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Psalms.Commentary

Psalms.Commentary

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0511.14.hope.expressed.commentary Document Transcript

  • 1. John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Spring, 2014; Southern Baptist Advanced Bible Study and Southern Baptist Biblical Illustrator, selected articles; and Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study, except where noted. Page 1 May 11, 2014 Session 11. Hope Expressed The Point. Gratitude is our response to the hope we have in Christ. The Bible Meets Life. We may not be ungrateful, but we can forget to be grateful. We get used to the things we have been given, and we begin to take them for granted. Believers can do that in their relationship with Christ. The longer we have been believers, the more we can get used to the blessings and benefits of knowing Christ. Over time, we can forget what it was like not to have that hope in Him. Psalm 138 reminds us of the hope we have and pulls us into an attitude of thankfulness and gratitude to God. The Passage. Psalm 138:1-8. The Setting. We do not know when David wrote Psalm 138, but this psalm reflects a lifetime of trust in God. God is exalted above all others, and He protected and delivered David in all circumstances. David expressed a thankfulness and trust that God would fulfill all His plans for David. Introduction. The Book of Psalms contains 150 psalms. Nearly half of them are attributed to David. The last eight psalms written by David begin with Psalm 138. Psalm 138 is a song of praise and gratitude to the Lord for who He is, what He has done, and what He will do for those who trust Him. There is no specific description of the event or events that led to the composition of this psalm. The inspiration for this psalm was God’s deliverance of David from a danger. It would seem that in America, Christians sometimes complain about the color of the wall, the volume of the music, or a service that extends beyond an hour. Would it be helpful if we could simply serve in a mission field to learn the lessons of humility and gratitude from believers who have far less creature comforts. A sense of gratitude is one of the most reliable indicators of spirituality. Great believers in biblical history have always been men and women who are thankful for God’s blessings materially and spiritually. In our session for this week, we will examine a Davidic song of praise to God for His goodness and blessings. As we study David’s praise of God, we should examine our own sense of gratitude for God’s provision for our needs today and our hope for the future. Psalm 138:1-3. 1 I will give You thanks with all my heart; I will sing Your praise before the heavenly beings. 2 I will bow down toward Your holy temple and give thanks to Your name for Your constant love and truth. You have exalted Your name and Your promise above everything else. 3 On the day I called, You answered me; You increased strength within me.
  • 2. John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Spring, 2014; Southern Baptist Advanced Bible Study and Southern Baptist Biblical Illustrator, selected articles; and Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study, except where noted. Page 2 KEY WORDS: Heavenly beings (v. 1)—Literally, gods, the same Hebrew word frequently used of God. Scripture denies the existence of other gods; but it does recognize that “gods” are treated as real by those who worship them. This may refer to other heavenly servant beings or even to earthly judges or governors (Ex. 21:6; 22:8). Believers today who know the eternal God as Father through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior join the multitudes who offer whole-hearted grateful praise to God for the hope we have in Him. That hope is grounded in God’s very nature that is expressed in His love and provision of salvation and revealed in His Holy Scripture. This is why true gratitude to God must begin with faith in Jesus. One of the major qualities of a trusting disciple is gratefulness. Gratitude arises from the acceptance of all of life as grace—an undeserved and unearned gift from the Father’s hand. Psalm 138, one of David’s inspired psalms, as well as his life of commitment to the Lord remind us that our hope in Almighty God can and should be expressed through gratitude. Gratitude to the Lord meaningfully strengthens as well as expresses our faith and dependence on Him. Our study of hope in believers’ lives continues with the reminder that hope should not be taken for granted. Hope is to encourage and assist us to live for God. We should be willing to express that hope, both to the Lord and to others. However, gratitude is not only to be declared, but we can expect it to be strengthened even as we express it to God. The Bible has many references to believers’ affirming their trust and hope in God through expressing gratitude. One of the earliest memories I have of memorizing Scripture was when our whole children’s group worked hard to memorize Psalm 100, a classic expression of the need to be thankful. The psalm reminds us that we can come into God’s presence “with thanksgiving and … praise” as we “give thanks to Him and praise His name” (v. 4). The reason for this life-enriching worship is that “Yahweh is good, and His love is eternal; His faithfulness endures through all generations” (v. 5). Now that I am older, I often think of the affirmation in Psalm 92: “It is good to praise Yahweh, to sing praise to Your name, Most High, to declare Your faithful love in the morning and Your faithfulness at night” (vv. 1-2). The psalm concludes that those who do so will “still bear fruit in old age, healthy and green” (v. 14). This theme of thanksgiving and gratitude is obvious throughout the Bible, especially in the Psalms, as we are highlighting in our study of Psalm 138. This theme of gratitude is also a vital part of the New Testament, especially in the writings of Paul. To the church at Philippi, he wrote, “Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6-7). The Holy Spirit led Paul to state it succinctly in the first letter to the Thessalonians: “Rejoice always! Pray constantly. Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thess. 5:16-18). This spirit of gratitude continues today in the lives of believers who know from experience the love, forgiveness, and abiding presence of God revealed by the Holy Spirit indwelling the lives of believers.
  • 3. John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Spring, 2014; Southern Baptist Advanced Bible Study and Southern Baptist Biblical Illustrator, selected articles; and Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study, except where noted. Page 3 Whether we realize it or not, all believers are engaged in a spiritual battle against the Devil and “spiritual forces of evil” (Eph. 6:11-12). All who abide in Christ and put on the necessary spiritual armor are enabled to pray in the Spirit, and to stay alert with perseverance and intercession for the saints (v. 18). Having gained such victories, we can be sure we are on the winning side and rejoice in gratitude to God. In Psalm 138, David expressed deep gratitude to God for all He is, does, and purposes; as well as for His Word, His listening ear, and His protection of those who trust Him. Such gratitude is a vital quality in the lives of true believers. This gratitude arises from the acceptance of all of life as grace—as an undeserved and unearned gift from the Father’s hand made possible by the sacrificial death and triumphant resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ and the on-going work of the Holy Spirit. By God’s grace we are saved “through faith” (Eph 2:8), and His “sufficient” grace (2 Cor. 12:9) keeps us safe. In his book, Let Hope In, Pete Wilson tells of a time when he came home from work tired and stressed. He found his children had left their bicycles in the way of his putting his truck in the garage. This irritated him and he was upset; but, after he had moved the bikes and was back in the truck, he felt the Lord reminding him that he was viewing his life in a way that was robbing him of the blessings he enjoyed. He thought of the many people who were less fortunate than he and realized that gratitude is a choice we can make if we truly desire to do so. This may seem trivial; but, if we recognize, accept, and practice this principle of gratitude, our entire lives will be enriched. David’s inspired remarks offer some basic principles concerning the value of expressing our gratitude to the Lord. Some Hebrew and English versions of verse 1 include His name, Lord or Yahweh. This name speaks of God as the eternal, self-existent, covenant-making, and covenant-keeping God who is always present. When God appeared to Moses in the burning bush and commissioned him to go to Egypt and deliver His people from bondage, Moses asked God His name. “God replied to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM. … You are to say to the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you’ ” (Ex. 3:14). From that time on, the people of God have known that the Lord, Yahweh, “the great I Am,” is the one true God. We know He is always present and we are to trust, love, obey, and serve Him and Him alone. Sadly, we sometimes turn away from Him and have to bear the consequences of our decisions. However, when we are true to Him, He blesses us and gives us cause to express our gratitude in words and in faithful living. God has graciously demonstrated His love for us by sending Jesus, His unique Son who is one with the Father, to pay the price for our salvation and raising Him up to the highest glory in heaven. Jesus “is at the right hand of God and intercedes for us” (Rom. 8:34). How wonderful! Realizing this should inspire us and move us to continuing gratitude. Gratitude to God can be expressed in many ways. This psalm reminds us that we can express our gratitude to the Lord as we sing His praise before heavenly beings. This may refer to heavenly servant beings or to judges and governors appointed by God as political leaders (Ex. 21:6; 22:8) or to the supposed “gods” of surrounding nations.
  • 4. John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Spring, 2014; Southern Baptist Advanced Bible Study and Southern Baptist Biblical Illustrator, selected articles; and Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study, except where noted. Page 4 The main idea is that true believers are not ashamed to praise and honor God in any environment. We are not ashamed to let “the powers that be” know that our ultimate trust is in the triune God who has revealed Himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We know, as Paul later declared on Mars Hill, that “the God who made the world and everything in it … is Lord of heaven and earth.… For in Him we live and move and exist” (Acts 17:24,28). As a point of reference, the psalmist declared that he would bow down toward God’s holy temple (Ps. 138:2). Though the temple as such had not been built when David lived, he was evidently referring to heaven as God’s dwelling place. We know that the Lord’s dwelling place is in heaven, but His presence is everywhere. We call this His omnipresence. We may have holy places such as churches or special places in our homes or in nature where we feel especially close to God; but we know that wherever we are and whatever our circumstances may be, we can express our thanks to God for His constant love and truth. We can do this because we realize that God through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, has exalted His name and His promise above everything else. His name stands for all He is—His holy being. Our little children are taught early in life the simple prayer: “God is great. God is good. Let us thank Him for our food.” We should never grow too calloused to do the same. We express our gratitude in various ways and for many reasons. A major motivation is because God answers our prayers. We all can testify of times we called on the Lord and He answered us. Often in our experiences in life, we realize how weak we are in ourselves. We understand that we need strength beyond ourselves and often claim the inspired promise made by the prophet Isaiah, “Yahweh is the everlasting God, the Creator of the whole earth. … He gives strength to the weary and strengthens the powerless. … those who trust in the Lord will renew their strength” (Isa. 40:28-31). How refreshing it is to be able to say with David: On the day I called, You answered me; You increased strength within me! Such knowledge motivates us to offer sincere gratitude to our loving Heavenly Father. Such gratitude exalts God and enriches our spiritual lives! Think of a time you called on our Heavenly Father and He gave you strength to endure and guidance on how to respond to a difficult situation you faced. Offer to Him a prayer of gratitude. If you are facing such a situation and need His help, let the Holy Spirit lead you to voice your feelings to the Lord (though He already knows them) and to trust Him to work on your behalf either to resolve the problem or to give you the strength and wisdom you need to confront your problem in a way that honors Him and blesses not only you but others who may know of the situation. Psalm 138:4-6 4 All the kings on earth will give You thanks, Lord, when they hear what You have promised. 5 They will sing of the Lord’s ways, for the Lord’s glory is great. 6 Though the Lord is exalted, He takes note of the humble; but He knows the haughty from a distance.
  • 5. John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Spring, 2014; Southern Baptist Advanced Bible Study and Southern Baptist Biblical Illustrator, selected articles; and Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study, except where noted. Page 5 KEY WORDS: Takes note of (v. 6)—The idea is that the supreme God of the universe is willing to consider the affairs of humans. The Lord is a gracious God who remembers us in our lowly condition and lifts us up. Even kings and other leaders will give thanks to the Lord when they hear what He has promised [literally, hear the words of Your mouth]. All who hear and believe can thank God for revealing Himself to us in His Word. We must do all we can to learn His Word, to live by it, and to share it with others. When people, even those in places of leadership, hear and believe the truth revealed in the Word, they will sing of the Lord’s ways, for the Lord’s glory is great. Just as the Holy Spirit inspired the Scriptures, so He must help us to understand and apply God’s Word to our lives and to communicate that truth to others. Genuine understanding of the truth must be the work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts and minds of those who are willing to listen to and to study the message God has revealed in the Bible. You may recall that the last promise Jesus gave His disciples before ascending into heaven was “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). The same Spirit is at work in the lives of all true believers to enable us to understand, receive, and communicate the message of salvation through faith in the Lord Jesus. Because of the work of the Holy Spirit, a true understanding of God’s Word and appreciation for His will is available both to those in high places and to common people. We must be willing to be witnesses to those people God brings into our lives. Another comforting truth of God’s Word is that the Lord who is exalted … takes note of the humble. God delights in revealing Himself and His will to those who humbly seek Him. God did not send His Son into this world to be born of well-known nobility but of a humble peasant girl espoused to a common carpenter. Of course, what the world did not realize was that both Mary and Joseph were descendants of the great king David, in essence, royalty! On the other hand, though God knows the haughty, He relates to them from a distance. God’s attitude is different toward the two types of people. The humble recognize their need and gratefully, willingly accept God’s revelation. However, the haughty think they do not need such a revelation from God. They think they know all they need to know on their own. Understanding this, we must humbly accept God’s revelation and submit our lives to Him. When we do, we cannot help but thank and praise our gracious God for remembering and providing a way of salvation to all who believe. We thank God that He remembers us in our lowly state and lifts us up to be His children! We must also share the message with others so the Holy Spirit can move in their lives and lead them to realize their need and turn to the Lord in faith to be saved. Psalm 138:7-8 7 If I walk into the thick of danger, You will preserve my life from the anger of my enemies. You will extend Your hand; Your right hand will save me. 8 The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me. Lord, Your love is eternal; do not abandon the work of Your hands.
  • 6. John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Spring, 2014; Southern Baptist Advanced Bible Study and Southern Baptist Biblical Illustrator, selected articles; and Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study, except where noted. Page 6 Those who humbly receive God’s Word and live by faith have many reasons to continue to thank God and live for Him. We can live full, meaningful lives because our hope is based on His continual protection rather than on our own efforts. Even in the thick of danger, we can be sure the Lord will preserve our lives from our enemies. He will reach out to us and with His right hand will save all who trust in Him. We can depend on our Heavenly Father to fulfill His purpose in the lives of all who trust Him through Jesus Christ, God’s Son, who humbled Himself, became a human, lived a perfect life, died for our sins, rose again, is at the right hand of the Father, and one day will come again. As we noted earlier, whether we realize it or not, all believers are engaged in a spiritual battle against the Devil and “spiritual forces of evil” (Eph. 6:11-12). All who abide in Christ and put on the necessary spiritual armor are enabled to pray in the Spirit and to stay alert with perseverance and intercession for the saints (v. 18). Having gained such victories, we can affirm with David: The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me. By faith we can be sure that His love is eternal and He will not abandon the work of [His] hands. Therefore we can express our eternal gratitude and affirm as Paul would later do: “I am not ashamed, because I know the One I have believed in and am persuaded that He is able to guard what has been entrusted to me until that day” of judgment that we will all face (2 Tim. 1:12). We should keep in mind that our gratitude to God is not based on how good our situation is but on how we view the situation. Gratitude is a choice we can make in light of the revelation of God’s Word and the grace, strength, and wisdom He gives us to face each experience of life. Gratitude is our response to the hope we have in Christ Jesus the Lord. Live it out. How can gratitude grounded in hope be a part of your life this week? The best way for others to see the hope you have in Christ is in your attitude. The hope you have in Christ should lead you to live above the temporal problems you deal with daily. Let gratitude permeate your attitude and draw others to Christ. Walk daily in the hope of Christ, and let gratitude flow out of you.
  • 7. John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Spring, 2014; Southern Baptist Advanced Bible Study and Southern Baptist Biblical Illustrator, selected articles; and Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study, except where noted. Page 7 DIGGING DEEPER: Heavenly beings—The Hebrew noun, Elohim is plural but is translated “God” when referring to Yahweh, the God of Israel (Gen. 1:1; Ex. 3:14). This is by far the most frequent use of Old Testament writers. The word is translated as a plural when referring to pagan “gods” (Ex. 20:3; Josh. 24:2). The word can also refer to human rulers (possibly Ps. 82:1) and angels (possibly Ps. 8:6—according to the Septuagint and Heb. 2:7). In Psalm 138:1 the word may refer to pagan gods or to angelic beings. Gods: The gods (v. 1) comes from ‘elohim, a Hebrew term translated as “God” or “gods” in the general sense of deity. However ‘elohim can have an even wider range of meaning. It can refer to pagan deities, angelic or heavenly beings, an assembly council in heaven, earthly kings or judges and the foreign deities they represented, or the kings themselves who sometimes considered themselves divine and required such an acknowledgement form their subjects. A similar use to that found here in Psalm 138:1 can be found in Psalm 82:1. Takes note of—the Hebrew verb ra’ah frequently means “to see” (Gen. 1:4) or “to look at” (Ex. 2:4). In Psalm 138:6 the word refers to God’s attentive care of those who humbly worship and obey Him, God attention implies acceptance and approval of the humble spirit of these believers. The NIV renders it “looks kindly on” and the ESV has “regards.” Hath he respect unto: The Hebrew word rendered respect in verse 6 means “to see, to take heed, to give attention to.” The antecedent for he is the Lord. Thus, the Lord looks down on, considers, and gives attention to those who come with humility before Him. ADDITIONAL BACKGROUND READING: For He Is Good: The Psalms of Thanksgiving By Thomas H. Goodman, Pastor, Hillcrest Baptist Church, Austin, Texas. “WE CAN BE LIKE HOGS IN AN APPLE ORCHARD,” a country preacher told his congregation. “We can enjoy all the fruit of this life without ever looking up to see where it came from.” The thanksgiving songs in the Book of Psalms guide us to look up. In these songs the poet thanked the God who “upheld my right and my cause” (Ps. 9:4), “rescued me” (18:17), “healed me” (30:2), “forgave the guilt of my sin” (32:5), “answered me” (34:4), and “brought us to a place of abundance” after a time of severe testing (66:12).1
  • 8. John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Spring, 2014; Southern Baptist Advanced Bible Study and Southern Baptist Biblical Illustrator, selected articles; and Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study, except where noted. Page 8 Categorizing the Psalms Such songs of relieved thanksgiving fall into what Old Testament scholar and author Walter Brueggemann categorizes as “psalms or reorientation.” The 150 psalms are not organized,2 so with each new psalm the reader may move from praise, to lament, to wisdom teaching, and so on—much like listening to an apparently random selection of songs on a radio program. As a result, various writers have suggested ways to organize the psalms into groups based on certain characteristics.3 Brueggemann’s categorization is particularly helpful; each psalm, he says, describes life in a state of orientation, disorientation, or reorientation.4 Psalms of orientation sprang out of the times when life was anxiety-free and thus the worshiper could look away from himself and meditate on the phenomena of the world around him. In these poems “the heavens declare the glory of God” (19:1); the Lord is the believer’s shepherd (23:1); the Enthroned One laughs at those who oppose Him (2:4); glorious things are said of Jerusalem (Ps. 87); and brothers live in unity (Ps. 133). Poems from times of disorientation comprise the bulk of the Book of Psalms. In these complaints the poet desired the restored joy of God like a deer pants for water (42:1). He described how God had rejected and humbled his people (44:9); the poet cried out until his throat was parched (69:3), but God did not answer (22:2); the Lord had exalted the right hand of the king’s foe and cast the king’s throne to the ground (89:42,44); and the poet asked, “Will you forget me forever?” (13:1). At times, the psalmist confessed that his hardships had resulted from his own sins (Ps. 38) or from the sins of the nation (Ps. 60). At other times, he cried for God to rescue him from a difficulty that did not come from his sinfulness (Ps. 142) or from the nation’s unfaithfulness (Ps. 44). Surprised by the in breaking of grace and deliverance, the believer experienced what Brueggemann called re-orientation. A psalm from this phase gives words to the excitement of God’s intervention in a personal or national crisis. In these poems God stoops down to make the king great (18:35); God lifts the believer out of the depths so that his enemies can no longer gloat over him (30:1); God breaks the chains of his nation’s exile (107:14); and God covers the repentant man’s sins (32:1). A thanksgiving psalm celebrates God’s “reorientation” of the believer’s lie. Leslie Allen, professor of Old Testament, observes: The song . . . gives voice to the excited beginnings of new life rising from the ruins of personal crisis. The phrase is destined to give way to a more settled one which will be both like and unlike the phrase of old orientation. Like, in that it will be marked by the stability, steady progress, and appreciation of life enjoyed before. Unlike, in that it will reflect a more mature faith that has found in tragedy and survival schooling in wisdom, and wrested out of them a deeper relationship with God.5
  • 9. John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Spring, 2014; Southern Baptist Advanced Bible Study and Southern Baptist Biblical Illustrator, selected articles; and Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study, except where noted. Page 9 Defining a Thanksgiving Psalm. What characteristics mark a psalm as one of thanksgiving? Old Testament professor R. P. Belcher suggests four. First, the poet expressed “a declaration of intent to give thanks . . . followed by the account of the distress and the change that has come to the psalmist’s life because of the deliverance.” Second, the reader finds “confession directed to others that Yahweh was the one who delivered from the distress (Ps. 18:27-28; 34:6-9).” Third, the poet mentioned, or called for, a thanksgiving sacrifice (66:13-15). In fact, the most commonly recorded setting for thanksgiving psalms was the temple in Jerusalem where worshipers lifted up thank offerings. Finally, “the psalm might end with further affirmations of thanksgiving or exhortations for others to give thanks (Ps. 118:28-29).” Belcher acknowledges “the aforementioned order is flexible.”6 Hymns that praise God for His worthy characteristics are closely related to the psalms of thanksgiving. “The difference is that the thanksgiving song is crisis-oriented,” explains Allen. “It is a response to what God has just done in the experience of the believing person or community . . . . The hymn, on the other hand, lacks such immediacy. It surveys the character and work of God in a general fashion and from further afield.”7 So, for example, in both Psalm 96 (v. 4) and Psalm 48 (v. 1) the poet exclaimed, “Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise,” but the motivation was different in each song. Psalm 96 in a hymn of praise in which the songwriter called on the heavens, the earth, the sea, the fields, and all creation to rejoice in God. Psalm 48, however, is a song of thanksgiving where the songwriter called on the relieved citizens of Jerusalem to reflect on a recent divine deliverance from their enemies. Offering up Thanksgiving Psalms. While some thanksgiving psalms give expression of an entire grateful community, most are pronouncements of gratitude from an individual whom God had saved or rescued. The individual may have called on others to amplify his praise to God, but clearly the testimony was uniquely his. So, in Psalm 66:20 the poet exclaimed, “Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me !” (emphasis added), In this regard, Psalm 107 is unique as a thanksgiving psalm because it is both communal and individual. The poet called the entire community to find their own individual reasons to thank God. Four imaginative scenarios encourage the people of God to reflect on the various instances in which God can demonstrate His mercy: when His people are lost in the wilderness (vv. 4-9), imprisoned (vv. 10-16), sick (vv. 17-22), and caught in a frightening sea storm (vv. 23-32).8 The instances of imprisonment and sickness are particularly noteworthy, because the poet indicated those predicaments occurred as a result of sin (vv. 11,17). So, the psalm encouraged the people to thank a merciful God who rescued them even when rescue was dndeserved.9 God demonstrated His undeserved rescue supremely in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the salvation of sinners. And we today serve a God who, having given His own Son for our salvation, will “also, along with him, graciously give us all things” (Rom. 8:32). Therefore, believers are to give thanks to God “for everything” (Eph. 5:20) and “in all circumstances” (1 Thess. 5:18). The psalms of thanksgiving can show us the way.
  • 10. John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Spring, 2014; Southern Baptist Advanced Bible Study and Southern Baptist Biblical Illustrator, selected articles; and Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study, except where noted. Page 10 Thanksgiving By Steven Andrews, assistant professor of Old Testament and Hebrew, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, North Carolina. HOW DO YOU SAY THANK-YOU IN HEBREW? Most tourists who visit Israel easily learn to say tôdâ to express their appreciation for kindness or good service. Modern Hebrew borrowed tôdâ , which means “thanks,” from biblical Hebrew. Biblical Hebrew, however, uses tôdâ and its verbal root yådâ in a different way. Giving Thanks. The verb yådâ occurs about 100 times in the Old Testament with almost two-thirds of these found in the Book of Psalms. English Bibles translate yådâ in several ways. For example, the New International Version renders the verb in the majority of cases as “praise,” “give thanks,” and “confess.” The original meaning of yådâ may be “acknowledge” (compare Job 40:14).1 Scholars of a previous generation suggested that yådâ developed from yåd, “hand,” and presupposed the idea of raising the hands in confession or praise.2 However, most scholars today suggest the fundamental meaning of the verb is “confess.”3 For them, yådâ conveys two ranges of meaning: (1) to confess God’s character or works, and (2) to confess sins. Confessing God’s Character and Works. Yådâ is primarily employed in the Old Testament to confess God’s character and His marvelous works.4 To acknowledge who God is and what He does involves praise, and this moves one to be thankful. Not surprisingly then yådâ occurs in Hebrew poetry in parallel with other praise verbs: “to praise” (Ps. 109:30), to praise with music (Ps. 7:17 [Heb. v. 18]; 92:`), to remember (Ps. 45:17 [Heb. v.18]), to glorify” (Ps. 86:12), and to declare (Ps. 30:9 [Heb. v. 10]). Therefore, yådâ functions as one of the key praise terms in the Old Testament.5 Yådâ normally has God as its object (Ps. 136:1-3). Righteous individuals (Ps. 140:13, [Heb. V. 14]), the people of Israel (Ps. 45:17 [Heb. V. 18]; 106:47), the kings of the earth (Ps. 138:4), the heavens (Ps. 89:5 [Heb. V. 6]), and even the wrath of men (Ps. 76:10 [Heb. V.11]) praised God and His wondrous works. Praise requires a whole heart (Ps. 86:12; 111:1) and an uprightness of heart (Ps. 119:7). Praise also responds to the righteousness of the Lord (Ps. 7:17). Praise was to last forever (Ps. 30:12 [Heb. V. 13]; 52:9 [Heb. V. 11]), but apparently only the living and not the dead could praise God (Isa. 38:18-19). Although God’s praise could be heard among the nations (2 Sam. 22:50), it was especially found in the worship of the great assembly of the people of Israel (Ps. 35:18). Praise occurred in the temple, the house of the Lord (Ps. 100:4; 122:1-4). David appointed the Levites to stand every morning and evening to direct the giving of thanks (1 Chron. 16:4; 23:30). Praise could be given orally by word or song (Ps. 109:30; 28:7), and music often accompanied it (Ps. 33:2).
  • 11. John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Spring, 2014; Southern Baptist Advanced Bible Study and Southern Baptist Biblical Illustrator, selected articles; and Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study, except where noted. Page 11 Confessing Sin. Yådâ also conveys the idea of confession of sin. This includes individual and corporate confession. In worship, a personal confession of sin preceded the trespass offering (Lev. 5:5-6). On the Day of Atonement the high priest placed his hands upon the scapegoat and confessed over it the sins of Israel (Lev. 16:21). Furthermore, God promised that if the Israelites would confess their sins with humble hearts, He would remember His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Lev. 26:40,42). Daniel confessed his people’s sin (Dan. 9:4-5) as did Ezra (Ezra 10:1), Nehemiah (Neh. 1:6). The people of Israel themselves also make a public declaration of sin during the great revival under Ezra (Neh. 9:2-3). Thank Offering. The noun tôdâ has broader meaning than the verb yada. It can refer to the declaration of God’s character and works (Ps. 26:7; 69:30 [Heb. V. 32]), as well as the confession of sin (Josh. 7:19; Ezra 10:11). As part of the sacrificial system, the tôdâ “thank offering” is one type of “peace” or “friendship offering.”6 In the Old Testament, The presentation of a tôdâ or “thank offering” was considered a time of joy.7 This type of sacrifice was often accompanied by a song of thanksgiving (also called a tôdâ ), a joyful song of gratitude for God’s mercy and deliverance (Ps. 147:7). Tôdâ additionally referred to Levitical choirs who sang these songs (Neh. 12:31,38,40). Enter His Gates with Thanksgiving. Tôdâ and yådâ occur three times in Psalm 100. First, the Hebrew superscription labels the psalm as “a song for a thank offering (tôdâ).” Here tôdâ refers to the sacrifice, the apparatus of worship. As His people, as the sheep of His pasture, we are called to bring a sacrifice of thanks to Him. Second, in the first half of verse 4, this great missionary hymn enjoins the whole earth (v. 1) to enter the temple with thanksgiving (tôdâ). This stresses the attitude of worship. Tôdâ here may also refer to a “song of thanksgiving.” In either case, the emphasis is placed on our joyous and grateful response to God’s merciful character and redemptive works. Finally, verse 4 ends with the imperative of yådâ “give thinks.” Consequently, it refers to the action of worship. The worshiper must publicly acknowledge who God is and confess His wondrous works. We are called to declare that God’s covenant love and faithfulness endure forever (v. 5).
  • 12. John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Spring, 2014; Southern Baptist Advanced Bible Study and Southern Baptist Biblical Illustrator, selected articles; and Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study, except where noted. Page 12 The Old Testament Concept of Love By Wayne Hollaway, Pastor, First Baptist Church, Pine Mountain, GA. “WE THINK WE KNOW WHAT LOVE IS,” remarked an older Christian man to several younger friends. Smiling to himself, he continued, “And that’s why we have such a difficult time understanding the Bible!” In the spirit of that observation we must face two important problems that appear when we try to grasp what the Old Testament teaches about love. First, we must admit that we hold preconceived notions about the concept. We are tempted to impose those notions on our studies of God’s Word. Even our most honest attempts to look objectively at “love” are colored by our own experiences. Before we even approach the Old Testament, we think we know all about love. However, we must refuse to limit the Scriptures in this way. Secondly, we create a problem for ourselves by expecting that the ancient Hebrews taught “love” only as a concept—a theory—apart from deeds. We are inclined to regard love as a feeling or an abstract idea. The Old Testament, on the other hand, is governed by the view that love is an attitude shown by action. If we are to understand its teachings, we must adopt a perspective toward love that joins word and deed. The Proverbs constantly urge people to do loving deeds to others. Hebrew wisdom literature is filled with imperatives. This article examines some weighty Hebrew terms that usually are translated “love,” and attempts to illustrate how they are used in familiar Old Testament stories. Let love and faithfulness never leave you, bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart (Prov. 3:3, NIV). This first word meaning “love,” chesed [KESS-id], is the great term for God’s mercy and loyalty, which grows stronger in tough times. Here it is used for a person-to-person concern. This challenges us! Our finest mercies waver even under life’s best conditions, but the Proverbs urge us to keep seeking this love (Prov. 21:21). It is paired properly with “faithfulness” in Proverbs 3:3, and thus the two virtues are joined often in the Scriptures. Concrete examples of these two virtues in action may be examined by reading of Abraham’s servant speaking to Laban (Gen. 24:49), the Jacob—Joseph deathbed encounter (Gen. 47:29), and Rahab’s conversation with the spies of Israel (Josh. 2:12-14). The word pair is associated with oath-taking in the Old Testament in the “grace and truth” description of Jesus (John 1:14).1 Chesed is such a rich concept that it has been translated with a staggering variety of English words. All of them described a wide range of loving deeds—goodness, kindness, mercy, affection, piety, and fidelity. This entire realm of virtuous actions is illustrated in such passages as Proverbs 3:27-30, where examples of neighborly love abound. Readiness to serve others (vv. 27-28), harmlessness (v. 29), and peaceableness (v. 30) inspire our best behavior toward our neighbors.2 Broad, indeed, is the reach of this type of love! Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs (Prov. 10:12, NIV).
  • 13. John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Spring, 2014; Southern Baptist Advanced Bible Study and Southern Baptist Biblical Illustrator, selected articles; and Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study, except where noted. Page 13 The root word for “love” found here, ‘ahav [ah-HAHV], is common in Wisdom Literature and later portions of the Old Testament. It is best understood as standing over against hate, for it pardons, conceals, and excuses the sin of the neighbor. “Covering” does not mean cloaking the iniquity, rather this love overcomes the effects of wrong through deeds of reconciliation. This kind of forgiveness is reflected in 1 Peter 4:8. While ‘ahav in Scriptures may refer to self-love, romantic love, God’s love for people, or even personified sexual desire, it is applied most widely to the arena of person-to-person relationships. Compare another related proverb that also illustrates the word. He who covers over an offense promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends (Prov. 17:9, NIV). The Bible never encourages dishonesty about sin. Sin is to be confessed and forsaken. However, if another person has wronged you, the Proverbs teach that the loving thing to do is exercise prudent silence. Only quietness will help the offense and its resulting division to pass into forgetfulness. A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense (Prov. 19:11, NIV). Covering over, overlooking, and forgiving the transgression of someone else is a loving deed. This verb form indicates a “passing over.” It calls to mind the great theme of the Exodus and God’s mercy to the enslaved Israelites. If you have respect for your own motives and aims, and have love for the neighbor who has hurt you, you will discover God’s strength to wait quietly for healing in the relationship. If you do not mention the wrongs done by another, you may be certain that your opponent will not be the first to bring them up! Contention will die. What if neither party behaves lovingly? Nasty relations may continue, or in some cases swell into increasingly unpleasant levels of hostility. An angry man stirs up dissension and a hot-tempered one commits many sins (Prov. 29:22, NIV). This is the opposite of love’s requirement. Ventilated anger rarely shows love or fosters compassion. Thankfully, however, another option is open to one who is treated wrongly. The key is in managing anger before something worse breaks out. Here is wise advice: A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms a quarrel (Prov. 15:18, NIV). What succeeds in ending an argument more quickly than silence? Quietness is the remedy that pacifies the heat of human anger. Jealousy is a negative attitude to us, but the term accurately translates qin’ah [kin-AH], one aspect of love described in this proverb: Anger is cruel and fury overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy? (Prov. 27:4, NIV).
  • 14. John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Spring, 2014; Southern Baptist Advanced Bible Study and Southern Baptist Biblical Illustrator, selected articles; and Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study, except where noted. Page 14 Here is the possessive side of love. It does one step beyond even the destructive floodwaters of danger. While rage cannot be sustained for a prolonged period of time, jealousy is able to “reckon calmly.”3 It lasts and lasts. We can hear it in the voice of the lover (Song of Sol. 8:6), identify it in the envy of Joseph’s brothers (Gen. 37:11), and we may be even a bit shocked to learn that the Lord God is jealous of our affections as the Ten Commandments are given to Moses (Ex. 20:5). Zeal, envy, and jealousy may become dangerous, but each one is an expression of love. When Shechem desired Dinah 9Gen. 34:8), he expressed our world’s most common view of love. Chashaq [khah-SHACK] means “to cling to or to join.” Our hymn “Blest Be the Tie That Binds” is based on this idea. No wonder the Old Testament applies this “bonding” image to God’s covenant faithfulness and love for Israel (Deut. 7:7; 10:15)! God has acted in love, demonstrating His care. We respond to God in the same way (Ps. 91:14). Having compassion and showing mercy is further extended by the term chamal [khad-MAL], which means “to spare, commiserate, or pity.” Merciful conquerors had this capacity, but it was regarded as dangerous in the wrong context (Deut. 13:8). Pharaoh’s daughter felt and acted out this empathy when the baby Moses was discovered (Ex. 2:6). In the scathing prophecy of Malachi, God’s best word was this one, a word of pity (Mal. 3:17). A righteous man cares for the needs of his animal, but he kindest acts of the wicked are cruel (Prov. 12:10, NIV). For the Hebrew people a person’s kind actions (or the lack of them) gave away the condition of the heart. Racham [rah-KAM] connotes kindness and compassion. Its root meanings include ideas of favor, mercy, and softness. Used for nurture and tenderness, the word even refers to the womb.4 The Lord is said to be full of this kindness (Ps. 103:8; 119:77). The Hebrew language contained a wealth of highly descriptive terms for love during Old Testament times. We shall do well, indeed, if we learn to practice love as these ancient Scriptures teach it—an attitude shown by action.