I don’t really know why the following thoughts came into my head this morning, but I want to share them. We live in a world, in a nation (to a great degree), and in a society of fools. Now, before you call me names and accuse me of judging others, just ready what follows. “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God” (Psalm 14:1). And, “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God” (Psalm 53:1). Twice in His Word in the Psalms God has said, “If you do not believe in me, Sir, Madam, you are a fool.” You see, in our world today there are those who say that because we believe in, trust in God we are fools. But, long before the world said, “You are fools for believing in God,” God said to the unbelieving world, “You are fools for not believing in Me.” This is not the “am not, are too” arguing of children. This is the Creator of the universe speaking to His creation which has suddenly decided, “I can operate on my own. I do not need God.” So, if you wonder why the world seems out of order and full of chaos today, it is because mankind, for the most part, has decided that he can govern himself better than his Creator can.
Tag Archives: Psalms
hālal [hālal yāh]
Another predominant theme in Scripture, as well as an integral part of worship, is praise. So central is this activity that we will consider it over the next few days.
The most general Hebrew word for praise is hālal (H1984), from which we get the English Hallelujah; the Greek allēlouia (G239) is a transliteration of hālal with the addition of Yāh (H3050), a shortened form of “Yahweh” (Yehōwāh, H3068, January 8). Hālal yāh, then, means “praise ye Yah,” which occurs some twenty-six times in the book of Psalms. Except for Psa_135:3, it always appears at the beginning or ending of a Psalm, “suggesting that it was a standardized call to praise in temple worship.” (We should interject, as one Hebrew authority insists, while “this word is sometimes spelled alleluia in modern hymnals, in imitation of the mode of spelling that found favor in medieval times . . . The letter H ought certainly to be restored at both ends.”)
Significantly, the original picture in hālal was “to shine,” even “the giving off of light by celestial bodies.” Job used it poetically, for example, as he “beheld the sun when it shined [hālal]” (Job_31:26). Similarly, the Greek doxa (G1391), which is usually translated “glory,” includes the idea of “radiance” (although those concepts were added to doxa in the NT and are foreign to secular Greek).
Hālal ultimately came to mean “to praise, celebrate, commend, or even boast.” Appearing more than 160 times, it sometimes refers to praising of people, such as when the princes of Egypt “commended” Sarah’s beauty (Gen_12:15, the first occurrence of hālal) and when a husband praises his virtuous wife (Pro_31:28).
It is, of course, when used of God (its most frequent use) that hālal takes on its greatest significance. Scripture is permeated with this theme. It is noteworthy that its first appearance in reference to praise of God is in 2Sa_22:4, where David praised God for delivering him out of the hands of Saul, also calling God his Rock, Fortress, Deliverer, Shield, Salvation, Tower, and Refuge (2Sa_22:2-3). Is that not, indeed, cause for praise? This song of praise, in fact, is virtually identical to Psalms 18.
Not only do men and angels praise and commend God, but even nature itself does so (Psalms 148). All that we do should praise God (1Co_10:31), even the playing of musical instruments (Psalms 150), and such praise is therefore constant (Psa_34:1; Psa_35:28; Psa_44:8).
Scriptures for Study: In preparation for the next few days’ readings, read Psalms 100 and meditate on praising God in everything.
The very first word we read in the book of Psalms is blessed. The Hebrew here is ’ešer (H835), a masculine noun meaning a person’s state of bliss. It’s never used of God, rather always of people, and is exclamatory in emphasis, as in “O the bliss of . . .” Most of its forty-four appearances are appropriately in the poetry of Psalms and Proverbs.
It is extremely significant that the Septuagint translates ’ešer using the Greek makarios, which our Lord used nine times in the Beatitudes (Mat_5:3-11). Many Bible teachers say this word just means “happy,” which is always circumstantial. It actually speaks of the far deeper idea of an inward contentedness not affected by circumstances (Php_4:11-13).
Of the many occurrences of ’ešer, one that immediately strikes us is Psa_1:1 : “Blessed is the man,” where the unknown psalmist distinguishes two lifestyles (February 23), one that is blessed and one that is not. We find in Psa_1:1-3 three realities that produce genuine bliss and contentment:
First, a path that is holy. In three distinct statements, the psalmist outlines holiness. The holy person first does not stroll with the “ungodly” (rāšā‘, H7563) people. He doesn’t associate with, listen to, or join those who are guilty before God and transgressors of His Law. Second, the holy person does not stand with sinners. Way is derek (February 23), a marked-out pattern of life, and “standeth” is ‘āmaḏ (H5975), which figuratively indicates living somewhere, standing, remaining there (e.g., Exo_8:22, dwell). The holy life, then, is one that does not remain in sin (1Jn_3:9, where “commit” is present tense, to “continually habitually commit sin”). Third, the holy person does not sit with the “scornful” (liys, H3887) person, that is, one who boasts, scoffs, mocks, and derides, as in showing or expressing utter contempt, in this case for the things of God.
Second, blessedness comes from a passion for Scripture. The blissful and contented person is one who takes delight (February 29) in God’s Word and his meditation (January 6) on it is the rule of life and his daily priority.
Third, blessedness comes from a prosperity dependent upon God. The image of sitting by a river is a graphic one, picturing nourishment, growth, fruitfulness, and much more. While “prosperity teachers” promise monetary riches, true prosperity is found in the spiritual riches we have in Christ (Eph_1:3-23).
Scriptures for Study: Read the following verses, noting what else brings bliss and true contentedness: Psa_2:12; Psa_32:1-2; Psa_112:1; Psa_119:1-2; Psa_127:4-5; Pro_3:13 (“happy”); Pro_8:32.
piqqûḏ [and] pāqaḏ
The third name for God’s Word is the term precept. The Hebrew here is piqqûḏ (H6490), a masculine noun also meaning “instruction.” It’s a poetic word found only in the Psalms (twenty-four times, all but three in 119), always in the plural, that speaks of injunctions and moral obligations.
Especially noteworthy is the fact that piqqûḏ comes from the root pāqaḏ (H6485), a verb that means “to attend to, visit, search out, scrutinize, or make careful inspection of.” One aspect of this word is the idea of paying attention to something. Joseph, for example was made the “overseer” of Potiphar’s house (Gen_39:1-4), paying attention to and caring for all the affairs of the house.
The word is especially significant when used of God paying attention to something. In a positive way, at his death Joseph told his brothers that God would “visit” them and bring them into the Promised Land (Gen_50:24). Likewise, God was certainly paying attention to the plight of His people in their bondage in Egypt and said to Moses, “I have surely visited [pāqaḏ] you, and seen that which is done to you in Egypt” (Exo_3:16). He went on to say He would deliver them. The negative is also true, that God pays attention to those who are doing evil, as when He gave the commandment in the Decalogue not to make any type of image or idol or bow down to any false god, for He is “a jealous God, visiting [pāqaḏ] the iniquity of the fathers upon the children” (Exo_20:5).
One authority, in fact, provides a definition in this vein that should particularly strike us: “[pāqaḏ] expresses the idea that God is paying attention to how He wants things ordered.” It continues to amaze me how church leaders today, as if God isn’t watching, persist in doing things the way theychoose, from creating whatever methods and ministries they deem fit, to running the church as they would a corporation. Instead of opening Scripture to see how God wants things ordered, we do what pleases people. Psa_119:4, for example, declares, “Thou hast commanded us to keep thy precepts diligently,” underscoring that God wants things done His way. Let us commit ourselves to that principle, for God is paying attention.
Scriptures for Study: Read just a few of the occurrences of precept in Psalms 119, noting what our attitude and response should be: Psa_119:4; Psa_119:15; Psa_119:27; Psa_119:40; Psa_119:45; Psa_119:87, and Psa_119:93.
“Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high,” Hebrews 1:3.
Paul, by inspiration, describes Jesus as “being the brightness of his glory,”—God’s glory. We have never seen God, but we have seen the glory of God—Jesus Christ. Jesus is the human form of God. In the Psalms, many verses call or compare Jesus to Light (Psalms 4:6; 27:1; 36:9; 89:15 and many more verses). John calls Jesus the Light (John 1:7-9). In Revelation 22:16, Jesus said that He is the bright morning star.
Jesus is the bright light in a gloomy sin filled world. “Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12), and “In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them” (2 Cor. 4:4). Jesus the Son of God came to earth to bring the light of the glorious gospel to a sinful and failing world. He accomplished His mission and returned to Heaven, there He eagerly waits for the Father to proclaim—go get my children.
And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof (Rev. 21:23).
Psalms 23 is another great psalm of comfort, to many readers the greatest of all, for in it we find another “Jehovah-compound,” the LORD Is My Shepherd. The Hebrew behind shepherd (rō‘iy, or rō‘eh, H7462) is one of many words that have a truly ancient history. It goes all the way back to the Akkadian (re‘û) (an extinct Semitic language that existed in Assyria and Babylon), and is then subsequently found in Phoenician, Ugaritic, Aramaic, and Arabic.
Appearing some 170 times in the OT, rō‘iy pictures the simplicity of ancient civilization. Shepherding was the most common occupation throughout ancient Palestine, and this common, ordinary word simply refers to the feeding of domestic animals. Such a mundane word, however, was transformed by biblical usage. It was used to describe the true function of the leaders of God’s people. A true leader is not a despot or dictator who not only drives his sheep but sometimes even slaughters them. Rather, a true leader is a shepherd who leads, tends, feeds, and protects his sheep at the risk of his own life.
Our Lord, of course, is the Great Shepherd. As Charles Spurgeon writes in his The Treasury of David, “What condescension is this, that the Infinite Lord assumes towards his people the office and character of a Shepherd!” Think of it! God descended and assumed one of the lowliest occupations in the ancient world. Likewise, the true function of the king of Israel was to be a shepherd (2Sa_5:2; 2Sa_7:7; Jer_3:15), as was that of other leaders, although at times they did it badly (Jer_2:8; Jer_22:22; Eze_34:2-3; Eze_34:8; Eze_34:10).
Coming to the NT, the word pastor is the direct descendant of that OT precedent. The word “pastors” in Eph_4:11, in fact, is a translation of the Greek poimēn (G4166), which means shepherd (poimēn is used to translate rā‘â in the Septuagint). In Classical Greek, it referred to the herdsman who tended and cared for the sheep. It was also used metaphorically to refer to a leader, a ruler, or a commander. Plato, for example, compared “the rulers of the city-state to shepherds who care for their flock.” This meaning was carried over into the NT. A pastor leads, tends, feeds, and protects the sheep that God has entrusted to his care. What a solemn responsibility!
Scriptures for Study: Read the “Shepherd Trilogy,” noting that in Psalms 22, the Great Shepherdredeems the sheep (cf. Joh_10:11); in Psalms 23, He rescues the sheep (cf. Rev_7:17); and in Psalms 24, He rewards the sheep (cf. 1Pe_5:4).
As we close our study of the rich vocabulary of the OT, we could not consider a more appropriate final word than selāh (H5542). It appears seventy-one times in the Psalms and three times in a prayer by Habakkuk (Hab_3:3; Hab_3:9; Hab_3:13), which was set to a tune and directed to the chief singer. It is not surprising it is omitted in the corrupt Latin Vulgate, but does appear in the Septuagint and is translated as diapsalma, which refers to some variation or modulation of the voice in singing.
While the precise meaning is not known for sure, several possibilities have been offered. Some think it derives from a root (sal) that means “to raise, elevate, lift up” and suppose that it directs an elevation in the voice, to sing louder, or to pitch the tune up to a higher key, because there is nobler matter to come. Others view it as an affirmation of the truth of something, whether good or bad, and render it “verily” or “truly,” corresponding to the idea of “Amen,” that is, “so be it,” “so shall it be.”
The most common view, however, is that this is a musical notation that means a pause and musical interlude and is derived from the word salah, “to strew or spread out,” implying that the subject should be spread out, meditated upon, strewn out in front of us that we might attentively consider it. It often follows a noteworthy statement, good or bad, and likely indicates a pause for reflection while the instruments play an interlude. This seems to be the most probable meaning.
When we read this word, then, we are encouraged to pause, reflect, meditate, and consider carefully what has been said. This meaning is made all the more probable by its use in Psa_9:16 : “The LORD is known by the judgment which he executeth: the wicked is snared in the work of his own hands. Higgaion. Selah.” As noted at the beginning of our study (January 6), the transliterated word Higgaion (higgāyôn, H1902) means meditation (January 6), musing, and thinking in the heart. How we should, indeed, reflect and meditate on verses such as Psa_66:4 : “All the earth shall worship thee, and shall sing unto thee; they shall sing to thy name. Selah.”
Dear Christian Friend, the author and publisher of this book pray that selāh will become an important word in your Christian walk. May God richly bless you.
Scriptures for Study: Read the following occurrences of selāh: Psa_24:10; Psa_44:8; Psa_50:6; Psa_59:13; Psa_62:8; Psa_66:4; Psa_68:19; Psa_68:32; Psa_143:6.
Soli deo Gloria — To God alone be the glory.