Tag: Peace



Psalms 120:2: “Deliver my soul, O Lord, from lying lips, and from a deceitful tongue.”


At first reading it appears that the writer is saying: “Lord make those gossiping about me shut up, punch ‘em in the mouth.”  But upon closer examination, the writer is not saying that at all, he just wants his soul to be delivered.


We are not sure this is David speaking, if it is, he is mostly in exile. Some feel this is written at the time he was fleeing from Saul and could relate to the time he had opportunity to kill Saul and his advisors were so advising him to do so, but he refused.   For various reasons, that does not really fit, but the example is good.


The word soul that is used here in Hebrew is nephesh which is really your mind.  We notice in verse 7 that the writer tells us that he is for peace while those lying lips and deceitful tongues are for war. The writer is troubled, the lying lips and deceitful tongues are confusing him, and he is not sure what is right or wrong.


The word lips is misepath which means lips, but is in the feminine form.  This may not mean anything, but it is possible that the writer is considering the fact that a woman’s lips can be very seductive and many a man has been led astray by the kiss of a woman’s lips.


The word lying is seker. This type of lying is a corrupt type, based in jealously and/or judgment.  It is also a lying done by a close friend, advisor, or members of a fellowship. It is in a close fellowship where you experience jealousy, or judgmental words.  The writer is troubled over advice he is being given, or friends harshly judging him.   You can receive 100 compliments and not think much about it, but that one person who will judge you or criticize you, that will stay with you throughout the day and totally wear you down.


He also wants to be delivered from a deceitful tongue.  The word deceitful is ramyah.  These are words spoken which are self seeking, deceptive, but words built upon revealed truth.   One way to express ramyah is proof texting.  That is pulling a Scripture verse out of context in order to prove a point or persuade you to do something that you are not sure is right.


Now note, the writer is not asking that these critics or advisors be silenced, he is only asking to be delivered.  The word delivered is hasalah. This is in a Hiphil imperative form.  “Lord, cause my soul to be delivered.”


Colossians 3:15: “Let the peace of God rule (Greek – umpire) your heart.”  The writer is experiencing some harsh criticism.  Yet, like Watchman Nee said, in every criticism, there is some grain of truth.  The writer does not want to reject that criticism outright, but at the same time knows there is a lot of untruth in that criticism.  He is also receiving some very seductive advice yet, he does not feel at peace with it.   These critics or advisors are wanting war. This advice may be born out of jealousy or it may be self serving, but it has the writer confused and he is asking God to deliver his trouble mind, give him peace. If peace will rule his heart, then he will know the decision he makes is right, that it is of God.


When you go through a difficult time or have an important decision to make, it is only natural to seek advice from trusted friends.  Far too often people are more than ready to give their advice, yet they are human after all and their advice, although well meaning, may not really be from God.  When David had the opportunity to kill Saul, his friends said, “David, praise the Lord, God has put your enemy in a position where you can run in there, lop his head off and you will be king before nightfall. Your problems will all be solve, surely this is God’s doing.”  The advice sounded good and from all circumstances it appeared that the Lord really did arrange things for David to vanquish his enemy and fulfill God’s plan in his life.  But he had a check in his spirit, against all conventional wisdom; he sensed in his spirit that something was not right; he did not feel right in his heart about it.  He let the peace of God rule his heart and as such he said that he would not touch God’s anointed (I Samuel 24 and 26).


Advice from your friends or even your spiritual leaders may be good and may sound right, but if it creates a sense of confusion or you feel no peace in your heart about it, it is best to hang on to your wallet. Natural advice is like a pitcher pitching a baseball. Sometimes it is too close to tell if that ball is in the strike zone or not. Your friends tell you it is a ball, your spiritual leaders tell you it is a strike, who do you believe?  If your heart is joined with the heart of God, you trust your heart, you let the peace of God rule your heart. It is that inner peace which rules (Gk.  Barbeuto – arbitrates, umpires) your soul or heart (Colossians 3:15).


Psalm 29:11: “The Lord will give strength to His people and the Lord will bless His people with peace.”


In both cases where David says: The Lord he is using the name Jehovah (YHWH).  When David uses the name Jehovah (YHWH) he is doing so to express his intimacy with God.  In fact throughout this whole Psalm David is invoking the name Jehovah (YHWH).  This is a Psalm of worship and in his worship he is expressing the greatness of God.  In this expression of God’s greatness he concludes by bringing all of this to a personal level.  This great, powerful and mighty God will give his people strength and will bless them with peace.


The Lord will give strength.  The word strength is oz which I have discussed in earlier studies.  This not only means to make physically strong but also to make one courageous.  The word before strength is nathan which means to give or impart.  God will impart courage to his people.


Who are his people?  The word that is rendered for people here is interesting.  David uses the word  amam.  This word basically means to be hidden or concealed.  It also is used to express the idea of having something in common.  When used for  people it is referring to a kindred.   Indeed the word is spelled Ayin, Mem and Final Mem.  The Ayin” represents inner reflection.  The Mem represents revealed knowledge of God and the Final Mem represents the  hidden knowledge of God.   His people are those who incorporate into themselves the revealed and hidden knowledge of God.   A perfect example of this revealed and hidden knowledge is our salvation through Jesus Christ.


For many the first reaction in reading that God gives strength to his people is that David is referring to the Jewish people.   Clearly David’s use of the word amam shows that he is referring to not only the Jewish people but anyone who receives the revealed and hidden knowledge of God which culminates in the redemptive work of Jesus Christ.


So if we are in Christ Jesus we are promised by God Jehovah to receive physical strength as well as courage to face whatever life will throw at us.  Not only that He will bless us with peace.   The word bless is baruch which has a variety of meanings but in the context of this verse it has the idea of impartation.  The Lord will impart peace to His people.  Peace is shalom.  Shalom has a wide range of meaning.  It involves not only a feeling of rest, but healing, protection, and shelter.


There is one rather unusual grammatical oddity here.   The lack of a conjunction.  The word and is not in the Hebrew text in this verse.  Hebrew loves it’s conjunctions.  Where we would say in English:  “I will go to church to pray, sing, worship, fellowship and praise God.”  In Hebrew you would say: “I will go to church to pray and sing and worship and fellowship and praise God.”    David’s lack of the conjunction as well as the multiple use of the name Jehovah suggest that David is putting great emphasis on the fact that true courage and peace comes from Jehovah alone.  Jesus put it nicely when He said “My peace I give unto you, not that the world gives, give I unto you.”  There is a peace you can get from the world, but it is not the peace of God.


A good example of David not practicing what he preaches is that we find that in the later years of his life he calls for a census.  He is facing threats from the Assyrians and it has him worried.  Rather than rest on the courage and peace given by Jehovah, he conducts a census to see how big an army he can raise.  Rather than really seek the courage and peace of God, he sought peace and courage in the natural world.  Somehow just  trusting in God was not enough, he also needed to know just how big an army he could raise, then he could feel some peace.  Of course we all know how God felt about that and what happened to David as a result of seeking this courage and peace in the natural realm.   Poor David, if only he would have practiced what he preached in Psalms 29:11.


But then, who am I to throw rocks at David, when I end up doing the same thing.

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Jeremiah  23:23-24 “[Am] I a God at hand, saith the LORD, and not a God afar off?  Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the LORD. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the LORD.”

This passage literally reads “I am a God that is from near.”  The KJV renders the word for near which is miqarov as at hand which is only a 17th century  KJV paraphrase which has taken on new meaning in our modern culture.  Back in King James’s day the phrase at hand  suggested something that was a part of you where today such an expression suggests it is like a tool that you have for ready us.  The 17th century idea of at hand is more true to the Hebrew than our 21st century concept of at hand.  Most translations will simply render miqarov as near. Putting the preposition Mem in front of the word qarov creates the idea of more than just being close by. The word qarov is often used for a blood relative. It is also used for an inward part, the heart, an actual part of your body.  So God is not saying I am hanging around you, but He is saying, I am a part of you, I dwell inside of you, where you go I go. Orthodox Jews will wear a kippah or skull cap to remind themselves of Jeremiah 23:23 that they are always in the presence of God and whatever they do they do as unto God.  Yesterday I spoke of how I  imagine God hugging me. People call this make believe.  I call it Jeremiah 23:23, He is not an imaginary friend to me, He is real and I do not question for a moment that He is hugging me when I picture it in my mind. No matter where I am at or what I am doing, I can pause and let my imagination create the picture of what is really taking place and that is God embracing me and when I do I feel his presence so much, sometimes I weep. I did not learn this from my Christian teachers, great as they are, I learned this from the people God chose to teach us this lesson. I learned this from studying Jewish literature as the Talmud, Mishnah, the Midrash and others.  

But there is more here. Miqarov in Hebrew is grammatically a Pual Participle.  A Pual will put this in a passive voice, an intensive passive voice.  In an active voice the subject is the do-er or be-er where in the passive voice the do-er or be-er is being acted upon. This is why it is put in an interrogative or question form as God is comparing himself to local deities asking, “Am I just some local deity that is just in one spot or am I everywhere?”

However, putting this in a Pual form rather than a Niphal opens us up to a very subtle suggestion that we really cannot pick up in the English.  You see gods in those days were local, sort of like precinct captains.  You move to a new precinct or new country your got yourself a new god.  Every country had their own gods. When people moved from country to country and took their gods with them their idea of that god sort of merged with the idea of the god in their new land taking on qualities of both gods.  Sort of like in Haiti today where a Catholic priest can also be a voodoo priest as well, he just merged his beliefs in God Jehovah into that of voodooist.  Oh, bad. Right?  Do we not do the same thing in the Western world by merging our cultural religion, money and materialism, into our beliefs in God Jehovah?  Do we not market God like a new diet supplement?  Buy God and He will cure all your diseases, solve all your problems, and make you prosperous.  People will buy the product, after all God comes cheap, just donate a few bucks.  There is an old saying, “He who sells miracles will have the devil knocking at his door.”  Yet that is our Western religion, we are selling miracles, either as a soap product to give a sixty year old the skin of a 20 year old or a god who will give you a new liver or lungs. Buy ‘em today.

That is why God created the Jewish people as the chosen people, that is why the Jews were commanded not to marry foreigners because God wanted to have a race of people who displayed his pure faith,  not one that got mixed up with other gods into some sort of mish mosh of religion or natural culture. I mean culture cannot help but influence our faith. We walk into a church of Western architecture, play Western cultural music with spiritual messages, that is ok, but when we start mixing our state religion of materialism, competition, celebrity worship, prosperity, good old American values which are not God’s values into our faith in God, then we have crossed a line.  That is why God has kept a people and a race to be a model for us. Yes, even if they have not accepted Jesus as their Messiah, they still represent the pure faith in God. I am talking about a God who doesn’t always rescue you in the natural world as seen in the Holocaust and the captivity of 740 BC, or a God who does not always give you peace as the siege of Jerusalem under Sennachrib 700BC and the siege of Israel in 2014 by Hamas.  Who wants a God like that, He sure would not sell in the United States.  Yet, before the IDF soldiers ever go into battle, there is a rabbi who leads them into prayer.  We are not supposed to do that with our armies as Muslims soldiers, Buddhist soldiers Atheist soldiers would be offended.  However, Israel believes in one God, the true God, they were chosen to display the true God who crosses all cultural barriers, who is not a product of one’s culture.  He is not a God of wealth, although He can make you prosperous for His purpose. He has made Israel rich enough to pay $40,000 for a missile to shoot down an $800 rocket. Not that he does not heal for he healed a barren land and made it blossom like a rose.  In fact it is this land, this people that God sent His Messiah, His very Son to bring us Salvation.

I have often been criticized for spending so much time studying Talmud, the Mishnah, the Midrash and other Jewish works when I should be studying Scofield and other Christians writers. Hey, I love the works of C.S. Lewis, Bonhoeffer  and even D.L. Moody.  But I taught speed reading in College and I can afford the time to study the works of Jewish scholars as well for it is in the works of Jewish literature, which I admit are not inspired, but they do teach me the true heart and soul of the inspired Word of God.  I am not Jewish so I do not wear a kippah (skull cap) but I do  wear a baseball cap at all times to accomplish this and often in difficult times I reach up and touch my baseball cap and sometimes I almost weep being reminded that even in that circumstance I am still in the presence of God, something I learned from Jewish literature.

The enemy wants to destroy the Jewish people and their nation because it reminds the world that He is a God that is not a national god, a cultural, or a political god but that He is the God who created the entire world and everyone in it and even sent his very Son through this  Jewish, chosen race of people to be the Savior of the world.  It is not Hamas attacking Israel it is the very enemy himself who wants to destroy this nation that was created to show us the true, loving, forgiving and longing nature of God.



Obadiah 1:10 For [thy] violence against thy brother Jacob shame shall cover thee, and thou shalt be cut off forever.


In my first year in Bible College the upper classmen put on a program for the new freshman.  They had a sketch where a student played a reporter interviewing students impersonating the faculty.  When they came to the Old Testament Professor, Dr. Goldberg (who was Jewish), he announced that he was teaching a 5 credit hour semester class on the Book of Obadiah. When asked if he could teach such a small book (28 verses) for 5 semester hours he said: “Well, it will be hard, we will only scratch the surface, and my secretary is bringing the syllabus out now.  A student came out struggling with a 3 foot high stack of paper.  When the freshman laughed, the student impersonating Dr. Goldberg grabbed the mic and said: “You can laugh, but it is true.”


To understand this book you really need to study the history of Edom from the time of Esau to its final destruction by the Roman general Titus in 70 A.D.  The Edomites, as we all know, are the descendants of Esau, the old boy who sold his birthright to his brother Jacob. The family settled in what is now the Sinai Peninsula and bordered the Kingdom of Judah in the South.  Our first major encounter is when the Hebrew children were making their way to the promised land through the Edomite territory during the Exodus.   They had to take a longer route as Edom threatened to destroy them if they passed through.  They later went to war against King Saul and prevailed over him.  Forty years later David and Joab made short work of Edom and they became a vassal state to Israel.  Sort of like Puerto Rico is to the United States.  Israel appointed its governors and leadership.


When the civil war between Israel and Judah broke out, Edom was spun off and they appointed their own king.  When Jehoshaphat tried to re-establish their control over Edom by appointing a king, the leadership appealed to Ammon and Moab and the three kings prepared to march against Judah.  This is the story where Jehoshaphat ordered his army to just worship and God caused confusion to fall on the camp of the three kings and they destroyed each other. God would not allow them to personally kill their own brethren.  War again broke out under Jehoram and Edom was partially defeated, but never again subdued by Judah.  God had a history of trying to unit the two brother nations, but it was never to be.


Now we get to the occasion of Nebuchadnezzar who attacked Judah from the South, and  of course to do that they had to pass through Edom.   Verses 1-11 tell us what happened.  Rather than unite with their blood relatives to defeat Nebuchadnezzar, they joined up with him and the combined force ransacked Jerusalem. For this, God prophesied through Obadiah that they would cease to exist, which was fulfilled after 70AD.  Here is the twist, Edom did finally come to the aid of Israel during the Roman Jewish wars and they were wiped out in the process,  too little too late we often say.


Here is the rest of the story. The Talmud teaches that Obadiah was an Edomite himself who converted to Judaism.  He was the Obadiah who served under King Ahab and Jezebel and protected the 128 prophets.   He was a confidant to Elijah and because he risked his life to protect God’s prophet, God made him a prophet as well.  He went to his people and prophecied warning them of what would happen if Edom sided with a Godless nation against their blood relatives.  His mission was to once again plead for peace between the brother nations.  He failed and the nations failed.


I see this message of Obadiah as a warning to the church.  Edom was of the same family heritage as Judah, descendants of Isaac and Abraham.  They had different beliefs and doctrines yet they were still of the same family.  They were warned to not rejoice when their brothers in Israel came under God’s judgment.  They not only rejoiced but joined in on the destruction.  As a result Edom’s destruction was total while Israel lived on.   The message is one of unity.  If we are all of the same family of Christ joined by the common blood of Jesus Christ, we have a real obligation to not do violence against those who may differ with us in doctrine or theology, and not to rejoice in their defeat or even to participate in their destruction, lest our fate become worse than theirs. Well, of course no good Baptist will do violence against some Pentecostal for speaking in tongues.  So the book of Obadiah does not really apply to us, right?  We are certainly not as bad as Edom. Yet, if it is that one word which is rendered as violence causing us to ignore the book of Obadiah as relevant to us, then look again at that word violence. It is the word chamas in Hebrew which comes from a Semitic root for an ancient word which means ill-gotten gain. It is gain received at any harmful expense of another, no matter how innocent or minor that harmful expense may seem. There have been preachers who have built platforms by condemning those of a different doctrine, many who have used their platforms to destroy the ministry of another preacher who had a doctrine a little different than theirs using that destruction to enhance their own position. Many years ago there was a famous Bible teacher who destroyed the ministry of another Bible teacher by revealing an adulterous affair. Rather than seek to restore that brother he used it as an opportunity to destroy a competitor.  Not too long after that this very same Bible teacher himself was caught visiting a prostitute. That is chamas. But if you even secretly rejoice at the fall of another brother, perhaps one who is serving on a worship team and ends up in a  hospital giving you your chance to perform for the congregation, this too is chamas. You are just like Edom if you ever joined in the destructive gossip about another believer and destroyed their reputation for you are doing violence or chamas to your brother or sister.


There is a flip side to this as well, perhaps you are a victim of a brother or sister who has committed chamas against you and were deeply hurt by their pious stand against you. Perhaps you even received the left foot of fellowship because of some wrong (or perceived wrong) you committed rather than being loved and supported by your brothers and sisters to help restore you.  Perhaps their treatment of you was so terrible you had to leave.  Perhaps you are even now considered poison in your church community for some “failure”.  You are off in your corner hiding under yon rock from whence you came licking your wounds, angry and upset over the way you were treated.  God is softly speaking to you in the book of Obadiah telling you, “Calm down, take a deep breath, I still love you and that is all that really matters. Vengeance is mine I will repay.” Romans 12:19.


Obadiah’s message is a call to peace among the brethren, being good neighbors who will help and support each other.  God will handle the differences and smooth them out to His perfect will. If we are indeed living in last days, the message is all the more important to be at peace with those who also love and worship Jesus and not let some minor doctrinal interpretation or jealousy cause violence or chamas to come between us.

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Isaiah 55:12: “For you shall go out with joy and be led forth with peace.  The mountains and the hills shall break forth before you with singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.”


Summer and winter, springtime and harvest

Sun moon and stars in their courses above

Join with all nature in manifold witness

To thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

Great is thy faithfulness, Great is thy faithfulness

Morning by morning new mercies I see.

– Thomas Chisholm,  “Great is Thy Faithfulness”


Have you ever been filled with the joy of the Lord such that it seems like all nature joins with you in praising God. I really believe that this is what the prophet Isaiah is trying to express here. Recently, as I was sitting on my porch, I noticed a squirrel running across the lawn. Suddenly he ran up to by the bottom of the stairs to my porch. You know how they are, once they see you they stop, get up on their hind legs, and twitch their nose at you as if to say: “Hello there, any peanuts today?” and then they run off.  Only on this occasion, I suggested to my furry chipmunk friend, that he join me in a little worship session with our creator. As if to answer he gave a little squeak and then  ran off. I took that as a “Praise the Lord.”


Crazy, no? Well, what do expect from a guy who is always going through a Looking Glass with Hebrew letters visiting an alternative world to get spiritual insight. I know Isaiah 55:12 is just a metaphor and a personification. The mountains really do not break forth with singing nor do the trees clap their hands – do they?


Actually in the Hebrew the word for breaking forth is yiphasechu which could have two possible roots. It could be pasach which is to break forth with a loud joyful noise.   But there is another possible root which would be paras’ which is the word used when a child is born or breaks forth through the womb for a new beginning.  Both words have the idea of breaking forth either with a loud joyful noise or a new beginning or both. This breaking forth is done with rinah which is simply a joyful noise. Since we are given a separate word for joyful noise, I can only assume that the intended root word has to be parats (a breaking forth as in a child breaking forth from the womb) rather than pasach as a breaking forth with a joyful noise. That would make the word rinah (joyful noise) too redundant, even for Hebrew.  So I would say that the root word for yipasechu would be parats which would mean the mountain are breaking forth with the joy of a new beginning.


So how would this verse apply to us, personally, today, three thousand years after it was written?  I think we would all love a new beginning. As my little furry friend and I shared the joy of the Lord together my mind went back to the realities I would be facing this day. Would the day be filled with its usual problems related to health, finances etc?  I really didn’t find any hope of a new beginning to rejoice about. As I ponder this thought I opened my Hebrew Bible to take a closer look at Isaiah 55:12 and have a little chat with Parats (breaking forth with a new beginning) and give him a little piece of my mind, I mean what right has he got to go around spouting out breaking forth with new beginnings when there was no such thing in sight.


I looked at the verse and noticed a blank spot where Parats (breaking forth in new beginnings) was supposed to be. “That figures, “ I thought, “Parats (breaking forth in new beginnings) is just as elusive as ever.” Suddenly I heard someone say; “Oh yeah?” I looked around and there I saw Parats (breaking forth in a new beginning). Parats is spelled Pei, Resh and Sade. I looked at Pei, Resh, Sade and saw they were dressed in military fatigues and each wore sergeant strips. Pei, (which represents a mouth) shouted Tend hut! “Tend what, who?” I ask, “Just what or whom am I tending to?” I question.  Resh (which represents following a path with an unknown destination) shouted “Forward March!” Sade (which represents performing a humble task) began a cadence “One, Two, Three Four, One two three…”  I decided to play along and marched back into my house and through my Looking Glass where I found myself in the midst of a field filled with hundreds of holes that have been dug by many other Christians this day. I was ordered by Sergeants Pei, Resh and Sade to start digging.


“Why am I digging a senseless hole?” I asked.  But Sergeants Pei, Resh and Sade just began to sing: “You’re in God’s army now, to satan you must not bow. You begin a little bit by digging God’s ditch, you’re in God’s army now.“  “Huh?”  I asked. “I still don’t get it, what does digging a ditch have to do with a new beginning?”


Pei, (mouth, speaking) said that Lamentations 3:23 tells us that God’s mercies are new every morning. The mountains and hills break forth with joy every morning as every morning brings new mercies. You come forth in joy and lead in peace because every day is a new day. This joy in Isaiah 55:12 comes from the newness of God’s mercies every day.” “I get it,” I replied scornfully: “So what am I digging for?” Pei (the first letter to parats, (breaking forth with new beginnings), replies that he is the number 100, Resh salutes and says, “Number 200, reporting, sir” and Sade snaps to attention and barks, ”90  present and accounted for, sir.” As I continued to dig, I added this up and found it totaled 390. Suddenly my shovel struck something solid. “Hey,” I shouted, I struck a Mem.” “Well, pull ‘em out” Parats ordered. So I pulled out Mem who was attached to Shin, Kap and Lamed, (masekel) which means understanding.  “Boy, it was hot down there, thanks for digging us up.“  I looked at Masekel (understanding) and said with surprise: “Why you are “understanding.“ “Right,” answered Mem. Then looking at Pei, Resh, Sade he shouted, “Hey, guys look, it’s our counterpart Parats and immediately Mem, Shin and Kap (masekel- understanding) ran over and shook hands and embraced Pei, Resh and Sade (Parats – breaking forth with new beginnings). I put down my shovel, scratched my head and asked, “Numerical counterpart?”  “Sure nuf,” replied Paras (breaking forth with new beginnings) we share the same numerical value of 390 with Masekel (understanding), we’re related.  You just unburied our kinfolk Masekel (understanding) who were buried under all the cares of that world on the other side of your Looking Glass.


Well, after the joyful reunion between Parats (breaking forth with new beginnings) and Masekel (understanding) I reminded Parats (breaking forth with new beginnings) that they really needed to return to my Hebrew Bible. But before we passed through my Looking Glass Pei, Resh, and Sade (parats – breaking forth with new beginnings) snapped to attention and saluted me and said: “Nice digging, you really found yourself a blessing.”


They were right, I was on my way to having one miserable day with the cares of my world, but when I dug through that day I found the understanding that God was giving me another new day, a new day of life with a little blessing to start my day, which I had never realized was meant to be a new beginning for a new day, a simple beginning, one I would not have recognized but for my friend Parats (breaking forth with a new beginning).


I found myself back on my porch and there was my little blessing on his hind legs, twitching his nose.  He gave another little squeak, I swear it sounded like parats (breaking forth with a new beginning). For you see, every day is a new day with God, a new beginning.  If I can’t rejoice as the mountains and hills over this new day or beginning in a beautiful world that God created for me,  then I must dig to find out the blessings that God gives each day, if I am to fully comprehend the meaning of Isaiah 55:12 in my life. With that I toss a peanut to my little morning greeter, this little bit of God’s creation, I reflect how he gave me my first shovel full of blessings for the day.




John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you: not as the world gives, give I to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”


I have heard numerous sermons on this passage in my lifetime and they all seem to interpret this passage as Jesus telling his disciples that he is the source of genuine peace.  The world can give you peace but it is a false peace, it is only temporary and will not last.


The problem I have always had with this interpretation is peace, even if it is temporary or even false, is still a good thing, it is better than fear, violence, stress etc.  So what is so bad if I am stressed out and I get a little of that worldly peace, even if it is for a few moments, is that not a good thing?   Then again if God is the author of all that is good then where does this worldly peace come from? The enemy cannot be the author of something good like peace? Can He?  Is Jesus just referring to a deception that really in the end is harmful, like drugs or alcohol?  This is how the verse is commonly interpreted. Yet, if that was the case, Jesus would have used another word rather than world.  After all He created the world and created it as good; He would have been more specific and indicated a corrupted or sinful world.


If we jump back in time to this period that Jesus walked the earth we would have found that the normal method of finding peace in the world would be to go to a garden, a quiet stream, to go off alone and meditate, to burn fragrances, and if you were wealthy enough to hire musicians to play a harp or other stringed instruments to sooth you troubled mind.   They did not have a film industry, television, electronic games and other things created by man to distract your thoughts and give you a chance to rest your troubled mind.


Then again, maybe we are missing the point entirely.  Jesus was speaking in Aramaic and when he said, My peace I leave with you, was He simply saying goodbye, in a Near Eastern way as we would say in our Western Culture, see ya, so long or tootles.  If that were the case He would have simply said, salama ala laku, which is peace I leave with you.  But then He adds the word dali which would suggest my own peace. He then follows this with a curious phrase, nor that the world gives give I unto you.  The word for world used in the Greek is kosmos which has the idea of the world and its inhabitants of the world or the affairs of the world.  It could mean the worldly system or worldly thinking.


The Aramaic word used, which would be the word that Jesus spoke, is alma. Alma means, again and again from which we get the idea of eternity or forever. But in its Semitic root it has the idea of hiding or to conceal.  The past and future are really concealed to us.  Archaeology can only guess at what has happened in ancient times as no one is alive to bear witness of it.  The past is really concealed as is the future; no one can really know the future.  Again, this is how the idea of eternity comes from alma.  In its feminine form you have almah which is an unmarried woman or a young woman, sometimes rendered as a virgin.  The idea is that a young woman will one day get married and have a child. In other words she is the key to the race continuing or going on and on or again and again.  Within other Semitic languages, like the Ugaritic and Akkadian you have the root word as Al which means to repeat.


Within Jewish literature I have found that the sages teach that there are two types of peace, both come from God but one is directed to the spiritual part of man and the other is directed to the physical or natural part of man.  One cannot receive the spiritual peace until the body is rested and frayed nerves are soothed.  Hence the Jews prepare themselves for worship by relaxing the body.  They will recite Scripture verses or prayers; they may even do it with a soothing chant. In ancient times they burned fragrances, and they stood quietly before God.  As the physical body became relaxed and calm, they could then receive the true peace of God as they entered into worship with God.


We in our Western Christian culture really understand this, but we do not recognize it. We go to a church which we call a sanctuary.  This sanctuary is meant to separate us from the cares of this world, in this sanctuary we become quiet, there is a peaceful atmosphere, we sing songs to sooth our trouble minds, we pray, we recite Scripture and we become what we call reverent. The mistake we make in our thinking is that this is showing respect for God.  Actually, in its origins, this was done to prepare us for worship. In fact I often hear pastors calling their congregations to worship by saying, “Let us prepare for worship.”  We understand this concept of relaxing and calming ourselves before worship but over time we have gone from a quiet candle lite dinner in a violin playing, wood paneled, table clothed restaurant, quietly whispering our meal order to a formally dressed wait person to a lunch hour rush at Taco Bell.  Our worship services has gone from a formal quiet meditative preparation time to entering a meeting hall type room, shouting to some guy on the other side of the room, “Hey Bert, how’s your hemorrhoids this morning,” to the first drum beat, while a worship team belts out in handheld microphones an I like God song and dive into the worship like diving into a back yard pool fully dressed.


The ancient Hebrews prepared themselves for worship with prayers, meditations, reading Scripture, burning or diffusing fragrances and sometimes with music.  They would not enter the presence of God until their physical bodies were ready and relaxed.


When a man and woman share an intimacy, it is usually after the kids are in bed, after they talk over the frustrations of the day, after they share their struggles and stresses and worked out all the kinks that trouble their minds, after they find themselves reflecting on peaceful, loving things, then they quietly and naturally begin to embrace each other.  If we understand that on a human level, then why can we not understand that on a spiritual level? It takes time to enter into worship. Worship is not a slam, bam thank you God, it is a time of rest, peace and reflection, and then the drum beat, if that is your way of worship.


Jesus said, My own peace, I leave with you, not the alma (again and again, repeating) peace.  The alma peace is one that needs to be renewed over and over. It takes repeated trips to the garden, a discipline of stopping to smell the roses, of watching birds dance and listening to them sing.  God has provided for us a way of peace in this world through His creation, but He has also now given us a spiritual peace through the death of His Son Jesus Christ who gives us spiritual peace which is no longer plagued by the guilt and the shame of sin. No natural peace can relieve the guilt and shame of sin; we need a supernatural peace for that.  But that does not mean we ignore the other peace that God has provided, the peace that comes through His creation, the singing and dancing birds, the snuggling of Riley the cat, the warm welcome of Sparky the Wonder Dog (well at least for my neighbor), the fragrance of roses, frankincense and myrrh, the quiet gardens and beautiful streams, the music that speaks to our soul, the poetry that calms our troubled minds all these gifts come from God.


We cry out to God, give me peace.  Well, He has given us many alma(s) in this natural world to bring us peace, search that out, and find your garden, your fragrance, your song or your poem.  But they will not relieve you of your guilt and shame of sin. That comes from another source, a supernatural source. That comes from Jesus Christ who died on a cross 2,000 years ago to forgive and redeem us from the agony of our guilt of sin.

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Isaiah 26:3: “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trust in you.”


If you are in the habit of claiming a verse for the New Year, might I suggest a great verse for 2014, it is Isaiah 26:3.  Most of us on New Year’s Eve not only reflect on the events of the past year but we also ponder what may be in the New Year.  Indeed, for many, the prospects are often frightening and worrisome. Perhaps a good New Year’s resolution would be to keep one’s mind stayed on Jesus rather than the news coming over the internet.  With world and national events moving the way they are, perfect peace would be a great promise to claim.


I don’t know about you, but like so many other New Year resolutions my determination to keep my mind stayed on Jesus and live in perfect peace last about as long as my resolution to stay away from Big Macs.  God will keep us in perfect peace. I am certain this works for a lot of people but I don’t seem to be one of them. I try with all my might to keep my mind stayed on Jesus, but I just don’t seem to experience that perfect peace.  Then I start getting stressed out that there must be something wrong with my relationship with God if I am not experiencing the fulfillment of this promise.


Surely thirty five years of studying and teaching ancient Semitic languages ought to count for something, so I shall sharpen up my Hebrew grammar and break this verse down step by step. If you wish to make perfect peace your New Year’s resolution for 2014 you are welcomed to follow me on my personal journey through Isaiah 26:3.


The context makes it clear that it is Jehovah who will keep us in perfect peace.  The word for keep is tisor which in its Semitic root has the idea of guarding or watching over.  So it is not so much that he is giving us or keeping us in perfect peace but he is watching over us in perfect peace.  Look at it this way, it is sort of like when you notice you have physical problem, your first thought is that you have cancer, or some fatal illness. You worry and fret and you have no peace. You go to a doctor who smiles and says: “You’re ok.”   Suddenly, all your fears and worries disappear, you sigh with relief.  After all if the doctor says you are ok, what do you have to worry about.  His calm, peaceful response reassures you.


This is the way it is with God.  We face a frightening situation or crisis.  We are fearful, worried, and we go to God and He’s says: “Hey, I’m in control, it’s ok.”  And do you  know what? Suddenly, it is ok.


He will keep us in perfect peace. The word perfect is not found in the Hebrew here.  It is simply the word shalom repeated two times.  Hebrew grammar does not have comparative and superlative adjectives like good, better, best.  To show degrees it just repeats a word.  So this is not just peace, but the best peace, better than the world can give according to Jesus (John 14:27). God Himself is at perfect peace, or the best peace.


Now the word shalom has a wide range of meaning.  It is not only rest, but it is also healing, safety, and security, hey whatever goodies you name  you will most likely find it in the word shalom.


But we must keep in mind that He is this perfect peace.  The way we gain access to this peace is by having our minds stayed on him. If a commander leads his troops into battle and is expressing fear, his followers will be fearful.  A true leader will be able to instill courage in his followers. If they see their captain is not afraid, they will draw courage from that.  So too if God is our captain, we will draw courage from Him.  The word  mind in the Hebrew that is used here is yeser.  This is sort of a play on the word for keep.  Both are spelled with a Sade and Resh which represents a humble submission to the Holy Spirit.  The word yeser comes from a Semitic root sbr which is a word used for imagination. Hence God will guard over our imaginations with perfect peace.  Much of our stress and  anxiety comes from our imaginations.  We hear the news on the economy and we begin to imagine that we will loose our job and if we loose our job we imagine what will happen to us if we do.  We begin to imagine ourselves as homeless, on a street corner with a tin cup.   God will keep us in perfect peace if our imaginations are stayed on him.  The word stayed is samuk which is like a mattress covering, it is an overlay.  When our imaginations cover God, His peace will become our peace. His imaginations will become our imaginations.


In Hebrews 11:1 Paul tells us that faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.  The word hope in Greek is elpizomenon which means to expect or anticipate.  Although Paul most likely wrote this in Greek, He was Jewish and had a Semitic mind and was fluent in Aramaic and Hebrew. The Semitic equivalent to elpizomenon is sbr which is the Semitic root word for a positive imagination. It is the same word from which yeser is built which we render as mind in Isaiah 26:3 but in its Semitic root has the idea of a positive imagination. Thus faith is the substance of your positive imagination, which are things not seen.


So why would Gods yesers (imaginations) become our yesers (imaginations)? It is because we will then be trusting in Him.  The word trust is batach which is the word for glue.  A more modern word is weld. A welder will tell you that if you weld two pipes together that pipe will break everywhere else before it breaks at the weld. Welding is the melting of two pieces into each other where portions of the metal from the two pipes intermingle with each other.  That is what batach is, the mingling of yourself and God together, the melting of yourself into God and God into you.


So I personally have been going about this perfect peace business all wrong. I am praying to God for this perfect peace. Yet this verse is not saying that God will give us perfect peace.  It is saying that He will keep (tisor – guard, watch over) us in perfect peace. It is saying that He is perfect peace and He will guard or watch over this perfect peace that we receive when we  take our imaginations and overlay  them with His. We get this perfect peace when we let our imaginations become one with God’s imaginations.  We lose our job we do not imagine homelessness, we imagine the next positive move God is imagining for us. God does not imagine us as homeless, on a street corner with a tin cup.  God does not need to give us his perfect peace, it is there, we just need to reach out and touch it. His Word has made it clear. He is saying: “I’m in control, you’re ok.”   Let your imagination dwell on those words and you will gently overlay  and embrace His peace.


May you melt into God and God melt into you in this coming New Year so you may merge into His perfect peace.