Thursday, October 23, 2008

What a Difference a Word Makes!

Psalm 42 is very familiar to many people, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul thirsts for God, for the living God…” (“Oh yeah, that one…”)

As I came to read this Psalm again, I found that at sometime in the past, I had titled this Psalm, “A Prayer for a Dead Church.” And indeed it certainly reads like a lonely faithful one’s prayer for their troubled church.

But what really caught my eye this time (and this is a wonderful argument for reading from several translations) is the subtle differences in 2 verses that, at first glance, appear to be identical. This is how it reads in the NASB.

Verse 5 says, “Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him For the help of His presence.” (Remember, the words in italics aren’t there in the original Hebrew.)

And verse 11 says, “Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God.”

As I was reading this, it was the little word “yet” in verse 11 that jumped off the page at me. It changes the whole tone of the verse from “wishful thinking” to a firm belief; from encouraging “self talk” to expectant hope; from “someday maybe” to “once again, for sure.”

As I read this Psalm in several different translations I saw that in many of them this verse doesn’t change. “So why,” I thought, “does it change in the NASB…?

I found that the Hebrew word for “yet” is the same as the word for “shall again”. So, is it “subjective?” Is it the translator’s whim as to which word to use?

No, it has to do with “tenses” (which is waaaaay over my head) that determines how the “tone” of the verse is translated from the Hebrew.

Therefore, the two verses really are different. We really can go from “wishful thinking” to a firm belief. We can go from “encouraging self-talk” to expectant hope. We can go from “someday maybe” to “once again, for sure.”

When our souls long for the “seemingly absent” Presence of the Living God, we can know that we will again rejoice in the comfort of His care.

But there’s one more thing that the word “yet” means. It also means “in spite of.” When we use the word this way we are saying, “No matter what it ‘feels’ like, I still have the assurance of God’s Presence, and no matter what happens, I will praise Him. For He helps how I look at things, instead of how things look to me, and He is my God!”

I pray for you today, to know God’s Presence, and His assurance in spite of the condition of the world around you.

In spite of your job security, in spite of your checking balance, in spite of the last doctor's report; proclaim with the prophet Habakkuk, “Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet (I imagine him saying with upraised fist) I will rejoice in the LORD! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!” (Emphasis added!)

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Thursday, October 09, 2008

Who Has Whose Hand?

When we see an adult, with child of 5 or 6 years old, holding hands as they cross the street - we know who is holding whose hand.

But add 50-55 years to that scene - and now, who has whose hand?

I remember clearly a pastor we had once mentioning during a sermon something about God being at Jesus’ right hand. Now, we all know that Jesus is at God’s right hand, and I know he saw my puzzled look because as we made eye contact, I saw a slight smile come across his face as he continued talking about God at Jesus’ right hand…

Until… he got past the crucifixion, past the resurrection, and to Hebrews 12:2 where he read, “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” And then I understood.

God was on Jesus' right hand in mission, and Jesus is on God's right hand in Glory!

That’s been nearly 15 years ago, and I still think of it. (I have notebooks full of notes from his sermons!) I’ve also thought of it several times this year as I’ve studied the Psalms. It’s amazing to me the number of times David has said, “You (God) take my right hand…” (Psalms 16:8; 73:23; 109:31 for example) and then the times he has said, “Let me (David) take Your (God’s) right hand…” (Psalms 17:7; 18:35 for example - actually there are some 35+ Psalms that mention God’s right hand…)

And so we ask, “Who has whose hand?”

Sometimes David has God’s right hand, and sometimes God has David’s right hand… what’s the difference? It’s certainly not that when God has David’s right hand (the hand of strength) that David is “taking care” of God.

It’s the fact that sometimes God is the strength at our right hand (putting us to work) and sometimes He comforts and protects us by keeping us at His right hand (when we’re too weak to work.)

It’s always God’s strength and salvation, it’s just that sometimes He holds our hand, and sometimes, He allows us to hold His…

At least this is my understanding of it…

As Jerry Clower used to say, “Ain’t God Good!”

God, my Father, my Strength, and my Deliverer, take my right hand and lead me into battle… and then, when the battle looms large ahead of me… may I take Your right hand in comfort and protection.

Oh God, this is almost too much for me to understand. I can’t quite wrap my mind around it.

Oh the depths of Your Word - and the heights to which it takes me - it’s dizzying, and at times, gives me cold chills and almost takes my breath.

As I meditate on Your Word, sometimes a warm wash of clarity comes over me, so much so that I scarcely breathe and don’t want to move, afraid that I may lose that understanding that is barely touching my fingertips…

Oh the wondrous joy of Your precious Word! Thank You for the treasure I hold in my hands!

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