Read Psalm 103:13
One of the most misunderstood words in the Bible is the word fear. Anyone who has studied the ancient languages of Hebrew and Greek realize that English translations of words from these two are challenging at best. Hebrew words require can understanding of the culture from which they derive. While it may be argued that this fact is true in regard to any language, it seems even more so when it comes to Hebrew because Hebrew words are emotive and convey different understandings based on the emotion being expressed at the time. It can be said that few English words accurately express what is actually being said in Hebrew. Culture and context must be considered when choosing an English equivalent but even then the true meaning is seldom captured.
This brings us back to our dilemma with the word fear. Often when this word is heard in English, the hearer understands it to mean an emotion which arises because someone or something is dangerous and may cause harm. Clearly this is the intent when we encounter this English word translated from some of the Greek on Hebrew passages. However, there exist times when this would be a misunderstanding of the original ancient word. The verse from Psalm 103 is one of many places in Scripture where this confusion can easily be demonstrated. This verse speaks of God’s compassion. Compassion usually is not associated with an emotion arising from a perceived danger. God does not show compassion on those who are concerned about God being harmful toward them. So how are we to understand this word?
In this instance we have to look at the original Hebrew word. When we do so, we must realize that in their culture God is seen as extremely powerful and deserving of great reverence. The God which has given so much to and done so much for the Israelites is one who is deserving of all devotion, love and praise. Coming from this viewpoint, the Hebrew word here is better understood as worshiping or revering. This is not totally foreign to the English word fear, Webster lists as one definition of the word, “Extreme reverence or awe.”
The proper message being conveyed by the psalmist is that we experience great compassion from the God we have revered and stood in awe before.
1 I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever;Psalm 89:1-2 (NIV)
with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known
through all generations.
2 I will declare that your love stands firm forever,
that you have established your faithfulness in heaven itself.
Love is one of the words in the English language which is used often and can mean a variety of things. The context in which the word is used gives some assistance in understanding what is being communicated. The ancient Greeks had six words they used to communicate concepts which we place under the label of love. Today we will focus on a long standing love, or pragma.
Reading the psalm for today, I was drawn particularly to the first two verses. These verses caused me to consider how I understand the Lord’s love and faithfulness. Human love can be fleeting but the psalmist states that the Lord’s love is forever. How can we begin to understand a love which lasts forever?
Another word which stands out in the psalmist’s writing is “great.” Not only does the Lord’s love endure forever but it is great. This can be understood as meaning it has tremendous depth and expansiveness. The image of an ocean comes to mind.
The psalmist writes that the Lord’s love stands firm. Here we come to know the Lord’s love as being solid and unmovable. God is not going to stop loving us because of anything we do or fail to do. This love does not end because of a change in desire or a competing emotion. We can fully rely upon the Lord’s love. We can have confidence in the existence of this love.
The Lord loves you in your good times and your bad times. This is an enduring love which nothing in life can remove. A foundation for your life is established in the love which the Lord has for you. God’s love is forever.
Yesterday, my home state was devastated by a storm which they are now calling a derecho. I had no idea that there was even a storm classification such as this one but my understanding is that it is like an inland hurricane. Wind gusts in the city from which we moved were 100 mph or higher. The pictures which people are posting of the damage is amazing. I am used to tornadoes having lived a large portion of my life in Iowa and the damage seems to me to be as bad as a tornado. Many people continue to be without power and limited cellular service. The power of wind is truly amazing.
Even before yesterday’s storm and the impact it has had on my friends and family, I had thought about writing a post on the wind and the Holy Spirit. Yesterday’s news seemed to make such a post even more relevant. There are many characteristics which wind and the Spirit share. It is little wonder that in both the Hebrew and Greek texts of the Bible the word used for Spirit is the same word used for wind or breath.
In the story of the creation found in Genesis. The second verse in the first chapter states that, “the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” The Hebrew word here translated as Spirit of God is ruha which is the same Hebrew word for wind, breath, and life. In the story of Pentecost found in Acts 2, it states in the fourth verse, “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit.” The word translated here as Spirit is pneuma the original Greek. Again, this Greek word can also mean wind or breath. Clearly, both the Hebrews and the Greeks saw the Holy Spirit as having the characteristics of the wind.
Our experience with the Spirit can be as varied as our experience with the wind. Currently in Texas, we are in our hot period of the year. We typically are very dry in August and our temperatures quickly reach the high 90s and low 100s. Wind is a positive when it arrives on days such as these. We cherish the movement of the air which provides relief from the relentless heat. We see the wind as a blessing and our experience with it is very positive. The Spirit can be the same way in our lives. We can find refreshment and relief from the heat of life through the Spirit.
Sometimes the wind is just a quiet breeze which provides movement of the trees creating a beauty for us to enjoy. Other times the wind can be violent and life changing as the people of Iowa and other Midwestern states have experienced this week. The Spirit is the same. At times in our lives we experience the Spirit to be gentle and our eyes are opened to the beauty which surrounds us. Another time in our life the Spirit can be overpowering, almost violent, and bring about a radical change in our lives.
I am sure you can find other examples of how the wind and the Holy Spirit share characteristics. I encourage you to think about those experiences in your life which you have had with both. Like humanity has attempted to do with the wind in harnessing its power to generate energy, I challenge you to harness the power of the Spirit in your life to generate life itself.
Please keep all those affected by the wind in Iowa and other states in your prayers this week. May this life changing experience offer opportunities of new life and growth. May your experience of the Spirit also create life changing results.