Heth

Heth (also written as Chet, Khet and Het) is the eighth letter in the Hebrew alphabet. Heth has the same sound as “kh” as in “Bach”. It makes a gutteral sound, similar to clearing the throat. Every line in Psalm 119:57-64 starts with this letter. Heth looks like this:

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The first seven letters of the Hebrew alphabet introduce the story of the Gospel: The God-Man (Aleph — Jesus) came to earth to be master of the house (Bet) and to give the good gift of redemption (Gimel) to the poor and weak (Dalet). The Holy Spirit breath of life (He) came and connected God and man at the cross (Vav). Jesus overcame death and ascended to His throne where He rules and reigns (Zayin). Whew!

Heth begins a new series of seven letters which explains the walk of faith. How appropriate that the word “Heth” means “new beginnings” and “life”.

In the broadway musical “Fiddler on the Roof”, there is a celebration scene where all the men toast the engagement of Tevye’s daughter to Lazar Wolf. They sing,

“To life, to life, l’chaim!
L’chaim, l’chaim, to life!”

Chaim means life.
The word “chai” is a Hebrew symbol, often worn in jewelry.
It signifies new life — or resurrection life, for believers in Yeshua.

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“…they (wisdom and discernment) will be life for you,
an ornament to grace your neck.”
Proverbs 3:22

The shape of the letter Heth represents the doorposts and lintel that the Hebrews covered with the blood of a lamb at Passover (Exodus 12:7). Because of that act of obedience, the people were delivered from slavery in Egypt. The chains of bondage were broken and they entered into a new life of freedom.

Rabbis also teach that the Heth is a combination of Vav (representing man, who was created on the 6th day) and Zayin (the crowned Jesus, our King of Kings). The two letters are connected by a “yoke” across the top, picturing our relationship to the Lord as He leads and teaches us on our walk of faith. Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me.” (Matt. 11:29) Heth!!

Because Heth is the eighth letter, there are several biblical connections:

  • Hebrew boys were circumcised on the eighth day, starting their newborn lives under the Covenant promises of God.
  • New life on earth began after the flood with Noah, his wife, his three sons, and their wives — eight people.
  • God reaffirmed His covenant with Abraham eight times.
  • The Jewish “Feast of Tabernacles” was eight days long. In John 8:12, Jesus stood up on the eighth day and said, “If anyone is thirsty, let them come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.”
  • Abraham and Sarah named their baby boy Isaac, which means “laughter”. Isaac’s name is written with three Hebrew letters: Tsadhe (18th letter), Heth, and Qoph (19th letter). Tsadhe has a numeric value of 90 — the age of Sarah when Isaac was born; Qoph has a numeric value of 100 — the age of Abraham. God kept His promise that “between” the two of them would come forth a new life. That just makes me shake my head in awe and chuckle!

Which verses in the “Heth” section of Psalm 119 speak to you about ways you need to stay yoked to Jesus in your walk of faith?

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Next: My favorite word in the Bible that starts with H.

Long Song Study, part H

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Teach us Your statutes, O Lord!

Psalm 119:57-64

Verse 57
The Lord is my portion; I promise to keep your words.
The love David had for God’s word was rooted in his love for God. The Lord alone was enough for David. He trusted that God would always be sufficient and that’s what motivated him to make bold promises.
When the Israelites went into the Promised Land, each tribe was given an allotment of land — all except the Levites. The priestly tribe of Levi received no land, but instead, the Lord Himself was their portion. As believers, we are now “a chosen people, a royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9) and God gives us Himself as our inheritance, our reward. What more could we want? Our lack of trust implies that we don’t think He’s adequate for our needs or competent to care for us. In contrast, when we take God as our portion, we will love what He has to say and we will want to live by it.

Verse 58
I entreat your favor with all my heart; be gracious to me according to your promise.
Entreating someone’s favor (or seeking their face, as in the NIV) is about presence. When a child is trying to get the attention of an adult, the child wants that grownup to put down what they’re doing and look at him or her. In this psalm, David asked God for His gracious presence, perhaps in light of the big promise he made in verse 57. David knew he couldn’t pull off perfection, but because of grace, he didn’t need to.

Verse 59
When I think on my ways, I turn my feet to your testimonies.
Being in God’s presence caused David to contemplate where he was in life. When David did that, things were revealed that he needed to deal with. He was moved to repent and get back on track with the Lord. We, too, need to stop every once in a while to take account, check priorities, think about our “ways”, and turn our feet if they have taken us in the wrong direction.

Verse 60
I hasten and do not delay to keep your commandments.
I read a lot of parenting books when we were in the thick of raising children. One basic principle struck me – “Delayed obedience is disobedience.” In other words, when I allowed my kids to put off doing what I asked, I was actually teaching them to be disobedient. Often, I was communicating that they could put off obedience until mom got mad and raised her voice. I didn’t realize I was training them to wait for the blow-up. David had his share of parenting issues, but he seemed eager to be quick to obey God.
The word “delay” means to be hesitant or reluctant. How many times have I dragged my feet in response to God’s nudging, only to have the opportunity pass?

Verse 61
Though the cords of the wicked ensnare me, I do not forget your law.
David found himself surrounded by people who didn’t care about God and who put concentrated effort into undermining him. Doesn’t it seem like when you’ve made a renewed decision to trust and obey, it’s not long before something comes along to throw you off or pull you away? When we choose to be quick to follow God, we can be fairly certain that the enemy will also be quick to test our resolve. Like David, we need to keep God’s words before us, reminding us of the truth and giving us hope.

Verse 62
At midnight I rise to praise you, because of your righteous rules.
David may have gone to bed with thoughts of being ensnared by those wicked cords, but in the middle of the night, he battled back with praise. He reaffirmed the rightness of God’s ways and refused to succumb to fear. If I’m still awake at midnight, it’s probably because I’m feeling anxious about something. Praise has a way of cutting right through the lies of the enemy and making way for peace.

Verse 63
I am a companion of all who fear you, of those who keep your precepts.
So far, the main characters in this psalm have been David, God, and some occasional enemies. In verse 63 we get a glimpse of another group — David was not alone! He had friends! And they shared his love for God and His word! What a relief! A life of faith is never a solitary life, but always a life that includes fellowship, friendship and unified purpose. We need people around us who are also determined to live according to God’s Word — people we can count on to encourage us and spur us on toward love and good deeds. God’s people are meant to be part of our portion of blessing.

Verse 64
The earth, O Lord, is full of your steadfast love; teach me your statutes!
David began this passage reminding himself of God’s sufficiency for his own life. By the end, he saw the whole planet overflowing with God’s “hesed” love — that steadfast, long-suffering, merciful love. David found God to be more than sufficient, not just for him, but for the whole world.

There is no corner of the universe where His people can possibly be beyond His Covenant faithfulness, steadfast love, and care. Even though it does not always look like it, there is no God-forsaken square meter on earth. Even though the earth contains many wicked who are hostile to those who fear the Lord, it is not possible for a believer to be in any part of the created order which is not full of the Lord’s steadfast love.  ~ Christopher Ash

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Things I know for sure from this passage:

  • God is sufficient — I lack nothing.
  • Obeying quickly is a mark of spiritual maturity.
  • The Christian life is meant to be lived in community.
  • Daily reflection and repentance keeps me on the right track.
  • Evidence of God’s steadfast love is all around me.

Next: Heth

Stanza H

A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H! See how far we’ve come!
A new week, a new letter, a new Psalm 119 lesson.

Psalm 119:57-64

Having You is more than enough;
I vow to submit to Your word.

Hearts that seek bring us face to face;
I will take You up on Your grace.

Habits of mine should be looked at,
so I keep walking in Your ways.

Hurrying without dallying,
I will be quick to obey You.

Held down by evil confinement,
even then, I’ll think of Your law.

Hear me say, “Thank You” in the night;
I’m grateful for Your commandments.

Happy to befriend Your people,
I’ll love them because You love them.

Here on earth, Your love gushes out;
Lord, I am Your willing student.

 

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Next: Long Song Study, part H

Remembering Boppy

I called my grandma “Boppy”. She lived next door and when I was bored or trying to get out of doing chores, I would ride my bike up the back driveway to her house where I was always welcomed with a smile and candy corn.

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Boppy’s father, Herman, came over to America on a ship from Prussia when he was a baby. The story goes that his mother went up on the deck for some fresh air and baby Herman kicked off one of his booties into the Atlantic Ocean. He arrived in America with only one booty.

As Boppy got older, she began to lose her memory. But she never forgot how to make Apfelkuchen, or German Apple Cake. She would walk down the driveway to our back door with a fresh, warm cake. We would sit and visit on the screened-in porch and then she would walk back. The next day, having forgotten about yesterday’s cake, she would show up with more apfelkuchen. We ate a lot of apple cake that summer.

Memory is a funny thing. Boppy sometimes forgot her grandchildren in a hazy fog, but a recipe her mama taught her as a young girl was crystal clear. Today, PB’s mother may not remember the last time we waved to her through the window, but she can sing every verse of “Pic-a-nic-in’ the Park”, a song she and dad used to sing together.

I hope my mind is sharp when I’m 92.

But if it isn’t, I hope I belt out
“Blessed Assurance, Jesus Is Mine”
down the halls of the nursing home.

I hope I don’t forget my loved ones faces.
But if I do, I hope every Bible verse I ever memorized
comes pouring from my lips.

I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.
Psalm 77:11

According to your love remember me, for you, Lord, are good.
Psalm 25:7

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G is for Go

Of course, “God” is the obvious choice for favorite word in the Bible.
But God is a broad topic,
way beyond my ability to condense into a meager blog post.
So I’m going to go with “go”.

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The last directive Jesus gave the disciples before He ascended was,
Go and make disciples of all nations.” Matt. 28:19

Notice that He didn’t say,
“Gather in groups and wait for the nations to come to you.”

A few weeks ago, I wrote about that word, “come”.
It’s a good word. One of my favorites.
But it needs a partner.
We come. And then we go.

We come to Jesus with
our hopes and fears,
our requests and praises,
our failures and victories.
We come to join with the Body of Christ
to encourage and exhort,
to learn and unite,
to stimulate each other to love and good deeds.

We come, but then we go.
And then we come again.
And then we go again.
It’s like a dance.

Faithful Jewish worshipers had to walk up a steep incline as they approached Jerusalem for feasts and festivals. There were special songs assigned to this pilgrimage called “The Songs of Ascent” (Psalms 120-134). It would be like people from all over town walking up Oak Street, singing together on their way to church. (Can we please try that sometime?)

They came up to worship, but they knew after a few days they would have to walk back down and live out their faith in the every-day. The ebb and flow between coming and going gave balance to their lives.

Some of us need to remember to come — come to worship (even online worship!), come to Bible study, come to serve and do our part in the body of Christ.

Some of us need to remember to go — go into our small circles of the world, go with God’s word burning in our hearts, go see if someone we know wants to learn to be a disciple.

Let’s dance.

“The Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.”
Psalm 121:8

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Next: Remembering Boppy

Zayin

Don’t get excited when you see the “Z” at the beginning of this letter.
We’re not even near the end of the Hebrew alphabet, my friends.
The journey from Aleph to Taw is rich with reward for those who endure!

Zayin is the seventh letter in the Hebrew alphabet. Zayin has the same sound as “z” as in “zoo”. Every line in Psalm 119:49-56 starts with this letter. Zayin looks like this:

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Seven is an important number in the Jewish tradition, indicating perfection and completeness. The word “seven” appears over 500 times in the Bible, beginning with Genesis 2:2-3, “And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.” Thus began cycles of seven that have been repeated ever since.

In the words of Jewish sages,
“All sevens are dear.”

It is no coincidence, then, that there is a seven tone scale — do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti. There are seven colors in the rainbow and there are seven openings in our heads.

Oy veh.
I could go on and on, but that’s a blog post for another day.
Suffice it to say:
because Zayin is the seventh letter, it holds great significance.
For believers in Messiah Jesus, this significance is amplified.

Last week, we learned about the sixth letter “Vav”, which is connected to mankind because Adam was created on the sixth day. Zayin looks a lot like Vav, except it has a crown on its head, so this letter is a picture of a man with a crown. That’s our Jesus.

Zayin is also regarded as an image of a sword with the tip pointed down and the hilt on top. The sword also represents Jesus, our Overcomer, defeating death and sin. Now we have access to the “sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Eph. 6:17)

The Victor ascends and the sword turns into a royal scepter — “But of the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.'” (Heb. 1:8) King Jesus holds out His scepter to welcome us to the throne. “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence.” (Heb. 4:16)

The Hebrew word “remember” starts with the letter Zayin,
which is a theme in Psalm 119:49-56.

I need to remember
there is a crown,
and He’s wearing it.
There is a throne,
and He’s on it.
There is a sword,
and it’s sitting on my desk.

zayin

 

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

Long Song Study, part G

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Let’s dig in to Psalm 119:49-56.

Verse 49
Remember your word to your servant, in which you have made me hope.
“Remember” is one of those words in Hebrew that goes above and beyond our meaning, which is “recalling to memory something forgotten”. That definition doesn’t work here, because God isn’t forgetful. He is infinite, omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient, sovereign, incomparable. The Lord is not our Grandpa in the Sky who needs our reminders on how to run the world.
Instead, David was calling on God to take action on all that He promised in His word. To remember meant “to stretch out the arm to act.” In other words, David was waiting for a move of God and although delay was painful, he knew it did not nullify the promise. “It is the plan of God that the believer hold on in hope. God calls us to patient waiting.” (Christopher Ash) “Have no fear of failure, for the Lord has never forgotten a single promise to a single believer.” (Charles Spurgeon)

Verse 50
This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life.
Where do you go for comfort? I’ve thought about that a lot during these past weeks of quarantine. Times of difficulty often unmask our idols. Is it favorite foods, mind-numbing TV, shopping online, sleep, reruns of sporting events? Or do I go to the life giving power of the Word? As believers, we can find comfort even in the midst of trouble, for Jesus has promised, “I will not leave you comfortless.” (John 14:18)

Verse 51
The insolent utterly deride me, but I do not turn away from your law.
There they are again, those pesky critics. To deride means, “to laugh at in scorn or contempt; scoff or jeer at.” That’s hard to take day after day. Yet, they did not get the upper hand with David because he did not turn aside from God’s way. That takes fortitude, but be assured, it still hurts to be laughed at, to be made fun of, to get the eye-roll, or to be belittled with disrespect. Even when you’re a king.

Verse 52
When I think of your rules from of old, I take comfort, O Lord.
Once again, we see how David directed his thoughts to bring himself comfort. Just as he asked God to remember His word, David also remembered the times God moved on his behalf. He rehearsed in his mind the many past rescues God provided for him and for the Israelites. This bolstered David’s confidence in his God as a Covenant Keeper. What experiences can you draw from as evidence of God’s care for you in the past?
I have dates written down next to certain verses in my Bible. For instance, “Dec. 1991, Marshfield Hospital” is written on the margin of Psalm 34; “Mar. 22, 1988 – Appointment to Jim Falls” is noted by Isaiah 58:11-12; “Mar. 2001 — waiting for Blake’s bypass surgery” is next to Psalm 27:13-14; “4-24-18, Ember Blake born” is beside Psalm 46:5. These are markers for me, helping me remember God’s faithfulness in the past, reminding me of His sure provision in the future.

Verse 53
Hot indignation seizes me because of the wicked, who forsake your law.
Although he dealt with his own group of naysayers, the thing that really got David hot under the collar was the way they dishonored God. According to Christopher Ash, “We too need to learn this indignation.” We tend to overlook others’ disregard for God’s Word, especially if they are really nice, decent, good people. We forget how serious rebellion against God is, and that “turning away from the written instruction God has given is a personal insult and an outrage against the Creator of the universe.”

Verse 54
Your statutes have been my songs in the house of my sojourning.
How did David cool down his hot indignation? By singing. He played music that lifted up the holy word of God. He sang songs that reminded him he was not at home in this world, but a pilgrim passing through it. Singing the very words of God is a form of worship that is full of power. Believing people have always been singing people. I have a playlist titled “Psalms” and every time I hear a song based on a psalm, I add it to the list. These are my songs “through the years of my earthly pilgrimage” (TLB). It’s a great soundtrack for life!

Verse 55
I remember your name in the night, O Lord, and keep your law.
One advantage of learning scripture songs is that they can pop into my head even in the middle of the night. That seems to be when I need them the most. During the night, my mind can be inundated with “what if” and “if only” and “why am I still awake?” David reminds us to remember (it’s a theme in this passage).
Remember Paul and Silas in jail in Acts 16? They sang hymns at midnight so loud that all the other prisoners heard them. Evidently, so did God. An earthquake shook the place, the doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. That’s the power of songs in the night.

Verse 56
This blessing has fallen to me, that I have kept your precepts.
This verse must have been hard to translate, because it is expressed very differently across various versions. The ESV is printed here, but the NIV says, “This has been my practice: I obey your precepts.” I like that. This way of life takes some practice. We don’t learn it in a day. However, obedience becomes easier as we practice. And that results in blessing.

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Next: Zayin