Nun

Nun is the fourteenth letter in the Hebrew alphabet. Nun (also written as “Noon”) has the same sound as “n” as in “nut”. Every line in Psalm 119:105–112 starts with this letter. Nun looks like this:

nun

“Nun” means “life” and is associated with a picture of a fish swimming in the water. Rabbis teach that “Nun” represents all movement and growth in life, like a fish darting in the water, but also as a new seed sprouting or a branch bearing fruit. It carries with it the idea of multiplying, continuing, perpetuating.

Last week, we learned that the letter Mem meant “water”, representing the waters of baptism for a new believer.  The energy of that new life in Christ is found in the letter Nun. It’s no wonder that the early church used the sign of a fish as a secret symbol of being a follower of Jesus.

When threatened by Rome in the first century, Christians used the fish to mark meeting places and to distinguish friends from foes. If a believer met a stranger in the road, he sometimes drew one arc of the simple fish outline in the dirt. If the stranger drew the other arc, both believers were assured of safe company. They knew they were both followers of the One who said, “I will make you fishers of men.” The early disciples understood the importance of multiplying in order to keep the gospel alive.

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The first mention of the word “Nun” in the Bible is in Exodus 33:11, in reference to Joshua, the “son of Nun.” Joshua was the one who led the Israelites into the Promised Land. Joshua was, literally,  the “Son of Life” — and a foreshadowed figure of Jesus, the coming Messiah, who will lead us into the promised land of eternity.

The Hebrew word for son is “ben.” The first letter is ב bet with a letter sound of “B” and a word picture of a house. The second letter is a nun נ with a word picture of life and a letter sound of “N”. These two letters together are a word picture of “life in the house.” In other words, the son perpetuates the life of the family; through the son, generations will continue.

“I will be a Father to you,
    and you will be my sons and daughters,
says the Lord Almighty.”
2 Cor. 6:18

We are the life in the house.

The life of faith is revealed in the second half of the Hebrew alphabet. First we are taught (Lamed) and then we take a step of obedience by going into the waters (Mem) of baptism. Nun shows us that the next step is to grow in the new life we have in Christ.

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Next: My favorite word in the Bible that starts with “O”.

Long Song Study, part O

After extolling the wisdom of God’s Word in the previous section of Psalm 119, David made a decision to follow it. It was settled — he was determined to live according to God’s ways and words.

thy

Verse 105
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
David thought of God’s word as light to help him see things he wouldn’t otherwise be able to see. Jerusalem didn’t have street lights in David’s day. If people ventured out at night, they carried a lantern to illuminate their path, helping them avoid open sewers or horse poop on the road. The lamp didn’t serve as a guide as much as it provided a way to keep from stumbling into the muck. This lamplight only was effective for the person who was up and moving on the path, not for the the one who was sitting on the couch wishing for direction. As Thomas Manton said, “It is not a light to our brains to fill us with empty notions, but a light to our feet to regulate our practice and to guide our actions.”

Verse 106
I have sworn an oath and confirmed it, to keep your righteous rules.
David had made a promise to carry the light of God’s Word throughout his course of life. That was a good move, but he knew he had to revisit that decision often and recommit himself to it regularly. Why did he swear on a stack of Bibles to stick with God? Because he knew himself — he could be stubborn, fickle and lazy. And he had a thing for beautiful women. Still, it was good to make a vow, even though he didn’t have the strength within himself to keep it perfectly. Paul prayed for New Testament believers with this idea in mind: “We pray for God’s power to help you do all the good things that you hope to do and that your faith makes you want to do.” (2 Thess. 1:11)

Verse 107
I am severely afflicted; give me life, O Lord, according to your word!
This determination to keep God’s righteous rules wasn’t based on an arrogant view of his own strength. As soon as he swore to live by God’s standards, he pled for God to give him grace to keep that promise. Affliction may have driven David to confirm his resolve. It’s hard to stay true when going through seasons of severe testing. “We need to remember that the Christian life always ends well, but it doesn’t always go well.” (Stephen Yuille) An initial decision to follow Jesus, especially when made publicly, helps us stay on course during difficult times that may come down the road.

Verse 108
Accept my freewill offerings of praise, O Lord, and teach me your rules.
There’s nothing more powerful that genuine, heart-felt praise in the face of severe affliction. David offered praise, not because he felt obligated or under constraint, but because he wanted to, of his own free will. He meant it. The word “freewill” implies a spontaneous and abundant outpouring from his mouth. In other words, he spoke his praise out loud, even while beset with troubles. His offering of praise was not required by Old Testament law and had nothing to do with payment for sin. It just bubbled up from a heart of love for his Lord. Once again, David humbly asked for continued instruction.

Verse 109
I hold my life in my hand continually, but I do not forget your law.
Evidently, David’s decision to commit himself to God was fraught with danger on a daily basis. That is still true today for believers in many parts of the world. Whether we are aware of it or not, there are always evil forces working against any believer’s resolve to follow righteousness. The life of faith is something we have to continually fight for. Even so, David kept God’s law in the forefront of his thinking. “While he carried his life in his hand, he also carried the law in his heart.” (Spurgeon)

Verse 110
The wicked have laid a snare for me, but I do not stray from your precepts.
Traps had been set to trip David up and take him down. Snares are tricky — they are hidden from view and meant to catch or entangle something unawares. No wonder David felt like he was being hunted; every move he made was risky. For the second time in two verses, David used my favorite word in the Bible — but. No matter what, David would not abandon God’s law or wander away from God’s truth.

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Verse 111
Your testimonies are my heritage forever, for they are the joy of my heart.
In light of the daily pressure of snares and affliction, David turned his thoughts to eternity. He needed some joy, so he pinned his happiness on the everlasting nature of God’s word. He relished the thought of a “forever” where every promise would be fulfilled and peaceful joy would reign. He was able to get a taste of that joy by affirming his future inheritance.

Verse 112
I incline my heart to perform your statutes forever, to the end.
Back in verse 36, David wrote, “Incline my heart to your testimonies.” He was asking God to help him “stretch toward” and “lean in” to God’s word. Seventy-six verses later, David was taking hold of his heart and telling it where to lean. He took the long view and then reconfirmed his intention to stick it out to the end. To infinity and beyond.

I like this illustration by Stephen Yuille:

“We struggle with inordinate affection for this world. If I offer a three-year-old child a choice between a chocolate bar and a check for one thousand dollars, which will he choose? He will choose the chocolate bar. Why? He doesn’t see the big picture. He doesn’t see the future. He doesn’t perceive the value of the check in comparison to the chocolate bar. I fear many of us don’t perceive the difference between the temporal and eternal.”

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Things I know for sure from this passage:

  • It takes pre-determined resolve to finish well.
  • God sheds light on my path as I spend time in His Word.
  • Snares come in many shapes and forms: revenge, unforgiveness, lust, and pride, to name a few.
  • I need the light of the Lord to help me stay out of the muck of the world.
  • I must “incline” my heart, or make it lean, toward Jesus.

Next: Nun

Stanza O

The 14th section of Psalm 119 begins with a verse David made famous around 1000 B.C. Then Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith made it famous all over again in 1990 A.D.

amy

Bible writers have compared the Word of God to fire, a hammer, seed, water, honey, gold, a sword, an anchor, and a mirror. David saw the Holy Law as lamplight that guided his steps.

Psalm 119: 105-112

Opening Your word shines a light,
     illuminating my life’s path.

Once I made a vow to follow;
     I meant it then, I mean it now.

Often I have suffered deeply,
     Oh Lord, revive me by Your Word.

Out of my mouth comes willing praise,
     receive it and then teach me more.

Observe the risks I take for You;
     even so, I keep Your word close.

Others bully me and set traps,
     still I hang tough and stay on course.

On and on Your legacy lives;
     such words make my heart sing for joy!

One thing alone motivates me–
     staying true till my dying breath.

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Next: Long Song Study, part O

Happy 4th!

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Roast some hot dogs.
Have a picnic.
Spread out a blanket.
Look up toward the heavens.
Oo and ah.
Give thanks to God.
Hug your kids.
Pray for America.
Happy 4th of July!

brownsburg-fireworks-hendricks-county

N is for Now

How frustrating it was as a kid to hear,
“Maybe later, but not now.”
When was “later” going to arrive, exactly?
Did “maybe” mean “probably not gonna happen”?

How thrilling it was as a kid to hear,
“I have time right now. Let’s play!”

Now.

It’s a short word that packs a punch.
It appears in over 1200 verses in the Bible (NIV).
But Romans 8:1 is my favorite.

Therefore, there is now no condemnation
for those who are in Christ Jesus.

What would that verse sound like without this powerhouse syllable?
“Therefore, there is * no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
When, exactly? Maybe later? What about now?
See? Aren’t you glad there is no condemnation NOW?

now

Perhaps you remember my favorite word that starts with “B”.
Team that word up with this one and you’ve got a potent duo.

“Once you were alienated from God,
BUT NOW he has reconciled you…”
Colossians 1:21-22

“Once you were not a people,
BUT NOW you are the people of God.”
1 Peter 2:10

“I was blind,
BUT NOW I see.”
John 9:25

“For this son of mine was dead,
BUT NOW he is alive;
he was lost,
BUT NOW he has been found.”
Luke 15:24

It has been said that we live between the “already” and the “not yet”. The Kingdom of God has come in Jesus, but the complete fulfillment of the Kingdom is still in the future.

John said it like this,
“Beloved, we are God’s children now,
and what we will be has not yet appeared.”
1 John 3:2
Now and not yet.

How thrilling it will be to witness the moment the God of the universe says,
“NOW!”.

“For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.” 1 Thess. 4:16-17

Not maybe.
Not probably.
Not now.
But soon.

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Mem

Mem is the thirteenth letter in the Hebrew alphabet. Mem has the same sound as “m” as in “mom”. Every line in Psalm 119:97-104 starts with this letter. Mem looks like this:

mem

As you can see, there are two forms of this letter. The open one on the right is used at the beginning or middle of a word. The closed one on the left is only used at the end of a word.

This letter is closely connected to water.
The Hebrew word for water looks like this:

water

See the open “Mem” followed by a “Yod” and finally the closed “Mem”? (Hebrew reads from right to left!) Some rabbis teach that the “Yod” in the middle is a drop of water within the word “water”.

Water is the most basic and important element in life. Sixty percent of our bodies are made up of water. The earth is 71% water. Without water, we can’t live more than three days. There is a Jewish saying, “There is no water but Torah.” Rabbis teach that the Torah is the most basic and important element in one’s spiritual life. Without the Torah, the Jew is like a fish without water — he couldn’t live.

Since “Mem” is the letter of water, it symbolizes the “spring” of wisdom found in the scriptures. Like an underground spring rises up from an unseen source, so does the spring of wisdom rise up from the mysterious Source that is God. http://www.hebrew4christians.com

Maybe that’s why David wrote about wisdom, understanding and insight in the “Mem” section of Psalm 119.

It’s easy to find Jesus in the 13th letter.
The Messiah is our Living Water.
He is the only one who truly satisfies our inner thirst for real life.
He is the most basic and vital of all elements in this world.
He is the Living Word and we cannot survive without Him.

spring

As the second half of the Hebrew alphabet reveals the life of faith in response to the good news of the gospel, so the letter “Mem” reflects the believer’s baptism. First we are taught (Lamed) and then we take a step of obedience by going into the waters (Mem) of baptism.

“Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink.
Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said,
rivers of living water will flow from within them.”
John 7:37-38

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Next: My favorite word in the Bible that starts with “N”.

Long Song Study, part N

David relied heavily on God and His word during his period of suffering. Study, meditation and obedience while under duress produced something in the psalmist — wisdom, understanding and insight. And a great love for God’s word.

“No man ever loved his Bible too much.”
William Swan Plumer

honey

Psalm 119:97-104

Verse 97
Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.
It’s possible to study the Bible, obey the Bible and even teach the Bible, but not love the Bible. David’s love for the law came as a result of meditating on it. Remember, we’re not talking about some Eastern form of meditating — a kind of passive emptying of the mind. Christian meditation is active. It is thinking over and dwelling on the purposes and promises of God, “consciously performed in the presence of God, by the help of God, as a means of communion with God.” (James Packer) “David meditated on God’s word because he loved it, and loved it the more because he meditated on it.” (Spurgeon) He couldn’t get enough of it.
“This love for God’s word is a great proof of love for God. If a man says he loves God, but neglects His word, that love must be called into question.” (Christopher Ash)

Verse 98
Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me.
David credited the law for giving him wisdom, beyond that of his enemies. We live in a difficult world and trying to navigate all the posts and tweets and opinions is nearly impossible on our own. The Bible gives us absolute access to the Architect and Creator. When we need to know how to think about an issue, we need to run to our Bibles where we can connect to God’s wisdom without limit.
How did David keep the commandments near him? Probably by memorizing portions of scripture. But it was also his duty, as the law stated, “When the king takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law. It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life.” (Deut. 17:18-19) So King David had copied the entire Torah by hand and was charged with keeping it with him. That’s a good law. Maybe we should bring it back.

Verse 99
I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation.
It’s good to learn from human teachers. I can name many that have impacted me over the years. (And they’re not all old dead guys.) David recognized he had an understanding that went beyond knowledge and again, he traced it back to his untiring commitment to soak in God’s word.

Verse 100
I understand more than the aged, for I keep your precepts.
Usually, older people are considered to be wiser, having learned from their life experiences. Usually. However, very smart, experienced people can still lack wisdom. It seems there is always a connection between understanding and obedience. David wasn’t just a hearer of the word, but also a doer. “He that excels in practice has the best understanding.” (Thomas Manton) Far from bragging about his great insight, David was extolling the wonder of God’s great wisdom and His ability to put it in a person’s head and heart.

Verse 101
I hold back my feet from every evil way, in order to keep your word.
David gets practical here. There are just some things that don’t mix with godly wisdom, like evil. Not that it’s easy. He had to make a conscious effort to hold back those feet of his from taking him the wrong way. The choice was before him: keep the word he had grown to love or chase after lies. “If we keep the good word, we must let go the evil.” (Spurgeon)

Verse 102
I do not turn aside from your rules, for you have taught me.
Compared to walking down evil paths, a little turning aside doesn’t seem like a big deal. That is what makes it such a subtle temptation. Turning aside from reading the Bible, praying, and fellowship can begin a slow slide away from the Lord. David wouldn’t do it.

Verse 103
How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
When Jewish boys were six years old, they entered school at the local synagogue. On the first day of school, the rabbi would take a generous amount of honey and put it on each of the boys’ slates. Then the rabbi would tell the boys to lick it off as he quoted from Psalm 119, “May the words of God be sweet to your taste, sweeter than honey to your mouth.” The students’ first association with scripture was sweet, helping them understand that nothing was more enjoyable than receiving and tasting the Word of God. Many people are introduced to the Bible as a set of rules and commands, a list of dos and don’ts. Let’s add a bit of sweetness as we share the Word.

Verse 104
Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way.
The better we understand the heart of God in His law, the easier it is to see religion that’s fake. Hate is a strong word, but there’s a time and place for it. “It is well to be a good hater. Not a hater of living beings, but a hater of every false way. The way of self-will, of self-righteousness, of self-seeking, of worldliness, of pride, of unbelief, of hypocrisy — these are all false ways, and therefore not only to be shunned, but to be abhorred.” (Spurgeon)

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Things I know for sure from this passage:

  • Knowing a lot does not equal wisdom.
  • God’s Word has the power to make us wise people.
  • When we study the Bible, God Himself is our Teacher.
  • Meditating on God’s Word helps us keep His commands.
  • Wisdom is knowledge put to practical use, usually through obedience.

(Click here if you want to discover the difference between wisdom and knowledge!)

Next: Mem

Stanza N

The old David is back in this section! “Oh, how I love Your law!” is his opening line (with an exclamation point!). That’s more like it! His affliction lasted for a season, and now, he writes with a new appreciation for God’s good word.

Psalm 119:97-104

Needless to say, I love Your law;
     I think about it day and night.

Now I outsmart my pesky foes,
     because Your commands make me wise.

Not to brag, but I’ve got insight,
     since I feed my mind with Your word.

None of the elders surpass me,
     for I have learned to obey You.

Notice how I avoid evil;
     I keep my feet on the high road. 

Nothing deters me from Your law,
     for I have learned from the best — You!

Naturally sweet to my senses,
     Your words are tasty as honey.

New discernment keeps my mind sharp;
     I can’t stand walking on dead ends.

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Next: Long Song Study, part N

Foiled Again

They’re on to me.
They must have been eavesdropping as I boasted.
Either that or our resident chipmunks read my blog.
One day after I declared war on the rascals, they stormed back.

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Last year, I sprinkled garlic around the edges of the pots.
Then I placed moth balls around the blooms.
Even that didn’t stop the critters
but it did make the front porch stink.
I thought I outsmarted them this year.
But my fork fortified fortress didn’t stand its ground.
A lot of ground was scattered across my porch.
I’m sad to report one casualty.

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I should have known the chipmunks would challenge me.
The gaps between the tines were too tempting.

I’m considering a counter-attack.
Perhaps stainless steel forks
with sharpened tips
connected to an electric current
and sprayed with rodent poison.

Game on.

M is for Maker

I am breaking rule #2 today.
2) Use only small words, four letters or less.
And I am invoking rule #3.
3) Change the rules when necessary.

I sure am glad I left that loophole open, because I sure do love this word.
My favorite word in the Bible that starts with “M” is “Maker”.

I’ve noticed lately that artists of all kinds are calling themselves “makers”.
The Original Maker was, indeed, an artist.
But the term is nothing new.

“Come, let us bow down in worship before the Lord our Maker.” Ps. 95:6
“My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” Ps. 121:2
“He is the Maker of heaven and earth and everything in them.” Ps. 146:6
“Let Israel rejoice in their Maker.” Ps. 149:2

maker

God is a Maker with a capital “M”.
We have been made by Him.

“For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.”
Ps. 139:13

The Hebrew word for “knit” is similar to our word for “embroidered”. In other words, He didn’t print off a copy and slap us together with some scotch tape. No! He used the very finest of handiwork, creating detail upon detail. Each stitch was an artful expression, resulting in a one-of-a-kind. Our word “embryo” comes from this beautiful root word “embroidery”.

stitch

The Bible opens with the Lord making one thing after another.
“So God made the expanse…”
“God made two great lights…”
“God made the wild animals…”
He made the seventh day holy.
He made a man from the dust.
He made a woman from the rib.

It was good.
For a little bit.
Until it wasn’t.

So the Maker kept on making.
“The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife.” Gen. 3:21

Then the Maker kept on making.
God was pleased to reconcile to Himself all things by
“making peace through Jesus’ blood, shed on the cross.” Col. 1:20

And the Maker will keep on making.
“I am making everything new!” Rev. 21:5

new

We have been made in the image of God.
Let’s be like Him and make something good today.

My favorite word in the Bible that starts with “M” is MAKER.