John T. Willis

Monday, December 05, 2016

Human Beings cannot Abide in their Pomp--Psalm 49

The composer of Psalm 49 is a "wise" person. The spokesperson says in Psalm 49:3:
          "My mouth shall speak WISDOM;
                  the meditation of my heart shall be UNDERSTANDING."
Also, in Psalm 49:4, the poet says:
          "I will incline my ear to a PROVERB;
                   I will solve my RIDDLE to the music of the harp."
These verses and the entire Psalm show that this is a Wisdom Psalm. There are several Wisdom Psalms sprinkled throughout the Psalter.
The theme of Psalm 49 is very clear, because the recurring refrain appears in Psalm 49:12, 20:
          "Mortals cannot abide in their pomp;
                   they are like the animals that perish."

Psalm 49 falls into three paragraphs.

1. The psalmist summons "all people," "all inhabitants of the world" to hear his/her poem. Psalm 49:1-4.
     a. All the speakers and composers of the Hebrew Bible have a strong vision of Yahweh's presence and work in the whole world, not merely in the land of Canaan. Many texts emphasize Yahweh's concerns for all peoples on earth. 49:1.
     b. The psalmist addresses "both low and high," "rich and poor together." Where a person is powerful or weak, rich or poor, he/she is a human being created in the image of God. To assume that a powerful person is more important than a common person is a huge mistake. To assume that a person who is rich has a great advantage over a poor person is a terrible delusion. 49:2.
     c. This poet has meditated on what he/she has learned, and will now share this will all his/her hearers. 49:3.
     d. To incline one's ear evidently means to be instructed by divine inspiration. As one contemplates experiences and thoughts, it is very helpful to have a soothing instrument humming or playing in the background. Here, the psalmist solves his/her riddle to the music of the harp. 49:4.

2. The poet has no fear of his/her persecutors. Psalm 49:5-12.
     a. The psalmist declares that it is foolish to be afraid of his/her persecutors, people who feel they have the upper hand in the community because they are wealthy and rich. 49:5-6.
     b. All human beings will die. No one on earth can pay enough money or possessions to keep from dying and living on forever. "There is no price one can give to God for it." 49:7-9.
     c. The wise and the foolish die. Those who are wealthy leave their wealth to others. They may have named their estates or ranches, but their graves are their homes forever. At death, the richest people on earth become poor in this world's goods. Mortals cannot abide in their pomp; they are like the animals that perish. 49:10-12.

3. Material wealth is not a fundamental element to human existence. Psalm 49:13-20.
    a. Fools are pleased with their lot on earth. Death will be their shepherd which shall lead all people to Sheol=the grave, which will be their eternal home. 49:13-14.
    b. But the poet in Psalm 49:15 boldly declares:
        "God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol, for he will receive me." Old Testament speakers and composers declare that God will receive righteous people to him into eternal life.
        1. Psalm 49:15 is closely connected with Psalm 49:8. God "ransoms" the soul of the psalmist. While the rich cannot give God enough money to bribe him to ransom him from death; God will ransom the righteous from death by his own power.
        2. The psalmist proclaims that he will die like all other human beings (Psalm 49:10), but when he dies, something else will happen--God will receive him to himself.
        3. If Psalm 49:15 has in mind only divine deliverances in this life, the psalmist is no better off than the wicked rich, because, like everyone else, he will die and descend to the grave, where he/she will live forever.
        4. The Hebrew word laqach, "to receive," appears also in the account of Enoch's departure from earth: "God TOOK [RECEIVED] him" (Genesis 5:24), and in the account of Elijah being caught up into heaven in 2 Kings 2:1: "The Lord was about to TAKE [RECEIVE] Elijah up to heaven."
     c. In bold contrast to the psalmist, he/she tells his/her audience "Do not be afraid" when some become rich, when their wealth increases, for when they die, they will carry away nothing from earth, and their wealth will not go down to Sheol=the grave. 49:16-17.
     d. The rich and wealthy may consider themselves happy, soon they will join their deceased ancestors, and will never see the light on earth again. 49:18-19.
     e. The poet concludes with the recurring refrain or chorus:
          "Mortals cannot abide in their pomp;
                  they are like the animals that perish."

It is very important to recognize the brevity and certainty of death. By doing this, one may live a sober life with bold resolution.

Share YOUR concerns and questions and suggestions and determinations and perceptions with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis


Sunday, December 04, 2016

Genuine Joy comes from the Heart--XIX

Eight Hebrew roots for "joy" are connected with the heart in the Hebrew Bible. These include 14 words whose meanings vary in quality and intensity.

1. The Hebrew noun lebh, "heart," occurs five times with the Hebrew verb yatabh, "to be good, well, glad, pleasing."
     a. Proverbs 15:13 says:
         "A GLAD HEART makes a cheerful countenance,
                but by sorrow of heart the spirit is broken."
     b. Proverbs 17:22 says:
         "A CHEERFUL HEART is a good medicine,
                but a downcast spirit dries up the bones."
     c. Ecclesiastes 11:9a says:
         "Rejoice, young man, while you are young,
                and LET YOUR HEART CHEER YOU in the days of your youth."
Similar language appears in Judges 18:20; Ecclesiastes 7:3.

2. The Hebrew adjective, tobh, "pleasant, agreeable, good," appears 4 times in the Hebrew Bible with "heart."
      a. 1 Kings 8:66 says: "On the eighth day [of the dedication of the Jerusalem temple] he [Solomon] sent the people away; and they blessed the king, and went to their tents, JOYFUL [Hebrew good of heart] and in good spirits because of all the goodness that the Lord had shown to his servant David and to his people Israel."
      b. Proverbs 15:15 says:
          "All the days of the poor are hard,
                 but A CHEERFUL HEART has a continual feast."
Similar language appears in 2 Chronicles 7:10; Esther 5:9.

3. The Hebrew noun tubh, "good things, goods, goodness," appears once with "heart" in the Hebrew Bible. According to Isaiah 65:14, the postexilic prophet says:
      "My servants shall sing FOR GLADNESS OF HEART,
                but you shall cry out for pain of heart.            
                and shall wail for anguish of spirit."

The above three words convey the idea of joy which results from careful observation of a person's blessings and which expresses itself by appreciation for them. The heart can perceive the benefits of joy.

4. and 5. "Heart" appears 12 times with the Hebrew verb samach, "to rejoice, be glad, take pleasure in."
     a. When Moses did not want to go from Midian to Egypt to lead Yahweh's people out of Egyptian bondage, Yahweh responded in Exodus 4:14: "What of your brother Aaron the Levite? I know that he can speak fluently; even now he is coming out to meet you, and when he sees you HIS HEART WILL BE GLAD."
    b. Psalm 19:8 says:
        "The precepts of the Lord are right,
                REJOICING THE HEART."
    c. Proverbs 15:30 says:
        "The light of the eyes REJOICES THE HEART.
                and good news refreshes the body."
Similar language also appears in 1 Chronicles 16:10; Psalms 16:9; 33:21; 105:3; Proverbs 23:15; 27:9, 11; Ecclesiastes 2:10; Zechariah 10:7. The cognate sameach, "glad, joyful, merry," occurs twice with "heart" (Proverbs 15:13; 17:22).

6. The noun simchah, "joy, gladness, mirth," occurs 5 times in the Hebrew Bible with "heart."
    a. The Psalmist says in Psalm 4:7 addressed to Yahweh:
                more than when their grain and wine abound."
    b. Isaiah assures God's people in Isaiah 30:29:
        "You shall have a song as in the night when a holy festival is kept;
                 AND GLADNESS OF HEART, as when one sets out to the sound of the flute
                 to go to the mountain of the Lord, to the Rock of Israel."
Similar language appears also in Ecclesiastes 5:20; Canticles 3:11; Ezekiel 36:5.

The texts mentioned above declare that the heart rejoices because of oil and perfume, labor, the light of the eyes, a wise son, and God's precepts.

7. Eight Hebrew words used with heart describe the intensity of rejoicing. The Hebrew verb sus, "to exult, rejoice," appears twice. Psalm 119:111 says:
    "Your decrees are my heritage forever;
See also Jeremiah 15:16.

8. The Hebrew noun masos, "exultation," occurs once with heart in Lamentations 5:15:
     "THE JOY OF OUR HEARTS has ceased;
            our dancing has been turned to mourning."

9. The Hebrew noun sason appears twice with heart. They appear in Psalm 119:111; Jeremiah 15:16 under item 7. above.

10. The Hebrew verb gil, "to form a circle, to gather, to rejoice," appears three times with "heart." Proverbs 24:17 says:
      "Do not rejoice when your enemies fall,
See also Psalm 13:5; Zechariah 10:7,

11. The Hebrew verb `alaz, "to exult," appears twice with "heart." Psalm 28:7 says:
       "The Lord is my strength and my shield;
                in him my heart trusts;
         so I am helped, AND MY HEART EXULTS,
                and with my song I give thanks to him."
See also Zephaniah 3:14.

12. The Hebrew verb `alats, "to rejoice, exult," appears once with "heart." Hannah begins her prayer to Yahweh in 1 Samuel 2:1:
              my strength is exalted in my God."

13. The Hebrew verb rachash, "to keep moving, stir," appears once with "heart." The poet of Psalm 45 begins with these words in Psalm 45:1:
               I address my verses to the king;
               my tongue is like the pen of a ready scribe."

14. The Hebrew verb ranan, "to whim, to hum, to rejoice" appears twice with "heart." Psalm 84:2 [Hebrew 84:3] says:
      "My soul longs, indeed it faints for the courts of the Lord;
See also Job 29:13.

Intense joy is the effect of which unexpected and underestimated impressions are the causes.

Share YOUR concerns and feelings and emotions and delights and ideas with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis


The Biblical Teaching of Disciples--8

Matthew 15 contains five events about Jesus. Four of them involve Jesus' disciples. In almost all of these, Jesus' disciples misunderstood what God the Father and Jesus our Lord had in mind. Briefly, here are the events.

1. Jewish Pharisees and scribes from Jerusalem came to Jesus to criticize Jesus' disciples. They ask Jesus: "Why do YOUR DISCIPLES break the tradition of the elders?" They do not wash their hands before they eat. Obviously, the Pharisees and scribes were trying to find something to criticize Jesus. Their criticism is not based on the Hebrew Bible, but on their tradition. Unfortunately, ALL MODERN CHURCHES, INCLUDING CHURCHES OF CHRIST, criticize other people because of their unique traditions. Matthew 15:1-2.
     Jesus responded by rebuking the Pharisees and scribes for breaking the commandments of God for the sake of their tradition. The Pharisees and scribes would not support their aging parents by excusing themselves that they were giving their resources to GOD rather than their parents. Thus, they made void the word of God in favor of their tradition. Unfortunately, there is a long list of man-made traditions which churches champion instead of God's word. Matthew 15:3-9.

2. Jesus then taught the crowds that what defiles a person is not what goes into the mouth, but what goes out of the mouth. JESUS' DISCIPLES came to Jesus and told him that the Pharisees took offense when they heard what he said in Matthew 15:3-9. Jesus told them to ignore the Pharisees because they are blind guides. Peter did not understand what Jesus meant about the parable of the defilement that goes out of the mouth. Jesus said that what goes out of the mouth comes from the HEART from which come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile. What an important idea for all disciples. The HEART is the seat of spiritual life. We must be concerned about the heart, not about external acts. Matthew 15:10-20.

3. Jesus left the place where he was and went into the country of the Phoenicians, "the district of Tyre and Sidon," and a Canaanite woman came to him, saying, "Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David, my daughter is tormented by a demon." Jesus did not reply. But JESUS' DISCIPLES came to Jesus and urged Jesus to send her away because she kept shouting after Jesus' disciples.  Jesus rebuked his disciples because of their attitude, telling them that he was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. But the Canaanite woman knelt before Jesus, saying, "Lord, help me." Jesus said, It is not fair to take the children's food [the people of Israel] and throw it to the dogs [pagans]. She replied that even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the master's table. Jesus told her, "Great is your faith!" Let it be done to you as your wish. Her daughter was healed instantly. Unlike Jesus' disciples, Jesus is concerned about all people, not just so-called "insiders." Matthew 15:21-28.

4. Jesus left the country of the Phoenicians and went to the Sea of Galilee, where he healed mute speaking, the maimed whole, the lame walking, and the blind seeing. The crowds that experienced these miracles PRAISED THE GOD OF ISRAEL. These miracles of Jesus come from God the Father, and thus people praise God the Father what his mighty acts through Jesus Christ our Lord. Matthew 15:29-31.
5. JESUS CALLED HIS DISCIPLES and told them he has compassion on the crowd because they had been with Jesus three days and had eaten nothing. JESUS' DISCIPLES said that they did not have enough bread in the desert to feed this great crowd. Jesus asked them how much bread they had. They said: SEVEN LOAVES AND A FEW SMALL FISH. Jesus told the crowd to sit on the ground. Then Jesus gave thanks, broke the loaves of bread and the fish, and gave them to his disciples, who then gave them to the crowd. This fed the whole crowd, and the disciples took up the broken piece and filled them with SEVEN BASKETS. The crowd had 4,000 men plus their women and children. Then Jesus sent the crowd away, and went to the region of Magadan in a boat. Again, Jesus' disciples had little faith in God through Jesus. We still have this same problem. Remember, disciples are learners, followers, servants, not leaders. ONLY God our Father through Jesus Christ our Lord is our LEADER.

Share YOUR concerns and biases and reversals and aspirations and doubts with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Saturday, December 03, 2016

The Heart is the Seat of Emotion--XVIII

The Hebrew noun lebh, "heart," is a synonym for emotions.
   1. "Heart" appears with the Hebrew verb mana`, "to withhold, hold back," in Ecclesiastes 2:10. "Whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them' I KEPT MY HEART FROM NO PLEASURE, for I found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil." "To keep the heart from" is to deny outlet to the emotions.
   2. The composer of Psalm 86 says in Psalm 86:11:
        "Teach me your way, O Lord,
               that I may walk in your truth;
To "undivide" or "unite" the heart means to concentrate or focus on the emotions.
   3. The Hebrew expression dabhar `al-lebh, literally, "to speak to the heart," is a Hebrew idiom meaning to comfort. Genesis 34:3 contains this description of Shechem's approach to Dinah: "And his [Shechem's] soul was drawn to Dinah daughter of Jacob; he loved the girl, and SPOKE TENDERLY TO HER [Hebrew--spoke to her heart]." This is clearly an emotional function of the heart.
   4. Jeremiah says in Jeremiah 20:9:
       "If I say, 'I will not mention him [Yahweh],
             or speak any more in his name,'
        then within me [Hebrew--in my heart] there is something like a burning fire
             shut up in my bones;
        I am weary with holding it in,
             and I cannot."
Jeremiah's attitude here is very emotional. He is struggling within himself.

These biblical passages show that according to the Bible, the heart is the terminal into which emotions merge and out of which emotions disperse. Thinking and feeling are inseparably connected in the lives of all human beings. As the heart thinks, it moves and is moved, and as the heart moves and is moved, it thinks. For each emotion, there is an antithesis.

Share YOUR experiences and observations and feelings and thoughts and desires with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Thursday, December 01, 2016

God is Our Great King, Defense, and Guide--Psalm 48

The worshippers of Psalm 48 have recently experienced Yahweh's deliverance from threatening enemies. The precise historical setting of Psalm 48 is uncertain. Some scholars have proposed that this alludes to Sennacherib's invasion of Jerusalem in 701 BCE [see 2 Kings 18-19; Isaiah 36-37]. While this is possible, there is not enough information to know the exact historical background of Psalm 48.

The psalmist or composer or writer is anonymous. The superscription says: "A Song. A Psalm of the Korahites." The superscriptions in the psalms were added later, and it would be a mistake to identify persons, events, and dates connected with the psalms. Throughout Psalm 48, the composers or writers are PLURAL, not singular. Note carefully the uses of "we" in Psalm 48:8 [twice], 9, and "our" in Psalm 48:1, 14 [twice]. Apparenly, one of the members of this anonymous group actually put together this psalm.

Psalm 48 naturally falls into four brief stanzas.

1. The worshippers of Psalm 48 praise Yahweh in Jerusalem. Psalm 48:1-2.
    a. The worshippers begin by declaring that Yahweh is GREAT and GREATLY to be praised. The focus is on God, not on any earthly entity. 48:1a.
    b. The worshippers describe Jerusalem uses SIX terms to describe Jerusalem. 48:1b-2.
         1. The city of our God. While some biblical texts call Jerusalem "the city of David" (cf.
2 Samuel 5:7, 9; 6:10), in reality Jerusalem actually belongs completely to Yahweh, not to David or anyone else.
         2. His holy mountain. Several passages in the Bible call Jerusalem Yahweh's Holy Mountain or Yahweh's Holy Hill (see Psalms 2:6; 3:4; 15:1; 43:3; 87:1; Isaiah 11:9).
         3. Beautiful in elevation.
         4. The joy of all the earth. The Lord of all the earth dwells within Jerusalem=Zion (Psalm 47:2). From Jerusalem=Zion, Yahweh disseminates his blessings to all humankind, the chiefest of which is the dissemination of Yahweh's word or law (Isaiah 2:3; Micah 4:3).
         5. In the "far north." This is not true geographically; the worshippers are not thinking of Zion geographically. According to Canaanite mythology, the gods lived on a mountain in the far north, (see Isaiah 14:13; and the Ugaritic texts of the 13th century BCE discovered beginning in 1929). The worshippers of Psalm 48 are borrowing Canaanite language and applying it to Israel's historical situation and to the true God, Yahweh, must in the same way that Paul borrowed a line from a Greek poet in his sermon on the Areopagus in Athens, Greece, and reapplied it from a Christian perspective (Acts 17:28).
         6. The city of the Great King. The great king here is not David or Solomon or any other earthly king, but Yahweh, the King over all the Earth (see Psalm 47:2, 7-8).

2. The poet describes a recent enemy invasion which Yahweh overthrew. Psalm 48:3-8.
    a. The psalmist begins by declaring that within the citadels of Jerusalem Yahweh has demonstrated that he is a "sure defense." While Jerusalem was fortified, surrounded by a well-fortified wall, the only dependable defense was Yahweh. 48:3.
    b. Several foreign kings have made an alliance to attack Jerusalem. But when they and their armies saw the city of God, they were astounded; they were in panic, and took to flight. Trembling took hold of them at Jerusalem, pains as of a woman in labor. [The figure of a woman in labor appears often in the Bible to communicate the idea of anguish or pain. Micah 4:9, 10; Jeremiah 4:31; 6:24; 22:23]. Yahweh's defeat of his enemies was like an east wind shattering the ships of Tarshish. Tarshish is the modern Tartessus located on the southern tip of Spain. The ships are Tarshish were famous for transporting wealthy produces on the high seas [see 1 Kings 10:22; 22:48; Psalm 72:10; Jonah 1:3]. 48:4-7.
    c. God's worshippers had HEARD that Yahweh delivered his city in the past, but in this new situation, they have actually SEEN Yahweh's miraculous intervention. After all, this was "the city of the Lord of hosts [the Lord of the heavenly armies]," "the city of our God," not the city of David or of anyone else, but ONLY of God. And God ESTABLISHES his city forever. 48:8.

3.  The worshippers reflect on the threatening event which just occurred. Psalm 48:9-11.
     a. After the threat of enemies attacking Jerusalem, the worshippers gather at the Jerusalem temple and PONDER Yahweh's "steadfast love" which he has just demonstrated .48:9.
     b. The worshippers proclaim that Yahweh's NAME, that is Yahweh's reputation, like his praise, reaches to the end of the earth. Any time Yahweh does something, this affects all people throughout planet earth. Yahweh's intervention and defeating the impending enemies show that Yahweh's right hand is filled with victory. 48:10.
     c. Because of Yahweh's righteous judgments, the worshipper declares: Let Mount Zion be glad, let the daughters [towns] of Judah rejoice. 48:11.

4. The present generation has the responsibility of telling the following generation what Yahweh has done. Psalm 48:12-14.
    a. The worshippers encourages their hearers to walk around Jerusalem=Zion, to count Zion's towers, to consider well Zion's ramparts, to go through Zion's citadels that they might TELL the next generation that Yahweh alone is God. 48:12-14a.
    b. Because of this, all can count on the truth that Yahweh will be our GUIDE forever. 48:14b.

Share YOUR insights and experiences and reversals and commendations and doubts with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Heart Desires and Lusts--XVII

Several texts in the Hebrew Bible declare that the "heart" desires and lusts. Some of these texts are positive, and others are negative.

1. The speaker of Qoheleth [Ecclesiastes] says in Ecclesiastes 2:10:
     "Whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them;
       and this was my reward for all my toil."
In this context, the biblical composer declares that he thoroughly ENJOYS [has pleasure in] all his hard work, his toil. Many people greatly enjoy their diligent, hard work. This is a function of the heart.

2. Ecclesiastes 7:26 describes a HARLOT or PROSTITUTE as "snares and nets." This text says:
     "I found more bitter than death the woman who is a trap,
        whose hands are fetters;
        one who pleases God escapes her, but the sinner is taken by her."
Obviously, this is a graphic description of a man's lust for a prostitute or harlot or loose woman. This is a heart issue.

3. Describing a prostitute or harlot or adulteress or loose woman, Proverbs 7:10 begins the description in this way:
     "Then a woman comes toward him,
            decked out like a prostitute, WILY OF HEART."
Proverbs 7:1-23 provides a full description of seduction and adultery.

4. The composer of Proverbs 6 warns his hearers to avoid another man's wife or an adulterer. He says in Proverbs 6:25-26:
            and do not let her capture you with her eyelashes;
      for a prostitute's fee is only a loaf of bread;
            but the wife of another stalks a man's very life."

5. Job 31 contains similar warnings. Job 31:1 says:
     "I have made a covenant with my eyes;
            how then could I look upon a virgin?"
     Job 31:9-10 says:
            and I have lain in wait at my neighbor's door;
      then let my wife grind for another,
            and let other men kneel over her."

6. Job 31:26-28 warns people again worshipping the sun or the moon:
    "If I have looked at the sun when it shone,
            or the moon moving in splendor,
            and my mouth has kissed my hand;
      this also would be an iniquity to be punished by the judges,
            for I should have been false to God above."

The heart constantly entertains all kinds of pleasure and enjoyment. Some are  good and some are evil. It is a huge mistake to assume or think that the Old Testament is not concerned with the HEART. In Matthew 5:27-30 in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is not introducing the problem of lust of the heart, but is reiterating a long-established truth expressed often in the Hebrew Bible.

Share YOUR problems and questions and suggestions and desires and aspirations with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis


Sunday, November 27, 2016

Yahweh is a Great King over All the Earth--Psalm 47

Psalm 47 is one of many passages in the Hebrew Bible declaring that Yahweh is God over all the earth, and not merely the God of Israel. Throughout the Hebrew Bible, there is a strong emphasis that Yahweh is in control of the entire universe, and is not limited to the land of Canaan. There is no information at all about the historical background of Psalm 47. Its origin is undatable. Psalm 47 is brief and clear. It falls into three brief stanzas.

1. God is a great king over all the earth; therefore, he subdues all nations under him. Psalm 47:1-4.
    a. The poet begins by summoning ALL PEOPLES, that is, ALL NATIONS, to CLAP THEIR HANDS, and to SHOUT to Yahweh with LOUD SONGS OF JOY. Clapping the hands is a gesture of approval.
         1. Addressing the Ammonites, Ezekiel declares: "For thus says the Lord God: Because you have CLAPPED YOUR HANDS and stamped your feet and rejoiced with all the malice within you against the land of Israel, therefore I have stretched out my hand against you." Ezekiel 25:6-7a. The Ammonites clapped their hands in the sense of rejoicing over the defeat of the Israelites.
         2. The composer of Psalm 98:8-9a says:
              "Let the floods CLAP THEIR HANDS;
                      let the hills sing together for joy
                at the presence of the Lord, for he is coming
                      to judge the earth."
The floods clap their hands with approval at the arrival of Yahweh to judge the earth.
         3. Describing the delivery of the Judean exiles from Babylon, the prophet declares:
              "For you shall go out in joy
                      and be led back in peace;
                the mountains and the hills before you
                      shall burst into song,
                and all the trees of the field
                      SHALL CLAP THEIR HANDS."
As the Judean exiles leave from Babylon to return to Jerusalem and Judah, the trees of the field "clap their hands" in exuberant approval of Yahweh's miraculous power and work.
      b. All nations must demonstrate approval of Yahweh because he, "the Most High," is awesome, A GREAT KING OVER ALL THE EARTH." 47:2.
      c. Yahweh subdued peoples and nations under the feet of Yahweh's people, demonstrating his overpowering strength. 47:3.
      d. In doing this, Yahweh chose Israel because of his love. This verse apparently has in mind the conquest of Canaan under Joshua. 47:4.

2. The composer repeatedly calls on his audience to "sing praises" to Yahweh because he is THE KING OF ALL THE EARTH. Psalm 47:5-7.
     a. The poet declares that God has gone up with a shout, with the sound of a trumpet. 47:5.
     b. Accordingly, the poet calls on his audience to "sing praises" to Yahweh as their KING. 47:6.
     c. The poet concludes by calling on his audience to "sing praises" with a psalm, because GOD IS KING OF ALL THE EARTH. 47:7.
Yahweh is the universal God and King.

3. The poet concludes declaring that Yahweh is King over the Nations, and all kings of the earth BELONG TO Yahweh. Psalm 47:8-9.
     a. The poet declares that Yahweh is KING over the nations. He SITS on his holy heavenly throne. 47:8.
     b. The poet declares that the princes of the nations gather as the people of Yahweh, "the God of Abraham," because the shields [a symbol of kings] of the earth BELONG TO Yahweh whether they realize this or not. Yahweh alone is highly exalted above all kings and nations and the earth. 47:9.

What a great encouragement and assurance. Trust in Yahweh alone.

Share YOUR beliefs and concerns and ideas and problems and setbacks with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Emotional Aspects of the Heart concerning Eating and Drinking--XVII

Numerous biblical texts show that the "heart" is far beyond "mental capacity." The "heart" is multifarious. The heart expresses many emotions. In the Jewish Encyclopedia, Adolf Guttmacher wrote concerning the "Heart" (Volume 6, page 295): "That the heart is the seat of emotion is the generally accepted opinion of all investigators into the psychology of the Bible. . . . All modes of feeling from the lowest physical form, as hunger and thirst, to the highest spiritual forms, as reverence and remorse, are attributed by the Hebrews to the heart." The human heart possesses a personal consciousness and reason, an emotional and intellectual life. The human heart is the seat or center of the most hidden emotions and feelings and passions and desires. The human heart is the receptacle and dispenser of emotions.

Thus, the heart is the seat or center of fleshly appetites. The heart is affected by the gratification of the fleshly appetites of eating and drinking. The heart responds emotionally to this gratification.

1. Eating.
    a. The Hebrew verb sa`ad [English "to support, strengthen, satisfy the appetite"] appears twice with the Hebrew noun lebh [English "heart"] (Genesis 18:5; Judges 19:5) and twice with the Hebrew noun lebhabh [English "heart"] (Judges 19:8; Psalm 104:15).
    b. The expression "strengthen the heart" always emphasizes eating in a good sense.
         a. According to Genesis 18:5, when Abraham saw "three men" [Yahweh and two angels--see Genesis 18:16-21; 19:1] approaching his tent, he said to them: "Let me bring a little bread, that you may strengthen your hearts [NRSV that you may refresh yourselves]." 
         b. Judges 19:5, 8 tells the story of a Levite and his concubine traveling from Bethlehem to their home in the hill country of Ephraim in North Israel. As they were preparing to leave, the concubine's father encouraged the Levite: "Strengthen your heart [NRSV Fortify yourself] with a bit of food, and after that you may go." Obviously, modern English translators of Genesis 18:5 and Judges 19:5, 8 have decided to abandoned the Hebrew language to create a related concept in English. People unfamiliar with Hebrew thought lose the beauty of biblical thought.
          c. The composer of Psalm 104:14-15 praises Yahweh for his work in nature:
               "You cause the grass to grow for the cattle,
                      and plants for people to use,
                 to bring forth food from the earth,
                      and wine to gladden the human heart,
                 oil to make the face shine,
In this text, the NRSV faithfully follows the Hebrew, "strengthen the heart," which is the very same expression as in Genesis 18:5 and Judges 19:5, 8.

2. Drinking.
   a. Five Hebrew words which mean "rejoice," cognates of two basic Hebrew roots, appear in the Hebrew Bible with "heart" to describe the result of drinking. These may express this result in either good or bad atmospheres.
       l. The Hebrew verb tobh [English "to be glad, joyful"] appears 7 times with the Hebrew noun lebh, English "heart" [Judges 16:25; 19:6, 22; Ruth 3:7; 1 Samuel 25:36; 2 Samuel 13:28; Esther 1:10], and once with the Hebrew noun lebhabh, English "heart" [Judges 19:9]. All of these passages use the term "hearts were merry" in the sense of being irresponsible, enjoying oneself sensually, being drunk, being giddy or silly. Here are two examples of this.
           a. Judges 16:25: The lords of the Philistines assembled to offer a great sacrifice to their god Dagon and to rejoice, declaring that Dagon has given Samson into their hand [Judges 16:23-24]. "AND WHEN THEIR HEARTS WERE MERRY [apparently this mean, when they became drunk], they said, 'Call Samson, and let him entertain us.' So they called Samson out of the prison, and he performed for them."
           b. 1 Samuel 25:36: "Abigail came to Nabal; he was holding a feast in his house, like the feast of a king. NABAL'S HEART WAS MERRY within him, for he was very drunk."
     2. The adjective tobh, "glad, merry," occurs once in a positive sense in Ecclesiastes 9:7:
        "Go, eat your bread with enjoyment,
          for God has long ago approved what you do."
This alludes to people who use wine wisely and do not get drunk.
    3. A kindred Hebrew word, yatabh, English "to be good, well, glad," appears once with lebh, "heart," in a bad sense. When Ahab pouted because Naboth would not give him his vineyard at Jezreel, Jezebel said to Ahab: "Do you now govern Israel? Get up, eat some food, LET YOUR HEART BE GLAD [NRSV be cheerful]; I will give you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite"
(1 Kings 21:7). She proceeds to create a kangaroo court and had Naboth murdered "legally."
    4. The forms of the Hebrew root smch appear with "heart" once to express the idea of some type of rejoicing as the result of drinking. samach occurs once in a good sense in Psalm 104:15: "YOU BRING FORTH WINE TO GLADDEN THE HUMAN HEART."
    5. The adjective sameach, "joyful, merry" appears once in the bad sense. Isaiah 24:7 says:
         "The wine dries up,
                the vine languishes,
                ALL THE MERRY-HEARTED SIGH."

  The bodily appetites of eating and drinking are basically good because they strengthen the heart and make it happy. But of people misuse these appetites, they cause the heart to become irresponsible. "Strengthening the heart" refers only to eating, while "making the heart merry" refers only to drinking when the word "heart" appears as the seat of bodily appetites.

Share YOUR experiences and thoughts and anxieties and fears and concerns with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis


Saturday, November 26, 2016

God is our Refuge--Psalm 46

The author and historical background of Psalm 46 are unknown. The superscription says:
     To the leader. Of the Korahites. According to Alamoth. A Song.
     Scholars have written extensive efforts to try to determine this, but there is no agreement. "Of the Korahites" appears also in Psalms 42, 44, 45, 47, 48, 49, 84, 85, 87, 88. Some scholar have put these psalms together and tried to find significant themes in these psalms. "According to Alamoth" may refer to a well-known tune, but this is uncertain. The superscriptions of the Psalms are later additions, and it would be a great mistake to date any psalm based on a superscription.

The theme of Psalm 46 is "God is our refuge." This term appears in Psalm 46:1, 7, 11. Verses 7 and 7 are clearly choruses or recurring refrains.  This very common in many biblical psalms or songs, and in many modern songs or hymns. Think of "Up from the grave he arose," or "Are your ready?" or "It is well with my soul." In Psalm 46, the poet declares that those who dwell in Zion [Jerusalem] have refuge [protection, security] in God. "Selah" at the end of Psalm 46:3, 7, 11 has no meaning at all, but is a musical signal that the song or poem comes to an end, and the next verse begins the next stanza. Psalm 46:6, 9-10 indicate that Zion has recently been attacked by enemies and God has delivered the city, but the precise setting is unknown. Some scholars suggest this refers to Sennacherib's invasion of Jerusalem in 701 BCE [2 Kings 18-19; Isaiah 36-37], but there is no enough evidence to demonstrate with certainty the historical setting. Psalm 46 inspired Martin Luther to write his moving song: "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God" in 1529. Psalm 46 falls into three stanzas.

1. The Psalmist declares that those who have refuge in God are FREE FROM FEAR. Psalm 46:1-3.
    a. The poet begins with his theme: "God is our refuge and strength." God is always present to help in times of trouble. This is clearly a great encouragement for all who truly trust in Yahweh. 46:1.
    b. Since God is always present to help in times of trouble, God's true followers "will not fear." It does not matter if the earth should change or the mountains shake in the heart of the sea or the waters roar and foam or the mountains tremble with its tumult. No crisis, no matter how large and threatening it may seem, God's true followers will not fear because God is always present to help in times of trouble. 46:2-3.

2. Then, the Psalmist declares that those who have refuge in God are IMMOVABLE. Psalm 46:4-7.
    a. The psalmist declares that there is "a river" whose streams make glad the city of God. Scholars debate over the meaning of the "river" in this verse. Since Psalm 46:5 says: "God is in the midst of the city," it is likely that the "river" in Psalm 46:4 is God. Jeremiah 2:13; 17:13 compare Yahweh with "the fountain of living water." Or course, the meaning of this metaphor in Psalm 46:4 is debatable. This verse describes Jerusalem or Zion as "the holy habitation of the Most High." 46:4.
    b. Since God is in the midst of Zion, "it shall NOT BE MOVED." As in Psalm 46:1,  God will HELP when the morning dawns. 46:5.
    c. The surrounding world, the surrounding nations, the surrounding kingdoms, are in uproar and totter, but God utters his voice, and the earth melts. When we become anxious about all the problems and issues of life, we need to remember that God is in control no matter what things might look. 46:6.
    d. The Lord of hosts [The Lord of the heavenly armies--see Psalm 103:19-22; 2 Kings 6:17] is WITH us, the God of Jacob is OUR REFUGE. Just as there was no danger for the boat in the storm sea when Jesus was aboard (Luke 8:22-25), there is no danger for Zion in time of trouble because Yahweh is always present. 46:7.

3. Finally, the Psalmist declares that those who have refuge in God are VICTORIOUS. Psalm 46:8-11.
    a. The psalmist tells his hearers and readers to behold the works of Yahweh, the desolations he has brought on the earth. 46:8.
    b. Unstated nations had attacked Jerusalem or Zion, but Yahweh intervenes and "makes wars cease" to the end of the earth by breaking the bow, shattering the spear, and burning the shields with fire. As Isaiah 2:4=Micah 4:3, Yahweh causes warriors to beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Miraculously, God brings peace between people and nations. 46:9.
    c. Because of this, Yahweh declares:
        "BE STILL, and KNOW that I am God!
          I AM EXALTED among the nations,
          I AM EXALTED in the earth."
It is very clear that Old Testament thought has to do with the whole earth, not the land of Canaan or Israel. Our God is a universal God, not a local God. The God of the Old Testament is the very same God as the God of the New Testament. There is no difference at all between the Old and New Testaments about the nature and work of God and his chosen people. New events present new festivals and practices, but essentially, God does not change.  The song "Be still and know that I am God" contains this powerful concept. 46:10.
    d. For emphasis, Psalm 46:11 reiterates the chorus or recurring refrain in Psalm 46:7.

What an uplifting, encouraging, inspiring Psalm. Share YOUR experiences and events and reversals and problems and ideas with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis


Destroying and Removing the Heart; Heart of Little Worth--XVI

The Hebrew word lebh [English heart] is the direct object of three Hebrew verbs which mean to "take away" or "destroy."
    1. The Hebrew verb sur in the hiph`il means "to remove, take away." Job 12:24 says:
         "He [Yahweh] strips [takes away] heart [NRSV understanding] from the leaders of the earth,
                and makes them wander in a pathless waste."
    2. The Hebrew verb laqach means "to take away." Hosea 4:11 says:
         "Wine and new wine
                 take away the heart [NRSV understanding].
    3. The Hebrew verb 'abad in the pi`el means "to vanish, blot out, do away with." Ecclesiastes 7:7 says:
        "Surely oppression makes the wise foolish,
                 and a bribe corrupts [destroys] the heart."
All of these texts use "heart" in the sense of human understanding.

In connection with this, one should consult Daniel 7:4. Daniel saw a vision of four great beasts coming up out of the sea. Daniel 7:4 says:
    "The first was like a lion and had eagles' wings.
      Then, as I watched, its wings were plucked off,
       and it was lifted up from the ground and made to stand on two feet like a human being;
       and a human heart [NRSV mind] was given to it."
Here, a man's heart means a man's understanding.

Finally, the Hebrew noun lebh [English heart] occurs once with the Hebrew substantive me`at [English a little, fewness, a few]. Proverbs 10:20 says:
     "The tongue of the righteous is choice silver;
           the heart [NRSV mind] of the wicked is of little worth."
This verse emphasizes the smallness of a wicked person's understanding.

Like in many other biblical texts [Old and New Testament], the word "heart" may mean the "mind" or the "understanding."

Share YOUR insights and understandings and imaginations and biases and thoughts with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis