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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