Category Archives: Word Studies

Saturday Word Study: To Teach Systematically

Teaching in the Church: κατηχέω

It is never good to jump to conclusions, but after last weeks beginning word study on how the New Testament uses the idea of preaching, I think that it is fair to show my hand. In short, I think that the Scriptures tend to apply preaching more in the context of evangelizing the lost while teaching is reserved largely for the church. Don’t get too excited, we still have more words to explore in the Bible before any serious conclusions are drawn, but if my premise is correct, it shapes how the sermon ought to be structured depending on your context — for example, the difference between the street preaching I did at the homeless shelter in Jackson, MS and how I approach a congregation of confessing believers. It is something to think about at least.

Rather than start with διδάσκω (didasko), which is the ordinary Greek word for teaching, I thought it appropriate to begin with κατηχέω (catecheo), which is the word from which we get the modern word, “catechism.” Literally it means “to teach or instruct” but it also implies that instruction is given in a systematic manner. It is also found 7 times in the New Testament.

Luke 1:4 — Luke’s purpose in writing: “so that you may have certainty in the things you have systematically been taught.”

Acts 18:25 — Paul speaking about Apollos and how he had been “systematically instructed” in the way of the Lord.

Acts 21:21 — The accusation against Paul that he is “systematically instructing” the Jews to put aside their customs.

Romans 2:18 — Paul is focusing his accusation against the Jew who insists on teaching others but will not apply the Law of God to himself. Yet, here, an idea should be noted, as Paul connects the idea of systematically teaching the Law with knowing the will of God, an idea he will return to in Romans 12:2. It is just one more reminder that the Law should be systematically taught in the church, and as John writes, “lawlessness is sin” (1 John 3:4).

1 Corinthians 14:19 — Paul’s famous statement that in church he would rather speak five words with his mind than 10,000 in a tongue. Not only is this a devastating blow to pentecostalism, which glorifies what they call “tongues,” but it clearly teaches us that in the context of the church life, systematic teaching is essential.

Galatians 6:6 — Here is one of the spots in Scripture where we are reminded that those who are systematically taught the Word of God should bless those who teach then by sharing their resources (this verse uses κατηχέω twice). This is more clearly articulated in 1 Corinthians 9:13-14.

An Inference: To be able to “systematically instruct” means you need to have a body of information to teach — arguably, a body of information that is consistent with Scripture and approved by the church. We see this developing in Acts 15 and in 1 Timothy 3:16. Nevertheless, I would also hasten to add that it is upon this principle that Church Councils were formed and Canons were written to address issues in the church. It is also the principle from which Creeds and Confessions are drawn.

Saturday Word Study: Preaching

In the New Testament, there are primarily two words that are typically translated as “preach.”

The first of those terms is εὐαγγελίζω (euangelidzo), which means to evangelize or to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. The emphasis here is very clearly on that of pointing lost souls to Jesus Christ and to call them to faith and repentance.

The second of these terms is the word κηρύσσω (kerusso). Similar to εὐαγγελίζω (euangelidzo), this term means to declare or to proclaim aloud some information, though the terminology is a little more general and does not necessitate that the Gospel is being declared. For instance, that is the language used by the Apostles in Acts 15:21, when speaking about people in every city “proclaiming” or “preaching” Moses.

There is a great deal of debate as to what the goal of preaching ought to be. On one side, there are those who say that the sermon ought to be evangelistic in nature. In this worldview, evangelism is primarily a practice of inviting people to attend church with you so they hear the Gospel and come to faith in Jesus Christ. For indeed, how are they to believe of those they have never heard and how are they to hear without someone preaching? (Romans 10:14-17) — κηρύσσω (kerusso).

On the other side of the debate, there are others who believe that the purpose of the sermon is to be a matter of discipleship — namely, that of teaching believers to obey everything that Jesus has taught them to do (Matthew 28:18-20). In the great commission, the word for “preaching” never even shows up. Jesus does not say that we are to preach to the nations, but to disciple them unto obedience. In this worldview, evangelism is the work of the church during the rest of the week — sharing the Gospel with those they meet along the way. In turn, the role of the gathered church is discipleship — a place where learning and growing in faith takes place.

In the first model, preaching tends to “lower the bar” so as to reach everyone in the room, believer and unbeliever. In the second model, preaching tends to aim at “raising the bar” for all who are present because those present now have a commitment to Christ. True, there will be varying degrees of commitment reflected in the church body, but there is at least a basic assumption that those who are present desire to learn and grow from where they happen to be.

The question, then, has to do with how the New Testament uses this terminology, particularly in those areas that are descriptive and do not just presume we, the reader, understand of what is being spoken. In my seminary years, I had a dear friend who used to remind me that “preacher” is never spoken of as an office in the church nor is it one of God’s gifts to the church — “shepherds and teachers” are, though. 

Because the term εὐαγγελίζω (euangelidzo) is primarily used in the context of evangelism — declaring the Gospel, it seems to make more sense to focus on the term, κηρύσσω (kerusso). Also, we will not be looking at all of the uses of this term in the Greek New Testament, but will instead simply focus on those places where definition is given to the purpose or content of the preaching.

Matthew 3:1 and 4:17 — here we find both John the Baptist and Jesus spoken of as preaching. In both cases, the message is also the same: “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” Clearly, in both cases, the message is evangelistic in nature and the message is spoken out of doors — or at least apart from the traditional synagogue setting. 

Matthew 4:23 is a key verse to wed to the previous ones, for in this case, wed to preaching is the idea of teaching (διδάσκω — didasko — which is the root word from which “disciple” is formed in the Greek). Here, we see Jesus spoken as teaching and preaching in the synagogues. Still, the message of the Kingdom is being proclaimed, but there is a teaching/discipleship element that is present.

Matthew 24:14 — “The Gospel of the Kingdom will be proclaimed in the whole world…” This seems to tie in nicely with the Great Commission, especially when we realize if there is a kingdom, there are laws and commandments that go along with the kingdom and which will be impressed on those who are members of it. Thus one should recognize that even though the word, “teach,” is not included in the text, it is implied.

Mark 1:4 — What was the content of John’s preaching? “a baptism of repentance and the forgiveness of sins.” Herein is the first part of discipleship as is stated in the Great Commission.

Mark 1:45 — While some translations say he was talking about what Jesus had done, the Greek term is κηρύσσω. Thus, the Leper is preaching as he shares the good news of Christ.

Mark 5:20 — We find the former Gerasene demoniac going about and preaching through Decapolis. When we compare this with the parallel in Luke 8:39, we see Jesus commanding the man to go and tell but instead, he goes and preaches.

Mark 13:10 — Before the return of Christ, the Gospel will be preached to the ends of the earth.

Luke 24:47 — Repentance and the forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ name will be preached to the whole world, starting with Jerusalem.

Acts 8:5 — Philip preaching in Samaria.

Acts 9:20 — Saul/Paul preaching in the synagogues that Jesus was the Son of God. Here we see both the evangelistic side and the teaching side as Paul’s approach is often described as him “reasoning with” the Jews that Jesus is the Christ (e.g. Acts 17:2,17; 18:4,19).

Acts 10:42 — Peter speaks of Jesus’ command to preach to all of the people and to solemnly declare that Jesus is the judge over the living and the dead.

Romans 2:21 — here we have a context where preaching is used in the context of discipleship, for preaching and teaching are found in parallel.

1 Corinthians 1:23 — Paul preaches Christ crucified. This is immediately pointed toward evangelism, though with ramifications that extend into discipleship. For, if Christ is crucified, how now must we live?

1 Corinthians 9:27 — Paul disciplines himself so that by his actions (discipleship) he does not undermine his preaching.

1 Corinthians 15:12 — Christ is preached as raised from the dead.

1 Timothy 3:16 — This is one of the earliest Christian creeds, one that speaks of Jesus being preached in all the nations.

2 Timothy 4:2 — Perhaps this is the most important passage when it comes to defining what preaching is: reprove, rebuke, exhort with patience and teaching. While this does not rule out evangelism, it does carry with it a notion that teaching is an important part, for how can you reprove, rebuke, and exhort if you do not first teach others what God expects of us first?

The next part of this word study needs to address the role of teaching in the church and how the two fit together. We’ll leave that for next week. What we can say with certainty is that preaching is evangelistic in nature, though that evangelism seems to largely take place outside of the boundaries of the organized church. It should also be noted, as we have seen here, that teaching and preaching are not mutually exclusive ideas.

Next…teaching in the context of the church…

Saturday Word Study: Σοφια in the LXX Proverbs

The book of Proverbs is known for its integral place amongst the wisdom literature of the Old Testament. In the church, much is often spoken of as either “wise” or “foolish,” but often people use the terminology without thinking it through closely. Our aim today, is to look at sophia and her various derivatives as they are found in the Greek translation of the book of proverbs with the aim of putting some definition to the bones of how we think of wisdom. I’ve chosen to explore σοφια in the LXX rather than חכמה in the Masoretic Text, partly out or curiosity and partly because many of us in the west have more of a Greek understanding of wisdom than we do a Hebraic understanding. Hence, we begin in the Septuagint and will look to the MT at another time.

Proverbs begins with a glorious introduction in the first seven verses that sets the tone for the book as a whole. The book’s goal, as found in these verses is to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth, increase in learning to the wise, and guidance to the ones with understanding.

In these verses, we have six uses of the term, verse 2 speaks about wisdom as something this book is aiming to teach, verse 5 speaks of these proverbs as that which will make a wise man wiser (2 uses). Verse 6 speaks of the sayings of the wise which are contained in the book of Proverbs. And verse 7 speaks of the nature of wisdom. Up until verse 7, we have a largely introductory use of the term and not that which is helpful in advancing our basic cultural knowledge of what wisdom is or of what wisdom does for those who have it.

Verse 7 changes that. Here we have two very clear statements about the nature of wisdom. First, wisdom begins with the fear of the Lord. If wisdom is the opposite of folly and folly, as David states, is believing that there is no God (Psalm 14:1), then you would assume that to have wisdom one must have a healthy fear and reverence before the God of heaven. If I might editorialize for a moment, given that there is so little reverence before God in the western church, I would thus propose, based on Solomon’s words here, that there is very little wisdom in the churches at large. 

In verse 7, there is a second use of the term, in this case, with the negative aspect of what was spoken of at the start. Those who are ungodly, will set wisdom to the side and will not listen to instruction. Again, discerning the presence of wisdom is easy, based on these words. When the Scriptures are laid forth, how shall people respond? The wise will revere the Word of God and seek to put it into practice; the wicked will ignore the word of God and continue thinking and living as they choose.

It should be noted that wisdom is often personified in the book of Proverbs. In one sense, she is the one crying out in the streets for those who will listen. In another sense, she is the one to whom we are to flee. These uses are interesting, though not overly useful to us as we seek to better define wisdom in a more abstract sense, so we will highlight them on occasion but will not dwell upon them.

Wisdom described as one who is calling for those to listen: 1:20; 2:2; 8:12

Wisdom as one to whom we are to flee: 2:3; 7:4; 9:1; 

Wisdom as the words of a loving father: 4:11; 5:1; 19:20; 23:19; 

Proverbs 1:29 — There is an interesting contrast here between the MT and the LXX:

MT: “Instead, they hated knowledge and the fear of Yahweh they did not choose.”

LXX: “For they hated wisdom and did not choose the fear of the Lord.”

Notice that knowledge and wisdom are used almost interchangeably in this translation. Hebrew tends to distinguish between the two: knowledge being a base of information and wisdom being the ability to use that information and to apply it in Godly ways. The Greeks don’t seem to make that distinction and thus, as in 1:7, σοφια is used in the place of knowledge. In the context of this passage, those who refuse to wisdom as she speaks not only demonstrate their hatred for her but will find them under the wrath of God. This is reminiscent of Paul’s language in 2 Thessalonians 2:10.

Proverbs 2:6 — The Lord gives wisdom as well as knowledge and understanding. If you reject God then you are the fool.

Proverbs 2:10 — If you follow the path of wisdom then you will be given both discernment and understanding. This naturally follows from 2:6 but also is reminiscent of Paul’s language in Romans 12:2.

Proverbs 3:5 — the Godly man who trusts in God leans on God’s wisdom and not human wisdom.

Proverbs 3:13 — those who learn wisdom will be blessed

Proverbs 3:19 — God created the earth by his eternal wisdom (this connects wisdom not only with God the Father but with God the Son (John 1:3).

Proverbs 3:35 — the wise will inherit glory

Proverbs 6:6,8 — the wise is like the ant who diligently labors for his needs (in contrast to the lazy sluggard)

Proverbs 8:1 — those who proclaim wisdom will grow in both understanding and obedience

Proverbs 8:11 — wisdom is more valuable than earthly wealth

Proverbs 9:8 — a wise man accepts rebuke

Proverbs 9:9 — a wise man accepts instruction

Proverbs 9:10 is another passage that is worth contrasting the MT with the LXX

MT: “The beginning of wisdom is the fear of Yahweh; the knowledge of the holy ones is understanding.”  (Note: Some English translations render קדשטם as “The Holy One”, “the holy,” or as “holy things.” My translation reflects that of Young’s Literal Translation and the LXX).

LXX: “The beginning of wisdom if the fear of the Lord; and the counsel of the holy ones is understanding. For the knowledge of the Law is a good mind.” (Note: while I recognize that the final clause is not inspired writ but is a translator’s edit, it should be understood that the edit is not inconsistent with the scriptural teaching; in fact, it is quite consistent. For the one who fears the Lord will most certainly be diligent in seeking to live that fear out in obedience to God’s commands).

The interesting thing to note is how the LXX brings out the importance of the counsel of mature Christians in the church. When we find ourselves with matters that we don’t understand or in which we need clarity, the church leaders ought to be the first to whom we appeal for wisdom.

Proverbs 9:12 — the wise person’s wisdom benefits their neighbors. Once again we have a passage where the LXX translator has added embellishment, though it does not advance our discussion here.

Proverbs 10:1 — a wise son makes his father glad

Proverbs 10:4 — the wise son accepts instruction and will master the fool

Proverbs 10:8 — the wise accepts commandments

Proverbs 10:13 — the wise smite their enemies with their words

Proverbs 10:14 — the wise will hide their judgment (MT reads knowledge here). In other words, a wise person is discrete.

Proverbs 10:23 — a wise person is prudent

Proverbs 10:31 — wisdom is the product of the mouth of the righteous. 

Proverbs 11:2 — the humble meditates on wisdom

Proverbs 12:15 — a wise man seeks out the counsel of the wise

Proverbs 12:18 — while the words of the wicked harm others, the words of the wise bring healing

Proverbs 13:10 — those who judge themselves are wise

Proverbs 13:13 — taken from a scribal addition, the wise person shall be directed righteously by wisdom and understanding

Proverbs 13:14 — the wise find a fountain of life in the Law of God

Proverbs 13:20 — if you walk with the wise you will become wise. As C.S. Lewis used to summarize this: “The next best thing to being wise yourself is to surround yourself with those who are wise.”

Proverbs 14:1 — a wise woman builds up her house

Proverbs 14:3 — wisdom preserves a person from discipline

Proverbs 14:6 — wisdom is not found with the wicked

Proverbs 14:7 — the wise are discrete

Proverbs 14:8 — wisdom and prudence should guide your path

Proverbs 14:16 — the wise depart from evil

Proverbs 14:24 — the wise person treasures a prudent person

Proverbs 14:33 — The LXX speaks of wisdom as in the “good heart” of man…the MT speaks of wisdom laying in the heart of the understanding.

Proverbs 15:2 — the wise knows what is good

Proverbs 15:7 — the lips of the wise are discrete

Proverbs 15:12 — the uninstructed person will not be drawn to the wise

Proverbs 15:20 — a wise son gladdens his father

Proverbs 15:33 — The fear of the Lord is wisdom

Proverbs 16:14 — a wise man pacifies an angry king

Proverbs 16:16 — the brood of wisdom is more valuable than gold

Proverbs 16:17 — again, a translators addition, the wise accepts reproof

Proverbs 16:21, again, we should compare the MT with the LXX

MT: “To the wise heart it is called understanding; sweetness of lip increases instruction.”

LXX: “The wise and intelligent is called evil; but the sweetness of word improves hearing.”

Both are communicating the same idea, though in different ways. To simplify, wisdom is sometimes hard to listen to but when spoken with sweet words, it is often heard.

Proverbs 16:23 — the ways of the wise are discerning

Proverbs 17:16 — wisdom is not for sale to the fool

Proverbs 17:24 — the attitude of a wise person is intelligent

Proverbs 17:28 — if the fool is quiet and listens he will be presumed wise

Proverbs 18:2 — the one who lacks understanding will not see the value of wisdom

Proverbs 18:15 — the heart of the prudent purchases wisdom

Proverbs 20:1 — the wise is not a drunkard, brawler, or engaged in illicit sexuality

Proverbs 20:26 — a wise king crushes the ungodly

Proverbs 20:29 — wisdom is the world to young men and grey hairs to old

Proverbs 21:11 — the simple become wiser when the wicked are punished

Proverbs 21:20 — the words of the wise is a desirable treasure

Proverbs 21:22 — the wise demolish fortresses that threaten (think of Paul’s language in 2 Corinthians 10:4-6)

Proverbs 21:30 — Wisdom and counsel do not dwell in the presence of the ungodly

Proverbs 22:4 — the fear of the Lord is the offspring of wisdom

Proverbs 22:17 — the words of wise men should be listened to

Proverbs 23:15 — the wise son gladdens his father’s heart

Proverbs 23:24 — a wise father raises his children well

Proverbs 24:3 — wisdom and understanding go hand in hand

Proverbs 24:5 — wisdom is better than physical strength

Proverbs 24:7 — wisdom and understanding belong to the wise person

Proverbs 24:14 — if you seek wisdom, your end will be good

Proverbs 25:12 — obedience is a jewel in the ear of the wise

Proverbs 26:5 — if you do not correct a fool, he will think himself wise

Proverbs 26:12 — the fool thinks himself wise but isn’t

Proverbs 26:16 — the sluggard thinks himself wise but isn’t

Proverbs 27:11 — in wisdom one’s heart may rejoice

Proverbs 28:11 — the conceited rich man thinks himself wise but isn’t

Proverbs 28:26 — there is safety in walking in wisdom

Proverbs 29:3 — the father rejoices when his son loves wisdom

Proverbs 29:8 — wise men will spare a city destruction

Proverbs 29:9 — the wise shall judge the nations (think of Paul’s language in 1 Corinthians 6:2)

Proverbs 29:11 — the fool tells everything; the wise is discrete

Proverbs 29:15 — discipline gives wisdom

Proverbs 30:3 — God teaches wisdom

Proverbs 30:24 — ants, rock badgers, locusts, and lizards, from which we can learn

Proverbs 31:5 — strong wine robs you of wisdom

Proverbs 31:28 — the tongue of a woman of character discloses wisdom

Saturday Word Study: Seek and Study

“Great are the works of Yahweh; they are studied by all who delight in them.”

(Psalm 111:2)

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.

Saturday Wordstudy: What or Who Does God Hate?

A point of perpetual debate in the modern church really addresses the core of how people evangelize. Can I say, “God loves you,” to a group of people that I don’t know? Certainly, an approach like that is a staple of contemporary evangelistic techniques. You know, the John 3:16 approach. But if you believe in the doctrine of election, which the Bible so clearly teaches, and you believe that God chose some to call to himself and others to leave as reprobate, can you genuinely say, “God loves you” when someone in the listening body may just be someone who is eternally under God’s wrath?

So, before we get into a debate over this or that, let us just spend some time taking a survey of what the Scriptures actually say about God and his hatred. Does it just refer to sins? Or, does God’s hatred refer to people as well? We will let God speak for himself. Citations below are from the ESV; end notes are my own observations.

Leviticus 20:23: “And you shall not walk in the customs of the nation that I am driving out before you, for they did all these things, and therefore I detested them.”

Deuteronomy 7:25: “The carved images of their gods you shall burn with fire. You shall not covet the silver or the gold that is on them or take it for yourselves, lest you be ensnared by it, for it is an abomination to the LORD your God.”[1]

Deuteronomy 12:31: “You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way, for every abominable thing that the LORD hates they have done for their gods, for they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods.”

Deuteronomy 16:22: “And you shall not set up a pillar, which the LORD your God hates.”

Deuteronomy 17:1: “You shall not sacrifice to the LORD your God an ox or a sheep in which is a blemish, any defect whatever, for that is an abomination to the LORD your God.”

Deuteronomy 18:12: “for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD. And because of these abominations the LORD your God is driving them out before you.”[2]

Deuteronomy 22:5: “A woman shall not wear a man’s garment, nor shall a man put on a woman’s cloak, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD your God.”

Deuteronomy 23:18: “You shall not bring the fee of a prostitute or the wages of a dog into the house of the LORD your God in payment for any vow, for both of these are an abomination to the LORD your God.”[3]

Deuteronomy 24:4: “then her former husband, who sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after she has been defiled, for that is an abomination before the LORD. And you shall not bring sin upon the land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance.”

Deuteronomy 25:16: “For all who do such things, all who act dishonestly, are an abomination to the LORD your God.”[4]

Psalm 5:5-6: “The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers. You destroy those who speak lies; the LORD abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.”[5]

Psalm 11:5: “The LORD tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.”[6]

Proverbs 3:32: “or the devious person is an abomination to the LORD, but the upright are in his confidence.”[7]

Proverbs 6:16-19: “There are six things that the LORD hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.”[8]

Proverbs 11:1: “A false balance is an abomination to the LORD, but a just weight is his delight.”

Proverbs 11:20: “Those of crooked heart are an abomination to the LORD, but those of blameless ways are his delight.”[9]

Proverbs 15:8-9: “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD, but the prayer of the upright is acceptable to him. The way of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD, but he loves him who pursues righteousness.”

Proverbs 16:5: “Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the LORD; be assured, he will not go unpunished.”[10]

Proverbs 17:15: “He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the LORD.”[11]

Isaiah 61:8: “For I the LORD love justice; I hate robbery and wrong; I will faithfully give them their recompense, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.”[12]

Isaiah 66:17: “Those who sanctify and purify themselves to go into the gardens, following one in the midst, eating pig’s flesh and the abomination and mice, shall come to an end together, declares the LORD.”

Jeremiah 12:8: “My heritage has become to me like a lion in the forest; she has lifted up her voice against me; therefore I hate her.”[13]

Hosea 9:15: “Every evil of theirs is in Gilgal; there I began to hate them. Because of the wickedness of their deeds I will drive them out of my house. I will love them no more; all their princes are rebels.”[14]

Amos 5:21: “I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.”[15]

Amos 6:8: “The Lord GOD has sworn by himself, declares the LORD, the God of hosts: ‘I abhor the pride of Jacob and hate his strongholds, and I will deliver up the city and all that is in it.”[16]

Zechariah 8:16-17: “These are the things that you shall do: Speak the truth to one another; render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace; do not devise evil in your hearts against one another, and love no false oath, for all these things I hate, declares the LORD.”

Luke 16:15: “And he said to them, ‘You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.’”

Romans 9:13: “As it is written, ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.’”[17]

Hebrews 1:9: “You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.”[18]


[1] Idolatry requires those to be acting in an idolatrous way. What message does this send to so many American churches that are tolerating idolatry in worship?

[2] Note that the doer is an abomination before the Lord.

[3] There is an inference found here that God hates when pagan or immoral things are included in his worship.

[4] Note that the Bible often attributes God’s hatred to an action, her it  attributes God’s hatred to a person. Those who act dishonestly are an abomination to God. Note too, that “abomination” and “hatred” are used as synonyms in the Hebrew Bible (see Proverbs 6:16).

[5] Seeing this theme throughout these texts. God hates the evildoer and the liar as well as those who are bloodthirsty.

[6] God hates the wicked (person) and he hates the one who loves violence.

[7] Note again that this is a reference to a devious person.

[8] Note the use of hatred and abomination in parallel. This is common in Hebrew writings…to use parallel structure to emphasize a point. There are a number of anthropomorphic mentions here, but note that God hates the false witness (we have seen that above in Deuteronomy 25:16) and he hates the one who breeds discord amongst brothers — we might call that the contentious one in the church who likes to stir the pot as it were.

[9] Again, a person with a crooked heart — a schemer — is an abomination to God.

[10] The prideful and arrogant person is an abomination to God.

[11] “He who…”

[12] God makes an everlasting covenant to bring justice upon those who are robbers and who intentionally do wrong.

[13] “therefore I hate Her…” A reference to the nation of Israel which was cut off for the wild olive to be grafted on. Yet note the verses that come later speak of redemption for his people after they have been cast off for a season…this is a beautiful picture of Romans 5:6-8 being worked out.

[14] This is directed to Ephriam, a tribe of Israel that Scripturally is often used to refer to Israel (northern kingdom) as a whole. Verse 17 that follows is the devastating one…they will be cast out of the land and become wanderers. These 10 tribes were scattered by Assyria and remain scattered yet today.

[15] God hates the context where people engage in ritual not out of devotion.

[16] Note that Amos parallels hatred with abhorrence.

[17] This is the classic passage and is a citation of Malachi 1:2-3. In the case of Malachi he is comparing the descendants of Jacob (Israel) to the descendants of Esau (Edomites) — promising to build up the first and promising to destroy and pulverize the second in judgment. Paul takes this idea and says (in Romans 9) that this is an illustration of how God’s Election works. Thus the natural inference is that God loves his Elect and hates the Reprobate.

[18] This is an abbreviation of Isaiah 61:1-3 and is speaking about Christ. God is exalting him because of his hatred of wickedness.

Witness in John

In the Greek New Testament, the common word for “witness” or “testimony” is μαρτυρέω (martureo), which which we get the English word, martyr. There are variations of this word that can be used as a noun or communicate that there are more than one who is witnessing, but the root word remains the same.

The objective behind this word study begins with Jesus’ statement to Pilate that Jesus’ purpose is to “bear witness to the truth” or, depending on how you wish to translate John 18:37, “testify to the truth.” When I think about testifying regarding a matter, the first thing that comes to mind are the creeds and confessions of the church. I think of the Latin phrase, Credo, Ergo Confiteor — “I believe, therefore I confess…” So, when we find Jesus making a testimony — giving a witness as it were — before Pilate, it ought to draw our attention to his words. 

Usually, when we see this language in John 18:37, we focus on the words before it, “for this I was born, for this I came into the world.” There are a handful of things that Jesus says he came into the world to do — something extremely important to look at — but for our purposes here, I wanted to focus on the idea that Jesus is testifying to the truth…and really, on a more significant level, to the idea of testimony in John’s writings. It should be noted that the other Evangelists also used the word “testify,” but not nearly as regularly as does John. As John carries his use of this term into his Epistles, those references have been included in this study as well.

In John’s prologue, he employs this term three times: John 1:7,8,15. What is interesting about this is that all three of these references are to John the Baptist and his bearing witness to the Messiah. John is called one who bears witness to the light so that men may believe. Without a witness, faith does not emerge from the heart of men — as Paul writes in Romans 10:17, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of Christ.” Verse 15 builds doctrinally on this matter in that it introduces the preexistence of Christ. It is a reminder that for John, even in the beginning of his Gospel, the idea of witness carries with it factual content — doctrine — not just personal feelings. 

As we continue into the narrative and find John the Baptist’s ministry introduced, we find three more uses of the term in verses 19, 32, and 34. Verse 19 introduces what is the “testimony” of John. What is that testimony? He testifies that he is the voice of one crying out in the wilderness of whom Isaiah speaks (Isaiah 40:3). In verse 32 we find John’s testimony as to the anointing of Jesus as the dove descends upon him and in verse 34 we are given the definition (again a doctrinal statement) that Jesus is the Son of God.

What I want to highlight is that already we are seeing doctrinal elements showing up as part of the testimony of the believer. In this case, they are of the eternality of Jesus and of the fact that he is the Son of God. While much can be written as to the meaning and significance of these statements, I want to confine my observations here to the point that both of these ideas will become prominent in the early creeds of the church. Perhaps to present it a different way, the Creeds of the church do not teach us what to believe; they articulate for us what the True Church has always believed. 

John 2:25 is the next use of the terminology. Here we are told that Jesus does not need someone to “bear witness” or to “testify” as to the nature of man. We need to say little here other than the fact that once again, we have something of the divine attributes of Christ (omniscience) being presented, though not necessarily in the context of a creed but simply mentioned in the historical narrative.

In John 3:11, we find Jesus engaged in a dialogue with Nicodemus. Jesus’ condemnation against Nicodemus is that he and his disciples are testifying to what they have seen but that the religious establishment that Nicodemus represents does not accept it. Yet, what is this testimony that has been seen? The testimony finds itself laid out in the dialogue that goes before — and it is a condemning one. No one can believe unless the Holy Spirit gives rebirth. How have Jesus and the disciples “seen” this? It is clearly seen in the rejection of Jesus by the religious establishment.  It is a reminder to us today of just how much damage is done to the church of Jesus Christ when those who are not regenerated are permitted to hold positions of leadership or influence. In the case of Nicodemus, Jesus’ condemnation seems to have shaken him up as we see Nicodemus returning in John’s narrative later, but that time as a “secret disciple” of our Lord.

John 3:26 and 28 return us to John the Baptist and his testimony. The first verse again asserts that John has borne witness as to Jesus being the Messiah and in verse 28 we find John’s testimony that he is the forerunner.

Again, we find this language in chapter 3. In this case, verses 32 and 33. Here John the Apostle speaks of Jesus’ witness to what he has seen and heard (verse 34 helps clarify this that these things are from God the Father). Again, the Jews have denied this but God has sealed the testimony as being true. How has it been sealed? Arguably with the miracles but also with the Spirit given to the ones who believe (verse 34).

In John 4:39 we find the Samaritan woman testifying to the townspeople what she knew about Jesus. Again, this is more of a narrative description than a theological one, but it reminds us of two important principles. First, that we are all called to “witness” or to “testify.” What does that look like? It means we testify to others what we know to be true. How interesting that our Creeds do just that. Thus, how important our creeds are to the faithful witness of God’s people. And, if we ignore the historic creeds and confessions, what we tell others about Jesus is purely subjective.

John 4:44 is the very familiar proverb that a prophet has no honor in his own country, yet it stands in stark contrast to the words of the Samaritans that come just two verses earlier, that Jesus is “the Savior of the world,” again language that is fundamental to later creeds and confessions.

John 5 contains extensive use of the term testimony in the context of those people and entities that testify to Christ. We find the word found in verses 31,32,33,34,36,37, and 39. Verse 31 is Jesus’ statement that he is not alone in bearing witness to himself (an allusion back to the Old Testament model of needing two to three witnesses to substantiate major crimes), In verses 32, 33, and 34 we find references to the testimony that John the Baptist brought, remembering too that John was a priest and priests were responsible for the testimonies of God to the end that even the Tabernacle was referred to as the “Tabernacle of Testimony.”  Verse 36 refers to the works (miracles) that God did through Jesus as testimonies of who he was and in verse 37, Jesus refers to the Father himself who had testified to him. In fact, Jesus goes on in verse 38 to say that if you deny that Jesus is who he said he is, then you deny the Father and do not have the Father’s word abiding in you. Finally, in verse 39, Jesus speaks of the Scriptures as bearing witness to him and closes the section with a blazing condemnation in verse 46 — if you deny Jesus you deny the Scriptures and you are accused by Moses (who also wrote of Jesus). Indeed, it is a reminder that the Jews (even of today) who reject Jesus also reject Moses.

In John 7:7, Jesus testifies that the world hates him because Jesus testifies that the works of the world are evil.

John 8:13,14,17, and 18 again form a unit. Even after Jesus’ statement in chapter 5 that others have testified about him, the Pharisees come back to the same notion and again accuse Jesus of testifying to himself (verse 13). Verse 14 begins with the language that he can testify to himself because his testimony is true (Proverbs 12:17) and then condemns the Pharisees by telling them that they do not know from whence he came. He indeed came from heaven, thus the Pharisees are rightly accused again of not knowing God. In their zeal to obey the letter of the Law they lost the Lawgiver himself.  In verses 17 and 18, Jesus comes back to this and affirms that when he speaks, the Father is speaking through him. His testimony is the very testimony of God. This statement is not only an affirmation that Jesus is a prophet (a prophet’s job is to testify the word of God to God’s people) but also that the content of Jesus’ message, that he is the Son of God, is true.

John 10:25 echoes John 5:36 that the works he does testifies to who he is.

John 12:17 is a narrative account that those who saw Jesus raise Lazarus testified to who Jesus was. Who but God has the power over life and death?

John 13:21, at first simply looks like a simply narrative comment — namely that someone at the table (Judas) would betray him. Yet, when you once again look to the historical confession of the Christian church, the betrayal of our Lord holds itself as a prominent doctrine reminding us too that the enemies of our Lord, like Judas, will be remembered forever as accursed by God.

John 15:26 and 27 speak of the Holy Spirit testifying about Jesus to the Apostles and then of the Apostles testifying about Jesus to the world. John also testifies that those with the Holy Spirit need no teacher because the Spirit teaches them (1 John 2:27). Yet, of whom does the Spirit testify? Jesus. One of the testimonies against the prosperity preachers and the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) today is that they typically only speak to build themselves up or to build up their brand of theology. That very act testifies that it is not the Spirit of God who is guiding them.

Chapter 18 brings us into the false trials of our Lord. Verse 23 is Jesus rebuking the High Priest for striking him without reason and verse 37 is his statement to Pilate that he is testifying to the truth.

John 19:35 takes us back to the language of the Holy Spirit testifying as to the person and resurrection of Christ. Again, these are essential themes to the historical confessions and creeds of the Church and in John 21:24 we find John testifying to the truth of the words of his book.

As we move into the Epistles of John, you will notice that John places more emphasis on those things that must be a part of our Christian witness — things that are reflected in the historical creedal and confessional language of the church.

1 John 1:2 — that Jesus is the source of eternal life

1 John 4:14 — that Jesus is the Savior of the World

1 John 5:6-7 — depending on your translation, that the Holy Spirit testifies to the reality of who Jesus is

1 John 5:9 — the witness of God is greater than that of men and God’s witness is that Jesus is his Son.

1 John 5:10 — the one who believes has the witness in himself (Holy Spirit) and the one who does not believe does not have this witness. Spiritual life comes through faith.

1 John 5:11 — part of the witness God has given us is that of the gift of eternal life.

3 John 3 — the witness that the church is walking faithfully

3 John 6 — the witness that the church genuinely loves the body

3 John 12 — Demetrius’ good witness


Most certainly, the witness of Jesus that is truth has to do with who he is and arguable with the idea that there is salvation in none but he. Yet, with that said, we ought to note how many doctrinal passages are included in these references. It stands as a reminder to us that the witness of the Church is not an arbitrary thing, but it includes a body of ideas and teachings that must be held if one is claiming to be a Christian. These things have historically been included in the creeds and confessions of the Church…language that the church today has largely abandoned to our great harm.

Saturday Word Study: The Fear of God (plus, the reason for and solution to America’s unrest)

We have a tendency to talk a great deal about the Fear of the Lord. It is the foundation of wisdom and knowledge and it is a way of life for the believer. We cannot even hope to claim to be part of God’s covenant if the fear of the Lord is not within us.

There is another phrase, though, that sometimes goes overlooked, but is no less significant. And that is the fear of God. In principle, the language is interchangeable, as the Lord is God, nevertheless, there are some interesting connotations that are connected to the language of “the fear of God.”

The Phrase itself shows up ten times in the Bible:

Genesis 20:11 — “And Abraham said, ‘Because I said, ‘truly there is no fear of God in this place they will slay me because of my wife.’’”

In context, Abraham has once again told a king that Sarah was his sister and not his wife. In ancient times, if you married a wealthy widow, her wealth became yours and Abraham feared that if king Abimelech knew that Sarah was his wife, Abimelech would kill Abraham for the wealth. Why does Abraham expect such lawlessness? It is because Abraham knows that where there is no fear of God in the land, there will be no fear of the law. The Apostle John says that sin is lawlessness. Abraham’s conclusion is that lawlessness is a result of not fearing God. A brief survey of the news in America and in the world seems to be a testimony to this great truth. Where there is no fear of God in our nation, there is nothing but lawlessness and chaos.

2 Samuel 23:1-4 — “Now these are the last words of David — an utterance of David, the son of Jesse, an utterance of the warrior was was raised on high and anointed by the God of Jacob, the sweet psalmist of Israel: ‘The Spirit of Yahweh speaks by me; his word is upon my tongue. The God of Israel says to me, the Rock of Israel speaks; he who rules over men, who rules righteously in the fear of God — as the light of the morning, the sun rises; on a cloudless morning it shines bright like rain on the grass of the earth.”

Verse 3 is the passage in question, but since the language of David is poetic at this point, it was fitting to set the context. In many ways, what is found here is the opposite of what we saw in the previous passage. When there is no fear of God there is lawlessness, but when those who rule do so in the fear of God, it is refreshing to the people, like bright sun in the morning or the sparkle of rain as it glistens on the freshly watered grass — such is the righteous rule of those who fear God. In light of these two passages, the question should be raised: “Why would we ever want the ungodly to lead us in the community or the nation?

Nehemiah 5:15 — “Yet the former governors which were before me weighed heavily upon the people and took from them bread and wine after the forty silver shekels — even from their servants. They domineered over the people. But I did not do so because I feared God.”

Nehemiah’s is a wonderful life to study and clearly he is a man of great integrity. But in Nehemiah’s own words, why is he a man of integrity? Why does he act justly and even benevolently with the people? It is because he feared God. How often our political leaders try and take credit for the good deeds that they do. Nehemiah does not think that way. From his perspective, what he does he does out of the fear of God — he knows that God has placed him in that position of authority and that he will be accountable to God for all the decisions he makes.

Romans 3:18 — “There is no fear of God in front of their eyes.”

This, of course, is cited from Psalm 36:1, which reads: Transgression utters to the wicked in the depth of his heart; there is no dread of God before his eyes.” What is interesting on a linguistic level is that in the Hebrew the term פשׁע (pasha) is employed rather than the ordinary word for fear, ירא (yara). Commonly פשׁע (pasha) is translated as “dread” and that in itself remains to be another word study. Nevertheless, as Paul understands the use of Psalm 36, the same idea is communicated. The natural man is a man who does not fear God but who is wicked utterly. Such a man is a man apart from the saving grace of God. 

2 Corinthians 7:1 — “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from the defilement of the flesh and spirit, striving for holiness in the fear of God.”

What is the promise that Paul is speaking of in this verse? It is the promise that God would take us to himself as his people. And thus, in light of that promise there is a commitment to strive to cleanse from being defiled (sanctification) in body and spirit (notice that the spiritual side of man has been corrupted by sin just as the physical side of man). More importantly, given our study, notice that true holiness is always paired with the fear of God — it is impossible to have one without the other.

Depending on the English translation you happen to use, there are other passages that speak of the fear of God. For instance, Job 4:6. In these cases, though, the phrase “fear of God” is either inferred (as in the aforementioned passage in Job) or the term “dread” us used (as in Psalm 36:1). Our goal has been to focus today on the explicit statement, “fear of God.”

The obvious conclusion that can be drawn from this can be found in the society around us. If you want to know why there is chaos in our nation and in the world, it is largely because there is no fear of God. When man does not fear God, he will not fear the law of man and sin will ensue. At this moment we are seeing this not only in Portland but also in many other parts of our nation. 

So, what is the solution for our nation? It is one one that will be brought about through civil laws and conventional human authorities. It is a gospel matter. 

Saturday Word Study: Testimony in Psalm 119

The word in Hebrew that is translated as testimony is עֵדוּת (eduth), and is derived from עֵדe (ed—note that both of these words are pronounced with an “ae” sound in English).  Both words carry similar meanings, though the connotations vary somewhat in terms of how they are used.

The first word, עֵדוּת e (eduth), refers to a witness or testimony, but is normally used in terms of legally binding stipulations or laws.  The Tabernacle is, for example, called the Tabernacle of Testimony (Numbers 17:4) because they were the home of the tablets of the Ten Commandments.  This becomes very pronounced when you get to verse 10 of the same chapter, for Moses is told to put the staff of Aaron before the testimony — ultimately the staff then was kept with the 10 commandments (Hebrews 9:4).  

Thus, when Psalm 119 speaks of testimony in this sense, it can be said to be speaking of the Moral Law (10 Commandments). Of course, all of God’s Law — all of the Scriptures even — are connected with the Ten Commandments.  This word testimony is found 9 times in the 119th psalm (which should tell us something right there), and is located in verses 14, 31, 36, 88, 99, 111, 129, 144, and 157.

The second word עֵד (ed), is a massively important word in Hebrew and is found 118 times in the Old Testament even though it is not explicitly found in Psalm 119.  It refers to the idea of witness in much the same way as the New Testament Greek term μαρτυρία (marturia—from which we get the term “martyr”) is used.  This word refers to that witness which confirms the truth to be so.  This is one’s testimony of faith before men, for example, as well as being a testimony in a court of law.

The connection between these two words is found in the concept of the covenant of God.  God’s covenant with his people is his  עֵד (ed), but this עֵד (ed) contains stipulations for those that would be in covenant with our Lord and King.  Those stipulations are the עֵדוּת e (eduth) of God.  

What is also worth noting is that another word that is derived from עֵד (ed) is the term עֵדַה (edah), which means “congregation,” referring to a gathering of God’s people.  God’s people are those that he has put into relationship with himself through his covenant, his עֵד (ed), and regulates through his עֵדוּת e (eduth).  All very closely connected.  This word is found 14 times in Psalm 119 (vs. 2, 22, 24, 46, 59, 79, 95, 119, 125, 138, 146, 152, 167, 168).  So closely are these words and ideas related that in most, if not all cases, when Psalm 119 is translated into English, they have translated it as “testimony” rather than congregation.  This is probably a little misleading in the crossover to English, but at the same time, in the context of the Psalm, it appears that the Psalmist is doing much the same thing—wedding together these ideas.  Or, to put it another way, the presence of the covenant people of God are God’s testimony to his own covenant faithfulness—his חֶסֶד (chesed—pronounced with a hard “ch” like in “Loch Ness”).  The word חֶסֶד (chesed) is variously translated in our English Bibles, but refers to the covenantal faithfulness of God in spite of our covenantal unfaithfulness, and is found 7 times in Psalm 119 (vs. 41, 64, 76, 88, 124, 149, 159) and is often translated as “steadfast love” or “mercy.”

With this in mind, permit me to digress to Deuteronomy 6:4 for a moment, commonly called “the Shema” in Hebrew circles.  The bulk of the book of Deuteronomy consists of Moses’ sermonic expositions of the Ten Commandments, forming a Constitution for the people of Israel.  With this in mind, the Shema functions essentially as the preamble to the constitution for the people.  In fact, in Judaism, Deuteronomy 6:4 is considered to be the single most important verse in the Bible and the very language that defines them as a people—giving them their national identity.  It establishes their relationship with God as a covenant people and reminds them that they are a people who have been given a name, loved as such by their God.  It is the first prayer that the faithful Hebrew prays when he wakes in the morning and the last prayer he prays before he goes to bed at night.  It is also chanted at the beginning of a traditional synagogue service.  What is especially interesting is the way it is written in the Hebrew Bible:

 שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל יְהוָה אֱלֹהינוּ יְהוָה אֶהָד

Note that the last letter of the first and last words have been written larger and in bold print.  These two letters, when taken out of the verse spell, עֵד (ed) — or witness.  In other words, the Shema itself is the witness of the Jewish people to their God, just as the covenant is God’s עֵד (ed) to his people.  Lastly, if you reverse the letters of עֵד (ed), you end up with the word דֵּעַ (de’a), which means “knowledge.”  Just as fear of the Lord is the beginning of all wisdom (Psalm 111:10), so too is all true knowledge rooted in the covenant of God.  Any pursuit of knowledge apart from God’s revelation through his covenant is vanity, Solomon reminds us in Ecclesiastes.

Covenant is, as we know, the context in which God interacts with his people.  On the very first day that Adam was alive and placed in the Garden God established his covenant with Adam and set before Adam the עֵדוּת e (eduth) of the covenant—don’t eat lest you will die-die.  The punishments given out after the fall are the consequences of their failure to fulfill the covenant.  Genesis 3:15, though reminds us that a Messiah is coming who will redeem his people from bondage to the one who led them into sin.  Genesis 15 provides us with a foretaste of what would happen to this divine Messiah, though.  In the context, God is confirming his covenant with Abraham and Abraham is sent to divide up the animals and separate them creating a bloody path to walk through.  In ancient times, when covenants were made between Kings and their Vassals, they would divide up a group of animals like this, and then the Vassal, as a pledge of faithfulness to the covenant, would walk through the middle of the line of animals as if to say, “if I don’t fulfill my part of the covenant, may what happened to these animals happen to me also.”  Now, some have suggested that there may be evidence that both the king and vassal walked through this line, but the evidence is varied and this proposition makes little sense as the vassal had no power to enforce this commitment upon the king, where the king certainly had the power to enforce it upon his vassal.

Either way, what is significant is that Abraham should have walked through the bloody pathway, but God puts him into a deep sleep (not unlike the sleep that God put Adam into before he took out his rib to form Eve), and God walked through the bloody pathway in Abraham’s stead.  God was saying to Abraham, I will be your covenant mediator and representative for this covenant.  If you or your line fail to keep this covenant, may what happened to these animals happen to me as well.  And that is exactly what took place on the cross of Calvary.  Jesus fulfilled what God promised, bloody and bruised, because we could not be faithful to the עֵדוּת e (eduth) of God’s covenant.

In the context of Psalm 119, the psalmist completely understands that for one to be truly blameless and righteous before the Lord, one must first submit his life to the testimonies of our God—to the עֵדוּת e (eduth) of God’s covenant.  Thus, he sets the Law before him as a guide and instructor.  We must understand that while the psalmist speaks at times of being blameless before his accusers, this is not to be interpreted in terms of a form of human self-righteousness.  Instead, he also understands, as Abraham understood, that his redemption would be paid for by another—by God himself through the promised Messiah, and that his personal righteousness was based, through faith, in the coming of the promised one.  At the same time, he understands the thrust of what Paul would say in Romans 6:1-2.  In light of that, the psalmist both begins and ends the psalm focused on remembering and obeying the Law of the Lord.

Saturday Word Study: “The Evil”

In the book of Judges, seven times the people are said to do “the evil” in the sight of the Lord. While most English translations ignore the definite article, preferring to translate it as “evil” or “evil things,” the Hebrew text clearly presents the term as a definite noun. The authors of this book of the Bible do not explicitly refer to that which this phrase refers, but context most commonly implies that it is a reference to the idolatry of the people of Israel.

When we look for the same phrase, “the evil” or חָרַע (hara), in the rest of the Hebrew Canon, one discovers that there are numerous things that God views as “the evil” and perhaps, it might be suggested, this understanding helps to shed light on Jesus’ language of asking God to delver us from “the evil” or τοῦ πονηροῦ (tou ponerou) in Matthew 6:13. In other words, asking God not to deliver us into temptation but to especially protect us from those sins in this category. References where “the evil” is given more specific definition are found below:

Exodus 33:4 — “the evil word” in context is the news that God was refusing to go with the people due to his idolatry.

Numbers 32:13 — “the evil” is a reference to not trusting God in the wilderness

Deuteronomy 4:25 — making carved images is referred to as “the evil”

Deuteronomy 9:18 — the people worshiping the Golden Calf was “the evil”

Deuteronomy 13:12 — Leading others into idolatry

Deuteronomy 17:2,5,7 — serving idols (note that here the death penalty is mandated for idolatry)

Deuteronomy 19:19-20 — being a malicious witness — conspiring against another

Deuteronomy 21:21 — the rebellious son

Deuteronomy 22:21 — the immoral daughter

Deuteronomy 22:24 — adulterers

Deuteronomy 24:7 — taking a Jew as a slave or selling a Jew into slavery

Deuteronomy 30:15 — here we have “the good” contrasted with “the evil” — obeying God in contrast to serving an idol

Joshua 23:15 — idolatry

1 Samuel 15:19 — Failing to destroy Agog

2 Samuel 12:9 — David’s adultery and the murder of Uriah

2 Samuel 14:17 — once again we find “the good” contrasted with “the evil” — right from wrong, in this case it is a statement that the wisdom of David is akin to the wisdom of the Angel of the Lord

1 Kings 11:6 — Solomon’s pursuit of idols

1 Kings 14:22 — The idolatry of Judah under Rehoboam

1 Kings 15:26 — King Nadab of Israel’s idolatry

1 Kings 15:34 — King Baasha of Israel’s idolatry

1 Kings 16:19; 16:25; 16:30 — more idolatry of the kings

1 Kings 21:20,25 — King Ahab’s idolatry instigated by Jezebel

1 Kings 22:52 — King Ahaziah’s idolatry

2 Kings 3:2; 8:18,27; 13:2,11; 14:24; 15:9,18,24,28; 17:2 — more idolatry from the kings

2 Kings 17:17 — burning sons and daughters in sacrifice to Molech

2 Kings 21:2 — following the practices of pagan nations

2 Kings 21:6,15-16,20; 23:32,37; 24:9,19 — more idolatry

2 Chronicles 12:14; 21:6; 22:4; 29:6; 33:2,6,22; 36:5,9,12 — more idolatry

Esther 7:6 — Haman is the evil

Nehemiah 13:17 — profaning the Sabbath is the evil

Job 2:10 — being under judgment

Psalm 51:4 — adultery and murder

Psalm 54:5,7 — to be under God’s judgment

Ecclesiastes 4:3 — better off is one who has never seen “the evil” deeds (be careful little eyes what you see)

Isaiah 5:20 — “Woe to those who call the evil Good”

Isaiah 65:12; 66:4 — idolatry

Jeremiah 3:17; 7:24; 11:8; 18:12; 32:30; 52:2 — the evil in their hearts is idolatry

Jeremiah 18:10 — the evil is not listening to God’s voice…in light of this, woe to those who claim to be Christians yet choose to ignore the Word of God

Jeremiah 23:22 — speaks of “the evil way”

Ezekiel 13:22 — “the evil way”

Micah 7:3 — idolatry

There is no debating that idolatry is the recurring theme that runs through these passages and indeed, idolatry destroys the people of God and the communities in which we dwell. And even though it is uncommon here in the west to run into people with large idols in their yards or homes, westerners make idols out of so many other things as well: performers, athletes, their wealth, a car or other precious item, etc… Anything that draws you away from having God and focusing on seeing Christ’s kingdom grow, that is an idol in your life. And these things are not just evil in God’s eyes, they are “the evil.” Pray that God delivers you from “the evil” that is in your life — is that not indeed, the heart of Jesus’ prayer?

Yet, we must notice that there are other things that are equally destructive and are “the evil” in God’s eyes. Things like not trusting God, lying, conspiring against the people of God, sexual immorality, murder, calling evil good, and not listening to the Word of God. How often do people turn a blind eye to dishonoring the Sabbath — in the eyes of God, it is “the evil.”  Then we have the sacrifice of children to Molech. Indeed, that is another expression of idolatry, but it also contains the idea of the murder of one’s own offspring. How awful a notion that is, yet it is tolerated in society and in many churches.

Finally, there is the sin of following the ways of other nations. That had obvious implications in the lives of those people who lived in ancient Israel but the sin often goes overlooked in the church today. It is commonplace for the church to incorporate pagan traditions into their public worship. Churches often draw from the practices of nature worship, nation worship, and entertainment. How many church holidays have simply been appropriated from secular sources or other religious traditions. When art, drama, organized dance, and patriotism are incorporated into the worship of God’s people, are they not guilty of this? That does not mean that art, dance, drama, and patriotism are bad things in and of themselves; they just do not belong in the worship of God’s people.