Psalm 46—Discovering Layers of Meaning in Scripture

Psalm 46:1–11, Amidst geo-political turbulence, divine protection and a heavenly lifeline exists for the saints. What is the overall message of this psalm? Even though the chapter subheading of my NKJV Bible, for example, describes this psalm as “God the refuge of his people and conqueror of the nations,” there is a deeper, more inspiring message to be discovered here that this title misses. Let’s dig into this precious morsel of the Word of Elohim to discover what this life-changing message is.

When it comes to discovering the hidden golden nuggets in Scripture, one must be willing to become a spiritual hardrock miner who is not averse to the difficult work of picking away at the seemingly unyielding and implacable rock and soil to uncover the mother lode of hidden treasure underground. Like digging for gold, the deeper one digs into Scripture and the more time and effort one invests in the process, the more likely one is to pull the unspeakably valuable treasures out of the spiritual bedrock of the Bible. I have been digging into this Rock of Ages daily for more than fifty years, and my heart and mind still tingle and pulsate with enthusiasm (please look up the meaning of the word enthusiasm for a cool nugget  of truth that reveals why I purposely chose this word) when I discover new treasures therein.

To uncover these nuggets that lay below the surface words of Scripture, it is critical to understand an important fact: There are at least four layers of understanding to be found buried in the Word of Elohim. Let’s discover and briefly explore what these are. 

Laying on the surface of Scripture, we find the peshat or literal meaning of what has been written. For example, a literal man named Noah built a literal ark of wood that floated on a literal flood of literal water,  Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt, and Yeshua was a carpenter’s son from Judea who lived in the first century. On a moral or philosophical level, the ten commandments, for example, are literal rules of righteous conduct that apply to our daily lives.

Digging deeper, we come to the next level as we drill down deeper into the Word of Elohim. This is the remez or suggested or hinted at meaning of a scriptural passage. For example, the Torah talks about “an eye for eye” when it comes to criminal justice. This may be taken literally to mean that if you injure someone’s eye, your eye is to be similarly injured as payment for your crime, thus evening the scales of justice. Moreover, an injured eye does not require the death penalty, and the crime of murder requires more than a slap on the wrist. So what this verse is really saying or hinting at beyond its literal or peshat level meaning is that the punishment must fit the crime.

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More Tools for Coping With the Craziness of the World Around Us—Meditations on Psalms 26 and 27

Psalm 26

Psalm 26:4–5, I have not sat. We must be careful about building friendship relationships with idolators (those who don’t put Elohim first in their lives) or hypocrites (those who claim to put Elohim first, but their actions speak otherwise), for in reality, they’re both idolators. Why must we carefully choose who our friends are? Because “evil company corrupts good habits” (1 Cor 15:33). The world doesn’t understand why the righteous want nothing to do with the wicked. As Scripture says, “In regard to these, they [the heathen] think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you”(1 Pet 4:4).

In the Bible and in reality, there are only two groups of people on earth: those who are part of the Israel of Elohim (Gsl 6:16) or the commonwealth or nation of redeemed Israel (Eph 2:11–19), and those who are Gentiles or heathens. This fact translates into two realities on the ground for the saint: those around us who are in a relationship with Yeshua the Messiah are our brethren and members of our spiritual, forever family, and those who are not. With regard to the latter group, those therein are part of the saints’ mission field, and it is our responsibility to share the gospel with them in hopes of bringing them into a relationship with Yeshua. In reality, they are not our spiritual family and therefore cannot be part of our inner circle of friends, otherwise, they will drag us down spiritually as 1 Corinthians 15:33 warns us against. James and John address this issue directly and succinctly:

Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with Elohim? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of Elohim. (Jas 4:4)

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. (1 John 2:15)

Psalm 27

Psalm 27:1–14, The Jews traditionally read this psalm during the month of Elul (the sixth month) just before the fall biblical feasts of the seventh month, since they are eluded to therein. These elusions include

Verse 5: pavillion is suk, the root word for sukkah (relating to Sukkot or the Feast of Tabernacles).

Verse 5: ohel means “tabernacle” (also relating to Sukkot or the Feast of Tabernacles).

Verse 6: sacrifice [of joy]. Sacrifices of joy are the thanksgiving, love and peace offerings made to YHVH during the biblical pilgrimage feasts to the tabernacle of Elohim (ohel, v. 5; (this refers to all the fall feast of Atonement, Trumpets, Tabernacles and the Eighth Day).

Verse 6: joy is teruah (this directly refers to Yom Teruah or the Day of Trumpets and indirectly to the other fall feasts).

Psalm 27:1, My light…salvation…fear…strength of my life. What more does a person need? The saint has the light of Yeshua and the Word of Elohim (these are synonymous) to guide him in the gross or thick spiritual darkness of this world. He also has the divine promise of salvation or deliverance from any and every enemy that would come against him to kill, steal and destroy including death, which is the ultimate enemy. Finally he has the divine strength or power of the Creator at work in his life through the indwelling presence of the Spirit of Elohim in all areas of his life. Beyond this, there is nothing to fear in this life. In fact, many times I have quoted this verse and applied it to a particular part of my body that needed healing, and I have received divine healing. For example, as I was writing this, I humbly, yet boldly declared this promise over a pain in my back, and I was instantly healed. I now don’t have to go to the chiropractor. HalleluYah!

Psalm 27:2, Enemies…foes. Too often when reading scriptures that contains these words, we assign a person or name them. But consider this: Our foe or enemy may be a situation or condition (e.g. a health condition, emotional distress, financial problems, difficult life circumstances [e.g. flood, fire, drought, weather conditions]), or a demonic spirit entity that is behind a person or situation that is our enemy. Moreover, our enemy may be our own sinful condition or wrong attitudes, and we are now reaping the deleterious consequences thereof. So before automatically blaming someone else for our problems and the consequences thereof in our lives, let’s rethink who are what our enemies may really be.

Psalm 27:4, Dwell in the house of YHVH. How does one dwell in the house of YHVH all the days of one’s life? Is this merely hyperbolic, fanciful thinking and rhetoric on the part of the psalmist, or is it actually possible to do? Obviously as physical humans, we are confined to life on this earth while living in the earth suite of  our physical bodies. At the same time, we are seated with Yeshua in heavenly places (Eph 2:6), and our affections are on heavenly things (Col 3:2); therefore, we exist in two realities or dimensions at the same time: an earthly physical dimension and a heavenly or spiritual dimension. How? Simply this: We are a tripartite being of spirit, soul and body (1 Thess 5:23). Though the body part of is confined to this earth, our soul (mind, will and emotions) and spirit can operate from and in the spiritual dimension of heaven through our relationship with Elohim through Yeshua and through the power of his word and Spirit. We can allow the Spirit to operate through us and direct and guide everything that we do, say and think, and in so doing, we are dwelling in the house or family (Heb. bayith) of YHVH, while, in a sense, temporarily living abroad on this earth away from the real home of our Father’s heavenly house, which in due time at the end of this age is coming to this earth. Amein and halleluYah!

To behold. Literally to see as a seer in an ecstatic state, to perceive by experience or with intelligence. (See also Ps 63:12.) There is more than one way to come into contact with the beauty, favor, delightfulness or pleasantries of YHVH. 

To inquire in his temple. The psalmist talks about going into the tabernacle to encounter YHVH. Since there is no longer a physical tabernacle in which the saints can go to seek YHVH, where do they now go? 

The saint is the tabernacle or temple of the Spirit of Elohim (1 Cor 3:16; 2 Cor 6:16), and the Spirit dwells in one’s personal spirit. This means that one must go inside himself to seek and behold beauty of YHVH. Perhaps this is “the secret [or the covered, private, hidden or protected] place” to which the writer makes reference in v. 5.

Psalm 27:5, In the time of trouble. The house of YHVH (as discussed in my commentary on the previous verse) is the place where YHVH will hide his saints in the time of trouble. If one fails to make the house of YHVH a place of refuge during trouble-free times, how can expect to know anything about this secret place of YHVH much less go there or rely on it during troublesome times?

Set me high upon a rock. In the secret place of YHVH (which in other places I refer to as my “God-bubble” or “the spiritual force field” that surrounds me, or which the psalmist elsewhere refers to as taking refuge under the wings of the Almighty), we will find a mighty and solid rock on which to stand during times of trouble. That Rock is Yeshua our Savior, the Written and Living Word of Elohim.

Psalm 27:4, 8, Inquire…seek. Literally “look for, consider or reflect.” Such an effort takes time and energy to do, and to accomplish, one must quiet down the rambunctiousness of the soul (the mind, will and emotions), so that one’s inner man or personal spirit can rise up and speak as it is informed and directed by the Spirit of Elohim.

 

The Faith of the Saint and the Protective Faithfulness of Elohim—Meditations on Psalm 17

Psalm 17:3, In the night. That is, in times of trials, afflictions and difficulties. During times of adversity, YHVH tests us by viewing our reactions to this difficulties, and to determine the true state and contents of our heart. The true mettle of a person, that is, the contents of their heart is revealed only during times of duress and when things are not going well. The question is this: when tested, will we walk in the Spirit and manifest the fruit of the Spirit or react carnally and manifest the works of the flesh (Gal 5:16–26)? These times of darkness and testing that befall each of us from time to time is often referred to as “the dark night of the soul”; they either make or break us. Jacob encountered such a time when he wrestled with the Messenger of Elohim in Genesis 32 and came out a changed man with a new spiritual identity. Yeshua went through a similar experience in the Garden of Gethsemane just prior to his crucifixion. 

Psalm 17:4, The destroyer. This can be taken as a reference to Satan who comes to kill, steal and destroy. The Hebrew word for destroyer is pereets and taken in context with its verbal root means “one who destroys by dividing violently and then robbing, that is, one who divides and conquers.” The tactics of this enemy and his human minions have never changed from then until now.

Psalm 17:8, Apple of your eye. In Hebrew, this verse literally reads “Guard [Heb. shamar] me like the little man or the pupil daughter [Heb. bat] of the eye.” Apple is the Hebrew word ‘ıyshôn literally meaning “little man of the eye [according to Gesenius and The Artscroll Tanach Series Tehilim/Psalms Commentary] or pupil.” This is because when one looks at another person, the image of a little person is visible on the pupil like a reflection in a mirror. Eye is the generic Hebrew word ayin. The idea of the little man in the eye is beautiful and poetic imagery that captures the desires of the psalmist that the Creator would keep his image in his eye (i.e. the Big “Man” or Elohim is keeping the little man or the saint in is eyesight) continually or that Elohim would guard him as he goes through life as a father does his own daughter. 

The expression “the apple of his eye” is now an English idiom meaning “to view a person favorably, to care deeply for them and to cherish them in one’s heart.” 

This same expression is also found in Deuteronomy 32:10 where YHVH views the people of Israel as the apple of his eye. Although Elohim loves the whole world in a generic sense (John 3:16), and desires that every person be saved (1 Tim 2:4; 2 Pet 3:9), he refers to no other people but Israel as the apple of his eye. 

It can also be presumed (as Matthew Henry notes) that Elohim will tenderly keep or protect those as the apple of his eye who keep or guard his commandments as the apple of their eye (Prov 7:2). That is to say, when we obey YHVH’s commandments, we automatically put ourselves under his protection or under the shadow of his wings as Psalm 17:8 suggests (see also Ps 91:4 and Matt 23:37).

Psalm 17:14–15, Men of the world…When I awake. Here the psalmist juxtaposes those who make material achievements their chief goal in life as opposed to those who seek first the kingdom of Elohim and his righteousness. The former have their reward in the physical life, while the latter have a greater reward to come in the next life when they awaken from death in the likeness of Elohim as possessors of immortality.

Belly…hidden treasure. The belly here is a reference to the womb, and hidden treasure literally means “that which is hidden, covered over or protected.” This is a clear reference to babies in the womb, which are a treasured gift that heaven gives to both the wicked and to the righteous alike. Those who murder their children through abortion or neglect or abandon these little divinely granted treasures are literally spurning or rejecting Elohim’s gift to them—a grave affront to the Almighty and his generosity to be sure!

Psalm 17:15, When I awake. This is one of the most notable passages in the Tanakh proving the validity of the concept of the resurrection of the righteous dead. Here David expresses his faith in the hope of the dead saints to eternal glory in the Presence of YHVH’s in his eternal kingdom. Corollary scriptures to this include Ps 16:10–11 and 1 John 3:1–3.

The Rapture of People out of the world
 

The Song of a Weary Warrior—Meditations on Psalm 88

Psalm 88:1–18. This psalm is a heart cry of a righteous person who is weary of the struggles that life in this mortal existence throws him. 

Assuredly, the author of this psalm is a righteous person. This is evident because he knows that Elohim is his salvation (v. 1), and attests to the fact that he is in a faithful, prayerful and faith-driven spiritual relationship with his Creator, even as he cries out to heaven night and day (vv. 1–2, 9, 13), and even while complaining about his plight as a human who is struggle with his faith. To the super-spiritual saint, the writer of this psalm may seem like a spiritual wimp—a melting snowflake or a pansy wilting under the noonday sun. Yet the transparent and honest saint will humbly admit that from time to time they find themselves in a similar place of weariness, or even in a waste-howling wilderness of doubts and despair, in a miry pit of self-pity. David records being in this psycho-emotional state himself several times in various psalms. Even Elijah, the mighty prophet of Elohim, depressed and somewhat despondent, found himself fleeing for his life from the murderous claws of the demonic Jezebel. He finally escaped to the mountain of Elohim weary, discouraged and alone complaining to his Maker about his seemingly hapless plight. 

As weary warriors traversing this life, passing our time as a pilgrim en route to the spiritual Promised Land of the eternal kingdom of Elohim, often we feel adrift in our flimsy dinghies on the seas of humanity struggling to row against the countervailing tides and currents of the surrounding hordes of heathen, who are, in reality, in their unsaved state as good as physically dead (v. 5). This earth is a dark and lonely place for the saint. How can he relate to the walking damned around him, who are like zombies in a catatonic stupor refusing to wake up to reality, and to see, hear or consider the deeper issues of life and to acknowledge the Creator and his Messiah Savior (v. 1)? To them, the saints are a mere fools (1 Cor 4:10), and the Bible is a collection of pointless and foolish fairy tales and legends (1 Cor 1:18, 27).

Yes, the saint sometime feels as if he has been condemned to spend his or her life in the foreign land of this world as a sojourner or pilgrim merely passing through en route to something better out there somewhere that never seems to arrive at their doorstep. Although we’re en route to a better place, nonetheless, along the way we find ourselves passing much time in the Valley of Baca or weeping (Ps 84:6), which is a place that is rife with trouble and discouragement, for many times we feel as if the resting place of the grave would be an improvement to our present lot (vv. 3–4). However, consider this: What would our life be like without Elohim who is our salvation (v. 1) and who, along with his Word and Spirit, guides and walks besides us en route to the better place that is beyond this present life? His help and guidance and what lies beyond is our light and hope in the present darkness of this world. This is the substance of the saint’s faith (see Heb 11:1) is it not?

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The Hidden Message in Psalm 145

Psalm 145:1–21, An acrostic psalm. This is one of several acrostic psalms in the Bible. An acrostic is a poem, word puzzle, or other composition in which certain letters in each line form a word or words. In this case, the first letter of each verse begins with the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet beginning with aleph and ending with tav. However, for some reason the letter nun is missing, which is why there are only 21 verses instead of 22 verses in this psalm.

This psalm begins with the phrase, “I will extoll/exalt/bless you,” and then goes on to list the attributes of YHVH, and why and how humans should extoll him.

א I will exalt him.

ב Every day I will bless you.

ג He is great.

ד Generation to generation will praise you.

ה YHVH’s splendrous glory.

ו The might of YHVH’s awesome deeds.

ז The recollection of YHVH’s abundant goodness.

ח YHVH is gracious and merciful.

ט YHVH is good.

י Let his creation thank YHVH.

כ YHVH’s kingdom is glorious.

ל Inform mankind of his mighty and glorious deeds.

מ YHVH’s kingdom and dominion is forever.

נ The letter nun is omitted from this acrostic. The Jewish sages state that the reason the psalmist omitted the letter nun, which suggests the word n’philah meaning downfall, was to comfort that knowing that downfalls would take place, the Israelites would be comforted to know that by the fact that Elohim supports the fallen ones as verse 14 promises. In explaining this omission, the Jewish sages may be reading into the text something that is not there. After all, there are some 430 other words in the biblical Hebrew lexicon that begin with the letter nun. Who’s to say that some of these words may not have been a better choice than n’philah? It also stands to reason that since every other verse in this psalm is a praise declaration of one type or the other, why wouldn’t the missing nun verse also follow this pattern? Therefore, perhaps the psalmist left this letter out intentionally, so that the reader could fill in the blank suggesting his own reason for or way of extolling YHVH providing it begins with the letter nun.

ס YHVH straightens the fallen ones and those who are bent.

ע YHVH supports those who hope in him and are humble.

פ YHVH opens his hand and supports every living thing.

צ YHVH is righteous in all of his ways.

ק YHVH is close to all those who call upon him.

ר YHVH will fulfill the desires of those who fear him.

ש YHVH protects all who love him.

ת Declare the praise of YHVH and bless his name.

 

Why are the willows weeping?

Psalm 137:2, Willows. This is the Hebrew word ârâba, which according to some lexical sourcesmeans “poplar” (e.g The TWOT; Brown, Driver, Briggs), but according to others it refers to the willow tree (e.g. Gesenius, Wilson’s, Strong’s, All the Plants of the Bible, by Winifred Walker the renown plant artist).

Perhaps the trees in this verse were weeping willows, since the botanical name of the common weeping willow is Salix babylonica. Why is this? This is because this species of willow, which actually is native to dry areas of northern China, has been cultivated for millennia elsewhere in Asia, including in Babylon in the area Mesopotamia, since it was traded along the Silk Road to southwest Asia and Europe. 

However, the willow tree that is native to Babylonia that may be referred to in this verse, may not actually a willow (Salix babylonica), but a poplar (Populus euphratica). Both of these trees are in the family (Salicaceae) but are not the same species. The former is a poplar (populus) and the latter is a willow (salix).

According to rabbinical Jewish commentary on this verse, the Jews hung their harps within the willow trees that grew along the river to conceal them from their captors (The ArtScroll Tanach Series Tehillim/Psalms Commentary). On the surface, this explanation doesn’t seem to make sense, since in the next verse, the very same captors are asking the Jews to play songs on these harps.

The same Jewish sages go on to explain that these ten-stringed harps or kinors were not ordinary musical instruments, but sacred ones used by the Levites in the temple service and were for praising YHVH (Ps 33:2). Before the Jewish exile, the people hadn’t treated these holy instruments with proper respect. But now, in exile, they repented of their sin, and instead of irreverently placing these instruments on the ground, they now hung them in the willow branches (ibid.).

As a way of reconciling the Jews’ hiding their harps and also playing them for their captives, the Jewish commentators suggest that Nebuchadnezzar, the same Babylonian king who had destroyed Jerusalem, would demand that the Jews entertain him musically with their harps. (In the ancient world, the Israelites may well have been famous for their skill at playing the harp—think of the young David, who was not only a skilled harpist, and became a poet and song writer as well.) The sages go on to explain that the Jews would hide their harps in the willow trees, so has not to have to play for the same heathen king who had destroyed their temple (ibid.)

Whether the trees mentioned in this verse were willows or poplars, and whether the rabbinic explanation of this psalm is correct or not, we don’t know. However, the spiritual lesson is clear. Don’t take for granted and treat irreverently those holy things that YHVH has entrusted to you, while times are good. If you do, you may live to regret your callous attitude when you suddenly find yourself in a not so pleasant situation in the midst of his refining fires of judgment. And don’t stop praising YHVH Elohim in both the good times and the bad. Perhaps if we do praise him when times are favorable for us, we won’t need to face his judgments unto repentance later on due to our lack of praising him.

 

How Love I Thy Torah!—Exploring Psalm 119

Spiritual Insights from the Hebrew Language

If you were to open your King James Bible (or any other similar Bible, e.g. the NAS, NIV, NKJV, etc.) to the exact middle of the Bible, where would you land? Somewhere in the Book of Psalms at or near Psalm 119. Actually, by chapters, either Psalm 117 or 118 is the exact center of the Bible—so Psalm 119 isn’t too far off. 

Interestingly, Psalm 117 is the shortest chapter in the Bible with only two verses, while Psalm 119 is the longest. In this chapter, David exuberantly declares that all people everywhere should be praising YHVH because of his merciful kindness (or his grace) toward us, and for his truth (i.e., his Word or Torah, which is the biblical definition for truth, see Ps 119:142,151).

The mercy of YHVH and having faith in him is the theme of the first part of Psalm 118. The latter half of the chapter goes on to teach about the salvation of YHVH, and many understand this to be a messianic prophecy pointing to Yeshua, our heaven-sent Savior and Redeemer, who is the Living Torah–Word (John 1:1,14).

Then we come to Psalm 119, which, for 176 verses divided into 22 sections (one for each of the letters of the Hebrew alphabet), extols the supreme and inimitable virtues of the Word of Elohim (i.e., the Torah). David treats the Torah as if he were a jeweler who, after discovering the world’s rarest, largest and most beautiful diamond, carefully and in awe scrutinizes its every facet and all of its unique qualities, and then expresses his unspeakable delight over its supreme virtues.

In Psalm 119, David discusses Torah in all of its ramifications, and he uses many different terms for Torah. The most common is the word law, which in most cases is the Hebrew word Torah meaning “teaching, instruction, precept or law” of Elohim, which are his instructions in righteousness that when followed lead man to life, blessings, peace, joy, favor with Elohim and deliverance from evil. Beside the word law, Psalm 119 contains many other words that are synonymous with the Torah. They include:

  • your way
  • your testimonies
  • your precepts
  • your statutes
  • your commandments
  • your righteous judgments
  • your word
  • your wondrous works
  • the path of your commandments
  • the word of truth
  • your ordinances
  • everlasting righteousness
  • the truth

Overview of Psalm 119

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