Saturday Word Study: Seek and Study
“Great are the works of Yahweh; they are studied by all who delight in them.”
Historically, the reason for science was that people loved and were in awe of God and thus sought to understand his character better by studying his creation. Just as people spend vast amounts of time studying the writings of Shakespeare to learn about the man behind the literature and people devote a lifetime to studying the artwork of da Vinci to learn how he painted, so too, scientists for generations have been drawn closer to their God as they study his works. Yet, the works of God are not limited to the created order. They include his eternal decrees, his design of salvation for his elect, his creation of a spiritual realm as well as a physical, and his sovereign ordering of all things to bring about his eternal will. These too, if we delight in them — if we truly delight in them — ought to be studied and investigated.
The Hebrew word in this passage, which we translate here as “study” is the word, דרשׁ (darash), which is translated as ἐκζητέω (ekzeteo) in the LXX, means to seek something out earnestly, in this case, with the aim of understanding them. The focus of this particular word study is not so much an exhaustive reflection of how this word is used (as this is a fairly common Hebrew word); our goal is to explore some of the things that the people of God ought to pursue (or study) as we grow in our knowledge and understanding of God.
Remember, God is omniscient, and while we are not (and will never be), our pursuit of knowledge is, in a sense, a pursuit of the likeness of God. Studying that which God would have us study is part of our sanctification.
Genesis 25:22 “The sons struggled in her midst and she said, ‘What is this happening to me? I will go to study of Yahweh.’” Usually our Bibles translate this as “seek” or “inquire.” In context, Rebekah is seeking to learn what is the nature of the twins struggling within her womb. Her goal, is to learn of God’s plan for these children and for her. Or more accurately, she is seeking to learn of the redemptive plan of God.
Exodus 18:15 “And Moses said to his father-in-law, ‘For the people come to me to study God.’” I expect that this is a passage that all know well. Moses has been judging the cases of the people and Jethro, his father-in-law, suggests raising up Elders to handle smaller cases — essentially a series of judiciaries, much like is had with the different courts in America and, if you are Reformed in your church government, it will be found there as well. In the end, though, what is it that people wish to know? They want to know God’s will in a given situation — that which is good and acceptable and perfect, as the Apostle Paul would word it in Romans 12:2. Shall we not study this as well within the Scriptures?
Deuteronomy 4:29 “And you shall seek from there Yahweh your God and you will find him if you study with all of your heart and all of your soul.” When you insert the translation, “study” into this passage instead of “seek,” it adds a new spin to how this verse is often applied. While “seeking” can be a rather subjective term, studying gives us a clearer picture of how to go about seeking God. Where do we find the wisdom of God but in the Word of God. And, it ought to be noted that Moses is not talking about a casual study of God here, no, we find the command to study God with all of our heart and all of our soul…essentially, with all we are. Just as the Shema commands us to love God with all of our heart and soul, here we are instructed to study him with the same. Interestingly enough, verse 30 teaches us the end result of seeking out or studying the Lord — obedience on our part. One then may infer that if one’s life is not growing in obedience to God, then one is not seeking him out — one is not studying him where he can be found: the Scriptures.
Deuteronomy 12:5 “For to the place where Yahweh your God chooses from all of your tribes, to put his name there, to dwell, you shall study and go there.” I left the word structure there closer to the Hebrew than is often translated so that the emphasis is placed where it ought to be placed…namely on the place that God chooses for his worship. The simple application ought to be obvious — worship God where he chooses to be worshiped. The inference? Worship God in the way that He desires to be worshipped. One of the great sins of the modern church today is that of human innovation. Arguably, the innovation leads into darkness (as is testified to by our culture). No, if we are to worship God, we are to worship him as he commands. In terms of our study, the inference is clear as well. We should seek to study him (and then teach him) as he presents himself in the scriptures, not in ways that are preferable to us. Too often the God that is presented is a god of human invention and not the God of the Bible.
Deuteronomy 12:30 “Guard yourself, lest you be ensnared to follow them, after they have been destroyed before you. Lest you study their gods saying, ‘How did the nations serve these gods and I will do thus also.’” Indeed, this is the negative corollary to verse 5 above. Do not innovate in worship and study God as he presents himself with the aim of obedience.
Isaiah 1:17 “Learn to do good, study justice, correct oppression; judge the fatherless and contend for the widow.” The philosopher, Socrates, became famous for asking people to define words like justice. The problem was that people could give examples of that which is just but not an absolute definition of the term. That is largely because they sought justice within themselves or from their governments. As Christians, we understand that justice is of God and thus if we are to do those things that are good and if we are to correct the oppression that comes from the wicked, we must know what God’s justice demands — that comes from studying justice as God lays it down in his commandments and in his perfect law — even from understanding the character of what is just by the study of the character of the one who is just — namely God himself.
Isaiah 34:16 “Study from the book of Yahweh and read it. One from them will not be missing; no one will be without her mate. For his mouth has commanded and his Spirit has gathered them.” Taken out of context, this passage is one to celebrate for any studious soul. Yet, in context, it is sobering. Isaiah 34 speaks of God reckoning judgment against creation, setting up a plumb line to separate the sheep from the goats. In context, then, how is that plumb line measured? It is measured by God’s word and not one little command will be neglected when it comes to establishing judgment. There are no “little sins” or “minor infractions” that are overlooked by God — He is a righteous ruler and we must study His law to prepare for such a time.
Isaiah 55:6 “Study Yahweh where he can be found; call to him where he is near.” Isn’t it interesting the change to our common understanding of this verse when you switch the “while” to “where.” In Hebrew, the prepositional prefix is בְ (be), which typically translates as “in, at, or with,” hence my choice to shift the wording from being temporal to locative in nature. Where can God be found? The answer is that he can be found in the scriptures and we ought to study him there. What is the end result of seeking the Lord where he can be found? Once again, if we look at the context of the passage, it is repentance of sin, obedience of life, and redemption.
Isaiah 58:2 “And me, daily, you shall study. And in the knowledge of my ways you shall delight. Just as a nation which is does righteousness and the judgment of their God they did not forsake, they ask of me my righteous judgments, they delight to draw near to God.” Books can and should be written on this chapter of Isaiah alone. Here we have an introduction to the kind of fast that God desires from his people and the way the people are to act justly and obey the Sabbath as God instituted it. Yet, these words of introduction stand equally convicting. What does a righteous nation do? They seek God daily, they seek to understand God’s just judgments, and they delight to draw near to Him in holiness. Oh my, how far our nation is from this standard. But what if we apply this to the church rather than the nation? Oh, once again, what a mess the church is in. Finally, while this is really a corporate statement, bodies of people are made up of individual people. So, indeed, there is a principle that we ought to study God daily and take delight in the knowledge of His ways. What a wonderful and powerful instruction that is for the believer.
Jeremiah 10:21 “For the shepherds are stupid and Yahweh they do not study. Thus, they have not prospered and all their flock is dispersed.” What is the result of church leaders who do not study God? They become stupid. Enough said.
Jeremiah 29:13 “You will seek me and you will find, for you shall study me with all of your heart.” We have seen this theme thus far, but in context, this is part of God’s promise to a people who are rebelling against him. He will be found when he is sought properly…that is, in God’s word.
Ezekiel 14:3 “Son of man, these men have gone up to their idols in their heart and the stumbling block of iniquity they have set in front of their faces. Shall I surely be studied by them?” Again, we have a negative corollary to what we have already seen. If we are pursuing idols, God will not permit us to truly study him. Ezekiel 20:3 sees this same thing played out in history.
Amos 5:6 “Study Yahweh and live; lest a fire rush in the house of Joseph and consume it with nothing to quench it in the house of Bethel.” This is paired with Amos 5:14 “Study good and not evil in order to live. And being thus, Yahweh, the God of hosts, shall be with you as you have said.” This ties in with Paul’s instructions to be wise in what is good and innocent to evil (Romans 16:19).
Psalm 22:26 (verse 27 in Hebrew) “The meek shall eat and be satisfied; those who study him will praise Yahweh. Your hearts shall live forever.” What is the result of studying God? Praise and eternal life. Is there any greater incentive?
Lamentations 3:25 “Yahweh is good to he who waits on him, to the soul who studies him.” In the midst of great distress, what is the proper response? To study the things of God.
The psalms, especially, contain a great deal of references using the language of seeking or studying God, though largely, we have covered them in these other verses. How important it is for those who are believers to seek out and study the things of God that we may be faithful to Him and worship him properly.