pālal [and] śiyach [and] šā’al
Prayer is, of course, a recurring theme in the Psalms. While the verb pālal (H6419) appears only four times (Psa_5:2; Psa_32:6; Psa_72:15; Psa_106:30, “to judge”), we find the noun tepillāh (H8605) some thirty-two times. In its first occurrence, for example, David prays, “Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness: thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress; have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer” (Psa_4:1). There is a man who is dependent upon God.
Another Hebrew word translated prayer, however, is śiyach (H7879), which appears fourteen times in the OT, five of which are in the Psalms, and speaks of contemplation and meditation. Its primary meaning, however, is actually “complaint,” which might seem odd at first. The idea, however, is not complaining in the sense of blaming God, rather deep meditation brought on by distress and urgent need. Job, for example, used this very word in the midst of his suffering (Job_7:13; Job_9:27; Job_10:1; Job_21:4; Job_23:2), as did David in his distress when he hid in a cave from Saul (Psa_142:2; cf. Psa_64:1; Psa_102:1). Prayer is David’s “battleaxe and weapon of war,” writes Charles Spurgeon; “he uses it under every pressure, whether of inward sin or outward wrath, foreign invasion or domestic rebellion. We shall act wisely if we make prayer to God our first and best trusted resource in every hour of need.”
Still another word for prayer in the OT is šā’al (H7592), which appears about 170 times and is also found in Akkadian, Ugaritic, and even “in the Aramaic of Daniel and Ezra (Dan_2:10-11; Dan_2:27; Ezr_5:9-10; Ezr_7:21).” It simply means “to ask something of someone,” whether one is just asking a question (Gen_32:17), making a simple request (Jdg_5:25), or even begging (Pro_20:4).
An integral part of prayer, then, is inquiring of and asking God, not just for things, but for guidance, strength, and all else. While we no longer ask the Urim and Thummim (Exo_28:30) for guidance, let us be like David who often “enquired of the LORD” (1Sa_23:2; 1Sa_30:8; 2Sa_2:1; 2Sa_5:19; 2Sa_5:23; 1Ch_14:10; 1Ch_14:14). We never demand anything in prayer; rather we “ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that” (Jas_4:15).
Scriptures for Study: What wonderful thing does the psalmist ask for in Psa_27:4-9 (“desired” in Psa_27:4 is šā’al)? Note how Mat_6:31-33 is illustrated in Psa_105:40 (“asked” is šā’al).
Tag Archives: meditation
pālal [and] śiyach [and] šā’al
Today we begin a study that will continue throughout the month, one which I pray will touch our hearts and lives like nothing else can, namely, a study of the names of God used in the OT. This is critically important in our day, for many of the problems we see in the church come from a wrong conception of God. We simply do not know who He is. To combat this, instead of the shallow fluff (and even heresy) that lines the shelves of many Christian bookstores, would that pastors encouraged their people to read books such as A. W. Tozer’s The Knowledge of the Holy, or Arthur W. Pink’s The Attributes of God. To go deeper, Puritan Steven Charnock’s, The Existence and Attributes of God, will furnish them with a lifetime of depth and meditation.
Before plunging into the many names of God in the OT, however, let us first consider three words that will help lay a foundation: name, remember (January 5), and meditation (January 6). While the etymology of the root šēm (H8034), which appears some 864 times, is uncertain, some scholars believe that it comes from “the Arabic root wšm ‘to mark or brand,’ hence an external mark to distinguish one thing or person from another.” Names in the Semitic world—the “Semites,” descendants of Noah’s son Shem, were the racial family to which Israel belonged—were much more significant than in our Western culture. A person’s name, in fact, “often carried more significance than an identification mark; it was considered to be a description of character or conditions.” Nabal’s name, for example, reflects the fact that He was a fool (1Sa_25:25);Eve means “the mother of all living” (Gen_3:20); Isaac means “he laughs,” a reminder of his parents’ laughter at the thought they could conceive a child in their old age; and Babel means “confusion,” hence the name of the tower where God confounded earthly languages.
The names of God, therefore, are extremely significant. So important are His names that some theologians call this “name-theology.” I like that term. “Theology” is the study of God, and to know His names is to know Him. As we study “name-theology,” let us seek God with a dedication of mind, devotion of heart, and depth of soul.
Scriptures for Study: What do Psa_20:5; Psa_44:8 encourage us to do concerning God’s name? What, then, is our responsibility, according to Exo_9:16?
William Andrew Dillard
The Lord spoke of His people Israel in the following terms: “As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings: So the LORD alone did lead him, and there was no strange god with him.” Deut. 32:11-12
Nature teaches much to the discerning mind. Additionally, God often used the nature of plants, animals, and fowl to teach spiritual lessons to His people. Certainly, this is a classic case that merits meditation and appreciation.
The eagle builds its nest high, away from would be predators. It is made of strong material initially, then padded with softer material, and lastly, lined with soft down from the adult eagle’s body. It is warm, cozy, comfortable, an ideal place for eggs to hatch into little eaglets. Moreover, as the tiny birds grow, food is brought to them, even dropped into their mouth. Life is good! It is a perfect welfare state requiring no initiative from the little eaglets, but to receive what is brought to them.
But it is not the purpose of the eaglets to remain nest bound, and the subject of constant attention and basic care. Soon, it is time for little eaglet to become an eagle. Lesson one is the stirring of the nest. Surely, that will entice the eaglet out of it. But not so! Eaglet is not leaving this nest even if it has become uncomfortable. Next, comes the stripping of the down. Now that creates an unbearable setting. The woven briars are not nearly as desirable as the soft down. Finally, the eaglet is enticed to come aboard the spread wings of mother eagle. The next step is perhaps most frightening. Eaglet is taken high above the earth and dumped. As it falls, it begins to flap its little wings. If at first it does not fly, mother eagle will swoop down beneath it to catch it on its mighty wings, and take it up for another try. Thus does the first step toward fulfilling purpose in life find fulfillment. Others will follow, especially that of hunting and captivating food. Finally, little eaglet is little eaglet no more, but a mature bird enabled to sustain itself and continue the cycle of life for which it is intended.
When God stirs up your comfort zone, it is usually not exciting, and may even be objectionable, at least initially. But God knows the great potential that lies in each of His dear children. Often we are moved through hardship, heartache, tragedy, and challenge to achieve the high level of spiritual maturity that allows us to fulfill the reason and purpose of being on the planet. So, the next time adversity visits, rather than drown in lamentation and self pity, let the excitement of the higher unknown prevail. God is stirring up your comfort zone for purpose, even a lofty purpose for which you shall later praise His name in gladness.