Tag: House



Psalms 27:4:  “One [thing] have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple.”


Star light, star bright

The first star I see tonight;

I wish I may, I wish I might

Have the wish I wish tonight.  English Nursery Rhyme


I believe David wrote this Psalm as he relaxed on his porch one night looking out over the stars and vast universe.  Somehow reflecting on the vast universe you cannot help but wonder if out of this vast universe God would grant you just one request, one wish, what would it be?


The word one that is used in Psalms 27:4 is echath which is most likely from the root word echod  which means one but seems to be a play off of the word nachath which means to descend.  Possibly what David is saying here is it all boils down to this or in the final analysis.  In other words if he were given just one wish that could be granted what would that wish be? If God would come to you like He did to Solomon and say, “Ask for one thing, anything, and I will grant it.”  What would you ask? We have all played that game, we have all wished upon a star.  The idea of wishing upon a star has its origins in ancient times. Somewhere out there man speculated that there had to be a God and when they saw a shooting star it was like a sign from God that He was ready to grant any request.


The word desired is the word sha’al which really means to ask. David did not just wish for this or desire it, he actually asked God for it. Not only did he ask but he was seeking for it.  The word seek is baqash  which is in a Piel imperfect form which means that he has been earnestly seeking this with all his heart.  So this is not just some simply off the cuff wish, this is the very cry of David’s heart.


What is it that he so desires more than anything else?  It is to dwell in the house of the Lord. We automatically think that David is referring to heaven, but we overlook the next words, all the days of my life.  The word for life is chi which could mean both a spiritual or physical life. However, chi is not the predicate in this sentence, it is just a prepositional phrase, the predicate is the word days or yom which indicates a reference to is physical life.


So what is the house of the Lord? Obviously he is referring to the temple of the Lord, or the place where the Lord dwells.  I mean David could not hope to spend all his time in the temple like a prisoner.  Yes, wishful thinking, perhaps. But the house of the Lord is really a Hebrew idiom for the presence of God or the heart of God.  You see, obviously, God was not just in the Holy of Holies in the temple.  David was not fool enough to believe that.  He knew God was everywhere, God was with him, right there by his side when he fought Goliath.  Did God leave the temple to join David in battle?  Of course not.  David knew this.  What was so special about the temple and the Holy of Holies is that this is where God opened his heart to the people,  opened His heart to David. That is what made the temple so special.


People say, “I do not have to go to church today, I can worship God at home.”  True enough. But I am going to church today. I am getting this old body up, cleaned up and semi properly dressed up (I have long since forgone the wearing of a suit to church, daily apparel is the order of the day) and I am dragging myself off to a church building to worship God.  Now I can easily do that at home, but the problem is that I do many other things at home.  The church sanctuary is a special place, a place designated for  one purpose and that is to worship God.  It is there that I can focus my full attention on God and He on me and it is there that I can enter the heart of God. I can be with others who also enter the heart of God.  I can look around and see the joy on their faces, the peace, the glow of the presence of God on their lives. This is a time when nothing else enters the fray, health concerns, financial concerns, deadlines and all the other cares of the days are put aside so I can concentrate on one thing and one thing only and that is to enter the heart of God and when I do I find I am asking the same thing of God that David ask, that I can dwell in the heart of God all my life.


That moment when you enter the heart of God and like David you see the beauty of the Lord, nothing else in this world  comes close to it. The word beauty that is used here is bano’am which comes from root no’am meaning delightfulness or pleasure. David says he wants to behold the pleasure of God.  The word behold is the Hebrew word chazah which means to experience something.  David is saying that he wants to experience or feel the pleasure of God.


I will be honest with you, I do not dig our modern music in church, with the thump thump, single melody line, three guitar chord of an I like God song that we sing in our churches today. It all sounds the same to me and is just too loud.  I am one of those old timers who grew up on the hymns and listened to people sing in four part harmony with songs that told a story and not a hash chorus.  So I get no pleasure at all out of our worship service, none whatsoever.  So why do I go to church and participate in a worship services that brings me no pleasure?  For that very reason so I do not experience my own pleasure. I can get that anytime and put on the music I want on my IPOD anytime I want.  When I go to church and sit through music I cannot stand and derive no pleasure from it, I still feel no’am, delightfulness and pleasure but it is not my pleasure but God’s pleasure I feel, for I have entered His heart and I know it is His pleasure I feel and I wish I could spend all the days of my life in His heart feeling His pleasure. I feel for you who actually enjoy that music, it must be hard to discern between your own pleasure and God’s, so I am really the lucky one here.


And by the way, I am also reminded of one other thing, one day I shall live in the heart of God forever.










Psalms 23:2,6:  “ He makes me lie down in green pastures…Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”


Practically every English translation will translate that last phrase as I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Yet, this is not the standard Hebrew word for forever. We are automatically assuming that the house of the Lord is referring to heaven where we will live forever.  It was this verse that I was discussing with an orthodox rabbi who simply shook his head and said: “You Christians do not understand the heart of David.”


It was then I realized why the word le’orek rather than olam is used in this passage.  Both can mean forever, but le’orek simply means a length and is followed by yomim which means days. Thus it literally means a length of days. David really seems to be talking about the remaining days of his life on earth not in heaven.  We assume the house of the Lord means heaven and therefore David is speaking of the afterlife.  But Heaven does not exist in time, there are no yoms days in heaven. David is talking about the here and now.


Before this David says that goodness which is tov or harmony with God, and mercy will follow him all the days of his life. The word mercy is chasad. Jewish literature teaches that in a spiritual context this word chasad (mercy) pictures one being sheltered in the heart of God. The word follow is radapa which is used in a Piel form and means to be pursued, chased or sought after.  In other words God is chasing after us to be in harmony with Him and to shelter us in His heart. He is longing to share His heart with Him as a wife is longing to share her heart with her husband and he with her. We don’t have to beg and plead with Him to be sheltered in His heart, we just have to stop running away from Him in pursuit of our own ways and simply trust Him enough to share our hearts with Him.


Looking a little deeper into this word radapa (follow) we find it has a numerical value of 284. The phrase: for his mercies endure forever also has a numerical value of 284.   Ancient rabbis believed that these words, his mercies endure forever, opened a portal, as it did for Jehoshaphat when he went to war against the three kings.  In other words God is pursuing us with an open portal to His heart. Once we enter His heart we will find rest.


I believe hidden in Psalms 23, one of the most famous and favorite of all Psalms, is a key to opening a portal to God’s heart of rest. It is in verse 2: He makes me lie down in green pastures. A green pasture in Hebrew is dasha. The spelling of this word reveals a built in commentary, the word itself will tell us what these green pastures are. The word is spelled Daleth which is a portal to the Shin a resting place in the Aleph – God’s heart.  Note that David says that God makes or causes him to find a resting place in His heart.  God is the one who opens this portal.


When David says that surely goodness and mercy will chase after me all my days, he is admitting that he is running away from God.  What happens when we let the lovingkindness of God catch up with us?  He will lead us to green pastures or He will open a portal to his heart of rest.


Until the rabbi challenged me to understand the heart of David, I just assume that when David referenced the house of Jehovah, he meant the temple where the presence of God dwelled or heaven.  But the word house or byith in Hebrew which has a broad range of meanings and could also mean the heart as a dwelling place. To fit the poetic flow of this Psalm it would be appropriate to render this as: I will dwell in the heart of Jehovah for all my days.  To David, it was not enough to dwell in the presence of God, he wanted to dwell in the heart of God.


Dwelling in the heart of God and finding rest in the heart of God is really the message I found this morning when reading this passage.  When two people fall in love with each other, they will naturally share their hearts with each other.  They will open themselves up and reveal the very depths of their longings and desires with their beloved. We are made in God’s image and this does not mean physical features but emotional features. In other words we have a heart like God’s heart that longs to be shared with another person.  Yet, sharing your heart with someone is very risky business. It makes you vulnerable to that person, it gives them the power to deeply hurt and wound you.


Thus we only open our hearts to that person that we can trust. We are so designed to long to share our hearts with someone that people will actually pay someone to open up their hearts to.  They would pay a therapist or counselor knowing that that person is professional sworn and legally bound to not betray the secrets of the heart that the person will reveal. Yet, the greatest fulfillment of love is when you can trust someone who is not bound by profession or law to protect your hearts secrets but is bound by love to never reveal the secrets of your heart.


So too with God, we know we can share our hearts with God, he poses no threat to us, he is not going to go around blabbing to all the angels about the secrets of your heart.  But this works two ways. If someone shares their heart with you because they love you and you love that person in return you will make yourself just as vulnerable by sharing the secrets of your heart with them. This creates a deep bond between you and the one you love, you both have made yourself vulnerable and it is this vulnerability that deepens this bond and also brings you rest and peace with you are with that person. It is that bond that causes you to find comfort in that person and makes you long to be with that person. If you were to share your heart with another person that one that loved you enough to share their heart with you will be deeply wounded and feel betrayed.


If we can trust God enough to share our heart with Him, can He trust us enough to share His heart with us?  Can He trust us to not seek other gods for comfort and security. Can he trust us to open His heart to us, to share His longings, desires and pain with us.  Can He find rest in us?  For only when two hearts make themselves vulnerable to each other do they find that rest and security. Only when we share our hearts with God and He shares His heart with us do we lay down in those green pastures.




Psalms 69:9, “For the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up; and the reproaches of them that reproached thee are fallen upon me.”

John 2:17, “And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.”

I recall a story of a child who was terrified to walk into church.  It was odd because he always liked going to church and sitting through the service.  He kept muttering something about a giant seal. Apparently, he was the only one in the family who listened to the sermon the previous week where the theme was, “The zeal of the Lord had eaten me up.”   We can laugh at the slight misunderstanding of the child, yet we end up creating dogma over a similarly slight misunderstand of Scripture.

For instance in verse 14 we read in the KJV “And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting:”  The word used in the Greek for selling is polountas which means to sell.  However, in the Aramaic the same word is used for both buying and selling, it is the word zaman which comes from an ancient Persian word zrvan which means to redeem.  Redemption could carry the idea of both selling and buying.  In the Aramaic there is a point placed above the Beth which indicates that the word is to be rendered as selling, but if the point is placed under the Beth as it is in the Peshitta, the Aramaic text, it connotes buying.  Hence these men were not selling oxen, sheep and doves, they were buying. I mean these old boys were true capitalist. I mean they turned God’s beloved temple, the place where he entered into intimacy with his beloved into a sort of commodities market where you buy low and sell high.  The buyers knew that people traveling from long distances to the temple would not be able to bring their own sacrifices for the Passover so these capitalist were banking on the fact that in desperation to find a sacrifice they would be willing to pay any price to get a sacrifice and thus they would jack up the price.  You know the old law of supply and demand.  Except it the prices were unreasonable and if such a thing happened today the security and exchange commission would come down hard on these merchants. Not only was it illegal under Jewish law, but this illegality was being carried out right in the temple, the house of God where he carried on His intimacy with his bride.  Jesus was just  merely the S&C enforcer.  There was nothing wrong with purchasing sacrifices on the temple grounds, it was the attitude of the heart that was important.  The priest and Jesus had no objection to this as I am sure Jesus has no objection to purchasing Chaim Bentorah’s books in the lobby of a church after he conducts one of his conferences (I’m just saying, you know). It was the dishonesty, the scamming that Jesus objected to, the money changer illegally charging ten cents on a dollar to make a dishonest profit off the Passover by fleecing Jesus’s devoted sheep who wanted to really show their love to God by following the traditions and ended up having to pay an unreasonable amount of their income to do it.


Some say Jesus got angry and busted the place up. Perhaps, but I believe Jesus was just the police offer breaking up a gambling ring, He was just doing his job as any police bunko squad would do, doesn’t mean they are angry, just doing a job that they believe in.  We consider the detectives and law enforcers who bust up a drug ring as heroes and that these men and women who risk their lives as having much zeal for a cause to protect others from the tragedy of illegal drugs.  Zeal does not have to be interpreted as anger.  In fact the Aramaic word for zeal is tanana which is the Aramaic equivalent to the Hebrew word used in Psalms 69:9 Qana’.  Both words mean to be jealous.  “The jealousy of the Lord has eaten me up.”  In English the word jealousy has a negative connotation, but in the Semitic languages it can be both positive and negative. In the Semitic mind a man can be jealous of another man who is flirting with his girlfriend or wife because he wants to possess her for himself, a negative expression of jealous. However, he could feel that he can give this woman the love she really desires and that to settle for this other slob is to be taking second best. Our culture sort of bulks at this arrogance but in the Semitic mind it is not arrogance, it is just self-confidence.  Thus, God’s qana’ or tanana (jealousy) is positive, God knows that when we settle for anything but Him, we are settling for second best and He wants us to have the best so he is quana’ or tanana,  jealous of anything that stands in the way of His giving us the best.


What Jesus is saying, “Look, there will be no paparazzi at my wedding, you want to sell little bags of rice or bottles of bubbles to honor the bride, fine, but only sell at cost to regroup your purchase price. This is an event that is special to my bride and me (a house of prayer) and not a money making opportunity.


One final thing with regard to this jealousy of the Lord has eaten us up. The word eat is ekal in the Aramaic which is identical to the Hebrew word for eat. Some translations will render this, correctly, as consume which might have been a little less frightening to our young friend who mistook seal for zeal. I’d much rather be consumed by the Lord rather than eatened.


However, the disciples spoke a Northern dialect of Aramaic which was a descendant of the old Assyrian Akkadian language and still carried many of its idiomatic expression. For instance in translating a passage from the Akkadian I ran across the phrase, “I have come to heal your head.” Scholars have determined that this is an idiom meaning, “I have come to comfort you.”  You see translating word of word is not enough, you need to understand the idioms as well.  I have found in the ancient Akkadian or Assyrian language such phrases as “He has eaten wrath” which means “he is enraged.”  Or there is the phrase used by the Assyrian soldier to his trusted servant as he leaves to go to war, “Eat the care of my family” which really means, “You are responsible for the wellbeing of my family while I am gone.”   Hence when we hear the words, “The zeal of the Lord has eaten us up.”  What he is saying to the mind of a Northern Galilean Jew or Semite is, “My jealous for those who seek to divert your attention or capitalize from our wedding day has given me the courage the tenacity to dismiss these unworthy suitors.”


There is a scene in Fiddler on the Roof where Tevye is giving his objections to the shy, submissive, nerdy Motel why he can’t marry his daughter.  Suddenly Motel is filled with the zeal, the tanana for his beloved that he screams into the face of Tevye, “Even a poor tailor has a right to some happiness.”  Tevye is taken aback by this shy, reserved fellow who cowers at his voice who now suddenly has taken on new boldness that he then back down.  He realizes that  if such a man feels such passion for his daughter, he must really love her.


So too if the God of the universe is anything but shy, submissive or nerdy and shows such tanana (jealous, passion) for us to consider our prayer time, out intimacy with Him to be so special and sacred that he will throw out the profiteers for cheapening his intimacy with His bride, then just how He must love us and long for that intimacy with us.





Isaiah 56:7: “For my house will be called a house of prayer for all the people.”


Luke 2:37: “And she (Anna) never left the temple, serving God night and day with fastings and prayers.”


When someone subscribes to our website they give us their e-mail address. I love to look at these addresses and view the creative expressions people come up with for their address. The other day I noticed one had the word Ihop. I had to write this person to see if they were talking about a pancake house (International House of Pancakes) or a house of prayer (International House of Prayer), it was a house of prayer. This got me to thinking, however, just what a house of prayer really is? Isaiah 56:7 tells us that God wants his house to be called a house of prayer for all the people.


Hebrews 11:6 tells us that it is impossible to please God without faith.  Faith is at the very root of pleasing God.  In Luke 7:9 we find that Jesus marveled at the faith of the Centurion.  When we see the word marvel we think of awe or amazement. Indeed this word in the Greek ethaumasin does carry that idea, but when we drill down a little further and we find that ethaumasin represents a joyful or wonderful feeling.  The word used in the Aramaic is dama which is similar to the word zamar in Hebrew which is a word for praise but in its Semitic root it has the idea of pruning. It is looking beyond all of one’s faults and seeing that something which is special or different and rejoicing in that.  When we look and marveling at the Grand Canyon, we have a feeling of joy at something beautiful while overlooking the fact that it is also a very dangerous and treacherous place to travel. It wasn’t that Jesus was shocked or taken by surprise at the faith of the Centurion, it was that His heart was warmed and made joyful at his faith. I am sure as s Roman Centurion he had done a lot of things in his life that he would not be proud of but Jesus only saw His faith and it pleased Him.  That marvelous feelings we get when we see God’s beauty in nature is the same marvelous feeling God gets when he sees that simple childlike faith in us. He zamar(s), prunes or cuts away all those things which we would be ashamed of and just focuses on our faith and finds delight and joy in that.


So we can please God with our faith, but what about serving Him. How do we serve him?  Is being a missionary serving him, full time Christian work, or going to church, paying tithes?  I suppose so but I think the Bible gives us a better understanding of what it is to serve God. In Luke 2:37 we learn that Anna served God in the temple with fastings and prayer.


Fasting is going without food, right? Well, not really. Going without food is just an expression of fasting. The Aramaic word used here is tsom which is identical to the Hebrew word tsom. The word in Greek used here for fasting is nesteials. The Septuagint uses this Greek word nesteials for the Hebrew word tsom. All three words means fasting. I could not drill down very far with the Greek word nesteials other than fasting.  But the Aramaic word tsom and its Hebrew equivalent tsom does offer some insight.  In its Semitic form the Aramaic and Hebrew words tsom has the idea of submitting the very necessities of one’s life to receive some knowledge.  In ancient times it was used for a soldier who would give up his life to be recognized by one of his gods and receive the knowledge of the Gods.  In this context it means to submit to the Divine Will in order to bring about a transformation through the revelation of His hidden knowledge. That is the very essence of fasting. That is why going without food, the very basic necessity of life, is one of the most common expressions fasting.  But there are other ways to fast. I believe it was Mike Bickel, the founder of the International House of Prayer, who speaks of a fasted life style. I am not too sure of what  he means by this but I am led to understand that it involves denying yourself the things of this world, the things that feed the flesh as well as fleshly desires in order to submit to the Divine Will. I believe when Mike Bickel speaks of a fasted life style he is giving an excellent definition of the Aramaic and Hebrew word tsom. Anna lived a fasted life style. She lived in the temple denying herself of the things of the flesh to pursue the Divine Will of God. This was called a service to God.


Then she prayed. The word in the Greek used for prayer here is de esesin which really means petition. The word used in my Aramaic Bible is tselutha. The Septuagint uses de esesin for the Hebrew word thapol in Isaiah 56:7 which is translated as prayer, but this prayer in the Greek, Aramaic and Hebrew are not only prayers of petition but also intercessory prayers, prayers of petition for others and not oneself. Anna lived in the temple living a life of fleshly denial and praying in intercession for others day and night. That is called a service to God. It was not being a prophetess that was called her service, it was her fasting and prayer. The root word for prayer in Hebrew as it is in Aramaic is palal which has a numerical value of 140.  The mind or heart of God  has a numerical value of 140. The Gematria indicates that prayer is speaking out verbally the heart of God.  Is that not what you are doing when you pray a prayer of intercession?


What then is this house of prayer that we are reading about in Isaiah 56:7? The word house is byith which means not only a physical place of dwelling but a spiritual place of dwelling. It could be a tent, a palace, a tabernacle or a house. It could also be the spirit, the heart, or the mind where are desires dwell. With that thought in mind we could translate the house of prayer as a place where the heart of God dwells. It is a place that one enters and expresses the heart of God verbally. That is one way to translate the words byith tepilah (house of prayer).


But soft, if faith pleases God, and it takes faith to enter the heart of God, it would follow that when we enter the heart of God our faith has made His heart joyful and thus we enter His joy. Yet it is that joy which comes from our faith, so really it is our faith that is ultimately responsible for the joy of the Lord that we feel. When the Centurion expressed his faith it created a joy in the heart of Jesus such that the healing power came out of Jesus, but Jesus made it clear that it was the Centurion’s faith that activated this power.  The combination of faith – pleasing God and prayer – proclaiming the heart of God created a house of prayer that brought about the healing of the Centurion’s servant.



Psalms 23:6: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”


I found something very interesting when I did a study on the words follow (radaph) and dwell (shaveti), both words have a bridal meaning to it.  The word follow in Hebrew is radaph which is a word used for a bride pursuing a groom and the word shaveti which comes from the root word yashav is a word used for a bride dwelling in the house of her beloved or groom.  Something we do not usually consider about Hebrew poetry is that Hebrew poetry can often carry a double motif. The obvious motif of Psalms 23 is that of shepherding, but there is also a secondary motif and it is that of a bride pursuing or following her bridegroom.  The word radaph is in a Qal imperfect form so as my study partner pointed out this is not so much the bride pursuing her beloved, but just following him as wives often did during the start of the civil war.  Early in the Civil War a wife often followed her husband as he moved from camp to camp as a soldier and finally camping at the site of the battlefield.  These women performed the traditional duties of a wife, cooking, laundry and eventually perform the duties of a nurse.  In the early part of the war it was not unusual for soldiers to have private tents where they lived with their wives shared an intimacy with their wives before going into battle.  Their motivation was out of love and the fact that when they married their husband they committed to live with him no matter where it was.


My study partner pointed out that this passage seemed reversed, it should be, and “I will dwell in the house of the Lord” first and the goodness and mercy will follow. The syntax suggests she may be right. Radaph (follow) is in an imperfect (incompleted action) form while dwell (shaveti) is in a perfect (completed action) form.   Hence you should render this as, “Surely goodness and mercy have followed me all the days of my life and I am dwelling in the house of the Lord forever.”


The bridegroom has filled his bride with such goodness (tov) and mercy (chasad) that she will follow him all the days of her life, even if, like in the civil war it means following him all the way to the battle field.   She does this because of goodness which is the Hebrew word tov and means to be in harmony.  She is in such harmony with her beloved that she is one with him, even to the point of following him all the way to the battlefield.   She is also filled with his mercy which is the Hebrew word chasad and means to find favor through lovingkindness. She has found favor through his lovingkindness.


But soft, notice that David is saying that he is dwelling (shaveti) in the house of the Lord forever.  Translators always put this in a future tense yet it is clearly in a perfect (competed action) form in the Hebrew.  David is already dwelling in the house of the Lord.   The word house (byrith) has a wide range of meanings, one of which is the dwelling place of the bride in the groom’s home.  I believe that this is the meaning to be used in this context in order to follow the bridal motif.  But the groom’s home is more than just his physical house, it is his world.  The bride leaves her world, the world of her parent and her siblings.  She leaves the rules and life style of her family and joins the rules and life style of her husband.  In ancient times and even in some places in the Middle East today, a man simply builds his house as an attachment to his father’s house and brings his bride in to live in his father’s dwelling.  Hence David is picturing himself as a bride, not just entering the home of his beloved, but the home of his beloved’s father.   But this is more than just a physical dwelling place, it is a new world for the bride, a new family and a new life style where she is loved and respect because of her beloved and made to feel at home, but most important, it is the dwelling (shaveti) of her beloved where she will dwell with him in harmony (tov – goodness) and mercy (chasad – favor through lovingkindness) forever.  She will follow him no matter where he goes.  This is picture with Mary who was pregnant and yet followed Joseph to Bethlehem to pay his taxes.  She did not have to be with him for him to pay his taxes, but she was married to him, he welcomed her into his world despite the possible scandal from her pregnancy and as a result of his lovingkindness she followed him on a difficult journey begin almost full term in her pregnancy.  She should have stayed behind in the house of her husband where his family would have taken care of her, but she chose not to, she wanted to be with her beloved and deliver her baby with him present. She stepped into his word, his shaveti (his dwelling or his world) and would not leave because goodness (tov – harmony) and mercy (chasad) from her husband would follow her.


Psalms 23:6 is best described in a song written by Martin Schmidt many years ago, Welcome to My World:


Welcome to my world, won’t you come on in,

Miracles I give and they will happen now and then.

Step into my heart, leave your cares behind

Welcome to my world built with you in mind.


Knock and the door will open, seek and you will find

Ask and you will be given the key to this heart of mine

I’ll be waiting here, with my arms opened wide

Waiting just for you, welcome to my world.   – Martin Schmidt


Ezekiel 39:25, 29:  (25)”Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Now will I bring the captivity of Jacob, and have mercy upon the whole house of Israel, and will be jealous for my holy name.”  (29) “Neither will I hide my face anymore from them, for I have poured out my Spirit upon the house of Israel says the Lord God.”


There are a number of opinions as to why God uses the name Jacob and Israel interchangeably.  The Talmud teaches that when God wants to address the masculine nature of Israel he calls them Jacob and the feminine nature he calls them Israel.   Other suggestions are that he calls them Jacob when they are in disobedience and Israel when they are in prayer and worship.  I suppose for the sake of these passages it seems evident that when Israel is in a state of sin or under the judgment of God they are referred to as Jacob and when they are under God’s blessing they are referred to as Israel.


The reason I coupled these verses together is because of the word “captive” in verse 25 and “hide” in verse 29.  Israel is referred to as Jacob in this verse, while they were in captivity.   I often wondered what God’s attitude was during the time of “captivity.”  Should I enter a time of “captivity” (perhaps I am in one now), what is God’s attitude toward me?


Years ago when I was a Junior High School teacher, I would often have to pull duty in detention hall.  That is where a student goes when he has misbehaved and he spends a whole class hour after school doing a naughty assignment.  I remember how uncomfortable I felt monitoring the detention hall as a member of the faculty.  This had to be a time of correction for the students, so I could not be buddy-buddy with them.  It was not an actual class so there was no teaching to be done.  I was more like a prison guard, watching and making sure no one escaped.   I knew many of the students as some were in my classes.  Some I knew on a level where we joked and had friendly interaction on other occasions.  But in detention hall I had to be different and distant.   That was always difficult.   No one ever gives a thought to what a teacher is going through when they monitor students who are in detention.  Sometimes the teacher is suffering just as much as the student (It is after hours, after all).  On top of that, this suffering of the teacher was through no fault of his own.


Do we ever stop to consider what God is going through when He has to discipline us or put us in detention or captivity?   I know there are times I feel God has put me in detention hall. What is God experiencing while I am in His detention hall?    For one thing he may call me by a different name.   While in captivity Israel was call Jacob (one who grabs) rather than Israel (prince of God).


I had one student that I really enjoyed having in class, even if he was a real rascal.   In class or outside class I called him “Bill.”  In detention hall (where he paid regular visits) I referred to him as “Mr. Simmer.”  He hated being called by his last name and I hated doing it, but I had to. It showed my disapproval.

There is also another clue as to what God goes through when he has us in detention.  We learn in Ezekiel 39:29 that He hides his face from us.   The word hide is asar which is in a Hiphal form.  He is caused or forced to hide his face from us.  He does not do it because he wants to but in order to show us His disapproval for our actions, He is forced to hide his face from us.  The word face is pani which is spelled Pei, Nun, Yod.  The Pei represents the mouth and the Nun represents swimming, in the sense that you are completely surrounded by water.  The Yod represents receiving knowledge from God.  Thus, the word pani is often used to express the idea of His presence where he speaks to us while he surrounds us with His lovingkindness.  When God has us in detention, His presence is hidden from us.


It is the word hide that I find interesting.  The word hide is asar. This is the same word used in verse 25 for captivity. In other words when Israel was in captivity, God’s presence was also in captivity. When Bill Simmer was in detention hall and I was the monitor, things were not very different.  I was the teacher, he was the student. I still enjoyed having him as a student, I still believed in his potential, and I was still available to help him in any way I could.  But in detention hall he was Mr. Simmer, not Bill.   Until that clock hit a certain time, we could not joke together or have our usual friendly easy going relationship. That relationship was also in detention and I suffered as much as Bill Simmer and it was not my fault he was in detention.


If God has you or me in detention, He is right there with you. It does not mean that He values your relationship any less, that free and easy relationship is forced into captivity due to our breaking His rules and there is a necessary time of correction.  But once that time is past, usually at the point of repentance, then not only are we released from captivity but God is also released from captivity.  He is just as anxious for our release as we are.




{Word Study} Take, Seize “Lakach”

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.