John T. Willis

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Yahweh's Steadfast Love demolishes Wicked Plots--Psalm 36

The composer of Psalm 36 vividly contrasts the wicked plans or plots of the wicked against Yahweh's steadfast love. This psalm falls into three brief pericopes or paragraphs.

1. The Poet describes the attitude and actions of the wicked. 36:1-4.
    a. This composer emphasizes that sin deeply affects the human heart. Transgression [as a personification] SPEAKS to the wicked DEEP in their hearts. Consequently, they do not FEAR [that is, respect, honor, hold in the highest regard, stand in awe of] Yahweh. 36:1.
    b. Wicked people FLATTER themselves and refuse to accept the iniquities which they commit. They dismiss the truth that Yahweh finds out and hates wicked attitudes and actions. This calls to mind the description of the wicked in Psalm 5:9 [Heb. 5:10]:
        "For there is no truth in their mouths;
               their HEARTS are destruction;
          their throats are open graves;
               they FLATTER with their tongues."
"Flatter" means to "shower praise or attentions upon, to gratify the recipient's vanity or to ingratitate oneself, to raise the unfounded hope or belief, as 'he flatters himself that he will win.'" 36:2
    c. The words of the wicked are mischief and deceit, and thus has ceased to act wisely and do good. 36:3.
    d. The wicked PLOT mischief to hurt other people, setting them on a path that is not good and refuse to reject evil. 36:4.

2. In bold contrast to the wicked, the psalmist turns to praise Yahweh's steadfast love. 36:5-9.
    a. The poet declares that Yahweh's steadfast love extends to the heavens, and his faithfulness extends to the clouds. 36:5.
    b. Yahweh's righteousness is like the highest mountains, and his judgments are like the great deep [the deepest ocean]. Yahweh delivers human beings and animals. 36:6.
    c. Yahweh's steadfast love is PRECIOUS [of the very highest value]; thus all people on earth must take refuge in the shadow of his wings. Here the psalmist compares Yahweh with a mother bird who spreads out her wings and gathers in all her little chicks. 36:7.
    d. Yahweh's faithful people FEAST on the abundance of Yahweh's house. Yahweh gives them drink from the river of Yahweh's delights. This RIVER is a symbol of Yahweh's great resources. Yahweh is the spiritual fountain of life, and in Yahweh's light, we see light. 36:8-9.

3. Finally, the psalmist addresses Yahweh directly, asking him that his steadfast love will continue. 36:10-12.
    a. The psalmist beseeches Yahweh to continue his steadfast love to THOSE WHO KNOW HIM," that is, those who maintain an intimately, daily, personal relationship with God, and to continue Yahweh's salvation to the upright in heart. 36:10.
    b. The poet implores Yahweh not to let the ARROGANT prevail or the hand of the WICKED drive him away. 36:11.
    c. Yahweh will demolish the wicked, who will lie prostrate on the ground unable to rise again. 36:12.

Always trust in Yahweh's steadfast love. Share YOUR insights and experiences with other. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis 

Monday, September 05, 2016

The Heart Thinks--VI

One understandings the meaning of the word "heart" in the Bible by paying careful attention to verbs connected with the heart. Several verbs connect the "heart" with the mental capacity of thinking. In such texts, the "heart" means the "mind."

1. Psalm 37:31: "The law of their God is in their hearts." Isaiah 63:4: "The day of vengeance was in my heart." Jeremiah 23:26: "How long? Will the hearts of the prophets ever turn back--those who prophesy lies, and who prophesy the deceit of their own heart?" The context of each of these passages clearly uses the word "heart" in the sense of the mental capacity of thinking.

2. When Samuel first met Saul in 1 Samuel 9:19, he said: "I am the seer; go up before me to the shrine, for today you shall eat with me, and in the morning I will let you go and will tell you ALL THAT IS ON YOUR MIND [Hebrew, heart]." In the description of King Hezekiah of Judah in
2 Chronicles 32:27-33, the narrator writes in verse 31: "So also in the matter of the envoys of the officials of Babylon, who had been sent to him [Hezekiah] to inquire about the sign that had been done in the land, God left him to himself, in order to test him and know ALL THAT WAS IN HIS HEART." [Here, the heart means the thinking, the mind]. Psalm 84:5 [Heb. 84:6] says:
        Happy are those whose strength is in you,
               in whose HEART [thinking] are the highways to Babylon.
All these texts use the noun "heart" in the sense of thinking.

3. Referring to Artaxerxes, king of Persia, Ezra 7:27 says: "Blessed be the Lord, the God of our ancestors, who put such a thing as this into the HEART of the king to glorify the house [temple] of the Lord in Jerusalem." God PUT the idea to glorify the Jerusalem temple into the HEART or thinking of Artaxerxes. Nehemiah says to his audience in Nehemiah 7:5: "Then my God put into my mind [Hebrew heart] to assemble the nobles and the officials and the people to be enrolled in genealogy." In these texts, the verb "put" connects the "heart" with the idea of thinking, the thinking of the mind.

4. Several texts connect the "heart" with saying or speaking. For example, the composer of Ecclesiastes says in Ecclesiastes 1:16: "I said to myself," literally in Hebrew, "I communed with my own heart," that is, "thinking." Deuteronomy 15:9 says: "Beware careful that you do not entertain a mean thought [Hebrew, "beware that there be not a mean thought in your heart"]." Deuteronomy 6:6 says: "Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart," that is, thinking.

5. Biblically speaking, the "heart" is the receptacle and the dispenser of words. Thinking goes into and out of the heart.
     a. In Job 22:22, Eliphaz advises Job:
                 Receive instruction from his [God's] mouth,
                        and lay up his words in your heart.
God gives his words to human beings for them to receive in the heart, thinking, mind.
     b. God's people make this confession in Isaiah 59:12-13:
                 For our transgressions before you are many,
                         and our sins testify against us.
                 Our transgressions indeed are with us,
                         and we know our iniquities,
                 transgressing, and denying the Lord,
                         and turning away from following our God,
                 talking oppression and revolt,
                         conceiving lying words and UTTERING THEM FROM THE HEART.
Here, the heart is the dispenser of lying WORDS.

Thus, several passages in the Bible use the word "heart" in the sense of thinking, and thinking is a capacity of the mind. Hence, the heart in these texts means the mind.

Share YOUR thoughts with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Sunday, September 04, 2016

Delivering God from Malicious Enemies--Psalm 35

Any hearer or reader must immediately realize that the composer of Psalm 35 is undergoing severe persecution from his enemies. These are not mere physical enemies, but spiritual enemies who attempt to malign and destroy the poet.

1. This psalmist describes the various ways his enemies are attempting to destroy him.
     a. His enemies seek after his life and devise evil against him--35:4, 7-8, 25.
     b. His enemies despoil him--35:10.
     c. His enemies bring false accusations against him--35:11, 15-16, 20-21.
     d. His enemies lie about the psalmist's actions--35:20.
     e. His enemies rejoice over the poet's calamity and severe illness--35:13-15, 26.
     f. His enemies slander and mock the psalmist--35:15-16.

2. The Psalmist asks God to deliver him from his enemies. 35:1-10.
     a. The psalmist begs Yahweh to "contend" with his enemies. The verb "contend" comes from legal practices. It means to go to law with someone to enter into a court case against him. Then the psalmist depicts Yahweh as a powerful warrior who engages his enemies in warfare. He asks Yahweh to take hold of shield and buckler, to draw the spear and javelin. 35:1-3.
     b. Then the psalmist beseeches Yahweh to cause his enemies to be put to shame and dishonor, to be turned back and confounded. He compares Yahweh with a "wind" which drives his enemies like chaff before a powerful wind. As in Psalm 34:7, this psalmist compares this wind with "the angel of the Lord" driving them on. 35:4-6.
     c. Then the poet compares his enemies with a hunter who lays a trap as a hidden net or a pit into which the prey falls for capture but gets caught in his own trap [a boomerang]. 35:7-8.
     d. The psalmist compares himself with the "weak" and "needy." He boldly declares that when Yahweh delivers him from his malicious enemies, he will rejoice in the Lord because of his deliverance and declare to everyone that Yahweh alone is God. 35:9-10.

3. The Psalmist turns to describe the injustices of his enemies which has done against him. 35:11-18.
     a. His enemies have made legal charges against the psalmist and accused him of which of which he had never heard or imagined. They repaid him evil for good. 35:11-12.
     b. When the psalmist's enemies were sick, the psalmist prayed for them by intercession that they will be healed as though he grieved for a friend or a brother who was sick. 35:13-14.
     c. In stark contrast to this, his enemies rejoiced when the psalmist stumbled and tore at him without ceasing. They mocked him again and again, and gnashed at him with their teeth, expressing strong opposition against him. 35:15-16.
     d. The psalmist's enemies are like ferocious lions, and thus he implores Yahweh to deliver him, and promises that when this happens he will thank and praise Yahweh in the great congregation. 35:17-18.

4. The Psalmist concludes by asking Yahweh to intervene, overthrow his enemies, and deliver him. 35:19-28.
    a. The poet declares that his enemies are treacherous, do not speak peace, conceive deceitful words, and rejoice over the psalmist's serious problems. He is certain that Yahweh has seen what his enemies have done and rejoice over the psalmist's distresses. He beseeches Yahweh to not let his  enemies rejoice, not be silent, and not be far from the psalmist. 35:19-23.
    b. Then, the psalmist implores Yahweh to "vindicate" him against his enemies to put them to shame and confusion and dishonor. 35:24-26.
    c. Finally, the psalmist declares that when Yahweh delivers him from his enemies, he will "tell" everyone of Yahweh's righteousness and praise Yahweh all day long. 35:27-28.

Instead of retaliating against his enemies, this psalmist turns to Yahweh in prayer to implore Yahweh to defend him and overthrow his enemies.

I hope YOU are doing well. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

The Heart is the Midst or Inward Part

In the Bible, the word "heart" usually does not mean the "blood pump," but the center or middle or inward part of a person or a thing. In the Hebrew Bible, the word "heart" is connected with the sky, the sea, and trees.

1. The Sky.
     In Moses' first speech in the Plains of Moab [Deuteronomy 1:6-4:43], among other things, he reminded his fellow-Israelites that forty years earlier, Yahweh appeared on Mount Horeb [Sinai]. He says in Deuteronomy 4:11:
          "You approached and stood at the foot of the mountain
            while the mountain was blazing up TO THE VERY HEAVEN, shrouded in dark clouds."
The expression "to the very heaven" in the New Revised Standard Version [NRSV] means literally "to the heart of the heavens [that is, the sky]." Obviously, "the heart of the sky" means that part of the sky which is center to the human eye.

2. The Sea.
     "The Heart of the Sea" has two meanings.,
     a. Proverbs 30:18-19 says:
         Three things are too wonderful for me;
               four I do not understand:
          the way of an eagle in the sky,
               the way of a snake on a rock,
               and the way of a man with a girl.
The expression "on the high seas" in the NRSV means literally "in the heart of the sea," which must mean the center or midst of the surface of the ocean or the sea as one views with respect to the land on either side.
        b. In the Song of Moses in Exodus 15:1-18, verse 8 says:
            At the blast of your [Yahweh's] nostrils the waters piled up,
                  the floods stood up in a heap,
                  the deeps congealed IN THE HEART OF THE SEA.
In this context, "the heart of the sea" cannot be on the surface of the sea [here the Red Sea or the Sea of Reeds], but the depths of the ocean or sea between the surface of the water and the bottom of the sea.
        Similarly, in Jonah 2:3, when Jonah prays in the belly of the great fish, he says:
            You [Yahweh] cast me into the deep,
                  INTO THE HEART OF THE SEAS,
                  and the flood surrounded me,
             all your waves and your billows passed over me.
As in Exodus 15:8, in Jonah 2:3, "the heart of the seas" has to mean the depths of the sea or the ocean between the surface of the water and the bottom of the sea or ocean.
3. Trees.
     2 Samuel 18:1-18 relates the account of Joab murdering Absalom as Absalom fled from David. Absalom fled into the forest. His long hair was caught in the midst of an oak or terebinth. 2 Samuel 18:14 says:
       Joab said, 'I will not waste time like this with you [his fellow-soldiers].'
       He took three spears in his hand, and thrust them into the heart of Absalom,
       while he [Absalom] was still alive IN THE OAK.
The NRSV does not follow the Hebrew text, which says, "while he was still alive IN THE HEART OF THE OAK [TEREBINTH]." Obviously, "the heart of a tree" means the inner portion of the trunk or limbs of a tree, that section of the tree relatively equidistant from the circumference of the outermost branches and leaves into which the larger, more substantial limbs merge.

Texts like these help us understand that the "heart" in the Bible is not the "blood pump," but the midst or center of an object or a person. Blogs yet to come will assume this reality.

The Lord bless YOU richly today. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis