Teth

Teth (also written as Tet) is the ninth letter in the Hebrew alphabet. Teth has the same sound as “t” as in “trouble”, but it means “good, better, or best”. Every line in Psalm 119:65-72 starts with this letter. Teth looks like this:

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 There are two very different ways to interpret this letter.

First, it is a picture of an open container in which something good is hidden. The first use of the letter Teth is in Genesis 1:4, “God saw that the light was good (tov).” The world was birthed day by day and each new creation was declared to be good. Truly, God’s goodness is all around us, hidden in creation.

Some Rabbis teach that the letter represents the womb, where for nine months, something good is hidden. Therefore, as the ninth letter in the Aleph-Bet, it is connected with spiritual birth or renewal. In the New Testament, there are nine fruits of the Holy Spirit that are planted into the soil of all believers’ hearts. That seed is hidden until it produces fruit and grows as we continue to mature in Him. The Christian life is “pregnant” with God’s goodness.

The letter Teth also looks like someone bowing in prayer, opening their heart to God’s hidden treasures of the Holy Spirit and the Word. The left side of Teth is a Zayin, the seventh letter, that shows Jesus as the crowned man. Believers are portrayed on the right side, bowing before the Victorious Savior.

The second interpretation, in drastic contrast to the first, sees the letter Teth as the serpent, coiling into earth and injecting evil into the world. This strange duality in one letter makes a profound point.

“Will we choose to surrender our lives, offering ourselves as living sacrifices or will we inwardly rebel and live in selfish pride that marks the devil? (hebrew4christians.com)

“There is a famous optical illusion (shown below) which depicts both a beautiful young woman and an old woman with a wart on her nose. Some suggest that whichever image you first see indicates something about how you think and perceive the world. But, whether or not this is true of this image, it is a good illustration of the Teth. Like the image of the two women, Teth is the letter with two messages – two Judgments. And what you spiritually see in Teth is determined by your own personal experience and choice regarding Yahweh.

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For those who choose Yahweh and abide in Him, the Fruits of the Holy Spirit are given – that is the JUDGMENT that we receive! Beautiful thought!

God is the Judge, but I decide what my judgment will be. He sets before me the choice – ‘I set before you this day blessing and cursing, life and death. Therefore choose life.’ (Deut. 30:19) The Teth shows the two-fold nature of Yahweh’s Judgment.” (www.lightedway.org)

What do you see when you look at Teth?

Open my eyes, that I may see Your goodness.

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

Long Song Study, part I

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The author of Psalm 119 (presumably David) wrote eloquently about the goodness of God’s law and his desire to keep it with all his heart. Occasionally he wrote about adversaries who were making his life difficult. In the next section, David took these two realities and put them together into one truth: God’s goodness is best known in affliction. “The affliction God gives is His good gift to His people…to draw us into, and keep us in, the Word.” (Christopher Ash)

Verse 65
You have dealt well with your servant, O Lord, according to your word.
David began the ninth section of his long song by looking back and acknowledging the goodness of God in his life. He wasn’t referring to his extravagant palace, or his table of fine food, or his closet full of regal robes. David saw that the promises of God had proven to be rock solid words of truth that gave his soul both help and delight.

Verse 66
Teach me good judgment and knowledge, for I believe in your commandments.
Even though he had been walking with God for awhile, David stayed teachable. His experience of God’s goodness only made him want to know more, so he asked for knowledge and good judgment. The word “judgment” in this verse means “a taste for” — so David was asking God to put a craving for good and wise living in his heart. “Taste and see that the Lord is good,” David wrote in Psalm 34. The ability to discern, or “taste”, God’s goodness in the middle of suffering is a mark of spiritual maturity.

Verse 67
Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word.
What was David’s affliction? Apparently, he was persecuted for staying loyal to God’s law and choosing the way of faithfulness. (See verses 21-23, 39, 42, 50-51, 61) Taking a stand to uphold God’s law in the face of persecution only made David more resolute to keep it. He saw affliction as the thing God used to bring him back into right relationship with Himself. When life was easy and comfortable, he didn’t sense his need for God.
C.S. Lewis said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” God often uses times of trial to get our attention and bring us back to Him.

Verse 68
You are good and do good; teach me your statutes.
Because of the affliction, David had a new-found taste of God’s goodness that was present during his time of trial. In fact, David recognized how valuable it was, so he said, “If this is the only way for me to learn to walk in Your ways, then afflict me whenever You need to. Keep teaching me, whatever it takes.” David understood that if he never went through hard trials, he would never experience the depths of God’s goodness.

Verse 69
The insolent smear me with lies, but with my whole heart I keep your precepts;
Smear campaigns are nothing new, although with social media, our culture seems to have taken it to a new level. Keep in mind that David was experiencing this adversity because he took a stand for God’s law. We can get ourselves into all kinds of trouble on our own for saying and doing stupid things. Suffering for being a believer is different. The prosperity gospel teaching that God will give you a comfortable life and make you healthy and wealthy is a false gospel. If even Jesus learned obedience through suffering (Heb. 5:8), we should expect to as well.

Verse 70
their heart is unfeeling like fat, but I delight in your law.
“A greasy heart is something horrible,” said Charles Spurgeon. Yuck — I agree. This is the only place in the whole Bible this word is used, so different versions interpret this verse in various ways: “Their hearts are unfeeling, like blubber.” (CEB) “Their hearts are cold and insensitive.” (GW) “Their unfeeling hearts are hard and stubborn.” (NIRV) “Their heart is as fat as grease.” (ASV) It seems that too much ease causes heart disease and a greasy heart becomes proud and arrogant. Instead of delighting in the law, they were repelled by the law. Greasy hearts and living water don’t mix.

Verse 71
It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.
David saw that he was on the path to a greasy heart, too, until affliction did its good work in him. He would never have become a man who delighted in God’s word otherwise. He was convinced that the gracious hand of God was all over his trials because they trained him to walk in the ways of the Lord. Suffering and God’s goodness were not two separate experiences for David — they were closely tied and they compelled him to love the Word. Of course, it’s difficult to see the benefits of going through painful trials when in the midst of them. David only saw in retrospect that he was better for having gone through them.

Verse 72
The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.
Some people try to buy their way out of discomfort, inconvenience, and tests of faith. David realized that he couldn’t put a price on the lessons he learned in adversity. He may have been the wealthiest of kings, but the riches of God’s word were far more precious to him.

And so we have here a deep truth. No man will love his Bible until God has afflicted him. He may be intrigued by it. He may have an intellectual affection for it. He may have been brought up to have a cultural affinity with it, or an aesthetic love of its verbal resonances. But he will not delight in that word above all the wealth of the world until he has been afflicted, until he has felt the fragility of this world, this age, this mortal body. But when that happens he will cling to the word as the only tie to the age to come. ~Christopher Ash

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Things I know for sure from this passage:

  • When things are going good, we tend to wander away.
  • Those who wander too far for too long can become calloused and heartless.
  • God often uses difficulties to woo us back to Him.
  • Anything that drives us closer to God is good.
  • The word of God is priceless.

Next: Teth

Stanza I

Welcome to week 9 of the Long Song Study which is based on Psalm 119 and the Hebrew Aleph-Bet. We are on the letter “I” this week. If you’re new here, I invite you to scroll back to the beginning of this journey.

Along with the Psalmist let’s pray: “Teach me, O Lord.”

Psalm 119:65-72

I know You are good to me, Lord;
     Your word tells it just like it is.

Instruct me to learn and discern,
     for I take in all that You say.

In the past I wandered away,
     but trouble taught me to obey.

Indeed, You and Your acts are good.
     Keep teaching me, I want to learn.

Insolent liars attack me,
     yet I hold on tight to Your truth.

Inside, their hearts are hard and cold;
     Your law keeps my heart soft and warm.

It was good for me to suffer;
     it caused me to pay attention.

Incredibly dear are Your words,
     they are better than piles of cash.

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Next: Long Song Study, part I