Lazarus never died. Maybe that is why Jesus waited three days after he died to show up, to prove that the past can be altered.

What did Peter mean when he said: “One day with the Lord is as a thousand years?” Everyone has a theory. Some say Peter was only using symbolism as one thousand numerically means the end. Some believe it means the fullness or completeness. In other words God will bring to end or a fullness within one day or one period of time. Some will say that what he meant is that if you spend just one day with the Lord you can accomplish as much in one day as you can in a thousand years. There are many theories, but suppose we take this literally, one day is as a thousand years. In the Aramaic this day is yom which could mean an epic, a period of time and not necessarily be a literal 24 hour day. But let’s say that is what Peter had in mind. The word one is chad which like its Hebrew equivalent echad means one. However it really does not mean to be a cardinal number like the word ‘achath which is the cardinal number one but echad is often used as an ordinal number, a number that tells a position rather than how many. In other words like the number one draft pick. It is used to show an order. Thus this is referencing a key day, an important day, that stands out from among other days.

This next word that follows in the Aramaic is ‘aik which has many possible renderings, it all depends upon the context. It could be rendered as: as, as if, as though, even as, because, how, according to, about, so that, in order that, such as, or what. However, these choices are narrowed down because the word in II Peter starts with a Daleth and thus it would mean: in order that, so that, such that, what or how.

Suppose we say, “One day with the Lord is such that it is a thousand years and a thousand years is such that it is one day.” I am not saying that I right in this but I think Peter was telling us what scientist are now telling us that time is linear and if we could stop out of time like God we would find the past, present and future occurring at the same time and we would see God not only manipulating the present, but like Hezekiah, the future and maybe like my soldier friend, the past.

Can we pray for past events to be changed according to the will of God? I fear I cannot definitively answer that for you. Like Rod Sterling would say; “I offer this for your consideration.” However, if God awakens you in the middle of the night urging you to pray for someone, do it. If you fail to do it and you learn of tragic consequences, it sure would not hurt to repent and then pray, maybe God will change the past and only you will know and everyone will think you are nuts if you try to tell them God altered the past, even the person you prayed for will think you just snapped your cap, but hey, it doesn’t hurt to pray.-