Tag: Eli

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Word Study: My Destiny

WORD STUDY – Eli Eli lama sabachthani (My  Destiny)
Matthew 27:46: “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”

Genesis 15:9-10: “And he said unto him, Take me an heifer of three years old, and a she goat of three years old, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon. And he took unto him all these, and divided them in the midst, and laid one against another; but the birds (singular in Hebrew) divided he not.”

I have two pet doves, Jonah and Shekinah, and the thought of cutting then in half is not at all appealing to me. It would be hard enough for me to cut poor Jonah and Shekinah in half let alone a lamb that you raised and took extra special care for a year. I mean little lambs can be pretty endearing, all white with their little black face and going baaaa. Can you imagine having to put a knife in that innocent little creature that you cared for, bathed, feed, and kept safe for a year and then cutting the little guy in half because you committed some selfish sin that the little fellow had nothing to do with? Well welcome to Easter. The sacrifice of a little lamb that could very well have been a family pet like you pet dog, that your children cared for groomed (he had to be without blemish and spot) and protected, then at the end of a year he was slaughtered to death for your sins. I think the ancient Hebrews had a fairly good idea of what the price of sin was and the amazing sacrifice and love of the Messiah who would be as innocent of any sin like that little lamb or Jonah and Shekinah.

Somehow Easter gets filled with rabbits, chocolate eggs, big family dinners, pageants and all the holiday trappings that we somehow just don’t get it. Do you have a pet dog, cat or or animal that your raised and cared for who love you unconditionally. When you were training your little puppy did you ever spank him or yell at him and then he comes up to and licks your hand? That is such unconditional love given to you. Now think about the fact that you committed some sin and the only way you can be forgiven is to kill that precious little pet of yours and burn him on an altar. I think the reality of your sin would really set in. You love that little pet so much it would break your heart. Do you love Jesus as much as your pet, does it really break your heart that he was slaughtered on a cross because you sinned?

In Genesis 15 God is forming the Abrahamic covenant. This was called a blood covenant. Ancient man had a special relationship with the animals. A hunter would even ask the animals permission before killing it. It was believed that the animal knew his mission in life was to feed a hunter’s family and the animal would respond, “Yes, that is my destiny, that is my purpose for being on this earth.” The hunter took no pleasure in killing an animal. But he believed that the animal was sacrificing his life for him and his family.

You see when Jesus was on the cross he cried out Eli Eli Lama Sabachthani. Traditionally we have been taught that this means My God, My God why hast thou forsaken me? Actually, behind the scenes scholars have debated this translation for two thousand years. Much of the problem lies in out Western insistence that the inspired text of the Gospels were written in Greek. Although this is merely a transliteration from the Aramaic the Greek text has an addendum attached which says: “This being interpreted means My God, My God why has thou forsaken me.” If the inspired text was written in Aramaic rather than Greek, as many scholars are coming to believe, then this addendum would not be part of the inspired text but a scribes interpretation.

Only in the last fifty years have scholars and archaeologist come to a consensus that Jesus not only spoke Aramaic but a dead dialect of Aramaic known as the old Galilean. Jesus and his disciples came from Northern Palestine in Galilee where they spoke a very distinct dialect of Aramaic similar but different than the Aramaic spoken down South in Judea and Jerusalem. The disciples and Jesus had a distinct accent. It even betrayed Peter where the woman in the temple court said: “Even you speech betrays you.” When Jesus spoke Eli Eli on the cross the people attending questioned what he was saying. Eli would have been the Southern dialect but the Northern dialect was Eloi. Lama Sabachthani was difficult as the Southern Judea dialect did not have such a word. It certainly was not Greek, nor Latin so the scribes assumed he was quoting Psalms 22:1. However in Hebrew forsaken is ‘azabethani. That last bethani part does resemble the last part of Sabachthani so it was a good guess, but a guess nonetheless if that is not part of the inspired text.

You will not find any text books or grammar books on the Old Galilean because, as I said, it is a dead language. However, about fifty years ago a tribe in Northern Iraq was found to still speak this dialect and scholars from Cambridge, Oxford and other prestigious schools descended upon these people to study the language. Many are now anxiously awaiting a grammar, vocabulary and Lexicon to be published on the Old Galilean.

Anyways, as the scholars studied this language guess what they discovered? People were actually using the expression Eloi, Eloi Lama Sabachthani only not in the context of being forsaken but in the context of “being kept” or more precisely saying: “Well, that is my fate, my destiny.” The word Eloi or Eli is found in practically all the Semitic languages. It does mean a god, but also a supreme power, an authority, someone or something who rules over you. It could even be your heart that rules you. When a word is repeated in the Semitic language it is to show an emphasis.

Keep in mind this is still under debate and I know of no published paper on this that has been subjected to peer review, perhaps there is by now, but I have not found it. Still, I firmly believe that Jesus spoke an Old Galilean Aramaic, which was distinct, and that people down in Judea had difficulty understanding Him. This had to be translated from the Old Galilean into Greek either way.

Frankly, I am joining the growing school of thought that what Jesus said was: “Eloi, Eloi” This being what controlled Him which I believe was His heart. Maybe he meant “My God, My God.” Still it is the Lama Sabachthani that is key. He may have cried: “My God, My God this is my destiny.” Personally, I believe he was looking down at all those who wept as the little children would weep when they saw their little lamb put to death for their sins and Jesus said to those who wept over him: “My heart, listen to my heart, this is my destiny, this is why I came to earth in the first place.”

As that animal in ancient times would tell the hunter, “Yes, this is my destiny for being alive so that I may die to feed your family;” Jesus said: “This is why I am alive, so that I may die to save you and your family from your sins.”

WORD STUDY – ELI ELI LAMA SABACHTHANI PART I – איל איל למנא שׁבקתני

Matthew 27:46: “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying ‘Eli, Eli Lama Sabachthani?’ that is My God My God, why has thou forsaken me?”

 

This being Easter Weekend, my study partner insisted I present a study for Easter. There is really not much about the death and resurrection of Christ that has not been examined, debated, preached and chewed over by scholars so I am resurrecting one of my old studies on a topic which has had some new light shed on it in recent years in honor of this weekend.  I admit my conclusions are controversial so I present the following for your examination and I will let you decided for yourself if this has any merit.

 

This passage in Matthew has been debated for 2,000 years and everyone seems to have their own explanation as to what Jesus means when he said Eli Eli Lama Sabachthani or My God My God why hast thou forsaken me.

 

It is curious that Matthew transliterated this into the Greek as the Hebrew Eli and Mark transliterated this as Aramaic Eloi.  Lama is Hebrew, Lema is Aramaic and is shown as that in both Gospels in the Greek, but translators will render it as lama (Hebrew) for whatever reason.  Secondly, why did they transliterate (make a word sound the same in another language) into Greek at all, why not just write out in Greek my God my Go why hast thou forsaken me?  As for the word Sabachthani well, we are not sure, it appears to be from the Aramaic word sbq which means to forsake or abandon for a purpose.  The Aramaic word for just simply to abandon to forsake because it is unwanted is taatani. However, it can be argued that the root word is really shwaq which means to be kept, spared or allowed or to fulfill an end. If Jesus had really meant that God had abandoned Him or forgot Him He would have used the word taatani (forsake) or nashatani (forget).

 

Something even more curious is that the passage suggests that Jesus is quoting Psalms 22:1 yet in Hebrew that phrase is eli, eli lama ‘azabethni not sabachthani. However the Jewish Targum (Aramaic translation of the Hebrew Bible) does use the Aramaic word sbq in Psalms 22:1, which is probably why the scribes added the footnote which being interpreted means…. This is in accordance with the Eastern Church which teaches that the scribes who wrote this out in Greek really did not understand what the phrase really meant, so they merely transliterated it into the Greek rather than translate it and then put in a short commentary or their own opinion and indicated this by the words that is to say… In other words they were not sure they had correctly quoted Jesus so they assumed he was speaking Psalms 22:1 and put in a little commentary to offer their opinion as to what he really said.

 

Indeed Jesus could have been misquoted from scribes or witnesses at the crucifixion if they were from Judea, for the Judeans spoke a Southern dialect of Aramaic but Jesus and his disciples were from the Northern part of Israel, Galilee, where they spoke a Northern dialect of Aramaic. So Jesus would have spoken with a Northern accent and sometimes what he said might not be clear to the people speaking a Southern dialect.  This is probably why some thought he was calling for Elijah. My belief that all Scripture is the inspired Word of God makes me a little uncomfortable suggesting that the Bible misquoted Jesus.  If the Bible teaches Jesus said Sabachthani, then that is what He said, no misquotation.

 

As I have said, Jesus spoke a Northern dialect of Aramaic.  My studies have been in the middle dialect of Aramaic, more commonly known as the Jewish Babylonian Aramaic or Talmudic Aramaic. This is closely related to the Eastern Aramaic like the Mandaic and the Eastern Syriac of the Assyrian Church.  I undertook this study so I could read the Talmud in the original Aramaic.  So I claim no expertise on the Old Galilean or Northern dialect of Aramaic. However, from my research into the Old Galilean I find that the study of the Old Galilean is a relatively new discovery.  It was felt that the Northern dialect of Aramaic or the Old Galilean dialect was a dead language, however, linguist have found a tribe in Northern Iraq that still speaks this dialect and scholars from Oxford have descended upon these people to learn some of the finer points of this dialect.

 

This now brings us to the word Eli. In the Southern dialect this would mean my God.  However, in the Northern dialect, which is more colloquial, the word el would be used for more than just the word god, it was sometimes used in a descriptive sense.  A god is someone or something that has control over you. People are, for instance, controlled by their hearts desires. Thus Jesus could have been saying, “my heart.” In the Semitic languages when a word is repeated twice it is done to show emphasis.  Hence in the Old Galilean when Jesus said Eli Eli he could have been saying “listen to my heart.”  The word lama (Hebrew) or lema (Aramaic) generally is used as an interrogative, but this is not necessarily set in stone.  To use lema as a question, why am I forsaken or why have I been kept suggest that Jesus did not understand what was happening to Him. That is not my Jesus, He is God, and He is all knowing. In that context we could properly and linguistically render this not as a question but as a declaration, this is why.  In the Old Galilean lema Sabachthani means, this is why I have been kept or this is my destiny. In fact scholars have discovered this phrase still in use in that tribe that still uses the Old Galilean. They use it in the context of this is my destiny.  In other words Jesus was not speaking to God but to the people who were mourning his death, those who could understand his dialect and in His last breath what He could have been saying is, “Listen to my heart, this is my destiny.” Jesus was telling those who were in sorrow over his death, “Listen to my heart, this is why I came to earth in the first place, this is my purpose, to die for you.”

 

The jury is still out on this one. I am sure there are some scholars who would throw salt in the air at my conclusion and I respect that. But if I have given you something to at least awaken you to re-examine the last words of Jesus and meditate on them this Easter, then I am glad to suffer the slings and arrows of critics.  So let me offer this Easter message to you from just one of many understandings of the words from the lips of Jesus in His adopted native language of the Old Galilean Aramaic, Eloi Eloi Lema Sabachthani which being interpreted means, “Listen to my heart, this is my destiny This is why I came to earth in human form and that is to die to give you eternal life.”

WORD STUDY – ELI ELI LAMA SABACHTHANI

EasterCross

 

Matthew 27:46: “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying ‘Eli, Eli Lama Sabachthani?’ that is My God My God, why has thou forsaken me?”

 

This passage has been debated for 2,000 years and everyone seems to have their own explanation as to what Jesus means when he said Eli Eli Lama Sabachthani or My God My God why hast thou forsaken me.

 

It is curious that Matthew transliterated this into the Greek as a Hebrew “Eli” and Mark transliterated this as Aramaic “Eloi.”  Lama is Hebrew, Lema is Aramaic and is shown as that in both Gospels in the Greek, but translators will render it as lama (Hebrew) for whatever reason.  Secondly, why did they transliterate it at all, why not just write out in Greek my God my Go why hast thou forsaken me?  As for the word Sabachthani well, no one really knew what that meant as there was really no such word in the Aramaic, Greek or Hebrew.

 

Something even more curious is that the passage suggests that Jesus is quoting Psalms 22:1 yet in Hebrew that phrase is eli, eli lama ‘azabethni not sabachthani. It sounds similar but it is not the same at all.

 

Perhaps one explanation is that given by the Eastern Church and that is that the scribes who wrote this out in Greek really did not understand what this phrase really meant, so they merely transliterated it into the Greek rather than translated it and then put in a short commentary or their own opinion and indicated this by the words that is to say… In other words they were not sure they had correctly quoted Jesus so they assumed he was speaking Psalms 22:1 and put in a little commentary to offer their opinion as to what he really said.

 

Indeed Jesus could have been misquoted from scribes or witnesses at the crucifixion if they were from Judea, for the Judeans spoke a Southern dialect of Aramaic but Jesus and his disciples were from the Northern part of Israel, Galilee, where they spoke a Northern dialect of Aramaic. So Jesus would have spoken with a Northern accent and sometimes what he said might not be clear to the people speaking a Southern dialect.  This is probably why some thought he was calling for Elijah.

 

I have always had a problem with Jesus crying out to God asking why God was forsaking Him.  I mean if Jesus was God, then just who was he calling out to, Himself?  Just where do you draw the line between the trinity and polytheism?

 

As I have said many times, I am not a theologian so I cannot really address the issue of the trinity.  Nor am I schooled in dogma (opinions about God) or doctrine (teachings about God) to offer the various church’s position on the explanation of this passage.  I am just a teacher of ancient languages and all I can do is offer some insights in the language that Jesus spoke and let you apply your own theology, dogma and doctrine.

 

As I have said, Jesus spoke a Northern dialect of Aramaic.  My studies have been in the middle dialect of Aramaic, more commonly known as the Jewish Babylonian Aramaic or Talmudic Aramaic. This is closely related to the Eastern Aramaic like the Mandaic and the Eastern Syriac of the Assyrian Church.  I undertook this study so I could read the Talmud in the original Aramaic as well as being able to read the Peshitta or the Aramaic Bible.  However, recently I have been studying a relatively new discovery.  It was felt that the Northern dialect of Aramaic or the Old Galilean dialect was a dead language, however, linguist have found a tribe in Northern Iraq that still speaks this dialect and scholars from Oxford have descended upon these people to learn some of the finer points of this dialect.

 

For one thing we have learned that the Old Galilean dialect is less formal than the Southern dialect spoken in Judea.  The Old Galilean is filled with a lot of colloquialism and idioms. This is perhaps why Nichodemus misunderstood Jesus when He said you must be born again.  Nichodemus spoke a Southern dialect and took Jesus literally that He was speaking of a physical birth, yet speaking a Northern dialect Jesus was speaking in a more figurative language.

 

This now brings us to the word Eli. In the Southern dialect this would mean my God.  However, in the Northern dialect the word el would be used for more than just the word god, it was sometimes used in a descriptive sense.  A god is someone or something that has control over you. People are, for instance, controlled by their hearts desires. Thus Jesus could have been saying, “my heart.” In the Semitic languages when a word is repeated twice it is done to show emphasis.  Hence in the Old Galilean when Jesus said Eli Eli he could have been saying “listen to my heart.”  The word lama generally is used as an interrogative in both Hebrew and Aramaic, but this is not necessarily set in stone.  Instead of “why” you could render it as “this is why.”  It has been discovered, after two thousand years, that the word Sabachthani does exist and it is found in the Old Galilean. Jesus was not misunderstood and the scribes were correct in quoting it, they were just not familiar enough with the Northern dialect to translate it. This would not be unusual for that day as linguists was not really a science to be studied in that day.  In the Old Galilean lama Sabachthani means, this is why I have been kept or this is my destiny. In other words Jesus was not speaking to God but to the people who were mourning his death, those who could understand his dialect and in His last breath what He could have been saying is, “Listen to my heart, this is my destiny.” Jesus was telling those who were in sorrow over his death, “This is why I came to earth in the first place, this is my purpose, to die for you.”

 

This being Easter Sunday, my study partner insisted I present a study for Easter.  Let me offer this Easter message to you from the lips of Jesus in his adopted native language of the Old Galilean Aramaic, Eli Eli Lama Sabachthani which is to say, “Listen to my heart, this is my destiny This is why I came to earth in human form and that is to die to give you eternal life.”

WORD STUDY – LENDING TO GOD

 

1Samuel 1:28,  “Therefore also I have lent him to the LORD; as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the LORD. And he worshipped the LORD there.”

 

1Samuel 2:11, “And Elkanah went to Ramah to his house. And the child did minister unto the LORD before Eli the priest.”

 

Let’s say, for whatever reason, a mother takes her three old child, puts her a car with her twin sister and drives her to a strange town, a strange house and a strange foster parent comes out and hugs the child and takes her into her home and the mother and twin sister drive off.  Even at three years of age that child will be traumatized, that child will also be looking out the window of her foster home waiting for her mother and sister to come and rescue her.  Even after fifty years that child, now an adult, will still suffer from that trauma of separation from her mother. Also, what must that mother think or feel.  Obviously, she is giving up her child because she believes she cannot properly care for the child. What must the child’s siblings be feeling?

 

Maybe times and cultural changes but emotions do not.   Travel back three thousand years and you will find a mother’s love and the bond between siblings to be just as strong then as today.  Yet, here we have a mother who begs and pleads with God for a child and then when one is given to her, she must give him up to the Lord after three years of nurturing and bonding with that child. Samuel’s family lived in Ramah and the tabernacle was in Shiloh,  you are talking a distance of fifteen miles and without cars or modern translations, well fifteen miles may just as well be like Queens, New York to San Francisco.  We are talking fifteen miles of desert travel, roads filled with bandits, you did not travel alone, and definitely a woman did not travel alone.  Perhaps once a year on the high holidays Hannah may have had the opportunity to visit with her child, but that was it.  Verse 2:11 says that Elkanah, Samuel’s father, returned to Ramah.  In a Semitic expression when the father’s name is used it means that the whole family returned to Ramah, which included his other wife and his other children. Samuel surely bonded with his father and siblings even if they were just half siblings, a three year old little guy doesn’t know the difference, and all he knows is that he will never see his mother, father, and his playmates again.  Not only that he is being left to be raised by a grumpy old high priest and two spoiled steps brothers. I mean this  high priest was not noted for his compassion.  As Hannah wept her heart out before God because she was barren, this fat slob of a High Priest accused her of being drunk. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black, he became obese from eating the fat of the sacrificial lamb and downing it down with a few too many cups of holy wine.  I often wonder if this served as the muse for the Brothers Grimm story of Cinderella. How many lonely nights did that little child spend crying for his mother, I can’t imagine a little three year old terrified in the middle of the night, calling for his mother simply chocking back his tears saying: “Come now, we shan’t be sorrowful, we will be a prophet someday, so we must learn to keep a stiff upper lip, pip, pip and all that.”

 

Yet, let’s take a look at Hannah, she spent the next ten verses singing a song of praise to God before all the people in the tabernacle. Can you dig this, her only child being given away and she is singing a song of praise.  What gives?  I will tell you what gives and it is found in I Samuel 1:28, an expression of just how deeply one can learn to love God.  The KJV says, “I have lent him to the Lord.”  Some modern translation say give rather than lent, some say dedicate or grant but that does not express the true nature of the Hebrew word used which is hishhilteehoo which is in a Hiphal form indicating a voluntary act on the part of Hannah and comes from the root word sha’al which means to ask. Actually, if you trace this word to its Semitic root, it has the idea of loaning. It is both asking and loaning in the same word. In ancient times when a Sumerian or other Semitic king needed to raise an army he would send his captains out to meet with the mothers of sons who were of military age and they would sha’al the mothers, to ask them to willingly loan their sons to the king.  In World War II Hitler called upon young women to sha’al a son for the Reich.  Many gladly did and after the child was born they willingly gave the child to the state to be raised by the state while singing a praise song to Hitler, not unlike Hannah’s song of praise.  Yet, I read an account written by one these mothers and she admitted it was the hardest thing she ever did in giving her child up to be raised by the state.  Do we have an English word for such a sacrifice, such as expression of sacrificial love as hishhilteehoo? The word used by the KJV is, lent, I believe that comes closest to the heart of sha’al for even though the mother gives up her child up for service to the king, she sees it as a loan, that is still her little boy dog gone it.  The mothers would even tattoo the name of their son on the palm of  their hand, the part of the body you see the most and where the ancients believed your heart was located. This would declare to everyone that she had a son that was sha’al, on loan, to the king but he was still her son.

 

We learn further in this verse that Samuel worshipped the Lord.  The word worshipped here is shachah which means to enter into an intimacy.  Can a three year old child worship God?  I attended a worship service where I saw a little three year old child run out into the aisle and spin around in a circle, out of pure joy, the joy of the Lord.  Yeah, a three old child can worship the Lord. Hannah knew this, she knew it first hand from what we learn in the following ten verses. She knew if she could find such joy and comfort in her God her child would get an equal or greater joy serving God in the very tabernacle of God before His holy Ark. I think she also knew that that pompous old goat who dared to call her drunk  as she poured her heart out to God wasn’t much company for God and he stood the closest to God as the high priest.  Well, her boy was going to also stand before the veil of the Holy Ark and he was going to minister (Hebrew, masharath – to bring joy and comfort) to the Lord.

 

You see Hannah felt what she wanted most was to have a child, yet she realized what she really wanted was to bring joy and comfort to the God she loved so here were two things she wanted most, to have a child and to bring joy and comfort to God.   She got both, a child that she shared sha’al with God.  Now God did not have to depend upon some gluttonous old coot to bring him comfort and joy by following a bunch of rules, now he had a little three year old child that He could fill with His joy and watch him spin around out of pure joy in His presence and the fact that her boy was doing this brought her comfort in her lonely nights.

 

Perhaps, like Hannah, you have wept and wailed before God for something you wanted or needed so bad, such that the pastor told you keep quiet.  Perhaps God is whispering in your ear, “Hey, I’ll tell you what, we both can benefit here, I will give you your healing, financial miracle, restored relationship, etc., but will you sha’al it with me so I can also rejoice in your gift?”

 

 

{Word Study} Take, Seize “Lakach”

WORD STUDY – TAKE, SEIZE
I Samuel 4:3: “And when the people were come into the camp, the elders of Israel said, Wherefore hath the Lord smitten us today before the Philistines?  Let us fetch the ark of the covenant of the Lord out of Shiloh unto us, that when it cometh among us, it may save us out of the hand of our enemies.”

Take, Seize – Hebrew: lakach – Take, fetch, to seize control or take possession of something that is not yours.
In the Hebrew the nation of Israel is asking: “Why did God defeat us? ” Israel was shocked that God had let them down.   I am surprised too, the only sin that is mentioned is with the house of Eli and his corrupt sons running the worship services.  Is God punishing the whole nation because of the sins of the religious leadership? Their sin was not in their acts but their hearts. Perhaps the next move by Israel is a clue as to the heart of the nation which shows they were no better than their leadership.

The elders said: “Let us take the ark of the covenant of the Lord out of Shiloh unto us.”  The word for “take” or “fetch” is “lakach” which is taking possession or control of something that is not rightfully yours.   They then added the word: “elinu” which is rendered “unto us.”  Using this form suggest a play on words for “our god.”    In other words they were saying they would seize control of the ark of the covenant to be a god for them.  Then they said “that it might save us.”  Some translations will say that “he might save us.”  Indeed there is no neuter pronoun in Hebrew, but the syntax does suggest that the elders are saying “it” the ark of the covenant and not “He” or God will save us.

Think about it. The most sacred object in the land, the object where the very presence of God rested became an idol, a god.  They knew enough to know that the ark could only be carried by a priest and they either bribed or forced the sons of Eli to carry the ark into battle.  However, they did not know enough to know that it really didn’t matter for apparently the presence of God was not going to manifest itself at this time on the ark. The midrash suggests that the nation of Israel was to consult the ark.  Apparently, they did not need to carry the ark into battle, only consult with God as to what to do in battle.  In other words, the elders had the right idea, but the wrong approach.

In my own life when I enter into battle and get defeated and crawl back licking my wounds, I begin to ask: “God, why did you let me down?”   Then just like Israel I go and seize the Ark.   I start to carry my Bible around, I make sure I read it every day, I play only religious music and spiritual songs.  I begin praising and worshipping because I have heard that brings the power and presence of God.  I listen to testimonies of others who were victorious and try to follow their steps to victory.  I am then ready to go back into battled.  I now have the Ark with me and I  am certain that “it” will save me, yet I end up suffering even a worst defeat.  So what went wrong?  All my good religious practices were “elinu” for me, or a god to me.   They were used to bribe God but not to consult God.

Sometimes the enemy can use even the most sacred thing in our lives to deflect us away from the heart of God. That little cross we carry in our pocket or around our necks become objects or good luck charms to ward off evil things rather than serving as a simple reminder of the one we love.

Devotional I Samuel 2:11

Good Morning Yamon Ki Yesepar and Nevim Arith Hayomim:

I Samuel 2:11 “And the child ministered unto the Lord before Eli the priest.”

This is an odd sort of verse. We have a child ministering to God.  Most translators and commentators will say that this is simply saying that the young Samuel would light candles, open and close doors and polish the sacred objects in the temple. In others words he was serving God as sort of a caretaker.

Perhaps that is true, but I do question the form of the word “ministering.”  This is found as a participle in a piel form. It has the preposition “mem” or “from” in front of it and it comes from the root word “sharat.”  This word, especially when used in a piel form, means more than just perform a service.  It is also a form of worship.  More specifically, it is a word that would be used for a caregiver.  Working as a C N A, I perform tasks for an individual that they can not perform themselves.  This could involve helping them to dress, bathe, or eat.  We could say that I minister to their needs.

You can see how awkward it is to use this word “sharat”  in relation to a child performing a service to God or doing something for God that He is unable to do for Himself.  What is it that God is incapable of doing that He needs a child to perform this service.

Some commentators have suggested that Samuel was playing a musical instrument and singing songs of praises to God.  I think this is getting more to the point.

Imagine for a moment that you are Samuel, a small child and you have been brought to live in the very temple of God.  You are a Levite, a member of the priestly tribe and thus you are allowed into the holy places of the temple. Although you are not allowed to enter the Holy of Holies, a day does not pass that you do not see this very dwelling place of the God of the universe and a day does not pass that you do not stand in awe of being in the presence of this God. Before this awesome God you sing praises and play a musical instrument all day long.  Is it any wonder that this child, from an early age, falls in love with this God? He does what God can not do for Himself, this boy Samuel loves Him and every day expresses that love.

The other day I visited my father in the nursing home.  He has dementia and he usually does not even recognize me. This day I took him down to the first floor where they have a grand piano and for a half an hour I played some of the old gospel songs and hymns that I know he loves. As I played these songs, I began to feel something.  Others passing by would pause to listen, there was something in the air.  Some would call it an anointing, or the presence of God.  However, what I felt was God’s pleasure.  Sure, I was playing this music for my father, but I gradually became aware of the fact that I was also playing it for my Heavenly Father and I was feeling His pleasure.

I was doing something for God that He could not do for Himself.  I was bringing Him pleasure, I was perform a “sharat” in the piel form.   Samuel also ministered to God in whatever function he performed in the temple.  Samuel did it before Eli the priest, just as I performed before my father.  However, eventually it became evident that Samuel was ministering to God and not Eli.  Just as I started to minister to my father, I began to realize I was ministering to God.  My father began to express a sense of joy in the Lord as I played.  He too was feeling God’s pleasure.  It ended up that as I ministered to God, God ministered to my father.

Eli must have began to feel this joy or pleasure of God.  As Samuel ministered to Eli he must have  become aware of the fact that he was really ministering to God and God in turn was expressing His pleasure and thus ministering to Eli.   Eli and his sons had fallen far from God and perhaps the music of a young child ministering to God brought back the experience of feeling God’s pleasure to Eli.  This may be why Eli recognized God was speaking to Samuel before Samuel even realized it.

A reporter once asked Mother Theresa how it was that she was able to minister to the poorest of the poor.  To minister to those who lay in the street, dying in their own filth.  She responded by saying: “In every face, I see the Jesus that I love.”

Perhaps as I perform my service to my clients and minister to their needs, I can see the Jesus that I love in each face and thus I am ministering to God and in response I will feel His pleasure and my clients will also feel God’s pleasure and God will minister to them.