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